• INTERVIEW: Amy Pearson on Mathema

As most of you know, Zuda is DC comic’s entry into web comics. And I’ve got to say that, just based on my limited web comics experience, they have been innovative in bringing original web comics to the masses and really encourage fresh new voices.

One such voice is Amy Pearson. Amy is the writer/artist of Mathema, which is part of Zuda’s web comic competition for October. Mathema intrigued me from the beginning described as a “comic set in Victorian London and has themes of clockwork, magic, and math.” It reminded me of “Steam Boy,” and in a really good way.

Mathema tells the story of Emery Hall, a troublesome young man who learns of a device called mathema, which allows the welder to access ancient mystic powers. Emery finds himself on the run with William Wenbury, the young son of Mathema’s discoverers, (who, taught by his parents, is more skillful with mathema than anyone else) after a group of sorcerers track down the device for their own evil purposes.

I spoke with Amy over email to learn more about the project and her experience working in web comics.

How does Zuda’s web comic competition work?
The competition runs monthly; anyone can submit a comic and the editors pick 10 comics to compete. 8 ‘screens’ and a synopsis are originally submitted and the winner will then be commissioned to produce a further 52 screens of the comic. For the most popular comics, there are also opportunities after your 60 screens.

What drew you to the competition?
Zuda’s approach to complete creator control really opens the board for the range of comics available at Zuda. I’ve been with the competition for a while and I’m always surprised by what is posted each month; for this reason I was drawn to Zuda specifically with ‘Mathema’, since it was never going to be a conventional comic.

Perhaps the best reason for being part of the competition for me though is the feedback. Zuda has some very talented folk in the community – as a new creator the feedback and advice has already been invaluable. I like the comments from people just reading the story for the sake of it too; it’s good to know you’re trying to tell a story people actually want to read.

What drew you to web comics in general?
Accessibility. I’d love to be able to share stories and the internet is obviously a great way of reaching people. On the other side of that, it means the response is just as immediate and varied.

Do you work in print comics as well? Do you prefer one over the other?
No, I am very new to comics in general, which leads to what I guess must be one of the greatest benefits of web comics – exposure. The competition has put my comic and art right out for public view (and scrutiny), I’m not sure an attempt at print would have been as effective as quickly.

However, for what I read personally, web comics has been something I’ve warmed to; Zuda itself has changed that a lot. My immediate reaction to the question may have been ‘I want to be holding the art work in my hand’ – but I’m not sure that’s really true. With the risk of sounding indecisive I’d say for me it depends on the story/art rather than the format.

How did you get involved with art and storytelling?
I’m from an animation background; involvement with this medium really sparked a need for storytelling, though the 2D art and comic path has been something I’ve had to find myself. I think one of the things I enjoy most is really how the story can be told – by this I mean I love it when a comic sets up a visual style and set of rules and then plays these or breaks them to provoke something different with the story – an author will do the same with words. The methods used in visual storytelling are something I like to explore and learn – there becomes so many different ways for something to be said.

What are some of your favorite stories / story tellers?
I’ll try not to make the list too long, so I’ll go with the ones that spring straight to mind…

Most recently in comics I’m reading ‘Blacksad’ and ‘La Licorne’ in both cases the art is just amazing and I find the stories pretty intense. I’m also very fond of a new one called ‘Clues’ – I met the creator and it was really inspiring for me.

I don’t go far without a book and to date my favorite authors are: Robert Jordan, Ursula Le Guin, H. P. Lovecraft – and right at the other end of the scale I guess Philip K Dick and Brett Easton Ellis; different storytelling styles interest me as much as the stories themselves to be honest.

What is Mathema? How did the idea come about?
‘Mathema’ is the concept of magic through maths and is perhaps almost a character itself – the Mathema device could essentially make anyone who controls it a sorcerer.

I’m not really someone who can force an idea, and though the concept seems almost inevitable to me (given themes that interest me personally) the very first glimmers of Mathema were probably the product of daydreaming. Quite often with my projects once it’s started there is a danger of it building itself into something huge; depending on how far Mathema goes it has parts that make it quite an intricate story.

With stories I am always very character driven, a lot of Mathema has been guided by the main character Emery; I usually find if the character works they’ll tell me how the story is going to go.

What kind of marketing are you exploring to bring attention to the comic?
I’ve been trying several approaches, but these are the main two of note so far; firstly and perhaps most basically I’ve been supporting some banners across comic and art sites. In terms of the competition I think this method is good for general awareness, though it only really seems to apply to weight of views – it doesn’t offer so much constructive response.

I’ve been contacting smaller communities of people through blogs and forums; I’ve spent quite a bit of time searching them out for not only comic people but those I thought may enjoy the comic anyway. I think this has been the best sort of response. Despite offering a smaller volume of potential voters individually, contacting these people personally has made the difference perhaps to the votes but to me as the creator as well.

Do you have anything else in the works?
I am working on a couple of my own projects right now that hopefully will one day come to light – but it may be some time before I have the opportunity for this.

Where can we go to find out more about yourself, Mathema, and support your strip over on Zuda?
Well a direct link to Mathema at Zuda:
The best way to support the comic is to ‘vote, fave and rate’ at Zuda!
This is also where people can leave comments, it’d be great to know what you think of it.

Also the Mathema Blog runs alongside the comic and has the most current art:
It’s a good way of keeping up with the competition and will link you to other parts and people at Zuda – it will also be the best way to learn ‘Mathema’s’ fate after the competition.

Mathema is also making friends at Myspace;

Thanks Amy! Best of luck with the competition.

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