It’s not every day that Alethea Van Holland gets to chime in on MOONLIT DAWN: A MYTHICAL TALE, and all things indie comics, so let’s do this, with relish.
Q: MOONLIT DAWN: A MYTHICAL TALE looks like a wild ride. It even includes a corrupt wolf goddess. What can you tell our readers about this tale’s antagonist, without giving too much away?
A: Without giving too much away? Ooh, this is going to be difficult. Essence was once a highly revered goddess, which her past will be explained in the upcoming September release. She was stripped of her second tail for all to see the treachery she caused. Her motivations are unclear, at least for now, but she certainly has a mild streak of madness. Essence utilizes her horde of Beastmen to do her twisted bidding and continues to manipulate others for her goals. Though Essence appears to be painted as villain, I try to actually portray her in shades of gray; her reasoning may not be right but maybe we can at least empathize with her later in the story.
Q: What was your biggest inspiration for the Essence character?
A: Since the series is influenced by Celtic mythology I drew a lot of inspiration from the Morrigan, a goddess of war and strife, to help build Essence.
Q: What have you learned about attracting an audience for new graphic literature in this day and age?
A: I’ve been taking note of other creator’s actions, reading articles, and testing the waters myself and what I found in common in all of these is to put yourself out there. Know your story’s target audience and try to market towards that, it’s all about adapting, learning, and structuring to keep up with the times. Staying relevant and having a prominent internet presence helps, regularly update your social media and maybe advertise your comic once to twice a week. There are over 3 billion people on the internet, someone will be interested in your work. However, doing some heavy work like putting forth going to conventions and chatting with patrons can gain interest with a potential audience. I’m still learning, so hopefully I can give a more in-depth look soon!
Q: If you could choose, which actress would portray Essence in the film adaptation of this comic, and why?
A: If I could, I would have Naz Edwards who voiced Queen Beryl in Sailor Moon R to voice Essence. I think her performance in that series carried elegance and a devious undertone that I feel would match Essence.
Q: How many issues are planned for MOONLIT DAWN?
A: I’m gonna try and have it end at 8 issues, unless you count the “Prologue” as an issue and if, so then it’ll end at 9 issues.
Q: Are there any plans for a continuation of it? A spin-off, perhaps?
A: When “Moonlit Dawn” ends, it’ll end. A sequel series would be pretty much a rehash and unnecessary, and I’m afraid it would be watered down quite a bit compared to the current series. However, I’ve been in discussion with Insane Comics about making an art book that would include character bios, sketches, behind-the-scenes, and various artwork but I wouldn’t start on this until the series is completed. And I’ve been considering of making a one-shot parody version of the series which would be along the same vein of “Full Metal Panic: Overload!” It would be over the top, ridiculous, fourth-wall breaking and the characters would be chibi versions of themselves while struggling to follow the plot from the original series. “Moonlit Dawn” is such a serious story, and there’s quite a bit of jokes as well as commentary I wanted to make, and I feel like a parody version will lighten the overall grim atmosphere. Except, I would do this after the series is completed (and if the fanbase demanded a funny version.)
Q: A one-shot parody version is a fun idea. We rarely see creators of indie graphic lit this willing to poke fun at their own tales themselves, so thank you for that. What would you call it?
A: The idea spontaneously came to me a couple weeks ago, so I’m still working on a title but so far one has been rattling around that I’ve been partial to, which is “Moonlit Dawn: Frenzy.”
Q: Which indie comics have you been enjoying most these days?
A: I’m sorta new to the indie scene, I usually read a lot of webcomics or manga so I’m starting slow with indie comics. I’ve been branching out and starting with baby steps with titles provided by my publisher Insane Comics, LLC. Titles which have notably grabbed my attention are Death-Rattler, Sineater, and Godlikes. I hope to continue my indie comic venture and see more of what’s out there!
Q: Insane Comics is doing some top-quality stuff. What made you decide to have them be your publishing house?
A: Submitting to Insane Comics was a shot in the dark. I found them advertising on Facebook that they were open for submissions in early 2015, and at the time they only had a handful of titles. I was rejected by so many other publishing houses, and I was starting to feel indifferent with each notification but I still decided to submit Insane Comics just for the heck of it.
Q: Tell us about your background, as a both a reader and a writer?
A: As mentioned previously, I started out reading webcomics and manga. I remember reading some comic books when I was a wee little one, but I don’t remember too much about it. However, I’ve always been an avid reader, I practically have my own mini-library in my house. When I got into middle school I was introduced to manga and webcomics. With my friends at the time, we tried creating our own comics and webcomics, though we eventually went our separate ways. My love for storytelling didn’t vanish though. I took an “art hiatus” for several years and focused on writing, cranking out several novels that’ll never see the light of day with how cliché they were. I did succeed in getting a couple poems published. After I graduated, my yearning to draw came back with a vengeance and I couldn’t stop doodling to save my life. I drew everywhere, on my arms, napkins—it was almost an obsession, perhaps to make up for the four years I didn’t draw. It was shortly after this I returned to making comics.
Q: Has the rise in popularity of indie comics surprised you?
A: Growing up with webcomics, it’s very surprising to see how much the indie market has grown. Just look at the rise of popularity with webcomics and the manga genre, it’s off the charts than ever before. It’s so amazing to see all these original ideas, rounded characters, and concepts never recognized until the indie market has gotten the attention it has in recent years. There are more popular indie series than others, but if you dive deep enough, you can find a genre or a story for anyone. And that’s what I love about it. Literary novels have had a multitude of diverse titles from authors of all walks of life, and I feel like comics are finally catching up to that. Although the “Big 2” still dominate the market, but the same can be said for popular publishing houses for literary novels, and in my own perspective that’s perfectly okay. If it weren’t for the “Big 2” a lot of people wouldn’t have found their love for comics.
Q: What do you suppose brick-and-mortar comic shops could be doing more of, to remain relevant during these increasingly-digital times?
A: Well, I don’t own a comic shop so my ramblings certainly aren’t professional advice, but I’ll share from what I’ve been reading up on and what I’ve observed from my own local comic shop. It also refers to one of my previous points to keeping a prominent internet presence. If you have a business, do your best to stay up to date with all of the social media outlets, constantly put yourself out there, make people see you’re still in business. I’ve heard about some stores having an app, and when people download the app maybe they get a discount on a purchase or something? Customers love deals, be it bundle deals or separate ones, people are always on the lookout. I’ve also heard some shops allow their customers to order through their store online and will ship their orders to their address when it comes in. And on a final note, there’s a comic shop very close to me and they’re always holding events. They do Geek Swap-Meets, contests, a weekly Dungeons & Dragons session, Pokémon Tournaments—basically they hold all sorts of events that go on at their store which makes people to come in to participate, and this is also how they generate sales too.
Q: Which have been some of your all-time favorite indie comics?
A: “(JTHM) Johnny the Homicidal Maniac” is still considered indie right? I’m gonna say it is. “JTHM” was one of the first few western comics that I thoroughly enjoyed—still enjoy. I love the dark humor and the art is so disturbingly amazing. “Sailor Moon” started out as an indie comic (at least that’s the rumor), and I’ve loved “Sailor Moon” since I was little lass. “Sailor Moon” is a wonderful role model with lots of messages to help anyone shape into a good person.
Q: JTHM is absolutely considered indie! Sailor Moon too. What’s an example of the positive messages in Sailor Moon?
A: So many! I love how “Sailor Moon” appears to just be a children’s show on the surface but carries a lot of life lessons anyone from any age could take into consideration. Usagi and the Sailor Scouts helped me learn it’s okay if you’re not perfect it’s what inside that counts, the importance of family and friendship bonds, and love not only for your significant other, but love for life and love for the people important to you.
But I think the best lesson that got me through some pretty tough times was the lesson that shined in each episode, in each character–never give up. No matter how many enemies or obstacles they faced, even if it was astronomical, the Sailor Scouts would find a way to persevere. There were a lot of problems I faced growing up that didn’t allow me to turn to anyone for help. Because of this, reflecting on shows like “Sailor Moon” helped me to find the strength to believe there was something better at the end of the struggle.
Q: Who are some of the creators of indie comics that you look up to?
A: Well, in reference to my previous statement with “JTHM”, it would have to be Jhonen Vasquez. I love his other works and I grew up watching his animated creation “Invader Zim” on Nickelodeon. Not only do I love his smart commentary and wit in his works but his success inspires me. “JTHM” was an underground comic that has gained a following over the years, and it gives me hope as well as inspiration that my comic can find its place too.
Q: In addition, to MOONLIT DAWN, what other projects are you working on?
A: Some days it feels like what am I not working on? Although I’m always interested in more projects, I currently have my plate full. I just recently sent off a sketchbook consisting of sketches and inks to MAD Z Productions to be featured in their upcoming film “Blood/Lust.” I also have the honor to be their sequential artist for the upcoming half live-action/half comic book webseries “Koko Blayze: Undead Killer.”
I also claimed the position to be the colorist for the upcoming Sci-Fi adventure “Stars End”, which will be released from Insane Comics, LLC later this year. I’m also working on a couple of comic projects currently in production with the talented writer Jordan King (creator/writer to series such as Sineater, Anti-Chris). Recently, I’ve been recruited to work on a comic series with Troy Vevasis, which I hope to make an official announcement about it soon. In my free time, I’m the creator/artist to a webcomic called “Between the Realms” on Tapastic.
Aside from comics, I’m making some 2-D avatars pose sets for the graphical chatland “Willow.”
Q: “Koko Blayze: Undead Killer” sounds incredible. Just the name alone conjures up all sorts of wild imagery. What more can you tell us about that tale, without giving too much away?
A: “Koko Blayze: Undead Killer” is an upcoming webseries from MAD Z Productions, written and directed by David Zagorski. It’s about Koko, a 16 year-old girl who attends Dagon Academy in the fictional gothic town of Stoker, MA. After an encounter with a vampire, her abilities awaken enabling her to kick demonic butt to protect her town from other dark forces. It’s a dark, campy story with blood, foul language, demons, vampires and monsters of all kinds. They’re currently holding casting auditions if anyone is interested.
Q: Wow, can we be in it?
A: You’ll have to ask the director about that, hehe! You can shoot him a message at: firstname.lastname@example.org.