C.R. Fahey is a Brooklyn-based artist creating urban fantasy webcomics such as Saints’Quarter. She also works another comic, Avibus, but this interview will focus on Saints’Quarter because there’s a Kickstarter going on for book 1! Check it out! Now! It ends on April 6! Hurry!
Synopsis: Saints’Quarter is an urban fantasy/horror-drama comic series that focuses on an odd little neighborhood between Brooklyn and Queens, NY, and the people both magical, non, or Otherwise, who live there. When two new residents move into the ‘Quarter with the help of their witchy cousins, they find themselves in the middle of more and more strange and unusual happenings, even by the standards of their new home.
Did you go to school for either art or writing? If so, what school?
I did! I majored in Studio Art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I also minored in Creative Writing, which was my main focus but they didn’t offer it as a major. I would say, though, despite having gone to school for it, I learned the most about what I know and use now in art and writing on my own.
What appealed to you about the urban fantasy genre? What other genre(s) does Saints’ Quarter fall under?
I think I was primed to like urban fantasy from a pretty early age. I started with my aunt’s taped episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as young as five, so I sort of imprinted on it.
I’ve always seen the genre as one of the best vehicles for exploring real life conflicts and struggles in a way that can be made more accessible. For example, not everyone understands what it’s like to be bullied in high school, but… everyone can understand that your school being on the Hellmouth kind of sucks!
Also… I like being able to escape into a world that, while still like our own, still has some magic to it. It’s a world you know how to navigate already, know how to live in, but with More.
Besides Fantasy, Saints’Quarter also juggles elements of drama, action, comedy, and a little horror.
Do you have any particular artists or writers who influenced your style?
I always attribute the foundations of what I like in a story or write about to my Big Three. These being Joss Whedon’s Buffy-verse, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and Bryan Konietzko and Michael DiMartino’s Avatar the Last Airbender. These were majorly influential series for me growing up and it’s hard to deny the way they’ve affected my taste.
When it comes to visual style, I did the same as a lot of us do; I spent a long time copying what I liked until something kind of in-the-middle started to come out of it. So… shows like Avatar, Teen Titans, X-Men Evolution, and a lot of Disney. Also hours and hours of studio classes spent drawing pages of hands and feet…
For comics specifically, I would have to credit artists like Pascalle Lepas (Wilde Life), Der-Shing Helmer (The Meek/Mare Internum), Yamino (Sister Claire), and Ashley Cope (Unsounded) as the biggest influences in my learning how to tell a story through images.
How long does it take you to complete one page?
Depending on the page, I can spend anywhere from four or five hours on it up to… I think the longest I’ve spent on a page so far was 13 hours. I tend to block pages out over two to three days of work to prevent getting tired or bored with it. That way lies rushing and I’m never happy with the pages I’ve rushed.
How long does it take you to create an entire episode? Any special plans for Episode Three?
In the past, I averaged one episode per year and a half. Ideally a year, considering the boost I tend to get during Octobers when I post new pages every other day.
My current plans, starting with Episode Three, is to approach it as the whole rather than a page at a time so that I can try and finish it within three to four months. This would allow pages to be updated more frequently on the website and I would be able to go ahead and make the PDF available for people who want to read ahead!
What is your process like for creating comic pages? What tools do you use?
Well, I always start with the thumbnails for a scene at a time from the script. These days, the whole process tends to be digital. (I use a Huion Kamvas. Great size, great display, SO much less expensive than a Cintiq)
The thumbs tend to be extremely rough, so I spend the first hour or two on the sketch in Adobe Photoshop, correcting proportions and changing up layout.
Once I’ve gotten a clean sketch to work with, I go ahead and add the dialogue text (if there is any) since the PS text editor is a bit more comprehensive. Then comes inking, color, and lighting, which I do in Manga Studio 5. It’s just so much faster to work with once the file starts getting bigger…
How long did it take you to plan the comic before even beginning to physically create it?
I’d say three years. Originally, the series was more of a college-town girl-meets-monster type of story called “Beyond the Veil” that I think I spent all of two weeks thinking on before I started posting it the first time, back when I was still a small baby artist at UNC.
It was… Different… to how it is now. When I got to Finals Season, I wound up having to put it on the shelf for a few weeks. Which became months… Which became ‘I’ll do this other comic instead.’ I started to miss my old urban fantasy comfort zone, though, so one day I decided to pull it back down and re-haul it. About six to nine months later, the current form of Saints’Quarter began.
What was the biggest hurdle you faced during the course of making Saints’ Quarter? 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?
Well, there was my utter lack of confidence in my comic-ing abilities when I first started.
And the still-in-progress coping skills for depression and lack of focus.
Really though, the biggest obstacle I had to get through was the way I kept convincing myself that I’d just Get To it Later. It was the first comic series I really wanted to make, but I kept feeling like I wasn’t quite good enough yet to go back to it. I just had to make the decision one day that I just… didn’t care. What I sucked at I sucked at, I’d just have to get better as I went.
What was your favorite part about working on Saints’Quarter?
I want to say something about the ability to work on stories characters I actually want to see, like LGBT+ identities that tend to get sidelined or just don’t get enough content yet (there’s never enough), but… the answer’s Dragons.
I think I’d have to say that my least favorite part is always the part when writing an episode right before everything starts to click into place. That’s the zone where there’s always the worst feelings of ‘how do I even do this’ or ‘does this even make sense’ and just… all the doubt. It’s been easier and easier, though, the further I’ve gone.
Do you have a favorite character to write for? If so, why? Tell us more about them!
Oof, this is a hard question. I love working with all of them for different reasons… But I think I have to say Roe. And not only because a lot of my favorites have yet to be introduced.
She just has so much going on under the surface, right now and to come, and I am a bit ol’ glutton for drama! Roe is an interesting mix of fun and frustrating. Being sarcastic, loud, and the current Action Girl of the cast, she’s entertaining to work with and bounce off of the other characters. I never have a problem moving things along as long as she’s in a scene to break the silence or break the tension. She also greets most every conflict with a sense of “Nope” that results in some interesting (at least to me) ways of forcing her to get involved. Also, she’s bisexual, absolutely aromantic, and keeps a box of sharp pointy weapons in her suitcase! …I’m a woman* of simple joys.
Do you have a LEAST favorite character to write for? If so, why? Tell us about them!
I was going to say David at first, since he’s the one with the most of his shit together already at the beginning of the series and that’s usually challenging to work with (I thrive on conflict). But I have to say Robin.
Now, I love Robin. She’s always on 11, no matter the emotion, and has a fashion sense that gives me all the excuses to google new designs for goth-y witch-y clothing, but she’s a character that I find… frustrating. Not because she’s hard to write, but because of how I’ve written her. If that makes sense…
Robin is young, the youngest in the main cast, and naïve. Most of her conflicts, give or take the occasional outside stimulus, come from Robin herself. Whenever I’m writing for her and reach the question in a new scene of What Would Robin Do, the answer to that is ALWAYS ‘Something Drastic and Possibly Stupid.’ As someone who used to be much the same when I was younger, it’s a little frustrating at times to be in the head of a character who hasn’t yet developed some good sense.
That’s the… spikey black dragon from the docks. The big one. I haven’t named him on page yet, so I’ve been calling him ‘pointy boi’ in the tags.
His is the most difficult design and SUPER detailed, but I love scenes where I can draw it. There’s something meditative about drawing all those spikes… And I have a thing for sharp objects.
Do you have a LEAST favorite character to draw?
It’s the tattoos. I kind of hate them as much as I love them. Because I do love them! But I literally didn’t even have a finished design for them until Episode Two. And I’m STILL learning how to draw them consistently.
You also do another comic! What’s it like working on two comics at once?
Challenging! Haha it’s definitely easier some weeks than others to juggle both projects, particularly when I reach points of one story that I’m more invested in than where the other might be at… Finding a balance between them is still something I have to re-learn on a regular basis and sometimes it feels like herding cats just to keep things going… But I don’t think I could put either “Avibus” OR Saints’Quarter on hold at this point to focus on the other instead.
Anything else you want the people to know about yourself or your comic?
I’m awkward and solitary and terrible at social media, but please don’t let that discourage you from engaging or asking questions about the series! I see every comment and I love getting to talk about the world of the story!
Also, if you’re interested in a print copy of Episode One, the Kickstarter is running until April 6th!
Have you read Saints’Quarter yet? Let us know what you think in the comments! Or, hey, go to the creator’s site and show some love ?
Want your webcomic to be featured? Drop me a line!