Harkovast- the forum

Harkovast Interview! Quack with the Vast!
harkovast at 4:53PM, Jan. 24, 2009
posts: 5,198
joined: 10-12-2008
Here is a transcript of my interview for DD Quack with the Ducks project.

The questions are from Exzachly (who writes the excellent Last Place Comics)

To start off, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Daniel Richard Stribley, and I write and draw Harkovast, while my wife Julie Anne Stribley colours it. We live in the North of England in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. My wife is from Utah (ex-Mormon) in the U.S. I met a friend of hers on a newsgroup chat room on the internet and we met a few months later, in Alaska, of all places. (I saw a moose swimming in a lake there.) We lived in the U.S. for a few years but old blighty was calling and we moved back! Huzzah! It’s been seven years since we met! We have five children at home: Megan (15), Miranda (17), Sam (3), Catie (2) and Charlotte (7 months). Lucas lives with his father in California-he’s 12. My wife has a rule that no colouring gets done till the babies are in bed. Charlotte has an avid interest in dumping over the pencil box with all the shavings.

Now, for those who haven’t read Harkovast, what is it about?

Harkovast is the tale of a fantastical world (called Harkovast) that is inhabited by numerous strange and magical races. Their world is under threat from The Nameless Race, an unthinking horde of warriors who are driven forward by the will of an unseen master. But these evil forces of the West are not just attacking on the field of battle; they hope to exploit the rivalries and divisions between the races of Harkovast to their advantage. Will they be able to unite against the common enemy before it is too late? (Queue dramatic music.)

What attracted you to the fantasy genre?

When I was very young, my brother bought a copy of the fantasy game Heroquest. This game was awesome! I think a whole generation of kids in Britain grew up having played it. From that moment I was hooked on the fantasy genre. I went on to play role-playing and war games. (I've commandeered a room of my house to fill with of model space ships from Games Workshop.) I've also always had an interest in history as well (knights and castles fascinated me as a child….and I guess they still do!) So this genre catches my imagination more then Sci-Fi due to the wonderful historical elements you can bring into it. I hope that as it goes on people will be able to pick out all the different historical influences in Harkovast.
My wife likes unicorns.

Any fantasy conventions you just downright hate or find annoying that you try to avoid in your comic?

Here are my three main bug bears of fantasy-
Firstly, the rampant sexism of warrior chicks in chain mail bikinis (or as my daughter Megan calls it, Slut-Mail). Why would someone dress in armoured underwear to go into battle? Or have a big section missing to show off their jugs? Yeah, real sexy, love! Right up to the point the bad guy hacks you to bits due to huge gaps in your non-existent armour! (My wife adds ‘we are not against a nice female figure, but it doesn’t seem fair that the man should have the covering. The goods should be protected!’)
Secondly, the over use of Tolkien’s ideas reworked. Tolkien is the father of the fantasy genre, duh, but that does not mean we have to just ape his ideas rather than thinking of their own! Elves and dwarves and hobbits and orcs show up in everything—always slight variations on the same tired creatures. One of the initial concepts of Harkovast was to make a new set of races, with cultures and looks that were different to what people normally expect in fantasy.
Third and finally, I hate fantasy shows that have armour that never works! The guys wear 100 pounds of chain mail each, but then one sword slash always kills them. Armour only works if it is specifically said to be magic or something. (Mithril, or summat.) I'm making an effort to make sure the importance of armour becomes very clear in Harkovast (look at how much of a beating the old knight has taken so far!)

Are there things you wish more fantasy comics/books/movies would try?

Hmm, I sort of answered this in the last question!
Try putting in armour that works, try having an ending that does not involve a big Deus Ex Machina killing the entire enemy army in less then five minutes, try inventing a new fantasy film that is not a remake or a sequel or based on a book.
Oh and try making a movie of Harkovast! Definitely try that!

Harkovast has an extremely detailed and fleshed out universe. How much planning went into Harkovast before the pencil even touched the paper?

The idea first came about many years ago when I talked to a friend of mine when we were at school (about 15 years ago) about how awesome the Dungeons and Dragons Tower of Doom arcade game was. We decided that if they made a sequel it would be cool if they included some more interesting races, like cat people and lizard people. I put a lot of thought into mapping out this world.
The original world included orcs, dwarves and humans, as well as large talking wolves called storm wolves.
The initial races that would remain were cat people, bird people, lizard people and fox people, who are all still central to the world.
Years later, when I came back from America recently I discussed the idea of bringing this world I had planned back. We invented a lot of new races and then I gave them all names and basically reworked it into a coherent and functioning fantasy world. I also came up with the name Harkovast.
About 8 months ago I decided to do something with this world, and made a web comic! (As it’s an easy medium to get into, and a comic works well for the story I wanted to tell.) My wife was not keen initially, thinking it would be too difficult to get rolling, and she is generally not a fan of talking animal people. I drew a few pages and then my wife suggested that she colour them in with pencils. The results were really fantastic (at least to us) and so the comic as you know it was born.

How do you make a typical Harkovast page, from concept to posting?

The story is largely already planned out, so I know what I am going to draw as I come to each page. I basically try to think of interesting layouts and ways of presenting the story. I draw it in pencil, and then go over it in pen (planning out the text in pencil and then rubbing it out).
I then pass it to my wife who colours it in with her magic pencils. (Wife adds, it’s not the pencil but the hand that holds it that gets the credit here, you big numpty.)
Next put it on the computer, correcting mistakes and adding in all the text.
And there you go! One completed page!
If you want to see it all laid out then you can see a step by step with pictures on the Harkovast Forum (shameless plug! Hooray!)

What is the most challenging part of creating a fantasy comic versus other genres?

Making the world coherent and believable. If the world seems shallow and unimportant, how can I expect you, the reader to care whether or not it gets destroyed or not?
This is a double edged sword because it means I have to put out a lot of exposition to explain what this world is all about and not drive people away in droves with boring reams of text! I spent a lot of time at the start thinking of imaginative ways to get in exposition without making it boring and dry.

What’s the best part?

Swords, battles, adventure, strange creatures, magical powers, a world in peril…I could go on!
I love this genre, and I hope some of that love comes through in the comic.

You rarely make comments on any of your work. In general, how do you feel about your pages after you’ve posted them?

Oooh, good question! You pay attention, I respect that.
The reason is that if I notice a mistake or something I am not happy with, you might not notice it, so if I don’t mention it and just quietly edit the page, then you might well never notice. I don’t want to hold a sign up over my errors.
Equally, I don’t want to sit and brag about the bits I like.
I think the comic should speak for itself. You don't need my director’s commentary to know what it is about (and if you want to know more than appears in the comic, ask me on the forum).

Now, what do I think of it?
I don't want to sound arrogant, but I think it is great! I love the look of it, the style and the way the story is unfolding over time. If I didn't love it and I thought it was rubbish I would give up and go do something else.
I know not everyone will like every page etc., but I don't post a page I don't personally like. I'm always saying that the next one is my favourite.

Why furries? Just curious.

I made them all talking animals because I think talking animals are cool!
I know a lot of people think of these types of characters as cute or funny but I remember animals of Farthing Wood, Watership Down and SWAT Kats from my childhood, all full of dark serious and violent plots (folk got killed a remarkable amount in SWAT Kats!)
I don't consider myself a part of some sort of “furry community,” I just think they are really cool character designs.
They also serve a very useful function in terms of making it easy to tell who comes from which country, as each culture is a different animal. Considering how many cultures there are for the audience to get their head round, this is a very useful thing!

We all know which anthropomorphic species is the best fighter ever (werewolf sharks), but which animal would make the worst fighter ever?

The Werewolf Shark can defeat even the fearsome Electric Ninja Wolverine, such is their power!
In Harkovast, the weakest race in terms of military power is probably the Bardabor (who are enslaved by the Knarl Empire and though large and very submissive and down trodden) who look like cows, or the Xateem (who are like Bedouin Nomads and don't really have any armies or talent with weapons) who look like camels (yes, camels).
Neither of them has been in it yet, and they won’t be in it for ages, but it might be handy to know!
In general terms, the weakest animal to make an anthro character in terms of fighting would probably be the earth worm (unless he had a super suit to make him really super strong, then Jim could be a winner if we only sing along!)
In terms of the WORST one to use….don't make skunk people. I know skunks look cool, and I like Pepe Le Pew a great deal, but a race that attacks by pulling down its trousers and pointing its arse at you is not cool. Don’t go there!

Ok, one final question. Harkovast seems to be a man’s world.

Where are all the womens, Harkovast? (sub-question: What did you do to them?!)

My wife suggests that if there are not enough women, perhaps they all went shopping.
What? Accusations of Harkovast being sexist? I can’t let that stand! I am more feminist than my wife is. Harkovast contains many important women! Scatterpod for example- Not only is she a high shaman amongst the Ano-Chee, she has magic so powerful she can literally raise the dead and is so smart even the Wizards of Eldex listen to her council!
The two priestesses in the church are both female, and have been very helpful in keeping the Old Knight on his feet, and one of them was going to knock the bad guy out with a stool until that goofy knight's crazy sense of honour made him tell her to stop!
Later on we will meet Chen-Chen, The Gunsmith, Night Blossom and the awesome Witchfinder General (you can see early sketches of some of those characters on the Harkovast forum) who are all very important and very cool female characters.
Some races in Harkovast are quite sexist (the Ivos are incredibly sexist against females and the Darsai can be somewhat sexist against women too.) Others are very much equal between genders (like the Ano-Chee and Tsung-Dao) while the Zadakine (and to some extent the Nymus) are more matriarchal. (Zadakine generally consider men to be mostly only good for fighting in battles, manual labour, breeding and not much else.)

Thanks for those great questions, I thought that was an excellent interview (I just hope my answers have not bored you all to sleep!) Wake up! The keyboard is not a pillow.

For more Harkovast related goings on, go to the Harkovast Forum
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:18AM
harkovast at 5:15AM, Aug. 16, 2009
posts: 5,198
joined: 10-12-2008
Here is my second quack with the ducks interview….

This interview is of harkovast, whose comic is Harkovast!
(interview conducted by jgib99!)

1) So, tell us a little bit about yourself. Anything new happen in your life since the last interview?

My name is Daniel Stribley and, as you can tell from my avatar I am a giant talking cat with a grumpy expression….what? It could be true! You don’t know!
Okay, just sensible answers from now on.
I live in Rotherham, South Yorkshire in England with my wife Julie and our 5 kids. I draw and write my web comic, Harkovast, and my wife colours it with coloured pencils.
Big changes since last time I was interviewed? Well my wife is pregnant with yet another little Vastling! Hooray! Our brood grows ever bigger! Though I think this will be the last one.

2)What made you want to enter the wonderful madcap world of webcomicking?

I have always had a lot of ideas and concepts floating around in my head for games, worlds and stories but I have never had a medium by which to express them to a wide audience. Getting a book published is VERY difficult!
I started reading a couple of web comics and the thought occurred to me that this was something I could do.
When I first told my wife she thought it sounded a bit bonkers but she has ended up being a central part of the comic we create together. I think it’s great that she got involved because it gives us something to cooperate on and also gives her an insight into the odd things I am always thinking about (and her colouring is completely awesome too!)

3)Describe some of the different species who inhabit Harkovast.

Harkovast has a LOT of different species and cultures, something like 28 at the last count.
Each culture is modelled on an animal, but also draws inspiration from historical cultures.
I am a big history buff so I love to include interesting details or concepts that seem strange to modern audiences.
Every species looks like an animal for ease of identification and also simply because I think they look really cool.
The Darsai are like medieval Europeans (and cats) and so act as a good starting point, something people are reasonably familiar with.
The Ano-Chee are like Native Americans (and foxes). I think these guys are a fun addition because you don’t seem to see native American influences in many fantasy settings, so they add an interesting element stylistically.
The Tsung-Dao are Japanese in style (and lizards), which gives me the opportunity to include Samurai, kung-fu and a nice contrasting style and look.
The Junlocks are a fun one. They are wolf people who are modelled on ancient Gauls and ancient pre-roman Britains, Dacians and other cultures the Roman’s campaigned against. These are some really interesting historical cultures, but not ones that many people are familiar with, so I can surprise people with some of the interesting things. For example, they use cool forward curving swords called Falx. Several people asked if these things would even work in real life. When they seemed to work pretty well when the Dacians had them, the Romans considered them a fearsome weapon! It makes me smile when I use something historical and everyone assumes I just made it up.
We haven’t seen much of Nymus culture yet (they are bird people) but it is stylistically like ancient Greece, which is another cool distinctive look that I am looking forward to show casing later on.
So far the Southern Continent of Vellastrom has been the only area to feature in Harkovast. In later books I intend to deal with some of the other areas (such as Jaydia, which has a lot of influences from the Middle East, India, various parts of Africa.)

4)Which character is your favorite in Harkovast?

Pick a favourite? Ah man! now you are asking tough questions! This is a crappy cop out answer but I like them all in different ways!
I try to put something into all the important characters that I really like about them.
The title of favourite sways around a lot but a few things that stand out-
I love Ki’s arrogance. He is just one cool dude!
I love the way Shogun is just a slicing machine when ever a fight starts!
I love how crazy Sir Muir is. The idea of an old crazy knight who looks like he should be half dead by now really amuses me.
I love the whole look of The Speaker. The idea of a sinister preacher, combined with the Vulture look has come together really well.

But if I have to pick a single favourite…. (and this is only what I feel right now! It could change at any time!)….I think I would have to pick Chen-Chen. The scene where she is trying to be polite when the Darsai are getting in her personal space turned out so adorable! Also she has just revealed she knows some seriously cool kung-fu!

5)Who are your main artistic influences?

I honestly don’t really have any strong influences. I just started drawing characters when I was young and they’ve always sort of looked the way they do.
I pick up a few tips and ideas of page layouts and things from other comics (I deliberately made all the characters eyes bigger when I started, as I wanted them to look more expressive) but there is no one thing I can point too as inspiring me.
I do remember my brother telling me I was good at drawing when I was a child, which probably spurred me on!

6)Out of the whole Harkovast story so far, which page or story arc do you feel is your personal best?

Damn it, I hate picking favourites! I have a terrible tendency to like which ever page I drew last!
I was frustrated at first with Sir Muir because unlike Ki and Shogun, he did not initially get a big reaction. I think a lot of people thought he was just an extra who was going to get killed off (like the Knight in the opening battle!) So when people started to realise he was bonkers and get behind him that felt really good!
As I mentioned, the whole personal space page with Chen-Chen was great fun, as was the recent page where she goes crazy with the Kung-Fu.
I love doing whacky page layouts now and then, such as the second page where the wood keeps on going outside of the panels.
I quite meaningful page is the one where the Heretic and his minions talk to The Speaker and The Speaker goes all down one side of the page. I liked the idea that The Speaker is dominating the scene literally as well as figuratively.
Also any page that surprises the readers is always a lot of fun!

7)I noticed that you’re quite active in the forums (DD’s and The Harkovast Forum). How important is it to you to connect with readers through the forums?

I am really glad you asked this question, because the Harkovast forum is a really important part of the comic.
When I first made it I just wanted to be able to post maps and background info, I never imagined people would visit it very much, but the forum has been a huge success and lots have people have posted questions, comments or just come and read some extra background. The level of interest in the world of Harkovast and the rules that govern it has really blown me away.
I’ve had a lot of feed back from people commenting that they love all the extra information that is out there and the extra depth is gives the comic.
I’ve even started adding other, unrelated sections, such as talking about movies I hate (I rather generously call these reviews, but they are more like me beating the movie to death with a stick!) and talking about Batman: The Animated Series and discussing what I thought of each episode.
I love that I can talk directly to the Harko-fans (as I like to call em) and that I can fill in the blanks for them any time they ask. This sort of communication is really excellent for both me and my readers.
On the DD threads I love to get our there and get involved, which is also a great way to get noticed and attracted readers. Most posts are usually very silly, and a few people have clicked on them just to see how weird my comic is!
I am a big fan of playing DD Mafia on the forum too, and I would recommend everyone give it a go. It look confusing until you try, but once you get going it is really awesome!

8)What is, without a doubt, the most unusual comment that someone has left in the comments section?

Someone commented that it was appropriate that the Ano-Chee should be red (as in red Indians) which had honestly never entered my head in all the years I have been thinking of Harkovast! (Probably about 12 years at this point!)
“Ooooh, Mr. Freeze is going to be appearing soon. :D” was an odd one…but it made sense in context at the time!
“Run! Fangirls!” is another one that mades me chuckle.
There are probably loads more but those are a few that stood out as I was scrolling through.

9)What are some of your favorite webcomics and print comics?

I don’t read many print comics, though I am aware of most of them.
I suppose my favourite would have to be the true classic of the genre, Watchmen. There simply is no better comic in print.
Online, I enjoy Order of the Stick, Goblins and MS Paint Adventures.
Here on the Duck I am very keen on Rock Paper Cynic and I am partial to Love/Curse, a comic that is building a bit of a following and I think is one to watch. I think it is long over due to get featured!
Go and read it for yourself!

10)What is the craziest anthropomorphic character that you’ve ever created?

They have yet to appear in the comic but the Camel-Like Xateem are pretty strange and the Wahdaq are even weirder!
Also the Tendu are pretty odd as the women look nothing like the men and their ideas of gender are…I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I?

11)Okay. I answered this question for you in my interview. Now its your turn. Can you give us any hints on what’s going to happen in the future of Harkovast?

Oooh, you want spoilers, do ya?
Well let me see…
One for the near future…the Junlocks in this ambush still have a secret weapon left to play!
Further a field, The Heretic has some outside help coming in that he hopes will turn the tide in his favour.
New characters? Pretty soon we will meet Shan-Zu, a samurai who is Chen-Chen’s best friend. She develops in some very interesting ways as the story progresses. Keep an eye on her!
If you want any more sneak peeks, click the TWC button above the authors notes on Harkovast! (Shameless plug time) Your vote helps support the comic AND I put up bonus art and clips from future pages.
Right now you can see a character who has not yet appeared….

12)What is the worst type of Hell on Earth that a human could go through? A] A world where free speech is forbidden? B]Being trapped on a deserted island filled with venomous snakes? Or C] Being forced to watch The Patriot over and over again?

Free speech is a fundamental human right and essential to society. To give up or restrict free thought or expression is to give up what is best about ourselves.
Waking up covered in masses of slithering snakes that sink their fangs into my flesh, leaving me writhing in agony, praying for my own death would be an unimaginably horrible fate.
So keeping those two points in mind you will understand how much I truly hate The Patriot and everything about that damn movie when I say-
Answer C! Definitely C!
My personal war against Mel Gibson rages on!

13)Is there anything that you would like to add before we bring this interview to an end?

Thanks for the great questions, I think they really showed you had taken some time and considered the comic you were asking about.
I want to offer my thanks to everyone who reads Harkovast and everyone who has supported it!
People really have been great about helping to boost the comic, and I want everyone who has contributed (either time, donations, comments, forum posts, or just turning up each week to read it!) to know that we appreciate their help tremendously!

For more Harkovast related goings on, go to the Harkovast Forum
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:18AM
harkovast at 11:39AM, Oct. 12, 2009
posts: 5,198
joined: 10-12-2008
Here is yet another interview! This time with the folks at The Xcentrikz!
You can check out the original (with images) here-

Interview with Daniel,

Creator of that action-packed fantasy comic…


October 4, 2009


I had a nice talk with Daniel of the up-and-coming comic, Harkovast. It's got a quite compelling story, and a lot of creative background and history on all the races and relationships. So no wonder folks are wondering… What WILL happen next? Give it a try and enjoy the interview. AND - Thanks again Daniel for your great insights!!

— Mark Larsson


Mark from The Xcentrikz Team: Thanks again for the interview Daniel, I imagine your fans will love reading your answers. But for those who haven’t heard of your work yet *gasp!* … Can you give them a little intro to Harkovast?

Certainly. I’m Daniel and I draw and write Harkovast and my wife Julie colours it. Harkovast is an epic fantasy story set in a world populated by various magical races, each resembling a different animal.

The story is about the on-going conflict between the peoples of Harkovast and a sinister army of beings known as the Nameless Race who are attempting to take over the world. But a lot of the focus of events is actually on the interactions between different cultures, their views of each other and themselves and the racism and friction that builds between them.

THE XCENTRIKZ: So did you do other illustration work, before Harkovast?

I hadn’t done any illustration work before (can you tell?) though I always liked to draw as a child so it wasn’t too hard for me to get to grips with it. My wife Julie colours the comic, and she used to paint murals, which was a completely different scale of work and a different medium. She used coloured pencils as a hobby before so she has a lot of casual experience using them.

THE XCENTRIKZ: Great! So how did your great idea for Harkovast come about? What originally inspired you to create a fantasy comic?

I’ve always liked fantasy, ever since I played the board game Heroquest as a child. Swords, magic, adventures, what’s not to like? The first idea for the world of Harkovast came about years ago (probably about 14 or so) when I used to play the Dungeons and Dragons arcade game with a friend of mine and we just started to bounce ideas between us about how we would make a fantasy setting that seemed more exciting to us.

I decided to turn my ideas into a webcomic after I saw some comics on the internet and decided that this was a way I could easily share my ideas with the world.

THE XCENTRIKZ: How did you decide to create a comic mixed with medieval-fantasy and anthropomorphic characters? It's really unique!

During my initial conversation with my friend that sparked the whole concept, we came to the conclusion that traditional fantasy races (elves, dwarves, orcs) were dull and that we could invent far more interesting and outlandish races. There were a lot of cartoons with talking animal characters when I was young (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, SWAT Kats, The Racoons, Bucky O’Hare among others) so we thought these types of creatures would be a great improvement.

After this initial conversation I went away and worked out a lot of the details of the world, though it was initially very different to what it is now. At the time that races were just named after the animal they looked like (cat people, bird people etc) and the world still included humans, dwarves, orcs and a few other fantasy staples.

A few years ago, I starting thinking about this fantasy world again and began to revamp it. I removed all of the cliché fantasy races, and added a whole host of new races, giving them all names. It was at this point that I actually named it Harkovast (my wife found it irritating that the setting had no name when I told her about it.)

Since the story deals a lot with interactions between fantasy cultures and races and the tensions between them, each culture being a different animal makes it a lot easier for readers to grasp what is happening quickly. If a new animal appears, people immediately know that it is a new culture that they haven’t seen before. If everyone involved was a human, I think people would struggle a lot to tell who was from where!

In the comic medium, this sort of visual identification is really helpful for people trying to follow events. The only problem with these ‘anthro’ characters is that there is a certain stigma that surrounds anything ‘furry’. But a lot of people have commented that they wouldn’t normally read anything ‘furry’, but they enjoy Harkovast. I think if people come to it with an open mind they will see it is more of a unique fantasy story. The fact there are talking animals is more incidental.

THE XCENTRIKZ: Interesting stuff, thank you! How do you feel about the way the comic has changed since it started?

I think the art has improved as I’ve gained confidence. The story hasn’t really changed so much as revealed itself. I always had the plot basically planned out (I have it plotted years ahead of where it is now), so it all seems familiar to me. What people have been reading so far has really just been the introduction in a sense, setting out the setting, the important characters and some of the important concepts. Now a lot of the main protagonists have united together, the story is really going to start moving ahead.

THE XCENTRIKZ: Why do you think the stories are likeable to the readers? Did you intend this with any type of planning or is it more random?

Ooops! I sort of answered this one in advance!

Harkovast is HUGELY planned! I am constantly turning over ideas and concepts in my head all the time. I really can’t switch it off. I think the stories are likeable because the setting is pretty elaborate. From people’s feedback I think they appreciate that there is a lot of background information and constant implications that there is more information out there, waiting to be revealed.

THE XCENTRIKZ: Tell viewers about how you created the various Harkovast affiliations and organizations from scratch?

Well, for each race I start off with a concept for a culture, usually inspired by a historical culture. History is the best source of ideas! Most fiction is just the same ideas recycled, so I prefer to go straight to the source!

Once I’ve got a concept for a culture I attach an animal to it, one that seems appropriate, or just an animal that I think is cool and would like to involve. Then I just turn the concepts around in my head as I fill in the details of what these people are like- their religion, their culture, what is important to them, what their communities are like, what their warriors and armies are like, what magic they use and so on.

I have found there are a LOT of historical concepts and cultures that very few modern people know much about, such as the forward curving sword called a Falx that Junlocks use. When they showed up in the comic, some people questioned if a weapon like that would function, not realising they historically existed.

THE XCENTRIKZ: Whoa, that's great. Great process. What's it like promoting the comic, to get new viewers?

I try to get people to interview me whenever possible! Project Wonderful is the webcomic advertiser’s best friend; it is a really easy to use, easy to manage way to get your self out there and get noticed.

I also get myself onto different comic listing sights, such as TWC, Top Webcomic list, The Belfry and others. Some of my fans helped me a lot by adding a lot of entries for me on TV Tropes, and I’ve added some more there myself. That has proved a really good way to get some extra people checking out my comic. I also posted a lot on Drunk Duck forums and on other people’s comics on Drunk Duck which has been a good way to get noticed and get people looking at what we are doing. Drunk Duck has a really friendly supportive community that has been of great encouragement to me. I am always looking out for new ways to advertise and get noticed!

THE XCENTRIKZ: What do you enjoy the most about doing Harkovast?

My absolute favourite thing is getting positive feedback and comments from people, especially when people go so far as to draw me fan art. When I got my first piece of fan art I was absolutely blown away that someone enjoyed it enough to go to that much trouble.

THE XCENTRIKZ: How did you choose the races of characters and creatures in the Harkovast fantasy world?

The animals are basically picked because they are animals I like; animals that I think would look cool turned into people or warriors. Later on there are a lot of stranger animal types that show up, such as camels, toads and sea lions. I think those are going to really mess with people’s expectations. The races for each character usually go together. If I want to include a knight, obviously that is going to be a Darsai, etc. The cultures are so distinct that it is usually easy to know where characters will fit and they normally come to me already with a race in mind.

THE XCENTRIKZ: There’s always a critic… How do you deal with people who are critical to Harkovast?

I celebrate them! Every time someone gives me negative feedback I put it up on my forum, in a section I made called the Hall of Shame. If I am going to put something out on the internet and let the world see it, I would be very arrogant to think that everyone is going to like it!

Obviously I would rather hear nice things, but I try to take criticism with good humour. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and some of the insults that have been levelled at my characters are pretty hilarious (a bit too rude to post here though!) And believe me….some people REALLY hate Harkovast!

THE XCENTRIKZ: Glad you have a good attitude about it, way to go! What typically instigates your ideas? Are there other fantasy writers you've enjoyed in the past, and they've inspired you?

My ideas tend to come from reading about history, as I mentioned before and just from mulling ideas over in my head till something interesting forms. More recently I’ve had a lot of ideas based on people asking me questions about the comic on my forum which pushes me to consider things I might not have thought of before (like funeral rites in Harkovast!)

When it comes to fantasy authors…I hate to sound like a philistine but most of my inspiration came from movies! Conan, Krull, Ivanhoe and others really inspired me. I already mentioned playing Heroquest and the Dungeons and Dragons arcade game. I hadn’t even read Redwall till people kept saying my comic reminded them of it! How shameful is that? I suppose if I had to give credit to a single author, it would have to be the main man Tolkien himself, since he basically invented the concept of magical fantasy fiction.

THE XCENTRIKZ: It’s fun to getting know who’s behind the comic… What do you like doing to relax after cartooning?

I like computer games, role-playing and war games, reading other comics, listening to bad reviews of things on the internet (it just makes me laugh to hear something getting torn apart verbally, I don’t know why!) and going for walks with my wife are some of my main pleasures. My children (three, three years and under, two teenagers, and another baby due soon) are a lot of fun, and time-consuming, so spending time with them is important to both my wife and me. When she gets the chance, my wife enjoys gardening and DIY I must admit though, I spend a lot of time checking my hits and comments and trying to promote my comic! It is addictive!

THE XCENTRIKZ: What do you think about your illustration style? What mediums do you use, by the way?

I like it a lot, because I think it has a unique look. I know it isn’t to everyone’s taste, but it really appeals to me. The basic process is that I draw it in pencil then go over it in pen and then my wife colours it with prismacolor pencils. I then scan it onto the computer and add the text and edit the images with Photoshop. We might have initially attempted colouring with the computer and not traditionally by hand, but we stuck with what we know and we think it’s paid off.

THE XCENTRIKZ: What’s your favorite comic page in Harkovast and why?

My favourite page is probably when Chen-Chen is having some culture shock with the Darsai. They are getting into her personal space I just find that hilarious and loveable! The distressed looks on her face are priceless. But the page isn’t just comedy; it is also a great insight into Tsung-Dao and Darsai culture and what the differences are.

THE XCENTRIKZ: What do your friends and family think of your work as a cartoonist?

I think they found it odd at first, but they have all been very supportive and I think most of them read it now pretty regularly. My mother is especially encouraging; she always comes on and votes for me on TWC!

THE XCENTRIKZ: Doing web-comics for a living or a hobby can be really great. But many web-comics are published for free viewing and non-profit. So it can be hard for some authors, who balance maintaining a free web-comic along with their day-job. What are your thoughts on this?

I’ve been out of work for a while (thank you economic slow down!) so I’ve been able to direct a lot of energy into my comic so far. When I get a new job it will put an extra strain on things because webcomics can really be a full time job sometimes! Especially when you take into account all the effort that goes into promoting it. I don’t know if Harkovast will ever turn a profit that I can live on, but I like to hope one day it could become my full time job. And then I will ride my flying pig all the way to the bank!

THE XCENTRIKZ: Best of luck then! Are there some common misconceptions about Harkovast? How would you like to address them?

Mainly that it is not worth consideration because it is a furry comic. I don’t mind people not liking it, but I think it's really unfair when people just rule it out without really looking at it.

THE XCENTRIKZ: Good point. What advice would you like to share with other comic creators out there?

Stick with it and try to stay positive, even when you hits are in the toilet! It takes a lot of time and commitment to get anywhere. I remember quite a few months ago when I was feeling really down about my work, someone sent me a message on Drunk Duck asking me what the secret was of all my success! It taught me that even when you have bad days you have to stick with it because there is always someone else with a comic who has it worse then you!

Also, advertise! Self promote! Get yourself out there! If you are going to sit back and hope people find your comic on their own, you might as well buy a lottery ticket, as a win on that is almost as unlikely. You have to make it happen!

THE XCENTRIKZ: Great ideas there! Any thing else you’d like to share? A hint on the future of Harkovast…?

A hint of the future? Well I suppose I could tell you that Book 2 is all about the northern continent of Jaydia?

Something in the present…Book 1 is going to feature the Avatar of Vec- The Evil of Life as a major villain, along with a lot more exploration of Nymus, Darsai and Zadakine culture. Also, Quinn-Tain’s appearance will be revealed! I can’t say too much, because I think some of the plot developments are going to REALLY shock people. The fate of Harkovast will be a dark and twisted one!

Thanks to everyone who reads the comic and has shown their support! I honestly can’t overstate how important this has been to helping to keep the comic going!

THE XCENTRIKZ: Yes, and best of luck to you. Thank you for talking about Harkovast with me! I really appreciate you taking the time. May you update the comic for many years to come! Do give this delightful comic a try, everybody.

For more Harkovast related goings on, go to the Harkovast Forum
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:18AM
harkovast at 3:35PM, Dec. 8, 2010
posts: 5,198
joined: 10-12-2008
Another Quack with the Ducks interview.
This one was carried out 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…

For more Harkovast related goings on, go to the Harkovast Forum
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:18AM
Canuovea at 8:38PM, Dec. 8, 2010
posts: 287
joined: 6-25-2010

“Harkovast” isn't in the English language. Technically.

So, shouldn't it be “finish with the most important command word in the English language when paired with a name?”

Nah, I'm just kidding.
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:18AM

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