Aside from being a free-lance graphic designer, Caroline Breault has recently launched her new web comic, entitled “Nuclear Winter”. Set in Montreal, it takes place several years after a nuclear disaster that plunges the city into an unending… well, nuclear winter.

Caroline was kind enough to take some of her time to do an interview to talk about her project with us.

What can you tell me about your comic, “Nuclear Winter”? 

“Nuclear Winter” is a comedic web comic about Flavie, a ski-doo courier and her adventures in a snow-covered Montreal. At some point in a near future, a nuclear power plant is built in Pointe-aux-Trembles and a nuclear accident completely messes up the climate, plunging Montreal in a perpetual winter. The comic takes place during the ninth consecutive year of winter. The radioactive fallout causes weird mutations to both humans and fauna and the weather, fed by nuclear clouds, is now very… interesting.

 

Tell me a bit about yourself. What is your creative background? Have you always been into comics, even as a kid? What are your favourite comics?

I’m a graphic designer by trade, but I’ve been drawing non-stop since my early teenage years. I’ve always liked the “technical” aspect of drawing, like perspective, architecture, objects, anatomy, and so on. My doing comics is relatively new because I wasn’t confident enough to tackle the page layouts, the pacing, the placement of bubbles and those other aspects that are so specific to comics, as opposed to illustration. Surprisingly, I’m not a huge comic fan, but I grew up with Tintin, Spirou and Astérix, which have a totally different aesthetics than superhero comic books. My all-time favourite comic though is “DMZ”, written by Brian Wood and drawn by many wonderful artists. Right now, I’m obsessed with Sean Gordon Murphy’s “Punk Rock Jesus”. No one does inking like this guy.

 

What led you to creating a long-form web comic?

I felt there was a bit of a “space to rent” when it came to fiction web comics, especially in the Quebec market. Auto-bio and short comic strips are very widespread, and I thought I’d give an ongoing story a try. I’ve only done short comics, from 3 to 10 pages before, so I felt I was ready for a longer scenario. I had the idea of the never-ending winter before I even thought about making a web comic. I’ve been an active artist on the internet for quite some time and since I already post pretty much everything I draw online, putting a comic out there was sort of the natural thing to do.

 

Why winter and why Montreal? These aren’t setting anyone would normally see in a web comic.

Well, first of all, I was born and have always lived in Montreal. As soon as I learned how to do backgrounds and buildings, I started drawing what I had seen all my life, triplexes and alleyways and electric poles and such. I didn’t specifically tried putting winter and Montreal together and creating a story out of it. The idea came from seeing all the trash and dog shit after last winter ended, and wondering what a never-ending winter would be like. Afterwards, it was just a matter of gathering personal experiences and making a big list of what people do in winter. There is just so much to work with, and while some aspects of harsh winters in the city seem so benign to us, they might be completely exotic to most people living elsewhere. The whole snow removing operation is quite a sight, when you think about it! Also, with winters becoming warmer, wetter and shorter, I felt like creating a setting that was similar to what our grand-parents might have lived in. I was really inspired by the 1971 “Storm of the century”, where people had to use ski-doos to move through town. I really, really love Montreal, and I thought it deserved a worthy homage. Even though most people complain about winter when it happens, it’d be really awful if it just…went away.

 

You spoke a bit about a few things, shorter winters, nuclear meltdowns, trash and dog shit left over from the spring thaw, and it seems that you have a bit of an environmentalist edge to you. Is this a theme that will come into play in “Nuclear Winter”?

I do! But I decided to leave this out of “Hiver Nucléaire”. The story is about how people deal with winter and the nuclear part of the story was just an excuse to have cool-looking characters and a winter that would never end. I take absolutely no position on the use of nuclear power. This comic isn’t a post-apocalyptic story at all, for the simple fact that the “catastrophe” did little damage and people just kept going on with their lives. And the constant snowfalls make Montreal look a lot cleaner than usual. I’d hate to see how it would look after, if it all melted!

 

The art is great, very expressive, moody, and polished. Let’s talk a bit about the creative process; how do you get your comic made, from conception to publication? 

I spent pretty much all summer writing a rough scenario and creating the characters. From there, I do thumbnails in Photoshop, I write the dialogues and design the layout of the page. After, I draw everything on paper and ink on bristols, the old fashion way. I then scan it, decide on the colours, moods and lighting and finally, I colour the whole thing. I translate it in English, send it to friends for proofreading, and then it’s done!

 

So you start Digitally, move to pencil and paper, and then go back to digital to finish it off. What tools are you using in this process?

I use a Wacom Intuos 3 for everything digital and colour in Photoshop. As for the “analog” part, I sketch on regular paper and clean on a separate board, with a light table. I’ve yet to find a good pen for inking but for now, I use Sakura Microns. Ink and dipping pens are what I normally use but it got way too messy for comics.

 

You mentioned your background is in art and design, so how did you find the writing process to be? Was it arduous, or did it come naturally?

It took a while to get me started.  I had written a few things in the past and it always ended up in a big mess. I found a lot of good resources on the Paperwings Podcast and went for a really simple, three act story. I had to sacrifice a lot of passages, but once I had the core of the action, the rest came pretty easily. Also, since I this is set in a “real universe”, it was a lot easier to plan.

 

I also want to touch on the fact that you publish the comic in both English and in French. Why is that important to you?

It was really important for me to have a comic in French, with francophone characters and cultural references. The way the characters talk, the slang I use, I really wanted francophones to feel “at home” in my comic. But internet being what it is, I knew I would lose a big chunk of my long-time internet “fans” (this sounds really pretentious) if I advertised a web comic in a language not a lot of people could understand. All my internet life has always been in English so it was obvious I had to do two versions. Since I can translate it myself, it’s not so much extra work. But it’s important to note that the characters remain francophones; Flavie doesn’t become “Nancy” in English.

Where do you see “Nuclear Winter” going from here?

It’s hard to tell, since it just started. It’s gonna be a long while until I reach the end of the scenario, so a lot of things can happen in the meantime. I wouldn’t mind trying self-publishing at one point, as I really want to see it on paper. Since it’s my first real comic, I’m sure I’ll learn a lot from it. One thing for sure, I’m really happy I gave a shot at comics. It’s really addictive!

 

Be sure to check out the comic, here, Caroline’s portfolio, and her blog. the comic is ongoing, but still pretty new, so you can hop on the fan-bandwagon before all your friends.

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