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Waking Life Shows What If the Dream World Doesn't Want to Say Goodbye

This is "Went to Tell Everybody," where I spotlighted different cool independent comic book series based on submissions from the indie comic book creators themselves via a set Q & A with the creators themselves. Essentially, the creators speak for their own work and "Went to Tell Everybody" will give them a place to do so!

This is a ostensibly an ongoing weekly feature, so if you would like to see your work spotlighted, as well, there's no time limit or anything like that. So you can submit at any time. It's not a first come/first serve thing, ya know? However, sending your comic in isn't a guarantee that I'll run a spotlight on it. I'm not gonna just promote anything on here, ya know? So if we go a while without an edition of this feature, it is because I don't have something that I'm okay with putting my name on a spotlight of it. Click here for the current submission guidelines.

Today, we look at Waking Life by Ben Humeniuk, a fantasy comic about when the dream world doesn't want to say goodbye.

You can pick up a copy of the comic here or as a Webtoon here.

What is your comic about?

Waking Life is a middle-grade comic that's like Peter Pan meets Degrassi, and it's deeply inspired by the life and work of Little Nemo creator Winsor McCay. It deals with a high school student-- Robbie-- who's trying desperately get an animation scholarship so he can get started on his dream projects. He's so narrow-minded, in fact, that he's forsaking friendships, family, and his grades. In the midst of this, an old friend wedges her way back into his life. She's the Princess of the Dreaming Realm-- his childhood "imaginary" friend-- and she wants to see what's so special about his waking world. Unfortunately, to do so, she's opened a door between worlds that an old enemy's been waiting to exploit. Robbie and the Princess will have to resolve their personal rift to address this new threat, and will learn a bit about the best way to pursue one's dreams in the process.

What made you choose the comic medium for this story?

I've been in love with comics since I was in grade school, and an encounter with Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics in college cemented the idea that comics are a playground for all sorts of stories. After working as a cartoonist for my campus paper, the Baylor Lariat, and illustrating a graphic novel for at-risk youth, I knew I wanted my first solo GN project to be a reflection of my own desire to create meaningful work while also living up to my obligations with friends, family, and daily responsibilities. And McCay has been an inspiration of mine for a long time, so I thought chasing some of his concepts and his idiom would give me a huge opportunity for growth.

What aspect of your comic are you the most proud of?

I'm most proud of the clear arc for both Robbie's story and my own creative work that's evident in the first volume of the book. I was told by Gene Ha that my work has a "raw, punk energy" to it, and I've learned a lot about how to raise my level of draftsmanship and storytelling through making this comic. Being someone who primarily worked in black and white previously, I'm especially stoked about how the coloring of the book has come out, which is inspired by limited palettes and by the newsprint process of Golden Age comics.

What’s the one piece of philosophy and/or advice that has informed your comic book work the most?

I think the advice that has most helped my work so far is to focus on character in the process of creating the story. If the characters can live, breathe, and act credibly on the page-- if they can be specific in a way that seems universal-- then the audience has a reason to spend time in their world. And, hopefully, to walk out with new perspective in the process.

Since this is “Went to Tell Everybody,” tell everybody about another current comic book series that you would like other people to know more about.

I've been inspired by the work of fellow indie creators as I've been making Waking Life, and two that I'd love to shout out are The Dragon Lord Saga by Jonny Jimison, and Kyrie by Matt Crotts.

Dragon Lord is like Lord of the Rings meets Calvin and Hobbes, and it's a humorous fantasy story about two well-meaning brothers who find themselves drawn into a mystical conflict that neither are prepared for. Jonny serializes it through his Patreon, which is definitely worth a follow.

Kyrie, by turns, is an Indiana Jones story set in the era of 300. Through meticulous research and incredible sui generis artwork, Matt's building an intriguing story of the life and death of conquerors-- and civilizations-- through the lens of a wily female thief and her hapless travel companions. If Delilah Dirk is your thing, this is its grad school thesis brother.

Again, if you're interested in The Black Cat, you can pick up a copy of the comic here.

And of course, once again, if you're interested in seeing YOUR independent comic book spotlighted in this feature, click here for the current submission guidelines.

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