Me:Today I am interviewing the rather talented Sarah "Chu" Wilson
regarding herself and her long running and fairly acclaimed webcomic "Slightly Damned".
Is there anything you might want to start this interview off with/ shout-outs to anybody viewing this?
++ I just wanted to say thanks for flattering me, haha. It does my shallow ego a bit of good when someone is nice enough to want to interview me.
Me:It would seem that you quite like Hyenas given how your cartoon self and the two main characters in your next comic are of that speices;What in particular do you like about their devious selves?
++ I could write a whole essay about what I like about spotted hyenas, and in fact I do plan on drawing a minicomic about it soon. Hopefully I'll find the time to do it before the end of the year. I don't want to derail the entire interview here just to answer this question, though, so I'll try to keep as short as I can.
Basically, hyenas are fascinating and interesting animals that are greatly maligned and misunderstood. People call them devious, cowardly, and ignoble compared to other animals for uninformed reasons. This unfair attitude towards hyenas is simply accepted as fact, and no one bothers to stop and think why they're inclined to paint them in a poor light. Instead, everything from popular media to gossip to even documentaries are biased against them to the point where it's just second nature. People "know" that hyenas are the "bad" animals. But why?
Hyenas are extremely successful hunters. They're efficient, intelligent, and live in complex societies. It's true that they scavenge for food, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, as scavengers and decomposers play an integral part in every ecosystem. While they do steal food from lions, lions steal from hyenas just as often. It just makes sense: why expend more energy hunting food when it's easier to steal it? No animal in the entire world, except from humans, would expend more energy than is necessary in procuring food.
From ancient misconceptions has grown an entire culture of misunderstanding and insults flung on these amazing creatures. I guess I find hyenas endearing because they're unpopular. I can't help but root for the underdog. And before anyone tries to correct me, hyenas are not dogs. They're from the suborder feliforma, meaning they're more closely related to felines, but they're not really cats, either.
Plus I just think spotted hyenas are really cool and cute.
Me:When did you initially start doodling and what instigated your interest that would gradually grow to an aspiration of cartooning as an occupation?
++ I've always loved drawing. I've been drawing since before I can remember. I've wanted to be a cartoonist ever since I was in 1st grade, maybe earlier. Even though my life has gone in many different directions I've never stopped drawing. I don't think I can stop.
Me:What perks made you choose to go to a dedicated cartooning school rather than an all-around art university?
++ The cost, for one thing! The primary reason, though, was because I wanted a school that would help me be me. I didn't want to be pressured into making the sorts of things other people wanted me to make; I wanted to find a way to succeed while doing the making the things that I want to make. So far, so good!
Me:As for job do you intend to keep doing comics primarily or do you seek to become an animator or something along those lines and if,so what sort of project would you like working on and how much creative freedom would be ideal for somebody whom has enjoyed it in her comics?
++ If I could keep on doing comics forever I think I would be happy. I love animation, but I'm a terrible animator and it isn't something I particularly like making. Of course, animation is a lot of work involving teams of people doing very many jobs. I don't know where my life is headed, but it sure would be cool to work with people to develop an animation. Maybe I could do storyboarding or character design or something. It's a nice dream, anyway...
Me:Now on to Slightly Damned......
Rhea's rather cynical at times (Can't blame her though) do you feel sometimes as though that aspect of her character was overdone?
++ Personally I don't think Rhea's cynicism is a problem. I really love characters like that when they're given the opportunity to make snarky comments and are made fun of from time to time. There is one instance of bad writing in particular that's always bugged me, though.
When Kieri discovers that Rhea and Buwaro had been keeping the truth about Buwaro's pendant a secret from her, Rhea reacts quite harshly. I wish I could go back and tweak the scene a bit. I think maybe it should have been longer. I stand by decision for Rhea to act like a jerk and for Kieri to get upset. I just wish I had handled it a bit better. But that's the best I could come up with at the time, and I made a vow not to rewrite the story as I go along, lest I trap myself in an endless loop.
Me: One of the major themes that stuck out to me was sticking outside of the established system and helping others in need and it was very touching but,just how subtle do you have to be when presenting such themes so as to not sound preachy?
++ Maybe I'm not qualified to answer that question! I've already been called out for being too preachy by an anonymous critic. It wasn't about that sort of lesson in particular, but I could see what they meant. Depending on the message I think I would err on the side of being too preachy. I would rather my intent come on as a bit too strong than not get through at all, or be completely misunderstood. Telling a lot of silly jokes also helps people stay engaged in the characters and story, so even if something serious it happening I think a little bit of comic relief goes a long way.
Me:As a creator how much distance do you like keeping in your story between the heartwarming and whimsical moments to the more tense moments with their fair amount of blood and swearing?
++ I don't have the balance of violence vs. froofroo down to a science. I think that's because Slightly Damned is not limited in release by issue or page count. I have a lot of freedom and I have no one keeping me in check, so I have a tendency to ramble a on a little long in places. There was a very long period of exposition and talking about relationships in Slightly Damned preceding the point where things started to get crazy in Slightly Damned. But now that that's over, things are going to be a wild for quite a while to balance it out! Hopefully the people who complained about things "not happening" will be somewhat appeared by all the fire and blood.
Me:As for length;your comic has been running 10 years at a healthy pace and has seen improvement in both the writing and style but,regarding pacing in a comic given their lengthy nature just how much exposition and character development do you feel a comic should have in comparison to say;a long running television show?
+ It all really depends on how a creator wants to approach their story. In general you want to get the exposition out of the way as fast as possible to set up all the background information you need to understand the ensuing events. Some people dole out exposition all at once, some people do it over a long period of time. It doesn't really have anything to do with comics vs. television. I mean, which media you choose does have an effect on storytelling, for sure, but it's much more complex than that. It has to do with what kind of comics or tv shows or what have you.
Me:At what point did you decide that Kieri was to be a bunny when not in her angelic form and is there any sort of contrast or symbolic meaning behind that in relationship to her character?
++ I decided to give Kieri a bunny curse long before her introduction into the comic. Originally I toyed with the idea of giving her the ability to summon a giant snow bunny (think of Cliff's Siara Special), but before long I started to draw her as the bunny. It grew out of a joke I made to myself because bunnies were much easier to draw than humanoid characters. And then the idea stuck and I had to think of a way to integrate it into the comic.
On a more metaphorical level, the way Kieri approaches her curse and how she learns to accept it is meant to be symbolic of her own problems with self-esteem and self-acceptance. Once she accepts that her friends don't mind her curse, she begins to accept it, and she begins to accept herself and be more confident as a result. That's the intention, anyway; I don't know if that message really made it through in my comics! But now that you and anyone reading this interview has it in mind, think about it when we learn more about Kieri's twin brother, Kazai.
Me:Regarding Sakido and Iratu whatever inspired their designs in particular?You're designs for your demons are very creative in particular but,I was curious about those too given their impact on the story(Maybe not Iratu too much yet on second thought........)
++ I made Sakido and Iratu when I was in high school, so it's a little hard to piece together what their primary inspirations were. In Sakido's case, I think it was a combination of the kind of art I liked to see on deviantArt back when I was 16 plus the rat people from Final Fantasy 9. I didn't play much of Final Fantasy 9 when it was new. The first time I really got the chance to play it for myself was about 4 years ago, and I didn't even finish it. But back when I was 16-17, my best friend had the Final Fantasy 9 art book, and I thought they looked cool. Oh yeah, and I'm sure Disney's Gargoyles had a huge influence on her design, too. She kind of looks like a British gargoyle, though I messed up the legs. Love that show.
As for Iratu, I was trying to make a big, intimidated werewolf-ish design. If I had to point out specific examples, it would be Sabre from Killer Instinct, the vague memory of a werewolf-like character from some fighting game I've never played (Darkstalkers?), and the Wolfos from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Don't misunderstand me when I point out these influences: I never once sat down with any of these characters and deliberately designed Sakido and Iratu to look just like them. They're just things that might have influenced their designs once I did sit down and try to come up with unique characters! I don't think it's possible to figure out exactly where their designs came from, since I have been known to come up with my own original ideas from time to time.
Me:You've given a little bit of fake and comical deaths to characters in particular strips(Not so funny in Kieri's one; poor girl!) but,which do you find funnier in retrospective;Rhea's death strip with Buwaro guessing away witlessly at the manner of her demise or one of Buwaro's "game overs' in your "Legend of Buwaro" comic?
++ I reread my Soprano of Time strips recently to refresh my memory, and I think I prefer the successive deaths in Soprano of Time. They were fun to write and draw.
Me:When writing is there any particular character whom you give similar struggles and outlooks as yourself so that you might deal have another lens to look through for real life if I might ask?
++ I think all of my characters have a little bit of me in them. I can't help it.
Me:Lastly as a bit of a misc. inquiry what good anime shows have you been watching lately and might recommend?
++ Kill la Kill is probably the best anime I've watched in a while. It's certainly not to everyone's tastes but I found it very enjoyable, and a lot smarter than people generally give it credit for (while it still indulges in being very, very silly). I started watching Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, and while there are only a few episodes out in Japan right now I think it's cute. Space Dandy and JoJo's Bizarre Adventure are also a lot of fun because they're insane. However, I don't watch as much anime as I used to, and I think I watch a lot less than people think I do!
Me:It has been a sublime pleasure interviewing you Mrs.Raizy.Keep on rocking and I (and many others) cannot wait to see what more you've got in store!
++ Thank you! I hope you keep enjoying Slightly Damned for as long as I can keep it going.