An Interview with June Blair B, creator of Star Cross'd Destiny
Juno of Star Cross'd Destiny has attracted attention with her tale of superhuman homeless misfits in a future New Orleans. In this interview she chronicles the story's history -- from unpublished novel, to attention-getting webcomic, to member of the Hot Bullet Press group, to her webcomic appearing in print.
Tell us a little about yourself.
Well, I'm 20, just about to be 21 this June. I'm a Texas native currently plaguing the Metroplex. I didn't really start drawing seriously till about three years ago when I considered turning SCD to a comic after much bugging by Keith. Till then I was playing sax and writing my other project, Oneiric Defiance. Aside from that I race cars on the side, my loves being my '78 Camaro and my '89 Shelby Daytona and eat mass amounts of sushi.
I know this was a novel before it was an online graphic novel. What inspired SXD?
Total utter boredom. I was in English class supposed to be reading Dickens' Great Expectations and I just started writing in the class black composition notebook, "As I walked through the dark alleys of western New Orleans I had one thing on my mind: a place to sleep." I guess if I could point inspiration anywhere I would have to say The Outsiders which we had read the previous week. That and I've always had a thing for the Elemental story element.
You work hard and long on your art. Other than an obvious manga influence, who specficially are your artistic influences?
I read a lot of American. I actually don't even read that much manga to be honest, or watch that much anime for that matter. Obviously my line style is nothing manga-ish and I get a lot of flack for it being so bold. Coloring as of Book2 is highly influenced by American comics, mostly comics like Gen 13: September Song, Bachalo's works, and Extreme X-men. Artist inspirations come from Watase (Ceres), Sonoda (Gunsmith Cats), Garza (Gen. 13 September Song), Bachalo (X-men), Mack (Kabuki), and so on.
Who are your writing/storytelling influences?
Definitely Vonnegut, King, Plath, Kerouac, and Steinbeck. That probably explains a lot if you know who some of those are. Slaughterhouse Five played a lot of part in the scripting of Book 2 with its schizophrenic way of time scaping. King always had a unique way of getting the reader to emphasize with the characters. Christine is still my fav of his but I'm sure that's kinda obvious. Steinbeck always took you right into the town; his settings were always so real. And of course Kerouac, the beatnik. I think that's where a lot of people start hammering on my writing style is because I take a lot of influence from the Beat Generation. There is no box, dammit! On the comic side there's Chris Claremont. He's done everything from Ultimate X-men to Gen. 13, and I think, even Spider-man. He's a superb writer and has a real knack for flow and dialogue.
Any of your characters based on real people? (I note the main character, Juno, has the same name as your screen name.)
This question always gets interesting. Yes, several of the characters are based on people I've met and some are close friends. Sam, Miah (who hasn't come in yet) and Pike all exist in real life though Pike is really the only one who is close in character. Shades, despite popular opinion, is not based off a real person. Shades was conceptualized in 1999, looks and all and his character design, including his traits has not changed at all since I met Keith, who happens to look and think almost exactly like him, faults and all. One of those creepy coincedences... Really bothered me at first too. lol. And over time we both just accepted it, laughed and called it fate, and now he calls himself Shades. As for me, Juno is more of an alter-ego. I have my wicked streak but I've since grown out of it. Juno we see in the comic is I suppose a younger version of myself on a very extreme level. She was an outlet for me during the story's original manifestation back in 1999 which were pretty tough years for me. She develops a lot as the story progresses though. All the other characters are pretty much original.
Besides Juno, who's your favorite character, and why?
Actually, she really isn't. lol. Take that however you want, but Juno is more of an outlet and a punching bag for me at her stage right now. Like I said earlier, Juno at this point in the story is an alter-ego of myself from years ago. She's cold, she's abusive, sociopathic even... Now as she progresses and her development in general throughout the story, yeah, she's my favorite character. But as far as my true favorite from an unbiased view, Shades because he just completes her. Their relationship is so unique to me and a blast to work with. They're like an old married couple but both too ignorant to know any better. They're friends and at the moment and that's all (well at least Juno) can see from their relationship. My favorite scene out of all of Book 1 is the scene where they're running in Chapter 4 from the cops and she's bitching about where he parked the car. They're even more fun to work with in Book 2. Sure, it's obvious, they may get together later on. Juno's so cold that it's going to take a lot for her to allow herself to love anyone. Shades is also the balance to the equation of the story in more than one way. He's the smartass, always ready to throw off the intense moment. He's a lot of fun to script and work with. Aside from him, my other favorite characters haven't come in yet. ^_^
How much of the projected story have you covered so far?
Ha! This is the part that always gives me a nice reality check. Well, if we reference the novel we're on page 33 of Book 1. Most know that the book is around 500 pages actually written out, around 1000 with what hasn't been pieced in since I stopped writing in 2001. Book 1 of the novel has had to be divided into three seperate parts. Only Book 1 and 2 of the novel are actually written completely out, the rest are just small arcs amongst a timeline of major points. So yeah, we're only a third of the way through Book 1 of 3. We're going to be here a while. I still have no idea how many volumes "comic" SCD will end up being.
How has your experience with Hot Bullet Press been?
Much unfortunately I haven't been around lately to really take part because of the book publishing ordeal and being shuffled around Texas. Hot Bullet Press is a very cool grouping. Right now I know Chikin's in the middle of sort of reworking our reason for being. People have gotten into this idea that webcomic groups are nothing but link exchanges, and maybe that's true about some of them. But they bring comics of likeness together. They're like mini comic meccas for genre seekers. It's truly been a pleasure and honor to be grouped with these artists.
How does it feel to see SXD in print? Were there any problems adapting it for print?
It's completely unreal. It actually ended up laying out so much better than I expected. We had to throw in a couple pages here and there to help the flow but overall it just fit perfectly together. Course, I'm still reworking chapters 1-3 since I refused to let those old pages see print. It's been real tough to work on old scenes and make them new. There's little excitement in the initial drawing stage but it's just amazing to see the difference between Chapter 1's early pages and the book versions. While working on the layout of the actual print version I ended up realizing something that would recommend to any webcomic artist. Print out your pages and lay them all out in binder. I told this advice to Sarah Zero a while back. When you're feeling down about your work try that out. It's amazing how much different it can look. My favorite comparison is Page 9 [online] and its print counterpart. But the book has definitely been an experience. It would have been a lot better had I known initially that I was going to go to print and would have started out at 300dpi. But I probably would have just redone them anyway. Damn perfectionism.
What are your future plans... any non-SXD projects planned? What's in the future for SXD?
Future plans... well, we hope once Volume 1 is all set and they get distributed and what not that I can really start considering other options to help fund the comic since it's currently sufficiently breaking me. XD Well worth it though, I won't complain. We've already started the preproduction work of full-color issues that will eventually be available of the first book since so many people threw a fit about losing the color (I personally prefer the grayscale – but that's me.) which I can understand for some scenes like the power scenes and the car chase. So we might have those available soon. But color printing is super expensive so it's a definite maybe still. They might have to be completely on demand. There's of course the soundtrack but that's taking a long time to produce since we have to work with other people and the like to get it finished. There is another project that's been sitting happily on my backburner that's a novel I started writing in 2002 called Oneiric Defiance. It's a Brave New World type story and actually works as a novel but I'm hoping I can play around with that so it's illustrated but also still novel-esque. It's in an American style since it didn't fit in SCD's style. But it's a beautiful story. Hopefully I'll be able to work on that sometime too. But until SCD's on a good pace I can't really consider it. Other than that, I just intend to keep on trucking and hope for the best I can keep the project afloat. ^_^