Creator Interview: Sheryl Schopfer

For the month of December, through January our featured comic will "Sharpclaw" by Sheryl Schopfer! Sharpclaw is described as fantasy comic featuring fairy tales and furry tales! This comic just recently finished up it's first chapter, which was an introduction to the characters and sort of world this comic will be presenting, so it's a great time to start reading.

You can read the comic on it's website, and also visit Sheryl's Patreon page if you'd like to support both "Sharpclaw" and "Deer Me"!

Can you tell us a bit about your comic “Sharpclaw” and its genre and themes? "Sharpclaw" is an adventure story set in a fantasy world and it explores friendships and romance, while heavily employing fairy tale references.  Its key themes are valuing interpersonal bonds, trusting in your loved ones, and trusting in yourself.

And twins.  There are so many sets of twins in "Sharpclaw," I think "twins" qualifies as a theme.  :-)

You said in your summary that there are references to stories such as “Snow White and Rose Red” or “Little Red Riding Hood”, along with others, what made you choose to incorporate these into your own story? I adore mythology, folklore, fairy tales, nursery rhymes... all those stories that have been around so long that they get "classical" genre names.  Fairy tales fascinate me for a few different reasons, including:

1 - They are more complicated and in-depth than what we dismissively call "fairy tale" today.  By relegating these often-dark stories to a sanitized playroom, and taking them out of context, we miss some rich real-world history.

2 - Many versions we have today seem quite incomplete -- probably having lost many elements in the many retellings before being written -- so lend themselves very well to wide interpretations.  Is Rumpelstiltskin the villain in his story?  We often interpret it that way... but he sure did a lot for the miller's daughter for remarkably little payment, and gave her an easy way out of the one big price he did demand.  Why?

I wanted to explore those stories and I love their details.

Were there other webcomics that inspired you? If not, what else did? I cannot list all my sources of inspiration, since there are so many!  I have written scenes based on music, created characters inspired by movies, referenced other comics for costume designs, adapted plots from other books, drawn scenery of actual places, and written relationships based on real life experiences.

If I had to identify my top three inspirations for "Sharpclaw," then I would say, in order that I discovered them: - "Oliver & Company" by Disney, https://movies.disney.com/oliver-and-company - "ElfQuest" by Wendy Pini, http://elfquest.com/ - "The Rumpelstiltskin Problem" by Vivian Vande Velde, http://vivianvandevelde.com/

While I did not list any webcomics there, yes, I read a lot of webcomics and some do influence my work, too.  :-)

Sharpclaw is a rather new story who has time to spread its wings, would you say everything about the plot you've written so far is set in stone, or do you think there will be a lot of changes over time?

"Sharpclaw" started running this year, but is old enough to legally drink in the USA!  ;-)  I got the first idea (that eventually grew into the current story) over two decades ago and started writing.  Over all those years, I have written, sketched, daydreamed, drawn, and eventually noticed that "Sharpclaw" was getting too unwieldy.  In recent years, I made myself write the core story I wanted to tell:  beginning, middle, and end.  I brought together all the scraps, scenes, notions, outlines, and summaries into one story, and even made painful cuts of beloved scenes that just do not contribute to the story enough.  I made myself stick to writing one cohesive story over the course of a few years, and edited and proofread it three times -- and even had others read it -- before the drawing of the comic pages finally started.

So, I now have one story across three books mostly fixed, with (hopefully) nothing more than small changes likely.  That said, I also have other ideas floating around, too:  preludes, side-stories, what happens after the three books.  If I still feel like dealing with "Sharpclaw" after the the many years the three written books take me to draw and publish, then I can play with those other notions.

How do you stay motivated to work on the comic? What advice would you give to other people wanting to create webcomics?

I want to tell this story; I really do.  I have been toying with this idea -- in various forms -- for over half my life.  Whether I get a sizable readership, whether I make a living with it or not, I want to see "Sharpclaw" in reality.  I want to be able to look at it and read it, not just see it in my head, as I have for so long.

To people who want to create comics, I suggest having that passion for the project itself.  Comics are not likely to make you wealthy, unless you get lucky or know how to cater to the paying crowd.  So, know why you want to make your comic before your start, and know that your reason will carry you through times of frustration.

Also, work on the comic before committing to it.  Write the story -- beginning, middle, and end -- or at least make a full outline and write a few whole chapters.  Stories just left floating in the head have a nasty habit of ballooning out of control.  Draw the characters several times before committing to their designs.  A 9-tailed, 4-winged spider-taur might look cool in one drawing, but see how you feel after drawing her for the twentieth time.  Scenes featuring one hundred characters might seem epic in your head, but can get complicated or exhausting quickly... or just not fit in the allotted panel.

All that said, do not let anyone stop you from doing your comic.  "That story's been done before."  True, but it wasn't done before by you; this is your version of the story, and that makes it new.  "I don't like it / It sucks / etc."  Such speakers are not your audience.  If you like it, then your comic has an audience of at least one.  More will follow.  If you want to tell your story, then tell your story.

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