Trying to Topple an Ancient Empire – Pathways: Chronicles of Tuvana

Elaine Tipping is a queer indie comic creator who has been doing webcomics since 2005. They have worked on and created multiple series since then, some ongoing and some completed. Most recently they published Princess Revolution with Scout Comics in 2019, but also have multiple self published works through Kickstarter. Currently lives in Japan with their wife and two cats where they’ve resided for over ten years. They are the creator of Pathways: Chronicles of Tuvana

Synopsis: An ancient empire awakens, bent on reclaiming the world they once dominated. A small group of people, drawn together by a common cause, are determined to stop them. However, they face more than threats from the outside….

Did you go to school for either art or writing? If so, what school?
I did a correspondence course with Kodansha Publishing for drawing manga.

What is the main genre of your comic? What appeals to you about that genre?
High Fantasy. I really love the big epic sweeping tales, like Lord of the Rings and such, but usually those stories are not queer or diverse at all, and I wanted to tell a story that I’d love to read myself. I also really love worldbuilding.

Are there any other genres that apply to your comic?
Adventure, some romance, and dash of sci-fi.

What was your inspiration for the story?
As mentioned earlier, I really just wanted to tell a story that I’d enjoy reading: something that takes a genre I love and goes different places with it, as well as being a “familiar group of heroes against the world” sort of thing.

Do you have any favorite artists or writers who influenced your style?
So many over the years, probably too many to name. For writing, Patricia C. Wrede and Tamora Pierce, for art Rumiko Takahashi, CLAMP, Naoko Takeuchi, Hergé, the list goes on.

How long does it take you to complete one page?
I tend to work in batched stages (roughs, pencils, inks, tones) but if I’d have to guess, I’d say probably anywhere from 2.5 hours up to 5 hours, depending on detail level.

What is your process like for creating comic pages from start to finish? What tools do you use?
I build a script along with a storyboard (since the images come with the words for me). I do thumbnails to work out the kinks, so I can actually decipher my smaller doodles. Then I scan those in, do a roughs stage to hone them even more, and a pencils stage to get the sketches as close to the final as they’ll be. After that, I ink the page, and then I grayscale & tone the page. Lettering happens during the roughs stage, so I know how much space I have to work with.

Tool-wise, I use pencil and paper for the storyboard and thumbs, and then the rest I draw in my comic program (a Japanese program called Comicworks Ver2 Max).

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 not complete, it’s a long form comic for sure. It’ll probably be over 35 chapters when it’s complete. There is a definite ending, I have the whole thing plotted out, but I have left some space between to let the characters pull me where they want to go within the overarching plot points.

How many pages do you have complete at the moment?

How long did it take you to plan the comic before even beginning to physically create it?
Started thinking about the plot and characters in 2013, and then worked on it off and on again between other comics I was creating, worldbuilding and fitting the pieces together, and I then posted my first page in 2017. So about 4 years or so.

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?
Probably working out how to do the script and the storyboard at the same time, and finding that groove, but otherwise, my previous comics prepared me pretty well. I’d probably just tell myself it’s okay to take time to find what works best.

What is your favorite part about working on your comic?
I love telling stories in general, but in particular with Pathways, I love telling stories I don’t get to see as much, and I love when people read them and feel like they’re included in the world and the story because they can see themselves existing in that world.

What is the most difficult part about working on your comic? How do you overcome it?
Time, mostly. I wish I could draw more and draw faster, but I have to slow myself down and create the best I can without being sloppy. It’s a constant battle, really, and it’s something I have to overcome every month by scheduling my monthly work correctly.

Do you have a favorite character to write for? If so, why? Tell us more about them!
I really enjoy all of my cast for various reasons. I don’t think I have a favorite because I get to do something different with each of them, and that’s just so much fun! I love mixing it up!

Which character gives you the most difficulty to write for?
Probably Kahlik because he’s not much of a talker nor shows his emotions too much, which is the total opposite of me, so I have to be careful not to get too wordy with him.

Do you have a favorite character to draw?
Again, I have things I enjoy about each of them! Even if things can be difficult, I love their designs, and they’re fun. I don’t think I could chose just one.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to draw?
Probably Kahlik again, since he’s a bit harder and sharper than the rest of them, but sometimes Dhiren’s face can trip me up (or I let his hair get too floofy).

Where can we find you?
You can find me most everywhere online as TriaElf9 (Twitter, Tumblr, Deviant Art, Patreon, Instagram), and I also make a few other comics: Peter Pan, Tales of a Gaijin, and Bellanaris. Links to those sites can be found through my social media, as I post pages multiple times a week (though I’m most active on Twitter).

Anything else you want the people to know about yourself or your comic?
Nothing much more! Everything about me is here or on my social media accounts ^_^

Have you read Pathways: Chronicles of Tuvana? Let us know what you think in the comments!

Also! Special shout-out to my ShadowBestie who’s been helping me edit and format these interviews behind the scenes, since time has been elusive for me. You da best <3