Spotlight

Dreams Become Nightmares – Whispers of the Past


Crona J. is a writer and illustrator from Chicago. She has been working on comics since 2014 and is the creator of the long-running fantasy webcomic, Whispers of the Past, and other novels in the series.

Synopsis: When a foreigner with amnesia washes up on the shore, a young woman decides to help him solve the mystery of his dreams, only to realize that his nightmares are coming to confront him.

Is your comic available in any other languages? If so, what language(s)?
Yes, in Spanish: https://www.webtoons.com/es/challenge/susurros-del-pasado/list?title_no=517594

Did you go to school for either art or writing? If so, what school?
I attended Prairie State College (a local community college) for Multimedia Arts.

What is the main genre of your comic? What appeals to you about that genre?
Fantasy; my favorite thing about fantasy is the opportunity to create worlds that don’t exist, exploring impossible things and drawing meaning from cultures that aren’t “real.”

Are there any other genres that apply to your comic?
Romance and Drama.

What was your inspiration for the story?
There’s a lot that led to this story. To sum it up, I watched a completely unrelated movie, and a single shot from the movie inspired an illustration back in 2014. Once I saw that character, I decided to write his story. After that, I drew influences from practically everywhere.

Do you have any favorite artists or writers who influenced your style?
There is a whole list of artists that have inspired my style. If I had to pick only a few, they would probably be Takeshi Obata, Fiona Staples, Meng Ma Gong Zuo Shi, and John Singer Sargent.

How long does it take you to complete one page?
It depends on the page, but it usually takes me somewhere around 30-40 hours per page.

What is your process like for creating comic pages from start to finish? What tools do you use?
The first chapter is digitally painted. For those pages, I started with sketching out the page on my iPad Pro in Procreate, and then I transferred it over to Clip Studio Paint to finish it. That involved filling in base colors, blending the sketch with the base colors, painting the characters and backgrounds, adding lighting effects/finishing touches, and then adding the lettering.

Starting with the second chapter, I’ve been sketching in Procreate, transferring to Clip Studio Paint to draw the final sketches/lines, flat the pages, shade in a multiply layer, add lighting effects in a glow dodge layer, and add speech bubbles and text.

Is your comic a finished work? If not, how long do 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 comic is in no way a finished work yet. While I have the story and an ending planned out completely, I have no idea how long it will take me to finish, as each page takes me so long. It’s a very long-running project, like most epic fantasy tales. My goal is to finish a chapter every four months at least, and at that rate, it’ll probably take me ten years to finish the story.

How many pages do you have complete at the moment?
45 pages total, so far.

How long did it take you to plan the comic before even beginning to physically create it?
I started planning the story in 2014 after creating a single illustration of one of the main characters. I didn’t have a story yet, but I knew that I would create a comic with this character. I actually started drawing the comic back then in 2014, but I’ve redrawn the beginning of the comic numerous times since, so I consider it a part of the planning phase. With that in mind, it took me about… four years, until 2018, before I started drawing the current version of Whispers of the Past.

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?
When I first started this comic (under a different name), I participated in an online comic contest. I had zero readers and received poor ratings from a lot of people. It didn’t take me long to pull the comic down from the internet, thinking my work was horrible. I spent a lot of time after that rethinking everything about my work, rewriting the story, re-designing characters, and drawing and redrawing the first few pages again and again and again, unsatisfied. I think my comic is better for it, but I definitely hated myself for a time. If I could go back, I would reassure myself, “This is what you were meant to do. This is the story you need to tell. Keep going.”

What is your favorite part about working on your comic?
I love seeing my characters come to life. It does no good when they’re sitting in my head untouched. It isn’t until they have been given life on the paper (or screen) that they become truly real to anyone but myself.

What is the most difficult part about working on your comic? How do you overcome it?
Self-motivation is really hard to find sometimes. I try to talk to my little sister when I’m feeling down. She is the biggest cheerleader and my best friend.

Do you have a favorite character to write for? If so, why? Tell us more about them!
I love all my characters! It’s difficult to say which I enjoy writing the most. But, it would most likely be Izrekiel, one of the protagonists. Avoiding as many spoilers as possible, Izrekiel is a foreigner in this land, and he is suffering from amnesia. He is literally an outsider and is facing an identity crisis. While the details differ, in a lot of ways, he is a metaphor for how I felt growing up.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to write for?
Oddly enough, my other protagonist, Aniya, is the most difficult character to write, and I still am not sure why. She is very much a mystery to me even though I know every aspect of her life and her goals.

Do you have a favorite character to draw?
My favorite character to draw is one that hasn’t appeared yet. His name is Ryukou, and he becomes a major player throughout the story. He just has the prettiest hair and eyes, and I love the interesting shape of his nose.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to draw?
The protagonist, Izrekiel, again! His hair is just wavy enough that it’s a pain to draw, and he has more colors in his design than anyone else so far!

Where can we find you?
My Comic Website: https://www.callous-whispers-of-the-past.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CronajArt
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cronaj_art/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfvY9mfjegN79fx1Ug-UMHg
Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/cronaj_art

Anything else you want the people to know about yourself or your comic?
I love questions! Hit me up on any social media site or in the comments to my comic, and I will likely respond.

Shoutout to ShadowBestie for editing/formatting this interview <3