FLIGHT: Amy, Becky & JohaneAmy Kim Ganter
Interview Conducted By Jonathan Ellis
Interview - Kazu & Jake
Interview - Hope, Kean & Bannister
Interview - Amy, Becky, Johane
Interview - Doug, Ryan & Richard
A graduate from The School of Visual Arts' Cartooning and Illustration department, Amy has done freelance work including animation, illustration, tee shirt design, logo design, character design, and freelance comic book work for a variety of small companies and publishers. Her on-going project, the epic science fiction/fantasy story "Reman Mythology," has been more than seven years in the making, and is currently being serialized as a popular webcomic. Her contribution to FLIGHT is a side story to the ongoing Reman Mythology and is titled “A Test For Cenri”.
Now you brought up your webcomic Reman Mythology, so take us through the story here.
Amy: The story basically follows the adventures of Tabetha Cohen, a girl from a New England suburb, through the world of Rema. She's guided and protected in Rema by her new friends, Philip, Raed, and Paeter. All of them are police/soldiers who defend Rema from attacks from the neighbouring planet. Along the way Tabby discovers the culture and history of Rema, as well as its social and political problems. She eventually becomes deeply involved in the planet's future as the religion of Rema dies and the worlds begin to fall apart. It's a typical fantasy plot, but with a heavy emphasis on character relationships and the way in which the environment effects how people see things. It's kind of hard for me to summarize this story clearly since it's been so close to me for so long...!
How will the short in the Flight anthology tie into the regular Reman series?
Amy: The short in Flight takes place when Philip is around 13 years old, this is about 5 years before Tabby comes to Rema from Earth. It's also a few years after Philip's father has died, who he still looks up to despite Raed's attempts to be in control of his dreams. It's not necessary to read this story in terms of the main storyline, but I think it's a nice character study for those who are already familiar with the online comic.
You mention the manga and anime influence, but always remaining unique which is really the most important thing for people with that sort of influence. There are a lot of people with the same influence who will only end up mimicking what they’ve already seen and that just doesn’t help anyone. What other sort of influences helped you to develop your style? Carla Speed McNeil certainly shows in RM, though it was interested to read you were also influenced by Jim Lee.
Amy: Besides being influenced by life experiences (my trips to Korea for example heavily influenced the landscape on Rema as well as the clothing), Rumiko Takahashi, Hayao Miyazaki, Glenn Keane, Herge, Bill Watterson, and others have also influenced me. And of course the people in Flight, as well as my friends Becky Cloonan, Larry Chy, June Kim, and Jen Quick. I also get a lot of inspiration from film and photographs, most recently Robert Zemeckis, Chris Cunningham, and a website called trekearth.com. Music plays a big part in the layers of detail I add to my comic (mostly trance and movie/video game soundtracks), as well as my favourite authors inspiring me countless times (Philip Pullman, Madeleine L'Engle, Carl Sagan). I also really love some corny things like The 10th Kingdom and Farscape. As embarrassing as it is, I'm sure things like those have influenced me in some way.
How did attending SVA help you develop your art? I think it’s a common inside joke that a lot of aspiring comic artists tend to drop out after the first year, if they make it that far.
Amy: I think SVA was one of those things that happened at a nice time in my life. I think I needed the direction, especially since I hadn't taken my drawings too seriously beforehand. I was really lucky to have some great teachers that taught me how to express myself through my work, how to expand my tastes, and how to keep an open mind that remained curious. I guess the drawing classes were important too haha~ It was also useful to take storytelling for animators and scriptwriting classes. I think those kinds of classes that emphasize composing a good story and having it come across clearly should be required for all cartooning students.
Also, if I hadn't attended SVA I would never had met the closest friends I have today. I consider them all my brothers and sisters, and if anything SVA was worth it just to become friends with them. Although admittedly, college isn't for everyone.
I’m not sure which is cooler, being in Flight or having your own title with TokyoPop. How did you land that gig?
Amy: After winning third place in Rising Stars of Manga 4, I asked the editor I was in contact with if she'd be interested in a story that continued the tale I told in the contest entry. Fortunately she was interested, and we worked together to create a good pitch. The staff at Tokyopop seemed to like it and I've been working with them since!
On top of all these projects you’re also an illustrator and animator for Gamelab. Is this a sort of come-and-go as you please job ‘cause with all these projects you’ve got a lot on your plate?
Amy: Actually I should change what it says on my website. I left Gamelab about a month ago so I could focus on Tokyopop and comics full time. I still feel like I have a lot of projects, but I think I can handle them if I take them one step at a time! But if anyone wants to see the last project I worked on with Gamelab, go to shockwave.com and check out "Diner Dash". Beware! It's addicting!
Tell us about Sorcerers & Secretaries. Do you feel it's easier to construct a story when you have a graphic novel with a set cap on pages then when creating an ongoing piece for the web?
Amy: Sorcerers & Secretaries is a romantic comedy that takes place in NYC. It continues the love story between the two characters in my Rising Stars of Manga entry and has an emphasis on the creative process along with the feel-good romance. The page limits actually help me rather than hinder me in this case because it forces me to edit myself and keep me focussed on the end product. I think there is a bit of something lost however when you don't have that unlimited freedom of exploring to your heart's content.
Did you have reservations about TokyoPop considering recent rumblings about their handling of new talents and contract structures?:
Amy: I had a couple friends that worked with Tokyopop, and they had nothing but good things to say. Also, the editors I was in contact with were great with answering any questions I had, so my impression of them were pretty positive. I'm still happy with working with them and I can't really complain about anything, granted I've only been working with them for a few months now. It's like working with any other company I've worked with in the past so far.
For More Amy visit felaxx.com
Artist and Writer, Becky is best known for her most recent work as artist of the Brian Wood-penned 12 issue series; DEMO, for publisher Ait/PlanetLar. DEMO was Becky’s first monthly series and offered her the chance to experiment with each issue as all 12 issues acted as stand alone stories that she was able to interpret in a different stylistic choice for each. Becky is currently illustrating an adaptation of Bram Stokers DRACULA with writer Gary Reed for Penguin Books/Puffin Classics to be released later this year. Following DRACULA Becky will be writing and drawing a short series of graphic novels for publisher TokyoPop called EAST COAST RISING, which she describes as a cross between "Mad Max and Jason and the Argonauts, except with ancient sea dinosaurs." Becky’s contribtuion to FLIGHT volume 2 is titled “Heads Up”.
Since you brought up tatt flash pages as an influence, are there any specific artists you’re into?
Becky: I don't have many artists that I follow, mostly I just like old school, marentine and straight edge designs. I have a lot of fun taking classic designs and putting a spin on them.
Style. With Demo, each story had its own style to it and with your Flight contribution you seem to depart from the sort of work you did there. Is style something you find you’re constantly developing or do you try to go with what feels right when approached with a specific project?
Becky: I'm asked the style question a lot, and it's always really difficult to answer. I've always pushed myself in different directions, depending on what inspires me, and what the project I'm working on calls for. I approach everything I do from different angles, trying to learn new ways of doing things. With Flight, somebody had suggested that I try drawing a comic like I would draw a flyer, or a tattoo. Since I do a lot of those anyway, I thought it was a really cool idea to play around with.
With the Dracula project you’ve been using brushes and ink, are you at the point where you trust it enough to go straight from blank page to ink or do you still do roughs in pencil?
Becky: I doubt I'll ever be able to go straight to ink! I really need guidelines. My pencils are usually pretty rough though, much to my editor's dismay.
Do you grow up influenced by stuff like Dracula? Your dark and heavy lines was certainly what drew me to your art when I first saw it those many years ago, but back then it was more of a 'punk' or 'Paul Pope-ish' thing to do, but when you've got a project with Gary Reed and start making references to the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari... that tends to raise an eyebrow.
Becky: Old expressionists films were the major inspiration for my earlier comics. The stark black and white look, sense of urgency and direction impressed me so much that I started drawing comics, I don't think their influence on me has left. I have a lot of different influences, but for Dracula it just makes sense to go back to my roots!
So can we count you as another fan of Maya Deren turned comic creator?
Becky: Another? Heh heh! (She is a bit avant garde for my tastes..)
When is comes to using zipatone, do you find it acts as an enhancer to the page or does it ever get to the point where you find yourself relying on it?
Becky: I try only to use zip as an enhancer, but when I draw a comic that I know will use tone then I will plan out how to tone it as I draw each one, that way there isn't much wasted energy on the page. I would never rely on tone though.
Will these forthcoming graphic novels be with Ait/PlanetLar as well?
Becky: Dracula is being released by Penguin Books/Puffin Classics, and East Coast Rising is being published by Tokyopop. I would definitely love to work with Ait again, but for now I am trying to work with different people and publishers.
Could you tell us a little about East Coast Rising? And to come back to style again, will you be adapting at all for TokyoPop? Though personally, I think TokyoPop publishing something by you while retaining your own distinctive style would really speak well for them as a publisher and show your work can have a wide reaching appeal without having to express a more traditional manga flavour.
Becky: East Coast Rising will be my first action/adventure! It's almost a cross between Mad Max and Jason and the Argonauts, except with ancient sea dinosaurs. I have 3 books planned for it so far. I don't want to say too much about it yet, I haven't even started drawing it!
Even though manga has had a big influence on my art, I think it's seen more through the storytelling and pacing than the way I draw the characters. Tokyopop understands this, and has never asked me to change my style.
For More On Becky visit Estrigious.com/Becky
Johane is the creator of the self-published series HORUS, an energetic jot through Egypt centred on a child with the head of a falcon, causing adventure and commotion as questions arise as to the child’s true identity. Could it be the god Horus as a child? If not, then who or what? Johane has two contributions to FLIGHT volume 2, “Icarus” and “Mouse Trap”
How does working in a comics page compare to working in animation?
Johane: I've not done any personal film, only worked in commercial animation where you're often confined to one role and only touch upon one aspect of the production. I used to do character design, and only characters, production schedule oblige. I had no creative input into the story.
Doing storyboards though is the closest thing to drawing a comic and at the same time, it's a different language. Planning a comic page layout has not the same flow as planning a series of scenes in a pre-formatted screen size. On a page, you guide the eye around; panels shape and lettering can add to the mood. What I've learned from boarding has influenced my comic storytelling and vice versa.
You tend to draw inspiration from old mythologies and fantasy, is this something carried over from childhood or more of an artistic discovery?
Johane: Definitely from childhood. I grew up reading Europeans comics and they were a big influence. They have a very large variety of historical, fantasy and mythological titles.
Are there any mythologies you find particularly stimulating?
Johane: I love history in general, and all countries and civilisations have wonderful stories. But anything from ancient Egypt has the strongest hold on me. It's an old fascination. There are also the old Faery lore’s of northern Europe.
Is it the visuals of these beings that intrigues you or the stories themselves?
Johane: I'd say both. It's one thing to imagine what these beings may look like when reading the stories, but to see how people in the past pictured them is also fascinating and a source of inspiration.
Could you tell us about your series Horus
Johane: I always have trouble describing it; I feel I don't do it justice. It is set in ancient Egypt, where a young girl finds a boy with a falcon's head. Could he be the god Horus... as a child? Word of that discovery reaches the court, and that's the beginning of chaos. Divinities are not supposed to be walking the earth with mortals...
I had been thinking of doing comics for years, and Horus was the project that I knew I was not going to get bored drawing. It's still done on a pretty low budget at the moment (read photocopies), but that should change when I collect all three existing mini comics.
Your art style leans to a very animation inspired style, have you attempted taking your stories to an existence on film instead of paper?
Johane: Hehe, I can't seem to shake off the style I picked up from years of work in animation. I've been corrupted.
About two years ago, I was friend with a studio director and he invited me to pitch the Horus project to him. I didn't feel quite ready at the time, and preferred to continue developing the stories and characters on paper. The studio has unfortunately pretty much closed operation now. I think I'd be ready to try again, but I'd try to update the look of the characters a bit.
For More on Johane visit www.qosmiq.com/rufftoon
Interview - Kazu & Jake
Interview - Hope, Kean & Bannister
Interview - Amy, Becky, Johane
Interview - Doug, Ryan & Richard
Jonathan Ellis is Co-Editor in Chief of PopImage
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