Chris Hazelton is the creator of Misfile, the popular American manga webcomic about a boy racer who wakes up as a girl; a girl who wakes up to find two years of her life have disappeared; and the pot-smoking angel who caused the whole mess in the first place.
He took some time out from drawing his daily long-form comic to speak to The Webcomic Builder about how and why he produces webcomics.
The Builder: If you were to describe Misfile to someone and you had a very limited amount of time (say a minute or so) to do it, what would you say?
Chris: It’s the story of a possible universe that is held together by a giant celestial filing system in the sky, and how some… Mistakes were made.
The Builder: In Ash, you have one of the most realistic portrayals of a transsexual person outside of the ‘life comic’ genre. Did you have to do a lot of research before starting to write the character?
Chris: I didn’t have to do research when I created the character, mostly because I’d taken so much psychology of gender in college. However, after I did the comic, I learned a lot more from people who then contacted me. In addition, my late father was transgendered.
The Builder: You’ve favoured black-and-white art throughout the life of the comic. Is there a particular reason you choose not to use colour?
Chris: I chose black and white because I figured that if it ever went to print, I’d probably be doing it myself, and black and white is cheaper to print. I chose pencil over ink because Misfile started as a side project I wanted to be able to do quickly.
Later when it became my main project I came to regret the decision to use pencil, but it was too late to change it by then.
The Builder: Misfile began in 2004 and is still going strong. What’s the secret of your longevity?
Chris: Mostly just being willing to get up in the morning and make getting the page done my day’s priority. Treat it like a job and it will have a professional feel.
There are days I’m thrilled to draw it and other days I get up and really just don’t want to work. The difference is that whether I want to or not, I get the page done.
The Buider: Over the years, your art has evolved. Is there anything you know now that you wish you’d known when you started out?
Chris: The beauty of screen tones, mostly. Other than that, just a few Photoshop tricks.
The Builder: Are there any writers or artists that have influenced your work?
Chris: I always site Masamune Shirow, Satoshi Urushihara and Kenichi Sonoda. I don’t think my work looks as good as any of theirs, but they are definately who I consider my influences.
The Builder: Did you do any other comic work before starting Misfile?
Chris: I was the penciler for issue 2 and 3 of a comic called Mad Beanz.
I also was in the middle of a whole different comic called Building 12 when I started Misfile.
The Builder: You maintain a rigid Monday-to-Friday schedule despite producing full-page, complex art. What’s your secret to staying on time?
Chris: Like I said above, just getting up and getting it done before I do anything else during the day. I feel weird if I haven’t gotten my page done yet.
I also try to keep a page buffer so I’m a few days ahead. That way if I’m too sick to do a new page, I already have one to put up.
The Builder: If you hadn’t started Misfile, is there another comic you would have produced instead?
Chris: Probably A Steel Wing Shattered, which I actually DID do after Misfile. It went straight to print, and I haven’t had time to finish it yet, but it probably would have been my next webcomic.
The Builder: Finally, are there any tips you could give to our readers who might be considering starting their own webcomic?
Chris: Only do a comic if you’re goal is to have fun. If you want money or fame, you’re probably barking up the wrong tree. If you just want to do the comic for you though, you should have a lot of fun with it.