Spotlight

The Shufflers – Unlikely Friendship, Fantastic Adventures and… Magical Curtain Rods???

Emily is a 2D Animator and web comic artist who recently moved from Michigan to California. When she’s not producing animation for her full-time job, she works on the webcomic, The Shufflers.

Synopsis: Märchen is a cartomancer with the gift of perfect accuracy in his readings. He’d probably be well known for this, if it were not for his loud mouth and sass getting him into constant trouble. Hiddenite is a young man who travels to different lands with his curtain rod, carrying with him a literal world inside his curtain cloth. While very soft spoken, he is incredibly blunt.

When Hiddenite rescues Märchen from a brush with death, they form an unlikely friendship that takes them through fantastic adventures in a Neo-Victorian-esque world full of magicians, fortune tellers, and the non-magical folk that rely on them for prosperity.

Did you go to school for either art or writing? If so, what school?
I went to a couple schools, but the last one I attended was College for Creative Studies for 2D Animation, and graduated in 2018.

What is the main genre of your comic? What appeals to you about that genre?
I’d like to say Fantasy is the biggest proponent. To me, it serves as a giant umbrella that easily compliments so many other genres present in the series.

Are there any other genres that apply to your comic?
Absolutely! Comedy, Drama, and even some elements of horror.

What was your inspiration for the story?
It all started back in mid-2013. Yuki (best friend and creative contributor for The Shufflers) and I did a character design prompt one night. She created Hiddenite, and I created Märchen. From that we tossed around ideas and jokes about the kind of stupid shenanigans they would get themselves into daily. In the early part of 2014, I ended up producing a short comic of the characters as a birthday gift for my friend. As a fan of modern fantasy and 80’s/90’s buddy comedies, I felt this was a great opportunity to expand the concept into an actual series. So after we devised some more ideas, The Shufflers officially launched in June of that same year.

Do you have any favorite artists or writers who influenced your style?
Alessandro Barbucci and Barbara Canepa, mainly through the Sky Doll series. Alessandro’s expressive line work and Barbara’s vibrant use of colors never fail to inspire. I’d also like to include Sachiko Kaneoya for their surreal, vintage cartoon-like style.

How long does it take you to complete one page?
It depends on the complexity of the scenes. If I have to gauge it hourly, probably between 8-16 hours, but I also have to consider what days I have available to continue and finish production. That could go from between approximately three to seven days.

What is your process like for creating comic pages from start to finish? What tools do you use?
I first plan out the entire episode by making a synopsis bullet list. Each bullet consists of a summary of events that will happen in that page. This gives me a better idea of how many pages the chapter will consist of. (Pacing and importance of a scene will make the page count larger at times). If the chapter consists of new characters or specific outfit designs, I will spend a couple hours doing preliminary sketches of those for reference.

My next stage is drawing thumbnails, which I do in my moleskine sketchbook. Once everything looks good and feels solid, I move on to creating the actual pages in Photoshop CS6.

The order of final page production goes as follows: roughs> sketches> perspective grids> lines> colors> text/speech bubbles and sound FX.

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 Shufflers has been an ongoing series for almost six years now! With the current pace of production, and a major plot line in development, I’m hoping it will be concluded by the 12th year anniversary mark. Despite most of the episodes being self-contained, there is an actual ending planned for it.

How many pages do you have complete at the moment?
Not counting the mini comics or Mancy guides, I am looking at 240+ pages of material.

How long did it take you to plan the comic before even beginning to physically create it?
Doesn’t take too long actually. Some of the plot lines are basic enough that it only takes a few hours to plan. Stories with more characters and more involved plot threads can take up to a few days.

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?
If I could go back six years, I’d tell myself two things: please be more mindful of continuity and create a style guide for any environments that reoccur.

In the beginning, The Shufflers was intended to be a series of self-contained stories, so a lot of what I drew was off the cuff. Going forward, more characters were introduced, and some of the earlier stories ended up having important connections with later ones. This resulted in elements not fully streamlined, such as the interior of Märchen’s house changing so often, or a scenario/character not getting enough development as it should have the first time.

In some ways, I actually did travel “back in time” by re-working the first episode to help remedy some of these issues. Since Märchen’s place appears so frequently, I ended up building a large style guide to prevent further continuity errors in that regard.

What is your favorite part about working on your comic?
The characters and the magical aspects of world building! The Shufflers is a character-centric series, so it gives plenty of opportunity for Märchen and Hiddenite to interact with all kinds of unique personalities throughout. I also greatly enjoy developing different examples of Mancy (magic), the sets of rules each Mancer (magic user) must abide by, and the consequences for misusing their powers.

What is the most difficult part about working on your comic? How do you overcome it?
Besides keeping story continuity in check, drawing backgrounds can be a huge challenge. Whenever I’m in a rut and I can’t seem to get past problem spots, I remind myself to take a break, either work on a simpler panel or come back to the page at a later time with fresh eyes. Making an environmental mood board and checking out perspective tutorials is also a big help.

Do you have a favorite character to write for? If so, why? Tell us more about them!
In terms of character interaction and dialogue, I’m going to pass that torch to Hiddenite! It’s always been a pleasure working with Yuki’s characters in previous collaborations, and Hiddenite stands to be a big favorite of mine. His background is rich in mystery, given his lineage being tied to an elusive tribe of mancers. His stoic demeanor plays well in serious situations and comedic moments. He could be having the best day of his life and you wouldn’t know it, and I appreciate him for that.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to write for?
I would have to say Märchen. Not so much in terms of dialogue and interaction, but more like the series of events that were set around him before the main story. There have been moments where I would second guess whether or not his actions and reactions were believable enough or made enough sense. Concerns aside, he is quite fun to write, especially when it comes to showing off his melodramatic side.

Do you have a favorite character to draw?
If I really had to whittle it down to just one, I suppose it would be Märchen. He gives me plenty of excuses to draw intense expressions, and even louder outfits to match.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to draw?
Probably Governor Mumpkins, as I am somewhat ill-versed in drawing cats.

Where can we find you?
You can find the comic at http://www.theshufflerscomic.com, and https://tapas.io/series/TheShufflers.

Anything else you want the people to know about yourself or your comic?
I’d just like to thank everyone who has read and supported The Shufflers over the years. Your feedback and comments are some of the biggest driving forces that keep this comic going. I hope this series will continue to entertain and be enjoyed by more readers!

Have you read The Shufflers yet? 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