Saturday, August 2, 2008

Shotgun Interview #11: Jason Stefaniak of Dragon Girl Noriko

Dragon Girl Noriko is a CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) comic, and if you've wondered how comics like this are made, here's your chance to find out. Creator Jason Stefaniak fields questions and talks about how he makes his comic. It's a very different world from the one where we use our claws to push sticks around.

Q: What web comic (not by a friend) do you think deserves wider attention, and why?
A: I'm very fond of Twilight Lady by Blake Chen. Although he does the 3D CGI in a similar way to what I do, his style is very unique and he's one hell of a horror writer.

Q: Is there a web comic you are always excited to read, the minute it updates?
A: I have been a fan of Flaky Pastryfor some time. I'm a fan of absurdity and silliness, and FP seems to have massive amounts of both.

Q: What web comic by someone you know would you recommend?
A: Requiem, by James Roden, which is hands-down, IMHO, the best apocalyptic story out there.

Q: What blogs do you read?
A: I read Your Webcomic Is Bad and You Should Feel Bad for a while, but it seems that they sometimes can't decide whether they want to bitch about something or not. If they were a little more consistent, I'd probably pay more attention. Mostly, I just look to see if I've shown up there.

Q: Introduce your work to new readers in a few sentences.
A: Imagine, if you will, if one day your personal fantasy world became a reality. That's the premise of Dragon Girl Noriko, dreams coming true.....terrifyingly so.

Q: What promotional tools have helped you find new readers?
A: I've made good use of Project Wonderful, and to a lesser extent, Entrecard. I like being exposed to a greater audience than just the webcomic community.

Q: What's the worst thing about the state of web comics today?
A: Pseudo-intellectual snobbery. Like ninja catgirls are better than giant robots or something like that. Folks, it's all fine as long as it's done well. There's many examples out there of things not done well. Have a good story or don't bother.

Q: What tip would you offer someone launching their first web comic?
A: Do what no one else does.

Q: What merchandise item would you love to offer if the economics allow?
A: I once considered resin sculptures and action figures, but ultimately I think the DGN chess set that Jim and I came up with would be the greatest thing ever.

Q: Where are you, geographically?
A: Northern Indiana, for the time being.

Q: What's new in your life that has nothing to do with comics?
A: Not very much, really. Mostly trying to get through nursing school so I can finally kiss my two full-time jobs goodbye.

Q: Would you tell a talented newcomer to build their own web site, or use a comics hosting site?
A: You know, there was a time when I thought the fate of DGN depended on being accepted into Spider Forest, but frankly I enjoy the freedom of hosting myself. If you're good with HTML and can administrate a domain without straining your brain, I'd recommend going it on your own. And make sure you have good friends.

Q: Do you think Photoshop and Illustrator are giving web comics a particular look, and is that a bad thing?
A: Photoshop is, in my opinion, a necessary evil. I used to be guilty of enhancing a lot of my renders with effects from Photoshop, but these days I just basically use it as a page layout tool. As for Illustrator, I'd have to say that if it's done well, it can be quite impressive, but few really use it to it's full potential.

Q. How exactly is a CGI comic done, and how does it compare to traditional (i.e. hand drawn) comic art?
A. Well, the process for me is actually pretty complex. I start by putting the characters from a given scene into a program called Poser 6. Here, I arrange them how they are to be placed in the scene, dress them (occasionally), pose them and set their facial expressions. Then, I fire up a program called Carrara, where the remainder of the scene gets set (furniture, buildings, cars, lighting, skies, etc.). The Poser file is imported in and arranged with respect to the Carrara scene. Various "cameras" are set up similar to how a movie would be shot, and then I render the various "shots". After that, Photoshop postwork and layout and voila! A new page of Dragon Girl Noriko.

How does it compare with traditional comic art? Well, besides the fact that I honestly can't even do a stick figure right without hardware and software to help me, I'd have to say it's a thing all its own. I have nothing but respect for those who have natural artistic talent, but since I can't really do that, this is the way I chose to go. It has it's own merits and flaws, but it's the medium I enjoy working in, so I stick with it. The readers have been quite merciful up to this point, and I can only get better at it.

Q: Which do we need more: more good artists, or more good writers?
A: Good writers. We need more Warren Ellises and Frank Millers.

Q: Are you in a comics collective?
A: I am not, but I'd always be willing to listen.