Saturday, November 21, 2015

Backstage Pass November: Casey J

Hey, Look What We Got! A Backstage Pass! 

Today, Let's Slip Backstage And Meet Casey J! 

Casey J, or sometimes Notos, is the creator of the beautiful Flash-hybrid comic

Today, we get the treat of sitting down with them for a chat!

So Casey, where do you hail from? What got you into the biz? 

Born in 1982, I showed an interest in art very early on and have been drawing for most of my life. I attended the Alberta College of Art and Design where I got my BFA. I landed my first job as a professional animator in 2007 where I started on shows like Skunk Fu and Three Delivery.
Since, I've been working as an animator and designer for broadcast shows and iPhone apps for franchises that include Strawberry Shortcake, Smurfs, Archie, Babar and Slugterra.

And your main project is? 

Buying Time

Other Hobbies and Obsessions

Movies, video games, anime, and generally all things geeky.

So, tell me about your early experience. How did you fall in love with telling stories in pictures?

I've always been interested in comics since an early age. Mostly for the art and visuals above anything else; I'd buy a random Iron Man issue because it had a cool robot enemy, or a random Shadow Hawk issue because I liked how his suit looked. At the time there wasn't any attachment to a particular character or story, it was almost entirely the visuals that attracted me. I have such a random collection of comics.
It wasn't until I was about 11 or 12 that I started to fully appreciate the story and narrative side of it as well and started to have some sort of method to my purchasing habits. By that time I started to get familiar with anime, I saw Akira when I was probably too young to see Akira and it jump started my interest in animation, it was like nothing I had ever seen before. I was interested in drawing and animation ever since, I wanted to create stuff like that.

You have a really innovative take on the webcomic format. How did you get the idea to make an animated webcomic? How did you get started on this project?

'Buying Time' was originally going to be an animated short. I had done a couple by that point, and liked the idea of doing a cyberpunk themed one. I thought up the concept and found that I really enjoyed the idea and felt it had legs, something I could expand on to be more in depth than just a 2 minute short, so I thought about doing a standard comic with it.
With a standard comic though, I felt I'd be missing the ability to show the flashing neon lights, animated holographic ads, and general 'eye catchers' that I wanted to show off in the animated short that would bring the city to life. I started to look into animated webcomics to see if I could meld to two formulas and came up with the format you see in Buying Time, it's sort of a mesh of different animated webcomic 'features' I saw others using, with some tweaks of my own to make things snappy and give it it's own unique feel.

What media and programs do you work in to produce your project?

Buying Time is produced entirely in Flash. I will rarely use Photoshop for some features that Flash (at least, the older version I prefer using) doesn't have, but generally everything you see in Buying Time is produced in Flash.

Can you tell me about your typical day or strip-creation session? How does your working process flow?

I have my script written out, with is basically a brief description of what is happening in the panel and the dialogue needed. (Vinnie is sitting on the end of his bed talking on his P-Comm. "S-sure, if you say so...")
I'll look at everything that the script calls for on that page and lay out how many panels I'll need, and very quickly and roughly sketch things out.
I'll then do a second pass on the roughs to do 'more legible' roughs.

From there I'll generally go right into cleans, generally doing the characters and all their poses first as they take more time, and backgrounds after.
Then I'll do any effects the scene calls for, animations, glows, general 'eyecatchers'.
Finally I'll go about adding the text and word bubbles. The whole process takes about a week and a half per page, depending on how complex the page is.

What’s the most difficult part of your work?

The nature of 'Buying' Time's format means I have to decide how characters are posed and how they move throughout and interact within the space of one frame without changing camera angles to suit what is going on. For example if the scene is of two characters talking at the dinner table, I need to consider that the whole scene will be taking place within one panel with no camera change, so I have to arrange the scene so we can see both characters expressions and gestures, I won't be able to switch camera angles back and fourth to show each character when they speak, if that makes sense. Essentially I have to more carefully compose scenes so the bulk of it can all take place within one panel.

Can you tell me about your storytelling process? Do you prefer to script your stories, fly by the seat of your pants, or somewhere in between?

I think my method is somewhere in between. I had the entire story for Buying Time laid out in my head, and generally pen out the concrete dialogue a chapter or two before actually getting there, so it has some time to "sit" before I get there and can give it a second look before putting it in the comic.

How much of a buffer do you like to keep?

The more the better, in case anything comes up that would cause a delay or I find production goes through periods of sluggishness. I generally like to have 3 or 4 pages.

Has anyone told you that you'll never be a successful artist and you'd be better off studying a real field and/or getting a real job?

I had a friend in high school that was very uppity and didn't consider being an artist a "real" career path. She didn't explicitly say I wouldn't be successful, but always turned her nose up at the concept of me considering attending a Fine Arts College or wanting to pursue a career in animation. Otherwise I generally had a lot of support.

What message do you hope readers take away from your work?

In the context of Buying Time, be aware of how things are changing around you and don't brush off gradual changes as things that can be ignored or things that won't have an effect. It's really frightening how complacent people can be under terrible circumstances if the changes that brought them to that point are small and gradual enough.

Outside of the context of Buying Time, in general, I hope people are inspired to create their own stories and art, that would be the biggest compliment to me, I want to inspire creativity in others.

What keeps you devoted to telling the story you’re telling?

The nature of a webcomic does a lot for motivation; having a large reader base and the promise of providing new content on a schedule adds a sort of obligation that helps move things along production-wise. Though ignoring that, I've always have a drive for story telling, I think that is what drew me to being an artist in the first place; I love to create, and I'm driven to do it by the things that inspire me. I thinks thats why I enjoy putting so many blatant references and homages in Buying Time; these things have been such a huge creative inspiration for me, they make me want to create, so I have to show them some love back.

Thanks so much for your time Casey! Rock on!


  1. Fascinating, really like Buying Time, very unique book, thank you so very much for sharing!

    Stay frosty;

    William Leighton

  2. I started following your comic over two years ago! You truly rock! Thank you Casey J!!!


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