Spotlight

XII: Of Magic and Muses – A Colorful Tale of Magical Girls!

Kristen Kiomall-Evans is a comic artist working out of Barrie, Ontario. She traveled a lot around her tiny province and is currently work as an e-learning eveloper when she is not making stories. She is the creator of XII: Of Magic and Muses.

Synopsis: Willow has a friend with a serious bullying problem. After running out of ideas, it appears someone not human has heard their cry for help. Recovering from the previous night’s events, an exhausted Willow attempts to console her friend Emma. After foolishly tying to stand up to the bully, a visitor decides to make themselves noticed. The magic becomes too much for Willow and things go dark. Willow winds up in the hospital ward, after Georgia tosses her a bizarre trinket that transforms her into a plant-rat-human hybrid and Georgia finds her running the grounds. Luckily, she is able to change back, but not without revealing herself to her biggest enemy. Waking up with new necklace in hand, Willow becomes Georgia’s new target. After a tiff with Emma, Willow confines herself to her room, only to be blackmailed by Georgia. She offers to leave Emma alone in exchange for learning about Willow’s new-found powers. Willow has no idea how to use them, but after some rather awkward discussions, she – or was it the necklace – gives Georgia her own, though with a slightly different experience. Emma becomes concerned with Willow and Georgia’s developing relationship. In an effort to try to even the playing field, Willow asks her to join Georgia’s study group.

Emma eventually breaks down and decides to try for a necklace. After some back and forth, Emma is given her own necklace, with an even greater light show. As the trying trifecta begin to learn about each other on even ground, Emma is able to get the closest to revealing her true powers, to the encouragement of the other two. Georgia’s ‘boss’ begins to get nervous with her spending too much time with Willow and Emma. Georgia shrugs it off and Emma helps Georgia get her first chit. During some magical shenanigans a new monster is let loose. After some intense searching, Emma’s sister Tillie turns out to be the owner of the next necklace. Needless to say she hates the very idea of it, but gives in to Emma’s request to keep it quiet. Being kicked out of Tillie’s room has Georgia and Willow trying out their new magical abilities – and Willow discovers she has the power to heal. They try to get Emma in on the new information but accidentally send out yet another monster and necklace in the process.

Did you go to school for either art or writing? If so, what school?
I went to school for 3-D animation & game design out of Loyalist College.

What is the main genre of your comic? What appeals to you about that genre?
Magical Girl, a subgenre between Fantasy and Superhero. I’ve always appreciated the more feminine stories about young girls with magical powers trying to do their part to help the world as a team.

Are there any other genres that apply to your comic?
Probably sci-fi and drama, especially for its sequel series to be released.

What was your inspiration for the story?
Probably the fact I wanted to see more of this genre in my own country. Magical girls seemed to lean more heavily in anime than over here when I was growing up. I really wanted to see more of that in comics and animation.

Do you have any favorite artists or writers who influenced your style?
It’s quite the list. CLAMP and Magic Knight Rayearth are probably the biggest – from aesthetics to tone! Visually, I had a big push from Steven Universe and Secret of the Kells. I also probably can’t ignore Full Metal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa for its military influence on top of things.

How long does it take you to complete one page?
Probably a few days from start to finish – maybe a week. I don’t typically work page by page, and prefer batches so it can be difficult to assess. I can usually ink 22 pages in two weeks though, to get a chapter finished, and that’s the longest part typically.

What is your process like for creating comic pages from start to finish? What tools do you use?
I usually take a long time on a full first draft so I have at least the first arc of the story planned out. Then, I start to pop in and out with a script with a better understanding of how it will go. After that it’s all in Clip Studio. Once I have about half the arc scripted, I’ll go back and start thumbnailing. The story typically makes the most changes plotwise in these stages, but once I have enough drafted, scripted and thumbnailed the full art begins.

Layout is next and I start focusing way more on the smaller parts of the arc. Important scenes start to poke out in weird places and plenty of structure gets moved around. After that I move onto sketches, which have me focusing on the full size of the page. The story beats are off kilter but the general flow begins to make a lot more sense. Then, pencils. While whole pages might be redrawn, the flow of the story gets tighter, and I try to focus on a lot of final editing without losing too many pages/panels.

Inking is the final overall story changes, and usually the longest sink into the artwork. As things are finalized, details are filled in and lettering is cleaned up. Flats are next and pulling from my swatches makes the process very quick (especially with Clips colouring tools). I typically only change dialog at this stage. Then it’s on to rendering, sorting out the main light sources and shading. And finally effects, like glows and such. These can really bog down my programs so they’re the last piece. Typically, very little dialog changes are made.

After that, it’s uploaded to the site and scheduled for release.

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?
It’s finished; the final page was drawn in late 2019. I have the website scheduled to finish updating late 2022 at six times a week. I have two more series I’d like to finish that continues the story of this one, but I always wanted a stopping point so I had a solid story foundation going forward. Or of course, if it became too much, I could stop after the first series.

How many pages do you have complete at the moment?
1008 including 42 chapter covers. However only 672 have been released in print after February’s Kickstarter, and only about 380 are currently available on the website for free.

How long did it take you to plan the comic before even beginning to physically create it?
There had been a lot of starts and stops going all the way back to 2008. It wasn’t until I told myself I needed a full, unfinished draft with no going back in 2013, that I managed to get it off the ground. Now it’s finished and I can work on other projects!

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?
My biggest hurdle has probably been a mix of depression, unemployment and self-doubt. It’s really hard to warrant working on something when you feel useless and have lost your main source of independence. I’ve always had difficulties getting commission work or freelancing, so feeling like I had to rely on this baby project of a comic with no internet influence was exhausting and that easily eats you alive.

Suddenly all you have is your art, and it’s not financially viable at the time. There’s no merchandise to sell, and no one who trusts you to buy from you. But luckily, I had the support to focus on it and get it finished. It took probably a year and a half to be employed again, but it did give me the time I needed to finish this project.

What is your favorite part about working on your comic?
A toughie! I used to say flats, but I think inks are now my favourite even though I used to hate them. I love watching this thing solidify from concept to story and I think inks help so much with finalizing things in my brain. It’s tiring but you get the satisfaction of “it might not be perfect, but it’s as far as it can go,” but it gives you so much to step on for future pages.

What is the most difficult part about working on your comic? How do you overcome it?
Honestly, the writing part is probably the most difficult. Sorting out all of this structure and trying to get better at it with each try just brings up more flaws a lot of the time. I’m constantly sorting over if characters have enough time, do the emotions read well, does this story make sense from a top down view, or is it all just a big mess?
I haven’t taken any sort of professional writing class, so knowing I’m doing this all by the seat of my pants is always a huge concern.

Do you have a favorite character to write for? If so, why? Tell us more about them!
Probably Georgia, since she’s really easy. She’s a big emotional juggernaut and is proactive as a character as opposed to being reactive. It’s easy to write this big mess who barrels through problems without thinking about repercussions.
After that is probably Tillie: an overprotective sister with high standards, who turns into an emotional mess as soon as things fall apart is an experience. Constantly reminding myself about all the walls she’s built up only to find ways to tear them down is a joy.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to write for?
Honestly, probably Willow. While she is the main character, I’m constantly worried about her being boring or uninteresting. She’s a fairly low energy character to begin with, and has no answers to anything and gets more self-depreciating as time goes on. But I didn’t want her to be the usual high-energy, heart-of-gold protagonist either.

Do you have a favorite character to draw?
Definitely Willow, she’s just this tiny, gangly, big nose/ears baby with coke-bottle glasses, and buck teeth. She’s so fun to draw and express, and I find her design just oozes character.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to draw?
I don’t personally find any of them difficult, per se. My style likes to keep things simplified to make them easy to draw.

Where can we find you?
https://xiicomic.com/magic-and-muses/
@batichiKristen, @xiicomic, (instagram and twitter)
facebook.com/xiiwebcomic
https://www.kickstarter.com/profile/magical-girl-standee/created

Anything else you want the people to know about yourself or your comic?
With some luck we’ll be kickstarting the last volume, “Malice,” on Kickstarter next February! You can grab the entire trilogy or finish your collection then!