This Halloween month EYEPUS interviews cartoonist CRYSTAL GONZALEZ. Here is an exclusive interview with the talented and amazing Crystal Gonzalez. Check out her work at DEVIANT ART and NEWGROUNDS.
Can you give us a bio about you and your works?
I was always drawing since I can remember, but I probably got most serious about my art by the time I hit high school. “In the Dark” was a small 3 panel comic strip I drew for my school newspaper. The characters evolved from these first strips. Sin and Fibble were very different back then. For example Sin was very small..about the size of a mouse and had a pair of clawed hands for ears. Fibble used to have black pupils and white irises and wore a green vest ha ha. In college, I continued drawing them and the character’s plots become darker and more elaborate. I eventually had volumes of a massive 200+ page story that I wanted to tell. But the problem was that it was all doodled in pencil and scraps.
It was during my years at CCA, that I decided to really sit down and redraw the pages to make the comic really publication ready. I self-published their first issue “Gluttony” this year (2010) and the 2nd issue is now on the production table, with new pages being posted on my comic blog. http://inthedarkcomic.blogspot.com and deviantart account http://comickpro.deviantart.com But since I’m also a cartoonist, the idea of making animated shorts for them was always in the back of my mind. So in 2004 I attempted the first animated tests but nothing came from them… then as the comic started taking root in 2008, I started drawing the rough practices to flesh out the series, but again at the time my skills just weren’t there yet. It took me another 2 years of practice and fleshing out the first 4 episodes in the series to finally start seeing the light for their cartoon to become a reality and the trailer was released last month http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/546125.
Did you go to art school?
I went to a state college first, the University of Nevada to get my BA in Art. And then I attended the California College of the Arts to work on my Masters.
Since your works are very dark and EYEPUS is a horror blogzine - any favorite horror filmmakers of all time?
I love the stop motion films of Jan Svankmajer. His work is so morbid and creepy. The way he uses raw meat and dolls and taxidermy animals to create characters is really amazing. My favorite of his films is “Alice”.
Favorite horror films of all time?
Pans Labyrinth, Silence of the Lambs, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Puppet Master, The Thing, and a bunch of lesser known corny horror films like Dr. Giggles and The People under the Stairs ha ha.
Out of all the websites used for art why did you pick Newgrounds and Deviantart?
I never really knew of any other sites for art at the time. This was many years back, but I guess it all started when a friend suggested I make an account and post my art. It wasn’t a lot of viewers for the first years but I kept at it and continued to just do what I do (make art) and the viewers began to grow. Since then, I have opened a comic blog as well, but still I think a lot of my work’s exposure come from my accounts on these sites.
What was your inspiration for In the Dark?
When the strip started it was a gag strip. Basically 3 panels that ended on a joke or violent slapstick punch line. The idea behind the name “In The Dark” was meant to convey a double meaning. One that meant “unaware or clueless (which is Fibble)” and “encased in darkness (which is Sin)”. So basically the title is “Fibble and Sin” together ha ha, but I’m sure nobody read into that. Anyways while attending the University of Nevada, I began a Minor degree in Philosophy and these classes were a big inspiration to my comic. I realized that a lot of words and human expressions are not valued or judged the same (what is Love?). As a philosopher there is this drive to question everything. Many readings took the foundations of religions and the metaphysical and expanded on them into theories to see what they meant, and why, we as humanity, embrace them or reject them. It was my own theory that a common element in all religions was the concept of “sin”, or a series of constructs that were deemed taboo or forbidden. I had even written a huge thesis paper on the subject to get my degree….but again since I’m an artist, I thought that would be a very interesting element for a character. Thus, Sin is a demon meant to encase this taboo. A physical representation of a metaphysical concept that is present in every religion, and he is the original evil darkness that all the other sins in religions where born from. The main story for In The Dark has a lot to do with this idea and how Sin and Fibble will encounter Hell and its citizens and have various effects on its structure. So I’d have to say a lot of my inspiration comes from my Philosophy Minor and studying world religions (major, dead, and myth).
Did you always want to make a series such as In the Dark, or were there other ideas? Possibly any we might see in the future?
I’ve been drawing comics for so many years and I have sketchbooks full of ideas that could become bigger series’ in their own rights ha ha. But for right now the only two that might come up in the future is “Trash and Clash”-a morbidly dark and tragic comic about two outcast birds trying to find a place in the world, and “S.A.H.U.” a robot protector who is a slave entrusted with being the world’s “loved hero” whether he likes it or not.
Now that you may turn the series into an animation do you think there may be problems getting voice actors, or did everyone just came at once? How long will it take for each episode to be animated after the comics are made?
I was very lucky and grateful to have a lot of people approach my cartoon who wanted to provide the voices! I later held an audition for the voices and received 45 tryouts! Needless to say I was shocked and honored to see the great turnout. And yes the VA cast has now been set and they are awesome! As for the episodes, they are very short cartoons. Only lasting about 1-2 mins long but animated to the best of my skills, I can bet each episode will take at least 6-8 weeks to draw. The cartoon and the comic are being updated side by side so there are no dry periods for either medium. The cartoons are like bite-sized open and closed stories that don’t connect to the next, while the comic is a much meatier and grander story arch.
For how long have you been drawing and animating for?
I’ve been drawing since I was a kid…and I knew it was my passion when I was about 10 and I drew little comics for my family and friends. I started to learn animation when I was 12 and drew with a dos animation program called the Disney animation studio (DAS). When I was 16 I started learning Flash.
How different is it between being a comic artist and being the animator?
Very different. In a comic the story teller can use all the pages he needs to tell what he wants. The panels act as moments in time that can be a second long or ten years between panels. Also each picture can be drawn with lots of extra details and line work. In a short cartoon you don’t have those privileges. You need to say everything and get to the point without deviation because you’re running on a 2 min timeline. Thus the story and characters need to work harder to stay on task and the amount of drawing is increased 10 fold to make them move and talk. Then there is the issue with editing, sound, voice, and coloring in each frame one by one which takes a huge patience and determination. In the first episode alone, I’ve had to color more than 1500 individual frames of drawings.
In the Dark seems like a gruesome and macabre, but at the same time a dark comedy, how do you maintain the balance?
I remember reading in a philosophy book a theory that the horror of nature…like the animal instincts, violence, blood and flesh, are alluring to us because we suppress them from our society. We have been conditioned to think of anything with horror as a bad or taboo thing and so when we engage with it, it is exciting and alluring because it’s forbidden but natural. I think my cartoons and comics play on that line…you do see a lot of horror but it’s all so alluring to watch ha ha. Is it horror or is it comedy? Ha ha it’s interesting to note that scientists have a theory that laughter was once a method of releasing anxiety in scary situations like when our ancestors met a predator. In my cartoons you probably do a lot of that kind of laughing.
Since your amazing works is on deviant art and new grounds - are you ever afraid someone could steal your ideas and art designs?
Those sites are no different than any other place on the internet. Besides I’ve taken the measures to ensure my copyrights and my comic and cartoons are registered with the US Copyright Registry. If anyone were to try that, I at least have a good solid legal ground to sue them or contest the merit of their designs and story in court.
What is the future of In the Dark?
In the comic, I want to finish telling the whole story. I imagine it will take about 7 issues to complete and maybe in the future I will publish them as a large graphic novel. I’m still drawing issue 2 so it’s got a while to go. The cartoon is just getting started so the only future things set up for it now are the 4 episodes that are storyboarded out. One idea that is still on my mind is getting some T-shirts made, but we will have to see how funding that comes around.
Can you tell us about how are you going about promoting and doing publicity for In the Dark - are you doing it the self distribution way?
I’ve have internet ads that are shown on a number of web comic pages including Dumm comics.com and Doomcat. Blogs and journals keep people up to date and hopefully my new cartoon might bring interest and new viewers to my comic and vice versa. Also, I have an online store to purchase the comic book http://inthedark.bigcartel.com/ So that no matter where you are in the US or International, I can ship my book to you. If you live in the San Francisco area, my comics are available at Isotope Comics and Comix Experience. And lastly I also promote the book at comic cons. My next one will be at the APE in San Francisco this Oct 17-18! (Booth 540 CCA).
Any advice to give to all struggling animators and comic artists who are trying to make it?
Have a finished product to show and show it to everyone and anyone. Have confidence in your work and don’t be shy to speak openly about it. If you have a determination, you CAN get it published even if it means you do it yourself. You may have to save up to afford it or get donors to help you, but basically I have a motto in life that I live by. “A desire or dream without action, is just an illusion.” This means that if you don’t actively work towards what you want, then your big dreams will remain just that; a dream. Do research. Check out your local print shops, and comic book shops to see if they carry independently made comics. Find out how to get what you want and then pursue it with a passion. For animators, collaborate with others. Build friendships with other artists and you can make great things happen. My episode wouldn’t be complete if it weren’t for my great voice actors and music director making my soundtrack. Also check out the local film scene. See when they do screenings and propose to them with a finished cartoon.