“Sci-fi is a genre that prides itself on some sort of realism and I just kind of threw that out of the window” Tillie Walden her new space-based webcomic On A Sunbeam

on-a-sunbeam It’s been a busy year for indie sensation Tillie Walden – her new book The City Inside was released in the Spring, her previous book I Know This Part was nominated for an Eisner Award, while her debut The End of Summer recently won her an Ignatz Award. Not one to rest on her laurels, she is set to debut an exciting new webcomic this week which is unlike anything else she has produced so far. We catch up with Tillie to find out more about fish spaceships and more in On A Sunbeam

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On A Sunbeam focuses on the story of Mia, a young girl who becomes part of a misfit crew on a ship that repairs ancient monuments in space

You’re launching a new webcomic called On A Sunbeam, so what made you choose to go down the digital route, rather than a print one for this story?

Tillie Walden: I wanted to go the digital route not because I like reading comics on a screen but because of the reach. This comic will be free and available for anyone with a device and internet, and that’s why I made it a webcomic.

We’ve been lucky enough to read the first chapter and it feels like it has a much more structured story and a more far-reaching world than your previous work, is that why you chose to do it as a webcomic? 

TW:  That’s funny to hear – I didn’t make it any more structured on purpose but I think that’s naturally where my work is progressing at the moment.

Do you have a story and an overall structure and plan for it, or are you waiting to see how it develops?

TW: So I do know the ending. I’m getting emotional just thinking about it. But how the characters get to that end is still pretty foggy. I’m going to let it take it’s own path there.

You seem to have deliberately steered clear of explaining the nuts and bolts of where the characters are and why Mia has joined this new crew, is that part of the long term plot? Or is that kind of exposition not as important to you as the development of characters and what happens next?

TW: That information is significant but I cannot divulge why yet. How Mia gets to where she is will be revealed later, but yes it is purposeful that I didn’t explain that.

Although your previous books had some fantastical elements to them, this actually sees you branch out into space, had you always wanted to do a sci-fi book? Are there any books or films that inspired this?

TW: I’ve always wanted to do something sci-fi. Space fascinates me, and this is my first exploration of it in comics. And no there aren’t any specific inspirations because I made a point of avoiding all sci-fi so as not to influence me in any way. I want this to be a thoroughly original Tillie Walden space comic. I know nothing about science though and I am aware that none of what I’m drawing is possible. I think sci-fi is usually a genre that prides itself on some sort of realism and I just kind of threw that out of the window.

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The spaceships in On A Sunbeam resemble fish – yes, you read that correctly!

You definitely given it your own unique twist by making the spaceships really organic, (with one looking like coi carp – which is an amazingly unique touch), where did that idea come from?

TW: Ah the fish ships. Well, when Is started drawing the comic I knew I needed to draw spaceships. But I don’t actually have any idea how to create a proper space ship, so I just avoided the problem by making them all fish. I drew a lot of fish in my third book, A City Inside, and I really enjoyed that so I thought I’d keep the spirit alive and make some fish space ships.

You look like you are having an amazing time drawing the huge cathedral like buildings, do you always make sure to include a scene where you can draw amazing buildings in every script? 

TW: Haha yes I love drawing big shots of buildings. It’s not actually a conscious choice, I just can’t help but draw a wide shot of a massive space in any comic I make. I know many would disagree with this statement, but I don’t feel like I’ve really figured out drawing buildings yet. I know I’m proficient at it, but I still feel like when I draw buildings I’m just scratching the surface of what I can do. I probably keep drawing them like this because I’m searching for more.

Have you had to change the way you work when producing for digital or are you just doing things the same and posting them online? How far in advance are you working and how frequent are the updates going to be?

TW: The updates will be weekly, every Wednesday evening, Central Time. I am working in a bit of a different way because I’m used to just working on something start to finish and not worrying about it. But with this I have to really think through how each chapter works because they kind of have to both work as a stand alone and as a piece of a larger story. I’m very aware that I need to provide something interesting every week, so I’m molding the story to that. Also it doesn’t feel like making a graphic novel, which is like a long run. Whereas this feels like a lot of short sprints. I am about to draw Chapter 4 so I’m definitely ahead but I would like to be even further ahead. I need to draw.

And finally, it’s been an amazing year for you with Eisner nominations and Ignatz Award wins, what was it like being put on such prestigious lists and does the critical sucess matter to you? Or is it just nice to get noticed and have more people reading your work as a result?

TW: Thank you! It has been quite a year. Honestly ever since my first book came out it’s been a trip. All the recognition is lovely and appreciated, but to be totally honest I don’t think about it too much. All the awards and news sort of come into my life briefly and I’m happy and then it leaves and I get back to work. I don’t like to think about it too much because I don’t ever want recognition to influence how I make comics. Critical success isn’t important to me. I know that’s easy to say after having critical success but I do mean it. What other people think of my work and how they choose to express it is their deal. To me, my comics are only mine. I know that’s not really true because other people read them, but that’s how it feels to me.

You can read On A Sunbeam at www.onasunbeam.com and you can purchase I Love This Part, A City Inside and a new version of The End of Summer from Avery Hill Publishing.

Author: Alex Thomas

Alex Thomas is the Editor and founder of PIpedream Comics. He grew up reading comics in the 90s, so even though he loves all things indie and small press, he is easily distracted by a hologram cover.