'Explorious isn't a proper word' said the school teacher to his pupil. 'This misnomer is nothing more than a made-up pronoun that has no relevance within the confines of decent civilized society' he continued. But he was wrong you know. The teacher was very-very wrong. According to the 'creative dictionary for very nice people', explorious is a word devised by my creative mate, Kata Kane, when she told me about her creative webcomic only the other day, whilst beating up a teacher with his own ego.

Forbidden planet

1) What are your own origins, Kata? Plus what path did you take in life to get to where you are today?   Since the second grade when I wrote and illustrated my own book called “My Explorious Bathtub” -- for a school project -- I just knew storytelling was what I wanted to do. When my teacher told me “explorious” wasn't a word, I was indignant, and refused to change the title. From then on in I told everyone I wanted to be an author and illustrator when I “grew up”.

Altar-Girl Art
I also used to draw these short 3 or 4 panel comics that mimicked the Sunday funnies and had a cast of stereotypical teen characters. I called it “Friends”; but I swear this was when I was really young and at least two years before that TV show ever aired.

I also watched the 'Sailor Moon' anime religiously every morning at 6 AM before school started. When I discovered that the TV show was actually based on a comic, I went out and found a few of the single issues and entered the amazing world of manga -- never to return.

In middle school I had this sudden realization that graphic novels were perfect for my brand of storytelling. All throughout high school I was drawing and making up my own stories. I had an Angelfire webpage that had a lot of the stories but none of the art because I didn't have a scanner yet.

I graduated in 2006 from a small liberal arts college, and got my degree in Art and Communication, with a minor in Art History. Nowadays I’m working as a graphic designer and freelancer in Baltimore, MD. I live with my husband, Ned, and our super adorable pup, Tifa. 

2) What inspired you to create the webcomic ‘Altar-Girl’?   I was always doodling new characters in my notebooks and coming up with back-stories for all them, especially in high school. I had one character I started drawing often, and at first I just called her “the altar girl”.

Where the altar girl started, and where she ended up, are almost polar opposite. But those drawings evolved in to Ashley Altars: the school girl with a magical key necklace. Ashley has a lot of qualities that I love in a manga protagonist, so this world and story of the “Altar Girl” started to build in my head around her and other characters like the dead boy with suspenders, Seth Charming, and twin angels, Sera and Cherry.

Altar-Girl Art
The summer between graduating high school and going off to college was when I finally decided I really wanted to put one of my stories online. Altar Girl was one of the less developed stories, so I thought it would allow me room to improvise as I went along. I drew that version of Altar Girl for over two years (2002 - 2004) until I wasn't able to keep up with the schedule and decided to focus on my college graduation and starting my career. 

This past July 7th, 2012 (exactly 10 years from the day I first put Altar Girl online) I began this “re-draw”. I've put in a lot more detail, and the story is much more coherent. I hope to publish a print version too. Altar Girl has grown to keep such a special place in my heart. I really wanted to do it a bit more justice, but even after all this time I’m still learning how to really refine it.

3) In your own words how would you describe this story?   Catholic school-girl, Ashley Altars, has a major crush on one of the most popular boys in school. She also unwittingly holds one of the two keys to Heaven and Earth. To make matters worse, the owner of the other key is a guy who has been dead since the late 1920s. But not to worry: Seth Charming has been brought to the present day by the twin angels, Sera and Cherry, so he can use his second chance at life to help Ashley with her unrequited love. Angels and demons are fighting for both of their keys, but Ashley's got to deal with bullies, exams, and trying to get the handsome Adam Evenine to actually notice her.

Life is tough for the Altar Girl. 

4) What song would you say best represents your comic and why?   I actually use a lot of songs as the titles for the Books and Chapters of Altar Girl! For instance, the current Chapter 3 is titled “This Charming Man” which is a song by The Smiths, but it’s also a play on the surname of one of the main characters: Seth Charming. To choose one song to represent the whole comic… that is a tough one!!

“Heaven is a Place on Earth” by Belinda Carlisle is a good one. I’ll be using that for a title in the future!

Sailor Moon
5) If you could get any celebrity – either living or dead – to promote your ‘Altar-Girl’, who would you get, and why would you choose this particular person?   My biggest inspirations are mangaka like Rumiko Takahashi (Urusei Yatsura and Ranma ½), Naoko Takeuchi (Sailor Moon), and comic book artist Chynna Clugston (Blue Monday), so having one of them even see my comic would just send me over the moon.

6) Your style of art is pure manga, Kata. And I really like it a lot. But what inspired you to draw in this manner? Plus why do you think this style melds so well with your story?   Well thanks! When I started reading manga like Sailor Moon, Fushigi Yuugi, Tenchi Muyo, Slayers, and Ranma ½, in middle and high school, they really influenced me, so I wanted to learn to draw like that. All of those different manga styles were just really brilliant to me. I would use tracing paper to copy panels I liked from Sailor Moon, then try to draw the same thing again but without tracing it.

I don’t think I could draw any style but manga for Altar Girl, especially since it respects a lot of the standards in a typical manga! 

7) Who would you cast in a ‘Altar-Girl’ movie if one was devised?   I would want to cast totally unknown actors. I love the Harry Potter books and movies a lot, and I really appreciated that the three kids (Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson) were all unknown and really grew in to their roles. You really believe they’re the characters, so I would definitely want to find new talented people who could really personify each of the Altar Girl characters and make them unique!

Never Give Up Charlie Brown
8) During your time as a creator, what is the one thing that has kept you in good stead?   There are readers who have stuck around since I first did the comic in 2002, and their kind and positive words truly kept me motivated. When I announced that I would be starting a re-draw in 2012, a lot of people seemed happy and excited. I am really thankful for that, more than I could ever say.

Getting more work experience in the graphic design field has helped me to develop my illustration and design skills way better than when I was in school. I’m more confident in the programs and techniques I’m using to create the overall presentation.

9) If ‘AG’ had a motto, what would it be? "Follow your heart and never give up!" I think that is a motto that Ashley Altars believes in, and so do I.

Wow! Lovely motto, Kata. And a lovely webcomic too. So you know what you have to do when you have the time, don't you dear reader? Check out Altar-Girl, plus do the face-face / tumble-tumble thing as well. Go on. You'll fall in love with it at a click of a button.

ALTAR GIRL - A EXPLORIOUS WEBCOMIC ALTAR GIRL - A EXPLORIOUS WEBCOMIC Reviewed by David Andrews on March 10, 2013 Rating: 5
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