Welcome back to Newsarama’s Wide World of Webcomics, a continuing look at some of the coolest comics online. Today, we’re taking a trip to a dark, hilarious future.
I am the captain.
The year is 20__ something something.
I stopped counting a while ago, and therefore not sure what day it is.
Humanity is virtually wiped out in a nuclear holocaust.
Me and my last squad: pilot, sniper and engineer, live in the wasteland ruins of tomorrow.
This is my story.
I am captain.
Created by Russian-born Vitaly S. Alexius, Romantically Apocalyptic (www.romanticallyapocalyptic.com) combines the look of a Zack Snyder movie or Epic Games video game with the sense of humor of…well, a small child. In haunting, gorgeous Photoshopped imagery, Captain and his gas-masked crew wander the streets of ruined cities, embarking on haunting adventures that involve the likes of recreating scenes from Titanic or getting a sweet scooter.
We got up with Alexius, who lives in Canada and has been working on a pilot for a Romantically Apocalyptic TV series with help solicited from fans of the strip. Alexius explains his style of “dreaminism,” how he creates the adventures of Captain, and why we just can’t get enough of the apocalypse.
Newsarama: Vitaly, how did the original idea for Romantically Apocalyptic come about?
Vitaly S. Alexius: I have a hobby called “urban exploration,” which basically involves finding abandoned buildings, exploring them, and photographing them.
It is a lot of fun to witness fall of human structures and decay that immediately takes over buildings, eroding the walls, chipping paint, cracking floors- nature consuming all we've created over just a couple of decades if a building is left without humans.
Often these buildings are filled with deadly chemicals/asbestos/dust, so I wear a 3M safety mask. This mask is where the captain's face comes from- he wears the exact same mask, except he constantly lives in the future where everything has been poisoned and destroyed.
I always wanted to do a comic/have been pestered by my fans to create a “series” based on my post-apocalyptic paintings, but for a long time I had no idea how to do it, until I've moved into a house that had a greenscreen studio in the basement.
At around the same time, I bought a police hat at a local garage sale. After taking several photos of my friend in the hat and mask, I decided that this would be an awesome way to create a comic- combining photography and illustration, the way matte painters do it for Hollywood films.
This creates a comic that can easily transfer to TV screen, which is what I'm currently doing- creating a pilot for the Romantically Apocalyptic TV show.
Nrama: You've done one collection already that's “1-3” -- do you have an overarching story planed for Captain?
Alexius: Yes. I have the story planned out about 90 more “episodes” into the future, plus the TV show plot, which is an entirely separate arc written by the amazing writers on the Romantically Apocalyptic live-action series production team.
Nrama: Could you explain how your “Dreaminism” style works -- in other words, the different components that constitute it, and how you came up with this process?
Alexius: Various post-apocalyptic books that I've read when I was younger and the turbulent life I've spent in Soviet Union.
It's an entirely different world- a world of beauty and life, corruption and decay, charming nature and deadly pollution.
In fact, my very first art inspiration came to me in 1995, Novokuznetsk, Siberia…
On the gabled cottage roof, covered in wooden planks, moldings, and swirly carvings, I’ve met a local artist. He was drawing some kind of forest on his canvas, via the view from the rooftop. I admired his glorious skill, and pondered what it would be like to become an artist myself.
Later on, I was enjoying a nice hike via the good old Trans-Siberian railway of the Soviet Union, while climbing various green mountains, covered with lush vegetation, with my good friends of that time.
Upon the climb, we sat on the mountain side, enjoying the mid-day sun, bursting though the clouds, in an explosion of light rays that lived on their own accord, playing with the shadows of the mountains, forests, and fields below.
The wind rolled about the fields, creating a magical, wavy sea of orange grasses.
And at that moment on I’ve said to myself:
“Every artist has their style. Whatever shall be mine…?”
… and while staring at those rays of light I had decided- “I shall become the master of the landscape and the sky. And draw it in a manner of a tasty delicacy that can be consumed in large quantities via the spoon of visual perception- and thus the delectable sky full of light rays that you see in most of my works now, was born.”It took me (counts fingers)… 15 years to master those rays of light.
Dreaminism combines these epic stormy skies I remember from my childhood with a sense of shifted reality- fantasy and sci-fi elements, felt by pretty much every person on the planet in the split second before the waking, while you are still between dreams and waking up.
Nrama: Describe the step-by-step process for putting a typical strip together.
Alexius: 1) Plot is written down on notepad
2) I sketch stick figures for each frame in a book with a pencil (to see frame/text placement)
3) Actors are shot on green screen in the studio
4) The rest is painted in Photoshop.
Nrama: What's been the most interesting reaction you've had to the strip, good, bad or otherwise?
Alexius: A lot of people criticize the writing and the way that the main characters talk, without realizing that it's a humorous reference on modern language, showing how language devolves and changes over-time, especially thanks to the Internet where worlds like “lol”, “brb” and “fail” slowly sip into the real world.
A lot criticize the contrast between “simple humor where two characters look for entertainment” and “realistic, hyper-detailed gritty doomsday art” execution of the comic, without realizing that this contrast is also intentionally there to show that humanity is looking for more and more entertainment, while the industrial corporate machine is devouring the environment to provide said entertainment and first-world luxury: How we all turn a blind eye to pollution that's all around us that's providing us with cheap third world goods.
Nrama: What have been the unique advantages and disadvantages of doing the strip online with your own resources?
Alexius: The main advantage is control- I control the comic production on my own schedule.
Another advantage is exposure- my art is already popular on the Internet, so I can easily promote my new work over the net.
A possible disadvantage is lack of immediate publisher - since the comic didn't start on paper, but this is a new media comic to begin with, so it went online before it went on paper.
Another disadvantage is that I have to invest my own money to make money, but that's basically principle of any business- an investment must be made to start something off, even the said investment is made to find an investor.
Nrama: Tell our readers a bit about the TV show, and how it's coming along.
Alexius: Pretty good. I'm currently editing the pilot and looking for a producer/network placement.
Nrama: How have things gone in terms of recruiting fans to help support the strip and in aiding in the creation of the TV show?
Alexius:In regards to writers, sound producers and editors- great.
Actors are a bit harder to find since it requires live interviews instead of brief digital interview, but I'm getting there too.
Nrama: I'm curious about being a cartoonist in Canada, because there's been a real rush of talent from the Great White North, from Bryan Lee O'Malley to Kate Beaton to Seth to Chester Brown and so on. What do you feel is unique about the creative environment in Canada, and would you say there's a sense of community among the cartoonists up there?
Alexius:I'm not a cartoonist, nor do I know any cartoonists since I've graduated from “illustration” program, so having no decent answer related to cartoonists I now provide you with imaginary cake to distract your senses.
Anyway, Canada is an awesome place for developing artists in general, since there's tons of amazing animation college programs here in Toronto, and since local economy is awesome for any enterprise, unlike Russia, where talented artists are finding it hard to sustain themselves and have to work other jobs.
Nrama: I've asked some other creators I've interviewed for the site this, but has new technology such as the iPad opened new doors for your comic's distribution, and if so, how have you taken advantage of this? What mistakes do you feel larger companies/individual creators tend to make when trying to do comics for mobile devices/online consumption/etc.?
Alexius: Not yet, but I'm investigating into it and yelling at my site programmer to get cracking on that.
Someday in the future the rom.ac site will be fully iPhone/iPad compatible.
Some comic sites aren't compatible for mobile devices, as detail and fonts and buttons get lost.
Unless detail is minimal and font is big, comics don't often work on an iPhone.
With my comic iPhone sort of works, since you can zoom into the image, but on BlackBerry it's a tad worse with detail loss.
Nrama: Who are some of your favorite comic creators, online or in print?
Alexius: Recently I've enjoyed reading “Watchmen in print.
For online comics I enjoy many: Ctrl alt del, Goblins, The Noob being most enjoyable to me storyline and art-style wise, and I check them everyday.
Nrama: What are your favorite post-apocalyptic tales in any media? For that matter, why do you feel people are so obsessed with the apocalypse?
Alexius: The nuclear apocalypse has been ingrained in the human mind ever since the Cold War scare.
Now that scare is gone, so we can make fun of it, but the ever present realism of nuclear war is still there.
This of course doesn't include other versions of the apocalypse with dragons and such that religions worldwide have been using to push their own agenda of control for as long as human societies existed.
Nrama: How do you think you, personally would fare in a post-apocalyptic landscape, and how close to the apocalypse do you think we are?
Alexius: Poorly, since I'm a merchant of the arts and not of guns.
In terms of society collapse, at best I could gather people under my control as a prophet, but not as a warlord. I think we are pretty far from it. In my estimate it'll take humans 3-5 more generations to completely trash the planet. Or it could happen suddenly with a giant asteroid.
Nrama: What's next for you?
Alexius: More episodes of the comic, more CD covers, more conventions and eventual release of Romantically Apocalyptic as a TV series. Pretty much the same thing, but more until I grow too fat and roll into the sea.
Nrama: Anything else you'd like to talk about that we haven't discused yet?
Alexius: To anyone reading this- start constructing a moon laser. You will need it soon.
Next at Newsarama’s Wide World of Webcomics, Danielle Corsetto talks the lives and loves of Girls with Slingshots Be there!