Gilda "Sans Souci" Rimessi is the author of The Sinner Dragon, a popular fantasy-based webcomic that has appeared online since 2001. She successfully transcends the boundaries of gender and language to appeal to a large devoted audience. Redefining the roles of sexuality and its place within webcomics, Rimessi creates a tantalizing mix that continues to draw in the fans.
How did you first get into the world of webcomics?
My very first webcomic [experience] was Wendy, by Joshua Lesnick (but I don’t read it anymore). I started reading it in the year 2000, I can’t really remember how I stepped into it… but I thought it was damn cool! I mean, there were people that drew comics and other people were, actually, reading it! Through Wendy, I discovered the existence of Keenspot and Keenspace, and when I first had a home connection (in 2001, if I’m not wrong), I started uploading my own comic. The response was very good, and I was amazed! I had an audience!
I know your first language is Italian. How have you found the transition from Italian to English? Have you ever offered The Sinner Dragon bilingually?
I’ve found the transition between the two languages very hard. I’ve never had a single English lesson in my life (when I was a student, English language study wasn’t compulsory at school), and at first, my plots were really hilarious, I think. I have to thank Timmerryn of The Pantheon for her help, if today I can write something that you can read… she was very patient, and [sent] me corrections of every single page for something like a year. I had other nice people helping me with grammar, but she was really fundamental. I’ve offered an Italian version for some months, of the first two stories, but nobody read it, so I pulled it down…
Are webcomics in Italy as big a phenomenon as they have become in North America?
No. Sadly, everything that sounds like "amateurish" isn’t welcome here. You know, we have a great cultural tradition, but this makes us very, very snobby. An Italian will probably never give consideration to someone who hasn’t been officially published somewhere… it’s very annoying. I met some friendly artists from my country, but we’re still far away from having a true ‘network’ of amateur art shows. And there’s the obstacle of language, not everyone can write plots in English and this makes everything quite difficult.
What would you say are the NC-17 aspects of The Sinner Dragon?
Well, sex, first of all. And probably some religious content, but I suppose that, without the sex scenes, The Sinner Dragon could be rated for a younger audience, let’s say, starting from 13/14 years. It isn’t a very gloomy or bloody comic… This makes me think about the fact that violence is rated at a lower age than sex and religious contents… isn’t that sad?
What artistic training do you have?
I was born and grew up near Turin, where I studied art for some years. Italian schools are structured differently from American ones. Now everything is changed, but when I was a student, we had specialization studies, called ‘Superior Schools’ that lasted four or five years, depending from the course. From 14 to 19 years I went to the ‘Artistic Lyceum’, where I had the chance to draw a lot from reality. It was the most important formative experience I had. After this, I went to the Academy of Arts, but I absolutely hated this experience. People talked about art a lot, but nobody was able to teach nothing about techniques and methods. The only things I found useful were the courses of Artistic Anatomy, and the techniques of Etching. I left the school at 23, because I needed to work and because I was really nauseated by the flat experience of the Academy. I worked as a graphic technician for some years, vectorializing motors parts for FIAT and Maserati booklets instructions… quite boring. Now I have a new work that’s far away from being artistic, but since I discovered the Net, I had the motivation to start drawing again.
What challenges do you face in having chosen that rating?
Not enormous challenges, really… I like drawing sex scenes, I like drawing naked people, because I like human bodies, and I really HATE drawing clothes. At first, it was quite embarrassing. I had never drawn a sexual scene before "Alexander in a Trap", and it sounded… strange. But it didn’t take me too much to get used [to it]… after all, there were just bodies, doing things together.
If you mean challenges that aren’t personal, I think that the most annoying thing is finding people pointing at The Sinner Dragon like "Oh My God! An homosexual-zoophiliac-sadomasochistic comic, ew!!," obviously without having read it before (or they’d know that it’s not zoophiliac or sadomasochist at all). But they aren’t so much, and to be honest, I don’t take such critiques on a personal level, everyone’s free to like me (or my comic) or not.
What is the process like when you craft your webcomic? What are your tools of the trade?
When I started drawing, I used to compose the page on a printer sheet, put down the pencils and inked using a black Bic pen. I love Bic pens – you can obtain an incredible variety of grey shades using it, and they’re cheap. Actually, my technique’s changing. I’m trying to understand how to shade with a Pigma pen, and how to combine my crosshatch technique with CG shadings. This would make me spare time and have lighter files with a better resolution. I don’t compose the tables on a single sheet anymore, but I draw the scenes on separated sheets and ‘glue’ them together when I assemble the final table, with Corel Photopaint. I suppose it will take some time to obtain a decent result, but I’m on the right way, I think…
How would you describe your readership? What kind of feedback do you normally receive?
My readership is… indescribable. Really! I receive the feedback from the 14-year old furry fan, to the role player, from the yaoi lover to the person of my age that recognizes something I’ve hidden in the plot. Go figure, I once had a mail from someone who had recognized that the spell pronounced by the mage in "The Kitsch Mage" were the lyrics of Kate Bush’s "Wuthering Heights" reversed! I’m always amazed that people read my comic so seriously, and I’m happy to have a very heterogeneous audience…
How is your relationship with your fans? Have you ever had problems with online followers?
I try to be friendly with everyone. Without my fans (a word that I don’t like to use, because it reminds me of girls tearing off their hair at Beatles concerts), I would not have the motivation to draw. I’m not really the kind of person that draws exclusively for [her] own pleasure… I’m kind of an exhibitionist, and I strongly need feedback. On the other side, even if I don’t like it, I try not to be too confidential with everyone. You have to pay attention when you face so many people… I’ve never had problems with any of my followers, probably for this reason. There are artists that treat their readers like dung, and other that give too much confidence, and both have problems, so I’ve learned through their experience that the best way is the one in the middle…
What would you say are the biggest rewards you have found in creating The Sinner Dragon?
My audience, and the people I met through it, first of all. And a great amount of practice… if you don’t draw a comic, you can’t imagine how good [it] is for implementing your skills. Lots and lots of sketching, [and] hours and hours of inking, is the best way to keep yourself in shape (artistically speaking). And last but definitely not least, a way to pull out all the stories I have in my mind… being creative can be quite a pain if you can’t externalize your thoughts.
What are some of your biggest creative influences?
Many and very different. I started reading comics when I was very little. Italian artists in the ’70s and ’80s were exceptional artists. I loved Giorgio Rebuffi, the Disney Italia’s creations, Magnus and his Alan Ford (I wonder if there will ever be an English translation of this incredible story). We had very good publications for children, that also featured French and Belgian artists, like Goscinny and Uderzo (Asterix and Lucky Luke). Then after 1980, the Japanese cartoons invaded our market, and I think that every Italian artist of my age resents their influence in a way or another. The Lupin the Third series has been one of my greatest influences, even if I don’t like the comic at all). Actually, I like Kentaro Miura and Ai Yazawa a lot. I’ve never been fond of American comics, beside Carl Barks or the other Disney’s artists before 1970, but lately I’ve been introduced to Alan Moore’s stories, and I like it.
Would you define yourself as an avid reader of online comics?
Yes, I am. I’m trying to read as many as I can, despite my lack of free time. Often, I discover some delicious stories that haven’t the audience they would deserve. Through the Net, everyone has the chance to tell a story, and this is really beautiful.
What makes a web comic stand out from average to magnificent, in your opinion?
Visually speaking, I’m attracted by anatomy more than everything else. A comic with good background and colors and faint anatomies doesn’t attract me so much. Speaking about plots… I like deep characterizations. A beautiful comic with flat characters, that haven’t flaws, issues, unlovable sides will probably never meet my tastes.
If you pay attention, not all of the most known webcomics are artistically excellent, but everyone has very appealing characters. Yes, I think that probably, the true secret of having a successful webcomic is giving your audience some characters that they can’t ignore…