MOMENTS OF INSANITY: 'ICE' & 'ZOMBIES CALLING' CREATOR FAITH ERIN HICKS
Faith Erin Hicks is a writer and artist whose work is garnering lots of attention, both for her witty dialogue and well-crafted characters, and her strong linework and Manga-influenced art. Her first webcomic, the high school supernatural high-jinx tale Demonolgy 101, was a runaway success, while her sophomore project Zombies Calling was later collected as a graphic novel by Slave Labor Graphics, home to Roman Dirge of Lenore fame.
Her new ongoing comic, Ice, is a love story set in a society that has suffered a disastrous ecological event; it is one of the best pieces of ongoing speculative fiction available online, presaging the themes of work like Warren Ellis’ new project, Freakangels. Faith took time out of her busy schedule to give us a bit of background on her three major projects, all of which can be viewed free online.
* Image - self portrait by Faith Erin Hicks. Copyright 2008, all rights reserved.
W/ What motivated you to get into writing and drawing comics, and what made you decide to initially put Demonology 101 on the internet?
F/Because the internet was there! …and free. Honestly, I'm not quite sure how I got into it, just a moment of insanity. I've always loved comics, but I never really started being interested in drawing them until well into University. Once I started, though, I found I couldn't stop. I became very interested in seeing how the stories I was writing would develop, and I became very interested in trying to make drawing my career. And comics are a good way to improve your drawing skills.
W/ High school can be an emotionally scarring experience for some people – how much did your own experience of high school affect the subject matter of Demonology 101?
F/ It didn't, actually. I didn't draw on any of my high school experiences for D101, and the less said about that, the better, ha ha.
W/ Zombies Calling eventually got published by Slave Labor Graphics. How did this come about did you approach them, or did they approach you? Do you think it has expanded your audience?
F/ I approached them. Or rather, I mailed them. I sent them a Zombies Calling pitch package and a long while afterwards, they contacted me about publishing it. I think they really liked my cover letter and story summary, which I find pretty hilarious. Not that I blame them: the art in the pitch comic I sent was nothing to write home about. I don't know about expanded audiences… D101 was really popular for a while, and I would say it was more popular than ZC is, but then, D101 is free. Most of the people that I've met / talked to online that have read Zombies Calling have mentioned liking Demonology 101 too, but I've also gotten emails from folks who had no idea of my online work, and discovered it after reading Zombies Calling. Which is awesome!
W/ Zombies Calling looks at the 'rules' of surviving a Zombie apocalypse. Who do you consider the number one authority on Zombie matters? Are you a fan of Robert Kirkman's zombie epic The Walking Dead?
F/ Not really, it's too brutal for me. I'm really only into the funny/cheesy aspect of zombie lore, the original three zombie movies by George Romero, that sort of thing. Although I really enjoyed World War Z by Max Brooks, and that's pretty gruesome. But then, it's also a novel, not a comic. I think I just have a hard time with the visual presentation of things like torture and people being horrific to each other, which The Walking Dead has in spades. It's very well written, very well done, but I don't have the stomach for it.
W/ Ice is set in a post-apocalyptic world - do you consider it to be a fantasy work, or speculative fiction (ie. something that might / could happen)?
F/ Ice is very much inspired by what I see the world progressing towards. That is, a society that has driven itself to the brink of civilisation by simply overusing resources. I wanted to portray this trodden, exhausted world with an exhausted, apathetic populace. It's not really post-apocalyptic in the sense that this one great devastation has occurred. It's supposed to be a portrayal of what would happen if we just simply continued on with our earth-abusing ways.
W/ What advice do you have for people looking to get into writing / drawing web comics? Any recommendations in terms of how to get started, and how to get your work seen?
F/ Honestly, I really fell into it by accident, so I can't offer much advice. The only thing I can really suggest is try to keep your updates consistent. It really helps to grow your readership if you can do that.
W/ Your characters feel very real, and have gotten more real as your work has continued. The characterisation in Ice is particularly strong and very textured. Do you base your characters on friends, or are they entirely drawn from imagination?
F/ Sometimes I draw my friends in the background of a panel, but no, I don't usually base characters on people I know. The one exception is Robyn from Zombies Calling, who I based roughly on a friend.
W/ What software do you use for displaying your comics online? Of the many webcomic sites I have seen, yours is one of the easiest to use.
F/ Oh man, it's just all done by hand! I don't use any kind of scripts, or anything. I have a separate html file for each D101 and Ice page, and put the jpeg of the page right there on it. It sounds like a lot of work, but once you get it set up and get your page template with your next buttons at the bottom, it's quite easy to replicate. Tedious, yes, but very easy for the reader to navigate. I don't really like a lot of the layouts for online comics. I'm particularly annoyed by banner ads at the top of a comic page. On the website itself, fine, but I find them really distracting.
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