Cheesecake for Every interviews harkovast (of Harkovast and the Webcomic Review Comic)
skoolmunkee at 9:44AM, Dec. 3, 2010
posts: 7,058
joined: 1-2-2006
This interview is of harkovast, whose comics are: Harkovast (with his wife) and half of The Webcomic Review Comic On The Web (with ifelldownthestairs)!
(interview conducted by Cheesecake for Every!)

Hey Harkovast, can I call you Daniel?

You can, but weirdly these days I prefer to be called Hark online. Isn't that odd?
When I first set up my account I just put my name as the name of my comic and picked the orange cat character because it was the first character in the story we got a good look at. Now they have become so synonymous with me, that people calling me Daniel online seems to ruin the mystique. For the same reason, I don't generally post actual pictures of myself, so I don't spoil the magic.

Maybe a little bit about yourself to break the ice?

I'm an orange cat in a suit of armour…okay, that's taking it too far!
My name is Daniel Stribley and together with my wife Julie we make the webcomic Harkovast.
My wife is American and I am English and we currently live in England with 5 of our kids (plus there is another one that has moved out!) It is very busy in our house!

Have you done any other comics other than Harkovast?

Yes. I do the webcomic review comic (on the web) with my friend Kevin (who writes the comic I fell down the stairs…which all decent, God fearing people should avoid reading at all costs)
We ask for webcomics to volunteer and give them an honest (sometimes brutally honest) review, presented in the form of a webcomic.
I also wrote for a comic called Kombat Kubs, but sadly that project came to an end as the artist had to stop making it for personal reasons.

Give a little summary of your comic Harkovast!(100 words I'll be counting…not really)

Harkovast is a fantasy adventure story that explores themes of war, racism and the way cultures interact.
The story depicts an epic conflict between numerous free nations and the overwhelming, nameless legions of a dark power in the West. The world of Harkovast is slowly falling under a terrible shadow, but as things stand the eastern nations are too divided to stands against this threat.

Let's go back to the beginning, Where did the idea for Harkovast come from?

The idea came about after playing the Dungeons and Dragons:The Tower of Doom.
Me and a friend of mine were huge fans of the game and spent hours playing it, but one day we had discussion about how the traditional fantasy races of elves, dwarves etc were rather boring (being just humans of different heights) and started to come up with a few different races that we found more interesting. From the basic ideas we laid out in these early conversations, I got the basic seed of what would grow into Harkovast.

Has the story changed at all since that first idea?

The most radical change was that originally Harkovast was envisaged to contain some traditional fantasy races like elves, orcs, dwarves and (most shockingly) humans! When I came to revisit the ideas behind Harkovast, I decided to eliminate all of these elements and focus entirely on the animal themed races (who are, in my view, much cooler). At this point a lot more races were added and a lot of the names and background codified.
In case anyone wondered the original races that have suvived to the current version (and back then they didn't even get proper names!) bird people, cat people, fox people, lizard people and rat people. All the other have been added in since.

What's your favorite thing about making Harkovast?

I like the knowledge that there are people all over the world that I have never met who are interested and excited about the setting and characters that I have created.

I hear you work with your wife on your comic, do you enjoy working with her on the comic more than you would on your own?

Absolutely. Sometimes it can cause tension with deadlines to get pages posted, but mostly its very positive to work together. I think having two people involved makes it a lot easier for us both to stay motivated as well as giving us each someone to show our work to so we can discuss things and spot our mistakes. I think it has made us a lot closer as a couple to have something we can do together.

Do you plan out your comic chapter by chapter, or do you make up everything on the spot?

The comic is not planned out on a chapter by chapter basis but it is largely written out in advance. The overall story of the comic has been laid out, but the details and specifics will be added in closer to the time.
The comic is organised into books, with each book made up of chapters. From this point of view you could say it is planned out very clearly on a book level, some what on a chapter by chapter level and is being created as it goes along on the page by page level.

There are obvious themes of racism and culture influences in your comic,was this something you planned from the start? or did it just happen?

I didn't set out especially to tell a story about those issues, but it is a topic that has always interested me so I think it just naturally came through in my work.
The racism themes run pretty deep in Harkovast, but it also extends to xenophobia and the way people view each others cultures. I think in our world racism based on country is now much more acceptable than racism based on someone's skin colour. For example, a joke about all black men being criminal would get shock and outrage, but jokes about (for example) all French people being cowards would be pretty acceptable. You can see jokes of that sort in children's films! No really, go watch Flushed Away…on second thought don't, that movie was crap.
Harkovast is all about varied cultures with different attitudes and beliefs, so it is a natural growth from that to look at how those cultures interact and what they think of each other.
The people in Harkovast are no more racist or xenphobic than people in the real world. Admittedly, they are in a psuedo historical world so they don't have a concept of political correctness like we do, so are often more open about casual racist attitudes, but compare them to the attitudes of humans just a few hundred years ago and you will find the people of Harkovast are far more enlightened than we were!
Because the racism in Harkovast is based on fantastical races, it allows me to be more honest about the way I portray it without making the audience feel defensive or offending someone. In real life many people harbour racist views or laugh at racist jokes, but aren't going to go out and commit a hate crime and may in fact be good people in other ways. Strangely, the fantastical nature of Harkovast allows its racism to be more subtle and realistic.
There is a lot of humour drawn from the interactions of the cultures in Harkovast, but I try to make a distinction about where the humour comes from. We laugh at the characters for the misunderstandings or ignorance of each others ways, but we don't laugh at them for what they believe or how they choose to live.
It is funny to see Chen-Chen look uncomfortable when the Darsai keep hugging her, but the point here is not that Chen-Chen is wrong to not want to be touched or that the Darsai are wrong for being so touchy feely.
We aren't laughing at a culture for being silly or needing to be corrected, we are laughing at the clash of two very different social norms.

Do you have any certain favorite characters?

I am very close to the characters, so it's hard for me to pick a favourite.
I like the interaction between them and what they illustrate.
I like Sir Muir because he is one of the funniest characters, and yet also one of the most tragic. People often assume he is just the comic relief, where as he is actually a lot more than that as you get into the story.
I like Shogun because I like the idea of a hero who is a bad ass that people need to save them, but who isn't a very nice person. Shogun is angry, bitter and quite overtly racist, but he is on the side of the good guys. Fighting against evil people does not make you good by default. I like that he is often controversial with my readers, who argue at length about whether his actions are justified and pragmatic, or callous and cruel.
I like Ki because he is unashamedly a bad person, but he does it with so much style and charisma that you end up liking him. He is a dark character, but also fun.
Chen-Chen is sort of the heart of the group, being really loveable and kind. She always sees the best in things and is wonderfully positive, especially when it comes to learning about other cultures.
And she can punch you in the head so hard your eye ball flies out.
There are loooooads of other characters and as you can probably see, I find things I enjoy in all of them.

On that note, If you could meet up with any of your characters in person (In a human form so they don't make a scene) at your favorite restaurant to talk over a meal who would you pick?and What do you think would happen?

Haha, an interesting suggestion!
Quinn-Tain would make for interesting company, but I would be worried he would have some kind of agenda. You never know the reasons behind what he is doing and he is not afraid to use other people to complete his goals. I think I would feel nervous all through the meal.
Shogun has yet to smile in the comic so far, so I don't think he would make very friendly company.
Sir Muir would probably be fun, but he would also probably prove very embarrassing.
Chen-Chen would be nice company, but if she has been made a human, I wouldn't feel comfortable as a married man taking a young lady who is not my wife out to dinner!
Ki would be fun company, though I suspect I would end up on the receiving end of a lot of his cruel put downs.
I guess the moral here is that my characters are fun to write about, but not necessarily the type of people you would want round for dinner.

What comics would you recommend that people who like your comic would like?

Hmm, I have a lot of comics I like, but I can't really think of many I like that are much like my one.
Check my ever changing favourites list on my DD profile to see what I've been reading lately, anything on there should be good fun for ya.

How long do you think Harkovast will be? (An estimate would be nice)
Years and years! Really, there is a vast amount of story to be told. I just hope I live long enough to get it all out.

Viewer-wise are you satisfied with how many people read your comic?Do you have a certain goal that you want to hit?

I am never happy with my hits. There is always a bigger fish out there and that is what motivates me to keep trying to get more readers.
I don't know if I will ever be entirely satisfied, though right now my goal is to one day get into the DD top ten. Will it ever happen? Who knows, but it keeps me motivated.

Out of curiousity what is Harkovast's Average Pageviews per day?

A bit over a thousand (though not very a thousand unique ones.)
I suspect that is quite a bit less than a lot of people think I get, I tend to get perceived as a big shot but I am still working my way up slowly.

Do you plan on making another comic after Harkovast is finished?
Haha, I haven't planned my life that many years ahead!

It was great doing this with you!Any last words? Maybe something I forgot to ask (This is my first time doing this after all…)
I will finish with the two most important words in the English language…
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:44PM
Genejoke at 10:30AM, Dec. 3, 2010
posts: 3,634
joined: 4-9-2010
I sometimes wonder just how many webcomics started life as role playing games…
Surely not that many people are as big geeks as me and apparently Hark.

last edited on July 14, 2011 12:33PM
Flup at 12:21AM, Dec. 8, 2010
posts: 21
joined: 3-1-2008
I sometimes wonder just how many webcomics started life as role playing games…
Surely not that many people are as big geeks as me and apparently Hark.

*raises hand* Guilty!
Cook's Assistant (Fantasy, transgender)
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:30PM
Genejoke at 1:14AM, Dec. 8, 2010
posts: 3,634
joined: 4-9-2010
I should add that none of the comics I currently run were RPGs but I do have one in the works but it is still in scripting and character design stages. The thing is seperating it from the source material while maintaining the fun aspects.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:33PM
harkovast at 3:11AM, Jan. 14, 2011
posts: 5,198
joined: 10-12-2008
The Dungeons and Dragons and the tower of doom game was actually an arcade game, which inspired Harkovast.
Harkovast however, did first see the light as an RPG, so the point still stands.

For more Harkovast related goings on, go to the Harkovast Forum
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:45PM
Doodstormer at 12:39PM, Jan. 21, 2011
posts: 101
joined: 10-13-2010
I would confess to the RPG inspiration thing but I think that would be stating the painfully obvious.

I think RPGs in general have made a pretty big impact on fantasy comics though. It seems like every one I read anymore gives me D&D vibes, or has some elements similar to Final Fantasy or Warcraft.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:13PM

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