Wednesday, January 21, 2015

An Interview with Evan Dahm

Evan Dahm is an incredibly productive dude. He embodies the DYI ethos of Staple!  His epic project, set in the world of Overside, includes three books so far.  Rice BoyOrder of TalesVattu, and some gorgeous short stories, almost two thousand pages and counting.  He has also completed an illustrated edition of the Wizard of Oz, several art books, and co-founded the Benign Kingdom publishing company. He generously took time from his crazy busy schedule to answers some of my questions.

What do you think are the most important things to keep in mind when crafting and sustaining an epic narratives like yours?

This is a very good question and I've come up with different answers for it myself over and over. The planning issue is key, and I've oscillated between an almost stream-of-consciousness approach, and something super-densely mapped out. My current comic Vattu is pretty densely plotted, but I've given myself room to move and I'm always changing and elaborating on scenes once I get to the point of actually drawing them. Sustaining is another thing altogether... I lose interest sometimes; there's nothing I've ever been consistently invested in drawing or writing. But having it serialized online helps, and treating it as a commitment and working on it even on the days when I don't feel like it is important.   
Along with self-publishing on-line, you self distribute physical editions of your books. What have been the design and aesthetic advantages of maintaining that level of creative control?  

It's kind of spoiled me by now! I love having control of every aspect of how the work is presented, and I love designing books that appeal to a classy, book-fetishist kind of aesthetic. The fact that comics are inherently visual seems to implicate the entire design of the book or the website or whatever in the reading experience, so I appreciate being able to work with all of that as well.  I also just published an illustrated edition of the Wizard of Oz, which was fun: bringing that specific kind of approach to somebody else's work.  

Were there any big mistakes or learning moments self-distributing?

I shouldn't have even tried to do print-on-demand books. Technology has probably changed in that area a little since I was getting books printed that way five or so years ago, but it's a really inefficient way to get books made, and the quality is way below what any offset printer can do. There are tons of other mistakes but I'm figuring stuff out more and more I hope.  

Going from Rice Boy to Order of Tales, how has your relationship to color changed?

A big part of the reason I wanted to do Order of Tales in black and white was that I felt I was relying too much on color in Rice Boy, to the detriment of the quality of the drawing. So I learned a lot about texture and value doing Order of Tales, but I love color and I'm glad I can work with it again in Vattu, and other projects here and there. Hopefully I'm smarter in my use of color than I was back then!    Do you have any suggestions about the use of color to aspiring comic book makers?   Be mindful of how color

translates to print, if print is a goal for you... It might be worth working in CMYK from the start, so you're only using print-friendly colors. And more broadly, I still don't feel like I really Understand color, but I definitely think it's good to err on the side of limited palettes!  

Who do you think of as having really good Fantasy work in comics?

I haven't read many comics lately. I just read a bunch of Kory Bing's Skin Deep and I liked it a lot-- modern and grounded fantasy but with a strong folklore/mythology undercurrent: . Bryan Lee O'Malley's new book is fantasy, right? That's a beautiful book.  

Are there any guests or exhibitors your looking forward to meeting at Staple?

Hmm Sammus rules   

Are you going to be bringing anything new to Staple?

Yes! I have new art books that have some series of landscape illustrations I've made, called Aftermath & Lacunae. It's meditative, black-and-white stuff that's different from a lot of what I've published before.

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