Welcome to Sonic News Network's interview series: 12 Questions With! This week our interviewee is Evan Stanley. Evan is a staff member of the Sonic the Hedgehog comic series by IDW Publishing; she has done pencils, inks, and cover artwork for the series so far. Evan has also worked on Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Boom and the Sonic Boom comic, as well as many fan comics, including the fan-adored Ghosts of the Future.
Without a further ado, here is 12 Questions With Evan Stanley!
What was your first Sonic experience? Whether it’s a game, show, or comic?
- Well, the first experience I had with Sonic where I actually knew it was Sonic was probably around 2005, with flash cartoons on Newgrounds. What really got me hooked was drawing the characters, though. The first time I drew Sonic fan art was around 2006 while home alone at my cousin's house. I didn't know how to turn on the PS2, so I was just staring at the Sonic Heroes box. I had my sketchbook, so I drew Tails off of the cover and it was so much fun, I was instantly hooked and spend the next year exhaustively researching the franchise and catching up on everything I'd missed out on!
When did you know you wanted to be a full-time artist?
- I've wanted to be an artist of one kind or another for pretty much as long as I can remember; my mom encouraged my interest in art from the start, as did my homeschooling tutors; one of which was also a scientific illustrator. She trained me for several years, and I thought I would probably be a children's book illustrator or a scientific illustrator like her. After getting into Sonic I taught myself cartooning, and decided that was the path I enjoyed the most. In college I developed a taste for animation and screenwriting as well.
- I always loved animated films and games (when I could get my hands on them), but animation is EXTREMELY HARD and I only learned how to do it at all when forced by my college courses!
- I've always kind of thought of things in terms of telling stories and sequential art; in my sketchbooks from when I'm six, seven, eight years old I would write and draw stories and sequence even before I'd been shown what comics were. Taking up cartooning was a return to form.
On the Sonic News Network, we have over 800 articles on Archie Sonic characters alone! Besides ones you made, which Archie Sonic characer(s) do you like the most?
- Ooh, I have lots of faves! For the whole franchise, bunched at the top are Sonic, Silver, and Shadow. After that my top picks (in no particular order) are Scourge, Shard, Bunnie, Antoine, and Tikal. Dr. Finitevus, Uncle Chuck, Snively, Nicole, and Amy, too. Rouge and Omega are also great...There are almost no characters I actually dislike. There's something to love in everybody!
What has influenced your artistic style?
- The biggest influences, cartooning-wise, are probably Bill Watterson and Tracy Yardley. I grew up with Calvin and Hobbes books at my fingertips pretty much at all times, and I pretty much learned how to do Sonic by studying and then later working with Tracy. I also draw a lot from my more formal training in realistic illustration trying to create characters with a very solid construction and lifelike details, and my experience as an animator to inform how characters move and are posed.
- Other cartoonists whose art I've spent a lot of time studying are Jeff Smith (Bone), Hiromu Arakawa (Fullmetal Alchemist), Rumiko Takahashi (Ranma 1/2, various), Yoshihiro Togashi (Yu Yu Hakusho). I'm also constantly researching the various influences to all the Sonic design conventions and illustration styles, and that ends up leading me down all sorts of rabbit holes.
What is the most difficult part of drawing Sonic characters?
- At this point, my biggest challenge is strengthening the impact of my action sequences to show of fast, creative combat that fits the characters. In general, I feel I have a long way to go with appeal. My need to draw the characters technically correct often hampers my ability to make them look as good as they could. Sonic characters, in a 2D medium, rely heavily on optical illusions and graphic "cheats" to look lively and natural, and as someone who thinks of things in a very three-dimensional way it often ends up hurting more than it helps.
- And of course, consistency. Keeping the characters as close to the official model as humanly possible while still having some personal influence is a never-ending challenge. It can be frustrating at times, but it's undoubtedly made me a better artist.
On your SNN page, we have a list of what you have been credited for over the years, including the Sonic Boom episode you wrote “Three Men And My Baby!”. What is different from writing a TV show episode rather than a comic?
- One of the biggest challenges, which was so big I forced myself not to think about while writing, was that this was specifically a comedy show, and I don't really consider myself to be a comedy writer. I can be funny, yes, but it's rarely my main intent and when put on the spot I freeze up. I told myself to trust the characters' voices in my head, that I knew them well enough to make it work; Sonic, Knuckles, and Tails are funny so if I just write them as they are they'll be funny for me.
- (And having a team senior LA comedy writers looking over the script didn't hurt)
- As for differences, comic book scripts and screenplays are actually very similar; almost interchangeable, as long as you avoid storytelling techniques that can only be pulled away in a printed medium as compared to a temporal medium (such as lengthy inner monologues and visual 4th wall breaking in comics, or complex camerawork that relies on motion and precise timing in film). I have four years of screenplay and script analysis courses under my belt; when I write comics for myself, I write them in screenplay format.
What is it like working with the talents of Ian Flynn and Tracy Yardley?
- It's an unbelievable honor-- to this day I'm amazed that I get the chance to work so closely with the people who created some of my all-time favorite stories; stories that shaped who I am and who I want to be. Every day, I'm terrified that today's the day I mess it all up!
- But really-- Tracy, Ian, and the rest of the Sonic Comic team I've worked with over the years have been wonderful; They're always ready to help, and have given me the space I've needed to learn. Of all the productions I've worked on, I don't think I've met a group of people more passionate about what they're doing, and caring for each other.
- I have no way of knowing what'll happen, but I certainly hope to see some LGBTQA+ characters properly represented in future stories!
What was a “Eureka!” moment you had when you were working on something Sonic related?
- Whenever I read a script for something really cool or get an email with a great assignment, I actually get so excited that I need to get up and run around the house a bit before I can sit down and keep reading. Yelling is also sometimes involved. The most recent time this happened was when I saw the brief for something I'm currently designing for upcoming IDW Sonic stories... but I'm not allowed to talk about that yet!
- Beyond that, it's not a very exciting answer but my creative process tends to be very methodical. I work slowly and steadily, not in great bursts of inspiration.
What do you work on outside of Sonic?
- My current 9-to-5 job is as a game animator and story artist at Sony Playstation's studio Pixelopus, where we are developing the game Concrete Genie.
- I'm also the co-director of an in-development indie web series called Crossroads; the story is told through webcomics and 3D-animated music videos; it started out as my senior thesis at school last year, and after graduation the team decided to stick together and make it happen for real!
- And whenever I can, I'm working on my long-running Sonic fan-comic Ghosts of the Future as well as a new, original story.
You have worked on many projects with other Sonic artists on Deviantart in the past. What do you love about the Sonic community the most?
- The Sonic fan community was forged in the sort of fires that tears other fandoms apart. Whatever comes, We Will Endure.
- Ok but serious answer-- I've always been amazed and inspired by the sheer volume of incredibly positive, skilled, and prolific artists in the Sonic fan community, especially the Sonic fan comic community. There's just so much beautiful and interesting work waiting to be found, the community has become self-sustaining.
It's been a real pleasure interviewing you, Evan. What can people do to support your work?
- Enjoy my comics, and check out Concrete Genie and Crossroads when they come out!
Evan Stanley, thank you for interviewing with us!
This interview was conducted by SilverPlays97