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Snooze's Feature Team Interview

Feature Snooze's Feature Team Interview

Hey y'all! Jimcloud here, and one of my first jobs as one of your new featurers was the honor of conducting the last of our Nuzlocke Extravaganza winner interviews. The subject this time?

None other than one Burn Away, by our forum's own Snooze. Burn Away is without a doubt one of the biggest ongoing nuzlocke comics today, and I was honored to sit down with her and pick her brain about Kalos, nuzlockes, stories, art, and everything in between. Read it in the spoiler below!

What goes into the gijinka design process for you? How do you decide which elements of the Pokemon goes into the final design?​

Hm. God, this always has me rambling so I'll try to keep it relatively concise, haha.

That's understandable!​

I like to always start with a silhouette. My main priority is making character designs within the comic distinct from each other, so if a character is part of a certain team, I'll line up the other team members' silhouettes and try to think of what I'm missing in that group - what body type or shape isn't represented, etc. etc. And of course personality plays a major factor in the silhouette (and overall design), too! But from there, I grab some official art of whatever pokemon I'm gijinkafy-ing and I try to look at major design elements - patterns, shapes, and features like horns/tails/ears. I try to reduce pokemon designs to a few major identifying elements like that, certain things that make the pokemon recognizable. It's not really an exact science, but, for example, Ivysaur's most identifying quality is its flower bulb and leaves - so when designing Edie, I centered all of her original concepts on that element.

I sketch a lot, basically just trying to crank out a ton of different design ideas fast all at once, haha. Then, once I have a few ideas I like, I make more polished artwork and try to merge the elements I like into one final design!

Oh, and I always try to use the original pokemon's color scheme! I always find that color is a huge part in being recognizable

Ah, yeah, yeah, definitely. To take an example in comic, you did two different gijinka within the amaura line but still managed to make them recognizable but also very visually distinct.​

Yeah! It's always challenging to work with 2 characters of the same species - that's when personality really has to take priority in a design.

On a tangentially related note, what goes into the worldbuilding? Gijinka runs often have a whole new set of rules and a very expansive landscape to work with, so I’d love to hear some notes on crafting the Burn Away world!​

AW GEEZ.... Well, I guess I have to confess that I'm not very organized with worldbuilding for Burn Away, hahaha. I work mostly on a need-to-write basis. Most of my worldbuilding is thinking in terms of "what is necessary to the plot? Do I need to establish this so that character motivations make sense?" If I get ideas about worldbuilding, I'll jot them down, but I may not ever explore them further if the story doesn't call for it.

For example, I wasn't much interested in explaining Gijinkas or their powers so it was easy for me to simply say "it's biological magic!" and build whatever I needed for things like evolution or type matchups or whatever off of that principle. (Of course, I spent a lot more time on Vacancy as a concept because it was so central to the plot, haha) But I love history! I decided early on that Kalos' history was going to be important - for shaping the setting, for the way the characters act, and for how the league became what it is presently in the comic. So that's what I really explored! I tried to think of how the region first began, what it looked like before it was even a region, how did the provinces interact with each other and how would that affect people's attitudes in present. The interesting thing to me about a gijinka world is "Why are these people fighting each other, sometimes to the death? Why is that accepted in their society?" I like to build off of questions like that.

Yeah, that makes sense! And it's a good question to ask, I think - and definitely one that Burn Away takes seriously.

I'm glad you bring up Vacancy, though, because that's actually what my next question is about.​

What prompted the concept of vacant gijinka like Roman and Ulrich? Did you have any inspiration for that?​

Ah I was sort've expecting I'd get a question about this.

It's very important to me, Snooze,​

I came to the idea of being Vacant sort've backwards - I had this persistent image of Roman running away from home, and I also wanted to incorporate mega stones into the plot very early - so I got this idea of him using the stone and gaining these powers he couldn't control. But then the more pressing question became "Ok, but why would he want to use the stone in the first place?"

It's no real secret, but I based a lot of Roman's personality off of myself at age 14, and a huge aspect of that time in my life was my struggle with my own mental illness - feeling alienated, believing I was broken, etc etc. So it was easy to imagine this condition that might make Roman feel these things, a disability that might motivate him to change himself. The world is built on magic, so I thought "Maybe he can't do that." Roman's preoccupancy with "fixing" himself is drawn directly from my own experiences as a confused and mentally-ill teenager, and then later a bit from my struggle with my sexuality as well, having these things that no one can immediately see, but still make you feel Othered or like you have to hide them. So it's uh.... quite a personal thing for me, haha.

With Ulrich specifically, well, it was a bit of wish-fulfillment - to give Roman an adult like him who was doing fine, who could show him that these things are normal and that he doesn't have to feel bad or ashamed about it.

Yeah, that's understandable, and I think you did a good job with making it relatable to people.

You mention the mega stones, which touches on another question I had to ask here:​

What made Kalos the perfect setting for this run?​

Oh, that's easy. Kalos had a barebones plot that was easily ignored/cut apart for scraps, but it had a variety of, imo, very beautiful and interesting locations to work with. Like, Parfum Palace, Route 10, Reflection Cave, etc have so much potential for redesigns or added plot-relevance, and there's also a lot of subtle and interesting lore hidden in npcs or by examining random objects that's just enough to get the creativity flowing, ya know? Plus mega stones as a plot element are so interesting and fun to develop!

Oh, absolutely!

There's a lot of interesting things to work from there.

And speaking of...​

One of the standout features of your comic is the beautifully rendered environments, so what goes into that? How do you decide what from the games to take and what to make your own, how you choose to set the scene, what goes into designing those?​

//cracks knuckles

So, I like to keep the Essence of the game locations - like if it's a cave with gems in the walls in the game, its a cave with gems in the walls in the comic. Typically I just try to improve on those designs. Like, how can I make this place more unique/standout? how can I make it more impressive? Or more beautiful? I take a ton of inspiration from real places - I looked up so many images of Versailles when I was drawing Parfum Palace, and Paris was the obvious influence for Lumiose, for example. Often I'll research real french/european towns or locations when I'm stuck on a design for the in-game places.

More importantly, though, I like to think of environments as characters all their own. They have quirks and personality and history - and they also say something about the people that inhabit them. Santalune gym, for example, I wanted to add in all these carvings and statues and very classic architecture to give it this very grand and old feeling, and also give the impression that the leaders of Santalune Gym are proud of their gym and that history! So I try to use it as a way of developing characters as well.

ooh yeah, I can definitely see that.​

Tangentially related to this, your composition is always so stunning, like for example in the second gym battle or the infamous cave scene. What goes into deciding how to frame those panels to make them work for what you want to show, the juggling act of showing what you need and making it work within your framing?​

Aw shucks, thanks! I do try, haha.

Honestly, it's a trial-and-error kind of thing. Sometimes I know exactly how I want a scene to be formatted without much effort (the 2 scenes you mentioned here were actually in my head for years and years before I ever drew them!), but, more often, it's a matter of thumbnailing and rearranging panels, deleting panels, redrawing panels over and over until I can have something I feel satisfied with. It's always about highlighting the story and the emotions in the scene. Like, "maybe I should give this panel a lower angle to make this character seem big and scary" or "This panel doesn't need much space because it's a minor detail." And of course, I have to take into account how the reader moves down the page with scrolling, etc. since I work in that dreaded long-page format.

In general, though, I like the push what I can do with that formatting, especially because it's one of the few big advantages of long-pages, imo. Vertical movement is really, really interesting and fun for me to play with, especially for those big dramatic moments!

Yeah, definitely! You use it really well, I find.​

One thing I love about Burn Away is how you portray battles. It can be hard to use a bunch of stills to properly represent the flow of a fight, but you do so vividly and effectively. How do you approach drawing battles?​

With a lot of confusion and floundering lmao.

I treat battles like, um, like they have a rhythm - a varying mix of short/quick actions and long/drawn out actions, like dancing. When I read through my battle pages, I want to feel that rhythm of going back and forth, each fighter reacting to the actions of the other. The major beats are the big, dynamic, bombastic panels - the climax, the big attack, etc and they have to be built up by the minor beats - the small supporting panels that show small actions like running, grabbing something, turning around.

I actually take a lot of my process from traditional fight choreography for movies and animation, and then I try to translate that knowledge into dynamic panels. I tend to let myself be more free and loose with panel shape in fights to help capture the feeling of excitement and adrenaline.

That makes sense!

Shit. Fuck. Damn. I used all of my good transitions early so now I'm left with the ones that don't have good transitions.


Let’s talk improvement. Most everybody improves on their work while they’re working on it, but perhaps no medium shows it so clearly as comics, where you can go from page 1 to page 30 and have them look like they were drawn by two different people. How did it happen for you? Was there anything that really helped you as you went along, or was it all just a matter of practice?​


It was a natural progression for me, considering I went from drawing maybe once a week, if I was lucky, to really drawing every single day, for several hours, and being forced to draw things I'd never drawn before, etc. So, yes, in a sense a lot of it was just constant practice. But equally important, to me, was that I was suddenly in a community of artists all creating comics and interacting with each other - I learned (and continue to learn) a lot from my nuzcomic peers! And that was a huge factor for me. I didn't have that before.

Ooh, yeah, those changes are definitely big, I can see how that happened.

Alright, time for the SPOILER ZONE, spoilers only beyond here​

Okay, let’s address the elephant in the room: Ulrich Kucu. How did you decide on the route that you went with him? How did you tie him so seamlessly into the growth of so many of the characters on the team? Do you have any closing thoughts on him or his arc, or anything you might have done differently if you started the comic over today?​

//sweats// aw geez, well...

Ulrich was always going to be some sort of mentor/adult figure because of how he played in-game - when I initially caught him he was vastly stronger than all my stage 1 babymon (and all the other trainers' babymon as well), so it was a natural path to take his character. But originally he was more of an Edie-type character: cold, emotionally unavailable, a bit of a tough-love guy. But this made him really boring, hahahaha. Like Really boring. So I tried to think of ways to make him more fun and relatable.

I realized both flabebe and farfetch'd have "staffs" of a kind, so I imagined Ulrich and Abella having this student-teacher kind of relationship. That decision really changed his trajectory completely. He became more dad-like, more supportive. I thought about my relationship with my own dad and drew from that quite a bit in his interactions with Abella in particular. I had fun imaging him having all these friends throughout the region, and eventually I decided on making him vacant because Farfetch'd don't evolve and don't seem particularly magical - which in turn directly tied him to Roman of course. Before long I guess he'd just become the heart of the team without me noticing, haha.

For closing thoughts... I'm very happy with how Ulrich's arc turned out. I stumbled a lot in writing those early pages of Burn Away, and I certainly made some mistakes along the way, but I achieved what I wanted to with his character. I closed his arc the way I'd always envisioned it closing, and I got a bigger reaction to it than I'd ever imagined. I don't think I would change a thing, truly.

That's really good to hear!

Alright, we have one last question to close us out.​

What’s one question you wish someone would ask about your run? Now answer it!​

aw geez!!! You can't put me on the spot like this!!

I know!

You really covered a lot of the good questions, but I guess I think it'd be interesting to be asked what my inspirations and influences for the comic have been!

So what have they been?​

To which the answer would be: A whole lot of things! I've said before that I've learned a lot from my fellow nuzcomic artists - specifically the likes of umber (Wringlocke), Kynim (ToS/MoU), dejasquietplace (That Comic About That One Kid), and going back to even Landwalker's Yellow Run - the first nuzlocke that really grabbed me with how emotionally impacting these comics could be! (But I'm also very not subtle about my Utena references, and I'm sure the influence of FMA:B is a bit apparent, haha.) I also take a lot of inspiration from regular webcomics - BFF comic being one that's influenced my writing style in immense ways but has been unfortunately deleted off the internet [f], Witchy being another that is thankfully still here, haha.

Ooh, yeah, some real good choices in there.

Thank you so much for your time, Snooze, and for answering our questions! I'll leave it to you to offer any parting words you may have for our readers after I let Bug send his love and this very important question​

how many times this week have you cried about how much you love your wife?​


But for real, thanks for havin' me! It was great being here!

@ everyone: make your nuzlockes, don't let your greams (gay dreams) be greams

hell yes​
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