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Creator Interview: Dragonsong12

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, March 23, 2024

Today we are interviewing the accomplished and proliferate Dragonsong12 who has actually completed multiple webcomics!

There's so much to tell as an introduction to Dragonsong12 but suffice it to say that she has one of the most recognizable and uniquely beautiful art styles I have encountered on the Duck, and that's saying a lot! But enough about my opinions, let's hear it from Dragonsong12!

1. First things first! Tell us a bit about yourself!

There isn’t really too much to say about me. I’m a fairly boring person and as an introvert that suits me just fine. Mostly I just love to make things – it doesn’t really matter what. Sometimes I’ll build something, or cook something, or sew something or write something, it’s the process of creating that I enjoy. As a kid who loved to make things drawing was really accessible so that became my big focus which turned into a passion. Now here we are more than two decades later and I’m not sure I’ll ever stop.

2. Now how about you tell us about your comics?

Leaving aside the two that are finished, I have three currently in production.

Twisted Mirrors: Rift is the sequel to the original Twisted Mirrors comic, though it’s a sequel only in that it’s set in the same world. The story is entirely stand alone. It follows two characters – one who lives at the bottom of society and one who lives at the top – coming together in a city to navigate a dangerous situation and learn that they world may not be as simple as they always thought.

Conscripted is probably my most traditional fantasy adventure. The protagonist – a reluctant soldier – is turned into a monster and forced to fight for his enemy. It’s mostly an excuse to explore how various personality types would react in such an extreme and horrible situation.

Devil’s Blood is a title I admit probably comes across as a bit edgy, but anyone who’s read anything I’ve written would know I’m about as edgy as a rubber ball. This comic is also mostly just a fantasy adventure. The titular devil’s blood is a dark substance that’s infecting the people of this world and our protagonists are working to stop it. It’s intended to be somewhat metaphorical, but I think a straightforward reading works just as well.

3. How did you end up choosing webcomic life? (by Amelius)

Once upon a time in the early days of the internet, I found a forum for a print comic book I loved called “Tellos”. One day one of the members of the Tellos boards posted a couple of pages of a comic he was making. Just the visuals. No dialogue. At the time I’d never heard of “webcomics” and it was this eye-opening moment where I thought – no joke – “Wait. You can just make a comic and post it?” That was the beginning of the end for me. I started my own project right away. Some time later I discovered hosting sites. And here I am over two decades later. Never missed an update! (…uh…except for technical issues. The pages were always done, though!)

4. When you create a character, do you start from their flaws or from the positive traits? (by Marcorossi)

This is a really interesting question. I’m not sure it would ever have occurred to me to think about character creation in these terms, but it’s definitely the flaws. The flaws are where the fun is! Characters need to be allowed to make mistakes and the moments in media where they do are usually my favorite. If characters are developed properly then we the audience will understand precisely what about their experiences and personality have led them to making the “wrong” choice and how it impacts the greater story around them. I strive to create moments like these myself and it’s where most of the fun in writing comes from for me.

5. From your cast of characters, which one has the best character design in your opinion and why? (feel free to give us pictures!)

This is probably the most difficult one for me to answer because I’ve never actually had a very good head for design. If you were to show me examples of good and bad design I’d probably just be like “they’re the same picture”, so I tend to default to others’ thoughts on it. As a result I think my character designs lean towards flat and bland. If I were going to pick one to highlight, though, it’d probably have to be the vigilante character from Twisted Mirrors – Eclipse.

I have no idea if the design is any good, it’s just the one I’ve put the most thought into. Every part of this character’s appearance is purposeful, very little is decorative. Even the cloth around the tail and the specific design of the shirt are the way they are for a genuine purpose even if that reason isn’t immediately obvious. I’m a little proud of that fact.

6. Do you read your own archive or do you never look back? (by Amelius)

Often! This might come as a bit surprise to anyone who hears me talk about the comics though. I put my comics down quite a lot because it’s hard to miss a lot of the obvious flaws when I go back into them, but my first goal in making these things is to create something I’d enjoy reading. Whether or not I actually hit that goal is irrelevant.

This is particularly true of the newest comic, Devil’s Blood. While all of my other comics were designed to have some level of universal appeal, Devils’ Blood is unashamedly all my favorite things mashed together with a dash of art therapy.

7. Who of your characters would be a threat to your life and who would protect you? Why? (pics welcome!)

I feel like using a villain as the threat would be too easy so I’m going to stick to “good guy” characters to answer this because it’s more fun. Both answers come from Conscripted. Two of the humans-turned-giants are Gervald and Darius. (They look the same because the giants are designed to be exact copies of one another, only differentiated by color - blue for Gervald and green for Darius.)

Gervald is a definite threat – not because he’s specifically malicious or would be intending to kill me, just because he would see more value in taking care of the problem as a whole rather than wasting time trying to watch out for every small life. (Fun fact! His color was initially going to be red mostly just because I didn’t have that color assigned to a character yet, but at the last minute realized that if he were red it might cause readers to view him as more villainous. He's not a villain. He just has a different – often opposing – outlook from the protagonist. So it seemed best to change that.)

Darius on the other hand is much more traditionally “good”. I think he carries quite a bit of guilt from his own cowardice. He’s spent a lot of time trying to run from fights, but with the power he’s been given – whether he wanted it or not – he feels some obligation to use it to defend those who need it. Particularly from the people who are responsible for what happened to him.

8. Why did you choose a comic as the format for telling your story? (by JCorrachComics)

This is good question! I do write prose stories as well and every time I start developing a new idea there always comes that point where I have to stop and think about how I want to tell the story. Some stories benefit a lot from having a visual element and for others it’s not really necessary. When I first started planning for Conscripted for example, it was going to be a written story, but the more I got into it the more I realized that it wouldn’t really work the way I write. I didn’t really want readers to be in Darius’ head, I wanted them to intuit what he was thinking from body language before he could actually speak for himself. A visual story would actually be a lot easier for me to tell the story in that particular way.

9. What inspired your comic’s setting? (by Casscade) (feel free to link to pages or establishing shots and other relevant images!)

One of my flaws as a creator is that I don’t really put as much attention to this aspect as I should. My focus is always on the characters so I can be very basic when it comes to settings. I grew up loving fantasy stories so my own writing tends to just default to the traditional western idea of what a fantasy story looks like – usually only mixing it up for time period. Conscripted is medieval. Devil’s Blood is Victorian. And Twisted Mirrors: Rift is somewhere between.

It's a flaw I’m aware of and have been taking some steps to fix, particularly in Conscripted where I’m trying to branch out geographically, but I haven’t advanced much yet. It’s an ongoing process.
If there is one thing you might see as an ongoing theme it’s that I love abandoned places. There’s something about that sense of being in a place that once had so much life and is now empty that really feels magical to me. Whether it’s ancient ruins or just old broken down “modern” housing there’s likely to be abandoned places in every story I write.

At any rate, developing a setting is not one of my strengths, but every once in a while I think I can capture a somewhat decent sense of place:

I acknowledge that this is more the exception than the rule, though.

10. Do you prefer to draw humans or animals? (by Spooky Kitsune)

Animals! By a wide margin! …probably to the detriment of learning to properly draw humans. When I was a kid I used to take random volumes of the encyclopedia (remember those?) off the shelf and just draw whatever animals I found in them for funsies.

More specifically though, I love to draw “monsters.” (The word “monster” here referring basically to any non-human sapient creature.) I have no problem writing prose stories about just human characters but if I’m going to draw it then I’m going to include monsters. Whether they be animal-like as in Twisted Mirrors, more manufactured and clean as in Conscripted, or just weird goo like in Devil’s Blood, all my stories feature monsters.

11. Has your work ever surprised you? Whether artistically, thematically, or both? (by Bravo1102)

For the most part the surprises have been negative. Things never come out looking as good as they look in your head and on more than one occasion I’ve looked back and seen that my work might be sending a message opposite to what I was intending. But these things aren’t as fun to talk about, so we’ll try a different tack.

There aren’t a lot of surprises in my current projects since I obsess over them all the time and plan things out years in advance. So I suppose the only thing I can really point to happened in the planning process for Conscripted. When I first started exploring the idea, the giants were going to be a troll-like creatures. Then, before I’d even gotten a chance to draw any sketches related to this, I changed the idea to be more like a golem. When I was sketching out ideas for this, I shaded in the “body” of one of the designs.

I didn’t really intend anything with that, but it gave me a new idea and changed the whole course of what the giants were. These sketches were of rock monsters, but in the actual story they’re smoke monsters encased in armor. So much of what these creatures were came from this little quirk in one drawing. I know it’s not really what you’re asking, but I think it’s kinda neat.

12. What are some inspirations for your comics that you want to share? (feel free to link)

Outside of the very first comic I ever made (where the inspiration is glaringly obvious) my stories tend to come from a mish-mash of various things I like and am interested in. I feel like this is true of a lot of creators, but it makes it a little more complicated to talk about.

A big inspiration for Twisted Mirrors for example was Watership Down but if you’ve read both that might be really confusing because they’re basically nothing alike. (It was in the tone and world building.)

Sorry I couldn't help myself - Tantz

I can’t even recall for certain where the inspiration for Conscripted came from. It was either a video game or a cartoon where the protagonists saw the villains turning people into monsters and were like “gee, that sucks! We better stop them!” And I was just thinking “isn’t the more interesting story what’s happening with those people?”

The most direct inspiration I can think of in Conscripted is in the design of the giants. I imagine the expected reveal here is that it’s inspired by the Iron Giant, but while I do love that movie and I can’t guarantee it didn’t influence the design subconsciously (especially with them being “giants”), I think the actual origin of them is the same place that the Rain Spirit in Twisted Mirrors came from – a little goober named “Widdershins” from the video game “Conquests of Camelot”. He’s a little forest imp that you interact with for all of 30 seconds in the game and never see again. I have no idea why he’s lived rent-free in my head for all these years, but for some reason he stuck and has now influenced the design of two different characters. The giants from Conscripted basically being the design for the Rain Spirit, just with armor on top.

Devil’s Blood similarly originated from seeing a scene in another piece of media in which I loved the setup but wanted to take it in a different direction. This story however actually has a pretty strong influence from the miniseries Over the Garden Wall, which is one of my personal favorite pieces of media. Like with Watership Down a lot of the influence may not be immediately apparent, but I can point to the creature appearing in the protagonist’s dreams which is directly and deliberately modeled after the beast (though obviously altered a bit).

13. Are your comics all planned beforehand or is everything a work in progress that can be altered at any time? (by Andreas_Helixfinger)

Back when I first started trying to tell my own stories I used to like to “let the characters dictate where the story went” and flying by the seat of my pants. I was really dedicated to this method at the time. Then the first time I actually did something as simple as write an outline it was such an enormous relief and made the process of creating so much easier and more fun for me. It can be easy to think of planning things out to be real drag on the creative process, but I’ve always found it to be the opposite. It allows me to weave story elements into the narrative much more naturally and not having to stop and think “what happens next?” frees me up to just express the story however I feel like and just makes the process so much more enjoyable.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with either method, to be clear, but one of them is definitely not for me. Once I started planning things out, I never wanted to go back.

14. Which character of yours is your favorite, which do you find yourself identifying with most, have any of your characters ended up being more trouble than they were worth? (by Amelius)

I’m going to switch the order up for a moment and talk first about the character I relate to the most. It took me a long time to have any character that reflected myself because I had very little interest in myself as a character. Self-insert characters never really interested me, I wanted to explore what other people might do and say. With Devil’s Blood, however, I finally made a character who is essentially me, the protagonist Nicodemus Blacroft. He’s not precisely me (For example I gave him a neglectful family while my own family is amazing) but I definitely use him to express a lot of things I feel like I otherwise can’t. I don’t know what it says about me - a woman who has never even held a cigarette - that I identify so strongly with this scruffy chain-smoking loser, but I am saying it. Loudly and proudly.

With that in mind, my favorite character is the deuteragonist of Devil’s Blood, Captain Nomusa. Designed specifically to be my favorite type of person. She is blunt and straightforward. She won’t take any of his crap. She will bluntly tell him when he’s doing something wrong, just like she’ll bluntly tell him when he’s doing something right, and her words matter because she is neither insulting nor complimentary. She is simply stating the truth as she sees it. She’s a necessary counterpoint to his over-emotional musings, and I basically want to spend all my time writing discussions between them because it is the most fun I have.

Hm…characters that are more trouble than they’re worth…I wish I did have some because that sounds like a fun conversation, but I don’t think I do. I like all types of characters – good and bad - and they’re all created with purpose to be the way they are. The closest I probably had were some side characters in Twisted Mirrors who were designed to have a purpose but the story just never worked out a way to explore them more fully. But that’s more lost potential than trouble.

15. Do you use some sort of narrative scheme/formula/structure? (by Marcorossi)

Nah, not really. I mean, aside from the obvious types of things like rising action increasing to a climax. Admittedly, this has led to some of my stories being a bit of a mess in this regard, but it’s not really where my passions lie. My interest is largely in exploring the characters and if the narrative wanders a bit for that it doesn’t really bother me.

16. Show us the pages from your comic that you are most proud of and why!

That a hard one to answer too! I tend to like individual panels where the drawing came out well, or entire scenes that are doing something neat with the story or characters. Pages are in this weird middle space where there’s enough to them that there’s always some kind of art flaw preventing me from fully liking them visually, but there’s not enough story information to make them something I like when standing alone. But hey, if it’s hard, then that’s a good challenge! One from each! Here we go!

The entry from Twisted Mirrors has some proportion issues, but I was staring to really try to push the feeling of motion when I drew this one and I had to teach myself how to ink water properly for it, so it was kind of a fun page to work on and marked a step forward for me.

For Conscripted I picked a transition page. It’s pretty generic honestly, but I’m pleased the execution came out as well as it did.

And with Devil’s Blood we’ve got a conversation with the dream creature. The expressions on this one – particularly in panel 1 – were a lot of fun for me, so even though it’s fairly bare overall, I do like this page.

17. Your comic; TV ongoing series, miniseries or movie franchise? (by Bravo1102)

Hm…probably TV show with set seasons. I like longer stories a lot because it gives you more time to explore things rather than rushing to the conclusion of the plot, but I also don’t really like things that go on past their expiration date. There’s definitely episodic style stories where a lack of conclusion works fine, but as person who loves character development and progression these types of stories have never appealed to me for long. So yeah, the best of both worlds – long but with an end in sight.

18. Do you have any pets? Show us! (by Casscade)

I have a floofy dilute tortie cat named Rain. (She’s gray like rainy days. I love rain storms so I named her after something I love.)

She’s an adorable moron who is very clingy and loves belly rubs.

I also live with a spooky house panther, Lupin, who is unfortunately a lot smarter than Rain and thus gets into more shenanigans.

19. If you could have any superpower what would it be? (by Spooky Kitsune)

I have consumed enough media with superpowers to know that all of them are awesome if you use them right, so it’s actually hard to pick one.

Really I’d like the ability to stop time because I never seem to have enough.
…though I guess the ability to fly would decrease travel time which could help with that too. So I’d take that too!

20. Finally, Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones?

Lord of the Rings. I never had much interest in Game of Thrones despite being a fan of fantasy. I do believe the people who say it’s good, It’s just not for me. Lord of the Rings on the other hand I’ve gone through many times. It’s not my favorite fantasy story, but I like it a lot and have a ton of respect for it.

Thank you so much Dragonsong12 for your thoughtful answers! Here's to a lot more webcomic making!

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J_Scarbrough at 9:44AM, March 25, 2024

Working on three comics simultaneously, while having completed two others, man, I wish I had the time and energy to devote to increasing the productivity of my own artistic endeavors.

PaulEberhardt at 8:21AM, March 24, 2024

These interviews are always a great read, and this one is no exception. It has just expanded my list of comics I want to read, too. Big thank you both to Tantz and to Dragonsong12!

InkyMoondrop at 2:51PM, March 23, 2024

The comics look awesome. I like the background as well. Also, Rain is a great name for a cat and as troublesome all the fluff looks around her, she seems like a good presence to come home to.

ejb at 4:13AM, March 23, 2024

Great interview. All of Dragonsong12's comics are fun reads.

Andreas_Helixfinger at 1:52AM, March 23, 2024

Here's to another awesome comic creator interview👏👏👏 I'll have to check these comics out at some point.

plymayer at 12:53AM, March 23, 2024

Very interesting. I'll have to jump in and read some of those comics.

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