Interviews with readers and creators

14

Oct 2015

Creator Spotlight: Jim and Alli Perry of Out of My Element

Posted by / in Spotlight Interviews / 5 comments

Today I’m happy to share this interview I had with Jim and Alli Perry, fellow SpiderForest members and creators of the fun steampunk/elemental webcomic, Out of My Element.

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D: Alright, how about you two tell me a bit about yourselves.

J: Alli and I have been together for over 8 years. We’ve been married (Oct 22) for 3 years and we have two little girls, Zoé who is 2 years old and Émilie who is just over a month old. We’ve been working on OoME since 2011 and boy-howdy, can we say we’ve learned quite a big deal of things about webcomics since then!

Actually, Alli corrected me – we’ve known each other for 11 years, lol

Feels like only yesterday.

 

D: Congrats on the new baby! How do you balance parenthood with work and producing your comic?

J: Poorly. Alli and I tag team the kid situation. We work as partners in all aspects of life and the little ones are not different. While I bathe one, she takes care of the other, or if Zoé is being troublesome, I can take her outside and play and Alli can watch over Émilie. With the workload of the comic, it’s more in Alli’s court of how she somehow finds the time to work on pages while taking care of the baby while I’m at work.

A: I wouldn’t say we handle balancing parenthood and working on a comic poorly. There is a lot of give and take, with two little ones you have to be flexible. Jim is an amazing father and helps out with the girls so much. Our oldest is a ball of unending energy so when she is awake our time is mostly devoted to her. Jim will take her to the park while I am taking care of our 1 month old. As for doing the actual comic pages, I tend to work on them either while the baby sleeps here and there or when our oldest is down for the night. A few years back Jim and his family bought me a tablet for my birthday so I use it to do my work. I can take it anywhere and when I am at work I use it on my lunch hour to get work done on comic pages. Once I have what I like rendered on the tablet I will transfer the page to my PC and work on my 19inch monitor tablet to do any finishing touches or add words.

 

D: What do you two do for your day jobs?

J: I’m a computer technician for the Government of Canada. I troubleshoot personal computers, networks, phones, laptops, ipads, iphones, websites, word documents, excel documents…. Okay, if it deals with Information Technology, let’s just say I make it work.

A: I am an insurance broker when I’m not on Maternity leave. I handle personal home and auto insurance for many clients in the province of Ontario. Insurance is done province by province in Canada. It is my job to review client files and make sure my clients needs are met. I also write new business as well.

 

D: How do you like where you’re living?

J: Love it. It’s a great place for little kids to grow up. Nice and secure, the neighbors are wonderful and there’s a park not even 5 minutes away where the kids can go and play on swings and the like. The only downside is winter. Bloody cold and snow banks taller than me – never fun to have to deal with that.

A: We live in Quebec and I have to say it is very beautiful. We are very close to the border between Ontario and Quebec and both of us work on the Ontario side. As Jim said it is a great place for our girls to grow up and we are in a wonderful neighborhood.

 

D: I was going to ask if you live in Quebec, since your daughters names sound French Canadian-ish :) Any fun stories with them? I have a 1 year old, so I KNOW there are some great stories ;)

J: Well, recently we went to Alli’s mother’s trailer and Zoé saw a golf cart that belonged to Alli’s aunt. She asked if she could go on a ride and Alli’s uncle said: “Well, I don’t know if mommy or daddy would be able to-” And right there and then she sat down, looked straight at me and waved while saying: “Bye-bye, daddy!” I can just feel the love. Outranked by a golf cart; Story of my life.

A: The best story that has happened lately was the golf cart one Jim told. As for me, Zoé is more of a daddy’s girl, I rate second if I’m lucky lol. I don’t really have any funny stories about my little one, she tends to save those for her daddy but there is one thing I do that daddy can’t/doesn’t do right apparently and that’s piggies. I play this little piggy with her toes like my dad and grandad used to do to me when I was little. She loves it so much that she always asks for me to do it again and again and is always switching feet. She’s also incredibly independent, so much so that if she is going to push her baby sister’s stroller you are not allowed to hold even the side of it to make sure she doesn’t steer her into a hedge.

 

D: Tell me about your creative projects.

J: Our creative projects? Well, we have a few other webcomic ideas floating about, but we like to stay focused on one at a time. OoME is a steampunk-based webcomic in a very political-driven city set I a Victorian-esque backdrop of society. Other ideas generally spawn off of conversations Alli and I have, as well as one idea that is based off of a D&D campaign we are currently a part of.

 

D: What are some other of the stories ideas you’re playing with?

J: Well, there’s:

‘My Hero!’: Episodic Adult- themed comic – An episodic tale about a Guardian who is tasked with partnering up with the Champion of her dreams – only to find out that maybe the PR department does their job a little too well. Hijinks, hilarity and very adult themes are prevalent in this one. Also, the dwaven characters of Morridan and Gurtie are based off of what we perceive other people to see our relationship as.

Spirithearth: Fantasy Heroic Adventure comic – Anthropomorphic animals are given a task to find out what happened to a messenger who is late on his delivery. What they stumble upon will alter all of Grandmother Octavia’s (The Giant spider Spirit who weaves everyone’s life plan into her web) magnificent work. Also, Yumi is a terror to poor Altros

Scrapper: Fantasy/Sci-Fi growth of character comic – This one I’m working with Alli’s best friend Gen on. It’s a story of a young woman who’s occupation is to go through the ruins of the ancient civilization that once was and retrieve bits of technology and scrap and make them into trinkets to sell to passing idio-erm… patrons. She finds a functioning item believed to be of the Ancients… Trouble follows.

Ravenlols: D&D-based Gag-a-post comic – Based in the world of Ravenloft, 5 adventurers who really shouldn’t be there are trying to find the best way to make it out of Ravenloft alive, with as much coin, magic items and jokes as they can muster. There’s also a bunch of long-arching story in there, but it’s mostly meant to be a joke comic about being a hero in a D&D setting like Ravenloft – where everything is bleak.

 

D: I’m sensing that you may be fans of DnD and other such games ;) I started playing Pathfinder about a year ago with some friends online, and quite enjoy it. What’s your favorite story from playing?

J: Do I have to pick just one? A recent example would be when Alli was playing her rogue who was told to go and get a magical MaGuffin item with huge powers tied to it. The group entered a tiny pocket dimension where they found a lab of some sort. Being a rogue, she swiped the item before anyone was the wiser. Soon after, the group found a sealed portal to some other plane. Not knowing how to open it, the team used whatever means necessary to try and pry the magical seal on the portal off.

When the group finally gave up and turned around, Alli motioned to her inner chest pocket with a wicked grin and smiled as she pantomimed stabbing the portal with the MaGuffin she previously had hidden in her jacket pocket. The ensuing explosion, collapse of the pocket dimension and blinding of Alli (not to mention the sudden growth of two majestically spiritual stag horns from her characters’ head) was something to behold… Especially since the other characters didn’t find out that she had done this for about 2 weeks in character.

A: Oh where to begin, oh I know. So in our Friday game called Spirit Hearth (The podcasts are here if you want a listen) I play a fox rogue named Yumi. Yumi is the one who makes things happen, mainly because she gets bored very easily and goes off to cause trouble. In one of our sessions we were trying to find a way to deal with these druids who had these masks that were possessing people. I decided since I am a rogue with a ridiculously high bluff score I will infiltrate the druids and see what I can learn. Now one thing you need to understand about Yumi is in that story Jim told previously she became linked to one of the greater spirits of the world – this world’s version of a God, in this case The Great White Stag. She has spirit antlers that are very large and anyone with spirit vision can see them if they are turned on. She also has not mastered using her new found powers including being able to turn the spirit antlers off. So Yumi goes up to the guards are the mountain’s entrance and claims to be part of Coyote’s disciples (Coyote being another God) – I roll and get a 19 on the die, with my bonuses it comes out to be a 30. So I am thinking great, I just suckered these poor fools into letting me in so I can learn their plans, awesome. At which point, Jim who is our DM, motions to the top of my head and I realize that I walked in there with the spirits horns on in full power giving me a -29 on my roll. Yumi being none the wiser and thinking her plan has worked perfectly gets possessed by a mask. The table burst out laughing and still to this day complain about how my 30 bluff was reduced to a 1.

 

D: Well all those other story ideas sound interesting!  Why don’t you tell my readers a bit more about OoMe.

J: It isn’t your usual steampunk webcomic. The main cast aren’t on an airship and there isn’t an explosion in the first four pages, nor does anyone have a robot-arm or some such. OoME is more of a drama with the world being built up about it slowly. The main focus of the story is the main character, Jillian and how her view of her world starts to shift as the thin veneer finish is peeled away by other members of the cast. That’s not to say there isn’t an airship or explosions, it’s just not the generic ‘action packed’ steampunk webcomic that people are used to.

A: OoME is a steampunk based comic but as Jim said it’s not what the general populace see steampunk as. We don’t have the story taking place on an air ship and we don’t have giant battles (yet) happening in the first chapter. The comic has a greater focus on the characters and the intricate workings of the political system of the city of Cog and the rebels trying to make change. Now that isn’t to say there won’t be more steampunk elements showing up. The rigs are giant steam powered robots that play a large part. But the real story is a romance/drama/adventure about Jill being thrust between what she’s been told she wants and what she doesn’t realize she may actually want.

Gotta have an airship.

Gotta have an airship.

 

D: I notice a distinct lack of talking about the half-elementals in your description of OoME. Purposeful, or do you just choose to emphasize the steampunk vibe?

J: The elemental and half-elementals in OoME are a very essential part in the story and the whole world of Tess’la, but it’s hard to bring them up in natural flow when talking about a story whose entire title is based off of this detail. Also, there is no ‘elemental’ choice in most web comic genres, so Steampunk takes the forefront. If we could find a way to insert ‘Elementals’ without making it sound like some kind of buzzword, we’d probably try that, but neither of us has succeeded in doing so.

It’s kind of like selling tickets to a petting zoo and then making a passing remark that there are velociraptors loose somewhere. People tend to worry at that point.

A: The elementals are more of the fantasy part of the genre types the comic falls under. As the comic’s main genre is steampunk we try to advertise that more. As for the half-elementals, they are very rare with in the story itself and that will be touched on more as the story progresses.

 

 

D: How did you two get started making a comic together?

J: Alli and I had been going out for a while and she had previously worked on her own comic ideas. I’m struggling to remember their names, but they were a while ago. Happily Ever After, I believe one was called where a witch was part of an incompetent dragon-king’s army, there was an orc pope and a black cat that our cat was based off of and one other with girls who had names of cars and had like, super battle monsters… Anyhow… She lost steam while working on those projects and when I mentioned I had ideas aplenty, she tied me up in a basement and forced me to spill the beans. It’s been bliss ever since (Send help!)

A: As Jim had said I had dabbled in making comics myself before. I wasn’t very good at it mainly because I am a terrible writer. At one point we were chatting and he was telling me about how he had all kinds of story ideas. We did some rping on rp servers in some MMOs so I knew he was good with coming up with things. We talked about it and decided on something we could both enjoy for a comic. I love fantasy and we both love steampunk and thats how we started work on OoME.

 

D: Would you care to describe your creative process to the class? I love hearing about other creative teams.

J: Well, from my perspective:

The entire story is running through my head, but only certain set points are important. How the characters reach these milestones, or anchors, as I like to call them, is organically driven by the story and personal reactions. I have scenes that play in my head as I plot a chapter and as every page is requested by the artist (Alli) I draw what I believe would be the best representation of what’s going on, complete with words and character expressions. Mind you, my artistic ability is that of a child, so it comes out as stick men and squiggly lines with small icons representing which character is which.

Once this is done, I hand Alli the page and she critiques it. If the words sound too mechanical or the panels too complex, not dynamic enough or otherwise messy, she re-boxes the page.

From there, as far as I’m concerned, it’s magic that happens on a screen that I have absolutely no influence over.

A: Our process isn’t what a lot of people do. Jim has everything in his head so if he looses his memory we’re screwed. But all joking aside, he will give me a page with his stick men on it and the words, I will look it over, talk to him about what he wants on the page and then we will discuss how to make it flow better if something seems off to me. We will rework the words if something doesn’t sound right or like how a certain character would speak. I will then sketch up the page and send him a photo and see if the rough is something we can agree on. Once it looks right I will ink it then colour it. And finally add the words to it, going over them one last time with Jim to make sure they sound right.

 

D: What are some lessons you’ve learned as you’ve worked on OoME? Anything you wish you’d known before starting?

A: Oh man I wish we had known how important advertising was when we first started. We went a good 3 years before starting to advertise and if we had just done it sooner I think we would have gotten our name out there faster.

J: We learned a lot from working on OoME. From our early pages, it’s very apparent that our pacing and visual focus was not matching up, but that stuff gets better as you go. What I mostly learned while working on OoME was to ensure that the readers always had something in the background. Some kind of hints, or clues that are dropped in casual information. There’s not so much of that in the beginning, but it was there and as readers go back and say: THAT’S why this happened or that revelation comes to light in another fashion, it’s amazing. It start conversations and the entire readership begin to develop their own theories. It’s quite fun to see and also partake in.

What I wish we knew before starting? Marketing. How to advertise your comic. Who to talk to, where to go, what are the soft skills required to get a review or even who do you ask? These things plague beginning webcomic creators because the internet is a vast ocean of tiny little islands. Most people think: If I build it, they will come and for some, who are incredibly talented and already have a following, it’s true. For most, you have to go the extra mile, put yourself out there and sell your idea to people so that they will come and look at your little island of the internet.

 

D: What are some of your plans and goals for OoME?

A: I would like to get OoME put into book form at some point. It would be a nice accomplishment.

And of course to see the comic all the way through to completion lol.

J: I personally plan to get some physical copies of these books printed. I’d also like more for some other people to plan wanting to HAVE some physical copies of these books. There are only so many coasters one household can have, after all. For the story, plan wise, we’re about to start seeing more of the ‘revolution’ part and why it’s important. This, in turn, will start forcing Jill straight out of her comfort zone and her character will be developing in tandem. As of this interview, the worst kept secret of OoME is out, so I’ve got to work on another terribly obvious secret so that the good secrets remain that way until the right time.

I’d also like to be able to attend some conventions when the girls are a little older. To actually get to physically have a meal with some of the webcomickers I’ve made acquaintances with and get in that personal time with some of our fans so that we can connect and see where each other comes from.

My goals for OoME? To finish it. This will undoubtedly take time. Probably another decade of updates at the rate we are able to produce content. There are quite a few arcs that need to be addressed and the climatic finish will require so much more from Alli that I’m more than happy to let the comic take it’s organic path and not force it to a rushed, sloppy and rather unsatisfying conclusion for the sake of ‘completing’ a comic.

 

D: Anything else you’d like to say or share? Advice to other creators? Words for current or future readers?

A” As for art I’ve been learning to push myself more out of my comfort zone, try different angles, shots and perspectives. Also if you’re looking to start a webcomic, for your own sanity I would suggest waiting till you have a full chapter done before posting it. This way you have a buffer to start which will help you immensely.

Webcomics is a hard business to get into these days with the market being so saturated. If all you can manage is one update a week don’t feel bad about that. There is no rule saying you have to update twice a week to be doing things right. It is very hard to make a living off webcomics
unless you have a very large following willing to put money down, started over 10 years ago when they weren’t heard of or are picked up by one of the big names out there. If you have to work a day job to make ends meat or have other obligations like a family to take care of don’t let other people make you feel bad because you can’t make that 2 updates a week schedule that some think is what makes or breaks webcomics. Personally I feel it’s more important to take care of your family than to worry about how many hits you’re getting. In the end no matter what your update frequency is, if you enjoy putting out your story your readers will likely enjoy it as well.

To future readers I hope that you enjoy the story we are telling and that it touches you on some level =)

 

D: Awesome.  Thank you both for sharing these thoughts with me!

To everyone reading this, I find OoME quite enjoyable, and will be writing a review for it eventually detailing precisely why.  In the mean time, I strongly encourage you to check it out :D