A little while ago, I reviewed the hardback volume of Sunstone, from Top Cow via Image comics Reading the book, was a true pleasure, with characters that seemed so vibrant and intelligent. This just wasn’t a book about “hot lesbian bondage sex”; it’s a book about relationships and the trust and insecurities that past experiences shape the next relationship.
The book was so good, we caught up with creator Stjepan Sejic to discus how Ally and Lisa become so well realised, the creative process and of course the bondage elements of book:-
Comic Crusaders: Hi Stjepan. It’s really great to get the opportunity to speak to you. Let’s start at the beginning: how did you break into comics?
Stjepan Sejic: The same way you get into Carnegie hall. Practice!
CC: For Sunstone, you were the creator, writer, artist , page stapler? Seriously though, which do you find easiest and the most difficult, and why?
SS: Stapling the pages. It is a long arduous endeavour that stretches into the wee hours of the following morning.
Joking aside, there is no separating any of it as my method is too intertwined. I write by drawing and I draw by writing. By that I mean I don’t compose a script I just doodle the scenes and dialogues on the digital paper at the same time.
CC: The characters of Ally and Lisa are so sweet. The way that their relationship moves forward is really well nuanced. Where did the inspiration for these two come from?
SS: Nowhere. With me it all starts by sketches and doodles. If I like the said doodles enough I may end up repeating them, and if I still like them, they may end up speaking… and then I know it is already too late.
This happened with all of my projects Sunstone, Death vigil, Switch, Ravine. The process is always the same.
CC: The writing of the characters works so well; each character is fleshed out, some with more back story than others. How did you manage to capture, basically snapshot so many different yet viable emotional responses for the characters?
SS: It’s a slice of life. As a genre it tends to be one that attempts to emulate life. As such , life is not story driven so a slice of life tries to make the story flow in a not so obviously guided and structured ways.
To achieve that illusion, a lot of room is given to characters to breathe. It is simple page economics when you cut it down to basics. less plot means more room for characters to breathe. Sunstone is a romance. A romance set in the real world. This means I don’t spend much page space for world-building, or explaining mystical powers… it’s just here’s these characters. Here is all this room to write. Let’s try and make them feel human above everything else.
And that is when you have yourself some fun. Writing people is a great learning experience.
A simple example:
Writing an argument in a slice of life book is not like in a superhero or a fantasy book. There are no villains, just opposing standpoints and reasons for them. No special effects or punches, just body language, and expressions. And you have to make it work.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The amount of things I learned while writing sunstone could fill a book of its own.
CC: The humour in the book is great. It feels that a lot of the story flows organically. How were you able to achieve this?
SS: I don’t order my characters around.
By that I mean I had a large-scale plan for the stories, but I let the characters live on paper. I simulated conversations and interactions, often changing my plans if characters outgrew them. While this did me no favours with an obscenely rising page count of subsequent volumes, it did wonders for the quality of the story.
CC: There is a ton of bondage in the book. What do you think the appeal of bondage is? Does it really all stem from 50 Shades?
SS: It is layered, and it has nothing to do with 50 Shades.
And I want to make this statement. I have nothing against 50 Shades. It is neither the first, the last, the best or the worst book tackling these themes.
I have seen worse… much…much worse. The only reason people link that specific book with BDSM is… well, it’s popular. We live in the age of quick information. As such people use their mental shorthand for things.
Hell, let me put it this way. How many times have you seen an episode of some forensics show on TV and seen them increase the quality of a blurry image until a crystal clear face pops out from an indistinguishable blob?
It’s fiction. People roll with it. Some people put too much importance on something written as a bit of hot fluff to be read during a dull rainy afternoon.
As for the appeal of bondage itself. Like I said, it’s layered, an acquired taste. A hot pepper in a delicious sandwich that is sex life. Not for everyone but for those that like it… omnomnom
I can tell you this. For a lot of people I know, it’s a trusting surrender to your partner. For my wife and I, it’s a very fun and often hilarious game. Never underestimate the silliness of sex.
CC: This hardcover is a collection of the previous issues, yet I don’t seem to recall any sort of “angry shouts” from commentators, the like that other companies like Dynamite seem to be a magnet for. Why do you think this slipped under the reader despite being so explicit?
SS: This goes back to It’s a slice of life story about fetishists. I make no pretenses in this book. My goal was to treat it in a mature way without just relying on it being just mature content. People read it and got it. Those who didn’t had their own opinions. My stance was always, if you read it and didn’t like it, I respect you. Tastes are tastes.
CC: You go to great lengths to promote the serious side of “the scene”; talking about the rules, trust, sub space and aftercare. How did you research those aspects and how much fun was it?
SS: 10+ years of experience, and many…many…many conversations. As for how much fun… lots.
CC: The artwork is stunning throughout. Who are your artistic influences?
SS: Comics were rather difficult to get in Croatia so my influences were all over the place. In the end I had to ditch the influences and start anew. Style works best when built up naturally from realism. In that way it becomes your artistic handwriting.
CC: How did you manage to show the physical aspect of Ally and Lisa’s relationship so well? Did you use a photo reference for example?
SS: No. just drew it. Process for it was the same as the one I used to get into the comic industry
CC: Moving forward, you are heading over to DC, working on Aquaman. Why this particular DC hero? Which heroes are you looking forward to having a crack at?
SS: Why Aquaman? They pitched me an interesting story and I had some time so it seemed like a fun change of pace. It is something different to keep me fresh while I’m working on sunstone’s second story arc, Mercy. As for which heroes I’m looking forward to have a crack at… no idea. I draw a lot of them in my joke skits but that’s a different thing from saying I want to sit and crank out a story arc of this person doing serious stuff. It comes down to whether or not I like the story idea.
CC: When can fans expect to see volume two of Sunstone hit the racks? (yes, I am very interested in see how certain elements like the proposal, play out)
SS: There will be 4 story arcs, 5 books each. But since it’s a webcomic first, it will appear online before anything else. Work on the second arc, Mercy has already begun. It’s a slow burn process, but it gets results.
CC: If the quality of Sunstone is anything to go by, it most certainly does. Thank you Stjepan for taking time out of your hectic schedule to talk about Sunstone. I can’t wait to read Mercy and good luck with the Aquaman book.
For those interested in see Stjpen’s work in its original web comic format, head over to http://shiniez.deviantart.com/