Felicia Day Talks About ‘The Guild’ Comic
A lot has changed since writer, actor, and producer Felicia Day launched “The Guild” — a web series about a group of gamers who play together on a game akin to “World of Warcraft” — on Youtube in 2007. Now, she not only has an audience of millions and three seasons of the show under her belt, she’s also scored distribution deals with Xbox Live, MSN, and Zune, won countless awards for the series, and personally starred in “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” and “Dollhouse.”
So what’s next for the versatile Ms. Day? We’re so glad you asked, because the answer is near and dear to our hearts: comic books. Day is now personally adapting “The Guild” into a three-issue Dark Horse miniseries that hits stores on March 24th, illustrated by “Street Angel” artist Jim Rugg.
To celebrate the release, ComicsAlliance and Dark Horse Comics are launching a Guild Contest, where fans can win a copy of “The Guild” #1 signed by Felicia Day herself. If you’d like to enter, just leave us a message on either the ComicsAlliance or Dark Horse Facebook pages where we link to this story, and tell us what you’d like to see in the upcoming “Guild” comic! We’ll be giving away one signed issue for every 50 fans who weigh in, and since we’ll be counting them up separately, you’re welcome to enter on both pages!
But wait! There’s more! We also had a chance to talk with Day about the challenge of shifting her writing and her show to a whole new medium, the unique limitations and freedoms of comics, the origin story of her character, Codex, and what the future of digital media holds in the realm of comics and beyond:
ComicsAlliance: When it comes to comic book adaptations of other media, you don’t often get the original screenwriter scripting the book, so I was pleased to hear that you’re writing the comic yourself.
Felicia Day: Yeah, I’m a little bit of a control freak. I don’t think I could have let anybody else write it. I’ve written all three issues already; I’m sure I’ll go back and do a polish, but [issue] one is pretty much done, and all the art is done for it. I just haven’t seen the lettering yet. I’ve never done this before, so all the steps involved – it’s kinda like making a movie, but it’s more linear. You just hand it off from one person to another rather than a bunch of people working on it at the same time. Also, you have time as a writer to go back and change a line later on, versus moviemaking, where you film it and you have what you have for editing. It’s a really interesting process, definitely very different from anything I’m used to. My goal was to finish writing all three issues of the arc before the end of the year, because I have to start thinking about Season 4 [of “The Guild” web series] right now and I can only do so much at one time. I’m not a good multi-tasker.
CA: Where is the comic going to fall in terms of the plotline of the web series?
FD: That was kind of an interesting challenge, and why I waited a year to even agree to do a comic, because I needed to figure out the best way to not interfere with my web series storyline. So I decided to go back and do a semi-origin story, in a sense. It’s the journey of Codex before her life as Codex, and how she gets into playing. It’s kind of a love letter to online video games. That’s something [Dark Horse Senior Managing Editor] Scott Allie said when I finished writing it. I think the fans will be excited about it, and people who have never seen the show won’t be jumping into a whole pot of backstory that they don’t understand. It was very interesting to write in the comics format; it’s a completely different boat. I could have probably written three screenplays in the time it took me to write it.
CA: What has the transition been like as a writer, between scripting “The Guild” as a web series, and scripting it as a comic?
FD: After working on a web series, where the storytelling moves so much faster than even TV, I thought that maybe I’d have a leg up on writing a comic, which can jump literally years in one panel. But I’m not a particularly visual writer; I’ve never directed anything. So that was a huge surprise to me, that I would have to describe all the panels. It definitely forces you to think in a different way as well. In writing for the web series, I’ve been writing for the confines of a very few locations and using a lot of dialogue. I’m very dialogue-heavy. And then I started sending in pages [to Dark Horse], and Scott [Allie] was like, “Oh, no. There is way too much dialogue on this page.” And it’s probably going to be a very dense comic. It’s not going to be sparse as far as dialogue goes because of what I felt the characters needed, but it was definitely a learning curve to open the show up to more locations than I’m used to writing, and less dialogue. It’s kind of the reverse of the web show, in a sense. So hopefully that translates.
CA: What was it like working with Jim Rugg, and seeing your writing come to life through someone else’s art?
FD: I’m a huge admirer of artists because I can’t draw at all, and what they do is like magic to me. So the reward of when I started getting panels back, the gestures and the way the characters were coming to life – Jim just has this fantastic style about him that’s so real and right. Once I saw Codex drawn, it made it so much easier to writer for her in the format, because it wasn’t my face. It’s a weird thing to step back and and see myself drawn as a character. And it made Codex more of a separate person to me, which was very valuable as a writer.
CA: Codex is loosely inspired by some of your own experiences playing online games; does the origin story in the comic involve anything of your personal story?
FD: It was interesting, because I hadn’t really filled out Codex’s backstory specifically. And Codex is fictional and not me by any means, so it was interesting to create this world that was not related to me at all, with a completely different perspective on getting into a video game than I had personally.
CA: Do you run into people who have trouble separating you from the character?
FD: I’m sure to a certain degree, but not on a daily basis… I don’t think they really think I’m that person. Most people do know I write it. I think if you go around at at a convention with Sandeep Parikh who plays Zaboo, people are more likely to think he’s Zaboo than I’m Codex.
FD: I don’t know. Maybe I’m just a fool! [laughs]
CA: What’s your background with comics? Are you a comic book fan?
FD: When I as a kid, I had whole scrapbooks where I’d cut out “Calvin and Hobbes” and “Bloom County” and “Garfield.” I’d cut out my favorite panels. I love newspaper comics, but I definitely had much more of a learning curve with graphic novels and long-form comics. I’d read some, but I’m more of a novel reader; I’ll literally read three or four paperbacks in a week. I eat them up. Graphic novels wasn’t something that I had been addicted to, so I had to read a lot of them before I started this comic to make sure I understood how characters come to life in this format versus the other formats I work with. It wasn’t clicking until I finally read [Joss Whedon’s] “Fray” and [Brian Wood’s] “DMZ.” Those were the two comics that really clicked, and I realized, oh, this is how it’s done. It can be incredibly exciting — you can’t wait to turn the page and see what happens next, and the characters are alive. For me, the challenge is to get a character and her personality and problem across in such a little space.
CA: It can be tough when you first approach comics, because compared to novels where you’re forced to absorb a dense amount of language, it’s easy to kind of skim over the surface really fast–
FD: Exactly, it’s a different kind of reading as well. Being more patient and taking in the art and the character and the dialogue all at once. You’re consuming what’s on the page in a completely different way in your brain. It was definitely something I had to adjust my brain to so the experience would be authentic. And I’m sure I broke a bunch of rules along the way. [laughs]
CA: Unlike film, television, or a web series, one thing that sets comics apart is that it’s a visual format where the reader is in control, and can consume the content at her own pace. So you have that user experience that’s really different from other media.
FD: Absolutely. I totally agree. I’m learning as a writer that every single format that you write in, there are different parameters you have to work with, but different freedoms. And it’s almost as challenging to deal with the freedoms as with the parameters. Yes, I had to cut back on my dialogue, but the fact that [in comics] you can have so many different numbers of panels on a page, and you can go anywhere and do anything, in a sense, because you’re not confined by budget like you are with moviemaking — that was quite a lot to deal with.
CA: Now that you’ve gotten a sense for the comics format and what’s possible with it, do you see it as a medium where you’d like to bring more stories in the future — either from “The Guild” or something entirely different?
FD: I definitely would look forward to exploring other things in the format. The thing about the internet is that it’s opened the door to stories to be told in so many different formats, like web series, or comics, or TV, or movies. They’re all sort of on the same footing, in a sense, because they’re things that can be consumed on the computer. It’s sort of evening the playing field in terms of where people can see a story and enjoy it. So if there were some kind of high-budget idea that would just not be doable on a low budget for movies, or TV, or a web series, why not? There are no cost prohibitions if you want to fly, or go into space.
CA: It’s interesting that you mention getting comics on the internet, because it seems like publishers are finally starting to explore digital comics seriously.
FD: I drive down the street in LA, and the Borders closed down, all the newsstands closed down. With all these tablets coming out, it’s such an interesting time, and over the next year or two years we’re going to see a huge shift in people consuming everything on a screen, and there’s going to be no barrier to how people tell a story.
CA: Given the way that my experiences with media and technology have evolved, I do have moments where I think, why do I have to go a store to get the new comic I want? Why can’t I just download it now?
FD: It is a transition that’s happening right now. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I think it could be faster. I remember cassette tapes only as a small kid, but then having CDs and MP3s… I’ve lived through three different formats for music, and I’ve seen how fast that happened. Now DVDs are becoming obsolete. You can see the writing on the wall with them with the sales, and how people want to stream their movies now. I could see a day where you’ll be telling your kid, “Hey, in my day we had a DVD that we had to rent!”
CA: I was actually at the house of a friend who has a young son recently, and she was telling me about how he’s grown up with a DVR and Netflix streaming. He expects instant availability of media, and the idea of not being able to watch what he wants when he wants is actually confusing for him. I think that’s what it’s going to be like for the next generation.
FD: I absolutely agree with you. And that’s why I’ve done some of the things I’ve done with “The Guild.” I was always thinking, how can I get the show to more people, and how can I make it easier for them to get it? It’s a challenge that bigger media companies have, because they’re used to doing things one way, and even more importantly, they’re used to controlling their audience and giving them things only when they want to give them. And that’s not how the audience wants to consume things anymore. So I think it’s going to be a real struggle for them to keep making the money they’re making at this level and still let go of control and find a way to give the audience what they want, because the audience is going to get it – they’re going to find a way to get it. That’s why people still things.
CA: You’ve got an awful lot on your plate right now. What do you want to focus on in your career as you move forward?
FD: It’s hard to say. We haven’t been picked up by Xbox yet [for Season 4 of “The Guild,”] but hopefully we’ll get picked up by them. My hope is also to be producing other people’s web series, and other people’s content, because I feel like there haven’t been enough web series to break out and get to the audience the way something like “Dr. Horrible” does, although of course that had Joss Whedon behind it. “The Guild” has had a fraction of that success, and I would love to help other people. And creatively for me, the comic was a huge undertaking but it was also really rewarding. I have a million opportunities in front of me, and it’s just hard to choose where to go. I always love to do acting, and I want to have one foot in that, but of the hours in my day are spent producing content for the web, and hopefully I’ll be able to ratchet that up.