with Cihan Sesen
Name: Cihan Sesen
City: Los Angeles
QRD – How old were you when you first got into comics & did you always stick with them or did you come back to them?
Cihan – I started drawing very early on, like 2 or 3. Comics? I started making drawings in squares with word bubbles on them around 5 or 6. I’d draw my favorite video game & comic book characters & draw random stories about them. I have several drawing books filled with Running Man, Ninja Turtles & Spider-Man & so on. Then, around age12 or 13, my drawing teacher in middle school gave me an F, for drawing a pair of sunglasses on the sun, & what he called a communist symbol on a tree. The fool didn’t know that was the symbol from Tintin: Cigars of the Pharaoh. I stopped making comics after that, until I came to America. I made a magazine with my friend Paul Waddell called Sugar Coated Assparagus Cube. Then, drew Amish Warrior for Madhappy’s, then self-published Stop The Rain, in San Francisco. & now, I make Spine.
QRD – What was the first comic book you ever bought?
Cihan – We had these comic serial magazines in Turkey. Things like Firfir, Penguen. I’d buy those weekly. But, the first one that most people will know was Tintin: Au Congo. Then I bought, all the other Tintins.
QRD – How old were you when you put out your first comic?
Cihan – I guess, that’d be Sugar Coated Assparagus Cube Magazine. I was 16.
QRD – What decade do you think produced the best comics?
Cihan – I like what’s happening now & the underground “comix” from the 70s.
QRD – Why comics instead of just writing or drawing?
Cihan – I want to show & tell stories. I always liked how comics do that with capturing moments & freezing time. No other medium can quite do that.
QRD – Do you see mini-comics & indie comics as paths to mainstream comics or as their own unique media?
Cihan – I don’t see them as a path since mainstream comics in America just means superhero comics. I hope everything doesn’t become a superhero comic. If we want comics to grow, we need better genres. Genres that other forms of literature have. Like horror, sci-fi, documentary. Joe Sacco does documentaries. Jim Lee illustrates superhero comics, etc.
QRD – How many copies of your comic do you print in your first run?
Cihan – I never printed Spine for a release yet. I made 90 copies of Stop The Rain in San Francisco & sold it to all the comic book stores. Small print. I don’t like taking risks & I have no idea how actual publishing really works. All the mysterious marketing & all that. I need help with that sort of stuff - I just make comics.
QRD – How much do you think comics should cost?
Cihan – They should cost enough to feed the artists & the publishers.
QRD – How many books do you produce a year & how many would you like to?
Cihan – I produce two 24 page books & collect them as one book. I’d like to start making money doing that & produce around twelve 24 page issues.
QRD – Do you think stories should be serialized or delivered as complete works?
Cihan – That depends on the story itself, but there’s nothing wrong with doing both. I like doing series, then collecting them as one big book. Most graphic novels have always been serialized at first. Black Hole, Watchmen, Ghost World.
QRD – How are comic strips different than comic books & which medium do you prefer?
Cihan – Much different. In fact, most comic artists that I know are trying to peel comics away from strips. I have no interest in doing comic strips - because it’s not doing any favors to the medium. We are trying to make comics for adults, trying to show people that comics are not funny jokes in newspapers & magazines. Comics is its own medium. This is established in Europe. America is still behind. When you say comics in America, they instantly think either Superhero or Garfield.
QRD – How long is it from when you start a comic until it’s printed?
Cihan – That depends. Especially, now that I’m not making anything for print - I’d say it’s quite far away!
QRD – What do you do better with your comics now than when you first started?
Cihan – Everything. I draw better, I plan better, I structure the story better. I learned a lot in the last 3 years especially.
QRD – Do you do thumbnails?
Cihan – Comicpress generates them automatically, if I understand the question correctly.
QRD – At what size do you draw?
Cihan – I draw “regular” size, 8.5 by 11 paper. Then scan it at 315dpi, & shrink it to 300dpi.
QRD – What kind of pens do you use?
Cihan – I use a brushpen, several sizes of fine line pens, & a Sharpie.
QRD – What does your workstation look like?
Cihan – My workstation is a nice blue lamp, a black grid for pencils & inks, an iMac in front, a wacom tablet for coloring, & a scanner.
QRD – At what point in the artistic process do you work digitally?
Cihan – After the inks & the pencils are done, I go ahead & color. In fact, you can watch time lapse videos of me doing this; I release a video every week of how that page gets done. There are no secrets; it’s just really fast.
QRD – What do you think of digital comics & webcomics?
Cihan – I make a webcomic. I think it’s kind of a silly title. Since, it’s the medium & the content. Comics are great because, they are given genres by medium instead of content. I mean, I make a sci-fi comic. But there’s no such thing, it’s a webcomic. So, other than that, I find digital comics really hard to read unless you have an iPad. Even with an iPad, every website is different, ads are stuck all over the place. So, for me, the website design becomes as important as the story that’s being told. You don’t have that kind of a problem with books. Aside from printing quality, all books work the same way. On a website, sometimes links are on the bottom, sometimes on the top - every author decides how his website is gonna work. It could be troublesome for the readers. But to be honest, it doesn’t seem like many authors put any thought into their websites or comics on the web.
QRD – Do you prefer working in color or black & white?
Cihan – I LOVE black & white. After SPINE, I’m totally gonna do a black & white comic. I think it’s gonna be called Clean Girls. But, for SPINE, I wanted to something interesting with color. Things get more & more colored in, as SPINE cares about them. I am doing digital coloring, but using film techniques. Using gel-like layers & color grading. That’s what a computer does best. You either do what it does best, or imitate a paintbrush. I like staying true to my tools.
QRD – How many different people should work on a comic & what should their jobs be?
Cihan – One is all you need. I couldn’t imagine working with someone else. I guess if someone can’t draw but wants to write a comic, he’ll need someone to draw it for him. So one, maybe two?
QRD – How do you find collaborators?
Cihan – I don’t.
QRD – How tight do you think a script should be as far as telling the artist what to draw?
Cihan – My scripts are very tight, as if I’m writing it for someone else. So, I feel like the more you can put on the script, the more you can put on the page later.
QRD – What comic book person would you be most flattered to be compared to?
Cihan – Charles Burns.
QRD – What do your friends & family think of your comics?
Cihan – I’m really surprised that my mom actually reads SPINE & tells me all the things she likes, even if someone is getting stabbed in their private parts. She tells me about it. Most of my friends don’t read comics. My really close friends who read it really like it. Most of time, I can tell if someone actually likes SPINE or is trying to compliment me to be nice (there’s nothing wrong with that), when they start asking me specific questions about the story or have amazing suggestions. This wouldn’t be the same comic without the suggestions of Paul, Justin, Mark & Joseph.
QRD – What do you think of superheroes?
Cihan – I’m kind of over them at this point.
QRD – Marvel or DC?
Cihan – I used to love DC when I worked at a comic book store in San Francisco. Now, they both suck.
QRD – What comic characters other than your own would you like to work with?
Cihan – If I’m drawing it, it’ll be my character.
QRD – Ideally would you self-publish?
Cihan – I don’t want to deal with the publishing aspect. That’s what I need help with, so that I can focus on just making the comics.
QRD – What conventions do you try to attend & why?
Cihan – I attended Wondercon & APE in San Francisco & Comicon in San Diego. My favorite was Wondercon. San Diego seems like it’s not for people who want to read or discover new comics. It’s for fans who want to see their fandom supported. Whereas APE is all new & awesome stuff. Wondercon was a mixture of both, so I really liked it.
QRD – What do you do to promote your books?
Cihan – That’s one thing people really don’t need to take my advice on. There are a lot better people out there who know how to promote their stuff. I use Twitter & Facebook. I feel like that’s another thing I need help with.
QRD – Do you think your comics are well suited to comic shops or would sell better elsewhere?
Cihan – I would love to see it in a comic book store one day. Maybe next year? I think all comics are suited for comic book shops.
QRD – What other medium would you like to see some of your comics made into (television, film, games, action figures, etc.)?
Cihan – I’d love see live action SPINE running around, fighting rhinowhales. But, I’d love to see the comic in a comic book store first.
QRD – Do you consider yourself a comic collector or a comic reader or both?
Cihan – I’m definitely a reader. I never understood collecting ANYTHING. So, that’s why. I get rid of stuff. I buy trades mostly. An author wants his book to be read, I hope.
QRD – What do you see as the most viable mediums for comics distribution 10 years from now?
Cihan – I feel like issues are going away. I see issues becoming eBooks, then printed trades & hard covers. At least, that’s what I see for SPINE. A lot less waste of paper & cost. Comics are all about getting things done cheap. Then you’ll say what about the collectors?! Limited edition hard covers, baby.
QRD – What would you like to see more people doing with comics?
Cihan – I want people to tell their own stories & we really need to get away from superheroes. At least for now. Come back to them later. Make your own characters, your own worlds. I’m tired of same old Batman & Superman villains.
QRD – Anything else?
Cihan – I write a comic where I portray myself as a girl who lives in the future. I’ve been thinking deeply about what that means to who I am. Let me tell you how I got myself into this mess first:
It all happened because of video games. It started with me being bored with playing video games where I was controlling a dude. It was always so boring to stare at a dude’s butt for hours. Then, I started making girl characters & things got very interesting. Heh. Bouncing butts, tits, the game is - all of a sudden - FUN! Playing WoW as SPINE was a lot of fun because of that - it still is. There’s a difference now. SPINE is just not my toy, but she’s also my comic book character & the events that occur are based on my life. The nephew who died, is my nephew, Serhan. Selin, Serhan, & I used to run above rooftops in Turkey as kids. All of that is based on my life - but in the comic, it’s a girl named Dilara (someone I used to love) & not me.
You see, it’s not me trying to become a girl. This is about me trying to separate myself from my own memories - because some of them too painful to remember & relive. We all have those memories & create ways to deal with them. SPINE is about that. It’s about people coming to conclusions & dealing with old memories.