Welcome back to Newsarama’s Wide World of Webcomics, our ongoing look at the best of the web! Today, we’re introducing you to an all-ages heroine who’s a literal Dark knight.
Lilith Dark loves her siblings, her Rottweiler Kitty, and her dark helmet. She does not love meatloaf. She also does not love monsters, but there don’t seem to be any in her back yard. But Lilith might be on to something, and might be the only one who can save her family…With its cartoony look and loveable main character, Lilith Dark has become an all-ages favorite. We spoke with the strip’s creator, Charles Dowd, aka “CDowd.”
Newsrama: Charles, how did you initially come up with the concept for Lilith Dark?
Charles Dowd: Lilith Dark is an all-ages story of a little girl who spends her days imagining that she's a beastie slayer, only to find out that there are real beasties living in the backyard.
I really just wanted to create a cool fantasy-adventure series that I could share with my kids. I also grew up loving ‘80s horror, so I had to have them fight monsters just like Pumpkinhead, Critters, Ghoulies, and C.H.U.D.
I also wanted to create a "girl positive" series, with a character that wasn't sexualized in any way, or wearing pink, that my daughter could look up to and enjoy. It's no secret that comics aimed at females of any age are pretty scarce, so I decided to just create one myself.
I've heard from a number of readers that have shared the series with their kids that they really like it, even the boys! Which is great, because even though Lilith Dark happens to be a girl, I really just write her as a normal eight-year-old kid.Nrama: How did you develop the character of Lilith and her family?
Dowd: I have two kids. Sometimes I just sit back and watch them interact, and it's hilarious! They fight, and they're mean, and they tell on each other, but at the end of the day they look out for each other. It's the classic brother/sister dynamic.
One day I caught them playing in a box or something, and it just hit me: That's a series! Kids pretending and having fun, but what do they do when they're faced with real danger?
So Lilith and Dewey are initially based on my own kids. Their big sister Becky is the guardian figure, because you can't just have kids running around in the woods unsupervised, unless they're hunting and fighting Pokemon, and that's already been done.
Nrama: What's been the most interesting reaction you've had to the strip so far?
Dowd: The feedback has been great so far. I mean, the people who have discovered Lilith Dark and gave it a chance always come back and tell me how much they love it. A lot of Lilith Dark readers I'm finding aren't really the type to visit a comic shop, but they stumble across my comic and end up sharing it with their kids, which is an awesome feeling.
One guy sent me a video of his two boys reading issue #1 on their iPad, and it blew me away! I was really touched by that. I love that I've been able to create something that comic loving parents can share with their kids. That's pretty much exactly what I was going for.Nrama: What have been some of the unique advantages and challenges of doing the comic online?
Dowd: The whole thing has been a challenge and I learned really quickly that I have no idea what I'm doing. The first year was really just one very public learning experience. The schedule changed constantly, the format went from full page to half page back to full page, it was a mess.
I finally pulled the whole site down and started over. But since rebooting the site, the audience has grown, and things are going much more smoothly. For anybody out there thinking about starting a comic, have a buffer. Seriously.
Nrama: When you went back to retool the pages for the site relaunch, what were some of the bigger changes you made?
Dowd: I took a hard look at the site layout, and other online comic sites, and I made a list of things that I hated. The things I hated on other sites, I removed from my site. Less ads, less social media widgets, less fluff. I made the focus the comic, which oddly enough is not always the case. I increased the size of the posted comic page so that it would fill your iPad screen, or look great on your monitor.
I also adopted an "issue"-posting schedule. I post a page a week until each issue is complete. Then I take a few weeks off and start the next "issue". While that issue is running on the site, I'm working on the next issue. Once the next issue is complete, I'll schedule that to post, etc. Webcomic "experts" think I'm crazy for doing it that way, but it works for me and my readers, and that's all that matters to me.Nrama: What led to your becoming part of Zazz Comics?
Dowd: Zazz Comics is a group started by myself and Joel Poirier, the creator of Stripped Comics. We met on the internet, and liked what each other was doing, so we started talking about teaming up. We both knew and admired John MacLeod's work on his own comic Space Kid! and invited him to round out the group, and Zazz Comics was born.
Our first big project together was the Zazz Comics Free Comic Book Day Special, featuring work from all three of our current projects, and is still available as a free digital download on the Zazz Comics website (www.zazzcomics.com).
It's been really fun working with Joel and John. We're hoping to grow into both digital and print distribution down the road. We'll also be looking for a few more recruits as time goes on. Lots of great feedback from readers, too!
Nrama: Did you have a magic helmet or its equivalent as a child?Dowd: No magic helmet per se, but I definitely had a pretty active imagination. I was not really one of the popular kids, so I learned to entertain myself. I had my share of imaginary friends, which might make me sound crazy, but I'm fine with sounding crazy.
My son had a magic Spider-Man suit though. He got it for Halloween one year and wore it every day for the next two years. He loved it, and it was a sad day when we had to finally take it away because it was so tight we were worried that he would go sterile! That's the real spirit in which Lilith Dark is written.
Nrama: What's fun/challenging about writing Lilith?
Dowd: I think the most fun I'm having with the story is just really getting to learn who these characters are. Superficially, they're based on my actual kids, but as the story progresses, I'm finding that Lilith and Dewey are not really very much like their real life counterparts at all. I'd even venture to say that Lilith is based more on me and my own childhood experiences than on my daughter's.
The challenge is to try to keep the story moving forward at a steady pace, and not to get stuck writing myself into a corner, or creating one-dimensional characters. The one thing I try to do with my characters is to, above all else, make them relatable and sympathetic to the reader.
Even if the actual story itself is full of plot holes, at least you care about the characters. That's what makes it a good read. When people tell me "Oh yeah that's just how me and my sister were" or "Lilith reminds me of myself as a kid" it blows me away. It's almost like I know what I'm doing!Nrama: Darn it, what's wrong with meatloaf anyway?
Dowd: Hey, I love meatloaf! It's one of my personal favorites. My daughter hates it though, so that's one personality trait that I just had to give Lilith. Every kid has that one thing that they hate, and for Lilith it's meatloaf. It's like her kryptonite. That hatred of meatloaf is actually a pretty important plot point, so keep that in mind as the story progresses.
Nrama: How long do you see the story running?
Dowd: The current story arc will be about four issues long, and at the end of that I'm planning to package the story together in graphic novel format with some print-exclusive bonus pages thrown in.
Beyond that, I have a couple of different arcs I'd like to explore, but honestly nothing's set in stone at this point. The feedback I've been getting is so positive though, I don't see any reason to consider ending the series. So you'll be seeing Lilith Dark for a while.Nrama: What's coming up for Lilith and her crew?
Dowd: As far as the current arc is concerned, keep your eyes on that spooky old tree. It's filled with evil! As for the future, it's really too early to say anything. I have a moleskin filled with ideas and character designs, but it's all up in the air right now.
Nrama: What are some of your other favorite current comics and creators?
Dowd: Aside from the Zazz Comics family, I really enjoy some newspaper style strips like The Obscure Gentlemen, which is this ridiculous gag-a-day strip filled with dirty jokes and geek references. There's an all-ages strip called Zorphbert & Fred by Dawn Griffin that I check out regularly, too.
I also really like this beautifully illustrated fantasy comic called Even In Arcadia by Anise Shaw. There's another fantasy comic called Little Guardians that I think is pretty great. Then there's The Hero Business by Bill Walko, who I got to meet at last year's Baltimore Comic-Con.
I'm a big fan of Tara Normal by Howie Noel, too. There are really a ton of indie creators out there just posting their work online for free. I wish more comic book fans knew about these guys. There's a whole world of comics beyond the superhero stuff.
Nrama: Something I've been asking everyone in this series -- what new opportunities do you feel have arisen as a result of new delivery systems such as iPads and smartphones, and what do you feel individual creators and larger companies can do to take advantage of these opportunities?Dowd: The web is a great thing for indie creators. We can now publish our work online and go head to head with Marvel and DC. No one can refuse to put our work on the shelf because there are too many X-Men books this month. The web is the great equalizer. Even in the world of print, print-on-demand services make everything affordable.
Technology has made it incredibly easy for any of us to get our work in front of more eyeballs and make a name for ourselves. Now the biggest problem for indie creators isn't distribution, it's marketing. Now that we're all equal on the web, we have to spend money on advertising. There's always a hurdle, but in my opinion things are a lot easier today than they were a decade ago.
Nrama: What else are you currently working on?
Dowd: Besides Lilith Dark, I have some pages coming out in a horror anthology this summer featuring a creepy dead kid, and I did some pages for the Shattered Myth comic series that are now online and in print. I'm also developing a new fantasy series that I'm hoping to launch sometime in 2013. Still too early to talk dates on that one though.
Also look out for more great stuff from me an my Zazz Comics brethren later this year. I'm thankfully able to keep myself pretty busy these days.
Nrama: Anything else you'd like to talk about that we haven't discussed yet?
Dowd: Comics are great. Share them with your kids. They'll love them, too.
Next at Newsarama: It’s a special two-part talk with the creator of the acclaimed SF epic Dicebox!, then, Eisner nominee Dylan Meconis talks Family Man and his other online comics, followed by interviews with the creators of Red’s Planet, King of the Unknown and Gunnerkrig Court!