All your favorite monsters have gathered in one place- Masked Manor! Ruben Moreno takes us on a tour of the inner workings of the manor and it's occupants.
1. For the poor souls not already reading, please give a brief synopsis of your comic.
Masked Manor is the story of a good-hearted vampire named Boris Brandenblood and his quirky supernatural friends, including a crafty witch-in-training named Meg and an ancient Egyptian ex-architect named Immie. Boris wants nothing more than to be able to enjoy the comfort of his manor in peace, but old rivals and extradimensional forces keep conspiring to overthrow him and take possession of the grounds. How Boris and his friends fight back, as well as the secrets they learn about each other, are the main forces that drive the comic forward. Podcaster Lee Grice once described it as "the classic Universal movie monsters meet Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."
2. What materials and/or software do you use?
I work entirely in Photoshop with a Wacom Bamboo, and I save all my originals at 600 DPI.
3. Are there any books, movies, toys, artists, or authors that have inspired or continue to inspire your comic?
My first inspiration was Jim Davis. As a kid I owned nearly every Garfield Treasury. As I got older and webcomics became an actual thing, I guess I took inspiration from the first big webcomics like PvP, Penny Arcade, Starslip and so on. Starslip in particular fascinated me because it was an example of a daily gag strip that could also simultaneously tell a long-form story. So that was instrumental for me because it informed the form of what I would eventually do with Masked Manor. As for the content and the style, I've been a big fan of Halloween for a long time, and Masked Manor was born after a series of yearly Halloween parties that my wife and I had been throwing. I'm also a big fan of spoofs and comedic adventure films and stories, as well as high adventure with funny bits thrown in -- stuff like Hitchhiker's Guide, Galaxy Quest, the first two modern Mummy films. I'm really just a big geek, so all the amazing modern fantasy and sci-fi flicks (and games) are constant inspirations for me.
4. Are any of your characters based on real people in your life?
There may be traces of the personalities of friends and family members in some characters, but I think my characters are probably closer to representing fractured facets of my own personality. There's a little bit of me in each of my characters.
5. Are there any actors you know you would want to play or voice certain characters in a movie of your comic?
I have a real hard time imagining voices that would correspond to my characters, especially because the fans probably have their own ideas about what they sound like. The closest I think we got to any idea that really stuck was assigning John Astin (the original Gomez Addams) as the voice of Belizariuus. I think the supporting characters might be easier to cast, since the lead roles carry a little more emotional weight and might be tough to cast without someone piping up and saying, "Hey! That's totally not what Boris should sound like!"
6. What songs would you like in a soundtrack of your comic?
It's funny, because there are little tidbits in some of the character bios on the website about some of the characters' favorite bands. Boris listens to Rush. Meg likes Muse. Lenny digs Coheed and Cambria, and Animals as Leaders. I think there might be songs that fit certain sequences, or might be appropriate themes for certain characters, but those would probably be incidental, in the way that maybe a character is actually listening to that song on a car radio or something. If we're talking about a movie soundtrack type of thing, I'd go with more classically inspired orchestral stuff befitting a farcical horror / Egyptian / fantasy adventure flick.
7. What is your overall goal for your comic?
At some point, when I've been doing it long enough and earned a big and loyal enough audience -- and if I'm lucky -- it'd be nice to make this my day job. Maybe my work will be split between two or three comics at that point. Who knows. But I'd love to be able to say that I make comics and tell stories for a living. Right now, even as I'm in my third year, I'm still in my "earning my stripes" phase.
8. How has managing a comic impacted your life?
It has affected my life profoundly. I still have a day job, so everything I do related to Masked Manor has to fit in after I've gotten home from work, had dinner, played with my daughter, and put her to bed. I have to balance it with spending time with my wife and actually doing recreational things -- because while making comics is fun, it's also work, and you need frequent breaks from that to make sure that you don't get burned out. It's really like walking a tightrope. You have to constantly work to keep things in balance. You don't want to disappoint your readers, but you also don't want to develop health problems due to sleep deprivation, or ignore your personal life.
9. What do you do to advertise your work?
I've run ad campaigns on Project Wonderful in the past. It's something I need to get back to doing regularly. Also, Facebook and Twitter are invaluable and I update there as much as possible. I've started to go to conventions this year so that also helps with word of mouth.
10. Web comics can be very time consuming and sometimes expensive to keep up. Often there is little reward in regards to money and sometimes public attention. Why do you do it?
I want to have something to show off in ten or twenty or thirty years, for my kids (and their kids) and my family in general. But I'd also like to think that at some point, this comic (and/or any other comics I create in the future) will start to pull enough weight to support me full-time. It's a marathon, not a sprint. So I'm committed to keep on keeping on. I do it because I can, and because I think other people will enjoy reading it. I think the bottom line is that I'm addicted to telling stories.
11. Got any other projects we should know about?
Not at this time. But as far as this project goes, I did just release the first printed volume of Masked Manor. So keep an eye on the website, because I'll be unveiling my online store soon!
12. What advice would you give to aspiring creators?
First, do it because you love it, not because you think it'll make you money. It might make you money, but that's down the road, and it won't work unless you really do love what you're doing and are committed to it.
Second, don't be afraid to go back to the drawing board. Your first comic might not be a hit, but your second might. Always keep improving and expanding your repertoire. Learn from more talented people; at some point, someone less talented will learn from you. Keep that cycle going.
Third, try to strike a balance between preparation and improvisation. Don't spend so much time preparing that you never get out there, but do try to cover some of your bases before you start. As an example, when I started the comic, I knew that I wanted to eventually put it into printed book form, so from day one, all my comic strip layouts conformed to the dimensions of the book that I would eventually print. If you pick up Masked Manor Volume 1, and you read through the strips, they all appear back to back and none of them had to be reformatted or resized or chopped and spliced. It saved me a ton of time and made laying out the book a snap. So, it does pay to be prepared.
And fourth: Have fun! (This goes back to doing it because you love it.)
Thanks Ruben! Now that you mention it, I can really see the Jim Davis influence :)
Alright readers and reader-etts, Thanks as always for stopping by. Drop us a comment to let us know what you think! Then be sure to explore the manor yourself at Masked Manor!
If you would like to be interviewed about your web-comic send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org titled "interview" with a link to your comic.