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Aeire, The Real Queen of
Queen of Wands
(first in a series on webcomics)

Anyone perusing the funny pages today will find relatively few comics with any kind of edge to them. Syndicated cartoonists have learned that when they try to push the envelope, such as when Lynn Johnston’s For Better or For Worse revealed a gay character, newspapers across the nation will drop their strip for the duration of the storyline or permanently. This has led to a sanitized-for-your-protection comics page with anything with bite getting relegated to the opinion section.

So where can you go for bite? Webcomics.

Though not a new phenomenon, they’ve been around since the mid 90’s. Now webcomics seem to be entering something of a golden age. Since 2001, they’ve even had their own awards ceremony, The Cartoonists Choice Awards, which acknowledges the standouts in the genre.

Webcomics have no censors, no rules, and nobody telling them what they can or cannot publish. The artists have complete control, and unless they sell merchandise or receive donations, they do not get paid for what they do. This allows for an amazing range of independent expression, and if you go out to look, you’ll probably find a few that seem to speak directly to you.

With the The Cartoonists Choice Awards recently publishing their nomininees, I thought I’d try to score a few interviews with the artists.

Aeire is the woman behind Queen of Wands, a nominee for best romantic comic, about a young woman named Kestrel and her friends. Nothing fantastic or unbelievable happens in Kestrel’s life, but her day-to-day reality and the way she sees the world make Queen of Wands an engrossing story. Aeire’s ever-evolving art and luminous use of color also add to the over-all addictiveness of the comic.

Aeire was kind enough to speak with me over instant messenger about her comic.

Fanboy Planet: So... What got you started in webcomics?

Aeire: I actually started out by doing fan art for other comics - I got started on reading Sluggy (Freelance) waaaaay back what, four or five years ago I think, and from there jumped into College Roomies from Hell!!! - people were doing fan art on the forums, so I thought I'd give it a shot. And then I had a bunch of people tell me to start a webcomic.

So I did.

Fanboy Planet: Natural progression. Your FAQ says it's about 70% based on your real life. Does the comic sometimes venture into such personal territory that it's emotionally challenging?

Aeire: The percentage actually varies as I go along, really. But yeah, it sometimes goes places that are hard to write, and hard to convey. I used to joke that I started a webcomic because it was cheaper than therapy - well it is, and there is something therapeutic about putting it all out on the line like that. Sometimes it's draining, but the feedback makes it worth the effort put into it.

Fanboy Planet: While your comics have an overall storyline and your characters definitely grow over time, you also do strips that are more punchline-y. Is there one you prefer over the other? Also, is one harder to put together than the other in terms of planning/writing etc...

Aeire: It's a matter of balancing the two. The punchline ones generally come at a point where I'm either a little burnt out on doing plot, or I've just got some weird idea in my head, like the Batman one. They're usually a little easier to write because it's just a one-off. The serious strips are fun to do but they're a little more difficult, because you really have to pay attention to what expressions you're trying to draw and convey, and you also have to pay careful attention to the text that you write, to make sure that the point you're trying to make comes off as easily as possible.

Fanboy Planet: Okay (not begging for spoilers) you've said that QoW is slated to end in 2005. Do you have a definite ending in mind, or are you gonna plan it out when the time comes?

Aeire: I've had a definite ending in mind ever since I started the strip.

Fanboy Planet: Tantalizing... You update three times a week. About how much of your life do you devote to the comic? And in terms of percentage, how much is spent actually doing it and not answering email and shooting the s*** with internet journalists?

Aeire: I spend about 3-5 hours doing one comic - sometimes longer. It depends on the strip. And then I've got other things that I do as well - t-shirt designs, posters, prints, and the like. I'd say rough figure I spend about 30 hours a week or so on the comic at the moment.

But as far as percentage - I'd say about...phoo. A lot. When I'm not actually working on the comic or art or whatever, I'm usually running story ideas over in my head or going over where things are supposed to be or working on the next comic that's coming out. I spend a lot of time on comics in general, not just QoW.

Fanboy Planet: What do you find most rewarding/satisfying about publishing a webcomic?

Aeire: The emails I get back. There's...well there's a really good sense of community, and I've made a lot of really good friends through the community, but beyond all of that, it's the little emails that I get here and there that say 'Thank you, I didn't realize that before' or 'Your comic is one of the few things that makes me laugh' or 'That storyline really hit home for me and made me realize some things' - it's that.

Looking at numbers, you don't see the people that are reading - through email, you get a sense of precisely what you've done, and that in some case you've ended up changing people's lives, just a little. It's a really odd feeling, and it's not really something I had taken into consideration when I started this thing.

Fanboy Planet: Where do you see the art of webcomics heading in the future? And where would you like to see it go?

Aeire: I'm really not sure where it's going to go. It's a relatively new industry, as far as industries go - and there are a lot of different elements to it. Using the internet as a medium rather than a piece of paper leaves you open to endless possibilities as far as layout goes, possibilities that you wouldn't see on paper.

I'd like to see webcomics as a whole gel into something that's more than just a playground for hobbyists to get their feet wet in. There's nothing WRONG with it being a hobby, and I'm glad there are so many people out there getting the opportunity to learn and hone their skills, but at the same time I'd like to see more people making a success out of it and making it their job.

Fanboy Planet: Amen to that!

Aeire: Every one of us that does this does it because they love what they do. There's no other reason to do it. That's it. I think.

Fanboy Planet: So name a couple of comics that people should be reading.

Aeire: Wow. You're asking me for a list. I'm really awful at making lists.

Fanboy Planet: Eh, just whatever pops into your mind

Aeire: Because I'm always afraid I'm gonna leave someone out.

Fanboy Planet: Okay...lemme make it easier. Name some that influenced you early on. You mentioned Sluggy Freelance.

Aeire: Sluggy didn't really influence me so much as entertain me and introduce me to the concept. But College Roomies From Hell!!! definitely, It's Walky, Ozy and MilliePenny Arcade and PvP along with Sluggy have all been standards for so long.

Something Positive, obviously (Something Positive and Queen of Wands recently did a crossover) - Mac Hall was another one that I looked at and went 'Wow, I could be doing more with coloring.' I think that's about it in terms of influences for QoW.

Go forth and read webcomics, email the artists, and enjoy! Thanks again to Aeire!

Marin Carpenter

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