RICH INTERVIEWS: Monica Ding Art Direction “Split Earth”
First Comics News: How did you Zephyr and Joey get together for “Split Earth”?
Monica Ding: Zephyr and Joey were old colleagues. They shared a lot of common vision regarding creativity. I met Zephyr back in school time and we always wanted to create our own comic. Then someday Joey came along coz he always wanted to run his own world-setting. So we had a chat and decided to spend our time developing this project together.
1st: How would you describe your art style?
Aesthetical and realistic.
In China, we grew up reading and watching entertainment products from the West and from Japan, so those played a bit of influence. We also draw from Chinese philosophy and cultural influences. For example, our artist Zephyr had 10 years of experience in illustration and calligraphy, those filtered into the art style too (if you look closely at our signature image, attached below, you can almost tell).
Our artistic method leans toward Western oil painting, but in terms of image presentation, we try not to focus too much on delivering that sense of power Western comics often employ, but to blend in softer elements prevalent in Eastern artworks.
1st: Do you get to draw any creatures that will amaze the reader?
Monica: Yes, precisely what we are aiming to achieve. The specter “Alabaster” is a cool concept. Well researched in detail, blending human anatomy with that of deep sea creatures and insects. We will release more when the timing is right.
1st: How do you make the Alabaster beings look menacing?
Monica: We made several different types Alabaster (you can say they’re of different “levels”). The lower ones behave like zombies, inspired by “hunger ghosts” in Eastern mythologies. In the mythology, these ghosts’ mouths are always sealed, signifying the denial of a primary instinct – to eat.
When Alabaster grows in levels and abilities, their looks transform from one that’s outright menacing to a fusion between the eerie and (something close to) the beautiful. No less threatening for sure. We also combine human imagery in its design, so you will see something familiar wrapped around by monstrous elements. There’s a reason for this design, but right now we can’t reveal it yet. (Don’t want to spoil our Backers)
1st: Where did the inspiration come from for the Dark Stone weapons?
Monica: In ancient Eastern philosophy, everything possesses the polar attributes of Ying and Yang (in English sometimes we call them Light & Darkness, although that’s not entirely accurate.) In our culture, we value a balanced state. It is the ultimate meaning of harmony. Dark Stone is one of the concepts born out of this philosophical thought. We will present it to you through the story.
1st: Why will people care about Zerly aka Sprite?
Monica: She is a bit different from the typical superhero. She is weak compared to her teammates, and her weapons are ultra volatile, hard to control. But that also means a possibility for growth. Because once things stabilize, your growth potential usually decreases. So we want to shape Zerly as a character full of uncertainties and potentials.
1st: Why should someone also get the art book?
Monica: It’s a beautiful presentation about the world of Split Earth Saga. If you own that book, you will get to understand more about the elements that lay the foundation for our story. Joey went through painstaking details to talk about those elements, it’s like a creative feast. The artbook also compiles some illustrations that might not have been used in the comic itself, as well as some original design sketches during the early stage of Split Earth’s development.
1st: What to you is the number one thing that jumps out at you about “Split Earth”?
Monica: There are many. But if to name just one, I’d say it’s that we use a whole female team as protagonists. Males become their sidekicks. LOL. This is quite unique, you don’t often see other creative products employing a concept like this.
And one more thing. On the production side, all the amazing artworks and story you see there, are completely done by a small team of 3.
1st: Would you like to visit the world of “Split Earth” why or why not?
Monica: Of course! In the beginning, the world of Split Earth seems like one side is the battlefield while the other side is where life goes on as normal. That’s actually not too different from our world. You stay home doing the daily chores and listen to stories of combats far away. While it’s dangerous, sometimes as human beings we get excited by imagining a totally different kind of life, especially for creators like us.
However, in later stories set in Split Earth, we will explore deeper dynamics of the two hemispheres, strengthen the ties between humans players, and between humans and natural (and supernatural) elements. We hope we get to share with our reader’s many amazing stories based on this world. So please help us spread the words and let’s make the project come alive. 🙂
1st: Would you like to create another comic after “Split Earth” is done?
Monica: That’s for sure. We believe in creativity and the only way to keep on leveraging this divine gift is to keep creating and don’t stop growing. But at the moment we can’t think too much, gotta focus on the Kickstarter campaign.
1st: Where did you learn art?
Monica: China. A lot of traditional painting methods serve as inspirations. We had our foundation built while at a city called Hangzhou (where the company Alibaba is).
Our comic artist Zephyr is a very rational person. He has studied much about the structural principles of how images are formed. He would silently observe different people’s body structures and movements. All the character action you’ll see in the comic are painted by him with no aid from 3D models.
1st: Are comics easy to come by in China and are they any different than the American ones?
Monica: There are many comics in China, mostly read online. However, the industry is not quite mature yet. There are a lot of problems, such as entry barrier and the lack of sustainable income for comic artists here.
As far as we know, the USA market and industry are more mature, better developed, with good synergy with the film industry too. We admire that. A creator in the US has a lot of support coming from many directions. We could totally feel that when we started this Kickstarter campaign. The KS community has been very warm and helpful. Honestly, this is our first time trying something overseas, it’s a major step. Sometimes we are speechless, thankful for the many people that gave us advice and guidance.
1st: What is the URL of the Kickstarter for “Split Earth” and why did you use it?
Monica: “Where Fantasy becomes Futuristic.” kickstarter.com
Joey is an avid fantasy and sci-fi fan. Our aim is to blend these two genres and since there aren’t a lot of futuristic fantasy out there, Joey wants to make a point, hence that tagline. We want people to immediately understand what Split Earth Saga is about, but also feel intrigued by looking at the tagline.
1st: Any words for those who support “Split Earth”?
Monica: YOU are the most important people to the life of this project. You have no idea. As founding backers, you’re essentially deciding the fate of Split Earth and our creative career path. 🙂
Please come take a look. Support Split Earth and chat with us about what you think.