Spotlight

A Modern Day Fantasy with Horror Elements – Owl People

Letty Wilson is a webcomic creator originally from the highlands of Scotland, now living in Glasgow. She makes comics, illustration and other forms of storytelling, and also spends a lot of time thinking about moss. Her comic is called Owl People.

Synopsis: Gainst is a city on the borders between worlds – beneath the notice of the humans who live there, fairies, goblins, imps and others use it as a crossing-point between the many worlds that orbit Earth in the Gyre. Mr. Tyto is an Owl Person, one of a group of mysterious guardians meant to keep peace across the Gyre and hunt down criminal fairies that threaten the balance between worlds. When he hunts down an exiled fox-fairy drawn in to the sinister activities of a pixie gang, they both become tangled in a plot that may bring all the worlds tumbling into chaos.

Featuring a terrible underground orchard, a coven of gay witches, an oracle of worms, fungi portals, travel-sized forest gods, sirens, goblins, devils, and a cute little bug in a hat!

Did you go to school for either art or writing? If so, what school?
I studied English and creative writing at Aberystwyth University (BA(hons), and Comics Studies (more an academic course than focused on making comics) at Dundee University (MLitt).

What is the main genre of your comic? What appeals to you about that genre?
Urban fantasy. I love fantasy that centres on life as ordinary people live it, be it in a modern or more “historical” setting. I wanted to set the myth and fairy tales of my childhood in a contemporary setting, take out the pretension and ornate language and highlight the drama and humour and humanity in these stories.

Are there any other genres that apply to your comic?
Horror certainly, though it’s not really intentional, the horror elements just seem to seep in because I like creepy stories and unsettling creatures. I’m a complete scaredey-cat when it comes to watching or reading horror but putting it in my own stories is somehow fun.

What was your inspiration for the story?
I’ve always loved fairy-stories and grew up on scottish folk tales in particular so they tend to figure largely in a lot of my writing. Owl People grew from a recurring character that I used to doodle in my class notes at school, until I started making up stories about him. When my professor at university slated a story featuring Mister Tyto because he “never speaks, you can’t have a main character who never says anything and doesn’t have a visible face” I was filled with a sort of “heck you I do what I want” feeling and I started drawing the story as a comic. It went through several terrible iterations before I was finally ready to start properly telling the story as it is now.

Do you have any favorite artists or writers who influenced your style?
Loads! Evan Dahm’s visual storytelling is extremely formative and I still come back to Rice Boy and Vattu often, Chris Riddell was an early influence on my drawing style and creature design, I used to obsess over the illustrations in the Edge Chronicles as a teenager. Emily Carrol’s storytelling and art are another big influence, her use of horror and folk tale elements and the strong composition in her comics is amazing, and the luxurious inks and mix of violence and beauty in the work of artists like Becky Cloonan and Andrew Maclean are still things I come back to over and over. I also love the creature and world design of a lot of creators of Hellboy – Mike Mignola obviously, but James Harren’s woek is fantastic too and a big inspiration.

How long does it take you to complete one page?
Oof, longer than I’d like. scripting and thumbs are very hard to gauge the time involved, but once it comes to drawing the page itself, probably a couple hours at least on pencils, an hour and change on most pages to ink (though it depends what ridiculous trials penciller-letty set for me, sometimes it’s way longer), then a half hour to scan it in, clean it up and letter it.

What is your process like for creating comic pages from start to finish? What tools do you use?
I work traditionally right up until lettering – much as I’d like to learn to draw digitally I don’t yet have a computer setup that’s really right for it. I usually script a chapter at a time if I can – but often it’s in bursts of a few pages barely ahead of what I’m currently drawing. the current chapter is actually the first one I’ve thumbnailed – I usually thumbnail other projects, but I’ve never had enough time between script and art to do it for Owl People before, and it’s really helped get the pages looking good, as thumbs are where I get to actually think about page composition and story flow in a way that I find much harder when writing the script. I pencil onto A3 bristol board (I only recently got an A3 scanner from a very kind publisher friend who didn’t need it, and I love it so much it’s saved my wrist to be able to draw that big), and once I have a batch of 3-5 pencils (depending on how tight my page buffer is looking) I’ll ink them all, straight onto the pencils, using a kuretake brush pen and sometimes a masking fluid marker. Then I scan in the inks, neaten any mistakes in photoshop, and letter them before posting them to the comic.

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?
Not yet! he current chapter is the last one in book 1. once it’s done I plan to take a break to collect it for print, including some rewrites of early stuff, then start on book 2. the very loose plan is a three book arc, but book 1 changed hugely whilst writing it so who knows!

How long did it take you to plan the comic before even beginning to physically create it?
Hahaha what’s planning? I’ve started this comic in earnest at least three or four times, usually with very little plan. I think this time, which is by far the furthest I’ve got and I plan to make it stick, I had a loose bullet-point plan for the first part of the arc which has almost completely changed, and I had no idea what’d happen after a few chapters in. working on it gave me perspective on the characters and on what the story is actually about, so it’s a constant state of shifting my idea of the story to fit how things develop.

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 think in early attempts I spent so long slogging through bits of story that weren’t fun for me because I felt like stories had to have these parts in order to be grownup or realistic – I didn’t realise that I was completely in charge of how I told this story- I can chuck out the bits that aren’t fun to draw, I can make a character suit what I find interesting, I don’t have to figure out every little plot hole ahead of time, or explain everything that happens the moment it happens, those can actually be really useful things to draw back into the plot later – I guess generally just to remember that storytelling and comics are FUN and I don’t have to make my first attempt perfect.

What is your favorite part about working on your comic?
Drawing fights! or generally whenever the action picks up and I get to be messy and dynamic.

What is the most difficult part about working on your comic? How do you overcome it?
Timing, and finding room amongst a schedule that includes a day job and several other paid illustration/comics gigs to make it as good as I want it to be. black and white art is a result of that, but there’s only so much you can cut down in time on the art whilst keeping it as good a story as you want it to be. So I’m pretty much always chasing my own tail, a page or two ahead of the updates at best.

Do you have a favorite character to write for? If so, why? Tell us more about them!
I love Vulpine, she is my terrible dirt child and I love writing her being awful to everyone she meets. especially Tyto. actually figuring out their relationship and how it’ll develop is one of the most exciting things in writing this book, the recent pages that handled Tyto’s sexuality were so exciting to finally post, mostly because I got to have Vulpine react with the kind of glee and acceptance I wish more asexual people could meet on coming out. But also she’s still Vulpine, so she goes back to being a brat within a page.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to write for?
The smart ones. Mean Linda and the powers behind her haven’t yet figured much in the story, but working out their motivations and machinations is really tricky – I want to reflect current politics without imitating them too heavy-handedly, and I want believable, living characters rather than metaphors or morals that talk, and I also want a puzzle that will draw readers in and not be obvious what’s happening way before it’s shown clearly. It’s a lot to puzzle over!

Do you have a favorite character to draw?
Usually the side characters who show up for a page and then I miss them forever. Bob and Boll are both very pleasing small round boys to draw. Also the witches are fun because they have cool fashion. but Vulpine’s face is always fun, I like making her as expressive as I can to contrast the fact that Tyto is a circle with two circles on.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to draw?
Tyto! there are a lot of weird angles where hood and mask become very difficult to draw convincingly! I thought I was making things easy giving him a ridiculously simple face, but it actually means I have to be careful how I compose him in the panel, whilst still making sure he emotes in his body language.

Where can we find you?
Owl People: http://owl-people.com/
my portfolio site: http://toadlett.com/
on twitter and instagram: @toadlett

Anything else you want the people to know about yourself or your comic?
I hope you enjoy it if you go read it!

 

Have you read Owl People yet? Let us know what you think in the comments! Or, hey, go to the creator’s site and show some love 😀

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