Comic Creator Interview
with Crystal M Rollins
Name: Crystal M Rollins
City: Renton, WA
Comics: Aspect (Artist and Writer), Until Death Do Us Part (Artist and Writer), Skyborne (Artist and Writer), Jikoshia (Colors)
QRD – How old were you when you first got into comics and did you always stick with them or did you come back to them?
Crystal – Maybe 8? I was reading newspaper comics as long as I can remember as a child. I used to cut out my favorites and try to scrapbook them to save them, until I realized how much newspaper degrades. From there it was the occasion X-Men comic in middle school and then my real cathartic moment was when I first saw Sailor Moon on TV and raced to the internet to find out everything I could, which lad me to manga and the awesomeness that was all things Japan. My fever for Japanese culture has cooled, but it was still a huge influence on me.
QRD – What was the first comic book you ever bought?
Crystal – I found a bundle-pack of X-Men comics at Media Play when I as maybe 10 or 12. I remember loving the art, but having ZERO idea what the hell was going on, since it was a package of disparate issues from random story lines. Who would sell that?!
QRD – How old were you when you put out your first comic?
Crystal – I was 14. It was my freshman year in high school and me and my friends had been running this text-based online/offline RPG for FOREVER and I decided to try drawing it out as a more coherent storyline. I still have this pencil-&-ballpoint-pen monstrosity somewhere, for posterity. I even scanned it in & posted it on the internet.
QRD – What decade do you think produced the best comics?
Crystal – The one we’re in RIGHT NOW. Creativity, craftsmanship, and independent thought are bursting out from all corners of the globe, riding a wave of crowd funding, free internet marketing, and prolific digital distribution.
QRD – Why comics instead of just writing or drawing?
Crystal – Stories. and honestly, I HAVE tried “just writing.” I’ve written short stories on the side for the past decade, but they never are as good as my comics. But they keep ideas flowing & give me a break from the stress of comics. I even finished a 200-page novel in 2009 entitled Lanik’s Journey. But as much as my ideas might be good, I’m just not a prose writer at heart. It’s not the worst stuff ever; but to me, my written words are dull, dull, DULL!
I tried to write my newest story Skyborne as a prose novel, but I couldn’t describe the visuals I kept seeing for how the world functioned and looked. After almost a year of trying to work on it parallel to Aspect, I gave up and started re-creating it as a comic venture.
QRD – Do you see mini-comics and indie comics as paths to mainstream comics or as their own unique media?
Crystal – Um… both? Not sure why they have to be one or the other. I think that depends more on the creator. Some people long to work for their “heroes” Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, whatever. I fall squarely into the other camp of people, who have a vision, a story that won’t let them sleep, etc. People who just want to follow the creative rabbit hole to its end and hope for some readership in the process.
QRD – How many copies of your comic do you print in your first run?
Crystal – So, my first ever “print run” was a set of 30 short-run prints of Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 combined together. I still get a lot of compliments on the quality of the printing; but then again, print processing is sort of my day job ^_~
QRD – How much do you think comics should cost?
Crystal – Kind of a trick question to me. I mean, you’ve got floppies, hardback super volumes, and everything in between.
QRD – How many books do you produce a year and how many would you like to?
Crystal – I only produce about 1 book ever 2-3 years. I wish I could produce a new book every year, but that’s the downside of having a day job that actually, you know, puts food on the table.
QRD – Do you think stories should be serialized or delivered as complete works?
Crystal – All of my stories are serialized, in a way. I try to work on them as a finished story arc, but they are updated regularly through my website as 1 part promotion and 1 part deadline for myself.
QRD – How are comic strips different than comic books and which medium do you prefer?
Crystal – One’s a strip, one’s a book?… and I prefer long-form stories for my own writing. I’ve never been good at writing a daily gag.
QRD – How long is it from when you start a comic until it’s printed?
Crystal – That varies greatly. From 1 month to 3 years. A better question would be how long from the point when I’ve finished the comic to when it’s printed. In some cases, I’ve actually printed before the final comic was available online, to try and draw out a little bit of additional funding for the print run.
QRD – What do you do better with your comics now than when you first started?
Crystal – Pretty much everything. I have been at this for fifteen years, after all. But then again, I would hope that any artist who dives head-first into a medium continually improves, adapts, & grows.
QRD – Do you do thumbnails?
Crystal – Yes. Definitely. Are there people out there who don’t?
QRD – At what size do you draw?
Crystal – Depends. When I’m doing an art piece, I tend to work as close to 200% scale to final as possible. For Aspect, I worked entirely digitally, at 600dpi. For Skyborne, since it’s entirely in pencil, I’m working around 120% scale so the final linear is at the thickness I want.
QRD – What kind of pens do you use?
Crystal – Faber Castell’s and Sakura Microns. With a Pentel Brush pen mixed in for emphasis.
QRD – What does your workstation look like?
Crystal – Like this:
QRD – At what point in the artistic process do you work digitally?
Crystal – At all stages. Especially the initial rough drawings.
QRD – What do you think of digital comics and webcomics?
Crystal – I must think pretty highly of them, since all my comics are webcomics…
QRD – Do you prefer working in color or black and white?
Crystal – Color, but black and white used to be my preference. My color intuition has really blossomed since college.
QRD – How many different people should work on a comic and what should their jobs be?
Crystal – As many people want to/as the creator can afford? Ideally, I think the best comics are made by small teams, maybe 3 people at the most. It makes the idea more fresh and unique and I feel like the art is less stale if it’s handled by as few people as possible.
QRD – How do you find collaborators?
Crystal – Craigslist, Meetup.com, and various comics events around town. I actually came across a local Washington chapter called “The Claw” by chatting with peer tables at Stumptown comics expo.
QRD – How tight do you think a script should be as far as telling the artist what to draw?
Crystal – Tight in regards to important points. But there’s definitely a limit. If a girl’s dress doesn’t NEED to be blue for plot reasons, leave something for the artist to play with!
QRD – What comic book person would you be most flattered to be compared to?
Crystal – Kazu Kibuishi. I think his plots are really well written and his characters are emotive while still retaining a lot of clarity in the art. His painted colors are freaking amazing, too.
QRD – What do your friends and family think of your comics?
Crystal – Most of them seem to be proud of me; but then I have a lot of friends who hardly even read comics, so response is all over the place. I don’t have anyone close to me that hates comics or thinks they are a waste of time. I’m lucky in that way. That being said, I have a lot of short stories and ideas I don’t share with my family (& many friends) due to their NSFW nature…
QRD – Marvel or DC?
Crystal – Dark Horse, Oni Press and Image.
QRD – Ideally would you self-publish?
Crystal – In an ideal world, I would love to have the recognition and the popularity that would make allowing Image or another publishing house deal with the print and distribution of my stories. For now, though, I’m grateful that these days self-publishing is such a viable low-entry cost option.
QRD – What conventions do you try to attend and why?
Crystal – It feels like every year I find another little indie con around here in the NorthWest. So far my most successful are Bellingham Comicon and Jet City ComicCon, but I also try to table at Stumptown. I hardly ever attend comic conventions as just an attendee anymore. I just don’t have that much of an interest in seeing a bunch of panels about what comic is coming out when and what movie promotion is hitting theaters based on what books. and being behind a table gives me an entirely different context to meet other people working in the industry, or people like me who are just pouring their heart into their stories in their free time.
QRD – How do you feel about doing work for anthologies?
Crystal – I’d love to! I haven’t done one yet, but I tried to be part of a compilation that Emily was putting together on the Fantasy Comic Portal. The whole thing didn’t pan out because everyone ended up being really busy, but the stories that people were throwing around sounded great.
QRD – What do you do to promote your books?
Crystal – That’s something I’ve never been very good with. I table at small conventions all around the Puget Sound. I have tried to get my book into various comic shops around town, but the model seems to mostly be “consignment”, which is a polite term for “never going to sell ever”, or “we’ll stick it here in the back where our usual customers won’t be offended by it”. Finding a comic shop which is truly indie-friendly and actually interested in PROMOTING independent creators is really difficult.
As for internet promotion, I post on social media, I use various ad exchange networks. If I had more of a backbone, I would try to network with other creators, make guest art, etc.
QRD – Do you think your comics are well suited to comic shops or would sell better elsewhere?
Crystal – Right now, I don’t think my comics fit well in the standard comic shops people are used to. The publication dates between volumes are too far apart. The story content is not the usual super-heroic theme. The art isn’t quite manga or american. So far, my best success has been direct sales through independent events.
QRD – What other medium would you like to see some of your comics made into (television, film, games, action figures, etc.)?
Crystal – In a dream world? I think statuettes would be bad ass! and I’ve imagined Aspect as a low-budget TV series and I imagine Skyborne like a film trilogy all the time, right down to having a Spotify list of songs to fit the book themes. :)
QRD – Do you consider yourself a comic collector or a comic reader or both?
Crystal – Um. Both… Are there seriously still people out there dumb enough to collect books they don’t actually want to read?…
QRD – What do you see as the most viable mediums for comics distribution 10 years from now?
Crystal – All of them. Scott McCloud’s original ideas that everything would melt into cyberspace instead seems to be exploding in all directions. With print-on-demand becoming more cost efficient & customizable every year, independently created print books are becoming a varied and completely viable option, and haven’t taken down digital sales either. Everyone’s going to have things however they like it in the future. Isn’t it awesome?
QRD – What would you like to see more people doing with comics?
Crystal – Being original. Being sensitive in their stories. Trying something new, maybe failing, but at least going in directions with their stories, premises, characters, and art that aren’t already covered by the “big two” out there.
QRD – Anything else?
Crystal – I would recommend doing a little research on someone before you interview them. Or maybe try to focus your questions more. I feel like I just filled out a questionnaire from the government….