Interviews

repoman interviews theends of The Ends!
skoolmunkee at 2:48PM, Nov. 29, 2009
(online)
posts: 7,058
joined: 1-2-2006
This interview is of theends, whose comic is: The Ends!
(interview conducted by repoman!)


Howdy folks, I’m repoman, the creator of the webcomic Endstone, featured here at Drunk Dunk, and it is my pleasure to interview Brian Allen, the writer and artist of The Ends, winner of “Best Sci Fi Comic” at the 2009 Drunk Duck Awards.

The Ends, is not only one of my favorite comics here at Drunk Duck, but also one of my favorite comics on the internet. If you haven’t checked it out, I highly recommend it. The full color art is of professional quality, and the sometimes bizarre, yet always entertaining story really shines. Set in an intriguing post-apocalyptic world, the story unfolds deftly, revealing a mysterious reality that keeps the reader coming back for more.

(1.) First off, tell us about your secret identity. Just who are you when you’re not making the Ends? Where do you live? Education? Day job? Hang ups? We want the dirt!


I live in a little town in Central PA called State College - if you know College Football, you know about Beaver Stadium and the Nittany Lions. Otherwise, we're just a small college town about 3 hours from anything in any direction.

I graduated from Penn State in 2004 with a degree in Advertising, of all things. I realized after my first class that advertising wasn't for me, but I never got around to stopping by the adviser's office to change my major, so I just took as many art electives as I could.

First job: illustrating decals for motorcycles, which was sweet, but I soon got married and needed a real job!

Second Job: I found one in my hometown (see above) and moved back (hey, State College is starting to sound a lot like the city of the Ends…) working for Jostens, a yearbook company. I illustrate the covers, which can be fun sometimes, but it doesn't always fit my style, so I try to keep busy with projects like The Ends to “vent.”

(2.) The first thing about The Ends that drew me in was the wonderful colored art. I know you’ve posted a tutorial here in the Drunk Duck forums, but I was hoping you could elaborate on your art creation process?

Thanks!

I highly recommend the DVD put out by the Gnomon workshops called “Comic Book Coloring with Steve Firchow. If you have any interest in comic coloring - buy it!!!

Here is my process briefly:

After drawing the pencils lightly on Bristol, I ink with a Hunt 102 quill and brush.

I scan my inked pages into Photoshop, I isolate the black ink by copying it into a channel, selecting the channel, and filling it with black on a new layer (basically gets rid of the white - or you could set that top layer to multiply, which works great too, but you won't be able to color directly on the lines).

Then I begin the most painstaking part: blocking in all the colors. First I color the background (skies mostly) on a bottom layer. I use a Wacom, a solid, 100% brush set to vary the size by pressure. Then, on a layer above that, I block in each color (ie. skin, hair, metal, etc.). This is an important step - the idea being that you want this layer to have only solid colors (no gradients), so that you can easily select (for example) Jason's arm while you color it, masking it from the background. Most of the Pros pay lowly interns to block in the ”Flats“ for them.

Once ALL the shapes are blocked in, I duplicate the layer. This new layer is the one I paint the shadows, highlights, and gradients of color on. At any time, if I want to select something (like Jason's hair), I just get out the wand tool (set to a tolerance of 2) and click his hair on the bottom layer, then move back to the coloring layer and do my thing.

Basically, I do most of my shading and coloring with an airbrush. The pros usually make selections with the lasso tool, which makes very clean edges and tansitions, but I find that I just don't have the time. Besides, I like the rougher look just ”painting" free hand gives.

The final step is the highlights. Usually, I use an airbrush at 20%, set to Linear Dodge. If I'm painting highlights from moonlight for example, I'll use a soft blue color. With the Lindear Dodge turned on, each brush stroke makes the color progressively lighter, so you don't have to constantly switch colors.

If anyone has any questions, please contact me, I'd be happy to explain further, or trade tips if you have any!

(3.) Any influences in your art? Do you have formal training? Where can we see more of your stuff?

I think the first artist that ever really grabbed my attention was HR Giger. If you don't know of his work, he designed the creature concepts for the Aliens movies. His work is incredibly detailed, and very dark.

As far as comic art, I grew up reading Spider Man, but I think I was more influenced by my brother's Spawn collection - Image comics at that time pioneered a detail-rich style of inking that has really defined inking for me. And speaking of my brother, he might be my biggest influence, as he's an incredibly talented artist. I can't think of any larger motivator for growing my skills then the desire to keep pace with him.

My training is limited to art courses I took at Penn State. At my first job, my boss was an incredibly talented illustrator coming from the computer gaming industry, and I sponged A LOT from the year I worked with him.

You can see more of my stuff at Red Bubble: http://www.redbubble.com/people/flylanddesigns

(4.) After the art drew me in, the story is what really keeps me coming back to The Ends. I especially like the twists you always seem to throw out in the last panel of a page. What’s your writing process?

I wanted to leave as much up to the reader's interpretation as possible - I never wanted to over-explain anything. After all, the story is about a man (Jason) who doesn't really understand the world he is - so why should the reader?

I actually came up with the concept almost ten years ago, but sat down and wrote it last year (on an airplane, actually, so any inconsistencies can be blamed on altitude sickness and turbulence). I wrote out an outline of the story, and then storyboarded it by drawing small thumbnails of each page. I tend to write the dialogue page by page, because I found that the story evolved and changed so much, it was the only way to keep it relevant.

Although I enjoy writing, I don't consider that to be my strength - but I'm happy with how it turned out regardless.

(5.) Do you have any influences as a writer?

Stephen King's Dark Tower series had a huge influence on me. The world he creates is so strange and bizarre - but instead of explaining each detail, the author instead describes it by showing how his characters move about it. And I love this style of writing - by the time the 7 book series ends, your left with little idea of how the world got that way - I dig that.

The Dune series in particular is another great example of a mysterious world that is never quite explained, leaving you no choice but to jump on board and ride with the protagonists, or you'll be left behind.

(6.) As I read The Ends, one of the things I love about it is the subtext and theme. I find it rare that webcomics deal with weighty themes within the narrative. Specifically, you touch on reincarnation, you criticize the clergy as those who twist the truth, and most importantly you relate to the hidden divine nature of human beings (who don’t know they’re really “angyls”). Could you elaborate on these things? Why are these issues close to your heart? How conscious are you of these themes?

Great question, and I'm thrilled to see that someone has picked up on these things. I could talk forever on this, but I've already been rambling for long enough, so I'll keep this short.

I think that if I had to choose one all-encompassing theme for the Ends, it's this:

I believe that our minds have limitless potential, and that our reality only exists as we define it. The unfortunate side-effect of this, is that it doesn't take much effort to convince ourselves that we are less than we really are. The Priest convinces the citizens that they are trapped in a purgatory, are unworthy of flight, and must gain the attention of (insert personal deity here) to ascend them to the next level.

I wrote the Ends as a warning that you must never let anything convince you that your life is only a precursor to something else. If you are looking for something miraculous or divine, you don't have to go far. Just look within.

Of course - if you read the Ends, and didn't get any of that, that's fine too. It's still a lot of fun to see a guy get his arm bitten off by a sandworm.

(7.) The Ends has pacing like a good action film. In fact, it’s very “cinematic.” In your wildest dreams, do you ever see The Ends as a movie? What movies do you like?

My wife and I love movies, and we watch a LOT of them. In fact, I think that movies probably have a greater impact on my story telling than the books I read, which would explain the “cinematic” style. We watch all kinds of movies, but my favorite are science fiction/fantasy movies.

The Ends as a movie would be great, but I'd be worried that it would get too confusing (or should I say, more confusing?). I think I'd rather see it as an HBO/Showtime series. And get me the director of Carnivalle. I think this could be very similar.

(8.) Any obstacles in finally bringing it to fruition as a webcomic?

Time. Between my day job, a kid (one year's old!), and doing freelance work, time is the enemy. In fact, at first, the only reason I posted The Ends as a webcomic is because I thought the weekly deadlines would FORCE me to MAKE time - and it worked! As an awesome side-effect, it got a lot more attention than I ever anticipated, and grabbed a lot of loyal readers.

Each page takes about 4-5 hours to finish.

(9.) Where do you see this comic going in the future? Where will The Ends end?

I intend on making it available for print (details to come).

(10.) Do you have any professional aspirations?

I think every artist's dream is to be in a place where customers ask you to draw exactly what you enjoy drawing. I feel like anything less is faking. Still looking, but I'm only 27, so I feel like maybe I have some time - even if it's after I retire (but hopefully not that long!).

(11.) I noticed in your author’s comments a few weeks back that you mentioned you found the ending of this current episode of The Ends as “bitter sweet.” Could you elaborate on this?

I meant that it's bittersweet for me that it will be ending soon.

It's BITTER because I'll miss it: I love reading the comments everyday, and drawing crazy characters, and surprising myself (the Priest spooning the nuclear bomb and his affair with it wasn't originally written in the first draft).

It's SWEET because I'll have some free time again to work on other artworks, and hone different skills.

So it's bittersweet, but right now I need to bring this chapter to an end and take a break to focus on other areas, and to beef up my freelance work (I'm building a house and need all the cash I can get my hands on).

I'm in the process of writing a “prequel” to the Ends which fills in some of the gaps, but will be it's own, completely new story. The beauty of this world is that the characters don't hold memories for very long, so I can create a whole storyline before this one that has little effect on the current one. No idea yet if and when that will come to fruition, but I do know that I need to take a long break first. Sorry

(12.) Sometimes we are our own worst critics. If you had to criticize an aspect of your work, what would that be?

I originally wrote the Ends to fit in one 54 page comic (to keep printing costs lower). But the story ballooned and unfortunately, it feels a little tight and rushed in some areas. In retrospect, I should have cut a few plot lines to expand on the important ones, but I'll just keep that in mind for The Ends Volume 2!

Also, some of the artwork (especially at the beginning) has some anatomy flaws.

(13.) In contrast, is there any part of your comic you like best. Any characters or situations you like to draw?

I love, love, love drawing the Priest. He actually had a very minor part at first, but when I came up with the idea that he was obsessed with the bomb, even having a love affair with it, he started popping up all the time. This was a happy accident, because I think in a lot of ways, he's a stronger character than Jason, and embodies the theme of the story.

Other than that, I love drawing desolation: broken machines, ruined streets, and mutated creatures.

(14.) Are you a fan of webcomics, and if so, what do you read? How about print comics both in the past and present?

Most of the webcomics I read are on Drunk Duck:

Cataclysm
Cubicles
The Hub
and of course . . . Endstone!

I love Kukuburi by Ramon Perez.

I haven't read any monthly print comics for years now. Occasionally I'll pick up graphic novels. One of my favorites is Pride of Baghdad. Great story. Great artwork, check it out.

(15.) Anything else you’d like to add?

I think I've said plenty. The only thing I have left to say is a huge THANKS! to everyone who took the time to read my comic. I sincerely hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed creating it.
  IT'S OLD BATMAN
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:43PM
skoolmunkee at 2:58PM, Nov. 29, 2009
(online)
posts: 7,058
joined: 1-2-2006
theends, if flatting is a pain, maybe you should check out the BPelt flats photoshop plugin? http://www.drunkduck.com/community/view_topic.php?tid=47195&cid=238

It's fab and it looks like your inking style would work with it. Flatting takes about ten seconds. (although you then have to go through and flood-fill the colors you DO want, it's much much faster than the tedious individual selection method)
  IT'S OLD BATMAN
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:43PM
amanda at 9:07AM, Nov. 30, 2009
(online)
posts: 2,075
joined: 9-19-2007
Again, a great interview ^.^ Each page of The Ends looks like it takes WAY longer than 4-5 hours! I'm also really glad that the Priest wrote himself into a larger role - he was a creepy bastard but a solid character.

Also:
I wrote the Ends as a warning that you must never let anything convince you that your life is only a precursor to something else.
…that's bad-ass.
last edited on July 14, 2011 10:52AM
Nako at 4:54PM, Nov. 30, 2009
(online)
posts: 240
joined: 4-1-2008
This is a really cool interview.

It's also the second time someone has mentioned Kukuburi (to me)… I gotta read that. Pride of Baghdad is that one with the lions, right?
Nya!
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:09PM
subs at 7:27AM, Dec. 5, 2009
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posts: 2
joined: 6-5-2009
very educational interview. pro stuff
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:04PM
I Am The 1337 Master at 10:11AM, Dec. 7, 2009
(offline)
posts: 3,785
joined: 1-16-2009
I went and read The Ends last night and I was amazed. Not only is the art awesome, the story is too. Now that it's wrapped up I think I'm gonna cry. If he doesn't contiue with other stuff I think I'll KILL him.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:53PM
JazylH at 11:02PM, Aug. 20, 2010
(online)
posts: 133
joined: 7-29-2010
A very interesting interview! I enjoyed reading it. I've still not reached the final chapter yet but I love this comic.

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last edited on July 14, 2011 1:07PM

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