Hey everyone, a little while ago Tim Gibson let me know about his incredible online serial, Moth City, but then I got busy and I never really moved on the story. Shame on me, because everyone should be scoping out this webcomic.
I got back in contact with Tim and he was kind enough to answer some of my questions about Moth City, digital comics, and the future of the medium. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the interview!
I Speak Comics: Before we get into this, would you mind giving us a quick rundown of Moth City? How did you get started? What’s it all about? Where are you hoping to take it?
Tim Gibson: First off, Moth City is not the online comic for everyone. People keep their motivations and their undies well hidden. It’s a world filled with bastards, guns and kung fu, rather than superpowers.
It is Crime/Mystery story set in the 1930’s Orient during the Chinese Civil War. Revolution is everywhere; Mao’s communists are really upsetting the power balance in China and the disruption has spread into the small island-state of the title.
Moth City is this small island where massive weapons factories straddle the ruins of old temples and homes. It’s run by a domineering Texan; Governor McCaw. The guy is a total prick, but I love him anyway. He controls the place with an iron fist, even his daughter is kept under lock and key, but that’s all going to change.
Every Monday a set of pages go up at www.mothcity.com and the panels reveal themselves, change themselves and play out at the reader’s request. I’d encourage your readers to click the link above and check it out, it’s easier to see than to describe.
As opposed to the big boys of the game, I don’t have the money to get other comic creatives on-board, so I’ve dedicated over a year to its production. Readers will be able to get the full experience online (for free) for the four seasons that I have planned, and we’ll see where it goes from there. I was lucky enough to get some local arts funding from Creative New Zealand to make it all possible.
ISC: I noticed that you used to work as an illustrator in the movie industry, and you’ve got some very cool flicks under your belt (Avatar, District 9, Tintin), so that being said, why comics?
Yeah. I love movies, and it’s always great to work on projects of that scale. I stole some of my best stuff from the designers I worked with on those things. For I while I was even working on the George Miller ‘Justice League’ film which was pretty special for a comics geek.
That said, it can be very easy to get distracted in the craft of illustration or design in those situations. You could wake up one morning and realise you’re five times better at drawing, but haven’t told any of your own stories yet. Like you’re permanently in training, polishing your skills just to further other people’s dreams.
Moth City is where I get to use my skills, work ethic, and time on my own ambitions – a great story, intriguing characters and a retro-genre piece with a twist.
ISC: One thing about Moth City that stands out is that it seems to be designed specifically for a digital audience. Panels grow and shrink, word balloons and captions disappear as readers move through the narrative, and at times it almost feels like you’re reading an interactive book. What was the thought process behind the Moth City digital format?
TG: I really want to use drama to my advantage in Moth City, and whether that comes from character beats or plot movements, working with digital stories gives the creator an ounce more control over this.
Digital comics enable artists to work more like film directors; moments in time can be drawn out or compressed. Traditionally this was done with panel size and layout so working back into the same panel, or revealing panels one-by-one just adds to that. It’s an additional tool of rhythm.
There are moments at www.mothcity.com where a panel will zoom in, revealing a new piece of art, as McCaw’s daughter is being berated and shamed by her father’s guest. I really wanted to emphasize that moment for the reader, extend its meaning beyond a single panel with dialogue.
And you can imagine the effect this focus has on suspense or horror scenes. Panels where we can witness that moment of realisation or dread with a character… there’s horror stuff coming up, that was a *lot* of fun to play with.
Mark Waid and Balak have both discussed the effects of digital storytelling. Please allow me to put paraphrase (sorry guys)… Waid believes that digital can surprise readers more often; in the middle of pages, even in the middle of a panel if you want, as opposed to the top left corner of every second page. That’s definitely something I’m conscious of. As a reader I’m terrible at letting my peripheral vision ruin a story beat.
Balak believes that there is also collusion between the artist and reader in digital comics. There’s some responsibility, a subconscious-belief that the reader *made* that story event happen by simply clicking ‘next’. It is a less passive experience than reading a traditional comic.
I intend on putting my readers in some very dramatic situations. If you have been reading Moth City so far, you’ve already killed a man, jumped out of a building and being blown to smithereens. And that’s just the first half of Season One.
ISC: It seems like a lot of web comics end up collecting their work into print volumes, but Moth City is built a little bit differently than your standard web comic. Can we expect a Moth City book in the future?
If people want it, sure. I’m going to let the fans dictate my financial investment in printing. I’m currently looking at digital storefront options like Amazon etc. I’d love to get Moth City into Comixology as well (but they seem to be a bit exclusive for now).
A print version of Moth City would be great. I create the artwork at a really high resolution. Like, stupid high, and it looks fantastic printed out. The print experience would be great, different, but effective in it’s own way. Every time I plan a page, I work out where I’ll add some digital-love, but I then make sure that the print version of the same pages works tool.
I’d say working this way adds about 30% more effort to every page than if I was just creating straight print comics.
ISC: How do you see the future of comics? Does it look something like Moth City? Is digital the way to go, or do you think there’s still something to be said for holding a physical copy in your hand?
TG: I think your readers are at the early-adopter end of the bell-curve. Are there enough people with enough passion to pull more creatives into producing that kind of work? I hope so. It’s a lot of fun to produce digital comics.
For me, it’s not really pixels vs paper, it’s just a few extra brushes in the story toolbox. Some people will like reading that way, some artists will like that level of creative control, and others won’t.
Of course, if the story is no good it doesn’t matter does it?
Tim Gibson is the man behind Moth City, an incredible webcomic with new material every Monday and Wednesday.
You can get the latest and greatest Moth City news by following MothCityInsider on Twitter. Be sure you like the Moth City Facebook Page, and check out some beautiful original art over at the Moth City Pinterest Board!