“When you were just a young boy… humanity was spread across nearly every planet in orbit. We called it ‘Heaven’.”
When humanity begins its foray into the stars, what will we be like as a society? Sci-fi writers have often envisioned humanity’s future civilization; almost inevitably we seem destined to become enslaved by our own devices in a dystopian future run by large, shadowy governments in bed with big corporations. But a good sci-fi world chills the reader when something about it rings true, when their reality is but an echo of our own. A very real possibility.
The New Yesterday is an ongoing sci-fi webcomic, which recounts the story of “The Fall” – the destruction of humanity’s futuristic utopia. It was a pacified society drunk on instant gratification and propaganda, fed to them by an Orwellian government constantly at war with the ‘bad guys’. It’s a visually engaging comic that draws you into a world that seems almost a futuristic caricature of our own, with ironically blatant marketing and targeted advertising right from the comfort of your own artificially intelligent home!
But in a way the story is as much about the past as it is about the future. It’s told almost exclusively through flashbacks and thematically this plays a role in how the story evolves. The futuristic society is actually the world of yesterday; a world remembered only by those who lived it. And so the story is a retelling, by an old hermit to a young man eager to answer the questions surrounding his father’s death. It’s a story about two clashing worlds and about how technology transforms the human condition, in more ways than one. Our narrator was once a part of both worlds, a corporate stooge turned unlikely revolutionary who went through a transformation of sorts himself. That’s how he met the spunky Sid and got caught up in the collapse of an entire civilization.
Check out my interview with the author below, where he talks about futurism, Doctor Who, and being a creator in the world of webcomics!
Tell us a bit about The New Yesterday.
The New Yesterday is a webcomic sci-fi saga I’ve been working on casually for years and more seriously for the past five or so months. The story will be told across about 13 books and I’m currently working on number one. It can be found on Tapastic or on my main site.
It’s about the collapse of this big huge galactic civilization, essentially the fall of “Space Rome”. Years afterwards, a man who lived through it is recounting how it all went down to a young man whose father died along the way. So through flashbacks, we sort of watch as these big planetary empires clash and as this man and our other heroes are caught in the middle.
When did you start this webcomic?
I started it in high school (like 2005). Back then it was called Mozhaets and it lasted about a year, but I couldn’t keep it up. Then I started again in 2009, and quit again. Now I started it up for the third time this past December.
You’ve said this is the third iteration. Do you feel this has affected the direction of your webcomic? What’s the story behind the new title?
The actual story has stayed mostly the same. I’ve been refining it, obviously, but the big beats have been the same. It was more about the art – my style changed a lot during that time and it felt wrong to just carry on from where I left off when I was 17, and then 23. I’m 27 now and I’m still not always happy with my work, but I’ve improved a lot. So I’m trying to have an artistic consistency at least within each book. It was important to me that you don’t see me improving on a page-by-page basis. Hah.
I really like titles of stories that are sort of enigmatic. The words Moz Haets will still appear in the story, and their meaning is a story point. But I was finding it was difficult to talk about the comic because no one could pronounce the title. As for the title “The New Yesterday”, a central theme is revisionist history – the way the past can be reinterpreted. So when I came up with the phrase, I was attracted to it’s contradictory, almost oxymoronic vibe and it was one of those things where it just felt right.
What are some of the challenges you encountered making The New Yesterday?
On the writing side, TNY has this framing device – the narrator telling the story to the kid. I’m having fun trying to work out the logistics of that. What to tell, when, and playing around with having an unreliable narrator. It’s like a puzzle I guess.
Do you have any big influences, artistically or otherwise?
Cowboy Bebop is hands down the biggest influence. The art style, the story pacing – it’s the foundation for the feel I was going for. I don’t actually read a LOT of comics, but lately big influences on my style have been Fiona Staples, Jake Wyatt, and then The incredible Kim Jung Gi whom I hold up on a pedestal and worship every morning. I hope to be a bit like those guys one day.
Are you self-taught or did you study art professionally?
Self taught. Drawing and writing has always just been something I did as a kid.
Technology is a huge element in most sci-fi stories, what role do you envision it taking in The New Yesterday?
So I’m big into futurism. Predicting trends and technologies, and I want to play with that. There’s two big warring societies in the story. One approaches technology as an opiate – a way to entertain and distract it’s people, while the other is embracing technology as a way to empower, liberate, and reorganize. So I’m very excited to explore the ways that we’re going to change as technology starts making us live longer, jump higher, move faster, think clearer, all that stuff.
And of course, there will be people who fight against that change. That’s a big part of the progression of the story.
Is there anything you can share about your experience posting on Tapastic?
Tapastic is mostly a good site and a pleasure to be a part of. There’s a great community. I wish their app was more creator-friendly, but that’s a small thing.
It also feels like they could do more to help the little guys. The featured content seems to be very curated in favour of already popular stuff. I’ve seen a lot of great comics get totally ignored on there.
Do you find the webcomic market is oversaturated? What are some of the barriers you’ve encountered in trying to get your work more widely read?
Trying to get your work out there is tricky, but I wouldn’t say the market is oversaturated, exactly. I feel like it was worse when I was first messing around with webcomics back in 2003-06. There was so much junk – Penny Arcade ripoffs and sprite comics, and just really bad stuff in with the good. These days, there’s way more stuff, but I feel like it’s of a much higher general quality and so I hesitate using words like “oversaturated”. It’s hard to have too much talent, you know?
Also these days, comics are often very niche, which is awesome. There’s a lot more stories now that know exactly what they are, and aren’t trying for that mass appeal. I think stories that don’t try to be one-size-fits-all are the better ones. So yeah there’s a lot of stuff out there, and it can be hard to get noticed but its also a big motivator to improve. I’d say the webcomic world is very healthy right now, to be honest. In a couple more years we’re going to see a lot more people making a modest living from it, and that’s an amazing thought.
How do you engage with your readership? How much support do you get from the online community?
That’s one thing about Tapastic I really love. It’s a community that encourages conversation. Outside of that I don’t have a big relationship with my readers. But I want that to change. I’m trying to be more active on twitter. When people tweet me about my work it makes my day.
Where do you share/post your comic?
I try to maintain a presence on twitter, as I said. I also have a tumblr, and a deviant art page, but I find those communities more difficult to break into.
I’ve also actually started up a subreddit called /r/webcomicbooks. Typically the only kinds of webcomics that do well on reddit are gag-a-day types because they’re easy to post up and get upvotes. I wanted a space for people to share, find, and talk about webcomics that tell stories. So it works as a plugging platform as well as a forum. I hope your readers will check it out – it’s new, but I have high hopes.
I also participate in chats on twitter. #comicbookhour and #webcomicchat are organized twitter hangouts at least once a week, and they’re good for finding new comics, and befriending creators.
I can’t help but notice that one character looks very familiar… Does the comparison go beyond physical appearance?
I think part of the resemblance is that I sort of look like a cartoon character in real life. I designed Sid to carry on the tradition of mouthy teenagers caught up in adventure. The sort of trope that’s big in games like Final Fantasy or various movies and anime. He came to look more and more like me I think, as I practiced pulling my face into weird expressions and looking in the mirror. In terms of personality, we definitely have some things in common – we’re both very self-centered and we can both be kind of naive. But really, I put a lot of myself into all my characters. I think I might have more in common with the old man Malik, or the female protagonist Loukka in terms of our temperament and goals.
What tools do you use to create your art?
I do some stuff in 3D, so I’ve been teaching myself modelling software like Maya and Zbrush, but the bulk of my work is done in Photoshop and more lately Clip Studio Paint – which I’m recommending to everyone who does comics these days. It’s an incredibly powerful (if a bit rough around the edges) program specifically designed for comic making.
I use a Microsoft Surface Pro 2 for my line art, and then a wacom bamboo on iMac for colouring and fine details, text, etc. I’m saving up for a Cintiq though – that’s where it’s at.
Do you have any unusual or quirky habits that are part of your creative process?
I’ve been doing this since I was a kid. Back then, I’d come home from school and draw in front of the TV. It was such a ritual that I can’t break it – I put 90’s and 00’s sitcoms on in the background whenever I work. I could probably “sing along” with any given episode of the Simpsons or Frasier. It’s likely terrible for my attention span but it helps me zone in and just get the work done.
You said you’d like to write an episode of Doctor Who. Who would be your Doctor and companion? And what would it be about?
I’m a huge fan of Capaldi, honestly. He could be the Doc for another seven years and I’d be fine, but I’d make a companion a person of colour from Canada. I think it’d be a refreshing perspective – and Canada is sort of halfway between America and the UK, so it wouldn’t be too different.
I think Doctor Who has been trying too hard to out-do itself. More twists, more cliffhangers, more deus ex machina, not to mention the doctor is always saving the whole damn universe. I’d slow things down, and scale back. Try to apply a bit more of the star trek formula: “here’s a group of people, they’ve got a problem, lets help them fix it themselves”. I’d want to see more alien cultures. Love an Ood.
Where do you hope to take The New Yesterday?
Well, this month I’m starting a Patreon page. I’m all about stuff like Patreon. I’ll eventually print copies of each book in the series, but I want to be a part of this movement towards crowdfunding. I fund a couple projects on Kickstarter and Patreon, and the idea that we can all just pitch a little bit and support out-of-the-box creations is the coolest.
Name some of your favorite webcomics! What webcomic are you reading/following right now?
I read a few things that are pretty great. I’m a fan of Drugs & Wires, WooHoo! and I also want folks to check out my pal’s comic Undecayed, which is new but it has a lot of interesting subtext. A lot to say about race and racism and human rights, but it’s also about the undead.