Spotlight

Black Dram -Monsters, Horror and Drama!


eishiya is a queer comic artist living in the USA. They are originally from Russia, which may explain why they write stories set in fictional worlds. In addition to webcomics, they occasionally make indie video games. They are the creator od Black Dram.

Synopsis: Black Dram is about two monster hunters in the city of Dunnin. Although they live over a century apart, they face some conspicuously similar problems: both are bitten by monster dogs that prowl the city, and both gain the attention of a suspicious surgeon named Mr Blair.

Is your comic available in any other languages? If so, what language(s)?
A Russian fan translation is available at https://acomics.ru/~BlackDram

Did you go to school for either art or writing? If so, what school?
No, I am self-taught.

What is the main genre of your comic? What appeals to you about that genre?
I refer to Black Dram as a horror-drama. That’s not a “real” genre and the story’s character focus makes it more of a drama, but it’s that horror coat of paint on top of people just being people that really appeals to me. Horror brings human flaws into focus, both by literally bringing those qualities out in the characters and through the metaphor of monsters, and I enjoy that clarity.

Are there any other genres that apply to your comic?
Urban fantasy. The chapter break art also veers into alternative history at times.

What was your inspiration for the story?
After watching far too many vampire films one week, I realised that one of my characters from an earlier story would be a lot of fun in a setting with vampires, and was surprised that I’d never thought of that in the five years that character existed. I tossed a few other characters into the mix and stirred.

Do you have any favorite artists or writers who influenced your style?
H0lyhandgrenade has been an influence through both her work and the feedback she’s given me over the years. I don’t have any favourite artists or writers, but I’ve been influenced by too many people to count, much less list.

How long does it take you to complete one page?
It varies greatly, as some pages are much more complex than others. For an average page, I’d say about 5-6 hours to pencil, ink, and letter. The thumbnail sketches are an additional hour or two per page on average, mostly spent staring at a blank canvas.

What is your process like for creating comic pages from start to finish? What tools do you use?
I write an outline as a plain text file in Notepad++ and refine it as I go, so that towards the end it vaguely resembles a script.

The art is all done in Photoshop from thumbnails to the finished page. I do everything in spreads even if the artwork doesn’t span both pages, so that in case I decide to print the comic, it’ll read well.

The real decision-making all happens in the thumbnail phase, as I not only work out the page content and layout then, but also the perspective/”camera” and the spot blacks. In the pencils stage, I’m mainly adding details and fixing anatomy. I add the text before I pencil, just so that I know to move things over a little if the text takes up more space than I expected.

By the time I get to inking, there’s very little left to think about – the pencils have all the lines, the still-visible thumbnails show where the major areas of black go. I can just relax and think about line weight and the small spot blacks. After I finish inking a spread, I draw the bubbles around the dialogue and save a web-sized version of the page as the final steps.

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?
The comic is finished, the final page went up in March 2020.

How many pages do you have complete at the moment?
The whole story is 238 pages. With some updates being two-page spreads and some being chapter break art, the total number of updates was 243.

How long did it take you to plan the comic before even beginning to physically create it?
Although I usually plan my stories out in their entirety or close to it before doing any pages, Black Dram was a deliberate attempt to do as little planning as possible. It wasn’t more than a couple of months from coming up with the gist of the story that I posted the first page, and most of that time was spent faffing about rather than working on the comic. I was still working out major plot threads when I was already more than halfway through drawing 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?
My biggest hurdle was myself. Even with reasonable deadlines and a schedule to follow, I find it difficult to just sit down and do the work, particularly when it’s open-ended work like writing and thumbnails. I still don’t have an answer, so there’s nothing useful I could tell my past self.

In typical depressed artist fashion, I also have frequent doubts about whether it was worth the time, work, and money it takes, even now that it’s done. I don’t have an answer to that either.

What is your favorite part about working on your comic?
Inking. It’s relaxing, and I can easily do it while watching something.

What is the most difficult part about working on your comic? How do you overcome it?
Not just for Black Dram, but for any comic: thumbnails. They take a lot of thinking! I’ve found no better solution than just slogging through them. Streaming my thumbnailing helps me stay focused on the work instead of wandering off to check social media.

I have found that writing a tighter script helps by making it easier to decide what goes on each page. Fellow artists sometimes suggest that I should make my thumbnails much simpler, but that just moves some the work to the pencilling step and makes for two unpleasant stages rather than one. Putting all the hard work into the thumbnails is what seems to work best for me.

Do you have a favorite character to write for? If so, why? Tell us more about them!
Alain, the Blair that Tim meets in the present-day part of the story. He’s smug, manipulative, and hides his secrets in plain sight, I can’t imagine a more fun character to write. At the same time, he’s learned from some of the mistakes of the past and is beginning to doubt his methods. You could say that all of Black Dram is just the story of this smug jerk finally getting some character development.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to write for?
Also Alain. He’s smarter than I am, and keeps better track of what’s going on with everyone around him.

Do you have a favorite character to draw?
They’re all quite fun! The Blairs are probably the easiest, as their hair is just solid black and frames their faces nicely, and their expressions are subdued, which I find easier to draw. Roy’s face and hair are also pretty fun with all their swooshes, at least when I’m not in a rush.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to draw?
Tim. More specifically, Tim’s hair. There are just way too many waves and little shadows, and it’s so easy to get carried away with it and forget to give it volume via more- and less-shaded areas. Unlike the other major characters, Tim wasn’t designed with black and white art in mind and it shows.

Where can we find you?
The comic: https://blackdram.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/DerpTree
Mastodon: https://mastodon.art/@eishiya
Art Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/eishiya

I am currently working on a short-ish horror comic. It is not online yet, but if you follow me on any of the above, you’ll be sure to hear about it.

Anything else you want the people to know about yourself or your comic?
Black Dram was an experiment to see what I could manage with only the bare minimum of planning, because I’d been stuck planning other comics and hadn’t actually *drawn* a comic for several years. The lack of planning shows in the form of a few dangling plot threads, but overall I think it turned out surprisingly readable!

If you’ve been planning a comic project for a while and haven’t produced any pages yet, start! If not your magnum opus, then *something*. Making something is way more rewarding than planning the perfect nothing.