Spotlight

Dreaming House Cats Save the Universe! Fighting Dreamers – Defenders of Dreamworlds

Mannykat is a cat-obsessed cartoonist that lives over in an isolated farm town in CT. When not drawing comics, she’s diving into a wild amount of side projects. Including but not limited to fursuits, costumes, resin casting, puppet making, plushies, and maybe dabbling in music if the mood takes her. Anything else she hasn’t figured out yet will be figured out eventually if it’s somewhat related to the stuff she’s tried before. She is an unstoppable force of creativity when her comic’s buffer is active and has nothing else to occupy herself with. She is the creator of Fighting Dreamers- Defenders of Dreamworlds.

Synopsis: This comic is about the superpowered dreaming forms of housecats that jump into the pocket universes spawned by sleeping creatures. Their job is to prevent dangerous Monsters from overtaking these universes and becoming stronger in the process. It’s a constant battle. Our main focus is on Stewie and his team, Stewie being the newest Recruit of the 3. And while they have their spats, they actually have more in common than they realize. They’re all trying to prove themselves, Stewie escaping his restricted past, Sandy trying to avoid being associated with her famous ancestors, and Patches fighting for recognition over her siblings.

Meanwhile, another fight for recognition is brewing behind the scenes. One that involves Ghost, a half monster kitten who just wants to live a normal life, versus a society that would see them as something terrifying if they knew what Ghost was.

Did you go to school for either art or writing? If so, what school?
I went to a community college for their new Visual Fine Arts Degree, although that was a starting point for animation that I didn’t get further than associates with, I realized that animation wasn’t quite what I was into. Haven’t really gone further yet and I don’t really intend to. Maybe I’ll do an interim class or something to get practical skills while keeping art/comics as a side hobby.

What is the main genre of your comic? What appeals to you about that genre?
I’m not entirely sure, I would say…like a Fantasy/Science Fiction thing? I like how in both of those genres you can go buckwild with the worldbuilding and no one really questions it cause hey, it’s a fantasy world.

Although that brings the issue of not having it entirely fleshed out and when someone asks about it you have to scramble to make something up on the spot (which I totally haven’t done multiple times).

Are there any other genres that apply to your comic?
I would say like…furry comic? I guess? Cause they’re cats that stand on 2 legs and act human-like (but are still very much cats)

What was your inspiration for the story?
It was a combination of factors that happened around the same time

— Sandy, Patches, and Stewie were loosely based on one of my first cats, a friend’s cat, and a cousin’s kitten, respectively. They had this whole Super Pet Society thing going on where I added even more pet shoutouts. They’ve been their own characters since like high school (around 2006) and I would intermittently cycle back to them between projects just TRYING to put them somewhere. This resulted in multiple reboots and variants of the story before finally taking a break in 2012 (to work on my first webcomic, which is defunct now)

— I tend to cycle through random ideas between my constants, so a couple ideas popped up between 2012-14 that involved a reboot of the Super Pet Society, but without the Main 3 (cause I recycled them so often and figured changing it up would work). Another one that popped up was people popping into an alternate reality when they slept, where they were anthropomorphic animals and knew eachother IRL and quite honestly I would like to try it again another time. But at the time it didn’t quite take off and I left it on the back burner. Same with a very quick superhuman thing with Sandy, Patches, Stewie, and a beta Ghost.

— I saw bits of an anime that was basically (slightly) different alternate realities each episode, where like the characters DIED and then the next episode they were fine type of stuff. That inspired me to brainstorm a series that had the same cast looping through different settings and resetting the world once they caught on (inferring they had done this multiple times) but again, concept was cool but I couldn’t figure out further so that also wound down

— Then in like July of 2013 I had an epiphany and put all these ideas in a blender.
The Main 3 and the cast I could fit would have secret lives in an alternate dream reality, where they would have superpowers, have weird color pallets like one version of them I tried. And rather than looping through settings, they would hop into random worlds and maybe play out some ideas I had for them in a chapter but have an overarching thing going on in the background.

It wasn’t until like Jan/Feb 2014 that I realized “wait I can make these guys cats rather than people” and completely revamped their 2006 Super Pet Society designs, gave the story a little less edge (all my stuff starts off edgy before I refine it) and maybe had it half formed by the time the first chapter came out, and only got mostly refined after CH2, I’m still picking away at some details.

Do you have any favorite artists or writers who influenced your style?
None off the top of my head (I’m very bad at remembering names) but there’s a bunch though. I know the Butch Hartman/Invader Zim style influenced some of my stylistic choices, maybe some hints of like Spongebob or some anime stuff, but most of it was seeing other webcomic/online artists (like Paranatural) and how stylized everything was and trying to do that myself. Kinda making up for the fact that I was dead set on the “it’s just my style” roadblock that kept me from improving until like 2009 and I’m making up for lost time.

If anything I accidentally reference things that I didn’t realize existed until well into the comic, like Dreamscapers or that one Timekeepers(?) game that had cats in it with goggles. Total accidents.

How long does it take you to complete one page?
I tend to do them in batches of 2-3 pages at once (maybe 4 if I’m really feeling the plot) but I think one page takes like….six hours on average? Like an average page that’s moderately effect heavy. I always forget to time myself.

If we’re talking like from thumbnail to page, that takes maybe two weeks or a month, whatever time I have between pages if I buffered them correctly.

What is your process like for creating comic pages from start to finish? What tools do you use?
So I usually have an outline that gives me a general idea of what I want for a given chapter and I just do those whenever, usually way in advance. But because of slowly making pages in batches, and readers asking me questions that I have to scramble to justify and in the process realize “oh shoot right, I never addressed that element did I” I change the plot a bit. It’s to a point where I never know the exact page count until the very end. And the outline is diverted from or outright ignored in some cases. It still reaches the same endpoint anyway, somehow.

After that, I go to town on drawing out thumbnails in my spare time, like at work in a tiny sketch book, or at home in a bigger sketchbook or even a tiny canvas in Fire Alpaca. This is mostly where the pages can change from what I intended, but there are definite things I make sure are in there. This can take a bit depending on how much of a buffer I have, but I have a bad habit of cycling through the same four page layouts and trying multiple directions of the same events, getting very frustrated and stuck, and the deadline is inching closer so I need to get pages done NOW and end up going with the first or second iteration of the idea.

Then it’s just a matter of scaling up the thumbnails into the correct page size, adding the panels, roughing out the thumbnail sketches into more refined stuff, adding the talk bubble text to get an idea of what the mood is and where the bubbles would be. Character lines, background lines, finishing off the background and doing the shading, flatting out the character colors and doing their shading. Drawing out their abilities/other glowy things, an overlay based on the light source(s). Text mods, talk bubbles, sound effects, done. Copy the finished version into another canvas and make it print ready, take the other one and shrink it down to the webcomic size.

Is your comic a finished work? If no, 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?
There is no way that this will be done anytime soon. I do have an end goal in mind but how I’m gonna reach that exactly is still up in the air based on my somewhat improvised writing process. So I could theoretically go for another 5 years minimum before I decide that I’ve explained everything enough and I can move on to that ending point I was thinking about (that will have probably evolved by that point). Hopefully my drive for the comic lasts that long.

I still have to address Sandy’s legacy, Patches’ whole deal, and I barely got through Stewie’s whole situation now at CH6. There’s a lot of stuff to explain.

If it doesn’t, then at least I have a blueprint for trying this series again but like, professionally, in a graphic novel or an animated thing that someone decides to pick up that I’m the art director/co-creator of, that would be cool.

How long did it take you to plan the comic before even beginning to physically create it?
Honestly not that long. Like I previously stated I had a bunch of ideas just merging together at the correct time. Like in my first comic, the characters had been developed for months and I just went for it. This one, these cats just needed a few personality tweaks (Sandy in particular) since I had a backdrop for these guys already.

And I figured hey, I have two years of webcomics under my belt, I have enough prep work done to launch this one! All with the fragments of an idea for the characters and their world!

Don’t do that, by the way. That’s how you hit plot holes real fast as you keep going. FD only won out over my other webcomic cause they were both kinda impulsively started and the pilots ended up weird, but FD has a much more flexible narrative/setting that I can always retcon and still have it make sense while the other one was kinda stuck and I wasn’t feeling it.

Like for the first chapter, I had to add in extra pages at the start to explain what the heck the deal was, since I had a cold open situation previously that explained absolutely nothing, I would like to not do that a third time if I think up another project.

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?
Outside of working up the nerve to start it? Probably jumping in just a bit too early and having to work with the sketchy first chapter elements by the time they became relevant in CH4-5, when I had a much better hold on the characters. It still worked out but I kinda feel bad about rushing into it like that.

I would tell my past self that it does end up looking better than it starts, maybe give her a better idea of the characters/world to start with so there’s a better backbone right in CH1 and the characters aren’t so uncharacteristically rude and angry at eachother for a chapter.

What is your favorite part about working on your comic?
Seeing these 10+ year old characters in a proper setting finally(at least in Sandy, Patches, and Stewie’s case). For years I wanted those 3 in some sort of thing, I distinctly remember being in High school and promising myself I would actually do it. Welp, I did! Pretty pleased about that.

The fact that I can watch my style evolve from chapter to chapter is awesome, I love watching people’s style progress as they do comics and my art is no exception.

High School Me would lose her dang mind upon seeing these cats as fully realized characters (maybe a bit bummed that I changed the style I was so adamant was totally fine)

Also, expressions are incredibly fun. It’s fun trying to translate cat body language into interactions.

What is the most difficult part about working on your comic? How do you overcome it?
Actually starting the pages, and plotting things out coherently in some cases. I always had pacing issues when I would make them for fun, and I’m still incredibly paranoid about it. I do tend to skip stuff I wanted to say or probably should have addressed but forget about until later and have to scramble to show it off.

Also the inbetween points between events I have much clearer ideas of bug me to no end. That’s generally where I get stuck in pages. And where plots can go weird.

Do you have a favorite character to write for? If so, why? Tell us more about them!
Honestly all of the Main 3 cause they have aspects of me in them.
Sandy’s my instinct to close off whenever things become too much.
Stewie’s got some of my impulsive nature on overdrive, among other things

But Patches is the most like me if I grew up in this world and had a leader position. Puts up a front like she knows what she’s doing and everything’s chill, and usually it is since things tend to go as planned. But things go out of place (like Stewie being impulsive and launching into battle without a plan) and that mask starts to break. She is just barely keeping it together at best and in the middle of frustration tears and incoherent at worst.

They all kinda have the same High Functioning Anxiety I do, just presents itself different ways. All of my main characters have some element of it actually, I can’t help it. (They also have my Aspergers or bits of it in some manner but that’s another thing)

Which character gives you the most difficulty to write for?
Flint, for starters. He’s meant to be the guy that’s also got a boatload of obscured anxiety (like his sister, Patches), and comes off as an entitled jerk to newcomers. It’s hard to figure out his motives and how he’d respond to things when he comes off as mean but is actually more like “he’s confused but he gets the spirit” at worst.

Francis is another one cause I initially had plans for him, and now I have no idea what I should do, same with Misty. Stewie’s got roommates that he barely hangs out with. (which I guess is relatable cause I too would avoid my roommates for the most part if I was constantly working and used to being a loner). I’ll eventually figure Francis out, I tend to get random epiphanies of where to implement an overarching event and it fixes like 4 things at once.

Do you have a favorite character to draw?
It kinda flip flops depending on who I’m drawing a lot of, but I want to say Patches. Or at least the Main 3 and also Ghost.
Patches in particular goes full fish-eyes in a very simplistic surprise response and it looks silly and she’s one of the few cats who can accomplish that (all the long-face cats can do it)

Ghost meanwhile is completely expressionless outside of opening their eyes more or flailing their hands in rapid-fire sign language and/or stimming as they get overwhelmed. Also they’re a Sphinx and I love those hairless cats.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to draw?
Any of the side characters I haven’t drawn for a few chapters. I just started drawing a time traveling cat again and I have to draw them twice cause like, different timelines, same cat. I haven’t drawn them in a while so I can barely keep them consistent between panels, let alone make the two versions of them look exactly like eachother.

I’m gonna be in trouble when I get back to drawing the Head Fighter cat.

Where can we find you?
Plenty of spaces
FD’s Main Site- http://mannykat8xwebcomics.dreamhosters.com/
And the Tapas mirror- https://tapas.io/series/Fighting-Dreamers
My Twitter (where I spam ACNH sometimes) https://twitter.com/MannyK_Rambles
and my art Tumblr- https://cm8x-arts.tumblr.com/
I also have an Etsy that has some FD stuff, more should be coming https://www.etsy.com/shop/MannyKatCrafts

Anything else you want the people to know about yourself or your comic?
The comic starts off weird, I cannot stress that enough. Everyone is OOC and angry but they get better. It only lasts the first chapter.

Also everyone’s so in awe of how many things I’m doing at once, and yeah that is pretty admirable. But that’s just me having restless art energy and when I can’t direct it at comics it gets funneled into something else. Right now I have a giant sphere head I’m making for my own amusement on the side. I did not scale it correctly, it is way too big, but I’m too stubborn to scrap it. And once I get through these four pages I’m working on at once (don’t worry I’m doing it responsibly and not all at once in 12 hours like I used to, more like over the course of 2-3 days) that will probably be my main side focus unless something else latches on first.

 

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