An Interview with Jenny Romanchuk of The Zombie Hunters
Jenny Romanchuk is the creator of The Zombie Hunters, a webcomic about a world filled with zombies and a team of outcasts who hunt them. Romanchuk has actually gone beyond a simple premise to creating a full-fledged world here, spinning out rules for the zombies and the society of humans who remain. It's a little gory at times but a great story.
I got a chance to interview her this month and really, what other day woud be better to post this on then Halloween?
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I guess I can start with the basics: I was born and raised in a little steel town called Sault (Soo) Ste (Saint) Marie Ontario Canada. I have a degree in Graphic Design from Sault College, where I recently graduated with Honours.
Despite the webcomic’s depressing nature and gory-ness, I think I am pretty darn cheerful, and rather happy go lucky! Not to mention, I’m a bit of a girly girl. I am terrified of most bugs, I faint if I see real blood (or read about it), I like pink, and baking! But to counteract that I have a really big interest in forensics and criminology and psychology, and I like reading and learning about World War 2.
I am a total band nerd, I played the flute since grade 5. I believe in aliens, Bigfoot, and roleplaying as much as possible. I like comic books, music, pirates, robots, kicking ass, killing zombies, and my goal in life is to become a wasteland warrior one day!
What's a typical day for you like recently?
I don't think anyone has ever asked me that!
It's pretty mundane -- honestly, paint drying is more exciting than my day. I get up at about 8:00 every morning, and make sure Greg gets fed and off to work. I then clean the house and do the laundry, pay bills, do the dishes and all those other fun chores. After those are all done I plant myself in the office and work on comics, commission work, the website, file merch orders, respond to emails... there is a huge list of stuff to be done. I generally make a plan to figure out what needs to be done; certain days are reserved for comics while others are reserved for commission work, just so I don't get overwhelmed, which can happen!
I work until Greg gets home and then I cook dinner, or he cooks dinner, then I usually chill out for a few hours before getting back to work until about 10 or so, then I go to bed!
Where are you located these days?
In the sunny city of Chapel Hill, North Carolina! I am visiting for a few months :)
Do you have another job besides working on comics?
I sometimes do freelance Graphic Design work for small businesses. It's pretty fun!
Do you read other comics? What are you reading online or in print?
For shame on me! My comic library is very small online and offline.
Online I read a handful of comics like Dead Winter, Gunnerkrigg court, Octopus pie, Lackadaisy Cats, Girls with Slingshots...and a handful of others that I am starting to read. Right now I am trying to tackle Schlock Mercenary and Girl Genius.
Offline I have read Maus, Like a Bird, The Flight series, Blacksad, The Abandoned, and currently I have started reading The Walking Dead (Yeah I am a bit slow).
Did you read comics as a kid? Which ones? What are your influences from comics today?
When I was a little kid, I thought comics were so stupid! I hated most of the superhero genre, as well as the 'funnies' in the newspaper. I had never seen or heard of any 'graphic novels' or comics that involved something other than pretty muscly perfect heroes, family life, or how much working sucks. Because back then I didn't have internet, and living in a small town -- you kinda live under a rock.
Obviously I have since changed my ways.
Other non-comic influences on your art and/or writing?
The holocaust, WW2, the history surrounding it -- its causes and effects -- have really given me insight into human behaviour. Looking into human history and even recent world events and disasters has given me a lot of insight and inspiration into the storylines and the characters.
Give me the 30 second "convention pitch" for your comic.
I actually have never tried making a pitch before! Here goes!
"This webcomic, The Zombie Hunters, is a new look at an old theme. It is inspired by a post-apocalyptic vision of the future as well as past human history. This story follows a group of zombie hunters as they go though life as survivors of the undead outbreak. They reside on an island that is home to the Argus Research Campus. The hunters, like so many others on the island, are infected -- they carry a dormant strain of the undead virus, which will cause them to turn into one of several different types of undead when they die. The infected are marked and segregated from the rest of the inhabitants on the island, making a living by working offshore in the wastes, hunting zombies and collecting salvage, trading their freedom for safety. As the story unfolds you'll find out more about the characters and their sordid pasts and discover hidden secrets about them, their world, and the people that surround them."
How has the strip evolved over time?
It has evolved leaps and bounds! It was only supposed to be a short silly cartoony joke comic (you can still see the remnants of that in the beginning). But as people came to read it once I put it online, I realized it had more potential as a long term project.
It's actually a long story; if you want you can read it here at comixpedia.org -- I wasn't much of a comedy writer, I can write it, but not exclusively, I like having some sort of balance of comedy and seriousness, hopefully I have achieved that to some degree.
Do you have a favorite strip or storyline from the comic? Which ones do fans seem to bring up the most?
I do! But it's not in comic format yet, and it won't be for a while! But my favourite part of the comic that IS online would have to be the
beginning of Chapter Four, because I got to work in a different style of storytelling. I had to do it differently because I was presenting a rather daunting chunk of information to the readers.
My readers, on the other hand, seem to enjoy any part where I inflict torment upon characters and their zombie enemies. The fans seem to like to speculate about who's going to die, and what's going to happen next.
Are there any of your characters you're really fond of? Any that are particularly difficult to use?
Jasper and Charlie have to be my favourite. There are a few others, but they haven't shown up in the comic yet! Both Jasper and Charlie are equally difficult to use, Jasper a little more so because he can be so mean!
Do you have any long term goals or ambition for the future of the comic?
Merchandising! TZH the T-shirt! TZH the lunch-box! TZH the flamethrower (The kids’ll love that)!
But in all seriousness, my long term goal with this comic, is finishing it and holding the print copies in my hand, and going HA! Look what I did! The comic will eventually have a conclusion, but that probably won’t be for another few years. I may do other stories set in that world once this comic is finished, but I also have lots of other stories I want to pursue!
Any plans for a print collection?
Oh yes! Definitely! Not sure exactly when I plan on putting it into book format, I am testing the waters and keeping an eye out for publishers, trying to find one that will be best for TZH. I also plan on making a TZH tabletop RPG as well, once the story progresses more.
How do you go about promoting your work? What seems to be most effective at pulling in new readers?
So far all I have been doing is web advertising. I toss up project wonderful ads up now and again. Doing interviews (like this!) and having people talk about TZH is a good way of promoting the comic as well.
When you create a comic, how do you approach 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?
Well I usually start out with the words then the visuals. I have a script that I break down and make into panels. Once I have the script I’ll
scribble out a bunch of thumbnails of the comic, but I might still change the panels and the layout as I create the fleshed-out drawings. Each strip goes through a lot of changes before it's finally up.
What tools do you use to make comics? Can you give us a brief walkthrough of your process?
Well first I start with the script, then I try and get as much editing done as possible, lots of cutting down and compressing to reduce the talky talky. I then do some really crude thumbnails to figure out the paneling, poses, and word-bubble arrangement. Then I draw up my panels in Photoshop and put the type in and word-bubbles in first. Next I draw the lineart for the comic using a plain ol' mechanical pencil and paper. I scan in the lineart, clean it up and lay it out in Photoshop. I use Painter for the backgrounds, and Photoshop for the character coloring.
I’ll make a tutorial someday thats way more in-depth than this.
Did you do your own website? What software are you using on it?
Yes and no. I do all the design work for it and all the images, and then I hand it all over to Greg -- where he hits that 'make webpage go' button and then it's online!
How would you describe your relationship with your fans? Do you engage in a lot of online interaction with your readers?
I tend to keep people at arms length, for fear of everyone finding out how much of a dork I am! I can be ridiculously shy.
But I tend to do what what I can, I try really hard to respond to all my emails, and I make appearances on the TZH forum when people have questions, or when I just want to be evil.
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 can’t really tell you a zombie story through interpretive dance. And writing a novel is long! All those little words… And no pictures!
Any other creative endeavors you're working on?
I’m taking commissions these days, and working on merchandise designs for TZH. That’s about it, though I do come up with other ideas for drawings now and then.
Anything else you wished I'd asked you about?
I can’t think of anything. I lead a simple life of comics and zombies!