We’re continuing our Comicadia creator interview series and this time around we talk shop with Reed Hawker of the webcomic Culture Shock.
Never read Culture Shock? You really should.
In the middle of a modern city, a Japanese ninja and a medieval knight are forced to share an apartment together. Trapped in a war between hackers and hunted by a time-traveling witch, can these two reconcile their difference before they kill each other?
If you enjoy comedy, fun action scenes, and fish-out-of-water stories then Culture Shock is totally worth your time.
Do you consider yourself more of an artist or a writer?
Definitely more of an artist. But I think a lot about story and character development, so I’m hoping to someday obtain the writing skills I’m missing.
What was your biggest influence in the development of your art style? What about writing?
It probably sounds kind of trite, but I started with a bit of a Disney influence and then anime of various kinds seeped in while I was living in Japan. But I started to realize those sorts of influences would be a liability to me while I was in college, so I added influences with strong lines that still allowed for a sense of 3D form, like Bruce Timm or Glenn Murakami. I hope to continue changing my style. I’d like it to be a bit more loose and free and allow for characters of much more varying size and shape.
Are you familiar with tropes? Do you try to use them in your work?
My comic Culture Shock is all about tropes. Many of its characters were meant to be seemingly stock tropes who break free of their mold at some point in the story. I think people should be aware of tropes and not be afraid of them. They give readers good, familiar ground to step into your story. That’s when you can surprise them by defying expectations. But the trick is to give them more than just tropes to pull them in.
What is the toughest part of working on Culture Shock?
I’m pretty sure it’s finding the time. I’ve been working on it for a long time, and I still haven’t lost the will to finish it, but at times it’s competing with crunch time at work, just like it competed with schoolwork while I was in college.
Where are we at in the story currently? How planned do you intend to be?
I think we’re roughly 93% done with the story. I always had a rough skeleton of the story in mind, with important story points set up as landmarks. This allowed me to be flexible, and add or remove little bits as I went. I haven’t ever scripted out my comic. My plans are more like storyboards. I got a degree in animation and that definitely influenced me. A set of images is more important to me than a script, or knowing the exact things a character is going to say.
If you could do one spinoff project in the world of Culture Shock what would it be?
There are maybe a few characters I think would be fun to make comics about after Culture Shock is complete. They would allow me to change the tone and subject matter that I’m working with while keeping something I love. But the most likely spinoffs of Culture Shock would be in video games. I have some projects I work on in free time that I hope to spin into something people can play.
What would be your one tip for someone who was just starting their webcomic?
Choose to create something you’re interested in, for your own enjoyment. I know that sounds obvious, but I think people set themselves up for disappointment when they chase trends to increase their audience. Most webcomics won’t ever be a massive hit, so your love for the characters and story have to be what drives you to finish it. Also, don’t be too afraid to find ways to improve your skills mid-comic. Your art can improve dramatically over the course of your comic if you play it right. Your comic can make you a better artist and writer.
Do you have an absolute favorite moment from the comic that you’d care to share?
I feel like my favorite part of the comic is still ahead, but if I had to choose something that’s already happened, it would be a fight that happens late in the story. The heroes are fighting a creature that can travel through time and space, and she uses portals to make the fight span numerous different environments and eras. I wanted the fight to culminate into something that really surprised readers, but still had hints to make readers wonder why they didn’t see it coming. I think for some of the readers it worked, and they appreciated how it was planned out.
Did you enjoy getting to know Reed? Be sure to read his comic, drop him a comment, and needle him about starting a Twitter account or something.