- Posted by Johanna on June 2, 2009 at 8:19 am
- Category: Digital and Webcomics
I spoke via email with Tara Tallan, who has been writing and drawing Galaxion for … well, forever. I first talked with her at conventions back in the 90s, when she was self-publishing her comics, first as minis and then full-sized. Now, the strip runs as a webcomic, with a new page every week.
She’s just put out her first print collection of the webcomic version, so I thought it would be a great time to catch up.
What’s in your new Galaxion collection, and how can people get it?
Galaxion Book 1: The Jump contains the first three chapters of the Galaxion webcomic, the 17-page “Fusella vs. Interplanetary Patrol” story (also known as the Flipbook story), and some odds and ends of original content. All told, it’s 144 pages. It will soon be available direct from my website, and also through all of the various Amazon sites (.com, .ca, .co.uk, etc.), as well as BarnesandNoble.com.
How does it relate to the print comics of last decade? Are they the same story?
Probably the best way to describe it is as a relaunch. I stopped making the print edition in 2000 because I started a family, and I quickly discovered, to my dismay, that I was not one of those amazing women who can make babies and comics go together! But by the time my kids were both old enough to be in school, I’d realized that I wanted very much to return not only to the story, but to comics as well.
After being completely absent from the scene for six years, and on top of that making the decision to move from print comics to the new medium of webcomics, I’d figured that no one would remember Galaxion and I’d have to start over from the beginning in order to reach a new audience. (Turns out I was kind of wrong about that–a lot of people remembered Galaxion! I’m still getting emails from people who are just discovering the comic online and want to tell me they’re happy the story is still going.) In the intervening six years, I’d added a lot of new ideas to the story, and I was keen on having a chance to put them to use!
So to (finally) answer the question, the basic plot is the same, the main characters are more-or-less the same, but many of the details are quite different. Everything has been rewritten and redrawn, and I’ve chosen different scenes and some different points of view to tell the story this time around. There’s more focus on character development, which is some of my favourite stuff to write! Although the webcomic is written to attract new readers, I like to think that people who’ve read and enjoyed the earlier version will find lots to interest them in the new version.
How does the Galaxion serialization work?
One page a week, plus an extra update on the first Friday of the month. It’s not very speedy pace, but I’m just not a speedy artist! There is a definite end to the story, though it will likely take me more than a few years to get there. It just feels like it’s forever ongoing.
Who is your target audience? Who enjoys the strip most?
It’s a funny thing, target audiences. Like many writers, I write what I enjoy, so I had initially imagined that my target audience must therefore be people like me–adult women who enjoy romantic space opera, Star Trek, and perhaps have a bit of fondness for anime of the ’80s like Space Cruiser Yamato.
I suppose there must be some Galaxion readers like that out there, but overall I seem to have more males than females in my audience, judging by the feedback I get. Perhaps this is because there are still more males than females reading comics in general? It’s probably fair to say that the percentage of women reading my comic is growing.
On the other hand, I’m also hearing more and more from parents who tell me that their daughters are fans. At first I was surprised by this news, but I’ve come to realize I’m also quite pleased. I don’t write specifically for kids–my characters are all adults–but by force of habit I’ve kept it pretty clean and nonviolent, about a PG rating. Within the science fiction genre, especially on the web, this appears to be a bit of a novelty. Most dramatic SF in recent years has been leaning towards dark and gritty, whereas Galaxion is more bright and friendly. That’s what I like to write, and it just so happens that it’s appropriate for preteens to read! The young adult market was not among my initial goals, but I think it’s one worth pursuing. For many years I’ve felt that while there’s a wealth of good fantasy stories for the 9-14 age group, there’s very little good science fiction out there, comics or otherwise. I wouldn’t mind helping to correct that unfortunate deficiency!
What do you aim to accomplish with Galaxion, and how successful do you think you’ve been?
Well, since I write primarily for my own enjoyment, my main goal is to get to the end of the story! I’ve had these characters kicking around in my head since I was twelve–that’s well over two decades past–and after all this time, I want to do right by them and get their story told. Other goals like fame, fortune, and being able to draw as well as Carla Speed McNeil (or Wendy Pini or Colleen Doran or any number of manga artists whom I admire) are all part of the mix, but finishing the story is really the driving force.
By that yardstick, success is still years away.
Galaxion is a long-form webcomic, with a serialized story. What are your thoughts on that approach compared to shorter gag strips?
As a reader, my first love is long-form stories. I know conventional webcomic wisdom tells us that daily strips have the greatest chance of success because our internet attention span is microscopically short, but I’m able to follow long-form webcomics like Girl Genius, which updates three times a week, without much difficulty, so that gives me hope for the format. More updates are better, obviously, but I can manage to keep track of once-a-week stories like Family Man.
For a long-form comic presenting on the web, the ideal would be for each individual update to be enjoyable on its own, while still advancing the plot of the story. It’s a bit of a tricky balancing act, but now that I think about it, it’s probably not all that much different a challenge from the balancing act we try to achieve in comics between the words and the art!
This will be, by my count, the fourth time you’ve told this story. (First making stories for yourself as a teen, then minicomics, then print, now web.) Why do you keep going back to it? What have you learned? Do you have plans to make other comics or stories?
Yeah, heh, that does seem kind of insane, doesn’t it? All of those reboots seemed to make sense at the time…. Well, mainly each one happened because of a format change. From a novel, to a 13-page-per-issue minicomic, to a 20-page-per-issue full-size comic, and finally to the web, I needed to change the way I presented the story each time to make it fit. (Well, in retrospect I now know I probably didn’t need to change anything to put it all up on the web, but I didn’t realize that at the time.) And each time I started over I used the opportunity to refine the plot, the script, and the art.
It’s not really a process I would recommend–it’s kind of a trap, to keep returning to the same material because you want to improve it. It’s best to keep going forward. You learn something from every new page you complete. Why do I go back, then? The short answer is, because I’m not finished yet! Both in my head and on paper these characters have grown and matured over the years just as I have, and I’m fond enough of them that I don’t mind they’re still hanging around after all this time. Though that doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to the day I finish the story and get to kick them out at last!
Will there be other comics or stories? Sure. I’ve worked on a few diversions already, most recently Roberta’s Space Adventure, a story about the Canadian astronauts for grade six kids, part of Scholastic Education Canada’s “Moving Up with Literacy Place” program. Hard as it is for me to imagine a time when I’m not working on Galaxion, I know that once I’m done there’ll be plenty of other stories to, um, obsess over. As most writers will tell you, coming up with new ideas is not the problem!