Friday, April 10, 2015

Indiegogo the Week(end): SAMSARA SAGA

By: Nicole D'Andria

On the first “Kickstart the Week(end)” I’m showcasing a comic book project trying to get its funding through Indiegogo rather than Kickstarter. SAMSARA SAGA is a science-fiction graphic novel and the first comic book project from Xenobrane Studios.

“Samsara” is the repeating cycle of birth, life and death. In a way, SAMSARA SAGA marks the birth of Xenobrane Studios into the comic book world. It is the first comic book publication of the studio. The creators are Ruel De Guzman and Christopher Harris. This project is the first step in a new career for them. 

Ruel and Chris don’t plan on stopping with just comics. They want to explore multiple mediums including video games, interactive web content, motion graphics, educational apps, 3D printing, toys, collectibles and more.

The donation received on Indiegogo will go towards the time used to create SAMSARA SAGA. The current amount of money will keep the two creators running for about three to four months, the amount of time they believe it will take them to finish the first ‘Phase’ of the comic called BIRTH. They also requiring software licenses for programs such as Manga Studio EX, Photoshop, Z-Brush and Keyshot. If the funding goal is surpassed the creators plan on updating their workstations and Harris’ laptop.

The creators are offering the following materials that you can own:

  • SAMSARA SAGA: Birth (digitial comic) complete or in parts. 
  • High Resolution Digital Promo Poster(s).
  • Desktop Wallpaper(s)
  • High Resolution Story cards: get to know the story behind the story & enjoy additional art in hi-def 
  • Bonus Behind the Scenes Content - we'll gradually compile elements of the production process and give you access.
The Kickstarter is trying to receive the grand sum of $8,080. The creators are trying to raise this amount by May 24, 2015 on 11:59 pm PT.  The project has flexible funding, meaning that even if it is not fully funded, the creative team will still receive all the funds pledged to it. You can help fund the studio’s first project, SAMSARA SAGA, on Indiegogo.

I interviewed both Ruel De Guzman and Christopher Harris.

Me: What is the tone of the series?

Harris: I would say there is no one tone in the series. Overall, SAMSARA SAGA is the combination of science-fiction and fantasy elements, so the tones that are generally associated with these genres will be intertwined and ever-changing. This is especially true when dealing with certain characters and settings. But in depth, I want to compare and contrast the relationship between tone and genre. My goal for the series is to play with the readers' expectations for these genres, continuously coming up with ways to surprise them.

Me: What is your role in SAMSARA SAGA?

Christopher Harris
Christopher Harris: I'm the Head Writer in this endeavor. I make sure all of our info flows smoothly in cohesively. 

To tell you a little about my process, I create the story outline(s) and the situation concepts for our characters. After Ruel contributes his style in the pre-production of the outline, I incorporate his ideas into my own. I then come up with the basic script and panel format.  I'll make drafts of the scripts until we come out with something we're both proud of. This goes for the creation of characters and settings as well. 

Ruel De Guzman: My main role in SAMSARA SAGA is artist. I like to mix traditional illustration methods with 3d modeling. As far as story, Chris & I both pitch in. We both create characters, their personalities & determine major events.  As a team we try jointly to develop the most vivid & varied world(s) we can.

I'm kind of geek out when it comes to world building, so bringing creatures, environments, characters, vehicles, etc. makes me especially giddy; I do a lot of that.

Chris is great with how he's open to truly collaborating, he does an amazing job of tying it all together. We try to play to our strengths while at the same time trying to individually grow as storytellers.

Me: How would you describe your writing style?

De Guzman: I think we both have a way of adding depth to what the other creates. Chris excels at making it all more accessible & relatable. While I tend zero in on really big picture stuff & microscopic details, he’s stronger at creating the core narrative that ties it all together. Once he does his thing I try to build off & strengthen his already solid concepts. We both create characters & factions to populate story & they all sort of come alive organically. In the end we both effect the whole. 

Harris: I'm always trying new ways to develop my style to fit a specific story. If I'm writing a script for myself I tend to be more colorful and way more descriptive, so the artist knows just how to convey my attitude through their illustration. I also tend to rely heavily on draft storyboards I draw for myself as I write page for page. This can help the artist better envision what my script looks like. At the moment, I'm allowed to be a bit more casual in SAMSARA SAGA because Ruel and I communicate what we ultimately want the pages to look like.

Me: What about your art style Ruel?

De Guzman: I just know that I strive to bring a mix of subtle expressiveness and kinetic tension to the sequential art. I enjoy penciling, inking, digital painting & 3d modeling equally, I'm working towards blending it all into a delicious visual jambalaya. I love creating elements that make world come alive, so expect a steady barrage of fun settings, creatures, vehicles etc. 

As far as software, I gravitate towards Zbrush & Manga Studio; both are centered on the tendencies of illustrators & designers. I'm looking forward to incorporating After Effects for motion graphics as well. We're trying to blend techniques used in visual effects & game development to make gripping stories. Madefire, Narr8, Construct2 & Unreal Engine are platforms we look to progress towards.

Me: Who is your favorite character in the saga?

Harris: That's tough to answer.

If I did have to pick a favorite right now then it would be Haru Wer, mentor and friend to our main protagonist, Roen. There's are some elements that surround Haru that I can't mention, but overall he's just a fun character to write.  I can make him stand out in almost any situation.  He's an exceptional fighter so he will be linked to some of the most dynamic action scenes, but he also has this... quirky side that we're going to develop. We really wanted to shake up the whole mentor trope you see in a lot of other stories. In SAMSARA SAGA, Haru's character is essentially the bridge between understanding 2 completely different species, one being the Splicers and the other, the Dylaed.  Honestly, I can't wait for the day Ruel gives me the green-light to do some amazing things with Haru's story.  

De Guzman: I actually have several characters I'm excited about, but for now I'll try to focus on just a few.
Let's start with Roen. He comes from a long lineage of warriors. He's a Commander within the Dylaedian military & a member of the Vanguard. The Vanguard are perhaps fiercest of fighters among all Dylaeds.

Roen's prime ability as a wielder is something we call shifting; essentially teleporting relatively short distances very quickly. Though he's able to wield forces such as electromagnetism, shifting is something of a strength within his family. When combined with his close quarters fighting skills, Roen can be very dynamic in battle. Through Roen we get into themes of expectations, resolve & change.

Another character I'm excited about is Pele. We named her after the Hawaiian deity to hint at her temperament. She comes from a culture & a people constantly at war, so she's conditioned to feel at home even in the grimmest of circumstances. Pele's often found on bounty collecting ventures with her closest ally & friend, a shape-shifting alien we call Erebus. I imagine Pele as a particularly resourceful character with many layers of depth.

Me: What are the factions in the series?

Harris: At the moment we're heavily focused on introducing the Dylaed |die-layd|, our predominantly magic wielding race in the series.

In their quadrant of the galaxy, there are several factions that operate independently from each other. There's the Vanguard, a special band of warriors that have mastered their spiritual sub-conscious through the use of combat. If you can imagine battle-mages forming a fighters guild, then you've imagined the Vanguard.

Next we have the Colonial Marines. They act as the main military force for all Dylae space. Controlled by the Royal Court, the Marines are split between the home-world and off-world branches. Like the name suggests, they travel to uninhabited planets, setting up basics facilities for its eventual colonization.

Last, but certainly not least, we have the Foundation of àse |ah-say|. Every Dylaed can channel àse to harness magic. Attending the Foundation enables the wielder to define and develop their talents, should they choose to pursue that path. Once there, that Dylaed is free to learn as much about the world of àse as they possibly can. With proper motivation, this can lead to some exciting adventures in the history of Dylae. There are 6 sub-foundations representing the different classes of magic. Healing and Summoning are just a few classes that make up the Foundation.   

Me: Who are some of your inspirations as a writer Chris?

Harris: Bruce Timm/Paul Dini (BATMAN: TAS): Batman: TAS was the first cartoon I watched that got me interested in the pre-production process of animation.

Michael DiMartino/Bryan Konietzko (Avatar: TLAB/The Legend of Korra): I was filled with so much inspiration at the end of Korra: Book 2 I had to direct my enthusiasm onto paper. The end result was me realizing I wanted to write comics for a living.

Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead) - If there was ever a comic creator I felt I could relate to, it's Kirkman.

Me: Who inspires you as an artist Ruel?

De Guzman: I was inspired by many. Like for many others, it started with the Image Comics founders like Mark Silvestri, Whilce Portacio & Jim Lee. Over time I discovered Frank Frazetta, Drew Struzan & Norman Rockwell. These days Vance Kovacs, Sparth, Manapul, Capullo, Moebius, Charest & AH. They all excel at different facets of the whole. The level of creativity & draftsmanship is mind blowing. We're experiencing something of an illustration Renaissance.

Me: Why did you decide to use Indiegogo versus going to a publisher or using another service such as Kickstarter?

Harris: We thought about both services and how each one fit into our plans. Things like how to attract readers and followers or developing methods of productivity, in the event we don't hit our goal. In the end, Indiegogo was better suited for supporting those plans as well as what comes after our campaign. 

Me: SAMSARA SAGA is part of Xenobrane Studios. What is your relationship to this publisher?

De Guzman: Xenobrane Studios is the studio I'd been itching to create, so Chris Harris & I decided to co-found it this year. The name roughly translates to 'strange membrane/outer dimension'.

Me: What is the mission statement of Xenobrane Studios? Has the studio produced any other publications?

De Guzman: We haven't made an official mission statement word for word, but have given thought to the idea.

Xenobrane's goal is to entertain & simultaneously encourage the pursuit of knowledge. For myself, the genres of fiction we focus on (scifi, fantasy & genres within the same realm) ignited into an interest in technology, myth, cosmology, physics and more. I think many others share a similar view. We're going to use adventure & story to do our small part in shaping the future.

Over time we'll take something of a transmedia approach to making stories & worlds increasingly immersive. Motion Graphics, VR, Games etc.. It's all happening now, we just want to participate & contribute in our own way.

SAMSARA SAGA is our first official release. Baby steps.

Me: What other comic book projects have you worked on?

De Guzman: This is the first time I'm publishing a comic. Way back when, I was offered a chance to work for one of the top comic book publishers as a penciler. I wasn't ready for it then & ever since I've been practicing & learning.

Before Chris & I decided to work together I was in the process of writing, designing characters, modeling 3d assets for my sci-fi graphic novel. When we got together we decided to create something entirely new & here we are.

Me: What advice would you give to aspiring comic book writers?

If you're an aspiring writer, the first thing they say is just to write. Try creating and writing something you'd want to read first, maybe something that you haven't seen before. Polish those initial ideas and create characters and settings that fit into your world. With patience and hard-work, things tend to fall into place after that. 

In terms of breaking into the business, you're not going to be able to do it all by yourself, so don't be afraid to ask for help. Talking to other writers and illustrators is key. You'll be more-or-less a ghost unless you get out there and make people see you. Observe how other writers/artists are getting exposure and try to mimic that - to some degree!!! 

Me: What advice would you give to aspiring comic book artists?

De Guzman: For aspiring comic artists there are lot of areas to cover. It's best to focus on substance before flash.

The crucial skills include figure drawing, body language, facial expressions, human musculature, perspective, storytelling, scene composition & panel to panel transitions. I highly suggest the DC series of books on how to make comics & the Scott McCloud books on sequential art. I feel like those books, among others, gave me a strong foundation to build upon.

Once you have a strong enough core skill-set, style will come with time. I think the tendency is to absorb & emulate particular aspects of the styles from your favorite artists. Those individual elements will eventually evolve into your own thing. Barry Windsor Smith for example does incredible linework & Drew Struzan has a way with creating compositions that express the heart of the characters very well. Learning from the strengths of masters like Frank Frazetta goes a long way once you have strong enough fundamentals. Fundamentals are the keys to excellence.

Me: Thanks for your time Chris and Ruel! Best of luck with Xenobrane Studios.

You can find out more information about the comic book and the studio at

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