Interview – Chatting with Christine and Melanie
18 Nov, 2012
The Zombie Apocalypse is coming! The Zombie Apocalypse is coming! OK maybe not. But webcomic creators Christine Brunson and Melanie Florencio have a funny take on it in their webcomic Undead Norm. They took some time to share with us their story and how they keep it running so smoothly.
Would you both introduce yourselves to our readers.
Melanie Florencio: I am Melanie Florencio, penciler/inker/letter for Undead Norm. I’m an adjunct professor of Animation at Trident Technical College and adjunct professor of Graphic Design at Charleston Southern University. I am also a Master’s graduate in Sequential Art from the Savannah College of Art and Design.
Christine Brunson: My name is Christine Brunson and I’m the writer and colorist for Undead Norm. I can often be found with my nose in a comic or in my script notes.
You both work on a web comic Called Undead Norm. What is it about? and How did it come about?
Christine: It’s a weekly updated zombie comedy webcomic that follows our guy Norm as he becomes one of the first infected of the zombie uprising. We follow him as he meets and sometimes eats new and interesting characters.
During a funeral for one of my co-worker’s spouses, I was sitting way in the back. The recently deceased was well liked to there were tons of people there. I couldn’t hear what was being said, so my mind wandered and I thought about how a graveyard would be a horrible place for the Zombie Apocalypse to start.
The owner of our local comic shop knew that I was working on a script and mentioned that Melanie recently started coming to the store so we met at the Halloween party and I mentioned the idea to her. We’ve been working on it ever since.
Melanie: I graduated summer of 2011 from SCAD and moved back home to Charleston, SC. I started going to the local comic shop, Soundwave, and was introduced to Christine at the Halloween Party in 2011 through the owner. She approached me with the idea of a zombie comedy, I read through the script and enjoyed the idea of it. From there we launched a contract and started the comic officially this past January.
Undead Norm is a zombie comedy. It follows our main character Norm through unusual events.
Give us a glimpse behind the scenes. What happens in order for us to get our servings of Undead Norm every week?
Melanie: Well, Christine will send me a script, I will thumbnail out the actions, develop a tight rough (small mini page of the story) then blow it up in Photoshop and print it out. From there I ink the final page, send it to Christine, she will color it in Photoshop, and then I will get it back to add word balloons/letters in Illustrator. From there, I send the page back to Christine and she puts it up on the website.
Christine: The main ideas for the comic are laid out in a timeline for me but the story really evolves due to reader feedback. I try to keep the scripts for the comic at least 4 pages ahead of what Melanie draws. She takes the script and puts her magic into the mix then I throw on some colors. Then the page goes back to her for letters and then I post it on the website.
Many artists start create webcomics, but end them quickly due to lack of motivation or inspiration. How do you stay inspired to keep doing this?
Christine: It can be hard to keep it going every week. Sometime life kicks you in the face and won’t give you time to work on it. Mainly feedback from our readers helps me be motivated. Plus seeing the final pages and the reaction from people at conventions really get me jazzed. People seem to really enjoy what we’re doing. My nephew is one of our biggest fans and has been after us to get the second issue done. Having Michael to help out with some guest art has been awesome too. I love working with Melanie and Michael.
Melanie: I really think it’s a collaborative effort. I also work with a team. Life has gotten a bit crazy lately- I have had to pick up a 2nd job- so we have had a guest artist, thankfully, to do a small side story for Undead Norm. I really think by working with a team, artists learn to rely on each other for ideas and help get each other motivated.
I know you have printed the webcomic to sell at conventions. Why did you make that decision? Do you have plans on doing it again?
Melanie: From the beginning I wanted the pages of Undead Norm to be drawn in a floppy issue format (7”x10.5”) It makes it easier to go to conventions and have a physical product to sell, even if your story is online. Print is not completely dead. Yes, we do have plans to continue this format with future issues.
Christine: We both believe in print comics and wanted to do this from the start. The side comic Undead Norm is my experiment with doing something just for the web. Kind of a bonus for those reading on the website. We do plan on printing more issues of the main story but there are plans for more with the Undead Norm side once I retool it. Love and support both digital and print. I believe both are supplemental to each other, but there’s nothing like holding a comic in your hands.
Melanie: I totally agree with Christine
What are some issues you’re tackling as an indie comic publisher in this industry? And what solutions do you think could fix it?
Christine: I would say getting the word out there, but doing interviews like this and making friends with other indie creators help. Conventions are still a great place to get our comics into people’s hands and more people to the website.
Melanie: I think right now the industry is very saturated with artists/writers who work on a product, get their book self published through websites, and try to pitch their story to larger publishers. In this industry I have found it really takes making connections and knowing people higher on the ladder to help push talent.
My first book “The Curse of Stranglehold” took almost a year and a half of promotion, self publication, and consignment at about 5-6 comics shops in the Southeast region to finally be looked at by Alterna Comics and even be considered to be distributed to Diamond.
Conventions are the best place to network. Have several pitches in mind to send to companies. If you are willing to promote yourself and meet other professionals, you will get there. It just takes time.
What is one piece of advice you wished you knew before you created Undead Norm?
Melanie: I wish I knew how to handle time management and to put your webcomic on a time schedule. Life throws us some curves and it is a smart idea to have a few pages done ahead in case something happens the comic will not subside.
Christine: Get a nice update buffer so when things come up, you don’t have to worry too much. Getting work done ahead of time is always a good thing.
Christine: I’ve been coloring pages for the comic Disco Frankenstein and I just finished a script for a story in an horror anthology called Skin Crawling Comics. Michael Link and I are working on our own super hero story and I have a few scripts for other ideas in the works. I’m very lucky to be working with such talented people.
Melanie: As of right now, “The Curse of Stranglehold” will be published by Alterna Comics in March of 2013. Other than that, I am trying to develop my career as a visual arts professor.
Christine: Hahaha, yes she will. The fans love her too much to let her stay away too long.
Melanie: Yes! I like the cat too- she will be making more appearances.
Any last words?
Christine: Thanks for having us and thank you to everyone who reads and supports our comic!
Melanie: thanks again everybody!