Comicadia Interviews: Alex Roth (TreasureHUNT!!)

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The thrill is in the hunt, especially if it has two exclamation points!

It’s that time again! Time for us to meet another webcomic creator. This time, we’re talking with Alex Roth of the one-shot story TreasureHUNT!! With an interesting, almost game-like feel to its world, TreasureHUNT!! has exciting lore and some characters that I personally hope come back around for a second series!


Tell us about yourself.

Hi! My name’s Alex (online username, Rhonder). I’m 25 and live in the Seattle area. For my day job, I work in an Architecture Office- 3D modeling buildings and drawing plans. Then I work on art and comics in my free time. I also play a lot of video games and go to a lot of rock concerts~

Tell us about your work.

In general, I’m a big fan of action and fantasy stories and those sorts of influences show up in my work frequently. My style is heavily influenced by manga and anime, but I think with a definite western twist.

My main comic, for now, TreasureHUNT!!, is a light-hearted fantasy adventure following a group of friends. They work for a Treasure Hunter Guild in their city and go on missions seeking different treasures on request. Our main character, Alex, has a lot of insecurities about his contributions to their work though- he’s a natural-born water mage but it’s difficult for him to find water mana to use for his spells in the dry prairie-like environment. He even has trouble defeating a fire monster in the beginning! However, when a thief with a mysterious magic power infiltrates their town in the middle of the night and steals the town’s most valuable treasure, a magical rune that can alter the weather, Alex and his friends have to rise to the occasion and chase after the thief to try and get the treasure back.

TH!! is a one-shot that I wrote pretty quickly in early 2018 just as an entry point to get my feet wet in the world of webcomics~ I had an initial page goal of 50-ish, but in reality, it’s looking to end closer to page 70 now haha.

Another work I’ve done this year was a 10-page short story for Over A Coffee, a coffee-themed comic anthology, called “The Power of Coffee”. This one stars a young woman named Claire who needs caffeine powered super boost to face her troubles head on~

You just recently hit the first year anniversary of TreasureHUNT!!. Congratulations on that milestone! Looking back, what advice would you give yourself?

Eyyy, thank you! What advice would I give 2018-me… I think the biggest one would have been to either build a bigger page buffer before I began posting or to take some time off to build it back up once I ran out!

My workflow in 2018 before I started uploading was like… writing and character concept art in February/March, I began the first 8 or so pages in April and May, took the summer off, and then when September rolled around I was antsy to finally start posting my comic! So I finished up my cover image and series icon and posted the first episode during the first weekend of October. At the time I think I only had like 2 or 3 weeks worth of buffer, and I was participating in Inktober as well. Yikes!

I proceeded to work at a pace of 1-2 completed pages per week for the next few months and would post 1 page most weeks. So I was slowly building buffer as I went. But then December rolled around and I got involved in a few holiday-related side projects and ended up using all of my buffer by the end of January. I’ve been working week-to-week since then more or less… not fun! I considered taking a short hiatus to build my buffer back up a little bit, but I kept telling myself that I was close enough to the end that it was unnecessary.

I’ve definitely learned my lesson now, though! I’ve decided that for my next project, I’m going to complete either all of it or at least most of it before beginning to post at all. I want to take the time I need to make sure that it’s a quality product without having those weekly deadlines looming over me all the time.

The world of TreasureHUNT!! is interesting. It seems to be set in a fantasy setting, but a lot of the characters wear modern clothes. Is there something to that?

Not the first time that’s been pointed out, lol! There’s sort of two reasons for that:

The first is that when planning this one-shot I wanted to just prepare a story very quickly so that I could get right into the production of the actual comic. At the time I was more interested in getting experience actually making comics than spending a lot of time ironing out too many of the nitty-gritty details. As a result, to avoid spending too much time in character design, I dug back into the vault and pulled out a few OCs that I had designed years ago but never used for any real projects to use for the 4 main Treasure Hunters. Those 4, Alex, Rod, Panda, & Rudolph, are based on cartoon versions of myself and my friends that I came up with back in High School as a matter of fact! With that in mind, I updated their designs a little bit to reflect my current art level but left their outfits largely as-is. So that’s one reason!

The other reason is that prior to starting TreasureHUNT!!, I had been working on this big long-form fantasy story for years and years that was one of those “characters from earth get transported to a fantasy world” type stories. In that story, the same kind of design sensibilities were in play: many characters would be wearing t-shirts, or backpacks, or sneakers, or whatever and wandering around these fantasy environments. I always thought that the blend of aesthetics was kind of cool, so it’s something that I play around with a lot. Thus, even when designing the all-new characters for this project, such as the Thief girl and other minor characters, you see a lot of modern outfits popping up at times. Like when designing a knight character such as the town guards, I think of the classic armored look, so they look like they perhaps “blend in” a little better, but for the civilians going about their days? Cool casual wear~

Despite the miss-match, people seem to enjoy the characters and designs overall so it worked out, in the end~

As I continue gaining experience, these sorts of details are things I’m hoping to either implement or omit with more conviction, though!

A water mage in a dry land. Seems like Alex has got the worst luck when it comes to job prospects. Tell us more about these characters, where did they come from?

The main concept that I wanted to explore in this one-shot was about problem-solving in a fantasy environment and finding solutions that didn’t involve purely power. So often in these types of fantasy stories, you see characters that are super powerful romping around with ease until a strong foe comes along to challenge them. Then they rise to the occasion, get even stronger, and continue on to the next enemy. Those kinds of stories get me pumped up, don’t get me wrong! But I wanted to see what might happen if you took a weak character- or even a powerful one in a disadvantageous position- and have them turn the situation around with wit and tact.

I had recently been playing some cool video games in 2017 that had mechanics that involved combining elemental magic to achieve greater effects than just the elements on their own, such as “Has-Been Heroes” and “Xenoblade Chronicles 2”. With “Has-Been Heroes” especially, in order to do well and get far, you have to take a random assortment of spells that get offered to you and combine their effects to take out enemies efficiently. For example, just using a water spell on an enemy doesn’t do very much damage on its own, it just leaves them soaked. But hitting a soaked enemy with other elements yields various effects: Soaked enemies take double damage from lightning spells, they’re immune to poison, if you use wind on a soaked enemy it freezes them, if you use ice on a soaked enemy it freezes them for a much longer than usual time, and if you use fire on a soaked enemy it generates a field of steam that slows them down. The other elements interact with one another in similar ways as well.

I thought this idea was really cool, and thus the concept of a water mage that has trouble on his own was born. The plot was mostly designed around the big climactic moment near the end, but I tried to incorporate this type of on-the-fly problem solving throughout: from rod using Alex’s puddle at the very beginning to douse the fire slime, to the Thief girl being outgunned at the top of the Weather Rune tower but using her powers to sucker punch the guards, those types of scenarios is what TreasureHUNT!! is all about!

The heart-eyed thief – will she make a come back in the future or is that the end of her story?

Excellent question! At this point, the answer is a solid “maybe.” At this time I don’t have anything further planned with that character, but she has proven to be very popular with my readers and I even received a comment recently asking if we’d get a deeper insight into her motivations and goals later on. With that in mind, there’s definitely a possibility she may get her own one-shot someday- if I find a good story to tell within it~

What do you hope for the next year of TreasureHUNT!!? T-shirts? A video game? Movie deal? Helps Attain World Peace?

I wish! My immediate goal with TreasureHUNT!! is simply to finish up this first one-shot which should be happening really soon here! After that I’ll be taking a break over the holidays- both to relax and to try and tackle some of my weak areas- and then diving into TreasureHUNT!! season 2 next year in 2020.

Originally TreasureHUNT!! was intended to be a single, standalone story, so there wasn’t necessarily going to be a “Season 2”. A few months into TreasureHUNT!! I started thinking about what kind of comic I wanted to try afterward and began slowly writing out ideas for a long-form series on the side. However I’ve firmly decided that my skills and speed of production aren’t quite where I’d want them to be before taking on a much longer project like that (after all, if it’ll take several years to complete I want to both be confident in the start *and* reduce the length if at all possible!)

So I’ve decided to continue with TreasureHUNT!! for a while longer, developing it as an episodic series of one-shots. The intent is that any given one-shot, or “season”, will be able to be read and enjoyed standalone, but at the same time, we’ll be seeing these characters grow and develop over time. I’m excited to use this series as a playground where I can try out a lot of different ideas and gain experience as a comic author while keeping each story segment short enough that I can break away at any point without leaving a bunch of loose ends hanging. Further, even after walking away for a while if I want to return and write a new story arc for this world, I would be able to with relative ease. This new outlook on TreasureHUNT!! as a series has me really pumped up for what it can become! Ideally, I would like to get all the way through the second season by the end of next year if possible.

(on the mention of T-Shirts… I don’t have any plans just yet, but trying out tabling at a convention is a mid-term goal of mine! I’m not sure that 2020 will be the year for that, necessarily, but making some print copies and possibly merch for TreasureHUNT!! is definitely something I’m hoping to achieve in the near future!)

What’s your background in art?

I’ve been drawing since I was a child, and never stopped really! And even from a young age making comics of different sorts. A lot of those would be 3 or 4-page fan comics about different series that I was into- Lots of Pokemon comics, several Digimon ones, a Thanksgiving-themed cross over between Sonic the Hedgehog, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and a rabbit OC of mine, etc.

Sometime in middle school is when I consciously started embracing drawing as an actual hobby and beginning to practice things like proportion, perspective, color theory, etc. This is also around the time that I started working on that story with the characters from Earth in a fantasy world that I talked about earlier, which was called “Kei Konguki”. That story and its characters became the main focus of my artistic efforts all the way through High School and University. I didn’t actually get very far with the comic itself (I had like 8 chapters written out in novel format, several re-dos of the first chapter in comic format) but it was a great way to keep myself motivated to draw and create. I would make up new characters and scenarios all the time, and even though I wasn’t telling a cohesive story with them via a comic as intended, it kept me drawing all sorts of poses and locations nonetheless.

Finally, after graduating University I discovered the webcomic hosting site, Tapas, and started hanging around the forums there. Something I saw mentioned time and time again by the veteran members as advice to newbies was to try starting small- the fact is most people who try to do a long-form comic as their first foray end up dropping it before reaching the end, either because they get stuck wanting to redo the early portions every few months as their art improves, or because they underestimate how long making a comic really takes, or they simply outgrow the story. Literally all of these things had happened to me with my middle school epic, so I dropped it and decided to try something shorter… and that’s when I started writing TreasureHUNT!!

What drives you to work on TreasureHUNT!! the most?

It’s equal parts wanting to prove to myself that I can see a story all the way through to the end, developing as an artist/learning how to make comics better, and reading all of the comments I receive each week and interacting with my wonderful readers!

Where can we see some of your amazing work?

On Instagram, Twitter & Facebook I post a lot of WIP pictures for my comic, as well as other illustrations and misc. photos from time to time (the content is largely the same on each platform):

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rhonder_art
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Rhonder_Art
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rhonder.art/

TreasureHUNT!! can be read for free on either Tapas or Webtoons:

Tapas: https://tapas.io/series/TreasureHUNT
Webtoons: https://www.webtoons.com/en/challenge/treasurehunt/list?title_no=232277

And the aforementioned “Over A Coffee” comic anthology can be purchased here:

Faeries and Ents Store: https://www.faeriesandents.com/store/c4/OverACoffeeStore

😊

And thank you, Alex for your interest! TreasureHUNT!! was a great read. I can’t wait to see where you go in the future, be sure to let us know if and when you start up your next project, Alex!

Jim

And for those who would like to have an interview, please send an email to comicadiacollective@gmail.com with a note in the subject of your desire to be interviewed by a member of Comicadia!