An Ex-Nun Seeks Purpose – A Wheel Story

Elizabeth “Liz” Lee (aka lilacbombs) is a Kansas-based artist who moonlights as a school custodian. She is the creator of A Wheel Story.

Synopsis: Tara has lost all direction in her life. After resigning her ordination as a buddhist nun (bhikkhuni) two years ago, she looks for purpose in mercenary work- but doesn’t find what she expects. With old and new friends alike, the wheel of her life is about to spin and bring her places she never thought possible.

Is your comic available in any other languages? If so, what language(s)?
No, only english. I’m completely open to other translations, though! I just haven’t been able to get around to it. I feel it’ll be easier when the comic is done.

Did you go to school for either art or writing? If so, what school?
I went to Butler Community College and got an associate fine arts degree. I took basic English classes, but aside from that, no classes on writing.

What is the main genre of your comic? What appeals to you about that genre?
Fantasy. It always felt like a genre with limitless possibilities– and it has an ability to explore real-world themes in alternate ways. Most of the time though, I don’t think people really explore those possibilities. I really appreciate Tolkien, but I think some of his tropes have turned into cliches.

Are there any other genres that apply to your comic?
Some drama and action, but nothing outside the realm of the fantasy genre. While not really a “genre” per se, but as a lesbian I hope to include at least two LGBT romances in the story.

What was your inspiration for the story?
I’ve always been a fan of more alternate, “eastern” inspired fantasy stories like Okami and Avatar. Around the time of imagining wheel story, I got deeply invested in the beliefs and teachings of Buddhism, and wanted to implement what myths there were into a story. I’m not a Buddhist, but I do believe in the words of the Buddha. Contradicting statement, I know– I just don’t think I practice enough to really count as one.

Buddhist Monasticism also fascinated me, and I wanted to write about a character who grew up in that environment. I think a lot of media leads us to believe that people who take a vow like that are sour, that they’re inevitably either serious/corrupt because of the image we in the western world have of religion. Buddhist monasticism has a wide spectrum of people, and most I’ve seen are vibrant people with (ironically) a lust for life.

Ajahn Brahm of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia is a great example. He’s a very committed monk, being one for over 30 years, but he also just a guy who likes Jimmy Hendrix and telling dad jokes. Sometimes he says things I didn’t even think was allowed. Still, I recommend his talks on youtube a lot.

Do you have any favorite artists or writers who influenced your style?
I remember being very inspired by Xamag’s webcomic, “Black Brick Road of Oz.” While now discontinued, I thoroughly enjoyed it as someone born in Kansas. It really opened my eyes to webcomics as a medium. There’s a lot of Japanese artists who inspire me with their colors and surrealism, like Hasuimo and Yoko Kuno. Finally, there’s one of my favorite musicians of all time, Susumu Hirasawa.

How long does it take you to complete one page?
About a week. I used to be able to make 2 pages a week, but the style and process for Wheel Story started to change.

What is your process like for creating comic pages from start to finish? What tools do you use?
I do everything in Clip Studio Paint, first starting with the chapter thumbnails and going by there. I use a lot of modifier key settings to make lineart go fast, and then after cell-shading/lighting is done, I make the bg on one layer.

Is your comic a finished work? If not, how long do you think you think it’s going to be when it’s complete? Is there a definitive ending or will you just keep going for as long as possible?
I’ve done the math, and I think it’ll probably be until 2024 when it’s done. Perhaps something will change in that time which will make stop, but I’m not planning on that. I currently have 25 chapters planned for Wheel Story.

How many pages do you have complete at the moment?
Over 100!

How long did it take you to plan the comic before even beginning to physically create it?
It was actually a very quick turn around. I came up with the idea in about spring of 2018, and a few months later, I just decided to jump in during my first semester of college. I was a part of the school’s art scholarship program, which basically let me fulfill the hours’ requirement of my contract by working on it in the building. I.E. free real estate/time to work on it.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced during the course of making of your comic? If you could go back in time to the point where you just started making it and give yourself a pep talk, what would you say?
I might give a cautionary tale to myself, because oddly I was filled with a lot of false confidence. I guess I’d say slow down and give it room to breathe– really take the time to plan the story. A big part of making webcomics is laying down the tracks as the train is going, but I think I could’ve saved a lot of time by not re-writing constantly.

Also: DON’T take a hiatus in summer of 2019. Go after that good-paying night job and stick with it.

What is your favorite part about working on your comic?
It’s really satisfying seeing your characters shape into themselves, even if you find yourself putting them in the roles of tiktoks or memes. That and just the general feedback you can get– even though my comic isn’t massively popular, I’ve gotten messages from people saying I inspired them.

What is the most difficult part about working on your comic? How do you overcome it?
Motivation is by far the hardest part. Just mustering the energy to sit down and do it is very difficult. Things like my medication (I have ADD) and the pomodoro technique have helped, but it’s still hard.

Do you have a favorite character to write for? If so, why? Tell us more about them!
The main three of my story, Tara, June and Laomia are like my children. I intentionally wrote them to have a sort of family/sibling-like dynamic, and I hope it shows.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to write for?
Side characters like Sarahi and Cheol-min, while I think written ok, are difficult because they too don’t have enough page (screen?) time. As much as I’d like to show more of them, I’ve had to cut a lot of stuff to keep the chapters from feeling bloated.

Do you have a favorite character to draw?
June and Tara. Despite her also being the harder one to draw, is fun to draw. Her simple face lends itself to being hammy. June is just cute.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to draw?
Tara, despite having such a simple face, has changed so much over time and tends to look off-model. Same with other “simple” characters like her dad(s).

Where can we find you?
I’m on twitter and tumblr at lilacbombsart/@lilac_bombsart, or lilacbombs and @lilacb0mbs.

Anything else you want the people to know about yourself or your comic?
I’m a part of a wonderful webcomic collective called “The Woolwolf Comic Collective”. It’s run by VexinglyYours on twitter, and is a wonderful and diverse group. I’m incredibly lucky to be a part of them.