Friday, May 13, 2016

Five-Q with Ed and Lee, The Little Guardians

I find that creative teams in comics have an agreeable symmetry to tag teams in professional wrestling. You need a sense of chemistry and timing between partners in order for the team to truly flourish. Although I love a good single creator story, there's nothing quite like watching a team come together to produce something great.  In a world where it seems like credit is always given to single individuals, successful comic book pairings are incredibly refreshing.

Lee Cherolis and Ed Cho are an impeccable example of that kind of teamwork in action, and I am happy to have them on today's edition of Five-Q. The duo is responsible for the creation of The Little Guardians, a fantasy webcomic with a committed, ever-growing audience. Lee (the artist) and Ed (the writer) were kind enough to talk with me about the origins of the comic, their marketing approach, and their plans for the future.

Aaron David Harris: Tell us a bit about Little Guardians. What influences or inspiration did you take into account when you were first conceiving the project?

ED: Little Guardians is an all ages fantasy adventure comic about a young girl who must uncover the truth about her connection to the spirit world and save her village from an evil cult.

Ed Cho (left) and Lee Cherolis
are the co-creators of Little Guardians.
A big inspiration for Little Guardians was Japanese RPG’s from the early 90’s.  The Final Fantasy series, Lunar, Shining Force, and Phantasy Star games greatly influenced the kind of story I wanted to tell.  I had a good friend read the first chapter, and he told me it felt like he played the first hour of a role playing game.  I took that as a compliment.

LEE: I'm a big Sci-Fi/Fantasy fan. My three favorite authors are Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett and Jim Butcher. I was absolutely guided by those three guys when I was first brainstorming what kind of story I wanted to tell. My art is probably more influenced by cartoons than anything else. Avatar the Last Airbender, classic anime series like Record of Lodoss War, and of course the wonderfully illustrated Dungeons and Dragons manuals from my college years playing D&D.

ADH: Writers and artists can sometimes struggle to find each other. How did you guys meet?

ED: Lee and I both worked on comic book projects independently.  We became friends first after we met through a local comic book group called Indy Webcomics Group.  I was a great admirer of Lee’s artwork and recognized his talent immediately.  Story-telling and script writing was always my forte. I suggested we work on a project together and Little Guardians was born.

LEE: The more we work together the more I realize how lucky we are. A good working partnership is very hard to find. I think we instinctively knew the other guy was going to be someone who would be a good match since we got along so well even before the thought of a collaboration was brought up. If you're having a story pitch meeting (playing video games together) and you're both laughing and excitedly throwing a wealth of ideas back and forth, that's a good sign! 8 years later, we're still working together!

ADH: Every creative team has a process. What’s yours?

ED:  Once we figured out what kind of story we wanted to tell, we did some initial world building and threw around ideas for characters to fill this world.  When I felt we had enough start-up material for a comic, I dove into the scripts and started working on the details of the story.  I focused on dialogue and action, not worrying about page count or character design.  From these scripts we sat down together to figure out how the pages would look.  That’s still the process we use today.

LEE: It's certainly a unique arrangement. I don't know many other artists who have their writers on video chat, screen sharing while they thumbnail each page. But you wouldn't believe how much time this saves in revisions and editing. We're both pretty much 100% satisfied with each page even before I begin working on the pencils. When my rough sketches are making Ed laugh, I know I've got a killer page. We learned over time how to behave in a creative partnership. It's pretty much as close to 50/50 as you can get. Ed has final say on script and I have final say on art. I'd say the last 3 years we've really got it down to a finely tuned routine.

ADH: As independent creators, what is your approach to marketing your work? Is it even something that you think about, or are you more concerned with simply putting together a great story?

ED: We put a lot of time and effort into creating the best comic we can.  Unfortunately that’s not enough if no one knows about Little Guardians.  We use social media, comic conventions, bookstore signings, Patreon, and other advertisement outlets in an effort to spread the word.

LEE: You CAN NOT ignore promotion. Getting your work seen by the right people and connecting with an audience will make the difference between a hobby and a career. The trick is you never know when that opportunity is going to come along, and when it does you have to be ready for it. Every decision we've made while developing the Little Guardians series has been trying to put our best foot forward. Promotion and marketing are a big part of that.

ADH: What are your ultimate plans for Little Guardians? Will you keep it independent? Or do you aspire to see in printed with the likes of Image, Dark Horse, IDW, etc.?

ED: That is a very timely question.  Right now we’re independent where we fund our work through Patreon and the sale of books that we print in small batches.  In the back of our minds we always hoped to one day get picked up by a publisher.  Recently we realized in today’s world of digital distribution, print on demand, and the growing reach of the internet, we don’t need to wait around like some damsel in distress.  We’re looking into creating our own small press publisher for Little Guardians.  More news on this to come!

LEE: The tools exist to do everything you want to do in comics with or without a publisher. Our plan is to think 3 steps ahead and push Little Guardians as far as humanly possible. At the end of the day, I'm creating work that I love and that is immensely, personally fulfilling. Ed and I bake a wonderful cake. A publisher would be the icing on that cake and the truck that can drive around and give that cake to a lot of people. But we're also already building our own truck as well. :D When you're a do it yourself creator, you really have to do it all.

As for long term, I want my books in libraries and classrooms, a cartoon adaptation, music, toys, you name it. Why not shoot for the stars?