Dream a Little Dreamland: An Interview with Scott Christian Sava
Scott Christian Sava is the creator of the fantasy webcomic, The Dreamland Chronicles. Drawn in a 3-D art style, the tale of Alexander Carter's adventures in his dreams alternates with him and his brother's attempts to find out the meaning of Dreamland itself. I got a chance to interview Sava via email recently and ask about his life as a webcomics creator.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I started out always wanting to do comic books. Since I was a kid. I eventually went to the Academy of Art in San Francisco, majoring in Illustration.
While there, I got an internship at Sega. I learned computer animation on the job…and eventually became a game designer, producer, and art director. From there I got into television and film. I was the lead animator on the Casper movies (the sequels) and also worked on everything from Power Rangers to Digimon to X-Files and Aliens vs. Predator.
I started my own company back in 2000. In 2002…I got to fulfill my childhood dream of doing Spider-Man the comic book.
After that…I wanted to push the medium and started Dreamland. I’ve been working on it ever since.
What's a typical day for you like recently?
Quite boring, I’m sure…ha ha. I get up with the kids (usually around 7am). I grab a donut and turn on the computers. Browse the web a bit…then start work. Usually I try to do at least 2 pages a day. This keeps me ahead of things and allows me a couple weeks cushion. Also…if there’s a day where I can’t work (family or business or what not)…it doesn’t affect the daily site.
Most of my day is spent in my pajamas or sweats. Just watching tv while working and replying to emails.
You know…the perfect life.
Kids usually get home around 3:30 (they’re in Kindergarten) and we might hang out a bit before dinner. Then I usually wrap up work by dinner time…so I can spend the rest of the evening with wife and kids.
Where are you located these days?
We moved from Los Angeles to Franklin, TN (just south of Nashville) last year. We love it. It’s a great place to raise kids and it’s got 4 seasons and everything. We’re having the most beautiful fall right now.
Do you have another job besides working on comics?
No. And it’s hurting us financially right now. I gave up animation a few years ago…and we sold a couple movies to studios. But the writers strike and now the recession are really hurting.
Fortunately we’re making enough money from the site to pay house payments…but we really could use the market to pick back up to help us cover other costs.
It’s a calculated risk…going out on your own…but I think in the end it’ll be worth it.
Do you read other comics?
Yes and no. I stopped going to comic shops about 8-10 years ago. Comics just got worse and worse. I’ll buy graphic novels from time to time. I liked Planet Hulk. Mouse Guard. But it’s few and far between when someone comes up with something that’s not just pandering to fan boys.
It seems everyone in comics is trying to write a Tarantino-like script. Where’s the fun? Where’s the adventure? Eh…
What are you reading online or in print?
I have a few bookmarks. Honestly (and I know this is HORRIBLE coming from a web comic creator)..I’m not much for reading my comics online. I like em in book form. But some of my daily reads are PVP, Girls with Slingshots, and Sequential Art.
It’s easier reading “gag-a-day” strips for me. The rest…like Phoenix Requiem, Girl Genius, Earthsong, and the like are best read in book form. For me. I’m an old fart (39…yikes) and I honestly don’t know how my readers can wait a day just to read a page. It’s mind boggling.
Give me the 30 second "convention pitch" for your comic.
Why not ask me to fix your car? I’d have a better chance at that. I hate convention pitches. I just usually point to the back of the book.
But I guess it’d be (and this’ll be REALLY cheesy)…
This is the Dreamland Chronicles. It has over 9 million reader worldwide. It’s a fantasy/romance story about a boy who returns to the land of his childhood dreams. Check it out…or if you’d like…take a bookmark and read it online for free.
How has the strip evolved over time?
The fans have really made me check and double check everything. So I think it’s evolved for the better, story wise.
I’m loving this 13th chapter because now I can really let loose on the story and characters. Everything’s set up and ready to burst. So fun.
Do you have a favorite strip or storyline from the comic?
Favorite storyline is definitely Alex and Nastajia’s relationship.
Which ones do fans seem to bring up the most?
I think Felicity, Nicole, and Daniel are still mysteries to everyone. So they’re the most asked about (and speculated on).
Are there any of your characters you're really fond of?
That’s like asking me which of my kids I love the most. Shame on you!
Any that are particularly difficult to use?
Nicole. She’s smart. I’m not. So I have to…*urgh*…research whenever I make her say something “smart”. Heaven forbid she goes on a rant. I’m googling for days.
Do you have any long term goals or ambition for the future of the comic?
Yes. To finish it. I’ve been working on it for about 6 years now. I am only half way done. I see the light at the end of the tunnel. So that’s what I’m focusing on.
How do you go about promoting your work?
Word of mouth seems to work the best. Putting up something consistent lets people know they can have confidence to tell their friends about it.
What seems to be most effective at pulling in new readers?
I’ve tried Project Wonderful ads. They’re…well….wonderful. You have to find the right audience. At the right price.
What conventions are your favorites to exhibit at?
Well I’ve been doing the San Diego Comic Con for like 20 years now. It’s huge. But it’s not really great for me as far as sales. Wonderful in terms of networking. But horrible for sales.
I went to the Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC and Baltimore Comic Con for the first time this year. They were both fabulous and definitely tops on my list now.
What advice do you have for others just starting to show their work at conventions?
Get used to rejection. Don’t take it personally. Most of the people reviewing and critiquing your work…are NOT qualified. They’re not artists. They’re not even creative people. So don’t get upset. But listen with an open mind.
And don’t give up. Really. If it’s what you love to do…don’t give up!
Do you have a favorite convention story?
I got to meet Stan Lee! We took a picture with him (the kids were like 1 or 2). It’s been on the refrigerator ever since. The boys know him as “Uncle Stan”.
When you create a comic, how do you appproach it? Do you start with the words and then think about the scene that should go with it or do you start with more of purely visual approach or none of the above?
For Dreamland everything is plotted out. Then I write in Final Draft (a screenwriting software). I tend to focus on the dialog.
I visualize everything in my head as a movie. How would I want it to go. What would be cool to see.
So I guess it’s a bit of everything.
What tools do you use to make comics? Can you give us a brief walkthrough of your process?
I write in Final Draft. Then I storyboard with pencil and paper. Then all the 3D work is done in 3D Studio Max. Rendering is done with Brazil. Then images are taken into Photoshop. I use a plugin called Lenscare to handle depth of field. That’s pretty much it. Pretty simple stuff. Anyone can do it.
Did you do your own website? What software are you using on it?
I did it with a friend of mine. Ugo from Canada. He helped me out as a friend to set up Wordpress and Comicpress. The visuals were all me. And the design. He did the heavy lifting…all the coding.
I’m pretty sure everything was done with notepad.
How would you describe your relationship with your fans?
Do you engage in a lot of online interaction with your readers?
Daily. It’s amazing I get any work done. They email me daily, post on the daily blog (under each individual page), post on the forums, and network with me on Twitter. I try to reply to everything.
But with over 20,000 unique readers a day…sometimes it’s overwhelming.
Did you read comics as a kid?
Spider-Man. Then in my teens…Conan.
What are your influences from comics today?
None today. Now my influences are Pixar. Movies and such. Most of my influences are from my childhood. John Carter of Mars, The Hobbit, Little Nemo in Slumberland and the like.
Other non-comic influences on your art and/or writing?
What is it about comics that leads you to pour your creative impulses into that form as opposed to writing or some other art form?
Well I’d hate to go into some psycho-babble type answer (something worthy of Nicole). So I’ll say that I think everyone finds something in their life that just “clicks”. And for me…it’s comics.
They just feel right. I’ve done animation, video games, directing, painting, even photography. Comics is my passion.
Any other creative endeavors you're working on?
Oh…about 10 other books. Ed’s Terrestrials hit stores last month. Pet Robots hits stores next week. Hyperactive in a few weeks. And so on. Lot’s more kids books coming out every month.
Anything else you wished I'd asked you about?
No…ha ha. You were wonderful.