If you like fantasy comics and you haven’t yet read The Dreamland Chronicles, you’re missing out. TDC is an award-winning all ages webcomic created by Scott Christian Sava. The tale’s been unfolding online since 2006 and is already over 1,200 pages long with 17 of its 24 planned chapters nearly complete. The story follows the adventures of a college student who returns home to reenter the dream realm of his childhood fantasy, a place full of elves, dwarves, fairies, dragons, and more.
Scott lives in Tennessee with his wife Donna and twin boys. Before TDC became his main project he had worked on dozens of productions in television and film as well as video games. He currently owns and operates Blue Dream Studios where he pursues his passion creating The Dreamland Chronicles and updating it as often as five days a week. Print editions and other merchandise from his webcomics can be found at Amazon and fine retail outlets everywhere.
Recently, I got to chat with Scott and ask him a little bit about his comic and his work in general.
ANDY GROSSBERG First, tell us a little about your background. I know you went to the Academy of Art in San Francisco. What happened after that?
SCOTT CHRISTIAN SAVA: During my Junior year at the Academy, I applied for an internship at Sega of America. I somehow convinced them I was capable of learning to animate for video games (despite having NO experience on computers). I worked on Kid Chameleon for the Sega Genesis. After graduating, I continued my career in games for several more years. Learning 3D animation and eventually moving to Los Angeles where I got to work in film. I never stopped wanting to do comics, though. And continued to pursue work in the field at nights. I eventually got my big break in 2002 as the artist on Spider-Man for Marvel. A childhood dream come true.
ANDY: Is TDC your full time gig? If so, what were you doing for a day job before switching over to TDC full time? And when did you discover that it was going to be a full time thing?
SCOTT: Yes…it has been for almost 7 years now.
12 years ago, I started my own animation studio (Blue Dream Studios) as I was getting quite a bit of work on television shows and video games. After I did Spider-Man in 2002…my buddy Mike Kunkel and I sold a couple of TV shows to Disney and Nickelodeon. Seeing how cool it was to develop your own stories (rather than work on someone else’s properties) I decided to focus primarily on my own books. It’s been a tough go…but I think totally worth it. I love doing Dreamland…and while I don’t make 1/10th of what I did working in animation…I’m my own boss. And I’m doing what I love.
ANDY: You’ve been at The Dreamland Chronicles quite a while. How did you get started? Where did the idea come from? Why the fantasy genre?
SCOTT: I actually have been wanting to tell a story like this since I was in college. I’ve always been interested in dreams. But it really came to light when (in History of Illustration class) we learned about Winsor McKay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland. That was the “hook” I was looking for. I asked myself “what happened to Nemo when he grew up? Did he fall in love with the princess?” And Dreamland was born.
It was during the time I was working on Spider-Man, I started putting some story together. Gathering art. And fleshing things out. I had a few friends who were helping me gather my thoughts and pushing me in the right direction. Once Spider-Man was done, I devoted most of my time towards Dreamland and haven’t looked back.
As for why the fantasy genre…Well. The Hobbit was the first novel I really read and enjoyed. John Carter of Mars followed. Then the Narnia stories. I loved The Princess Bride, Jason and the Argonauts, The Neverending Story, and Clash of the Titans. Dreamland is an amalgamation of them all. With a Little Nemo twist. Totally unoriginal. I know. It’s just everything I love thrown into one big story.
ANDY: What’s your creative process like? Why did you choose to go 3D versus 2D with the art? Does the rendering process slow down production and do you make up for it in other ways?
SCOTT: I tried doing Dreamland traditionally. But there just wasn’t anything to my art style that really made Dreamland stand out. So I decided to do it 3D. But to do this…I had to spend quite a bit of my own money to hire a team to make this happen. The biggest pitfall I’ve seen with other creators who try and do a CGI 3D comic is… they try to do the whole things themselves.
You really need to treat something like this as an animated feature film. You need a writer (me), director (me), and cinematographer (also me). But you also need actors (the models), sets (the environments), and clothing (character designers). There are hundreds of jobs on a movie. I’ve had to compress these jobs up to about 4 people.
So, we have one person who does the character designs. One person takes those designs and models the characters (3D sculpting). Another then adds bones and facial rigs so I can pose the characters. Another person designs and models the environments.
All the while, I’m writing, storyboarding, and laying out the pages. I deal with lighting, character acting, facial expressions, composition, and a litany of other things that go into every panel. It’s definitely tedious. But in the end. Once I have things set up…I can move pretty quickly from day to day.
Some days I wish I had done it all traditionally (especially on days where the computers are being finicky).
ANDY: I’ve read in other interviews that you started out as a print book but quickly switched to digital. Was lack of sales the only reason you decided to make it a webcomic?
SCOTT: Yes. The direct market (comic shops) wasn’t the right place for a book like Dreamland. Sales were slow and I got little to no support from the comic book industry.
My neighbor suggested taking Dreamland online…and it was the best advice I could have taken. Since giving Dreamland away every day for free…I’ve sold tens of thousands of copies of my books direct to fans. It’s a much better model of business.
ANDY: You started in the days before million dollar kickstarters so it’s not like it was an obvious path to riches. What’s the biggest problem you’ve had as a webcomics creator? And in that light, what’s the best thing about doing TDC?
SCOTT: The biggest problem I have is the business angle. Marketing my book. I hate it. I’m a hobbit; I like being at home and doing my book. I’m not a social person who enjoys cons and traveling 3 weeks out of every month. I’m sure that’s hurt me in many ways. I don’t get to meet as many fans. And I don’t get the benefit of cross promotion from other creators that I would have hung out with at cons. Also, advertising revenue is so tricky. It’s really tough to keep track of it all.
As for what’s best about doing Dreamland? I love reading fan comments every day. I love to interact with them. I love that my boys (9 years old) love reading the comic. I love storytelling.
ANDY: What’s next for The Dreamland Chronicles?
SCOTT: Chapter 18. We learn more of Seraphopolis, the Nightmare Realm, Merlin, and Nastajia’s parents. Should be a lot of fun.
ANDY: Do you have any other projects you’d like to discuss? I know you have an iPad app and have been busy with pitches to Hollywood. Oh, and you’ve said something about a novel too. What’s next?
SCOTT: I’ve always got several projects going. It’s just part of the business. I’m hoping to hear from my literary agent regarding my first novel. I’m really excited about it. It’s based on the kids comic Ed’s Terrestrials that I wrote years ago. If all goes well…I may write a novelization of Dreamland one day. Things in Hollywood are… well… let’s just say, I’m happy to be in Nashville. Other than that. I’m loving learning watercolors. I’m enjoying this new medium, and I hope that I can continue to find time to work traditionally.
Andy Grossberg is co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Comic Rocket. Previous to helping start the business he was a comics journalist, writer, letterer and sometime editor. He has been working in and around comics for over 18 years in one capacity or another.
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