Spotlight

Souls Foreclosed – An Illuminated Apocalypse


Sev Wildfang is a trans butch artist from Austria (the one in Europe, no kangaroos) practicing their traditional ink skills for over 10 years now. Transitioning and navigating gender hasn’t been an easy ride for them. In the course of it, they’ve found that the story that they want to tell has to be one centered around trans-feminine experiences and anarchist politics. They are the creator of Souls Foreclosed – An Illuminated Apocalypse

Synopsis: Norra is a fictionalized version of the “Old West”, ruled by a church of vampires that exploit their subjects, even beyond their mortal coil under the guise of being God’s emissaries on earth. When this goes so far as to stop the souls of the dead from passing on into the afterlife, the ancient deity Lucifer is awakened and sets out to recruit champions to fight against the church and free the captive souls. Who they find are Reah, a transgender nun left to die in the ruins of her nunnery by the church inquisitors who burned it to the ground, and Tabitha Wylde, a former cop who moonlit as a drag queen until she was forcefully outed and driven to a suicide attempt. Transformed into horned demons straight from a picture book, the two have to learn to cooperate to take down their vampiric adversaries while dealing with mundane old transmisogyny from their surroundings and their uncertain feelings for each other.

Is your comic available in any other languages? If so, what language(s)?
Because of the way I integrate writing into the panel structure, I have not been able to translate the comic into other languages. It is available in English only as of now.

Did you go to school for either art or writing? If so, what school?
Everything I know is self-taught, or learned from artist friends.

What is the main genre of your comic? What appeals to you about that genre?
Genre-wise Souls Foreclosed fits into the Dark Fantasy genre with strong elements from “weird fantasy” and queer zine comix owed to the presentation I chose for it. Dark Fantasy often presents bleak worlds inhabited by cis men’s survivor fantasies matched against supernatural threats, pitting a hero against a world that is full of cruelties that either have no real life context or affect vulnerable groups to cause the hero pain by proxy. I wanted to take that tone of merciless cruelty and bleakness and match it with queer trans protagonists that fight against threats that parallel real life hate, giving purpose and catharsis to the struggle against the antagonists.

Are there any other genres that apply to your comic?
In a way, Souls Foreclosed is also a queer Romance between two radically different women who have to untangle their feelings. There’s a lot of fighting and horror between those parts but it’s definitely one of the core parts of the story.

What was your inspiration for the story?
A cancelled D&D campaign left me with a handful of characters that no longer had a plot to follow, which kept them and their setting germinating inside my mind for a long time. Throughout 2019 as I was slowly building up confidence and certainty in my identity and beliefs (and starting to take antidepressants) I figured nobody else would be telling a story with these exact characters, so I would have to do it myself. I set myself a deadline and started scripting – most of that had been thrown out of the window by the time I started working on chapter 2 but it gave me the kind of tone and the framework to sit down and actively work on it.

Do you have any favorite artists or writers who influenced your style?
The style i use for Souls Foreclosed is first and foremost heavily inspired by the works of illustrator Harry Clarke for his use of strong black & white contrasts and ability to convey texture through that alone, without color. The webcomic “Kill Six Billion Demons” by Tom Parkinson-Morgan is also a source of inspiration in terms of how grandiose and visceral P.-M. paints his action scenes. There are countless others, such as several medieval illuminated manuscripts and early modern chalcographies as inspiration for the page layouts.

How long does it take you to complete one page?
One page usually takes about 5~6 hours to complete, but it varies by complexity.

What is your process like for creating comic pages from start to finish? What tools do you use?
I work with traditional tools i.e. I put down a piece of paper on my easel and start sketching out the scene with pencils (blue copy-not ones, that do not show up in a digital scan), figuring out where to put the words and how to place the characters in it. After that follows inking the line art, when that is finished the “texture” inks and the inks for black spaces. For some pages I use a light table to write the text on a separate sheet to insert it digitally later. Once it’s all dry, I scan the page and brush it up digitally and add in some colors, but only sparingly. Characters of color get a skin tone made from scanned watercolor sheets because it is important to me that they cannot be “explained away” as being white when they aren’t.

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?
Souls Foreclosed has an ending, but we aren’t there yet by a long shot.

How many pages do you have complete at the moment?
350+

How long did it take you to plan the comic before even beginning to physically create it?
There was about a year of earnest planning before I sat down to create the comic. It almost became a visual novel twine game at one point!

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?
For some stretches of the comic I worked without a storyboard and exerted myself way beyond what my body would forgive me. I spent about a month recovering from the pain my shoulder was in because of this – if I could go back I would tell myself to take the whole “stretch regularly, take breaks, do warm-ups etc.” seriously and to keep the chapter summaries I wrote by me every time I sit down to draw.

What is your favorite part about working on your comic?
Getting to draw lots of expressive hands and body hair are my two favorite things about this comic. A close second has to be dotting the panels with all kinds of little pictographical details – it is very soothing for my brain.

What is the most difficult part about working on your comic? How do you overcome it?
Crowd scenes are a hassle that I just have to power through because there is no way around them sometimes. They are hard but doing them one piece at a time makes it manageable. Drawing a moving train from several angles was a supposedly “fun” thing I’ll never do again.

Do you have a favorite character to write for? If so, why? Tell us more about them!
In terms of what words I get to put in her mouth, Tabitha is my clear favorite. She is smug to a fault, swears a lot and has a very short fuse when she gets crossed, but at the heart of it she uses all of these to mask that she is a vulnerable person. Writing her doing this tightrope act between presenting an impenetrable exterior and a wounded interior made for some of my favorite scenes in the chapters already released. I also just like making her say “fuck” sometimes. Reah is a whole different beast but I enjoy her bumbling naivety all the same. She gets to be torn apart without serious repercussions which makes for some fun fights.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to write for?
There’s a character who shows up halfway through chapter 4 whose dialogue is presented exclusively through a unique font and only in clouds of cigarette smoke – he’s not difficult to write *for* as much as it’s difficult for me to *write* his dialogue on the page. The most difficulty I have is ironically with the centerpiece character, Lucifer. They have to toe the line between benevolent and the kind of disregard for individual human struggles that is expected from an ancient deity. That makes it hard to figure out how to present Them without veering too much into either direction.

Do you have a favorite character to draw?
Early on into chapter 2, I decided I would make a statement by making Tabitha refuse to undergo any alterations to her body that would make her more “feminine” aka HRT or bottom surgery, which turned her from a generic femme fatale design into someone I enjoy drawing the most out of all characters in the comic. It’s so fun to think up outfits and poses for her.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to draw?
Any character who only shows up infrequently or for a few pages can be hard to keep consistent. The main characters benefit from me being used to drawing them a lot, but a random bystander can be tough to get right. Out of the recurring characters I tend to have issues with keeping Lucifer’s face consistent.

Where can we find you?
You can also check out my other comic, “Monster Hugger Comix” here: https://monsterhuggercomix.tumblr.com – it’s a weekly gag strip about queer cryptids, monsters, and supernatural creatures that helps me keep my comic making skills sharp.

I’m on twitter at https://twitter.com/sev_wildfang

Anything else you want the people to know about yourself or your comic?
This comic deals with themes of discrimination, so there’s a lot of blatant slurs and hateful violence in it, but it’s never portrayed as good or worth sympathizing with the oppressors – and they usually get their comeuppance. It’s a cathartic story. There’s hurt that has to be processed to heal, sometimes in spite of things not getting much better. There’s also a lot of non-sexual nudity, and some sexual nudity too since this comic has a romance plotline between two trans lesbians. If that’s a deal breaker for you, I understand.