What’s going on everyone, I just wanted to make sure that if you’re in East Lansing this evening you’re gonna drop by the MSU Comics Forum. Tonight it’s all going down in the auditorium beneath Snyder/Phillips Hall. The inimitable Nick Bertozzi is giving our kickoff keynote speech starting at 7 p.m. Then tomorrow we start right back up at 11 a.m. for Panel Discussions and our incredible Artist’s Alley.
We’ve had tons of awesome press supporting our event. You can check out an awesome article in CityPulse magazine by Lawrence Cosentino that details some of the coolest aspects of the Forum. There was also an article in The State News detailing The 99, a international comic starring Islamic Heroes, and the movie screening that went down in the library yesterday evening. Yours truly even got interviewed for the article. Cool beans.
So check out the Panel Schedule, take a gander at the Artist’s Alley lineup, come hang out with us tonight at SnyPhi, and make sure you drop by tomorrow when the Forum really gets cooking.
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.
Are there any particular hairstyles that you don’t really like on women? I have two, front bangs and any form of poofing, but I honestly couldn’t tell you why. Don’t get me wrong, some women totally pull it off, but for me it’s just a weird personal preference that rears its ugly head every once in a while. So yeah… That’s the background behind this weeks comic. Silly personal pet peeve pushed to the page.
What I Like
First off I like the idea. Second, I’m a huge fan of the monster in the fifth panel. I also kinda like the title panel.
What I Wish I Did Differently
So much! I need to get some new paper, just unmarked line paper. I hate the first two panels just because of the guys hair. I inked a few lines that I shouldn’t have so I decided to color the hair in. Huge mistake. I could definitely could use some tips for lettering cause sweet Christmas those letters are horrible!
I think I could have done a lot better here with everything honestly. It was more of a rush job than it should have been. I’ve got something more simple and silly in the works for next time though!
English is a ridiculous language sometimes. The more I work in the MSU Writing Center the more I realize how difficult it must be to learn English. This week’s comic is all about those words that have multiple meanings, and the confusion that undoubtedly arises from that madness. I pity the ESL students I work with. ON WITH THE COMIC!
What I Like
I love this comic. It’s simple, it’s something that I’m familiar with, and I think I did it really freaking well. I like the guy in the second panel, especially how it looks like he’s looking at the spring in the third panel. I really liked the WEEEEE that follows him into the fourth panel and while I don’t really know what spring looks like, I think it kinda looks like spring in the fifth panel. Lastly, in the sixth panel I giggled when I made his nips hard. Spring water in the spring isn’t warm yet.
What I Wish I Did Differently
I wish I had colored in the top of the spring in the first panel and I’m now wishing that I hadn’t underlined “Spring” in each panel. I’m not quite sure how I feel about the flowing hair in the first and third panels either, how do you even do that on a stick figure? I dunno. Also the actual lettering, props to letterers. That shit is hard! I definitely should have measured out that last “English” better.
My favorite comic yet. It turned out almost exactly how I wanted it to. I like freestyling the panel borders and not stressing about the measurements. Other than that? Awesome sauce!
Below is Part 2 of my strange boxing/monster comic. I’m not quite sure how I feel about it.
What I Like
To be honest, now that I see this on a computer there isn’t too much I’m a fan of. I suppose I like that I actually made panels and used a ruler and all that. I like the way I drew the face of the dude getting hit in the second panel. I also like that I actually finished this one to a degree, oh and panel five looks kinda sick.
What I Wish I Did Differently I wish I had been more consistent with some of my line work while using the inks. I think the story itself is pretty obvious, but using tiny pens and then much bigger pens, I think I could have done a better job with that. For example, I think that panel six looks very strange compared to the other five. In panel four I would have centered it a little more, in panel three I would have made our boxer’s fist bigger. Gosh, I dunno, there’s just so much that I could have done differently. Good thing is that I don’t any of the artisstic decisions actually hurt the story.
I’d just like to give a shoutout to every comic book artist EVER! Son of a bitch just using that f*ing ruler on my 8.5×11 piece of computer made me want to stop. I suppose when it comes to drawing I’m not very detail oriented. I think I’m going to stick to stick figures from now on… Anyway, let me know what you guys think!
The idea for this most recent comic has been boiling in my head for a while now. It started after I read The Barfighter by Ivan G. Goldman. I love boxing, having done it for all of one summer between my sophomore and junior years of college, and the book follows a down and out boxer taking anger management classes. It’s a great little read, but one specific moment stuck in my head. The main character, while he was boxing for the army/navy, something like that, when he was on the ropes, would dig deep and unleash someone he called “The Mongolian.” The Mongolian was an engine of destruction. He didn’t know fear, couldn’t be hurt. I thought that was the coolest idea, that you could awaken this thing inside your mind, become it, and overcome.
That little moment provided the spark, but a book about the history of boxing laid the foundation for this cool new narrative I was planning. You want to talk about manly men? Look no further than some of the original boxers in ancient Greece or in less-ancient Britain. Brutal contests of physical fitness that could last hours. I wanted to focus on a specific time period, right after the British boxing community, ragtag as it was, decided to ban kicking and wrestling from the matches.
This is just a taste of what I’m working on, a very rough draft, and the very first time I’ve ever put this narrative to pictures. And I used my fancy new pens, which I really don’t know how to use yet… Anyway, enjoy!
What I Like
Oh my gosh I got something on paper! I got to use my new pens! The monster looks kinda cool!
What I Wish I Did Differently I got super carried away with some thumbnails that I was doing. It was just meant to be a couple of sketches, but then I got cooking and couldn’t stop. I should have taken a step back and done a page of story. I don’t know how to use my pens yet though, so I’m going to try and get that under control while I get a ruler and some other stuff to make my work look a little cleaner.
Belly button lint inspired this latest comic. I don’t always find lint in my belly button but when I do I get more excited than I probably should. It’s so much f*ing fun digging it out! Calm down Ben. Anyway, the comic that follows is all about a dude with a totally gnarly navel.
The Creative Process
I noticed that I had done my last two comics in a horizontal format and while I think that works great for web-based comics, I wanted to try something a little different this time. I like how it came out. I thumbnailed this one on a piece of scrap paper I found at my parents house and from there I just went right into the pencils. Very quick turnaround for this one.
What I Like
I love the first two panels. That’s me getting ready for a shower and playing with my belly button. I think I captured the boredom waiting for the shower to heat up and then the surprise at pulling a treasure chest out of your belly button really well. Also, I love that last panel. It was just straight fun to draw and the word balloon? I don’t know. It’s silly and I love it.
What I Wish I Did Differently
Looking at in on a computer screen I can’t help but notice that there’s tons of pencil everywhere. I need to maybe go back and start erasing? Actually I really probably need to use a lighter pencil. Up to this point I’ve been using some your standard #2 pencil… Also, the ballpoint pen just isn’t working anymore. I want to experiment with different line widths, thus I bought a pack of technical pens that I’m hoping will help improve some of my detail work.
I regret not putting a title on this comic. I think panels three, four, and five need some work. I could have put a ton more detail in there. Lastly, I’d like to try working with a longer narrative instead of these one-and-dones.
I think this is my best comic yet. It’s clear and concise and it was really fun to draw. Other than that… I learned that drawing boats is freaking hard and that I still really need to work on perspective. And basically everything else… But I have new pens! We’ll see what happens with that madness. And I’m going to try to find an eraser.