Things certainly are better in pairs! It was so much fun to see comic artists pair off into teams of two for 2023’s Double Trouble tournament and wow the community with their efforts. In the end, one duo made us see double as this crewsome twosome came together and collaborated their way to victory- Footini's King Jack Queen and Shen's Ara Ura! As working with other artists is typically the norm within the comics industry, we were excited to not only host this tournament, but also hear from the winners themselves on what it's like to bring someone else in on your creative efforts when it comes to comics. For those of you curious about trying comic collaborations in future, or just wondering how one team does it, be sure to read on!
Tell us about yourself! How long have you two been doing comics? Is this your first collaboration?
F: I'm Footini, my name is a Star Wars reference. I've been drawing comics since I was in elementary school but didn't really try to get serious about it until I joined OCT websites in about 2019. I've done plenty of collab comics before, but this is my first real time collaborating with Shen. We've comic battled each other about five times or so though.
S: I’m Shen! I have a background in sequential art with an emphasis in hand drawn animation, (particularly effects). When it comes to comics, I’ve collaborated extensively.
What do you look for in a collaborative partner?
S: Writing style and character compatibility. Art styles don't have to mesh, we can make art styles mesh. I want someone who I can work with on a story because we need to do that first and fast. Footini and I have basically the same sense of humor so by deciding to go comedy we didn't have many script problems because we liked each other's ideas.
F: As long as writing and our approach to storytelling aligns, things go smooth. The fact that our senses of humor are close helped with writing a couple of comedic characters. Though Shen would often think of places for the story to go that I wouldn't have so having a partner that can see where things can improve is invaluable. (Some of the best jokes were Shen's ideas).
A partner that is generally pretty open to feedback and willing to challenge ideas where need be is a great one. My partner worked really hard throughout the tourney so being able to rely on her was great. Having different art styles - for me - is often a treat since I get to see how, for example, my lines look with Shen's colors or my inks over her pencils. Having a blend can lend to a unique look.
What was your gameplan? How did you divide the work?
F: Usually I try to have something of a story arc going into tournaments but this one was faster and loose and more self-contained each round. Though we did try to dig deep and push what we did with the characters and presentation each round.
Generally the way the division of work went was we would both work on outlining the story, I would do sketches and inks, Shen would do the colors, and I would add the final dialogue afterwards. Round 2 had some switchups with the shifting styles; Shen took care of the entirety of the anime pages while I drew the Farside style ones, for example, but generally we just kept to doing alternating steps so we could have everything run smoothly.
Were there any obstacles in your process? Or as a team?
F: I think just life in general was the main obstacle. With real life work and my partner traveling it was mainly a challenge of coordinating schedules so we could hit the deadlines on time. I did make sure to get inks to Shen by a certain day so she could get colors done without having to rush too much. We were passing pages back and forth to each other daily usually by week 2 of each round. Though I tend to be pretty all over the place when writing scripts and thumbs so Shen did have to deal with some of my chicken scratch sketches from time to time. I don't think I once had final dialogue done until after Shen colored everything.
Is it easier or harder to work with someone else? Did you always see eye to eye?
F: Collaborating has its own challenges. You have to be willing to work with your partner in creating a story and be open to what they have to say, giving up a bit of control to get a good blend of ideas.
It's easier in terms of the actual drawing since you have someone else to do some of the steps. I could have never put out what we did on my own.
S: Footini and I have the same sense of humor, so we played to our strengths with comedy which I think helped us not have too many problems because we liked all the ideas the other had.
I think that second round was the feather in your respective caps for the tourney. What inspired it? How did you ultimately decide to use the genres that you did? Can you list them for posterity?
S: We needed something that would exist in print media- nothing digital, because the book was ink and so were the toons. We tried to go across the board with styles as far apart from each other as we could.
F: The style switching was Shen's idea. In order we did
- Krazy Kat (1930s era news strips)
- Gary Larson’s Far Side
- The pages with a bunch of styles was Mike Mignola,
- Sandman (specifically Sound and Fury)
- Prince Valiant Anime (The works of CLAMP, Berserk)
- and then Rubberhose Animation
In regards to color theory…?
S: For the first round, I already had color palettes made. I had Ara and Jack Of All Trades in orange, yellow, and turquoise but when we switched to Montalban it was blue and red. They were adjacent themes for thematic harmony but distinct enough to tell the difference between the two. For the later rounds, I made my own palettes out of inspiration that I have been collecting for a while.
What was the creative path you took to creating your stories for each round?
F: Round One's story was based around me thinking that two characters named Jack switching places was pretty funny. For Round 2 Shen said "Let’s do a bunch of styles!" and since we had a magic book person and a paint wizard everything aligned for that.
Round 3 went through the most changes since we basically went ham on the style switching round and had to come up with another 6 character story again. We figured going for a more emotional story focused on Ara's backstory with some experimental layouts and Shen's patented "Neon Hell" style colors. It was the round where we both kind of really leaned into our own visual styles and turned it up to max. I also kept forgetting what decade Ara was from and Shen had to gently remind me she's not from the 80s (or is it the 90s?).
S: Ara Ura's parents were 90’s cartoons, so she looks 90’s because of that but was more likely born in the 2000s.
Is handling a tournament deadline easier or harder with a partner?
F: It does help having someone there to keep you on task when trying to meet the deadline. though generally when you have a partner it's best to keep a more rigid schedule with mini deadlines in order to give the other ample time to work on things.
Were there any story ideas, or concepts that hit the cutting room floor?
F: I think the last round was originally meant to be in a renaissance fair with Ara dressed up as a princess. Mostly every other story was the first thing we went with. Just bursting fully formed from our heads like Athena from Zeus. We did have some ideas we didn't get to use cause we didn't get certain opponents. We really wanted to do a graffiti art styled comic and also a visual novel one at one point.
What advice would you give to those looking for collab partners in the future?
F: The only thing I'd say to others to watch out for when picking a collab partner based on past experience is to work with people that generally have similar creative sensibilities and those willing to be open and communicate and work with others with respect.