Me:Anyways today I am interviewing the indie comic star David Lillie with a few interjections from his wife Liz Lillie!
Liz: Thank you, Garrett, for giving us this opportunity. Dave and I hope to answer some reader questions that may not always come up in conversation. Word has it that this is going to be posted on the forum, and I think that's a really smart idea.
Me:Now I was sort of wondering about some things growing up and how they might have influenced your writing and art.If I may say 2D animated Disney films seem to be popular.The rustic style of line art is remniscent of the 101 Dalmations and the the mouth expressions remind me of the Lion King's expressions so were they influences?Thoughts?
David: I think your instincts are spot on there. We grew up during the late 80's and 90's traditional animation boom- Disney movies were the cultural hub, there were other studios competing to create their own 2-D animation, television shows were popping up- it was a visually rich environment, and I think just the animation-friendly culture in general was one of my biggest influences.
Liz: Disney's Robin Hood would be an inspiration, but Aladdin was the big eye-opener. I grew up without cable, so no Cartoon Network or Nick for me. The Sesame Street cartoon clips, Hanna Barbera, and Looney Toons remnants would play after school and rock my sad little world. I was too young to understand what reruns were. I really thought there was a future in animating more 'Schoolhouse Rock'. And of course the 90's boom of Warner Brothers animation blew me away.
Me:Any Japanese animation influence?(Feels funny asking since they are not usually big on Anthro stuff:))?I will say that you do seem to relate to that in the sense that you do try to make Dreamkeepers fairly mature yet still vibrant which some but not all(Dragon Ball has it's quirks too you know!Dragon Ball Z's great but something that's lighter-hearted is nice too!)anime series seem to get down well although it should be worth mentioning that Prelude is really lighthearted and enjoyable and you don't have to worry about Nightmare's popping in and killing characters and you can kind of enjoy the character's more lax personalities and essentially acts as your "Dragon Ball" and really makes the characters grow on you even more and become attached towards them.
I know comics weren't your cup of tea then but cartoon strips seemed to appeal to you.Aside from Calvin and Hobbes were there any big hits with you?How about yourself Liz?
David: Aside from Calvin & Hobbes, hmm... Not a whole lot comes to mind. In college I got into JTHM, but my childhood wasn't heavy into comics. The whole superhero angle never resonated with me much. I read Jurassic Park about eight times instead. Now, anime was definitely an influence- I loved this old show, 'Cities of Gold' when I was six. And in high school, Toonami's lineup got me hooked on Dragon Ball Z. Anime can be really hit and miss, but when it hits it's unforgettable. I especially liked how they could play with a wide spectrum of emotion in animes- from adult drama to action to erotica to vapid kiddy fare, and everything in between. It seemed like Japanese creators had a much fuller palette to draw from as compared to the folks making cartoons over here.
Liz: I never heard of Anime or Japanese animation until Sailor Moon began to air over here. I know that whenever I first saw it, I didn't care for it, but that's ignorance talking. There's such a wide range. The first anime I saw was called 'Bastard'.
As for comic-comics, my family would share the funny papers every Sunday morning over donuts. We'd fight a bit and Dad would pick out which comics Mom might like, then we'd discuss which strips were exceptionally good.
Calvin and Hobbes and Foxtrot were favorites, but I was obsessed with Garfield for years. Never got into the story-based ones like Prince Valiant or Spiderman, which I know are classics.
I can name random comics like: Get Fuzzy, Pearls Before Swine, Shoe, Baby Blues, Opus, please be impressed by my skills.
Me:To whom would you attribute your success towards?
David: Hm- there are really only two groups of people that I think deserve major credit for our success so far. The first is me 'n Liz- nobody else has been out there creating Dreamkeepers except for us. It sounds arrogant to point out, but it wouldn't exist if we weren't making it. The pages don't draw themselves. The other group is the important one- the readers. I've encountered more generosity, enthusiasm, and support from the people in our readership than I would have ever imagined possible. I started out assuming the internet was a generally hostile place, and boy was I wrong. Dreamkeepers is flourishing because good people are enjoying it, and helping to spread the word. Without you guys, we'd only be amusing ourselves. That, and starving.
Liz: I don't have success, Garrett. The silver butterfly won't stick to the lightswitch.
Definitely any success I have is my parents fault. My mother is also an artist, and I think that's how I got away with most of my more-wacky ideas. Dave lends a hat to this role, now. I greatly respect both of their opinions as law whenever I'm working on anything creative. I need that second opinion.
My dad is retired now and makes war models, (think wooden working trebuchets) and he's in the same spot I am. He also supports critique and demonstrating the steps to his creation. My parents taught me that a good critique will make something better.
Being around Dave, he bring success by offering an opportunity to work on a magnificently rare sort of project. Dreamkeepers is the kind of open-ended creative beast that you don't see very often. Or get to work on very often. So I would blame Dave for most of it. He understands why that lightswitch is sure as hell going to have a butterfly.
Me:Now in terms of art courses what were your thoughts on College?I know they require you to go realistic for a lot of things and how did that feel in comparison to full on cartoon goodness?What course sort of brought you together since Liz seems to be the digital artist while Dave seems to enjoy doing lineart and the two of you work really well together if I may say so myself.
David: Ah, college... This probably disqualifies me to be either a guidance councilor or a cheerleader, but my first thought regarding college is, 'Wow, what a costly mistake.'
I did learn some things, true- but I was also forced to do a lot of pointless busywork and take asinine course requirements for four years. It effectively slowed my artistic progress, especially regarding cartooning. If I had taken four years to focus my own studies with internet tutorials, I would be much further along in terms of skill and ability.
And the price. Dear Lord, the price. Still paying for it. Paying, and paying, and paying... Thinking of the software and work tools I could have acquired for just a fraction of that cost... Yeah, art college wasn't a sensible career move. Anyone considering it, make sure you know exactly what you expect to gain from the experience, and do your homework.
Liz is the best thing that happened at college, of course. Met her going door to door offering stolen cookies in the dorm. Then she beat me in Goldeneye. We were dating before the semester even started.
Liz: Oh. I didn't know you were asking for a world of hurt, Garrett. Asking Dave about art college. Really. I'm glad you think we work well together. There were a lot of classes we didn't need, and there were a lot of classes we didn't know we needed. I'm thinking of the Freshmen foundation courses that I'm now remembering for color charts. You just never know.
Entering college, I decided to put away a lot of my artsy craftsy hobbies and limit myself to flat drawing to better fit in art school. It was very two-dimensional, so I would be too. Put away the 3-d tricks unless I needed them. I wanted to be taught.
If this helps explain: I was a harpist for ten years of my life, but going to study animation, something I couldn't do at home, was a much more promising unexplored path. I could always return to the harp. But if I went to college for harp alone, I'd be doing just that. Returning to a harp alone. I can't lift the thing.
Now in art college, including a harp in my painting somewhere might be 'creative' to a teacher and earn a high mark, and I could make a habit of this. But I'd know better: what was really going on. So very few people knew that I could play the harp. I came to art college to learn new things, not pull tricks for grades. My parents expressed that "college is a one time experience".
They do want students to work in realism. Up through college none of my art teachers liked cartoons, so keeping the cartoons to the sidelines wasn't a problem.
Dave and I didn't meet during a class, he was already a Junior RA when I entered the semester. We 'bonded' (ha ha ha Goldeneye reference) during some freshmen activities and he followed me around everywhere and we began dating a week later.
Funny thing: I never thought I'd be able to date an artist. I just didn't think it would work, and thought this up until college. So when Dave and I did start dating, I was quite adamant about not seeing each other's artwork- one of us was going to be the lesser skilled artist. That could be awkward professionally down the road. How...how could I be polite yet honest about something like that?
Well, I don't remember what prompted it, but finally one night there was a big flurry of papers and our sketchbooks all over the living room of his apartment. I think we came out of the fight quite pleased.
Dave was the one who taught me digital art skills his senior year in college. For Dreamkeepers we just prefer his drawing style for this project. And I like to ink my work, which demands hours. And then not showing people because I'm shy.
Me:Now moving forward from the College enviroment is typically a hard thing especially considering the fact that although there are business classes there are minimal tips and tricks on how to get started publishing full color comics and I can see why freelance animation was lucrative for a while.How did you cope with that?I do recall you got side jobs for a while and diligently pursued the American Dream.So any input on that?
David: I think it's the same learning curve everyone hits when they enter reality- same situation, just different details. Reality is tough, food isn't free, and school doesn't actually teach you how to survive and get ahead. At all.
My first year I was very preoccupied with the idea of supporting myself only on my artwork, and avoiding Joe Jobs. This worked, kinda- but it also meant I didn't have time to do Dreamkeepers effectively, and I began to hate the art I was creating. Switching to a 'real' job was the best career move I made. It let me focus on Dreamkeepers every moment I was off the clock, while paying the bills.
It also helped get rid of the idea that I was at all entitled to any kind of success. You learn that if you don't earn it, then you don't get it. So I got to work.
Liz: Dave is the publishing guru. Moving beyond college can be a nightmare if you refuse the real world and can't be grateful for what work you find.
An art degree doesn't mean an art career. And a degree in Psychology requires quite a bit more before you may write prescriptions. What I'm trying to hint at is that living should come first and pride over your college degree should be very well hidden.
Many people have college degrees that don't match what they do. My dad had a degree in history and worked as an accountant for Ford motor company. When computers were on the rise he returned to school to get another degree in order to stay up to date with the times. Ask anyone older than you how their college degree is useful to this day, and you may be very surprised.
I'm both thumbs up about having a 'normal' not artistic job. For years art would wait until I got home. The job gave me time to think and plan, which was great. A few times I covered my register in paper cranes and gave them away to help subdue screaming children in line. If I had to go back to that, I would. Find what works for you.
Me:Now I will say that as hard as it might have been it certainly seems like it might have been a good thing to establish a solid reputation before using Kickstarter as a fundraising venue.Do you perhaps wish you had found it sooner?Regardless I thought that it went very well and as much as a fun distraction as it might have been you did do a lot to get some much needed money if your Intellectual Property and you did a great job explaining how the funds were to be used and I imagine this will help you print out Volume 4.
David: I think Kickstarter is a great tool, when used for the right job. I heard about it years before, but didn't want to blindly jump in for a money-grab. I wanted to have a good reason for it, something I actually needed it to produce- the Prelude book collection was a good fit. Even though the Kickstarter went so well, I plan to use them sparingly in the future. It would be tempting to just spam them all the time- but my goal is to create great stuff for our readers. And if a Kickstarter isn't facilitating that, then it shouldn't happen. I think a lot of new creators may go to Kickstarter with a false sense of entitlement, and I think customers in the next generation are going to start learning to trust people that have a history of delivering, and be cautious about people that make their debut by asking for cash.
Liz: Kickstarter is a wonderful new door that's been opened to a lot of budding artists. We have a reputation for printing books with our own means minus additional help, so finding Kickstarter sooner wouldn't have benefited us. I'm thinking back to the print run of the very first volume....I saw a few book projects on KS that didn't work out, and it looks like having an established audience is a key factor to success with their program. If we had used KS to fund a print run of our first book back in 2006, we would have a very skewed and disproportionate view of our readership.
Me:Now I do believe that Kobalt95 had a question that would fit in right here hold on let me copy and paste......And there!" How much more popular do you think Dreamkeepers has gotten since Volume 3 was released?"
David: It's hard to measure precisely- that's one thing I've learned over the years. But our e-mail newsletter list has grown by at least 30%, we've continued selling editions of every graphic novel to new customers, the free books on the site have reached a lot of new folks... I would say we've grown by four canoes and three paddle's worth.
Never have I promised to make sense.
Liz: There were a good number of years between the second and third books when you look at production. Without that third book, I believe our readership would have remained on ice and slowly cooled to a stop. Releasing Volume 3 gave reassurance to our readers that they are indeed following a living story, and one that is a priority to us (the creators).
Me:Now Dreamkeepers is really gaining traction thanks to what you accurately assert as a "Kick-ass and supportive group"in which I am proud to be a part of.I do believe that since it is hopefully getting to the point that it is more profitable that you can keep the momentum going.Looking towards the future what are your thoughts on moving forward?
David: I like the thought of things getting easier, but don't want to take anything for granted. I think relaxing and starting to slack off a little bit is a good way to prove I pulled myself up to a level where I don't belong and won't remain. Fortunately the temptation isn't high for this- I utterly love getting up every day and working on more Dreamkeepers! I can't predict the future, but I have more time to devote to production than ever before, we have more books created than ever before, and the readership is continuing to grow, so it's not unreasonable to be optimistic. As long as I can continue showing the story to people and they continue enjoying it, things ought to be fun. Moving forward right now, my focus is on getting the next few books out faster than the previous few. And there are a few possibilities snuggled away on the edges, but I like to keep things under wraps until there's some certainty they'll actually occur.
Liz: My fortune cookie states that "Ignorance never settles a question" but I don't know the future. I barely know the present. I see the popularity of commercialism rise and fall, gain favor with the public then fade out and later be retro, or think they've made the big time and then flop hard.
If what you're doing is working then keep doing what you do. Don't let the side distractions get you. We have a story to finish regardless of what changes around us. One trick *we* have as artists and writers is that we can also change and adapt. Fight back and try new things.
Me:Now regarding your characters;
Before I bore you I must say that the action lines that are present in your art are just so blatantly cool because on top of helping you keep poses and proportions in whack they lend so much individuality towards the characters and as I mentioned beforehand gives off that neat rustic feel that reminds the reader of the pencilled origins of just about every aspect of DK which is refreshing in a world where most animation is 3D although to be fair Japan still mostly maintains the warm,inviting and fun 2D style.Such a shame Disney stopped with most of their 2D movies since American audiences were clamoring for more Pixar and after the Lion Kind 2D films waned in profitability.I mean who even remembers such vivid films like Treasure Island from Disney?Anyways it your characters got me to use action lines and boy is it refreshing to know that so long as I keep my action lines consistent then there's not going to be overly large and the style also applies well to all the snazzy fan characters out there like for example Gloves AKA sketchsituation's beautiful mess of color called Aften,heads,arms,etc.Refreshing to see you do that to be blatantly honest.
David: Well thank you, I'm glad you like it so much! 8 3
Me:Something which I am glad you did not take from Disney is that with the main 4 characters you did flesh them out and although they are very appealing I do appreciate the fact that you didn't make them all generic and perfect complete with a really naive view on the workings of the world so everybody can sympathize with them because that's just kind of boring.
David: I really think it's the imperfections that make characters interesting in the long run. Flaws and contradictions and struggles are just easier to relate to than, say, Superman. Things are always more interesting when there's a problem in the mix.
Liz: I don't know what you've been reading. Tinsel *is* perfect.
Now your comic being about really cool looking anthro characters I must say that although they certainly look good unlike other anthro comics out there you do not constantly focus on make their cleavage very prominent .Now I certainly like aesthetically pleasing females and some comics such as Two Kinds pull that off with a good story but that is kind of rare a lot of supposed comic artists are just trying to use the same scantily clad characters and put them in admittedly attractive poses.I know that the Indigos and Tinsel have rather blunt garb and show off their cleavage but there is so much more to all the characters(Or in the case of Tinsel the only other thing would be her continuous scheming.)but like say the Indigos might come off as strippers and cheap women but they certainly are loyal to Igrath.The best example I can think of actually would be Vi whom when you look through the viewpoint of the average Anduruninian would come across as some ugly(And filthy if we're talking about her Prelude version) female who is not overly pleasant to the eyes due to what they would view as lame cleavage or her being tempermental.Now in the eyes of the viewer she is good looking but what I really like about her is that at least to me it is the writing of her that makes her cool because she is really believable and meets life's problems head on.(To varying results depending on whether it's the GNS or Prelude.She just seems to leave hurt feelings in Prelude before trying to sympathize)I certainly do like attractive females but I was wondering what the two of you felt about it.
David: You bring up an interesting point- a lot of controversy is swirling around comics these days due to their sexy heroines. I believe there's a growing group that pulls out the fainting couches every time someone draws Catwoman in a ridiculously sextacular pose.
Both sides have some merit- why do all females in comics have to wear paper-thin shirts sporting ten-gallon jugs? Isn't there more to female protagonists than this?
On the other hand, both men and women in our culture are preoccupied with female sex appeal. What's so villainous about acknowledging that reality, and- saints preserve us- drawing something sexy? Will the critics be happy if every female comic character looks like Mrs. Lockhorn?
I think there's a significant portion of our society that simply enjoys being offended, and will indulge at every opportunity. It makes one feel morally superior, adds a splash of self-righteous drama to the day, and attracts attention.
I don't think the subject deserves all the attention it's been getting. People should read what they like- and guys like attractive girls. The people gasping in indignation at this have a problem with human nature.
That said, I do think creators have some responsibility to create things that do more than just exploit human nature to make a quick buck. Sure, female characters can be sexually attractive. But they should also be more than that. The two propositions are not mutually exclusive.
A paper-thin character that's simply an excuse to draw boobs gets boring fast. But conversely, erasing all the visual appeal and sexuality from a character has two negatives. One, if they don't have any visual appeal, it doesn't matter how profound their existential struggle is, because nobody's going to be reading about it. And two, it's dishonest to delete sexuality from fictional characters. It exists in real people- who are we kidding if we try to paint some pseudo-Victorian portrait where nobody has gonads?
Evidently I have too much to say on the subject. I don't know how well I've executed my own opinions here. I just try to listen to the characters and let them do their thing.
Liz: (shrugs) I'm fine with it. I think Dave draws all the characters rather thin, but that's his style.
Me:Which brings me to my next point in which although you certainly have to have priortizations as a writer you do a lot of fleshing out your side characters and even when you have somebody whom is somewhat detached yet involved like Nainso and you can't factor them in as much it never feels like your really relegating them to the status of chopped liver and the two of you use what time they have sharing the spotlight to convey their quirks,get a laugh our or make a point,and then go before it focuses too much on them which is rather remarkable given that as a comic you don't have unlimited space to throw in dialogue and breath life into the story.
David: It's a bit of a balancing act sometimes. Getting distracted by every side-character and glittery ornament on the sidewalk can lead to a cluttered narrative where the story derails and we lose track of what needs to be conveyed.
But conversely, cutting out everything except for the absolute bare minimum necessities leaves a story feeling dry, underdeveloped, and like it's happening in some kind of unnatural vacuum. Having a rich journey can be worth more than a sprint to the destination sometimes. We're still learning as we go- the real goal is to have a rich, fulfilling journey that feels natural, where everything included is relevant to the storyline.
...We may not be perfect, but trust us, we're not going to pull a 'Lost' on you guys. Things will add up.
Liz: I remember there was this one idea, way way way back about having mini separate visual stories in the backgrounds of the books so you have to follow these select characters to get the whole picture of what happened and it wouldn't be resolved until the very end of the series. We decided that was a bad idea, but sometimes a one or two panel moment will take place, like destroying Wally's cart. We treat that as more of an animated scene.
There have been many side characters who have stepped up and taken a major story role. Bobby was originally only for Prelude, the entire cast of orphans including Randy were never going to be seen past book 1. The Underlord and Wisp were going to be killed off early just because we could. Sometimes we're surprised how these cast members bring their own to the story.
Another cherry on the top of your character writing would be who a lot of things that can be said about characters are applicable to other characters instead of Bast being the only tough guy in the group because Mace is fairly resilient too although something tells me that they could both be sent flying by Grunn.(For a frequently drunk guy he sure fights well!).Another example would be how Lilith is really dedicated in school and smart and although Namah is not afforded the same education as her sister it is worth noting that she is no dumbass and is fairly bright herself.(Then again with her presumably being reptilian I suppose that veiled specialties would be a knack of hers.Any inspiration from Tally?)
David: Truthfully, I think all of our inspiration comes from Tally sometimes. X D But it's satisfying to hear that you think the characters have turned out so well. It's a goal to make them very distinctive from one another, without having it seem unnaturally so.
Liz: I can't believe you just did that, Dave. Like you're actually going to leave it like that. Tallygator is the Underlord. That is all. There's even a voice Dave makes for Tally that *is* the Underlord. If we make any animated animatic thingy with Scuttles, you will hear that voice. Sometimes I have to write what he says in a quote book because Scuttles needs a word balloon later.
David: DENIAL. *Hides in closet*
Liz: That's right. The Nile. Like she won't find you.
The dialogue was touched upon in a previous interview but I do find it worth saying that you are remarkably self aware of when to throw in a more advanced vocabulary without making certain characters coming off as narcissistic blowhards because that area's kind of taken up by Tendril,Tinsel,Randy,etc especially when you're trying to make somebody become sympathetic towards the plight of a character.(Which you do very well BTW)
David: The characters don't need to be narcissistic blowhards, that's my job.
Liz: That's very nice of you to say, Garrett. We run through a lot of dialogue changes. It's a constant focus and obsession until we declare a book done.
Me:Speaking of Tendril something tells me that he's going to be popular in the up and coming Halloween contest.He does seem like he has appeal as a villain and with his character mindset he can fit in anything from comedy to scary stuff since he's expressed some rather unpleasant fantasies for Lilith whom I imagine will become a rather tender yet crunchy Tendril delicacy.Personally I am trying to do one pick of Halloween humor imagining some of the more embarrasing and improbable demises for the main cast and a cheerful pic of Mace and Whip as two game characters which would compensate for Mace's yet undiscovered power!
David: That sounds awesome, I look forward to seeing what you come up with! 8 )
Liz: Should be a lot of fun! We won't spoil our theme this year.
Me:Now one last thing that I have been meaning to ask Liz:What figures have you painted up recently?Sorry I just had to do that since I paint miniatures myself.
Liz: Thank you for asking! I paint whatever I sculpt, (the fun part) which is at the moment dreamkeeper maquettes to decorate the apartment. These are statues I won't part with (at this time) because the material is too fragile and breaks too easily. Think about Wisp's legs and Namah's tail jumping when the figure stands at 6". Yikes. Their job is to sit on a shelf.
Just finished a hanging Wisp yesterday (we'll post pics later) and we plan to ebay auction a resin figure of Vi laying down from last year's Halloween contest. The resin is a plastic from a rubber mold and nearly impossible to break. If I get my act together, maybe we'll have a few Vi's to sell since there was enough material left over to make a few extra resin copies of her. Dunno.
Besides paper birds for fun, I'm about to start a Tinsel or Lilith marquette, haven't decided quite which. Maquettes help me see what a resin version would have to become (Lilith's tail can't stick out, for example) to be possible.
I didn't like or get into Warhammer or the other game figurines, because I'm very particular about the style of molding. I don't care about the games and robots or stats. Ral Partha, Thunderbolt Mountain, and Grenadier Models featured artsy-dragon fantasy statues like bone dragons and wolf riders. I started collecting and painting them in the fourth grade (and repainting them repeatedly) until selling the whole lot on ebay right before we moved here. It felt really good to be rid of that chapter of my life, but I still have a forest dragon, giant griffon, and wyvern. They were my favorites of the bunch.
David: Thank you again for interviewing us, and coming up with so many great questions! I believe everyone now officially knows too much.
Me:Pleasant chatting with the both of you!
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