An Interview with Dark Blue Comics
ABlueDeer is a gifted artist on Furaffinity, SoFurry, Inkbunny and other venues. He been a full-time anime, manga, video game, and anthro artist since 2007. Throughout his career, he has also diligently pursued a childhood dream to create his own ongoing webcomic series. With this goal in mind he created Dark Blue Comics, an illustration and writing production house a few years ago. It currently hosts The Depths, Moonlace, and Bethellium for free reading. Contributors to his Patreon page receive sneak-peeks of upcoming pages, high-quality art, pin-ups, scripts, and much more.
I have worked in the past with ABlueDeer and other professional artists as a writer and social media expert on several comic projects, including The Depths. With that I was fortunate to be able to speak to ABlueDeer recently about Dark Blue Comics, his artistic dreams, and plans for the future as an artist and a father.
Leilani: First, my thoughts and prayers to your friends and family caught in the devastating Mexico City earthquake recently. I'm relieved they're all safe and accounted for.
ABlueDeer(ABD): Thank you so much. Yes, I was able to visit mine and Shana, my wife's, families and check on them. There was another earthquake while we were there but luckily this one was minor. We also wanted to see if the houses had any cracks or anything. Apparently, most of the damage was done in the south, which is a little far from our families’ houses. Some areas had a lot of damage. Most buildings that went down were old and supposedly preserved because they were of Hispanic heritage, and they were in the very center of the city.
Leilani: Well, I’m very glad to see you safe. So, what made you think of Dark Blue Comics? What was the concept?
ABD: Oh, it was mostly based on my website, called Dark Blue Workshop. I picked that name for my website and brand because it involves the color blue, and that's kinda related because my nickname is ABlueDeer. Blue is described often as a cool and calm color, relaxing and welcoming.
Leilani: And dark. *laughs*
ABD: *laughs* Well, it's not meant to be anything bad, but rather related to a place where you can sit, and think, and create. Sometimes the darkness is fearful because people don't like to be alone with themselves, but that's precisely what's good about it, because you can actually sit and understand yourself, and creation is even greater when you understand yourself.
Leilani: Have you ever heard of the phrase "go dark"? That's what I was reminded of. So you like to go off by yourself, off the grid, so to speak?
ABD: That’s sort of like I meant, yes. This is why I call the site a Workshop. A place of creation. Not really a studio, because that's an overused word. “Workshop” has somewhat of a classy ring to it.
Leilani: So you probably are like me and do your best creating when you're in bed and ready to go to sleep.
ABD: *laughs* Yes, and I have to get my smartphone and write what comes to mind. That has happened so many times. Some of my most beloved ideas have come when I sit and simply find the time to think. You could say, when I find that dark blue comfortable place inside that allows me to create.
Leilani: We’ll talk more about your concepts in a moment but first, we’ve talked before about your love of comics. What was your favorite comic book growing up?
ABD: I have many, I guess, but I was more into manga than into American comics. Although I must admit, the one I like the most even today is Kingdom Come from DC, painted by my idol, Alex Ross. His work in those was amazing for me, seeing such levels of detail in a comic really blew me away. That's probably why I always liked manga so much, because some titles had amazing stories with amazing art, such as Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow, or Nausicaa by Hayao Miyazaki.
Leilani: Was reading manga sort of the starting point for your own comic ideas? Did you read those and think, "Wow, this is so awesome...I'm going to do this!"?
ABD: Yes, totally. I liked comic stories, but for both art and story, only specific mangas managed to attract me. I started drawing manga and for a few years I did draw it constantly with a group of friends and we published online on our own. Sadly, I cannot tell what comics those were, because my friends and I made an agreement to not speak of who did what in those comics, so they remain online under a pen name. But this is something I've been doing pretty much all my life, and manga was my aim all the time.
Leilani: I imagine like so many other artists, you probably fell in love with anime first.
ABD: I did. Anime and cartoons from the 80s. I always loved interesting stories such as those on Thundercats, Gargoyles and others, those also had a big impact on me. Those cartoons gave me the interest in also telling good stories along with the art.
Leilani: Do you have any comics now that you treasure?
ABD: Well, I love Japanese artbooks. I own a couple that are difficult to get, like one of my other idol Masamune Shirow. Other than that, I very recently got my hands on Blacksad, which is what I could consider my aim in comic quality. It's a detective story around the time of WWII. And I really love history stories. History has always been interesting for me too. And maps, I love maps. I have a collection of history books inherited since my father’s grandfather.
Leilani: That’s fabulous that you keep history close. Let's talk about your Dark Blue concepts for a bit. Now, I know you have three comics you're doing for Dark Blue, can you tell us a little what each one is?
ABD: Well, the most recently added project is The Depths, and anyone who has read it so far can probably tell I really wanted to draw it as a comic, because it has so much potential. It’s an historical project that involves a heroine in the South Seas at the start of the 20th century, just like of one those vintage comics, and she has all sorts of adventures that are both erotic and deadly. What I love is that as the comic goes along, new ideas are thought of that widen the possibilities. I believe it can run for a few years, at the least.
Leilani: That’s terrific. And tell us about Moonlace.
ABD: Right, Moonlace is a personal story that I've been developing for a few years. I even had to tie together the main plots of a couple of other stories I had been planning, but in the end it seems to be working quite well together. Anyway, Moonlace could fit the definition of a "soap opera", but in a more interesting and modern way, of course. It’s strongly oriented to the characters and their relations, with a supernatural element and the plot will revolve around it. But what's most important are the characters and their development. Moonlace is about three girls trying to solve their own issues while fighting a bad demoness that's always causing them trouble.
Leilani: We also should add that Moonlace and The Depths are adults-only, right?
ABD: Right. Moonlace will have some explicit scenes, although I don't want them to take the central spot in the comic. I want those scenes to simply be what's often left out in mainstream series and movies, when you know a couple is doing naughty things, but you never get to see them. So readers will get to see the love scenes. But what else could you expect in a story were the main villain is a succubus that manipulates people?! *laughs* Leaving the adult scenes out would leave important parts of the story out.
Leilani: You want readers to really love that about the comics. The sex isn't the focus.
ABD: Yes, in The Depths and in Moonlace, care is given more to the characters, so when the adult scenes come in, the reader should feel more connected to them, so it's not simply a porn scene, but rather a short period of time when the reader can share the intimacy of the characters. And of course, when love is actually involved, the sex scenes are more meaningful, just like in real life.
Leilani: Not so with Bethellium. Tell us about this last one.
ABD: Yes, Bethellium is a more open idea that should include a wider audience because it won't have adult scenes, although the plot will more likely be kinda adult too, because it's a fantasy story that will involve political intrigue, a re-interpretation of our story in a world where anthropomorphic characters live and, of course, lots of magic. The story revolves around a city where all magic users in their world have come to live, because the rest of the world is against them. So readers will explore lots of types of magic, while also learning to like the city where all the stories will come to happen. This particular story involves a strong relationship between the main five characters, and readers will follow their adventures. This concept is a very dear story to me, one I’d been working on before I even started Dark Blue, so I’m anxious to really make it the best it can be.
Leilani: I always say if you have a passion for what you create, it's going to be great, no matter what.
ABD: I have noticed that. In this modern world, with so many people creating content all the time, it becomes harder to be "great" because it's harder for people to find you. So, you have to work harder to get more people to notice your work all the time. I’m hoping these comics I’m doing will become great someday, and that maybe I’ll have the chance to make this workshop even bigger and wider to include other artists and stories.
Leilani: Outstanding! Has making comics been sort of what you always wanted to do?
ABD: Well, I've been wanting to do many artistic things since always. I wanted to do animation, video games, comics, and all the stuff in between. But you have to start somewhere, and the thing that connects all of these mediums, is that I want to tell stories. That's what I always wanted to do, ever since I can remember. Comics are often an easier and faster way to tell stories when you draw more than what you write, so I started doing that since I was very little. I even have a couple of very old comics I drew when I was 10!
Leilani: Aww, I bet those were adorable! Maybe you can come up with a concept for those sometime!
ABD: *laughs* We’ll see.
Leilani: I'm sure many artists would love to know from you, what does it take to read a story and think "That would make a great comic!"?
ABD: You know, I’d like to know that too! *laughs* I do know I like my stories, but that's different when it’s about people liking your stories. Sometimes what you like is not something everyone likes. I tried over the years to learn plenty of stuff, reading books wide and long, learning from better artists than me both on comics and general art. I've noticed there are a couple of things that you can say great comics have, but then you could try them and be a failure. So my hope is to keep doing my best to learn, to be better every time, doing my best effort in my comics, and maybe, if they’re actually good, people will notice them and read them and love them. I hope to touch people in the same way those old cartoons, comics, video games and books I had in my childhood did with me. They inspired me and changed my way of seeing the world for the better.
Thoughts of the future
Leilani: Speaking of childhood, I know you recently became a Daddy with Shana, your wife. Does having children change your outlook on art?
ABD: Oh yes, everything changes when you have a son. You have to care for another member in the family, so that makes me try harder to make these projects successful, because I want to be a good father for my baby, which means I should not only be able to provide for him, but also feel happy with the work I do, so I can share good experiences with him, instead of being a grumpy father who hates his job. *laughs* So art is great as a romantic side, when you want to live out simply what you love, but I have learned I also have to take into account the reality of the world after my son was born. I have to mature as an artist, and learning is not only something I want to do, but something I also have to do. To become better every day, for my own sake and my boy's.
Leilani: You mentioned Dark Blue Workshop and Dark Blue Comics in general would love to expand. You'd be open to new ideas from others that would make good stories for comics, provided you have the artists/writers to do so?
ABD: Yes, totally. The only commitment I have with Dark Blue Comics is quality. As long as that's fulfilled, any new idea is welcome. And of course, that we have the resources to create them.
Leilani: And that’s the real challenge. But to me, what you do, managing three comics at the same time? Not many artists can do that!
ABD: I've seen a couple, and even though it is hard, the technology helps a lot in that regard, but you could say this is because I love drawing comics too much, and because I wanted to offer an option for every taste when the website was put online. Dark Blue already has a great start – an historical adventure/drama, a supernatural novel, and a high fantasy story.
Leilani: You mentioned technology. What do you use?
ABD: Just a typical drawing tablet and painting software Clip Studio Paint, which has features to draw comics specifically, so it is really helpful when you draw backgrounds and architecture. I know because I've drawn comics in traditional ways and it's waaaaay slower and more difficult.
Leilani: Lastly, any advice you want to give people who have comics on their mind to do? What would you tell them?
ABD: That’s really hard to say! *laughs* I'm still struggling to make this work out, so I'm not the best example. I would say, keep fighting for what you love to do, and you’ll have success. I would also say, think about the characters and make them important. Don't just write the characters, bring them to life. Get to know them so closely that you'll know what they'll do next. Your characters should speak to you and you should always treat them with respect. A truly good character has a life of its own, so when you sit down one day and write about a character, and it feels like something they would or wouldn't say, just like if it were a person you know closely, then you are ready to write about them.