Interview: Gaia by Novil
- Feb 8, 2013 2:26 PM
Congratulations on your promotion to the Premium tier! You and your artist Powree have done a great job with Gaia so far!
Thank you. We give our best to maintain the same level of quality throughout the whole story.
How does your experience on MangaMagazine compare with your experience managing your own webcomic site?
I’m glad that I no longer have to spend much time to work on my own webcomic website since its layout is basically finished and it’s running on a reliable host. But it took quite some work to reach this point and updating WordPress and the various plugins is always time-consuming. When a beginner doesn’t have to bother about all that and when there’s already a large potential audience, that’s certainly a big plus for an online comic collective like MangaMagazine. But it also depends on the content of the comic. MangaMagazine is perfect for long stories drawn in a manga style. A stick figure comic strip dealing with internet humor like XKCD would just not fit in. Every comic creator has to see himself where he can find the largest audience and financial success.
There are some features I’m really missing on MangaMagazine, though. The first one would be the possibility to add a description below each comic page. The second one is a chronologically ordered list of all received user comments.
Now I know you don't just work with Powree on Gaia, you both work on Sandra and Woo as well. How did you two get started working together? Is it difficult collaborating when you're both located in separate countries?
After writing two dozen scripts for Sandra and Woo, I posted a job offer in a couple of comic and art forums in October 2008. I received over 60 replies and Powree, who read my thread at DigitalWebbing.com, was my first choice. Just one week later, we published the first Sandra and Woo strip on our website.
Working together works really well. We have an internal forum where the scripts for all comic pages are posted in separate threads. The scripts contain a rather detailed description for each panel so Powree doesn’t have to guess if a character should look amused or serious. The sketches and finished pages are exchanged using a shared Dropbox folder. I post my change requests, for example when I don’t like the facial expression of a character, in the same thread.
Tell us a little bit about your creative team. You have several editors, and on occasion I've seen a guest colorist appear in Sandra and Woo.
My editors often give valuable input to polish the English dialog. Since I’m not a native speaker there are still some subtleties of the English language I haven’t mastered yet. Sometimes each editor comes up with a different variation of the original sentence and I can choose the one I like the best. Many readers don’t even seem to know that Gaia and Sandra and Woo are written by a German guy, so I guess they do a good job.
Lisa Moore colored Sandra and Woo, including a good number of strips in the comic archive, for a year but I decided to return to black-and-white last summer. Working together with two artists was more work than I expected and there wasn’t such a blind understanding like between me and Powree.
Did you always plan on having Gaia told in a comic format?
No. Gaia was initially developed by me and my mother as an extensive single-player campaign for the RPG game Neverwinter Nights 2. That was in 2004. We had a great team, consisting of several members that already worked on my German campaign Silberwald: Der Ring des Schicksals (Silver Forest: The Ring of Destiny) for Neverwinter Nights 1. This mod was downloaded more than 30,000 times and received an overall score of 78% in a test by the second biggest German game magazine GameStar. Unfortunately, Gaia turned out to be too ambitious for a hobby group and was eventually cancelled. I also had severe technical problems since the Neverwinter Nights 2 editor crashed all the time on my computer.
A large amount of dialog had already been written for Gaia, the game. These documents and the overall story build the foundation for Gaia, the comic. However, I made lots of changes to make the story more interesting and to adapt it to the new medium. While I used many of the original characters and some of the locations, I created a new story board and rewrote almost the entire dialog. In a game you can just throw the player in a dungeon with cool monsters, traps and loot and he’ll be happy. In a comic the characters must have much stronger personal reasons to go on a dangerous quest. The dialog has to be more to the point and something interesting must happen on almost every page. I believe that Gaia is now a much better story than it used to be.
I've noticed some mythological references riddled throughout the first couple chapters of Gaia. Are there any historical, mythological, or pop culture pieces that influence the story?
While it incorporates modern concepts like magic streetcars and light switches, Gaia is a rather classical fantasy story about a group of heroes that set out on the adventure of their lives. So it automatically follows in Tolkien’s footsteps. But the main influence for Gaia is the Final Fantasy video game series, especially VIII and IX. The character interaction between the group members was done marvelously in these games and it’s my goal to create equally lifelike and interesting characters.
Do you have any plans for putting out a print version of Gaia once there are enough chapters? Or will this comic be strictly digital?
At the moment I have no plans to publish a print version of Gaia. I’m unsure if the number of sales would justify the large amount of time needed to create a book. We haven’t had much luck selling Sandra and Woo merchandising in the past.
As a writer, what part of the creative process do you find the most interesting or enjoyable?
It’s always great when you think hard about a particular part of the story and then suddenly have the perfect idea that ties everything together nicely. I’m also very grateful to be able to collaborate with such a talented and reliable artist. Sometimes a page turns out even better than I imagined it when writing the script. Polishing the dialog and writing the panel descriptions is no fun, though. It’s really hard work, at least as stressful as my day job as a software developer.
At the end of the day, creating a comic which is read by thousands of people certainly beats watching TV as a hobby. You can have a look at the finished pages and say to yourself: “Yes, I spent my free time on something worthwhile, something I can be proud of.”
Are there any other projects that you're working on right now? Where could we find them?
The development team Feline Fuelled Games, led by my mother, has started working on a PC game based on Sandra and Woo in the summer of 2012. It will be a point-and-click adventure in the tradition of classic LucasArts adventures such as Monkey Island. It will be released in English and German. The campaigns developed by Feline Fuelled Games for the RPG games Neverwinter Nights 2 and Dragon Age: Origins were well received by the German video game press, so I hope that the Sandra and Woo adventure will turn out just as well. Unfortunately, the game won’t be released earlier than 2014 so there’s not much we can show at the moment.
Thanks so much for talking with us today! Best of luck to the both of you!