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Crystal Jayme is the talented author and creative genius behind Freakshow, Technicolor London, and soon to be published Nigh Heaven & Hell.
Although she is always at work on her next manga volume she was able to give Toonari Post some of her precious time to do an interview and let readers delve into her inspiration for Freakshow and find out what it means to be both an artist and a writer.
Toonari Post (TP): When and why did you decide that you wanted to write and illustrate your own manga?
Crystal Jayme (CJ): The basic premise for the story stemmed from a sketch I had drawn while I was a sophomore in high school. At the time I was already working on another comic (that I’m re-doing right now), so Freakshow was actually my third comic. I had roughly laid out the series while I was in school, and finally decided to draw Volume 1 after I had graduated. My main goal was to get it done for a local convention.
TP: Initially, did you have any trouble getting your ideas down on paper?
CJ: I’d have to say, the hardest part about working on Freakshow was having to learn how to use comic paper and tone my pages digitally. I was so used to working on printer paper and using markers to “tone” my pages for my first comic so it was a nice change of pace working with new materials and having a functioning computer with Photoshop!
TP: Initially, were there any downfalls to doing both the writing and illustrations? Is there one process you enjoy more than the other?
CJ: At the time, I didn’t think there were any downfalls to doing both. But looking back on volume 1, the biggest downfall for me was being young, inexperienced and not yet knowing how to really flesh out my story to its best potential. It takes time and a lot of trial and error to hone your skills for both writing and illustrating.
So it’s something I’ve been really trying to improve on for volume 2. As for my favorite process, it USED to be toning pages, but now I’ve gotta say my favorite process is inking. These past few months I’ve been experimenting with different nibs for dip pens and have fallen in love with the Hunt 102!
TP: What sorts of processes do you have to go through to turn your writing into picture format?
CJ: My first process is usually doing a very basic timeline of the beginning, the middle, and ending of the entire series. From there I start writing out the scenes in more detailed terms of what happens, and recently I’ve been doing scripting as part of this so I know exactly what happens dialogue wise. And last, I storyboard and make sure I like the overall flow and pacing of the story visually.
TP: What was the inspiration for your manga, Freakshow? How did you first hear about freak shows and what made you decide to use it as the basis for your manga?
CJ: The inspiration first came from watching Taboo on National Geographic. They talked about more modern day freak shows, which was how the series was originally going to be! But after I drew chapter 1 I wasn’t entirely satisfied, so I decided to do some research on the origin of freak shows and ultimately decided to have it set in the 1920′s.
I really liked the idea of misunderstood characters with the backdrop of a freak show. Plus, by setting it in the 1920′s, there’s so much material to work with and it felt very fitting. At the time I didn’t think it’d be too hard to find resources on the time period, but it was a lot harder than I thought! Thankfully I recently found a lot of great resources so volume 2 will be more accurate.
TP: Can you tell me more about the process you go through in creating your work and getting it published? Was it difficult to find a company to publish and sell your work?
CJ: Before P2 Manga, I was self publishing Freakshow and getting it printed at a local print shop. My friend, Jorge Santiago (the creator of Goodnight Mrs. Goose!), is the one who showed me how to set up my book for printing. A little after a year of completing Freakshow Volume 1, I started posting it online as a web comic, it was from there that P2 Manga actually contacted me if I would be interested in publishing Freakshow through their company.
As for my overall process, I always roughly sketch each chapter and then go back and ink the panels and speech bubbles (I HAVE to do it in this order, it bothers me when I don’t for some reason). And from there I jump around and finish a panel here and there. I can never seem to finish a whole page in one sitting.
TP: Do plan on writing more manga?
CJ: Actually I’m currently juggling Freakshow Volume 2 and re-doing my first series Nigh Heaven & Hell. It’s being uploaded on MangaMagazine.net and volume 1 should be out by this fall. And after that I’ll be working on volume 3 of my other series Technicolor London. Hopefully by winter, I’ll have my first compilation book full of short stories I’ve done since last year. For the most part, this year is gonna be a busy year!
TP: Has there been any negative feedback on you manga? How do you deal with it?
CJ: I’ve had a few instances of negative feedback, but mostly positive as well as useful critiques on how I can improve my work. When it comes to the negative feedback, there’s nothing you can really do except take it as a learning experience and try to improve your work, and I always make sure to thank them for giving my series a try.
TP: What are your favorite manga titles and/or artists?
CJ: I gotta say, my favorite artists are Hiromu Arakawa (Fullmetal Alchemist), Chica Umino (Honey & Clover), Natsume Ono (Ristorante Paradiso), Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (Evangelion manga) and Shimura Takako (Wandering Son). These artists in particular are my biggest inspirations; their art is simple, effortless and the contrast of black and white with tones blows my mind. And it’s something I’m striving to achieve in my work now.
TP: What experiences brought you to be the person you are today?
CJ: My first experiences with comics started in middle school. I had about five different attempts at this one series (Nigh Heaven & Hell) and it wasn’t until high school that I was finally able to finish a volume of work. After graduating high school, like a lot of people, I wanted to attend an art school.
I even visited the Academy of Art in San Francisco, but I decided to take a leap of faith and not go to college and instead do this all on my own. It’s been an emotional roller coaster trying to learn how to do this for a living.