Interview with Chad and Paco Allen, creators of the web based
comic NYC2132 now syndicated on our site, or from nyc2123.com
NYC2123 draws from a powerful tradition of post-apocalyptic
writings from the likes of William Gibson, JG Ballard, George
Orwell, Robert Heinlein, Kurt Vonnegut, William Burroughs just
to name a few. First, what other comics/artists/musicians/writers
would you say have been inspirational to NYC2123 in terms of
both the storyline and the artwork? Second… why New York
Frank Miller is the comparison that people most often make
when it comes to the illustrations, and I’m a huge,
huge fan of his, but I don’t really think the similarities
run very deep. I think a lot of people see a black and white
comic and they think “Frank Miller.” While Miller’s
work clearly sets the benchmark, there are tons of artists
out there working in black and white. The style of NYC2123
does owe a debt to Miller, but it’s much more photo-realistic
than his amazingly evocative art. In many ways Linklater’s
Waking Life was a big inspiration because it made me think
about the possibilities of combining live actors with original
terms of writing, clearly William Gibson is a huge influence,
as he is for anyone writing in this genre. I would put Neal
Stephenson’s Snowcrash up there at the top as well.
Perhaps not so obviously, I consider Bradbury, Clarke, and
Asimov as important sources for NYC2123, primarily because
they had quirky and often quite plausible visions of the near
future. Film has also had a big influence on the writing,
most notably works like BladeRunner and the Mad Max series.
As for the decision to use New York as the setting: Probably
the biggest reason is that I live there, and so it was easier
for me to develop an authentic sense of place than if it were
set, for example, in LA, which I don’t know very well.
Also the fact
Issue 1: "Dayender"
[3MB Adobe Acrobat File]
NYC2123.com Broadside Poster
semantikon: NYC2123 departs from traditional comic
publishing in entirely new ways; viewers can read the strip
on your site nyc2123.com, the work is creative commons licensed
so users can mash up and re-use the files in any way they
like as long as they attribute the work, and, site users can
download edition files from your site and enjoy the comic
on the go with their Sony PSP Players. What fueled the decision
to make this comic available for free, for download, for sharing,
only asking that the site and nyc2123 name is attributed?
Well, for starters, our primary goal was just to have people
read it. And if you’re a total unknown, then no one
is going to pay to read your stuff online. So giving it away
for free was a no-brainer. In the beginning, the Creative
Commons license was mostly curiosity: we wanted to see what
people would do with the work if it were available in the
public domain. Since ultimately we retain commercial rights,
we don’t really have anything to lose by releasing the
source material under a Creative Commons license.
Paco: And as
it turns out, we actually had a lot to gain by using the CC
license. It’s meant that people have created translations
and mash-ups, which in turn has led to wider readership for
In addition to the previous question, you have usurped traditional
methods of comic distribution networks altogether---what feedback
have you received from other comic creators about how you
have innovated in the web medium to deliver NYC2123 with complete
To be honest, I don’t think of what we’ve done
in terms of distribution as all that innovative. I think the
content is good, but just check out onlinecomics.net and you’ll
see that almost everyone with a scanner or a digital tablet
is publishing a comic book online for free. As for feedback:
we haven’t really talked to a lot of other comic book
creators. I’m not really sure we’re on the radar
screen for people working in print, and there is no solid
community of online comic book artists as far as I can tell
– if there is, we have been invited to join the club.
receive tons of feedback from readers, and we’re in
touch with some other folks who are currently working on comics
for the PSP, but as Chad said, for whatever reason we haven’t
had a lot of contact with other comic book writers.
the opportunity, what would be your first choice to translate
NYC2123 to another medium such as television or film and why?
because we’re movie freaks.
Paco: A book
would be cool too. I think there’s also some material
in there for a great video game.
semantikon: So far, you have delivered NYC2123 for
free to visitors through the site with incredible resourcefulness.
What has been your experience in producing NYC2123 in terms
of costs, time spent, pr campaigns, advertising and distribution?
With each of you in different parts of the country, both with
full time jobs, how do you make it happen?
In terms of hard costs, it’s basically just web hosting.
We haven’t spent no money on PR or advertising –
all of our traffic has been word-of-mouth spread primarily
by blogs and sites like this one. The main cost is just the
massive number of hours we put into each issue.
way more work than I thought it would be. We spend all of
our spare time working on it.
You make NYC2123 available for download actively encouraging
those who can translate, to make each edition available in
their mother tongue. It is a well accepted fact that many
of the limitations of online publishing are related to language
barriers, how have you seen NYC2123 audience proliferate as
a result of encouraging translations you would not be able
to do yourself?
That’s a really hard question to answer. The
translations with larger audiences (like German) are hosted
on other people’s websites, so we don’t have any
hard data on how much traffic those versions get.
collaborating with some folks on a Japanese translation right
now, and given the PSP user base in Japan, we’re thinking
that we’ll probably see a pretty big jump in overall
readership from that market alone.
semantikon: For the artwork of NYC2123 you draw both
from your imagination, and literally, from photos of human
figures which you then trace over, discarding visual information
not needed for the scene. At first, this seems an arduous
process, but somehow, you’ve got a flow established.
Would you discuss briefly for our audience, how each edition
comes about. The storyline, photoshoot planning, the models,
the illustration process and delivery to the site?
Well, it’s definitely still an arduous process. We’ve
made improvements to the process as we go along, and the artwork
has become more consistent as I’ve developed a clearer
sense of how to combine photos and illustrations. There are
some pretty good samples of how I create the art on our blog,
including a Quicktime movie of me illustrating one of the
frames. For starters, the process is 100% digital from beginning
to end. Basically what happens is this: Chad writes the manuscript
in a format that looks more or less like a screenplay, which
is a common way for comic writers to work. We review the manuscript
and refine dialogue and minor plot issues together. The next
step is for me to draw storyboards for the issue; basically
rough digital sketches of each frame. These get sent back
and forth between me and Chad until we’re both comfortable
with the layout. Then I go around and take digital photos
of all of the actors, both the main characters and any “extras”
we need for that issue. Sometimes I’m able to do this
with all of the actors for each scene in one room, but often
I’m shooting them separately. At that point the real
work begins: Illustrating over the character photos, adding
costumes, buildings, cars, guns and everything else you see
that isn’t a person. This is done primarily in Flash,
along with Illustrator and Photoshop. Again we both look at
the issue as things move along to exchange ideas and make
sure things are shaping up to meet our expectations. Eventually
things get to a close-to-final version, and the last step
is to go back and check continuity and do a final copy-edit.
Once the issue is complete, we just upload the various versions
(PSP download, PSP website and plain vanilla web) and send
out an e-mail to the fans who have joined our mailing list.
Submitted by NYC2123 fans for semantikon.com interview:
any of the characters based on people in your real lives,
or yourselves? Who and to what degree?
Writer’s always say that their characters are
composites of real people they know and I think to some extent
that’s always true. You have to know what people are
like in order to write about them. But I think it’s
less true in genres like this one, where the characters are
more archetypal and dramatic. For example, I don’t really
know anyone like Julius. I guess I do know some people like
In a visual sense, however, all of the characters are based
on real people in a very literal sense, since there are actors
who serve as the starting point for the digital illustrations.
was the first inspiration for NYC2123?
I had already written a short story that basically became
issues 1 and 3 of Dayender. I wasn’t really doing anything
with it, it was just a story I had written for a writing workshop
that I was in with some of my friends. When Paco started talking
about doing a graphic novel his general ideas about themes
and setting matched up with that short story, so we decided
to take it as a starting point.
Could you discuss what scenarios you present which you believe
I don’t think there are any groundbreaking predictions
in NYC2123. If there’s an idea we’ve tried to
emphasize that we see as an actual trend, it’s the growing
tension between the individual and the corporate-run state.
On the one hand, the world will become more interesting and
diverse as bio-technology advances and people are able to
literally change their physical selves through genetic manipulation
and cybernetic implants. On the other hand, we see a huge
shift towards cultural homogenization – we take this
to the extreme in NYC2123 by suggesting that in the future
Wal*Mart, Starbucks and Microsoft will own everything on the
planet, and governments will be reduced to mouth-pieces for
corporate interests (if they haven’t been already).
Do either of you smoke? Marlboros?
We don’t smoke. It’s very bad for you.
start smoking when cigarettes have hash in them.
What are your favorite comics?
I started out as Marvel reader growing up and was a huge Spiderman
fan, and in high school I was a big Todd McFarlane fan. I
found Frank Miller through the Dark Knight series. In the
last few years I’ve read a lot of Mike Mignola's stuff.
The coolest thing I’ve read lately is Batman: Black
I read comics that are nothing like NYC2123. Daniel Clowes
is awesome. I also really like Paul Hornschemeier. If you
can find a copy of “I know god smiles on these good
times” you should buy it.
Could you tell us about your inking style? Why so sparse?
Just to clarify, there’s no “inking” in
the traditional sense. The whole thing is produced digitally.
As for the sparseness, I was looking to do something with
a chiaroscuro look, which emphasizes dramatic highlights and
shadows, and fewer mid-tones. This is a technique borrowed
from painting that I’ve always liked, and I thought
it would work well with the subject matter.
What’s your favorite Heinlein novel?
This is going to sound horrible. We haven’t read any
Have you ever considered writing sci-fi novels?
I’ve written a few sci-fi short stories. The one that
Dayender is based on got turned down for publication in a
couple of big short story magazines that shall remain nameless.
A novel is a lot of work. I’m trying to work up the
energy to do it. No guarantees that it will be sci-fi.
Do either of you have any background in the sciences or medicine?
how do you seem to have such a good handle on all the terminology?
I have a degree in fine arts and Chad has a degree in philosophy.