20 on the 20th — Starline X. Hodge!

Sorry this is late, my loves! Starline was incredibly professional and easy to interview. I, on the other hand, am a massive flake. :)

Candi is an AWARD WINNING strip by Starline Hodge, one of the hottest young comics artists working right now. Candi is semi-autobiographical, and features a fascinating cast of characters, including a ferret engaged in an a battle of wits with some evil squirrels and the Sexy Police!

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Candi in Brief

1. One of the neato things about Candi is that all the characters’ skintones are different — in fact, there are many ethnicities represented, and even one incognito Latino. Was it important to you to have a multiethnic cast?

I don’t think it was something I was actively thinking about. A lot of the characters are based on people I knew in high school and college, and since I’m from Miami, most of the people I hung out with were from different ethnic backgrounds. It just kinda happened.

2. Are you still basing characters on people you know?

Yeah, sort of? The characters have all taken a life of their own that this point. But when I feel stuck, I think back to the original people I based them off of as a guide.

3. Have any of your “muses” ever gotten mad at you for using them as a character base? Some of them — like whoever Linda is based off of! — don’t come out looking very good.

I don’t think so. I know they are aware of the comic, but I doubt they read it. It was never their thing. I still keep in contact with a few of them. The girl who Linda is based off and I haven’t been on speaking terms in years though.

4. Hmmm. Is Candi semi-autobiographical, then? How closely does it mirror your life?

Yes. A lot of it is taken from my experiences from college. With some exaggerations. It’s why I understand some of the frustration people have with Candi, Alex and Linda right now. I’d go back in time and smack myself across the head too if I could. :) Although the comic has been going on for over 4 yrs now, it’s still just her and the cast’s freshman year. They’re still teenagers dealing with entering adulthood.

5. Candi has evolved a great deal stylistically — did its style evolution cause its plot evolution, or the other way around?

Most of the style evolution took place because I wanted to get away from the manga look, although I don’t think I’ve really succeeded with that. Heh. I guess that sort of thing will stick when your main character has pink hair. I’ve always sort of imagined the characters in a Disney-esque look. I’m always trying to experiment with that to keep it interesting. I don’t think it effects the story very much, I have various plot points mapped out for the whole comic. So regardless of how the style changes, the story should still get to where its going.

6. How far ahead do you plot the comic? Have any of the major plot points changed since you’ve started writing it?

Not very many of the plot points have changed. There’s one in particular with Chris  (way way way into the future) that I keep flipping back forth with. I didn’t like his character at all at first, but he’s grown on me.

7. Will the ongoing ferret sub-plot ever be concluded?

Probably not. It’s too fun to draw. I like writing about them when I need the break from the angst/drama.

8. Will we ever know all the different animals’ allegiances??

Ha ha, is mostly Squirrels vs. The World. Or the college campus anyway. The University of Florida, which Candi’s campus is based off of, is swarming with squirrels. They get pretty bold around people too. Always plotting.  I guess if any other creature would be on their side, it might be the raccoons… They just want food though.

9. What other web-comics have influenced you?

Octopus Pie, Penny & Aggie, It’s Walky / Shortpacked, Wapsi Square, and Questionable Content.  (YAY! Check out Hathor’s earlier 20 on the 20th interviews with Paul Taylor and T. Campbell!)

10. That’s quite a range of comics! In what ways have they influenced you?

It’s Walky was one of the first webcomics that I ever became a big fan of. I loved the character relationships and humor mixed with the surreal. QC & Wapsi have similar elements, so I was just drawn to them. Pablo’s art style is very cool. Meredith Gran’s storytelling in Octopus Pie is fantastic, and I like how each chapter is a self-contained story. I want to be able to write like that one day. Penny & Aggie’s art is amazing, and I’d hope to get as good as Gisele with drawing people. I have a long way to go.

11. How do you practice/continue to develop your skills as an artist and author?

I just try to sketch as often as possible and read different kinds of stories and comics. The more exposure I get to different styles and artists, the more I learn.

12. What is your relationship with your fanbase like? I know you’ve established things like a podcast, etc., to augment the strips themselves.

I’m pretty open with my fanbase. I try to answer emails when I get them (usually takes me a day or two to respond). I’m also always lurking around in the forums. I don’t like to say too much in there whenever they are discussing the strips or plot lines. I love to see what they have to say and if they guess right or not. The forum also helps me understand if my storylines are being interpreted clearly or not, and if I need make adjustments to the comic.

The podcast is mostly a side-project that my friend Kelly and I started for fun. It’s mostly us talking about our week and various topics in pop culture, news, tv shows, and of course comics. We haven’t updated it recently though, since our real-world jobs have kept us busier than usual.

13. Do fan questions/concerns ever change the storylines?

Not the main storylines themselves, but sometimes the focus might change from one character to the next based on some fan concerns/questions. For example, I recently wrote Linda’s backstory because I wanted to show the readers where some of her behaviors came from. I might have not done that before, but a few debates about her in the forums made me want to reveal more of her past.

14. Will we see something similar about Alex? He’s kind of awesome, but he’s a bit of a love him or hate him sort of character.

I’d like to, but Alex is pretty straightforward with his behavior and attitude. He hasn’t changed much from his younger-self.  Very honest and logical, but not very good at dealing with emotions and emotional people.

15. Can you tell me a bit about LGBT issues/character in Candi? I know there is Trevor and Matt for LGBT identified characters… will we ever see a fancy pants LBT lady?

Trevor will eventually have to come out about his bi-sexuality to his parents, and hopefully Matt (and Laura) will be there to support him. He tends to piss off his friends often though, so we’ll just have to see how that goes. As for an LBT lady joining the cast one day… maybe. :)

16. How do you see Candi the character growing in the future?

She’s desperately trying to cling to her rose-colored view of the world right now, but that’s falling apart. Candi has a lot of growing up to do and needs to get over her naivety.

17. What is it like to do cross over series or be a guest artist for other series, like P&A?

It’s fun! T wrote the script, so it was great to try and get what he wanted to come across in the artwork. I wouldn’t mind doing it again.

18. Have you thought about bringing on a guest artist for a particular set of strips, or a storyline?

Not really, I’d never thought to ask anyone.

19. What other projects are you thinking about for the future?

I have a few ideas that I want to work on. I’d really like to take on a smaller project and write/draw a short complete story. However, it seems like every idea I’d like to work on turns into a very very long tale. One day I hope I can balance two comics at a time.

20. If there was one piece of advice you could give to a beginning webcomic artist, what would it be?

When you start posting strips, make sure you update when you say you will. Keep trying to improve your skills as much as possible. If you’re completely happy with your work, you’re not doing it right.

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