Arts & Culture

Meet Stephanie Johnston, the creator behind “DOG DAYZ”

April 29, 2012, 4:13 p.m., probably held nothing special for most Grace students. But for senior Stephanie Johnston, it was a moment when a dream came true.

At that moment, she submitted her original comic book DOG DAYZ “Wishful Thinking” with its lovable main character, a Corgi named Brunswick, to blurb.com, a publishing site for self-published writers.

Johnston’s comics, of course, have been appearing in the Sounding Board since the fall. But the idea came long before.

“Brunswick is based off my dog, Dottie,” Johnston said. “I’ve been wanting to do something ever since high school…since I got my dog.” Last year, Johnston said, editor of the Sounding Board Octavia Lehman approached her about working on a comic for the paper. At the time, Johnston was just too busy. Over the summer, however, things changed.

“God just kind of stuck the idea in my head,” Johnston said; he asked, “What are you doing? Start working on this. Here are your ideas.” So while recovering from surgery over the summer, she started working on her comic with her dad, who was working on a comic of his own. “He’ll have a couple comics published himself,” she said. She described sitting at the table “passing art back and forth” and making suggestions.

Johnston said she typically spends “eight to ten” hours on a single comic. “Not including the planning process,” she said. “I have a very dry sense of humor, so making my comics funny to other people is a challenge.” On the color comics, which are included in the book, she spends fourteen to sixteen hours. Each comic is hand-drawn and scanned into the computer for cleanup, grayscale gradients or colorization.

The 38-page book features a layout similar to that of Bill Waterson’s Calvin and Hobbes collections, with a few color strips at certain points and the rest black-and-white, Johnston said. She explained that Calvin and Hobbes “has inspired me artistically and my style.”

Of course, Johnston’s main inspiration for her comic Corgi is her own Corgi, Dottie. “She has a lot of comical habits,” and those comical habits have often become the basis for many of the storylines, Johnston said.

Another of Johnston’s characters, Charlemagne the cat, Brunswick’s nemesis, has roots in reality. Lauren Fox and Niki Barlow, Johnston’s suitemates last year, inspired the feisty cat. “It’s kind of the love-hate relationship we had as a suite last year,” she said. Even Barlow’s red hair inspired Charlemagne’s fur color.

Johnston said that publishing a comic book has been a dream for a long time. “It was just like a dream…not like ‘Hey, I could actually do it’,” she said. But when no classes were offered that Johnston could take this session, Prof. Young worked it out so that the book would count as an independent study.

Yet the book process has not been worry-free. “My main fear was that it was going to be a rip-off of another…,” Johnston said. Christian Slade’s Korgi (Top Shelf Productions) is another comic about a corgi. But as Johnston’s roommate, Natalie Huebner, assured her, the styles of the two comics are very different.

Huebner has been a big part of Johnston’s support through the process of writing the book. “Natalie…tells me to go to bed when my brain’s fried,” Johnston laughed. “My parents have been really supportive through the whole process”; Johnston also said her friends have held her up, and that a local comic shop in her hometown has agreed to help promote the book. “It’s been kind of a huge group,” she said.

April 29was no ordinary day for Stephanie Johnston. And there are other big days for her to look forward to. Next up for comic-writer and illustrator: Disney College.

DOG DAYZ“Wishful Thinking” is now available at blurb.com.

Story by Rachel Scoles | Staff Writer | scolesra@grace.edu

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