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In Depth Conversation

 

Question: Within weeks of the conclusion of the first interview, Hanthercraft International announced release of the first Tandra CD-ROM and promised it would be available in the spring of 2000. Eighteen months later, in the fall of 2001, the Tandra CD was promised for release at UnCommon Con in Dallas/Ft. Worth Thanksgiving weekend. Since we said back in the summer of this year there would be an update to the first interview, we decided the release of the Tandra CD-ROM was an acceptable excuse to visit you in the studio and ask a few questions about preparation of the CD, why actual release is so much later than promised, and anything else we can think of having to do with Tandra and with Hanthercraft International.

Answer: So let's begin to commence to start to get ready to do it.

Q: All Right. I've been looking at the traffic count on the Tandra Web Site and I've discovered the Hanther Interview Page gets the most hits of any page on the site. Visitors must be incredibly curious about you.

A: There's no accounting for taste.

Q: True. Let's keep this second interview as brief as possible. I understand you are pushing a deadline to put the final touches on the Tandra CD-ROM.

A: Actually, most of the work is complete. What remains is polishing the presentation a bit and completing copy and page layout for the jewel case liner notes.

Q: When we talked last for the original interview, I don't remember that you mentioned a Tandra CD-ROM. Mostly you talked about the Tandra Animated Feature as the next big Tandra Project on the horizon. How did the CD come about?

A: The CD was a consequence of the Digital Animation Feature and all the things that were happening related to activity concerning the animation. When we first began to consider creating a Tandra Digital Animation, VHS tape seemed the way to go. That possibility quickly became short sighted as DVD came into popular acceptance. If we restricted ourselves to tape, we would be obsolete by the time we moved the animation into production. Since DVD technology was taking over the market, changing our plans to take advantage of DVD was an obvious decision. We were experimenting with digital technology to understand the visual possibilities and we were creating these neat little movie clips in Quicktime file format. Friends would stop by and look at them and say, "Cool, why not copy a couple of those to CD and let me take them to show to the people I work with." At the same time I was routinely backing up my Tandra pages to CD after I had added colour for posting on the Tandra site. I have always seen Tandra as a colour feature, but I've never had the funds to publish it to paper in other than monochrome or single colour ink. Full colour on the web, however, costs no more than monocolour. In fact, you cannot release in single colour on the web since everything is RGB in any case, even files that appear black on white. As I said, I was saving these full colour Tandra pages to CD and when I wanted to pull a page I would scroll through the pages to find what I needed. On other occasions I would just go through the pages to amuse myself looking at the colours. It took a while for the idea to sink in, but I eventually realized I had a marketable idea. I could organize several hundred Tandra pages on a CD and sell them for much less than an ink on paper full colour book of several hundred pages could be priced. I don't remember the complete thought process at the time of our last interview, but the idea of a Tandra CD-ROM was probably germinating in my brain even then. It was just not far enough developed to talk about.

Q: How do you preserve the pages on the Tandra CD-ROM? Are you still using PDF format?

A: Of course. There's really no other way to fly. The gif files are just too crude for use as Tandra pages. Files saved as jpeg are an improvement, but their fixed resolution limits their practical application. PDF files are the only choice for viewing files on the computer screen at most any size the viewer prefers.

Q: How did you come to choose PDF? I have not looked at every comics site on the web, but my impression is that most comics pages are still using the jpeg or gif files.

A: Like most revelations, the possibilities of pdf just came to me out of the blue. I was doing advertising work and a client sent me several pages of information in pdf format. I don't remember the topic at hand, but the pages were beautiful. I was blown away. I immediately began researching Adobe Acrobat to learn the possibilities for pdf. As with most of the critical points in my computer experience, my baby sitter, Ron Blake, came to my rescue and showed me how to get the best pdf quality from the Macromedia Freehand application I use for adding colour to the Tandra pages.

Q: This seems as good a time as any to get into the nuts and bolts of how you create a page. Would you explain to us how you go about creating a Tandra page for the web and for CD?

A: Do you want the whole story, everything from the white sheet of paper to the final product or do you just want to talk about converting from ink on paper to the coloured computer image?

Q: We have the time. Why not give us the whole story? Start with the idea and work your way forward.

A: Alright. Since the dream inspiration for the original Tandra concept and the construction of the Tandra universe, I have the basics in place.

Q: How about explaining how you constructed Tandra in the first place. What were your inspirations and so on?

A: Okay. I've already talked about the original dream in the first interview and I've told how the major characters came to be developed. So you want to know about the world of Tandra itself.

Q: That's the general idea.

A: I think the truth is Tandra itself was pretty much unfocused as I began to construct it. What I'm saying is I don't have any memory of sitting down to create a world environment in detail. Tandra as a world grew out of the particular needs of the story I was creating at the time. If I had a need of barbarians, Tandra suddenly had barbarians complete with stone age weapons and with elephants to ride. If I needed ruined cities, Tandra suddenly had ruined and abandoned cities out the wazoo. If I needed superstitious fear on the part of the natives, Tandra was conveniently equipped with a wizard ring and accompanying mythology surrounding the ring.

Q: You were winging it by the seat of your pants.

A: That's the general idea. I was, to repeat what I've said before, reading a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs as well as writers who specialized in lost world stories. I was also reading science fiction by a variety of authors. I had recently read most of the Conan stories by Robert Howard and by other more contemporary writers who were trying to make a career of filling in the holes in Conan's life left by Howard. With this kind of input, Tandra was something of a hodgepodge of lost world influences. On the artistic side, I was still under the influence of Harold Foster, creator of the Prince Valiant Sunday newspaper page, so my illustrations tended toward Hal Foster swipes. Foster was not the only influence, of course, but he was the primary artistic inspiration. What I'm getting at is Tandra, as a physical environment, was not consciously planned, it just happened as a result of any number of subconscious influences.

Q: This was at the beginning.

A: Yes, when I was designing the first pages. By the time I was writing the Wizard Ring adventure, I was grafting so many ideas on to Tandra that it began to be obvious I was going to have to nail down a basic general concept, not only to keep the reader from becoming totally disoriented, but also to give me some idea of the kind of world my characters were operating in. That's when I sat down to write Tandra plates 272 through 277.

Q: That must have been some piece of writing to bring together all the divergent and contradictory concepts you had tossed into your creation to stand as a coherent whole.

A: The response is both yes it was interesting and no, it wasn't all that difficult. I had not been especially inconsistent in my various takes on a Tandra society. I had not backed one story of Galon in a loin cloth with a stone ax in his hand to another of Galon piloting a Star Wars rocket ship, at least not in the extreme. In addition I was coming off a substantial reading list of authors who had mixed high tech with the primitive. My solution was the same as with the pulp authors I had read. I separated conflicting technological levels by distance. I exiled modern technology to the Wizard Ring and made the less advanced surface world of Tandra cower in superstitious terror of the bad ol' high tech wizards. I made use of a line popularized by a noted science fiction writer, I believe it was Arthur C. Clarke, who said any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Thus the wizards were sufficiently advanced to be magical.

Q: So Tandra plates 272 and following resolved all the inconsistencies you had tossed into Tandra.

A: A lot of them, but not all. The floating islands in the sky were a problem. They looked cool and provided endless story hooks, but they were scientifically indefensible.

Q: Since Tandra is your baby and you can do anything you wish, couldn't you just insist the sky islands are there cos you want them to be there?

A: I suppose I could, but I'm not happy with that justification. It is my conceit that I insist Tandra is a science fiction story and not just wishful fantasy. Designating Tandra as science fiction imposes a certain discipline that I prefer to restrict myself to. As such, I try to maintain a certain science logical reason for whatever I establish on Tandra. The scientific underpinnings for whatever exists on Tandra may not be good science or even defensible science, but the rational scientific bias is there.

Q: Such as the sky islands.

A: Yes, the sky islands.

Q: You justified the sky islands by insisting Tandra is not a naturally evolved world but is, in fact, a construction designed by a highly advanced race billions of years ago.

A: Right, and by implication, a race sufficiently advanced to create a world of floating islands and one equipped with star doors. Any sufficiently advanced technology, and so on.

Q: Moving right along, how do you come by the ideas for specific stories? What typically sparks an idea and how does it evolve into the finished adventure?

A: I'm inspired by dreams on occasion as I've already explained. Dreams are wonderful, ready made plot ideas, the lazy man's short cut to story concepts. I've had relatively good luck with dreams in that I remember a lot of them and I've had maybe half a dozen in my life that could be adapted for plot springboards. The problem with dreams is that they are not very reliable nor predictable. They come in their own good time and turn out to be mostly not useful in a practical sense. For the most part, I have to look to other sources than dreams for inspiration, and mostly I have to work for ideas. The upside is that ideas for stories abound in the real world and the essential problem is choosing from many sources of inspiration the ideas that work for me.

Q: Can you give us a specific example?

A: The recent events of September 11, 2001, were sufficient inspiration for any number of story plot ideas. I have several in mind as we sit here, but I can't simply lift a single incident and transport it unaltered to Tandra and replay it in similar manner. I have to look at the core meaning of the situation and bring the idea to Tandra in such a way I can say something of consequence about zealots who are quite willing to go to any means to augment their power either real or imagined.

Q: So how do you see the attack on the United States as a springboard for a Tandra story?

A: Oh, no. I'm not ready to show my hand yet. For one thing, all the specifics are not yet resolved to my satisfaction. Another consideration is it's not good policy to reveal details of future stories before the story is in print.

Q: Then can you give us an example of an idea that you developed into a story from an adventure that has already seen print?

A: Alright. I'll use the Wizard Ring album as my example. It's probably a good choice because it's the tale in which, as already mentioned, I set down the official historical underpinnings for Tandra. The idea was to set Galon up as a successful business man that had made his way on Tandra. In effect he was someone who had built a business in an alien environment, an environment totally at odds with that of the world he had come of age in residence to.

Q: Why make Galon a business man? I don't remember a lot of science fiction fantasy tales in which the protagonist sets out to make a buck unless it's as a mercenary warrior. Otherwise the hero makes his way by rescuing the princess and by plunder of the ill gotten gains of the enemy. Why did you decide to be different?

A: Because it is different. That was the primary reason. Another reason was that I knew that if I went to another world I would soon begin to want some assurance that I would have the funds to obtain my next meal on schedule and there might not be handy plunder laying about within convenient distance. I have a fondness for creature comforts and the best assurance for securing creature comforts of my choice is an adequate bank account.

Q: I suppose that makes sense. But Flash Gordon or Luke Skywalker always seem to get by without having to go out and get jobs.

A: And they do it by living off other people's production. That idea has no appeal for me.

Q: So already Galon was a business man.

A: Correct I had already told the story of the building of the Iron Cloud by the use of the merging of Galon's Earth inspired technological slant with what remained of Tandra's deteriorating industrial base. To be sure, Galon had acquired considerable wealth by accident of being in the right place at the proper time. In the Golden Warrior tale he had been on the scene to rescue Samaelayia from the slaver and to become friends with Javilus, her lover. Of consequence, Galon had acquired riches as reward for returning the golden princess to her people. Luck aside, I had also shown Galon as a man on the road to wealth even without the fortuitous circumstances related to the golden folk. By use of the ship acquired from the pirate, Falice, Galon was earning money transporting cargo to destinations considered too dangerous and risky by the owners of other ships. The reward given Galon and his crew by the golden folk just sort of gave him a boost along the path he had already chosen.

Q: Galon being an example of the definition of luck which is when opportunity meets ability.

A: Something like that. As I remember, real world events were concerned with the high cost of goods and services and certain politicians were calling for government enforced price controls. As any fool knows, price controls serve to reduce the goods and services available and to raise the price of those remaining, I decided to have one of Tandra's city states institute price controls and have Galon make some windfall profits by combination of his willingness to circumvent the price control laws and his competitive advantage based upon the ability of his unique motor driven sky ship. Another idea that drove the story was the simple development of the characters. I wanted to have Kenia back in the story. I knew her lot as queen was not a happy one. The people were not content with her husband as puppet ruler while she ruled in fact from behind the throne. Because her son by David Galon was the key to her successful hold on the throne, revolutionaries unhappy with her reign could kidnap her child and use him as leverage against her.

Q: How so did the kid fit in? Wasn't his father David Galon? How was Galon's kid going to affect the politics of the Anglian throne controversy?

A: Read the story. No one knew Galon is the father. So far as the people knew, the kid was legitimate heir to the throne.

Q: Oh, that's right. I remember now. Please continue.

A: Where was I? Oh, yes. It struck me as interesting to have Queen Kenia authorize one of her courtiers to find and hire a ship and crew to assist her in the search for her son, only to discover after the fact the captain of the ship was Galon, the true father of her child and the man she had threatened to have executed should he ever again come into her presence. Beyond such basic considerations, I wanted to establish Lord Kilthane as more than a shadowy figure forever operating unseen in the background. I wanted to show him as a figure of power and authority that would prove a worthy foe for Galon. Those were the ideas that inspired the Wizard Ring Graphic Album. A few of the ideas came courtesy of the real world, but most were simply development of the personalities of the characters and each character's reaction to the activities of other members of the cast.

Q: Tell us how you go about developing a story once you have the ideas in hand, or maybe I should say...in head.

A: Using the same album in example, I plot the sequence of events, sometimes by notes on paper, but more frequently I simply create a string of events in my head. In the example before us, I likely plotted the thing in my head. The next step is to write out a script by hand on lined note paper. I list page numbers and panel designations such as panel A, panel B, and so on. Beside each panel I write a description of the scene in the panel. Usually the description is a couple of words or, at most, a long sentence. Under panel illustration description I write the copy that actually appears in the panel along with the drawing.

Q: Do you make thumbnails for the drawings on this paper?

A: Not usually, though with some of the pages I do a rough grid of panel size and arrangement in the upper right corner of the sheet. I normally write one page of script per page of final art. In the event there is a minimal amount of copy on a page, I leave a lot of blank space on the script page. If I get overly wordy, I fill up the script page. I don't often resort to extending the writing to a second page.

Q: The story is written. What happens next?

A: I start to work.

Q: Details please.

A: I use 23 inch by 29 inch three ply Strathmore brand Bristol Board. This is board made from cotton fiber, not from wood pulp. I'm growing farm plants here, not chopping down trees. I rule in borders for the panels, place the appropriate page number and place the copy in position. Early on I hand lettered copy where it would go, but in more recent times I have just made a photocopy of the text at proper size and blocked off the area with light pencil lines. Actual copy is inserted later by computer. Inserting copy with a computer is faster and mistakes are much less of a hassle than those lettered by hand.

Q: But in any case you indicate on the original art board where the words will be placed and the amount of space they will occupy.

A: Of a certainty. There is no point in taking time to draw and ink areas that will be covered by words.

Q: Makes sense. Next?

A: Next I take photographs as reference for the illustrations. I normally take photos of myself as needed. I set a self timer Polaroid camera on a tripod, stand in position and the camera takes a photo.

Q: You take pictures of yourself for all those guys with muscles?

A: Listen, everybody likes a little ass, but nobody likes a wise ass.

Q: Sorry.

A: Just kidding. I fake the muscles. I fake other things, too. What I use the photos for is body position and attitude.

Q: You have ladies pose for the females?

A: Of course. I'm an artist and I can fake a lot, but I don't make a very convincing lady. I've tried to fill in for a female character in a pinch, but it just doesn't work. I make an unbelievably wretched looking woman. The difference in working with the lady models is I take more photos in a single session. In that way I'm not calling up the model every day or so to come out for a couple pix.

Q: Why not use a 35mm for the photos? I would think the picture quality would be superior and the film cheaper.

A: Right on both counts, but I'm big into instant gratification. Using a Polaroid, it is immediately obvious if the photo is going to work. On the occasion something doesn't work right, say for example the lady is turning about for effect and the costume flips for a second into the wrong position but I don't happen to catch it for one reason or another, I can see the mistake in the Polaroid photo within minutes and take a second photo to get the proper effect. Even using fast print development at a processing center, say Wal-Mart, there's the delay factor of a couple hours or so and you are looking at a print wherein a scarf is covering the lady's face. That means getting on the phone to ask the lady to return for a couple more shots. Polaroid is definitely the solution, or it was.

Q: Yes, I hear Polaroid is having problems.

A: Uh-huh. Times change. For most people, one hour print service is just fine and, in addition, there are digital cameras on the market. I've been looking at some of the new digital cameras recently and they are likely my choice for the near future.

Q: Was there ever a time you considered Wal-Mart processing just to see if it would work for you?

A: Nope. I expect I would get funny looks from Wal-Mart employees when I stop by to pick up photos of naked ladies.

Q: Your models pose nude?

A: On occasion when required. You've seen the pages and the women of Tandra are not restricted with an over active sense of modesty. Most of the ladies who consent to model for me understand the environment of Tandra and have no problem removing their clothes when the situation requires it.

Q: Cool!

A: Next question.

Q: Any spare photos lying about? Just for research you understand, to get a better idea of how you use photographs in the creative process.

A: Sorry. I have a firm policy to never show off any studio photos.

Q: Uh, of course you do. Good policy. Should have known that would be your policy.

A: Next question?

Q: On the other hand, I'm conducting an in depth interview here, so it might help me to get a better idea of how you work so your fans can....

A: No way, no how, no come. Next question.

Q: Sure, alright. Uh...after the photos are taken, I suppose you draw the illustrations.

A: Every time.

Q: What kind of pencil do you use?

A: Nothing special. Just a standard garden variety mechanical pencil with HB lead. The eraser, on the other hand, is fairly special, the best eraser I know of. It's a white vinyl drafting eraser made by Faber-Castell called Magic-Rub. It cleans pencil graphite off Bristol paper better than any other eraser I've ever tried.

Q: Do you draw the whole story in pencil before you go back to ink over the pencil lines or do you pencil a few pages first. I know your stories are usually rather long and I can see how a release schedule might not allow the time to complete all the pencil drawings first before inking.

A: My usual procedure is to pencil one page and then ink it before I proceed to the next page to pencil and then ink it in turn. On rare occasions I have penciled three or four pages before inking them, but that's the exception for me.

Q: What kind of pen do you use for inking pages.

A: None.

Q: Come again?

A: I don't ink with a pen. I use a brush. I ink with a Winsor & Newton Series Seven water colour brush. I use a size two. A Winsor & Newton water colour brush is the best brush made.

Q: The very best, huh?

A: When I create a page, I want the mistakes to be my fault, not the fault of inferior material. If a mistake is my fault, I can correct it. There's not a lot you can do to improve an inferior brush.

Q: I guess that makes sense. How did you come to choose to work with a brush?

A: I was working at Marvel Comics in New York City before I started doing Tandra and I walked into a room where Bill Everett was sitting making art corrections while carrying on a conversation with John Romita. At the time Marvel was publishing a lot of reprinted stories so as to save paying for original art and the photostats used for the reprints were not the best quality one might hope for. On many of the pages the hand lettering had faded beyond recognition and had to be re-inked. Photostats were not the large size, twice up of the original pages. They were saved in the smaller reproduction size, the size the pages are printed in comics pamphlets. There sat Bill Everett, legendary creator of the Sub-Mariner, in a straight back chair tilted at an angle on the two rear supports, Bill's leg was crossed with his right ankle on the left knee, a drawing board propped on his right leg. He was sitting there with a cigarette drooped from his face and conversing with Johnny Romita while correcting faded lettering on a stat positioned on the board. He was using a Winsor & Newton brush and recreating hand lettering that was repro perfect just as casually as he might scratch his nose. My jaw bounced off the carpet about six times and I stood in astonishment for several minutes watching the most amazing display of artistic precision it had ever been my privilege to observe. I then went back to my desk and picked up a brush and began to ink something. I'm not going to pretend my first experiment in inking with a brush even began to approximate Bill Everett's marvelous display, but when I had finished putting ink to paper it was possible to recognize the original pencil design I had been reinforcing with ink. I was not, after all, a complete stranger to the brush. I had been using a brush to apply colour to cover stats and I had used a brush to fill solid areas with black, but this was my first attempt to translate pencil lines to ink. I never again attempted to ink with anything other than a brush except for a brief time a few years back when I used a mechanical pen to create texture. There's a crow quill pen that is very flexible as pen nibs go. I used them before I became infatuated with the brush. Several years after I became comfortable with using a brush, I picked up a crow quill just to try it out. If my memory serves correctly, I came across a box of the things I had forgotten in the back of a drawer. I dipped the pen nib in ink and tried it. The thing was like trying to ink with a ten penny nail. I tossed the box of nibs into the trash.

Q: After you finish inking a page, what comes next?

A: I use the wonderful Magic-Rub eraser to clean all the pencil lines and graphite smudges from the page. Before computers invaded our lives, I was then finished with the art. I would send it off to the printer to have film negatives made. I did cleanup on the negatives myself and returned the negatives to the printer who produced the finished books.

Q: Today, things are different?

A: True, today it's a different story. I still take the finished pages to the printer, but now he makes a photostat for me which I scan into my computer. I clean up any stray pixels in Adobe Photoshop and save the page as a tiff. Next I import the page into Macromedia Freehand. I lock the tiff on a layer I have labeled "Line Art" and check the "transparent" button. This results in the black areas of the tiff remaining dark and opaque while the white areas become transparent. The result is I can place colours on the layer beneath the line art and they will show through the transparent white areas. I label the layer upon which I place colours with the truly inspired name, "colours". Now you understand how us artists maintain our reputation for creativity. I choose colours by selecting CMYK process percentages rather than by selecting PMS numbers. Various things can be done with colours in Freehand such as making blends, selecting percentages and making colours translucent. There are restrictions on some blends and other effects with PMS selected colours, but I can blend any colour as I prefer if I choose process percentages.

Q: I don't understand your choice of process selected colours. I understand CMYK process is used in printing to paper and other media, but you are now working with digital files intended for the computer monitor and monitors are designed for RGB images. Why are you still using CMYK?

A: I understand the reason for your question and I had the same thoughts, so I tried doing the pages in RGB for better results. Imagine my surprise to discover they did not look as good as the CMYK based model. The colour blends were especially offensive. I don't pretend to understand why. Possibly I could ring up tech support and toss the question at them to get a detailed answer, but I've never taken the time. Tech support generally takes forever to get connected to the right person. It may be that Freehand is designed to create files to be used for printing ink on paper which is, in fact, CMYK or there may be other reasons. I am, after all, viewing the CMYK page on a RGB monitor. Whatever the reason, CMYK colours look better in Macromedia Freehand on the monitor and the pages print out looking great on a reasonably priced home printer, they incidentally look great coming off a commercial high speed press as I realized back when I was still publishing ink on paper titles, so the upshot is that CMYK combinations are what I select.

Q: Why do you use Macromedia Freehand as opposed to Adobe Illustrator? I understand Illustrator is the application of choice for most computer artists.

A: I'm not certain that last assertion is true. I'm not refuting your assumption. I just do not have the figures to prove use with vector applications to the favor of either side. I think the choice in most cases depends upon the preferences of the individual artist. In my own case, the reason I use Macromedia Freehand is nothing more complicated than that, by purest chance, I first came to work with computers using Freehand and I became comfortable with it. Had my first experience been with Illustrator, I would likely be using Illustrator as we speak.

Q: Do you export Tandra pages from Freehand as pdf files for upload to the Tandra site and for viewing on the CD?

A: No, though that can be done easily enough. I use the slightly more involved method of exporting as postscript files and then creating pdf files in Acrobat Distiller. The superior visual quality of the pages makes the extra work worthwhile.

Q: We are conducting this interview in mid-December 2001. The Tandra CD-ROM was promised for shipment by Thanksgiving. What is the reason the CD has not yet shipped?

A: Post production has become more involved than I had anticipated.

Q: Want to explain?

A: I expect I need to. The pages themselves were completed and converted to pdf files on schedule, but we decided to go with the additional enhancement of having the CD-ROM open with a special introductory movie when the CD-ROM is placed in the computer's CD drive. In the first place, the chosen movie was a couple scenes short of completion. One of those scenes, the 3-D trademark clip, has been created and the pirate ship clip is rendering on the computer as we speak. The second problem is that the Acrobat file is rather large as it contains the whole of the contents of the CD-ROM. That can create problems for less robust computers which include most of the home computers in the market. To fix that problem, I am in the process of reassembling the pdf files in smaller groupings such that each section or division is accessed individually from the contents interface. There is not a lot of work required, but the process is fairly tedious as it involves reassembly of the page files and recreation of the proper links.

Q: How much longer do you expect is required?

A: We should see this thing out the door by the end of the year. We promised a CD-ROM in the spring of 2000, so we are only two years late. Our fans have waited a couple years for this thing, so another few weeks should be no big deal. What I keep reminding myself here is we are trying something totally new and there are always problems that arise from unexpected places when you set sail on uncharted waters. I think fans will be pleasantly amazed when they have the finished product in their hands and will agree the delay was worth having the first of a revolutionary new media for experiencing comics.

Q: It seems impossible two years have passed since the first interview. In that time a number of things have changed in your personal life.

A: I don't believe my personal life is any kind of issue here except possibly in the way it has affected the production of Tandra projects.

Q: I can understand that, but the fact is your mother's death and the circumstances surrounding her death are major factors in the delayed completion of the Tandra CD.

A: True enough. Briefly, here is the situation. When we conducted the previous interview, I had arranged to work on the CD project full time and to complete the Tandra CD-ROM by spring of 2000. My finances had been arranged such that I would not require an outside source of income until the CD had been wrapped. In January of 2000 my mother was suddenly struck with a major blockage of blood to the intestines. The doctor called it a heart attack of the intestines meaning the symptoms and effect are the same as those of a heart attack when blockage cuts off the supply of blood to the heart. Mother was rushed to the hospital and died three months later. Her condition required considerable attention and, as her only surviving close relative, the responsibility fell to me. Everyone has parents and everyone's parents die at some point. I loved my mother and I miss her, but generally speaking the death of a parent does not affect the child's business in a major way. Mother's death had an effect upon production of the Tandra CD-ROM in that, by the time she died, or by late February 2000 actually, my reserve funds were facing exhaustion and I was forced to start looking for advertising art to pay the rent. Over the past two years I have had to scrape together time between advertising assignments to work on the CD-ROM. This past September I felt financially secure enough to take a couple weeks to work on nothing but Tandra and I finished the art on the story pages. Again, at the time of the Thanksgiving holidays, I took the week to finish adding colour to the pages. In the weeks since we have been concentrating on the post production process of cleaning up navigation and of rendering a couple of movie clips to complete the introduction displayed on the monitor when the CD is inserted into the computer's CD drive.

Q: Isn't the movie intro a recent development? When we arranged this interview, you were telling me about the CD's progress and you said something about the only movie clips being on the movie page and that you wanted to add more clips to a later release.

A: The movie opening came courtesy of my baby sitter who suggested it. We were discussing the consideration that so much time has passed since the promised original release date and that the CD was finally near completion, but I was unhappy the Acrobat files just did not have enough kick for the impact I wanted to achieve. I suggested we might add some interest by using Macromedia Director to give the CD a cinematic flavor. A couple weeks later my baby sitter phoned me to come visit and he showed me a demo he had set up that utilized certain Tandra movie clips I had created over two years ago in anticipation of a totally different project. He suggested I finish the movie sequence with some additional clips and we add music and a voice over introduction. That meant more work from me, of course, but I felt the finished CD would be worth the effort. We encountered a problem when we began to put the project together in that the Acrobat Tandra file did not load smoothly. The upshot was I was required to take the Acrobat file apart and divide it into smaller sections, each section connected to the Director opening display. Not a lot of extra work, but tedious and time consuming.

Q: But worth the effort?

A: Obviously, or I would not have committed to it. With the delays and setbacks, I begin to think I'll never get this CD out the door. But I keep reminding myself we are creating something new here, attempting something no one has tried so far. In fact, we could be starting a revolutionary new industry, so setbacks are the price we pay and the Tandra CD-ROM is, in fact, nearing completion. There is no reason we cannot finish up before year's end. Then we ship the thing off and see about the response. I am sure people will be blown away when they see the quality of the Tandra pages on CD.

Q: What makes the pages so special on the CD?

A: I'm repeating myself here, but I think it's worth reminding folks...up to this point most digital art, unless we talk vector which is a different story, has been available on the internet as Gif or Jpeg files. The more illustrator style art has been posted as Jpeg files cos Gif files do not preserve acceptable blends. This style includes paintings, photographs, and the more detailed style comics art. Both Gifs and Jpegs are resolution locked. They have a predetermined optimum viewing resolution that is set at the time the file is created and the resolution can't be changed by the viewer. In the event the viewer has the desire to get a closer look at the design on a female warrior's breastplate, he is rewarded with little pixel blocks should he attempt to enlarge the illustration.

Q: And the same should he, Ghod forbid, just want a better look at the lady's breast; though we fully understand the latter is hardly ever the case among honest and trustworthy web surfers.

A: Uh-huh. Anyway, to continue; pdf files are more user friendly in that if you would like to enlarge detail of a Tandra page for closer examination, you can view the design of the breastplate at any size you choose without loss of resolution.

Q: Meaning you can fill your monitor screen with the image of the desired breast in question, should you so choose.

A: I don't think I want to go where you are obviously trying to lead. Why don't we stick with the subject at hand?

Q: But you have to admit the probability exists that the detail of female anatomy is likely to be high on the list of things your readers will wish to have a more detailed view of.

A: In the event the viewer is male. Ladies could have different priorities.

Q: True enough, I suppose.

A: In any event, there are practical limits to the range of possible enlargements, but for the most part the viewer can look at any part of the page or the full page at whatever size seems preferable to him while the resolution remains sharp and precise. When other creators of line art and comics pages see this CD, I believe many of them are going to want their pages made available in this format.

Q: And you plan to be there to show them the way.

A: Exactly. We have plans to produce comics CD's for many clients over the coming years. Like I said, Tandra is more than a CD-ROM, it is the first step in a bright and promising new industry.

Q: Let's talk briefly about the Tandra web site.

A: Sure.

Q: At the time of the last interview I believe the Tandra site was being maintained by someone other than yourself.

A: Correct.

Q: And now the responsibility is all yours.

A: True enough.

Q: Why? Aren't you spread pretty thin already without another project on your hands?

A: That's pretty much the case, but it happens I'm picky about Tandra, hard to please if you will. I decided to take over maintenance of the web site myself late in 1999 and reworked it for the first part of 2000. I'm not certain of the exact dates here, but I felt at the time I was making the decision that I had the hours to put into maintaining the site along with the required time for other Tandra work and, the facts are that I probably did. The situation changed, of course, but I have managed to update the site every week since I began to do the work myself.

Q: However, there was about eight months this year, that is of 2001, when there was no new Tandra page posted for the week. What happened?

A: I ran out of pages and I ran out of time. When I did the Golden Warrior book back in 1976 and '77, I tried an experiment that did not quite work on paper. I was happy enough with the original art on the pages full size, but soon as I saw the printed book I knew I had a problem. I finally set my mind to redraw the pages at the time I decided to do the Tandra CD-ROM and when I had a work schedule that would allow me to complete the redraw in reasonable time. Then I was suddenly under a schedule in which I did not have the time required to work on the pages and to complete them on a timely basis, while the weekly posting schedule used up the completed pages available. Came the time I had nothing to put up each week.

Q: And you promised to post the Mahr pages as a substitute.

A: And was unable to post them as promised.

Q: I'll bet Ms Blalock was happy with you!

A: She should have been very annoyed with me and possibly was, but she carefully kept any annoyance from me. If she was ticked off, she never allowed me to find out.

Q: What was the problem?

A: I had expected the Mahr pages to be a piece of cake to color, but it happened there was more work than I had anticipated. I just could not get the work done in the limited time available.

Q: So what you are suggesting is that the last several years have been characterized by you expecting more work from yourself than you can deliver.

A: That's probably a good way to phrase it.

Q: But you did finally post a series of Mahr pages.

A: True. I put everything else on hold and colored the prologue, then posted a page per week.

Q: Followed by more Tandra pages.

A: When I began to post the Mahr pages, I knew I had Tandra pages ready to go, so I posted the Mahr introduction, then I continued posting Tandra from the page with which I had halted postings last Spring.

Q: And you expect to now continue the pages without another interruption.

A: If the creek doesn't rise. Seriously, I have several hundred Tandra pages in backlog ready for color. Given my present schedule, there should be no problem with having a page ready each week. I can't see into the future as has been demonstrated, but the worst that should happen is that I get into a conflict and miss one week's posting only to continue the following week.

Q: We are talking archive here. What about new Tandra pages?

A: The bottom line at this point is my schedule does not allow for the time to create new pages. I have to change that.

Q: Explain.

A: In the event we can market the Tandra CD-ROM as we should, I should be able to free up some time from non-Tandra commercial work to devote to Tandra. When that happens, new Tandra pages will begin to appear on the Tandra site.

Q: That sounds speculative.

A: There are a number of ifs involved to be sure, but the Tandra CD-ROM is a good product and is the first of a complete line of picture stories on CD that we have plans for. Not only do we expect to release more Tandra CD's, but we are negotiating with other creators and owners of exciting properties to put their features on CD-ROM. We have some wonderful art from South America, work from other creators in the Southeast United States, we are working with other people with name recognition properties, the bottom line is our prospects look very bright from where I sit.

Q: You have high hopes.

A: Always have. I could screw up, of course. I have a skill for falling on my face. I've developed that skill over many years. But I am working as hard as I can to make this project fly and I have every expectation we can succeed. You see, not only is this CD-ROM a great product, but I have some exceedingly talented people working with me to make it even better. This thing is gonna revolutionize the industry.

Q: Let's get in a few words about the Tandra Digital Animation. How does progress stand on that?

A: We have made some progress in two years. A good part of the delay falls at my feet. Looking over the material available it was obvious that, while the printed Tandra pages have their own charm, they are not the stuff of a major animation feature. I began to look at ways to translate the pages into film narrative.

Q: Just a moment. Why do you feel the story as printed would not work if translated into a film script?

A: The first forty pages are, in the end, a series of connected incidents and not a single narrative with a beginning, a middle, and an end. I think the story, even with the flaws that come from a writer just beginning to work at his craft, holds up very well for what is intended, but it was never intended to be a theatrical feature. I decided to redefine the first adventure, streamlining it and including certain ingredients such as the affair of Kenia's mother and its consequence as referred to in Tandra pages written and drawn much later. Inexplicably, it required almost a year to work up a scenario I was happy with in my head. Once I had the thing in mind, I shipped it off to Libby Singleton for conversion to a text story. This past spring Ms. Singleton showed me the first few pages and I was blown away. Her treatment is really good. The opening scenes literally took my breath away. Libby has been working most of the year and I am expecting the finished draft any day.

Q: Care to give us an idea of the story?

A: Actually, no. See the animation feature when it comes out.

Q: All Right. Guess I'll have to wait.

A: Anything Else?

Q: You have a weekly commentary piece on Clear Channel radio station sites. How did you get connected to Clear Channel?

A: Beats me. I don't have a clue.

Q: You can't be serious.

A: Well, not exactly, but the fact remains this is something I just fell in to.

Q: Explain.

A: There's a commentary page at Tandra Dot Com where I posted a few opinion pieces, one of them being a take on an anti-gun article written by a comics writer. Tim Spencer at Memphis Rock 103 was investigating Tandra Dot Com and liked my gun nut piece. He contacted me and suggested I do a regular commentary for the radio station web site. It was a chance for more exposure for Tandra to an audience that might not otherwise learn of us. Of course I agreed and Hanther Commentaries began appearing regularly on the Rock 103 site. Four or five months passed and I had a note by E-mail suggesting my commentaries should begin appearing on radio station sites served by media conglomerate Clear Channel across the country. Was I gonna refuse? Of course not. It was the exposure offered by Rock 103 multiplied by hundreds! I immediately agreed and the folks at Clear Channel allow me to write whatever I choose, no editorial restrictions.

Q: What sort of stuff do you submit?

A: I don't get too controversial. After all, my objective is entertainment, not trying to remake the world. I want to encourage the readers who see my commentaries to become Tandra fans and, possibly, customers. I admit I climb on my soap box on occasion, but I always remember I am a salesman and not a missionary.

Q: Have there been any memorable responses to any of the commentaries that stand out in your head?

A: Not so much to the individual commentaries, but I am a little surprised by the favorable responses inspired by some of my more assertions that Americans are, by and large, a rather decent sort. I guess it's no secret people get tired of constantly being told they are stupid and evil. The most enthusiastic positive reaction has come after commentaries that defend the people of this country against the self styled authorities that delight in enumerating our supposed short comings.

Q: Are your commentaries a lot of work? Which is to say, how much effort is required to create one each week?

A: Not so much as I would have expected. At first it was more difficult to put the words together to say what I wanted to convey and I worried that I might not continue to be able to think of topics to inspire comment each week, but over time I have settled into a routine ant subject matter continues to pop into my head, so I expect I can continue with the commentaries until the folks at Clear Channel get tired of me. I did hit a road bump with the September 11 attack and had quite a bit of difficulty in writing something I thought should post, but I was finally, after several false starts, able to get an arrangement of words together I found acceptable. As it stands, I now find, on average, I can knock out a page of commentary in little over an hour on Sunday morning.

Q: Thank you for your time. We shall likely want to update this interview again in a couple years.

A: And thank you. I'll look forward to reading this on the site to see if you quote me correctly.

Q: If I get it wrong, you can E-mail me.

A: Maybe I will and thanks again. I enjoyed it.

Note; This interview was conducted in the weeks before Christmas, 2001.