Jenny Romanchuk Interview
After I had put up my review of Jenny Romanchuk’s webcomic, The Zombie Hunters, I had gotten in touch with the artist and writer to discuss the creation of her series, the process involved in this medium, and what sort of promises and pitfalls it may offer. To say nothing of a question I’m sure she’s been asked a hundred and one times by now.
First things first, would you like to tell us a little about yourself?
I’m imported from the frozen wastelands of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario Canada! After over 23 years of freezing to death, I decided to make a change and immigrate to the US to be with my husband Greg after college. I graduated from the Graphic Design program at Sault College (Awesome school btw) and if you skip over the 2 and a half years of being separated by the Immigration Tango — we currently live in NC.
I have a ‘girly girl’ nature that belies my works I think, and I also can be distracted by pretty clothes and sparkling objects. I tend to spend most of the day working on the comic, surfing the net, and being cold. Also, I am under the firm the belief that if zombies were to invade, I would be the first to die.
Can you tell us how the idea for The Zombie Hunters came about? What made you focus all your energy on this venture?
Well, to be honest, the beginning of the comic was off to a shaky start. I did not know the first thing about comics, and I just seemed to rush into this project without a plan. At first this comic was a private story for friends, it was loosely based off of a dream I had one day and decided to make a series of short comics about it in 2004-ish? Later I posted a few pages online and other people came to like it. People were asking me to do more, so then I decided to make a short web comic about me and my friends’ ‘adventures’ as zombie hunters. The comic was only supposed to be a non-plot gag a strip series, and was only going to run for no more than a handful of pages, but as people came to like it, I became to like it more as well, so in 2005 I decided to sit down and actually write a full-length script for it. This is where I THEN made the (if not regrettable) decision to keep all of the characters the same and unchanged even despite the negative stigma associated with having a self insert comic and the ‘Mary-Sue’ label. A lot of people are really put off by that, and understandably so.
Come graduating college I was stuck in an ‘I have no idea what I want to do with my life’ and with some advice from my teachers, this seemed like the best next step for me!
What were some things you drew upon (I know, awful pun, right?) when writing the script or drawing the artwork?
I listen to music all the time, and I find that when I am listening to certain tracks I picture scenes better and I find it’s a lot easier to put onto paper.
Many of the characters in the principal cast are named after some of your friends in real life. Are any of them like what we see in their animated post-zombie forms? Should we be that worried about Katie? Or scared of being in a dark room with her?
None of the characters are like their real life counterparts. They don’t even look the same anymore! As the story grew the TZH crew kinda evolved into their own people.
Could you describe a typical working day for us? Since, I’m too lazy to go about the paperwork and planning of a documentary on webcomic creating.
Well. The alarm rings at 7:30–and I am usually out of bed by 8:00. I try to get in some exercise and then I eat breakfast and shower, then start work at 9:00–I work until 5:00 and then take the rest of the day off! I also don’t work on weekends either. Having breaks helps me stave off the dreaded burnout.
What goes into making the webcomic outside of the writing and drawing process?
A lot of money, footwork, and waiting. Money, because without it nothing can happen, we always seem to make ends meet, but we could always use a little more to get ahead with business related things. Footwork because in order to get things printed or made we have to run around a lot to find the best people for the job. And lastly, waiting, lots of waiting for stuff to happen.
On top of producing the content, you also sell a number of merchandise that includes t-shirts, books, patches, etc, as well as run a forum for the community of fans. How do you manage those aspects?
Very carefully, hah. Greg handles all of the merch and web related stuff, where I manage anything and everything to do with design, writing, and art–as well with any public announcing that needs to be done. Some days it can get preeetttyyy hectic.
Did you ever expect the comic to be as successful as it has been or that you would still be running it?
Not in a MILLION YEARS. I don’t want to sound too defeatist–but I had this terrible habit of starting something and not finishing it. I think before TZH I had started about say…30-50 different story’s that I just never finished or just got bored of–not to mention looking back on them they were horrible horrible stories, so it’s ultimately for the best. Those stories were murdered to make way for new stories!
What sort of impact has The Zombie Hunters made on your life?
I have a lot of street cred now, I think. People ask me what I do for a living and they’ll be all “No way!” or “Badass!” because I guess they just wouldn’t expect me to say that–or because since I am a female they wouldn’t expect that? And I’ll be “yeah way I totally write comics with zombies in them!” I have a lot more zombie stuff kicking around the house now, and people that I know say that I am a ‘zombie guru’ (which I am really not honestly, I just write about them!)
Also, I think working on this story has made me a lot bolder–like my husband’s brother is a med student and he asked if I would like to see him dissect a cadaver–and I am all SURE! Where before I would have been all “Eww no way! Scary!” My newfound boldness still didn’t keep me from fainting–twice, but I think it was just the formaldehyde.
Are there other projects that you work on or would like to tackle in the future?
Yes! I have some new projects in the works for when TZH is complete– but that’s all I can say for now 🙂
What’s been the hardest thing about making The Zombie Hunters?
Keeping away from distractions! Oh my it’s tough. Working from home is one of the hardest things to do. Sure it has a lot of perks, but you can fall into the trap of not getting ANYTHING DONE. Also sales slumps are rough and unpredictable one month things will be fine then the next–not so much.
How have other webcomic artists responded to your work? Is there a sense of community or is it more like everyone is an island unto themselves?
I am a pretty shy gal, so I haven’t really approached many other webcomic artists, so I have no idea what they think of me, unless I go DERR DO U LIEK ME? LOOK AT MY PICKCHURS! They’ll have to approach me and run me down if they want to talk. So it’s more like a small groups on islands I find–kinda cliquish?
Is there any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers or people who might like to one day try to make their own webcomics?
Don’t go into it expecting to get MEGA money! It’s a lot of hard hard work, frustration, and loneliness! If you can get past that, the payoffs are pretty satisfying 🙂
If you were infected and had a choice to be one of your zombies, which type would you want to be, and why?
A Hunter! Because I love me some mad parkour.
Chris’s Note – At this point I would also like to say that for Christmas this year, I was given a copy of The Zombie Hunters Book One by someone near and dear. This soft-cover trade, covers Chapters One through Four and features artwork, commentary, and two bonus comics that have not been seen on the website. If you read the site and loved what you saw, you would be remiss to pick up a copy of the book to support the creator. It could be bought on her website or at Amazon, where it is also available as an e-book.