The webcomic creator is never far from their audience. Be it through social media, public email addresses, Discord servers, or simply the comments section beneath a page, there is a rapport and a conversation that is developed that is unique to the medium. We’re continuing those conversations here, albeit a little more formally, by interviewing webcomics creators to pick their brains about craft, storytelling, and their personal experiences with the medium.
To get us started then, for those unfamiliar with your comic, give us the elevator pitch for “Oddity Woods.”
Kay D.: Sure! Oddity Woods is a mystery comic about two kids that become trapped in a supernatural woodland realm, and documents their adventures there, the mysteries they solve, and the numerous oddities they encounter while trying to escape.
Mystery comics are few and far between in the webcomics world, and all-ages ones are even more rare. Did you decide to start “Oddity Woods” to fill that void?
KD: I’m don’t think I was aiming to fill a void, per say. I chose a genre I was most interested in – mystery and horror- but wanted to make a cute story, too. So while there are scary moments, I do try to keep it suitable for even younger readers.
I did feel like there was a lack of mystery comics, but mostly, I just wanted to write the genre I liked most!
What about the genre appeals to you?
KD: I’d say the creepiness of it — I think it goes hand in hand with mystery. Something about balancing cute characters with creepy monsters is very fun to write and draw. I’ve always been intrigued by horror stories, and by mysteries. I love wondering what’s going to happen next, and what’s lurking around the next corner.
It’s the thrill of the question. Creepiness isn’t usually associated with all-ages, isn’t it? That was poorly phrased but I think you get what I mean?
KD: Haha yes I understand! It’s a bit hard to say! When I was a kid, I was drawn to the creepy horror stories at the school library. . .and while they caused me to lose sleep, I was always coming back to them. I think kids are often drawn to the unknown.
Same! Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark terrified me but I kept going back. I think maybe a nice analogy is Goosebumps and the way R.L. Stine approaches horror. Funny but with an underlying creepiness.
KD: Yes, those illustrations were the worst! The ones in Scary Stories. . . they were always so creepy. I think they scared me more than the stories themselves sometimes.
Yeah, they were. The power of illustration, right?
KD: Yes, and with comics that’s even more true. So it really works out.
When you approach “Oddity Woods,” do you keep stories like that in the back of your mind or something else?
KD: When writing the creepier scenes, yes, though I think puzzle/mystery games are more of an influence on the overall tone of the story. That way it can still be fun, without becoming too much of a horror.
Any sources in particular?
KD: “Professor Layton” and “Ace Attorney” are the two main ones.
“Professor Layton” is certainly a game series to aspire to, tonally. Not to cut that line off, I could talk “Layton” all day, but to move to a broader question, what were your experiences with webcomics prior to starting “Oddity Woods?”
KD: I don’t think I’ve really ever been a huge webcomic reader, to be honest! There were some I read in high school, and of course there are a lot more on the scene now. The one’s I kept up with most were “Cucumber Quest,” “Paranatural” and “Homestuck” for while.
Ah, so three very obscure titles. [laughs] One day I will find myself reading “Homestuck.”
KD: Haha yeah. . .I’d really love to try and find some lesser known webcomics to read. It’s a large ocean now.
It is! It’s beautiful and very hard to surf. What made you decided to tell “Oddity Woods” as a webcomic then? What about the medium appealed to you?Continued below
KD: I’ve always enjoyed making comics — webcomics were something anyone could read, and a format I’d have full control over. There are some drawbacks to them, of course. Usually, when making “OW,” I’m making it with a book in mind, and not really a web format.
If I had the power now, I think I’d prefer it to be a graphic novel!
So that influences the pacing of the chapters?
KD: I think so. The recent chapter is very long, of course, but it’s more a part of a story arc that also contains the beginning of the comic too. So, if it were collected, it would be the first 2 chapters. I think in webcomics, usually chapters are far shorter.
Or, at least, people hope they are. Speaking of working, are you primarily working digitally, physically or a combination of both? What about your preferred format do you find works best for you?
KD: In the beginning, I did thumbnails and pencil work physically. The pencils were on 11 x 17 paper . . .and they took a LONG time. Today I do everything digitally. It’s way faster for me.
How long were you spending per page?
KD: Probably around 15 hours. Today, it’s half of that, maybe even less depending on the page.
Wow. I never would have guessed it was that short per page now.
KD: I’ve learned to cut corners more. Of course, I’ve spent 3 years on the project, so drawing these characters and settings becomes easier.
What step of the process do you spend the most time on? My guess is the coloring.
KD: Haha, I actually don’t spent too terrible long on that! I would say the sketch process takes the longest, and figuring out paneling and layouts. I go through about 3 different sketches before I start the line art.
Really? I’m surprised.
KD: Coloring is like the bottom of the hill that was the sketch and lineart, yeah!
Your colors are very well chosen so you must just have an eye for that.
KD: I try choosing a palette for every chapter. Like chapter one was definitely pink and purple. This chapter is more purple and yellow.
Do you find that the palette choice ends up affecting the tone and mood of the chapters?
KD: Yes. A lot of times too, the palettes are chosen due to certain events later on during those chapters. The pink palettes in chapter 1 were because the chapter was centered on the Conductor, who’s always surrounded by a pink/red color. The purple and yellow of this recent chapter were chosen because of Velia’s eventual form — so the darkness of the purples against yellow. It was also a palette I felt captured that sort of traditional murder mystery mood.
Haha, spoilers. The contrast is really nice though. When considering how to set up your mysteries, what kinds of things do you look to get out of the chapters? Are there any detective fiction/murder mystery tropes you hope to avoid? To use?
KD: I think when starting Oddity Woods, I just wanted to make something that could keep people guessing. I honestly can’t think of any tropes in the genre that I’m completely against. I just try making a scenario I find fun to write.
Have you found that to be a challenge, now that you’re three years into the project?
KD: A challenge for it to be fun?
Keeping it fun to write, I guess.
KD: Hmm, yes, it is sometimes hard to keep on going, even though I love the story and characters. I try working on other things when I feel that way, and hopefully I’m able to return afterwards.
A good way to chase away burnout. What aspects of the process do you think tire you the most or that you find the hardest to do on a twice weekly basis?
KD: I think just how slow webcomics update. There’s so much the author knows, and so many scenes they want to get to, and it just doesn’t work the same way a graphic novel would. It’s a bit of a problem, really, I think that all authors tend to face. We sit alone working on these things, and a lot of times, there isn’t much that comes from it! You’ll see a lot of webcomic artists say to not do a huge story as a webcomic, and that’s the reason why.Continued below
Do you find that having a community, be it of other webcomics creators or fans of the work or even personal friends & family, helps with that feeling of, this isn’t the right word but, loneliness?
KD: I think so. I can’t say I’m currently in a community, but most webcomic authors rely on their current readers for support. It’s why it’s so important to help them out if you’re able to — free content can’t exist entirely for free. If someone is thinking about starting a webcomic, I would definitely be prepared for that.
Any other advice you’d give to aspiring webcomics creators?
KD: I would have to say. . .don’t start one unless you know what you’re getting into. Webcomics can lead to new opportunities, but I think from an outsiders point of view, making webcomics is a lot more magical than it actually is! Start small, something you can finish in a year or two.
Alrighty! One last question. I know you said you don’t read too many webcomics but what are three you would recommend for fans of “Oddity Woods?”
KD: That’s a big question! I really don’t know — if you’re looking for horror with kid characters, the Last Halloween is very good. I’d like to check out more myself soon.
2 more. . .ah. . .
It’s hard for sure.
KD: Yeah, I’m not sure! I think maybe that’s something only avid webcomic readers would be able to answer.