Spotlight

Magefront – Baker Turned Battlemage!

Shea B has been drawing all her life and decided when she was around 13 that she wanted to be a comic artist. She started off copying Ranma 1/2 panels and gradually advanced to where she is now, with five webcomics under her belt; two are still ongoing!
She has lived in the Bay Area of California all her life. She is the creator of Magefront.

Synopsis: Magefront takes place in a world where a war has been raging for the last 200 years. The main character is Amarantha Steppenhaus, a young bakery assistant with big dreams of becoming a famous battlemage, like her mother. She gets her chance when she’s accepted to the College of Magic, and enrolls in the class of necromancy (with a minor in electromancy.)

While there, she’s one of the lucky few mage students chosen to be Bonded to a knight. Through this bond they become a single force on the battlefield, working together through magic and sword. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end up as glorious as she’d hoped.

Did you go to school for either art or writing? If so, what school?
I’m one class short of having an AA degree in illustration. I had one class left but it sounded so dreadful (3D design) that I chose to just get a different degree rather than take it. A bit silly, looking back.

What is the main genre of your comic? What appeals to you about that genre?
Fantasy. I’ve always been a fantasy nerd since I was a kid, sucking up any book or media that even vaguely hinted it was a fantasy setting. It’s not tied down by the laws of reality; you can make anything happen in a fantasy world and not have to worry about explaining it. I enjoy the freedom of that.

Are there any other genres that apply to your comic?
Romance, comedy, and lots of angsty drama.

What was your inspiration for the story?
Skyrim, actually – my absolute favorite video game. While playing it for the 100th time my character was saved from an attack by an NPC follower of mine, which gave me the idea of two soldiers working as a team on the battlefield. The College of Magic and war setting is also pretty heavily inspired, as well.
I also got really, really sick of how magic is treated in many fantasy stories. Magic is very black and white, good or evil. I thought that was very silly. All magic should be neutral and it’s up to the caster to decide if they do good or evil with it. That’s why I specifically made the main cast to be good-hearted necromancers. Yeah they control the dead, but ethically!

Do you have any favorite artists or writers who influenced your style?
My style has changed wildly since I started making comics. Rumiko Takahashi was my original inspiration, but since then my style’s taken a complete turn and you can barely see it anymore. These days, it’s mostly shonen manga I learn from.
With webcomics, I’m a big fan of bold-lined comics like Trying Human, by Emy Bitner, and I adore the art of Hemlock, by Josceline Fenton, and definitely got hugely inspired by her inky, lanky shadow people for my necromancy class.

How long does it take you to complete one page?
Typically, one day for sketching and inking and then other day for coloring, with plenty of time for distraction breaks (and I take a lot of distraction breaks). Depending on the detail level it can be anywhere from 6 hours a page to 12+ hours.

What is your process like for creating comic pages from start to finish? What tools do you use?
I still use good ol’ Photoshop 7. It does all I need so I don’t see a reason to change!

I have a basic two-page template I use. Typically, I’ll sketch out a massive chunk of ten or so pages to get the idea down, then refine them individually later on. I usually need three layers of sketches before I’m satisfied enough to ink. Then about 30 layers of color, because I’ve definitely learned my lesson about using the same layer for too many things.

Is your comic a finished work? If not, how long do 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?
Magefront has a definitive ending, for sure. Since I’m constantly rewriting and adding/removing scenes, it will end with anywhere between 15 to 20 chapters and probably 500 or so pages.

How long did it take you to plan the comic before even beginning to physically create it?
About six months or so; I had another webcomic to complete first since I didn’t want three active comics to tend to. That gave me time to really mull over my idea and change my mind several times. I’m glad I didn’t rush into it. My original ideas were kind of dumb.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced during the course of making 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?
Self confidence, mostly. It’s a good reminder for comic artists to know that what they see isn’t what the reader sees. Almost no one is going to notice the parts you’re not proud of. You see your flaws and they just see another great page.

What is your favorite part about working on your comic?
I enjoy telling stories. It’s almost an escapism for me, building up this world and inviting other people to visit it. Even though I know all the plot twists and character thoughts, seeing other people experience it feels like I’m experiencing it for the first time with them. Seeing people respond positively and getting involved in the story is the best feeling.

What is the most difficult part about working on your comic? How do you overcome it?
Backgrounds and lots of frustrated walking away from the computer. I got a bit better at it when someone told me to think of the background as a person, but I’d still much rather draw real people than a building in perspective.

Do you have a favorite character to write for? If so, why? Tell us more about them!
They’re all fun in different ways, but my favorite is probably Rahl. I love the idea of a vegetarian necromancer who wants to become a surgeon and use necromancy to keep lost limbs alive so they can be reattached.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to write for?
The main character, Amarantha. Because she’s the main character I have to be in her head the most, and sometimes it’s a hard place for me since she’s such a different person than I am. Plus, as the main character she has to be enjoyable. It’s hard to enjoy a story if the main character makes you recoil.

Do you have a favorite character to draw?
Rahl, because he has the best fashion choices. Long billowy cloak and heels – my kinda tastes.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to draw?
The knights! I made a big mistake deciding to write a comic where half the cast are in full metal plated armor. At least it’s good practice.

Where can we find you?
Magefront can be read at http://www.magefrontcomic.com/. It updates twice a week on Wednesday and Saturday’s.
I also have a second comic called Ambrosium (http://ambrosium.thecomicseries.com/) which is much more adult and taken a lot less seriously.
I’m most active on my Twitter (https://twitter.com/Fairy_Fort) where I post lots of Magefront related art. And cat photos. Mostly cat photos.

Anything else you want the people to know about yourself or your comic?
I’m super active on Twitter so don’t be shy! I also have a daily updated Patreon and Discord server where we like to gossip about my characters being utterly adorable idiots.