Ask me anything: Kalwa webcomic Q&A

Peter Ahola
Aug 11, 2018

Since 2015, Kalwa has blazed through the timestream every week on smackjeeves.com, embarking on the ultimate adventure of a lifetime.  Duking it out through the wild west, wrestling with dinosaurs and clashing with pirates, Kalwa has had a long journey since she debuted in 2015.  Now with her fourteenth issue nearly halfway complete, we're taking questions from readers (new and old) about Kalwa, her friends, her story and what's going on behind the scenes.  Here's a couple of rules:

-You're free to ask us nearly anything about the characters, the story, the comic in general, production process...

-Be nice to everyone, including the host, please don't ask hate questions

-we're open to nearly every question, but we won't answer any questions that would spoil major plot points coming up, we'll do the best we can

-If we don't get at least 10 questions, this AMA will be cancelled, sorry.  

-You can ask some questions outside of Kalwa, but try to keep your questions related to the subject matter in some way.

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What elements of Kalwa do you want readers to experience and explore?
Aug 12, 6:07PM EDT0

Probably the time travel elements.  Each arch is supposed to be to a different era, and each era has it's own feeling and atmosphere.  When people read our comic, I want them to feel as though they are reading a comic from that time, such as the western arch involving horses, chases and camping.  I only hope that we have been keeping that going and if we haven't we can get better in the future.  

Aug 12, 11:54PM EDT0
What was it about the setting or other elements that really drew you for Kalwa?
Aug 12, 4:52AM EDT0

Well the first thing is the protagonist.  The second thing is that it's a pretty much a series where we can do anything.  Time travel gives you a lot of options for story setting and style, if we want to do a story set in ancient japan, we can.  If we want to involve dinosaurs, we can.  If we want to visit an ancient culture, we can.   So as long as the creativity is there, anythings possible.  And of course all the different settings make way for their own rules (such as the western arch taking elements from western movies).  I'm particualrly excited about a horror setting for story we'll be doing soon. So like I said, the sky is the limit with time travel.

Aug 12, 6:11AM EDT0
Is there anything new you want to bring out in Kalwa? Is there an aspect of her personality that you really want to highlight in future issues?
Aug 12, 3:37AM EDT0

Yes indeed.  I actually have had it planned for a long time.  Kalwa is a very implusive person, usually jumping in head first and never shying away from danger.  In the early issues, we showed her being good at what she does and seems to come out just fine.  As of now we're moving into darker territory we're she'll learn the hard way about the consequences of her actions and how it can affect not just her but people around her. 

In addition to that, Kalwa's about to discover what she's gotten herself involved in, and it's much bigger than than she ever imagined, and her family and everyone around her is getting dragged into it. A general theme I've had for this story is that action have consequences and Kalwa's about to learn that.  

Aug 12, 6:19AM EDT0
When you wrote Kalwa for the first time, did you see it as an opportunity to showcase a female protagonist? How do you feel Kalwa is empowering feminism?
Aug 11, 4:00PM EDT0

Well, to be honest, I wrote her way back in high school, but yes your first part of the question did apply.  At the time, I had been coming up with all kinds of comic ideas.  Virtually all of them hadn't been made into comics, just long synopsis of how the story should flow.  Kalwa was actually the fourth one I created, and since all my previous ideas had featured boys in the lead role, I thought I'd change it up and make a female the lead, which only contributed to Kalwa being my favorite idea.

In terms of Kalwa empowering feminism, I would say she's empowering it with her regualer personality.  She never shys from danger, she leaps into adventure with a happy smile and she faces any danger head on. The important thing I want for Kalwa is that she's not some girl who screams and always needs saving, she's brave, strong and loves the adventure.

 Actually the pirate arch (chapters 12-13) actually had a theme about feminism in a man's world with Kalwa feeling she wasn't being allowed to prove herself, as well as the hidden female captain of the ship.  So hopefully people understood that message when they read the comic.

Aug 11, 4:34PM EDT0
Do you have any favorite comic conventions as a creator that are different as a fan?
Aug 11, 10:37AM EDT0

I've only been to two conventions and they were both anime conventions (Otakon and Anime Mid Atlantic).  So as of right now, I don't have enough experience to answer this question very well as of yet.  I suppose of the two I liked Otakon the best, I got to meet Krazy Krow of the webcomic Spinnerette and had a table their to show him my stuff (although we didn't have printed comics at the time).  

Both of these conventions (I admit) were pretty slow for me, being stuck at the table with little customers.  However as I discovered, ANIME conventions are NOT the place to seel original content, COMIC conventions are, and I have not gone as a creator as of yet.  So as of right now, I can't honestly answer this question fully given how little experience I have.  Hopefully you can ask this question again down the road and I'll have a better answer.  Sorry about that.

Aug 11, 4:51PM EDT0
What made you choose Smackjeeves, Webtoons and Tapas as hosting platforms for your comic?
Aug 11, 8:51AM EDT0

step by step learning.  Originally I was just on Smackjeeves, as I had known about the site for years and had actually tried to do another comic WAY back in early college there, but gave up due the comic taking too long (I didn't have a wacom or other equpment I have today).  So Smackjeeves had been the default choice from the start.

Tapas and Webtoons I found out about from other people on the internet and conventions later on, many of them highly recommending them.  So I started hosting on all the sites in an attempt to give the comic more exposure on multiple locations. Smackjeeves is the primary host because I like their set up the best, but I do have buttons there that lead to tapas and webtoons in case anyone stumbles across the comic, but lacks the neccessary account to comment.  The can always find it at a site they do have an account at.

Aug 11, 4:43PM EDT0
Who inspired the personality of Kalwa? Did you have a specific person in mind when creating her?
Aug 11, 1:09AM EDT0

Her personality came from a couple of sources.  First and foremost, Kalwa's personality was actually my idea of the type of girl I'd like to hang out with, someone who was adventourous and always wanted to be somewhere interesting and not just be routine.  Prior to starting Kalwa, I wrote a fanfic on FIMfiction in 2013 called Life with Twilght, which featured an original character dating a humanized version of Twilight Sparkle and she was always wanting to go to fun places like museums, aquariums and other fun places, so that kinda served as a bit of basis for Kalwa.  

Some of her other characteristics came directly from me, such as her love for collecting souviners and displaying them in her room are similar to how I like to collect toys and fake props.  Her love for comic books is of course from me, and her desire to live a fantasy life and being bored of the reality around her was actually how I thought of life when I was her age.  Part of her character arch is learning to find excitement in the world around her as opposed to always living in a fantasy world, which is pretty much how I learned to live.  However, her rivarly with her mother actually comes from my mother, who used to tell me she didn't always get along with her mother, and a couple of other people I know who have had trouble getting along with their parents.  So bottom line, she's kinda of mix between my own idea of a cool girl as well as pieces of my life.

Aug 11, 2:57AM EDT0
What would be a dream come true for you regarding your webcomic?
Aug 10, 10:58PM EDT0

Really, just to be able to do what I love for a living in some way.  I would deeply love if I could attract enough attention to Kalwa to be able to make money off it, and be able to spend at least part of my workday working on the comic instead of a regular day job.

Probably my ultimate dream would be for Kalwa to be a mega franchise, complete with an animated series, video games, merchandise, etc.  And I'd be able to quit my day job and just work on Kalwa (and maybe some other stories).  But I would really just be happy if I could make SOME kind of profit at all from the comic, either through book sales or web advertisments.  The art world is very competitive and comics are a hard industry to make money off of.  So it's important to be grateful for what you have, I really don't think ANY artist lives purely off their art alone... except maybe Alex Ross.

Aug 11, 3:03AM EDT0
If you could have any character from other comic book appear in Kalwa, who would you choose and why?
Aug 10, 10:55PM EDT0

I actually was thinink about this last night, and I came up with a different answer now than what I originally came up with.  If I could have one character from another comic appear in comic, I would have Will Vandom from W.I.T.C.H.  I say this because I feel like Will could be a great mentor to Kalwa and Kalwa could also teach her a thing or two.  Will's story starts when she moves to a new town, and part of her story is finding new things around town to enjoy.  She gets involved in a vet/pet store, takes up a new hobby of swimming and making new friends (meeting boys).  I really think Will could give Kalwa some pointers about settling into a new town and discovering how great a new place can be.  Likewise, Will suffers from a notable inferiority complex, often being easily hurt by other's comments and feeling her life is a failure.  Kalwa's upbeat attitude is probably just what Will needs in her life (at least at the point of the W.I.T.C.H. story I'm at).

Now that I actually told you all of this, I'm suddenly getting the urge to draw these two together.  Putting that down on the to do list :D

Aug 11, 11:15PM EDT0
What can you do as an indie creator to stand out from the big webcomic creators?
Aug 10, 7:57PM EDT0

This a tough answer, not because I don't have one but because it's a varying result.  Well I'll first start this answer by saying the number one most important thing is passion.  Regardless of how good you may or may not be, there is a chance that you will go through life never getting discovered, and even if you do get discovered, you'll only get there by working at it.  A wise author once told me that as an author, you have to write a bunch of books before you even START to see any real progress or profit.    So never do art or webcomics soley for profit, do it for passion, and fall in love with process, not the results, and above all, be grateful for what you have, no matter how small or large.

Now serioulsy answering your question, that's actually something I myself am only starting to disover.  The first thing I'll say that will help you stand out is... DON'T make it ALL about self advertising.  Although you'll want to do somtimes, people are usually turned away from people who blatently self promote themselves, as any kid and their grandma now a days can write a comic and shamlessly say "read it, love me!!!"  and nobody likes that being shoved down their throats.

The NUMBER ONE WAY TO STAND OUT is to be a friendly person who interacts with people.  I'll start off with your audience.  People come back to comics and artwork when they feel welcomed, just like when they come back to a convention or favorite movie.  Interact with them, reply to their comments, thank them, and find some way to get them involved.  This Ask Me Anything conversation we're having right now is a great way to interact with your audience, polls help too, contests, whatever.  Having a successful webcomic is about more than just having a good story and art, it's about making people feel welcome and interacting with them.  If you can do that, people will want to come back and continue following your work.

Now another interactivity is finding other artists who share your passion and interact with them, share you're thoughts, comment on their stuff and get friendly.  Facebook and google plus have lots of groups and communities that you can join and meet with people. It will also help keep you fresh in people's mind. I admit I'm a little bad at doing this between my "civilian" life and my artist life, but friends will hep you if you help them..  They can give you advice,  promote your art (sometimes) and give support.  I actually know one guy on facebook who I'm always liking his work, and he follows me and he ALWAYS likes my stuff in EVERY group I post, even if he's liked it before.  I scratch his back, he scratches mine.

Another good way to stand out is to post production art and your experience working on your webcomic.  It may be hard to belive, but people LOVE to see that stuff.  I see people online post unfinished sketches and works in progress all the time, and when I see them, I get really excited and want to see the finished result.  Don't ever take your production sketches for grantide, show them off, people want to see them.  It will also allow you to post consitantly even if you don't have finished work.

That's pretty much all the advice I can give for now.  My last comment will be this youtube video I discovered, it's a GREAT video that helped me get going.  Watch it, fave it, and go back to it whenver your in doubt.  HERE IT IS RIGHT HERE

Aug 11, 5:22AM EDT0
In terms of drawing, what characters from other comic books have influenced the design of Kalwa?
Aug 9, 7:12PM EDT0

A unique question.  A number of characters (mostly those who were designed in high school) were actually not based on characters from other comics or cartoons (or if they ever were, I don't remember who exactly they were influenced by), a number of them were just made through scribbling and some were based on real people.  Kalwa was drawn up from a teenage girl I met at party, Reko was kinda modeled after myself with glasses (I actually didn't wear my glasses regularly until after I graduated high school because I thought they were "uncool".)  These characters have pretty much stayed the same with only small details such as hair and clothing.

For a number of the new characters and definatly some of the minor characters, I do take reference from other characters and comics.  Cassidy from the Western Arch was modeled after Revy from Black Lagoon, being a gun slinging girl with very skimpy clothing, she also took a bit of Mikasa from Attack on Titan in that she has a six pack ab set.  Sherrif Waylans was modeled after Bigby Wolf from Fables, my co-writer Ryan actually showed me his pictures and practically instructed me to model him after him (namely the hair part).  We also had a minor psycho in that arch who was based on Cletus Cassidy from Spider-Man.

Generally I'm always looking at characters and designs, when I find a design I like, usually it gets copied into the first draft, but as I fine tune it, I make deliberate changes over the course of time until I can mold it into a new design.  That's pretty much how creativity works, find something you like and then make it your own.

Aug 10, 12:32AM EDT0
What do you want young girls to learn from Kalwa?
Aug 8, 6:01PM EDT0

To be honest, I didn't really have young girls in mind as an audience for Kalwa, just teenagers and some college students (I don't know if these count as "young" girls or not).  In terms of what they can learn from her, I would generally say, open up and be careful what you wish for.  We haven't really started to explore this theme too much as of yet, but we are getting to it and soon.  A major theme of Kalwa is the idea that actions have consequences, in that Kalwa finds herself drawn into something that's bigger than herself, and it can affect not only her but her friends and family as well.  I'd say this is an overall lesson to take away from the story.

Aug 12, 4:48PM EDT0
Which issue of Kalwa do you consider to be the most impressive and what are the reasons for your choice?
Aug 8, 12:43PM EDT0

Well in terms of "impressive," I'll point out two.  First I'd say the current issue chapter 14.  The reason being is because I really like how the artwork is turning out.  I'm actually my own worst critic when it comes to art, as I see each and every flaw and mistake I've made even if others don't.  This issue however I actually can step back, take a look and say, "ya know that's pretty good," I really feel that I've upped my game with the art to the point where even I'm having trouble being unimpressed.

The second issue would be my personal favorite (as of now) chapter 11. I don't know how much I would say its "impressive", but I love the issue because it was basically MY issue.  All my love of dinosaurs and Velociraptors went into this issue and I was able to do a number of self inserted jokes and passions, such as Kalwa wanting to pet a raptor (and succeeding).  In addition, my knowledge of dinosaurs really helped with this one in that I was able to whip up this issue up quickly and passionatly.  I do suppose I would say it's impressive that I was able to cram a whole story in one chapter, and keep it energetic and fast moving while still having room for talk and humor.  So maybe I would say it's impressive, I don't know.  Either way, I'd say chapters 11 and 14 for now.

Aug 11, 3:18AM EDT0
How did you come up with the idea of time travel with a cell phone?
Aug 8, 11:54AM EDT0

A rather LONG process.  This story was actually first concived in high school, it was inspired by two old drawings I dug up that I remember doing in my youth, modeled in anime style as it was done during my pokemon craze.  One was a shadowy man who was smoking, the other was a young boy with a watch.  I remembered the inital idea and remembered that watch had the power of time manipulation.

Well long story short, these two sketches became the springboard for Kalwa, with the boy obvioulsy being replaced by Kalwa.  In the original version I conceived in high school, it was her WATCH that could travel through time, and she broke it and got stuck in the past, so she was trying to repair it to get home.

The cellphone idea didn't come in until I decided to revitalize the comic into what it was today.  I felt that a tiny little watch would realistically not have enough room or capacity to harness such capacity to operate as a time machine, the buttons and neccesary setting would all be crammed together.  A cellphone however is bigger, has more buttons and would probably allow for better control.  So the watch was changed to a cellphone and that's where we wound up today.

Aug 10, 12:41AM EDT0
What is the most relatable quality you wanted Kalwa to have? Why?
Aug 8, 7:49AM EDT0

Probably just her general personality.  That's what makes her unique.  As I've said, Kalwa is a strong person whose always up for adventure and never shys away from danger.  I think makes her pretty interesting and fun to follow.

In terms of relatble problems, I would say the fact that she's moved to a new area and is trying to find something to make life interesting.  I think alot of people can relate to that, particuarly people who move from place to place alot.  Moving to a new location is usually hard especially when you've grown attaced to wherever you're moving from, I myself have actually gotten into that situation as of late.  So I think that's something a lot of people can relate to.  I also think her rivalry with her mother is important (particuarly the fact that she blames her for the move), because I've seen how some teenagers tend to feel they are being dragged around by their parents and tend to affiliate it with being unfair.  So generally I think anyone whose been in Kalwa's shoes can relate to her.  These plot points I just mentioned I do intend to bring out in further detail later in the story, so their meanings will hopefully leave more of an impact with readers.

Aug 12, 4:31PM EDT0

Which marketing channel do you use to promote Kalwa and why have you chosen this one?

Aug 7, 3:26PM EDT0

I'm a little confused by the question, or a little confused as to how it applies to the webcomic in it's current state, so I'll just answer the question based on experience.  As of now the comic is free to read on Smackjeeves, but I also put it on tapas and webtoons.   Smackjeeves is actually my favorite site to distripute on because of the format, showing it page by page and having a nice menu bar to navigate too.  However Smackjeeves I feel it's really hard to attract audiences and most people keep to themselves, you also have to know a lot of dreamwaver/webdesign to get a really good layout and you're all on your own.  Webtoons is easier to get discovered on and it's been really kind to us thus far.

As for promoting, I mostly just promote it through social media.  Google plus is really a great place full of people who are really nice and are eager to look what you got.  Facebook can work, but it's mostly hidden as a way to get you to pay for advertisment.  Instagram I hear is good, but I haven't tried it, I might later this year.  

Sorry if I didn't answer your question the way you were hoping.  Feel free to message me back if you have further questions.

Aug 11, 5:41AM EDT0

How would you describe the genre of your webcomic and what made you choose this genre?

Aug 7, 10:24AM EDT0

This is a bit of tragic irony in a matter of speaking. We often brand Kalwa on the websites as Sci Fi/ Action, but honestly I would say it's really more of an Adventure genre story.  Unfortuanatly these comic websites don't seem to have that genre as a label, so we have to go with the former.  

As to why I chose it, well it took a while.  When we first started the comic I didn't really know which direction to take it and which way to market it.  One of the big issues I try to avoid with Kalwa not just for audiences, but also myself, is that I don't want Kalwa to be a historical comic.  I find historical works boring and if I was writing this for historical purposes, I would get bored and not want to write it.  I think I was writing chapter 10 at the time when I got my wake up call came the day I booted up Kingdom Hearts after so many years, I loved the adventure aspect of it Sora (the game's protagonist) traveled to different worlds, saw different things, I loved how the villians traveled from world to world gathering information using each other's resouces.  I remember saying to myself "hey that' s kinda like our book, Kalwa travels from world to world, experiences new things, and the bad guys travel from world to world,"  and that's pretty much my journey to the adventure genre, and we'll keep on that path on ward.

Aug 7, 6:01PM EDT0
Who are the main characters of Kalwa and what are their personalities like?
Aug 7, 8:54AM EDT0

Well, the main characters would be Kalwa and Reko right now, Kalwa's the fun loving adventurous girl and Reko is the more calm and collected boy.  To really get a feel for their personalities, you really should read the actual comic.  I can direct you to the chracter page on the website and see where that goes: HERE

Aug 7, 6:08PM EDT0

What twists in the tale of Kalwa did you most enjoy developing?

Aug 7, 6:47AM EDT0

Well to be honest, we haven't gotten into a number of them just yet.  I suppose in terms of one that has already come, I really enjoyed the pirate arch both revealing that Kalisha was the real captain and that the pirate captain was actually an A-Tech agent.

We're about to hit a major twist in the upcoming chapter 15, and this one will really heavily affect the story, so I had fun coming up with that. Probaly one of my favorite twists happens in the story arch right after the one we're working on right now.  I don't want to reveal too much, but it's a dark arch with elements of mystery and horror.  We got some really big twists that I am confident everyone will enjoy. 

Aug 12, 6:25AM EDT0
Are there any influences –from other stories, comics, music, TV shows, movies- that shaped your storytelling and the story of Kalwa?
Aug 7, 3:18AM EDT0

Oh yes, my head is pretty much an encylopedia of knowledge when it comes to all things fiction.  Obviously I would say that (flowise) Naruto is probably the central model.  Naruto kinda started off on it's own and didn't jump into it's big story right away.  Rather it had some smaller archs to get people interested and introduce its main cast bit by bit.  It wasn't until the later part of the Chunin Exam arch that the story really took off and started speeding forward. I belive One Piece was like that too, I don't belive that One Piece had a real story going for it until we got to the long Baroque Works saga. That's kinda of the model we set for ourselves at first.

Truth be told, I feel we hit a few snags when we first started.  The first chapter I feel dragged and the western arch went on longer than expected.  By the time we were done with it all, I relized what we had was too many long stories and it would chase the audience away.  So I went into my large library of comics and series (Spider-Man, Death Note, Avengers) and started reading their comics and paid specific attention to pacing, twists and set up.  After chapter 10, me and Ryan rewrote everything we had to move at a faster pace, not just with the overall story but indiviudual chapters.  In the 1960's comcis had to get their whole story out in less than 20 pages, we work with 26 pages, so we can do more.  Since then my whole storytelling has change so that audience get a faster paced entertaining story out of the comic we give them.

Aug 10, 12:59AM EDT0