Scandal, Power & Intrigue In Robin Hoelzemann’s ‘Curia Regis’ [Back Pages]
Robin Hoelzemann's webcomic Curia Regis has been running since 2010, an 18th century battle of wits (and sometimes weapons) centered on a power vacuum that can only be resolved when someone ascends to the throne. Whether that person deserves the throne is not important; the kingdom needs a regent!
The comic delves deep into political intrigue, heavy on backstabbing and high on noble rebellions. Over the last six years, Hoelzemann has assembled an impressive array of characters, with an artistic style that helps capture the time period while giving a very modern sense of flow and movement across a long-form narrative. There's everything you could want in the comic, including (and not limited to) machinations!
As Hoelzemann brings the series to Kickstarter to seek a print release of the first volume, Back Pages spoke to her about how the story came about, and how she keeps up her weekly routine of comics intrigue.
ComicsAlliance: When and how did you begin making Curia Regis?
Robin Hoelzemann: The first page of Curia Regis went live on the web in July 2010 when it was just me, a little Graphire 3 tablet, and a copy of Photoshop. It’s crazy to think it’s been that long, and even crazier to think that I’ve been bandying the concept around far longer than that. I actually began playing with the basic ideas back when I was 17, but very little of the original concept has survived. You should all be incredibly grateful for that, by the way. It was spectacularly bad.
CA: What’s the basic premise of the series?
RH: If you found out you only had three months left to live, and you had the options of giving up or stealing a country, what would you do?
Curia Regis is one person’s answer to that question, and the impact that decision has on his friends. Where’s the line in achieving what you want when you only have a short time to do it in.
CA: What was it about this story which made you want to tell it? Why pick this time period, in particular?
RH: I kind of wanted to see if it was possible. Does that sound odd? I’m a big fan of fiction in which plot comes second to characters’ emotional conflicts, and back when I first started I’d rarely seen that kind of thing transferred across into comics. I suspect a lot of us who began putting our work out there a decade ago would tell you we drew the kind of stories we wanted to see in the world.
As for the time period, this is secretly all a ploy to avoid drawing cars. No, but really, I love the aesthetic and the literature associated with the 18th century. These days I’m getting a lot of enjoyment from mixing period styles with modern influences, particularly in the clothes. It gives me more room to play.
CA: You'll be redrawing the first chapter to bring it more in-line with your work in later chapters. How do you think you've developed as a writer/artist since you first began on the series?
RH: If I haven’t developed in the last six years, I’ve done something seriously wrong! At 200 pages and about 15 hours per page, that’s what, 3000 hours of practice? Part of it is growing up, part of it is being exposed to more materials and learning from them, and part of it is just time and experience.
On the writing side, I think it’s fair to say that there are things I’d do differently if I were to start the comic now. I’m really glad people love the comic, but I think there’s a great big hole floating where clearly stated character motivations should be right now. The rewrite of the first chapter and some tweaks throughout should go a long way towards fixing that.
CA: What do you most enjoy about working on the comic? Putting out a regular webcomic must be really gruelling work, so what keeps it fresh for you, and enables you to keep moving forward with the narrative?
RH: The fact that there is a narrative is crucial for me. I’ve an end game and I’m heading steadily towards it. I also love seeing people engaging with the comic. I’ve had some incredibly lovely notes from people who have been touched by certain scenes, and that just adds a whole different dimension to the work. I have great respect for people who can do art for art’s sake, but that’s just not me. I want to reach out with my stories.
Curia Regis is my second full-time job. I do have a day job as a marketing manager, but I cram Curia Regis into every little corner I possibly can. It gets the same level of commitment from me. There are deadlines to hit!
CA: Why take this to Kickstarter?
RH: Kickstarter’s been the plan since the crowdfunding site first came to the UK, and I have my fingers crossed really hard that we’ll make it to goal. It’s such an amazing platform, giving all sorts of creators the chance to bring their work to the market, while letting them keep all of their rights and creative control.
CA: The UK comics scene is rather close, and you're friends with cartoonists like Kickstarter star Kate Ashwin, of Widdershins fame. How have you prepared for bringing this to Kickstarter? Have you spoken to other crowdfunders, and taken advice on how to run a campaign, etc?
RH: The UK comics scene can be a really supportive and welcoming place, and I could not be more grateful for the help I’ve received in launching the campaign. I’ve known a lot of creators, including Kate, since the days of the UK Webcomix Thing (one of the first UK small press conventions I remember. It was a great place for little comics to grow into bigger comics, and was a home for comics zines for a while), so quite naturally I asked a lot of questions before I pressed the big green launch buttons!
I think in an ideal scenario we all lean on one another’s expertise to make better things, and I hope that if I succeed I can help the next person down the line out as much as other people have helped me.
CA: What stage are you at with this project? How much have you already completed?
RH: Every day I’m getting a little closer to finished. The final chapter is currently 92% complete, and then I’ll circle back around to Chapter 1 and art fixes. It’s all go, here. The goal is to be close to completely ready by the time the campaign finishes.
CA: If you achieve your goal, what’s your estimated delivery on the final comic?
RH: The autumn convention season kicks off for me in the last week of October with MCM London and then the amazing Thought Bubble, so the printed books should be back with me by then. A couple of weeks to personalize and stick everything in carefully packed envelopes, and people should be receiving their books in plenty of time for the Holidays! Keep your fingers crossed for me.
The Curia Regis Kickstarter will run until 5 September 2016, seeking a funding target of £4,200. To find out more, head to the Kickstarter page!
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