Posted - 02/01/2010 : 06:48:17 AM
Artist for The Continentals
Published by: Web Comics Nation
Interviewed by: Richard Vasseur
Rich: What look do you give to the Mangler?
Monique: Well, we have two homicidally inclined personalities in the book, each with their own look and signature actions. "The Mangler" does just that, and he once might have been a man, but is now on the far side of crazy, and his look is any rag that he can find, perhaps taken from some of the bodies of his victims. He would then look pretty raggedy in appearance, a howling terror inside and out. "The Apparition" who stalks Lord Ashton is a different deal, but no less savage in his own way, a walking collision between bling and beast. He's not crazy, just an utter predator given to all of humanity's basest motives without a shred of restraint or conscience. However, that doesn't mean he lacks a sense of style while he goes about it!
Rich: Why do you like drawing a Victorian era setting?
Monique: It's got its challenges! If you look at photos and art and design from the time period, things were very busy and intricate, rooms were stuffed with furniture and decorations, and their styles mixed colors that would clash to our current sensibilities. I had to figure out how to interpret the ambience of the late Victorian period through my own visual language, which meant some of the frou-frou had to be stripped out, but the basic impression remains. Keeping things mysterious and foggy helps a lot! But I do like a lot of the furniture and architectural styles, as well as drawing street scenes with horse-drawn vehicles. I like horses.
Rich: Did you research the historical era?
Monique: What do bears do in the woods? Yeah, thank God for Google pics and YouTube, and the reenactor community for references and information. I've already been around horses and harness a bit, so I know the difference between a "growler" and a "hansom" (two types of cabs) and what check reins are and why a high-class "turn-out" (horses, harness and vehicle as a whole) would never be without them. Even little things like the blinders and bits on the bridles should look right for the era and the class of people using them.
With regards to fashion, the first thing people think of when the Victorian era is referenced is extravagant hoopskirts, but those peaked around the Civil War era and by the end of the 1880's, when this story is set, women's skirts had streamlined considerably, to more of an "A" outline. It was the slow beginning of "clothing reform" as it was known back then.
Rich: What characteristics do you give to the two main characters?
Monique: For Smythe... I wanted to combine the "man of action" with an inquisitive and intellectual bent. His style is impeccable, but with an undercurrent of barely-restrained energy underneath. Mentally and physically, he's quick as a cat and misses nothing. I wanted to emphasize that with the slightly wolfish lines of his face and hair. I visualize him as a dark blond or champagne blond with a red tint. The nearest real-life analog I can think of would be Judd Nelson.
For Fiona... as a woman far ahead of her time, the best way for her to carry herself is a general attitude of "I don't give a @#$! what you think!" She's a walking cultural earthquake and she doesn't care. Her face wears an almost perpetual vixen's smirk which, along with her outrageous behavior, is the most visible part of her emotional armor. And, she's a fox on more levels than one - a foxy chick in the 70's slang sense, and a cunning operator who has already survived many scrapes. Archetypically, she springs from the same source as Mrs. Peel from The Avengers and Modesty Blaise, with a bit of Catherine Zeta-Jones thrown in.
Rich: How was Agent 99's dress style decided on?
Monique: Darryl's profile notes described mainly that she was in gentleman's day dress with a top hat. That would have been enough of a bombshell for that era, but Fiona doesn't just want to wear the look, she wants to OWN it. So her outfit is tailored and contoured in a way that both mimics and subverts the masculine style, tweaking straight-laced noses with her loose side locks and the little caul at her nape that keeps the rest of her hair off her collar. It's an effect calculated to render average people speechless, and while they're sputtering, she's running rings around them. For Fiona/99, cross-dressing isn't just a fashion statement, it's a weapon.
Rich: How would you describe your art style?
Monique: I think that's about the hardest question, because my "style" is always evolving, a moving target. But as for the fundamentals, I look to the old masters of comics - Will Eisner, Wally Wood, Alex Toth - for structure and pacing. Keep those things consistent, and let the setting and mood of the story determine the surface aspects, and you seldom go wrong on that.
Rich: How did you meet Darryl Hughes?
Monique: Around 1999/2000, I had done a number of test pages for a script written by Dave Law, which Darryl happened to see online, and he contacted me because for various reasons the artists he had originally partnered with for his G.A.A.K. project were unable to go on with it. I was originally slated to do inks, but I ended up with all the art chores. Seven years and 240 pages later, we had a graphic novel. Somehow, we're still getting along.
Rich: How do you feel about "U.N.A. Frontiers"?
Monique: It's one of my first babies, as in I had the basics of the plot and characters figured out when I was in grade school, though it took the next two decades for it to really start to gel and make consistent sense. Deep down, its inspiration is a kernel of cheesy 70's post-apocalyptic SF, though the society depicted is well into recovery phase. However, it's a society that does not have access to the cheap, abundant minerals that propelled the first industrial revolution, so they're essentially in a second horse-and-buggy age with a limited number of primitive motor vehicles that run on steam or grain alcohol; in real life, the recent price hikes and shortages in corn resulting from all the ethanol hype illustrate the folly and extravagance of burning food as fuel. And glory be, they're on the verge of another war, with a hidden tech enclave as one of the prizes and its inhabitants caught in the middle. It's become a lot less like 70's cheese and more like hard SF as time goes on.
Rich: What is "Wingtail Girls" about?
Monique: That comes from another long-time concept of mine - what would a society of anthropomorphic vehicles REALLY be like, once the whole idea is busted out of the kid-lit playpen and allowed to grow up? Well, they'd be people, of course - people who live their lives, work, have family issues, complain, fall in and out of love, get in trouble, party too much and wake up hung over and next to somebody they would never talk to in sober daylight - sounds like a soap opera, and in some ways it is. I figured that after Pixar's Cars, readers might be more open to that kind of thing. It has its own small readership. Eastland Tales is a similar concept, but with humans thrown into the mix.
Rich: What is Coydog's Den?
Monique: Coydog's Den is my site on WCN, where most of my online comics are currently based. I also have a DeviantArt site with more varied material, my handle there is "Amberchrome."
Rich: What interests do you have outside of comics?
Monique: My biggest one would be science fiction and SF fandom. I prefer hard SF, of the sort written by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, C.J. Cherryh and L. Neil Smith. I also like military SF by David Weber, John Ringo and Tom Kratman, and alternate history like the 1632 series by Eric Flint. Along with that, I have a lot of interest in folk/filk music (filk is a folk subgenre with SF/fantasy/science themes), aviation, space, gardening, animals and libertarian politics.
Rich: What is it like in N.B. Canada for a comic artist?
Monique: If comics was my only source of income, I'd starve to death. Out in the boonies of east Canada - well, not quite the boonies, Fredericton is a university/government town and prides itself on its level of culture - I survive mainly by doing portraiture and sketches and caricatures at fairs, parties and events. Needless to say, Canada Day (July 1) is a work day for me, and a pretty big one. There is a local "comics mafia" here, but we definitely aren't in it for the money. Once in a while we get together for comic jams and "drink and draw" events.
Rich: How can someone contact you?
Monique: My email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, or at amberchrome.deviantart.com if you have an account there, or also on Facebook.
Rich: Any last words of wisdom?
Monique: This is for certain mainstream comics people, OK? The rest of you can breath easy. If you can't draw a horse, that's fine, but for God's sake, don't take on a western or other period piece without working on your equine anatomy, as well as details of tack and harness. Look, Donna Barr can do it, so can you!