Camilla d'Errico Feels the "Burn"

Most illustrators work hard to "arrive" in the comics field. They draw independent books, often with no guarantee of a financial return; they illustrate a back-up stories; they'll draw a fill-in issue here or there; and, if they're lucky, they'll get an ongoing gig at one of the Big Two publishers, which comes with a steady paycheck and their name with a prominent spot at the next convention.

Then again, some artists arrive before anyone even realizes it.

Such is the case for Camilla d'Errico. Within the past few years, she self-published "Tanpopo," an adaption of Goethe's "Faust"; co-created (with writer Joshua Dysart) the Avril Lavigne manga "Make 5 Wishes"; and is currently developing projects with Grant Morrison and an Oscar-winning filmmaker, not to mention video games and handbags. D'Errico's art has also been on display in several other comics works and art shows, but if you haven't yet had the opportunity to view her work, this is your lucky week -- D'Errico's latest creation, "Burn," is on sale now.

Published by Arcana Studio, "Burn" tells the story of a 13-year-old boy by the same name. Burn lives in a world where humans and mecha co-exist; that is, until their symbiotic relationship turns into a full-scale war. In the ensuing conflict, Shoftiel -- a machine programmed to destroy mankind -- commits a desperate act of self-preservation that forever changes the fate of man and machine. From this one incident, Burn will discover the true meaning of horror.

D'Errico told CBR News the idea for this creepy-yet-fun, sci-fi tale came to her after watching the movie "A.I." by Steven Spielberg. "I loved the idea of a robotic boy, but was even more intrigued by the idea of what would happen if a real boy were actually merged with a machine that also was sentient. So then I began thinking of a more conflicting story and the differences between man and machine, and who really has the right to live. That's when the story really starting coming together.

"The main focus of the story is the characters. For me, the story of 'Burn' is all about conflict and survival; it's about the grey area where right and wrong aren't so clear anymore."

Of the characters in the story, the creator had specific ideas about how she wanted each of them to come across. She explained, "The main characters -- Burn and Shoftiel -- suffer the most throughout the conflict in the story."

With Burn, d'Errico wanted him to feel as real as possible, so she created the child with the idea of what a "real" kid his age would do if something like this happened. He's "strong yet weak, scared but brave." On the other hand, Shoftiel (one of the destructive Sentients) is "fierce, determined, loyal and very feisty. He also has to go through a journey within the world of the comic to understand humanity."

Other characters in the story include Aeya ("the heart of the story"), Kali ("a loud-mouthed biker chick"), and Cerebus, the villain of the piece. However, d'Errico wanted to clarify, "Cerebus isn't like a traditional antagonist that selfishly wants power and destruction...the more you read the story, the more the pieces fall into place, and you begin to realize just what he is and why he does what he does."

The seven machines that cause the war -- the Sentients -- were all created by Cerebus. Each of their names is the same as that of the angels of destruction. As a matter of fact, the name of the book's main character, Shoftiel, means 'the wrath of God.'

With a title like "Burn," one would expect the story's setting to be hot and dry, so it's no surprise that what d'Errico came up with is right along those lines. The creator explained, "In the beginning we discussed making this a new world -- a desert world -- but I like to think of the setting as being a future version of our planet. The climate has shifted and changed and overheated the planet, and so natural resources are harder to come by. Hence the creation of the machines, built to serve mankind in this barren world."

D'Errico is credited as creator and artist for "Burn." The writer assisting her with her apocalyptic vision is Scott Sanders, whom d'Errico describes as "easygoing and a really fun writer." She added, "I really needed to work with someone who could understand my characters, concept, and help flesh it out and really give the characters distinct voices. Having a collaborative writer like Scott was essential to the project. I can't wait to work with him again -- this time on a project that he's created."

Looking at d'Errico's art, it's not hard to notice the manga influence, and it's a source of pride for the illustrator. "The best compliment I ever received was when a man said to me, 'You're the artist? I thought you'd be a little Asian man!'

"Manga is such a huge part of my life," she continued. "The styling, the stories -- the entire culture based around manga is so fascinating! Being so moved by this, I really wanted to develop a style within that look and give my art a truly Japanese feel. I studied the culture of manga for years and created my own style based on that aesthetic. There are so many artists that have influenced me -- Terada Katsuya, Tsunomo Nihei, CLAMP, Range Murata...just to name a few."

On top of her interesting style, d'Errico has an even more interesting method. While most comic artists use pencil (along with the various leads that are available), she utilizes a different tool. "I use a BIC pen," d'Errico explained. "I love the look of it; it's the closest you can get to pencil but with ink. I just recently met another artist that loves BICs; we might just have to start a club."

This "pencil-free" style is even more evident in the book, as it is published in black and white. Of the decision to go sans color, the creator said, "Being a fan of manga, I wanted it to have the traditional manga look -- black and white with toning. I don't think that if it were colored it would be any better than the toned version.

"I chose to keep it traditional because I wouldn't have been able to colorize it myself, and I never really found anyone that could match the Japanese coloring aesthetic that my art would require. Besides, it's so clean and crisp in black and white!"

While d'Errico didn't feel as though she would have been able to color the book's interiors, she did take the time to color her art on the covers. To do this, she utilized all the tools at her disposal -- both new and old.

"There are two covers to issue number #1. There is a variant cover that is actually a gouache painting of Burn and a crow, and the original cover that is colored in Photoshop. I do primarily paint in Photoshop when I am colorizing comic work, but there are occasions when I can actually do a traditionally painting for the covers. The issue #5 cover is also a painting done with acrylics. Both ways of painting are so satisfying, especially when you combine the two!"

Concerning her work with the aforementioned Oscar-winning filmmaker, D'Errico has to keep the specifics "hush-hush" for now. However, she was able to share that she is developing a manga book in parallel with a movie that is being produced by the company.

And as for the project she's working on with Grant Morrison), d'Errico hopes to begin in earnest on the Vertigo miniseries this summer. "But that project is still in its very early stages of development. It's titled 'My Atomika Bomb.' I am really excited about working with Grant Morrison; it's a huge honor and I just can't wait to get started on his story!"

Additionally, d'Errico is developing a video game. "I have been working with a video game company, Big Sandwich Games, as the lead concept artist. And this fall, 'Sky Pirates of Neo Terra' will be released on the Nintendo DS! It's a really fun game to play, and I get to especially 'nerd out' because I'm playing characters that I designed! So cool."

Also, she's got handbags. "I am flying out to Taipei this July for the release of my handbag and accessory line produced by OSO Design House. They are an up-and-coming company that recently launched BaxBears. We have been working on these high quality handbags for over a year now and I am truly excited to launch them!

"Concurrently with the release of the handbags, OSO is re-releasing a bigger and longer version of my self-published book 'Tanpopo,' based on Goethe's 'Faust.' This release is the first of Tanpopo's now ongoing series that focuses on the journey of a little girl seeking her humanity, and her companion seeking to gain her soul."

As if all this weren't enough, let us not forget "Burn," which will arrive in stores on a monthly basis for its six-issue run. Of the ability to have her book in shops every thirty days, the creator said, "I'm really happy with the decision to make it a monthly. I have always suffered waiting for issues to come out, and it's even more painful when you have to wait months in between...but you won't have to suffer like that with 'Burn!'"

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