signifikat Interview II (8.8.2010)
Victoria Rehfeld Smith: So, first: HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE DONE?!!!! You had inhabited that world for a while.
Joachim Lipski: Hmm… A mix of emptiness and relief, probably. It's sad to let these characters go, but it's fulfilling to get the story done.
JL: Right, especially towards the end, I would imagine. You said you did the last batch of pages in one go, right?
JL: Yes. The last five.
VRS: Was that fun? Exhausting? Did doing it all at once help? I mean, I imagine you just wanted it over with. Or perhaps the story forced you to get it done, like with a big blast of adrenaline.
JL: When I approached these final pages, the thought that I was almost done was extremely invigorating. I felt pumped to do it right now, all of it. And I thought it would be good to have these pages be as coherent as possible, so I actually did it. Sometimes, doing one page a week makes you feel that some pages are good because the day was good, or whatever. So I thought doing them on the same day would make them coherent, in that sense. The day could have been bad, so they might all have been bad… but being pumped, you tend to churn out better pages than usual. I think that helped. I am quite satisfied with how they came out. So, I think the adrenaline option is pretty close to what it actually was like. (laughs)
VRS: So, did you always have the ending in mind? Or did it come to you half way through creating the story? Last minute?
JL: Probably about half-way. I think I set up some details of the ending half-way though the story, but I don't really remember all too well. The rough direction of it must have come to me around chapter 2 or 3. But I prefer keeping endings “rough” for as long as possible to keep some options open. I mean… while I'm planning them. Not the eventual ending. Half-way through the story, the ending could have gone either way… with the two extreme options being the actual ending and the sort of alternative ending I drew as a joke afterwards.
VRS: So the alternative was also planned, eh?
JL: Haha! In a way. It wasn't quite as likely, but choosing endings depends on how you feel at that moment. I might have felt happy-go-lucky and chosen the lighter one. (laughs) But… the idea that there's an all-consuming organism which grows to eventually potentially consume the earth is a very early idea that predates signifikat.
VRS: From another comic of yours, or are you saying sociologically speaking? Or historically, culturally, whateverâ¦
JL: Another comic of mine is more like it. Although that comic in question was never made.
VRS: Ah, I understand that idea harvesting.
JL: (laughs) Yeah. Some things gnaw at you forever.
VRS: So, for those who may not know, what were the influences for the chosen ending?
JL: You mean, real-life influences? Because if you do - who DOES know? Is someone spying on me?? (laughs)
VRS: Well, I mean, I can guess at Evangelion and 2001. And we all know someone is always spying on you. On everyone really. It's just that kind of a world.
JL: Ah! (laughs) Okay… Right. Evangelion would be one, what with the “merging of souls”. It's funny, because I didn't intend it to be similar in any way, but while I was drawing it, I thought it might in fact come out very similar. In Evangelion, there are these two organizations whose ultimate goal is something like the merging of all human souls. But they eventually wage war against each other, since they want to do go about it in a different way. And ironcally, something similar happens in signifikat. There's this kid who wants to fulfill the baker's lifelong dream… resurrecting this obsure deity, which is incidentally starring in the prologues. However, since she's the villain she gets defeated, only to channel that deity-resurrecting-thing through Sunhra and Ed. So, something very similar happens. 2001 is probably channeled stylistically in some way.
VRS: Well, 2001 for me is in there with the whole tranformation into a star-baby thing.
JL: 2001 influenced a whole lot of people.
VRS: Yes well, it is pretty great.
JL: And yes, the star-baby is definitely the stylistic influence on the very last page. SchrÃ¶dinger wasn't actually an inspiration… I was looking through his stuff and found that they fit very well with what I was already planning. And they also fit because there's the quote by Watson (on chapter 1 page 1), and the theme of life and the double-helix is what they both have in common. But the main inspiration was definitely this idea I had had in the back of my head… I wrote it down around the year 2000, and had been itching to use it.
VRS: Which you will describe, I presume?
JL: Oh, sure! (laughs) It was a short story, back then, about an old man in a sci-fi world. He's poor, but owns this little robotics lab, where he tinkers with all sorts of bots and builds himself some. This is the inspiration for the baker in signifikat. So, this old man somehow owes the mafia some money. He can't pay. And they kill him. But he has this little “kid” â a robot he built, his greatest creation. The first true AI on the planet. An organism that learns and adapts on its own. So, when the old man is killed, it's just a kid. But without the old man to guide it, it soon grows exponentially and consumes the whole planet. That's basically it. Somewhere around the half-point of signifikat, Sunhra and this robot merged in my head. Oh! And one more thing… The idea that Sunhra is a part of this strange machine is inspired by FLCL.
JL: There's this little robot-dog which a girl calls âTa-kunâ, after her somewhat-boyfriend (the protagonist, Naota, whom she also calls Ta-kun). But this little robot dog eats a whole lot of metal and junk… it grows and grows… and as it turns out, it's the “Terminal Core” (pronounced somewhat similar to Ta-kun, when spoken by the wonderful Japanese voice actors) of a weird alien machine. So, that's probably a pretty straight-forward inspiration. And I should also mention Tetsuo's growth in “Akira”, another inspiration. I guess I had nightmares after first seeing this scene… I must have been 15 or so back then. But these are all I can think of for now. (laughs)
VRS: All pretty good. So, would you sell your soul to see Signifikat as an anime?
VRS: (laughs) Excellent.
JL: (laughs) Well, it has everything I love, I think. It might be pretty random, sometimes, but that's the price you have to pay to get everything you love rolled into one show… er, comic. Of course, it has to be a pretty long series! Much longer than the comic. There has to be a whole lot of light-hearted transforming-action in the first few episodes. (laughs) Don't you think?
VRS: (laughs) Well, that would be nice, but I think i has a good chunk of that already. It could be a classic 26 episode.
JL: Yeah. I'm actually not quite sure how much of the comic is light-hearted, and how much of it is rather depressing, actually.
VRS: Well, I think it has a decent humor balance.
JL: Having just completed it, the depressing parts are more vividly in my mind than the light-hearted ones.
VRS: Right. So, do you have any regrets about it? Anything you wish you had put in, or taken out?
JL: Hmm… Well, I'm pretty satisfied, overall. Like most of my comics, at first it went into all directions at once and might be a bit jumbled up. So, if I did it again, I would probably streamline it quite a bit… but that might make it more boring too, so I'm quite okay with it. As I said, I'm not sure whether there's too much emo-ranting going on and too little other stuff to balance it. But I'm actually surprised that it turned out quite humorous and light-hearted in parts, since I wrote most of it when I was feeling rather emo… which might just be a euphemism for âdepressedâ. The motivation to keep working on it after completing the first chapter was actually a quite severe case of being in a bad mood. But it oscillates, I guess. (â¦)
VRS: Okay, another, perhaps final question: Any last words? Any advice for people wanting to actually complete a comic?
JL: Oooh… dispensing advice makes me feel old. Well, the fact that I could do anything definitely motivated me to keep working. It didn't really matter which mood I was in… signifikat had something to offer for every possible mood. But I've been drawing comics for decades now, so I've probably just internalized a voice that says “keep working”… or “FOOL! COMPLETE IT!”, or something like that. My “last words” would probably consist of thanks to everyone who read it, or who still is. And, uh, keep reading my stuff. Yes. Please. And give me money so I can keep doing it. And food. Food is good. And… marry me. But that is all I can think of.
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