INTERVIEW: LEEANN HAMILTON ON THINGS HAPPENED
What made you decide to do a webcomic? How does it change/influence your creative process?
A webcomic gives me a more frequent and international platform, opposed to an infrequently printed hardcopy comic with limited distribution, in my opinion. Most importantly though, it’s one of the earliest formats I’d ever used to display my comics. I’ve been hosting my comics online since 2004 onwards. There are little silly comics I made about various video games that are still accessible on other websites, and some of them have just turned a decade old. I got a great response to them at the time, but the olden days of 25MB hosting forced me to compress their size by a lot! The creative process has changed little except my practice and skill, but in my earlier days I’d experiment with marker and digital editing, moving to digital colouring, for my work. Things Happened retains that old way of doing things, but… much, much newer.
There’s a definite shift in art style from your previous work on Finn and Fish. Was this a conscious effort to move away from that book or is it just a case of the style matching the story you want to tell?
I’m strongly associated with Finn & Fish, its description of being ‘manga styled’, and myself being described as a ‘manga-style’ artist. Since I made the very first issue rather closely after my last ‘professional’ comic project, an utter black cloud of experience, I carried over techniques that guaranteed some polish and uniqueness. Changes in hardware and work habit forced Finn & Fish into a new stylistic direction during its run. Things Happened is an evolved step up from all that, as I enjoy science fiction and wanted to tell a story within that genre. I want to break off the ‘manga-style’ label, as many comic art styles exist that don’t fit into the ‘manga’ style at all, or wrongly labelled as such because they don’t match a Superhero Comics aesthetic.
How does the addition of colour change your storytelling and process?
Things Happened is a LOT less light hearted and zany than Finn & Fish, so working on it has forced me to think more closely about location, and also ambient light/colour to provide an apt stage for my characters. For example, the scenes of the slums have a colder, dank palette than the scenes of the morning show on Dilly’s television, which are rendered under a hot and artificial studio light. I want these little details to subtly explain this world, in advance of future updates that explicitly explain it, you see?
What influences do you think brought you around to writing this kind of story?
I think mentioning influences would spoil some aspects of the plot I’ll reveal later, but a couple of the most defining ones include creepy urban legends, sleeplessness, and possibly the bittersweet but giant time-plot-character canvasses found in comics such as Battle Angel Alita and The Five Star Stories.
Even so early on in its history, there is a sense that this a fleshed out world with its own history and mythology. How much of the world had you planned out before you started working on the story?
I’d developed Things Happened for over a year before I began to post finished art and pages, and immediately after the Prologue pages Page 1 was released a week after the birth of my niece. During that year (and holidays to Brighton and Japan) entire characters and plot points were cleaved out and restitched to the ideas and plans I have right now. But actually producing it bit by bit gives me a little more time and love to each page, as opposed to whipping out a chunk of work and printing it shortly in advance of a major convention.
If you had to sum up the story in a few sentences, what would you say?
‘A little girl has big dreams, but she lives at the bottom rung of society. Her aunt and poor neighbours would give an arm and a leg to escape from under a city’s reign. Literally.’
I’m enjoy webcomics but I like having a physical collection. Any thoughts on a possible future print version?
I initially planned to print Things Happened as a black and white graphic novel around the time of its inception (and under a wildly different name). But the story expanded into something bigger than that, so tackling another long form series in print was out of the question. As much as I’d love for a professional company to pick it up, I doubt that chance would ever happen. I have to cover the costs of printing Finn & Fish first!
Apart from more Things Happened, any other plans for 2014?
There are, but they’re secret! For non comic stuff however, I’m still studying part time, and looking for entry level positions in the games industry after I finish my course.
You can check out Things Happened on Leann Hamilton’s website.