Spotlight

Thieves, Witches and Unexpected Love – Solanaceae

DCS is a queer comic artist and game dev from Portland, Oregon. DCS’ stories mostly focus on romance, erotica, and humor and all have a heavy emphasis on relationships and character development. They are the creator of Solanaceae

Synopsis: Sal, a thief, concocts a get rich quick scheme to try and make Battam, a witch, fall in love with him. But upon learning him and his target share more in common than he originally thought, Sal starts experiencing feelings he’s never had before and must make a decision between money or love.

Did you go to school for either art or writing? If so, what school?
I went to RMCAD in Colorado for a few years until the school went bankrupt and tried to steal money from me through loans, I left pretty quickly after that since it looked like my comic career was about to take off at the same time. It’s a very complex situation, haha. But, I did finish my associate’s degree at PCC a few years before attending there!

What is the main genre of your comic? What appeals to you about that genre?
I would say romance is the main genre of Solanaceae. Romance is my favorite genre in general because I love what it can show us about characters we care about, and I’m passionate about writing romance stories I feel are missing from the genre that I want to see. I feel a lot of romance focuses on relationship drama that has to do with cheating or marriage or something like that, and that’s all fine and good, but I’m more interested in like, how do two characters work through stuff together? How does a character address their mental illness, while in a relationship? How does money effect the dynamic? How does different thoughts and feelings about family effect the relationship? And also, I just think it’s fun to watch two characters I like get cuddly and smooch and stuff. Romance just makes me feel good and keeps me engaged.

Are there any other genres that apply to your comic?
Absolutely! Fantasy, comedy, and obviously erotica all apply to Solanaceae. There’s light world building to do with the magic system of the world, and the character’s don’t usually take themselves too seriously all the time, so there’s jokes here and there. Plus, the comic discusses BDSM themes so I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone there’s porn in the comic eventually.

What was your inspiration for the story?
This is a very simple answer! Back in the day, before I wrote the original main 3 chapters, I had people complain my porn was “too wet” — which I thought was bullshit because dry sex is just… no! So, I made a character (Battam) who could magically create his own lube (magic lube) from his hands at any moment, so if anyone complained, I would have a story reason that the sex was always well moisturized. And, well, I fell in love with the characters even after such a silly conception, and the rest is history.

Do you have any favorite artists or writers who influenced your style?
This one is always very hard for me to answer, since I’ve been influenced by a lot of things through my art career, but a few stand outs for me are the game Okage: Shadow King for stuff like backgrounds and outfit designs, and I’ve always been a huge fan of FullMetal Alchemist and how Arakawa-sensei draws her characters so full and solid, I’ve always wanted to replicate that. Otherwise, just about anything I like gets mixed into my work here and there– everything I love influences me in some way!

How long does it take you to complete one page?
Usually less than 3 hours each, I have a pretty strict way I work on pages so that they don’t take too long. I used to agonize over little details and now I just try to have fun with it– it’s a lot easier on me and I think people enjoy my art better because they can see I enjoy it more!

What is your process like for creating comic pages from start to finish? What tools do you use?
I use Paintool SAI for just about every step except the words and sound effects, for which, I use Photoshop. Each chapter starts with a script outline, sometimes a more detailed script, then thumbnails, then sketches for pages as I go along, and then one day a week I usually try to finish about 2-3 pages, sometimes more a week if I’m working on deadlines for chapter books, as I’m trying to get at least one chapter done a year, two if I’m lucky!

Is your comic a finished work? If no, 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?
Solanaceae as a whole series is still ongoing, but the main three chapters of the comic were completed a few years ago. Right now, the comic Solanaceae running on Tapas and Webtoons is actually the prologue to the series, while there’s a visual novel Epilogue updating alongside it– so that the story updates in both the past and future of the story. I suspect it will take me another 2 years for the epilogue game, and at least another 3 for the prologue comic!

How long did it take you to plan the comic before even beginning to physically create it?
Hmm, this is a hard one, because my pre-production is usually pretty light. I’m not someone who plans super deeply as much as I’m someone who just really enjoys jumping right into something. Scripts and thumbnails usually take less than a day and then by the next workday I’m ready to start!

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?
I think I might give myself a bit more padding in Chapter 1 to let Sal really hate Battam for a while. I was just so eager to get to a certain dynamic for them I had in my head and what I deemed to be the most interesting part of the story that I just kind of let Chapter 1 fly by in an instant. But, at the beginning of Chapter 1, I was feeling really good about the comic, and life is kind of hard right now for personal reasons and because of the global lockdown — I think I might want a pep talk from me who was working on Chapter 1, actually! Come tell me Chapter 3 is gonna be okay!

What is your favorite part about working on your comic?
Seeing the completed pages in book form and getting to read them. Nothing beats this! Nothing beats signing books for fans and talking to people about the characters! I make my stories because I love them and want them in the world so the best part truly is just getting to read a chapter when I’ve finished it. Also, thumbnails are really fun to work on cuz I get to see the scope of the chapter and it’s *ALMOST* like reading the chapter completed, but not quite as good.

What is the most difficult part about working on your comic? How do you overcome it?
I still have trouble with my bubbles and font size, I feel. This has always been something I’ve struggled with, and I’ve been trying to work on it just by being more careful with my layouts and by being more deliberate with my scripts as well. It’s getting better, but I have to be VERY conscious about it, otherwise I slip back into bad habits.

Do you have a favorite character to write for? If so, why? Tell us more about them!
Yes! Battam is my favorite to write because he’s so fucking angry and so messed up but trying so hard and really kind but WOW SO MAD and I think that makes him interesting and relatable to write. Battam makes a lot of mistakes, but is a really hard worker and ultimately makes up for a lot of the “bad” he feels he’s done in his life. It’s really fun to see the Battam from the prologue and the Battam from the epilogue, they are almost like opposite people but you can see reflections of the past and future in either work, it’s a lot of fun.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to write for?
Satine and any coven witch is difficult to write for because I want to give them a chance to be heard by the readers even if the readers disagree with what they are doing — the coven witches are very traditional and while this has hurt Battam and his family, it’s not necessarily inherently bad as much as it’s just difficult to understand. Readers get very attached to main characters and will want to stay on Battam’s side regardless, I think, but I do hope people will understand that none of the situations in Solanaceae are black or white.

Do you have a favorite character to draw?
Sal is the easiest to draw, while Battam is my favorite to draw. His expressions are just so fun and I love his hair and eyes!

Which character gives you the most difficulty to draw?
Hmm, I wouldn’t say anyone is particular difficult, everyone’s design is pretty straight forward– but if I’m having a bad day anyone can become tough to draw!

Where can we find you?
Tapas or Webtoons is a great place to look up and read Solanaceae, and I’ve already got Chapter 2 completed on my Patreon if you pledge to the $5 tier.
https://tapas.io/series/Solanaceae
https://www.webtoons.com/en/challenge/solanaceae/list?title_no=259105
https://www.patreon.com/DarkChibiShadow
I’ve also got all of my comics/games on Itchio, in case you prefer PDF format or wanna check out some very cool, free games!
https://darkchibishadow.itch.io/
I have a very extensive backlog of work, and most all of it is free, so don’t feel shy in checking out my stuff. Tomai and One-Eyed Lee are especially fun, imo!

Anything else you want the people to know about yourself or your comic?
I hope that, even if you don’t read Solanaceae, that maybe something or the other in my long list of work will appeal to you and help you through this wild time! Hang in there!

Have you read Solanaceae yet? Let us know what you think in the comments! Or, hey, go to the creator’s site and show some love ?

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