Interview With Jim Dougan of Sam & Lilah

As the March 2008 Zuda competition winds down, I spoke with Jim Dougan, writer of Sam & Lilah, one of this month’s entries. At the time of this writing, it’s in fourth place.

As he put it, “It’s got Romance! Adventure! Fashion! Curses! Cupcakes! What more could you want in a comic?”

Sam & Lilah ad

What’s your strip about?

Sam & Lilah is romantic modern-day mythology with a touch of manga flavor. When a budding love affair between two fashionable urban twentysomethings is imperiled by a gypsy curse, slice-of-life meets the supernatural – in Technicolor.

How did you and artist Hyeondo Park come together to work on this?

Hyeondo first caught my eye with the stories he was posting at (the now-defunct) LiveJournal webcomics collective De-Act-i-Vate while still a student at the School of Visual Arts’ cartooning program. I got in touch with him and pitched him a short story called COME THE DAWN, also a fantasy/romance thing, for The Chemistry Set. From there, I obviously wanted to work with him again — I mean, just *look* at that art – and lucky for me he felt the same. I’d been kicking around the idea for SAM & LILAH in various incarnations for about a year prior to that, but it turned out to be the logical next step in our collaboration, because he was really enthusiastic about it from the very beginning. He says it’s exactly the type of comic he used to enjoy growing up, and the kind of thing he really likes to draw, which is great. Since I’m writing *for* him specifically, I can really write to his strengths — and believe me, he’s got a *lot* of strengths.

What made you decide to enter it for Zuda?

When Zuda launched last fall, I found out through my friend Dean Haspiel (who seems to know everyone in comics) that Zuda was actively seeking submissions from all kinds of creators: established names, up-and-comers, people who’d done webcomics, minicomics, whatever. Hyeondo and I were already working on SAM & LILAH, but hadn’t really thought about submitting it to Zuda until then. Then a few people that I knew and whose work I admired, like fellow ChemSetter Kevin Colden and Paul Maybury, participated. Still, reading the agreements and such, I wasn’t really sure at first. But after a bit of back and forth, we finally came around to do it for a couple of reasons:

First, the exposure. While Hyeondo and I have gotten some attention for the work we’ve done in the past, it would be nothing compared to the thousands of eyeballs checking in at the Zuda site. Even if we didn’t win, that would be a real plus.

Running a close second, frankly, the chance to get paid. The Zuda page rates are pretty generous, which would definitely be a help to a young artist like Hyeondo. We recognize that Zuda would basically get the rights to the story, but there is some sharing on the back end with royalties, and it’s not like the two of us would never come up with any other ideas, so we figured it was worthwhile throwing our hats into the ring. Plus, if we don’t win the contract, all the rights revert back to us (aside from a nonexclusive right to continue running the original pages on the Zuda site for a while, which is more of a plus than a minus).

What previous comic work have you done?

To the extent that I’m known at all in comics circles, it’s probably for CRAZY PAPERS, the comedy graphic novella drawn by Danielle (GIRLS WITH SLINGSHOTS) Corsetto that I wrote and self-published in 2006. I am also an original member of the webcomics collective The Chemistry Set, where I’ve posted a number of short stories with a variety of talents like Eric Kim, Roger Langridge, Mike Fiffe, and Umberto Torricelli, as well as the one with Hyeondo mentioned before. Luckily, most of those stories have also appeared in print in Desperado Publishing’s anthology NEGATIVE BURN, and we’re in the early stages of talks to have me edit a more comprehensive Chemistry Set anthology at Desperado as well.

Hyeondo has a bunch of his lovely work from SVA at his website. More recently, he’s the artist of Wiley’s JULIUS CAESAR: THE MANGA EDITION, which just came out, I think. What I’ve seen of it is terrific.

With only eight screens, it seemed like I’d barely met the characters before the comic was over. Is there more to the story existing, or will that only be written if you win?

There’s quite a bit more that’s been written in full script — at least the equivalent of 20-24 more of these “screens”. Beyond that, it’s been plotted, so we have an idea where it’s going to go.

Why the decision to show that part of the story?

This scene had to be the first one — the whole concept was to take a “meet cute” situation like you see in a movie and turn it over on its head. Meet our beautiful young couple, set people up for the cute romance, and then hook them with a sense of something dark and dangerous. Just enough to bring people back for more. Hopefully it works!

What happens to this concept/characters if you don’t win? Will we ever see it again?

Oh, you will absolutely see it again. Hyeondo and I love these characters, and the response by Zuda readers has been very gratifying. Lots of people want to see the story continue, so we’re going to make that happen. We have very definite plans to continue S&L at another site, but we’re not allowed to talk about it until the March competition is over, when the rights revert back to us. Stay tuned.

Why should we vote for you?

You should vote for us because there aren’t enough comics in the world that really blend romance, humor, fashion, and adventure, and there certainly aren’t enough comics in the world with prominently-featured cupcakes. Vote for us, and you’ll get more of all that stuff.

Oh, and Hyeondo’s art — isn’t it gorgeous? Why wouldn’t you want to see more of that?

4 Responses to “Interview With Jim Dougan of Sam & Lilah”

  1. Rivkah Says:

    I really wanted to go take a look at this but Zuda is such a lug to navigate; load time takes forever. Really wish they (Zuda) would move away from the flash/swif and just go to plain ol’ jpegs or downloadable pdfs. Funny how the ‘older’ technology is often the more user-friendly.

  2. Digital Strips: The Webcomics Podcast Says:

    […] feed to announce that Johanna Draper Carlson, of the site,, has posted an interview with Sam and Lilah creator and writer, Jim Dougan.  It’s got some very interesting tidbits […]

  3. Jim D. Says:

    Rivkah! Sorry to hear about your Zuda-lugging troubles. You will have a chance to read S&L soon, in a more Rivkah-friendly format. Soon, I say! Stay tuned.

  4. Webcomic News: Clockwork Game Debuts, Sam & Lilah Moves, Zuda Update » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] I interviewed writer Jim Dougan last week about his webcomic Sam & Lilah, he was hinting of future plans. Now he’s […]




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