NTMI: Hello everyone! I'm here this evening with dragon_spine, whose comics have been driving people to the Loony Bin for some time.... good evening, dragon_spine!
Dragon_spine: Good evening to you too!
NTMI: Our first question is how did you find Neopets?
Dragon_spine: Well, a friend of mine pointed it out to me about a year after the site opened, but I never joined until about a year ago.
NTMI: So for the space of a year or so, you knew about Neopets but never bothered playing with it. What changed that?
Dragon_spine: Well, after I'd heard about it, I had planned on joining, but I never got around to it. My friend suggested it to me again, she'd joined around the same time I did and I figured by the sounds of it Neopets was pretty fun, so I gave it a shot.
NTMI: So you finally got convinced to try it out. What prompted you to use the name of dragon_spine?
Dragon_spine: Heh, funny you ask that. ^_^ Pretty much a matter of playing around with words. I'd tried 'dragon_fang' and 'spinebreaker', and neither were free. So I combined dragon and spine and luckily that wasn't taken.
NTMI: Well with tens of millions of account names used, a little imagination never hurts! :-) Now that you're on Neopets, what do you like best about it?
Dragon_spine: Hmm...Well...I'd probably have to say the little sorties that happen every so often. Like Meridell's war right now. It keeps the website interesting to have all kinds of plots happening. I think that's what makes people keep coming back, to see if anything new has happened in Neopia since the last time they were there.
NTMI: Speaking of the war, are your pets in shape for it?
Dragon_spine: Hehe, nope. ^__^;; They weren't for the Desert War either. My pets aren't fighters, mainly because I have no battle strategy.
NTMI: Ah well, join the club. The only fighting pet I have uses mostly sheer stats. (And Drain Life doesn't hurt!) But on to your career. How did you find the Neopian Times, and what got you started contributing?
Dragon_spine: Ah yes, I read somewhere you could submit comics in, and I've always been into comics. I'd been drawing kinda random comics since I was little, Spawn and X-Men were a big influence. But what got me submitting stuff into the NT was that now I could actually have some of my comics posted somewhere and not just in my sketchbooks.
NTMI: How many did you submit before one was accepted?
Dragon_spine: I got accepted on my first try. Odd, hm?
NTMI: Not really, but great! And the next question is one that has intrigued me for some time. Just why would a cheese grater have amorous intentions towards a Scorchio?
Dragon_spine: He he he! You're the first to actually ask the reason of why I used a cheese grater. The comic was based off something that actually happened to me, I dared a friend of mine to talk to a cheese grater...and what my Scorchio said in the comic is what she actually said when I dared her to do this! LoL! But that's basically how the idea came.
NTMI: Too bad you didn't have a camcorder handy at the time! ;-)
Dragon_spine: No kidding!
NTMI: So outside of watching your friends go batty, how else do you find good ideas for comics?
Dragon_spine: Most of my comics are based off things that have happened to me. Like my second comic, the one with the fly, I actually did that, but not as dramatically as my Scorchio did. ^^;; I usually spend a while thinking up something I could use, and if nothing comes to mind, I usually ask for some ideas from friends.
NTMI: Hey, nothing like some outside input now and then. Do you ever get strangers writing comic ideas to you in neomail?
Dragon_spine: It's happened a few times. But I've never used any of the ideas they've suggested.
NTMI: I see. And once you get that great idea, how long does it take to produce a finished comic?
Dragon_spine: Hmm, about an hour to half an hour including the coloring and all.
NTMI: Not bad. Does that include scanning it in, or do you do it on the computer in the first place?
Dragon_spine: Nope, no scanning involved with my comics. Almost all of my Neopets-related art, including my comics, are done by mouse.
NTMI: What program(s) do you use?
Dragon_spine: Ah, now this is a common question! ;-) My pictures start out by me drawing them on MSPaint (which is the little paint program that comes with Windows) and once I've got the outline done, I color, shade, and highlight the picture in Adobe Photoshop LE.
NTMI: And how do you get the text into it?
Dragon_spine: I use the Layer tool in Adobe to do that. I make the speech bubbles on a separate layer than the actual image so I can drag them where I see fit. Then I just use the Text tool to add in what they say.
NTMI: I see! Then it gets into the Neopian Times... what sort of feedback do you get?
Dragon_spine: Heh, pretty much just things like "I love your art!" or "Great comic, can't wait for next week's!" and pretty much things like that. Never received criticism though.
NTMI: That seems to be relatively rare for NT contributors, although I for one am not complaining!!
Dragon_spine: Hee hee!
NTMI: What would you tell someone else who wants to be in the Neopian Times like you are?
Dragon_spine: Hm, well first, be original, no one likes a copy cat. Secondly, don't say your art 'sucks' or whatever. I was told by a huge inspiration of mine that comparing your art to others' and saying it's bad is just stupid. It doesn't make them better than you, they just know some techniques you haven't learned, and that means you can learn too. So pretty much, if you want to be in the Neopian Times, be creative and just try your best!
NTMI: Speaking of "flaws", what sort of flaws do you notice most often in the Neopian Times' comics?
Dragon_spine: Well, I've seen a lot of comics that have just way too many frames. I like them short and simple, I try not to make mine over 3 frames long. Hmm...other than that, I guess the only other flaw I've noticed is just pixilated drawings. I don't know if it bothers a lot of people, but I think smoother lines make the comic look a lot cleaner.
NTMI: What do you think causes pixilated art?
Dragon_spine: Well, I know if you don't shrink down the frame after drawing it the lines are very choppy. I always draw my comics very large and shrink it down about 50% to make the lines smooth.
NTMI: Nice trick, I can see how that would eliminate small errors.
NTMI: What's the best part about being in the Times?
Dragon_spine: I'd say just knowing that you're sharing your art with the rest of the Neopets community is the best part. That and seeing everyone else's comics. I've always wanted to talk to the writer of The Moo Strip, her comics always crack me up and I think it's great she's sharing those great comics with everyone as well.
NTMI: Well since she's started uni (college), she might have less time to respond, but a neomail would no doubt be appreciated! What about the worst part, though?
Dragon_spine: The overwhelming amount of fanmail I receive! ^^ I love getting it, but sometimes I just can't respond to all those neomails.
NTMI: Ever find yourself tempted to use form letters?
Dragon_spine: Not really. I personally don't like them, and I know how satisfying it is to receive a personally written response from someone you've sent mail to. So I try to reply to every individual neomail I get, though I'm considering setting up a FAQ to try and tone down the amount of questions I get.
NTMI: Or at least have something to refer people to?
NTMI: Back to the Neopian Times itself, though. If there was one thing you could change about how it is organized, what would it be?
Dragon_spine: Hm, well I like almost everything about how it's organized, the only thing that's starting to bother me is the links at the top of it that link to every week they've have. It's getting pretty crowded with links...I think if they just moved them to the bottom of the page, it would look less cluttered.
NTMI: An interesting idea! Maybe they'll do something about that before too long. In the meantime, though, have you got other examples of your artwork posted on Neopets? And if so, where?
Dragon_spine: All 3 (1 2 3) of my pet's pages have small galleries with Neopets art. But the biggest place to find samples of my art would be my VCL Gallery
Dragon_spine: I also have a DeviantArt gallery and my homepage (with a directory of all my art and whatnot).
NTMI: Quite a collection! What sort of goals do you have for your art in the future?
Dragon_spine: I really want to get into animation. I've looked into getting involved with Walt Disney or Dreamworks Studios. I've been working on a portfolio for both places, and hopefully by the time I can apply I'll meet the standards to get in. My life goal though, regarding my art, is to go independent with animation and make my own animated films.
NTMI: A great dream! Now to find a few other people to handle the business end for you, and you're off.... ;-)
Dragon_spine: Heh heh, that'd be all I need!
NTMI: So to change the subject a bit... you drew about a dozen comics, mostly about your pets (some not) and then you suddenly settle on a single name for them... the Loony Bin. So, why settle for a single name, and why THAT name?
Dragon_spine: I had been planning on naming my comic strip for a while, but I could never think of something suiting. The name 'The Loony Bin' was actually the name of my pet page for a few weeks. It was shared by my Korbat and my Scorchio, who're both nut cases. So, having crazy pets staring in a weekly comic I figured The Loony Bin was most fitting due to the way I have them act in the comics.
NTMI: I certainly can't argue with that! Is there anything else you'd like to tell us before we end things here?
Dragon_spine: Yup, just one big thank you to all the fans who read the comics! ^^ I never thought I'd see the day when I'd actually have fans! So thanks!
NTMI: I don't think it could be said any better. Thank YOU for talking with me this evening, and good luck with your future works!
Dragon_spine: Oh you're very welcome, no trouble at all! ^__^
Would you like to read all of Dragon_spine's comics? Just click here to check her out in our database!