Who Killed Tanis Killroy? Skull and Crossbones

Erin Shaw is a comic writer and artist living in Virginia. Her work focuses on mental health, LGBTQ+ characters, and monsters. If your therapist dressed up as Dracula and was also a lesbian, you get her comics. She is the creator of Skull and Crossbones.

Synopsis: Elsie Cross and Lilith Calavera are making it work. Running their spell shop and planning their wedding are enough, but finding the body of a powerful witch is just too much to handle. Join Elsie and Lilith as they fall further down the rabbit hole; meeting immortal beings, shady characters, and a young girl who motivates them to find out the truth. Who killed Tanis Kilroy?

Did you go to school for either art or writing? If so, what school?
I did not! I actually have a BS in Psychological Science, which I think helps me as a writer.

What is the main genre of your comic? What appeals to you about that genre?
The primary genre is mystery. I’ve never written a true mystery before, but I love reading mysteries, so I wanted to give it a shot! It’s fun to have the readers follow along with the main characters, finding all those little clues together like they’re Scooby Doo. I love that.

Are there any other genres that apply to your comic?
Definitely supernatural. Everything I write has some element of the supernatural in it. It is literally impossible for me to not work witches and demons into a story. I’ve tried.

What was your inspiration for the story?
I came up with several of the characters over five years ago, but they never really had a home. I started thinking about them again last year and realized there was a lot of potential. I’m a lesbian, so I wanted to make a really gay story with a lot of pretty girls. I get annoyed when the plot is just “gay” though, like coming out stories are great, but I’ve read so many at this point. I wanted to work in a bunch of lesbians into a murder mystery, because lesbians get shit done.

Do you have any favorite artists or writers who influenced your style?
Jamie Hewlett is my favorite artist of all time. His art is constantly evolving, and it’s always good. The stuff he was doing in college? Incredible. What he does now? Still incredible, just different. I’d also be lying if I denied the immense influence Jhonen Vasquez had on me as a kid. The main influence for Skull and Crossbones is Fleischer animation from the 30s, specifically early Betty Boop cartoons.

How long does it take you to complete one page?
The pages on Webtoon aren’t like regular pages, so they usually take me around an hour. For a full comic page, I usually take around 2-3 hours for inks and colors.

What is your process like for creating comic pages from start to finish? What tools do you use?
First, I do thumbnails in a little sketchbook. Then I take pictures of them on my iPad, and format them for Webtoon in Medibang Paint Pro. I send the formatted pages over to Procreate, where I ink and color. I started the comic using my ancient Surface Pro and a combo of Medibang and Sai, which is pretty evident if you look at the first several episodes.

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?
It’s not quite done yet, but I’m over halfway done. I have a definite end for Skull and Crossbones, which was originally slated for June. But with the virus, I won’t be able to promote it at any conventions before then, so I’m pushing it back some. Taking some time off. I have an idea for a part two, but I’m not sure when that will come out!

How many pages do you have complete at the moment?
Over 200!

How long did it take you to plan the comic before even beginning to physically create it?
It had been jumbling around in my head for a few years, but the actual writing process took three days. I jammed it out while I was job hunting after graduation. I started drawing it about a week later. This was around August of last year, and it took me until November to be properly employed. The comic started coming out in October of 2019!

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?
Starting it was the hardest thing. I did webcomics back on DeviantArt when I was a kid, and I hadn’t drawn much in college. It took a lot to build my confidence to put my art out there again, especially since I don’t always love it. Now, I’m so glad I started it. My art has improved a lot in the past six months or so, and I’d tell myself to keep working so we could keep improving. I’d also tell myself to buy some face masks. No reason.

What is your favorite part about working on your comic?
I love writing and inking! Writing is really the best part for me, but I did that before the whole process started. So the inking.
What is the most difficult part about working on your comic? How do you overcome it? *
Backgrounds. I actually build all the places in The Sims and take screenshots as reference. Or I draw one background and just re-use it.

Do you have a favorite character to write for? If so, why? Tell us more about them!
I love…… Dahlia. She’s so ditzy. I also love writing Elsie and Lilith, because they can riff off of each other and add humor to the story. Any opportunity I get to be funny is an opportunity I am milking the life out of.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to write for?
Alva and Tanis can be tough, since they’re more reserved. I can’t get as many jokes in.

Do you have a favorite character to draw?
Elsie has the best facial expressions, since she’s so energetic and can get really emotional. I also love drawing Bernadette because she is so ridiculous.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to draw?
Probably Alva, with her damn hair. I don’t know why I designed her hair like that.

Where can we find you?

Anything else you want the people to know about yourself or your comic?
I love doing this so much. I want to share what I’ve got in my head with as many people are willing to listen, so please check out Skull and Crossbones!