Animator and designer turned comics writer and artist Scott Christian Sava has carved out his own path in the comic book industry. He illustrated the miniseries, "Spider-Man: Quality of Life" in 2002, but since the he's walked his own path, separate from the comics mainstream. Sava and Blue Dream Studios have become known for their high quality books targeted at all-ages audiences. Sava's worked on many projects including "The Lab," "Hyperactive," "Pet Robots" and more, but the highest profile project is "The Dreamland Chronicles." An epic fantasy comic created with high-end computer graphics, "The Dreamland Chronicles" is updated one page a day, five days a week on thedreamlandchronicles.com.
Earlier this year, Blue Dream Studios became an imprint of IDW Publishing. Sava took the time to talk to CBR News about this newest move, working on "The Dreamland Chronicles," and what else he and Blue Dream/IDW have coming up.
CBR: How did you end up connecting with IDW?
Scott Christian Sava: In a couple of ways. First, I worked with [IDW VP of Sales] Alan Payne years ago at Malibu Comics. We've stayed friends and I see him at most conventions. I've always wanted to work with him again. He's spectacular.
Secondly, I was working with Janna Morishima over at Diamond Kids. She was the one who recommended I stop self publishing and speak to [IDW President] Ted Adams Once I met Ted, everything just clicked.
Besides taking away responsibility for a lot of the day-to-day publishing responsibilities, what are the benefits of the IDW deal to you and Blue Dream Studios?
What aren't the benefits? It's just perfect. [IDW] handles of course the publishing, soliciting, printing, marketing. But they also give me access to Alan and his incredible sales force. Add to that that I think they're number three (right behind DC and Marvel) in the comics publishing, who could ask for more?
They're also letting me produce all of my books -- I have 12 coming out this year -- and all of my toys. I'm just so thankful.
Where did "The Dreamland Chronicles" come from?
My love for epic fantasy stories and happy endings. I loved movies like "The Never Ending Story" and "Clash of the Titans" as a kid. Then I'd read "The Hobbit," "Narnia Chronicles," and ["Princess of Mars"] as a teenager. Finally, I found out about "Little Nemo in Slumberland" in college. That's where "Dreamland" really started to take shape.
What is the process of putting together a "Dreamland Chronicles" strip? Looking at it, it seems a very time-consuming process.
Oh it's incredibly time consuming. Take into account I've been working on it since 2001. Writing, designing, plotting. Then, after I did Spider-Man in 2002, I decided to try ["Dreamland Chronicles"] in 3D. Next came funding a team of modelers and designers to help me build all of the assets. Since I'm doing it like a feature film, it wasn't cheap.
Then it's writing the scripts, storyboarding it, and of course doing the pages and lettering and what not. It's a lot of work.
How has "The Dreamland Chronicles" changed over the years since you began?
The fans definitely show you what works and what doesn't. While the overall story arc hasn't changed, I have shifted some things around - like when Alex and Nastajia kissed -- due to fan uprisings.
Looking at the many hundreds of pages left in "Dreamland Chronicles," do you ever sit there exhausted by the idea of just how much more work there is to go and how massive a project this really is?
I think so. Yet, I also look at it with anticipation too. I want to just do this. But, life being what it is, I have to pay bills. I also look at "the end" with a sense of dread. I'm afraid of what I'll do when I'm done. I'm sure I'll want to move on to volume 2, but we'll see where I am at that point. It's surreal just to even consider that I'm halfway through already. That's a feat unto itself.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
Nothing. Everything is going perfectly. I do think I'd like to go back to the first couple books and redo some pages here and there. But other than that, I'm quite happy. I've learned to let things go and not look back. The past is the past. You do the best you can with it and be thankful for what you get out of it.
What role has your background in animation played in how you work and how Blue Dream is organized?
It's crucial. I learned how to manage a team, how to schedule, budget, and more. Just seeing the whole picture (it's a 10-year project) and being able to follow through to the end is because of my background in animation. Add that to the way animation has changed my perception of how comics should be -- I now tell stories with "beats of time," where characters may simply take a moment. No word balloons. No dialogue. Just let the moment sink in. We never saw that much in comics before.
Is there a different readership for "The Dreamland Chronicles" online versus in print?
No. I think they're the same. My readers are so wonderful. They're getting out and helping get the word out there for the print books. This is the first time [the print collections have] been in a real store (not comic shops) and they're doing a fantastic job spreading the word.
Knowing the story is being read online and that people won't necessarily have read the previous page just seconds before, does that affect in any way what you do, or are you just writing this epic story one page at a time?
Oh I don't change a thing. I make the story to read as a book. Not a webcomic. Whatever's up on the site is there.
Forgive us, but for all the beauty and talent of "The Dreamland Chronicles," is it at all cost effective?
Absolutely not. I've put over $150,000 of my own money into this. I'm not even close to getting that back. It's a labor of love. We had some good years (financially) in animation, and I put that towards this book. Now we're hoping that the book sales will help cover some of those costs. But if not, I don't regret a thing.
You were pretty successful working in animation and video games. What was it that turned you towards comics?
Comics was always my first love. Every year I'd go to Comic-Con and show off my painted work. Trying to get into the business. It took me 20 years to do it, but I got to do my childhood dream of Spider-Man and now my own stuff. Animation and video games were always just a means to an end. I learned a lot. But I never really liked them.
What was it that pushed you into trying to capture this look with computers, and what do you think this technology gives "The Dreamland Chronicles" that it would lack if the art were traditional pencil and ink?
Well, I did Spider-Man in 2002. That was my first test using 3D in a comic. It was an incredible learning experience. But I knew I could do more. I could do something really big. I'd been wanting to do "Dreamland" for a while, but the painted pages I did didn't really do much for me. Using 3D just gave it the edge it needed. Something to help it stand out. I'm so glad I did it this way.
My wallet isn't...ha ha. But I am.
What about working on "Spider-Man: Quality of Life" made you realize the potential of working in 3D, and what did you understand you had to do differently once you had created the miniseries in that way?
I learned a lot. Up until that point, I had only seen comic art as drawn. I had tried for so many years to get that gig (doing Spidey) with pencils, paints, and the like. But doing it in 3D, while a dream come true to be a Spider-Man artist, was really tough for me. It felt cold and unnatural. But by the end of the series I started to see what might be. What the medium could do.
I immediately went into the Lab 2 Electric Boogaloo and started to play a bit more with lighting and better models and such. Eventually I felt I could see if I could push the boundaries. So I embarked upon the task of creating something truly epic. Something with literally hundreds of characters and hundreds of environments. "Dreamland" was the perfect vehicle for that.
Your stories are all-ages. Are you conscious of writing for that kind of audience?
Yeah. I have twin five-year-old boys. I want them to be able to enjoy it. Also, I find it much more difficult to write a good story without all of the language and overt violence and sexuality. It's easy to go all "Tarantino" in a story and get people to think it's cool. It's a much bigger challenge to get people to read a story that your grandmother and kids can enjoy as well. I like the challenge.
Is it hard finding an audience for an all-ages comic book? In animation, it's not that hard, but in comics, some say all-ages is a mark of death.
Yes. In comics it's pretty much a kiss of death, which is why I no longer put my books in comic shops if I can help it. Fanboys and me don't get along very well. But online, there's been a fantastic response to it. And I hope in the bookstores as well it'll get the same reception.
You work on a number of other projects with different artists. What do you enjoy about working with other artist and letting them have the reins?
Probably the fact that I don't have to do all the art for once. [laughs] Plus, these artists are so incredible. It's amazing to watch different artists work. I'm so blessed to get to work with such talented creators.
Do you remember your dreams?
Absolutely. It's always been a part of my life, dreams. Unfortunately, as you grow older, they're less "whimsical" and more stressful. [laughs] But every once in a while you get a good one where you're flying across a beautiful "Dreamland" landscape. Totally worth it.
"The Dreamland Chronicles" gets updated five days a week. Just in time for the holidays, you're making the big push into bookstores with the first volume of "Dreamland Chronicles" and "Ed's Terrestrials." What is the plan for your backlist?
We're coming out with Book 2 in a few weeks. Then in January, Book 3. Once I'm done with another volume (there'll be 6 books in all) we'll put it out. I have several other books rolling out over the next several months.
"Ed's Terrestrials" is already in stores. "Pet Robots " is already in stores and in production as a live-action feature film with Disney. "Hyperactive" is in stores in the next week or two. "My Grandparents are Secret Agents." "Cameron and his Dinosaurs." "Gary the Pirate." "Magic Carpet." "Luckiest Boy." All of them go into the Kids Graphic Novel section and are a bunch of fun.
IDW has been spectacular in supporting me in this endeavor and I couldn't have done all of this without them.