Magical Girls Versus Aliens In Alex Heberling’s ‘The Hues’ [Back Pages]
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Alex Heberling has been working full time on webcomics since 2013 with her series The Hues. Mixing sci-fi with high fantasy, The Hues follows a group of young women as they attempt to fend off an alien invasion --- with magic powers they've only just realized they have, and haven't quite got the full hang of yet. Alex has taken to Kickstarter this year for her second campaign, seeking to fund a second print volume of the comic. ComicsAlliance spoke to her to find out more.
ComicsAlliance: What’s the basic premise of The Hues?
Alex Heberling: The Hues is about a group of magical girls fighting an alien invasion. The Big Bad shows up before the magical girls are ready --- before some of them even know they are magical girls. It's kind of like Sailor Moon and Independence Day collided at high speeds.
It's really my love letter to all the things that made me into the nerd I am today --- Sailor Moon, Power Rangers, '90s disaster movies, and so on.
CA: You note in the Kickstarter that the series features a wide variety of characters --- different body types, sexualities, personalities. How important is that element of the series to you?
AH: It's very important to me! I've learned a lot about representation in the last five years, and when I decided to start The Hues, I knew I wanted to incorporate a lot of different types of girl to flesh out the cast. I'm not out to tell anyone else's stories when it comes to race or sexuality, since those experiences don't belong to me and are not mine to tell. I try my best to let the characters just be who they are and not make a big deal out of it in-story.
CA: So who is Samhita, the lead of this second volume? What kind of a person is she?
AH: Samhita, or Sami for short, is very determined to make the best of her situation in this story. She and her friends, Andy and Hannah, set up a refugee camp in her literal back yard, welcoming the survivors of the aliens' attack in the previous volume. At the same time, we spend many pages with newcomer Lauren, introduced toward the end of the previous book, who has decided to go it alone in the ruins of the city.
CA: What was the genesis of The Hues in general? When did you first start this as a webcomic?
AH: The story first formed in my head when I was a teenager, and was born from my obsession with Sailor Moon after I discovered it in 1998.
I drew the characters (who were very different back then) and eventually wrote a novel-length prose story about their adventures at one point. It wasn't super great back then, and I didn't actively work on it for a long time before
I decided to resurrect it as a completely new comic towards the end of 2011 and 2012. The magical girl genre, by that time, already had a ton of stories and series and comics, so I pretty much just took the bare bones of The Hues and created an entirely new world with them, with a mission to write my love letter to the genre. I tend to look at it like I'm collaborating with my twelve-year-old self.
CA: What do you think the ongoing, serialized format of webcomics changes about the way you tell a story? Does it change the way you think about your process?
AH: There's a lot to be said about how to present a longform comic on the web. Comics like Table Titans and Girl Genius approach it in different ways; the former updating in (usually) half-page increments and the latter updating with whole pages. It takes clever writing to pull off the Girl Genius approach --- depicting enough nugget of story in a single page in a way that feels satisfying on an update-to-update basis, but still reads smoothly when read in the graphic novel collections. It's something that I've always admired, but for me, a one-page-at-a-time update schedule is just what works best for me in terms of my time and what I can accomplish on a day-to-day basis.
My intent is for The Hues to be read as a book --- the webcomic aspect is really a tool to help me keep to a production schedule. Webcomics can be a little bit exhibitionist in that way, at least for me! I really enjoy the instant feedback of posting a comic and then getting to read my readers' reactions to the newest page in the comment section. I do it for the love of making comics, but having a cheering section off to the side certainly doesn't hurt.
CA: Is making comics now your full-time occupation?
AH: Yes it is! I've been a full-time artist since around the same time The Hues began, in January 2013. I got laid off from my day job, so I started pouring everything I could into my art career, and I've been doing it ever since. It helps that Kickstarter was well-established by that point, and not long after that, Patreon came along and gave me another boost. I've also done some contract work for other cartoonists, doing coloring and color flatting for a few different projects.
But other than The Hues, my main gig is doing the colors for Evil Inc, by Brad Guigar.
CA: How important has Kickstarter been to you? Do you feel Kickstarter, and crowdfunding in general, has changed the way comics get made?
AH: Kickstarter has definitely changed the way independent publishing works. Look no further than the work of Spike Trotman, who has given tons of advice and talks to other cartoonists and creative people over the years about her use of Kickstarter in her business model. For me, personally, Kickstarter helped me, well, kickstart my full-time comics career, with my very first campaign in August 2013. When it was time to put out the first volume of The Hues, there was no question in my mind of whether or not to use Kickstarter.
CA: If you achieve your goal, what’s your estimated delivery on the final comic?
AH: With only minor revisions to make to the comic for print, the book should be ready to go to the printer by mid-March, and we're expecting to start fulfilling rewards in early June!
The Hues Volume 2 is running on Kickstarter until 15 February 2016, looking for a funding target of $7000. You can find the Kickstarter page here!