Interview: Lily of the Valley (Adam Atherton, Zuda Competitor)

By - May 16, 2009

Every month DC Comics’ Zuda line throws ten webcomics’ creators into a pit armed with nothing but pointy sticks and dressed only in their smiles, under orders to fight each other to the death — more or less.

We’ve spoken with Rich Lovatt and crew about last month’s Mecha-Simian entry and Steve Bialik about this month’s Beertown B’hoys, while the Action Flick Chick talked to her Fangirltastic associates from Pink Raygun about Intergalactic Law: Grey Squad and to Daren Strange’s Black Halo Entertainment team about May’s Amber Hale, Supermodel. This week we hear from Adam Atherton, whose comic Lily of the Valley currently occupies the number one spot on the list.

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Llama: As we speak, Lily of the Valley is #1 in the Zuda competition. How does that feel? We imagine you’re feeling a lot of different things.

Adam: The incredible support I’ve received so far has been very flattering and reassuring. The feedback makes me excited for the possibility of showing people where this story goes beyond the seventh page. I have some ideas I can’t wait to explore with Lily of the Valley.

Llama: There have been several times when someone has had the number one comic at Zuda nearly the entire month only to see things flip-flop in the last couple of days so that somebody wins at the finish line. How does that happen? How do you feel about that?

Adam: I’ve seen that happen before, so I am going to do my best not to take my foot off the pedal until it’s all over. I think it happens when someone has exhausted all of their resources or they lose energy or they just become too confident about their ranking. Knowing it can happen prevents me from getting too sure of the current ranking, so I just keep working to promote.

Llama: You’re writing about a murderer. Why?

Adam: I’ve always been interested in the outsider characters and villains in any story. More often than not they’re portrayed as entirely evil characters but like anyone they’re human and they have the same emotions as anyone else. If you analyze their minds and get to the core of why they do evil things you’ll likely find a sad touching story, lost love, and/or painful personal struggle. I thought it would be fun to explore the heart of a sinister character and would be a nice challenge to make an audience fall in love with her. I really think with this story I can make people fall in love with a serial killer and feel for her. At the roots this story is about love and redemption so it’s not about a murderer murdering forever and getting away with it and never feeling bad, it is about her heart and her pain. Some people are just born with mental and emotional struggles and how they cope with them defines who they are.

Llama: And what kind of research do you do to get inside the head of your fictitious murderer? Please tell us you’re not out there getting firsthand experience.

Adam: (laughs) No first hand experience. I have always dealt with my personal and mental struggles by drawing and writing. Creating has always been my escape and my outlet. If I didn’t create then I would have to find another outlet and this story examines what would happen if someone’s outlet were killing.

Llama: What’s your work process like? Steady or sporadic? In utter silence or immersed in your hypothetical Lily of the Valley soundtrack?

Adam: My work process… I like to be left alone in my work room without many people interfering. I usually find some music that I think expresses the mood I am going for on a given page. My goal with this comic is to make something that really feels emotional, in both the art and writing. So I try to visualize the scenes almost as musicals or playing out to a certain song. I always liked the Tim Burton musical credits where everything was happening to a score. There are several scenes in the film Donnie Darko where the angles and pacing and everything is chosen to coincide with a certain song. I love to see this in films and I want to bring that feeling into this comic. Obviously I cannot have music or any sound because it’s just images on paper, or a screen, but I want to bring this comic as close as a comic can get to being musical. The primary song for the 8 pages competing on Zuda would be “Shivers” by The Boys Next Door, and you can find the video for that on Lily’s blog at www.lilyofthevalleycomic.blogspot.com.

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Llama: How long did it take you to create these eight screens?

Adam: I started on creating Lily of the Valley right after the end of Zuda’s December competition where I competed with another comic titled Bleed which ended in third. I took everything I learned from that very seriously and I began working and had it submitted by mid March. That’s with writing it and everything included. I tried to work at a pace I would need to maintain if Lily were to become a Zuda series. I’m confident that with the opportunity I could surely do 2 pages a week.

Llama: On the forum, you mentioned that Zuda actually asked you to hold back some of the story you’d intended to include. So you don’t just create your eight slides and submit them to be flatly rejected or accepted into the competition?

Adam: Oh, that comment was in response to a comment saying the death by pink flamingo scene was the shock of the story and there would be nowhere to continue from there. The story wasn’t intended to really lift off until page 8 where I was going to reveal a piece of information that really sets the story in motion. I decided to hold off on that and just leave Lily in Mrs. Bellows’ house surrounded by cop cars instead and then include the rest of the plot information in the synopsis. I submitted it to Zuda and they trimmed some information out of the synopsis and said it was a good idea because I was giving away information I shouldn’t reveal yet, which was true. (laughs)

I did create everything and submit it first to be flatly rejected or accepted, yeah. I had no discussion with Zuda editors about it before it was fully completed and submitted.

Llama: You’re Lily’s writer and artist. Zuda lists Luiza Dragonescu as “other” – so what does the “other” team member contribute?

Adam: Well, I am not always sure of my own ideas. Luiza has been my girlfriend for 7 years and gives me reassurance and motivation and inspiration. With this project she acted sort of as an editor would. She edited all the writing and helped me with pages by telling me what works and what doesn’t from a reader’s perspective, because when you’re really involved in doing this type of thing you don’t always see mistakes, etc. I wrote this story to be a personal one so I never wanted help with the actual story, but Luiza and I both have Bachelor of Arts degrees in film studies so she knows as much about scripting and visual storytelling as I do so she was an excellent consultant and editor to turn to through the whole process.

Llama: You’ve entered Zuda’s competition before, with Bleed, and here you are, subjecting yourself to the competition once more. Are you a masochist? How was it different this time?

Adam: Well, I learned a lot from my experience with Zuda in December and by the time the competition ended I was very confident that I had the ability to make a much stronger entry. The competition gave me encouragement and a belief in my ability and I took that and got busy. It is different this time because I am more dedicated to this story as well. It’s more personal and I prepared it and designed it entirely for Zuda and the 8 page intros, and the 60 page seasons, etc. It is a perfect fit and I think I can do really good things with it. Also yeah I’m probably a sucker for pain and punishment too because this competition is brutal. (laughs)

Llama: Comics, movies, TV – which influences your comics the most?

Adam: Most likely music. Nothing helps me think about my story and visualize it better than music. Movies help as well though because I can find some interesting approaches to visual storytelling there that I might not have thought of just listening to music. For the most part, though, I try to let music guide things. With Lily, musicals are going to really have an influence on things too. I am looking forward to it and really hope I get the opportunity to show you what I mean.

Llama: What kind of music? Specific artists?
Adam: Primarily Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. I listened to a lot of Johnny Cash as well as The Cure’s Disintegration, Marilyn Manson’s Mechanical Animals and Blink 182’s self-titled album.

Llama: I’d suggest people read your comic before reading the synopsis because that synopsis gives away a lot of what’s going to happen to this character in the future. What part of the story are you looking forward to the most?

Adam: I’m most looking forward to telling the love story. I think it’s okay to know that that is where this story is heading from the beginning because then a reader will look at these 8 pages and realize it is a story of redemption, not just senseless killing which is what is seen. I really want to pull at heart strings and tear ducts with this story and I’m looking forward to that challenge. The violence is going to be fun of course too. I had to put enough ideas and themes into this to keep me very invested in it. I want to enjoy the entire process so it is filled with things I enjoy and enjoy drawing, etc. It’s a story of love found in a world of violence and emotional turmoil.

Llama: Ideally where do you hope this takes your career?

Adam: Ideally I would just like this opportunity to allow me to invest the time and energy into telling the story I want to tell and to tell it as well as I possibly can. This is the kind of story I would like to read and I know there must be others out there like me so ideally it will find all those people as well. It is a story about outsiders for anyone who has felt like an outsider.

Please vote for Lily of the Valley and rate it and add it to your favorites. If you would like to read more as much as I would like to make more for you, which is a lot. Thanks for your time and the great questions.

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Pictured: Adam Atherton having evil thoughts.




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3 Responses to “Interview: Lily of the Valley (Adam Atherton, Zuda Competitor)”

  1. […] left to their own devices while they try to build a radio out of coconuts. Or something like that. The last time we interviewed a Zuda competitor, Adam Atherton, his entry Lily of the Valley won. Atherton’s ongoing Lily series will finally launch this […]

  2. […] In May we talked with cartoonist Adam Atherton about his 8-page entry in Zuda Comics’ monthly … At the end of the month, Adam’s creation, Lily of the Valley, beat nine other webcomics to win a contract to continue his story in DC Comics’ Zuda line. Adam won! And now, with summer having come and gone, Adam’s Lily of the Valley series launches today. So we revisited Adam to check up with him before the launch. Zuda winner Adam Atherton […]

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