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Yo Mikey P. here.

Thanks for checking out the site. I try to write about comics as much as I can but I got kids, ok?

Project: Get Known! ABOVE THE CLOUDS

Project: Get Known! ABOVE THE CLOUDS

While perusing the comiXology Submit section as I often do, I was instantly drawn to the art of Above the Clouds. Within a day, I devoured all offerings Melissa Pagluica has produced. But more than the beautiful fantasy realm she created, I would come to learn this was a five year labor of love and devotion and I needed to find out more about how it came to be.

Get to know Melissa Pagluica!!

 

Mikey P:

“Having your heart broken is not fun, so when Eily is offered a book she finds herself happily getting lost in the story. Only, this story is not finished and, to her horror, the one who wrote it may not be able to complete it.”  These words are inscribed on the inside cover of the first few issues of Above the Clouds, but how do you describe what you made to people in conversation?

 

Melissa:

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When talking about the story at conventions I give this summary:

Above the Clouds is a half silent comic that intertwines two stories. It follows a young girl name Eily who’s world is silent until she is given a book. She falls in love with the story about hero trying to save a dying world from a dragon only to find out the story isn’t done. Eily decides to go on her own quest to get the author to finish what he has started.

 

The heart of the story is a tale about not giving up.


 

Mikey P:

Telling Eily’s and Cian’s story silently was not only refreshing as a reader, but brilliantly told through some incredible sequential pacing, facial expressions, and animated body language.  Had you not been in possession of such talent to convey their side of the story, it could have confused or misled readers. It must have taken a lot of planning and revisions to page layouts to ensure you got your point across...

 

Melissa:

I do a lot of thumbnailing, pages worth, just for one page. I usually call this my dumping stage because it isn’t about trying to get the scene right, it’s just about trying to draw out the scene from many different angles. I scan those in and break up the thumbnails to different layers in Photoshop so I can have fun moving them around until I think it conveys the story right.

 

Even when I have the draft lines in place, I go back redraw expressions until it feels right. It’s definitely a process!

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Mikey P:

The Caretaker’s side of the story on had to also be intertwined and paced to coincide with Eily’s and Cian’s. It read flawlessly but how difficult was it constructing two stories in this manner?

 

Melissa:

After drawing out the first half of chapter one I had a pretty good outline of the whole story. My master outline listed important story beats that had to happen, but it was still loose enough that as I was drawing I could let the characters go where they needed to go. By the time I did my transition scenes from Eily’s world to the Caretaker’s it just sort of flowed naturally.

 

I also think a lot about “acts” in a story. Even within scenes, there needs to be a start, a middle, and an ending before going to the next scene. If you can land a solid end of a scene you can weave in transitions. I think that’s why many people tell me they never felt confused going back and forth between the two worlds. They unconsciously felt that “ending” that let them know what was happening in one world was about to pausing and pick up with the caretaker’s world.


 

Mikey P:

There is a lot of potential for open interpretations of this story as well. Would you/ do you answer fan questions about conflict details or meanings or do you like leaving it up to each reader?


 

Melissa:

Part of the fun of having something be silent is that allows the viewer to fill in the gaps. Some of my favorite conversations are with parents who read ATC with their kids. They tell me how fun it is for them to interpret what’s going on in the scenes and it allows them to talk about it together.

 

Art is fun that way. I may have started with a certain framework when creating the story but once it’s out there, people get to project their own experiences and feelings into what they are consuming. But if they asked what my framework was behind a scene I’m more than happy to share what I was trying to accomplish.


 

Mikey P:

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Eily writes that she would spend all her days drawing if she could while Cian, the reluctant writer, is only pushed to continue from Eily’s pleading. There’s even a comparison made of a dragon representing a fear that needs to be confronted.  You are both writer and artist on this work and I can't help wondering if this related to your internal struggles...

 

Melissa:

Ya, most definitely. It’s hard not to put yourself into the work you create, and in the end when you are telling a story you are sharing a perspective. So it’s kind of essential in a way. I’m a pretty shy person, and I think like anyone making something creative and putting it out there you question if what you doing is worthwhile. Or needed. Fear is irrational, and one of the things that always stayed with me is my dad teaching me “face your fears and your fears will disappear.” Sounds corny, but I think this saying really embodies the dragon in my story. Though...you haven’t finished the story so I’ll leave it at that.


 

Mikey P:

How much did your confidence change as you progressed and eventually finished this project?

 

Melissa:

On creating a story, drastically! When I started ATC I intended it to be a short story. Well, 5 years and 250 pages later...I finally finished! During that time I built up a rhythm with drawing and putting pages out. I learned a few thing that didn’t work and stuff I’d do drastically different the next go around.

 

After finishing this project I’m really excited! I’m excited to take what I’ve learned and apply it to my next story.  It’s rad to show what I am capable of.


 

Mikey P:

Both Eily and Cian have obligatory society standards they don’t really connect with and it perhaps propels their minds to continue into a fantasy world.  I think anyone reading and creating comics can relate. A genderless caretaker was also a smart decision. How much did you aim to make this story relatable to a broad audience?

 

Melissa:

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It’s more of, I had this story tell and I needed to get it all out.  Audience, trying to appeal to many people, was not on the radar. I always thought it was more important to have something to say and to get it out there, but that could be my BFA background talking. I’d never imagined myself as someone actively trying to create an all ages story.

 

The genderless caretaker was important because as someone who is in love with books and stories (I was the kid that would sit in a bookstore and learned to read fast because I couldn’t buy all the books) I always thought that as readers we put ourselves in the story. We imagine ourselves as the hero of the story reacting to all the trials the hero goes through. I wanted that the caretaker to embody that feeling.



 

Mikey P:

You released each page on your website as you completed them.  What benefits or drawbacks did you find in doing a webcomic this way? I also enjoyed the notes you added to each page like director commentary.

 

Melissa:

When starting Above the Clouds my goal was just getting pages done. If I got one page done then it was a success. Which is all well and good in the beginning, but for growing an audience is it not the best way to go about updating a webcomic.

 

Along the way, I made Mondays my deadline. And the last year I was able to add Thursdays. Consistently updating every week is WAY more important in building an audience. They need to feel like they can count on a certain day to get their fix once they are invested in your story.

 

If you are all over the place people can forget to check back in. It’s important that once you have their attention you work hard to keep it. The best way to keep it is to be part of their routine.

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Mikey P:

Did you have the whole story planned out when you started?  (I love the extra page count some issues had)

 

Melissa:

There is a master outline that had all the story beats.  As I got further into the chapters, I started having secondary outlines for each of the chapters. I feel like if you are trying to tell a story you need to know how it will end, it acts like a guiding light so you don’t veer too far off the path as you are creating the story. And it helps to bring everything together and keep you consistent in the story you are trying to tell.


 

Mikey P:

I’ve written before about my love of comiXology and the guided view format. I think my experience was enhanced reading Above the Clouds on this platform.  With half the tale being told wordlessly, do you feel readers flip through your labor labor of love too quickly?

 

Melissa:

Ya, but I knew going into making comics that was the nature of the beast. The viewer’s eyes set the timing of the story (hopefully with the help of how I laId out my panels) and it’s only natural that pages will be consumed a certain way.

 

Of course, only I secretly know how long a certain panel on a page took hours to get right. But it’s not on the viewers shoulders to carry the weight. It’s like special effects, if they are done right you don’t even notice them.

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Mikey P:

The bright airy watercolor look of your work is absolutely gorgeous to look at and what initially drew me in. Do you create digitally or mixed media?

 

Melissa:

Above the Clouds is all done digitally in Photoshop, minus most of the initial thumbnailing work done to kick a page off. I do a fun textured paper technique that helps create the aesthetic of the pages. Though, I tend to work light and build up and that lends itself well to the watercolor feeling. I have a background working traditionally as I worked towards my BFA.


 

Mikey P:

There are obvious hints of fantasy influences in your work, usually found in movies but this reminded me of some Zelda styles specifically, Last Unicorn maybe. Jeff Smith's Bone? Where did you find inspiration?

 

Melissa:

YES! Haha, I am happy you picked up on two of my most influential childhood favorites. I grew up on Zelda and The Last Unicorn. As a kid I use to sit with my dad and help him rescue the princess (I also subjected him to hours of the The Last Unicorn). Another childhood favorite film was the Sea Prince and the Fire Child.   

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Mikey P:

Who are the creators and comics which had an effect on you wanting to become one yourself?

 

Melissa:

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It’s crazy how I started as an illustrator trying to tell a story within one image. I am not sure why it took me so long to click together that I could tell a longer story through sequential art. You asked about influences and one my gateway drugs was Sailor Moon. I could not get enough of that series. A girl kicking butt for justice? My little girl brain exploded. It’s what made me seek out other work that had strong female characters. It just so happened that Manga tended to actively target girls my age and so my first experience with sequential art was the work of manga artists.

 

It wasn’t until after college and attending conventions, it was seeing that there were indie creators doing their thing. It was HUGE to see Jo Chen having a table. “Oh my god, A girl is making a living with her art? Holy crap, people like me can self publish?” Yeah, sign me up.

 

Also, seeing Mike Mignola’s artwork. His layouts are art pieces. No words needed to enjoy the beauty of images composed together in such beautifully drawn layouts. It’s part of the reason of why I like to  work two pages at at time when drawing out layouts. The page before and the page afterwards influence each other. As soon as you turn a page you have an instant visceral reaction to the layout of the pages next to each other, mostly an unconscious reaction.

Mike Mignola’s work never seems “busy” and it never has unnecessary details that clutter up a page. Comic books is visual storytelling, and reading many books on the craft of storytelling there is a rule that seems to be mentioned over and over . If you can cut any part of the writing out and the story still makes sense that it wasn’t needed. I try to apply this  rule to visual storytelling.

 


Mikey P:

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What are your creative and career aspirations?

 

Melissa:

My little girl heart loves stories. I love them so much I wanted to be a storyteller with my images. And now with comics, I get to tell longer stories. My aspirations is being able to make a living with my stories, either through self publishing or (cross fingers) hopefully getting picked up.

 

After Above the Clouds, my next goal is learning to tell a shorter story (less than 100 pages).  I have a few stories I’ve been kicking around in the background waiting to be worked on.


 

Mikey P:

Did I read correctly that you might be hand sewing a collected volume of ATC?

 

Melissa:

Hell yes. I am booking pretty hard right now. Not only do I create content to put a book together I would like to physically be able to make my own book. I took a bookbinders class and I can’t wait to apply the knowledge I learned. In the midsts of tinkering with one right now, I like to post pictures of the layouts I printed and folded on my social sites.


 

Mikey P:

What do you play in the background when you’re working?

 

Melissa:

Depends on the task. If I am working on story I have to have silence. If it’s something mindless it’s music, audiobooks, or netflix. Not so much netflix, it has to be a good radio show (like Star Trek) to get away with having it on.

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Mikey P:

What else are you doing when you aren’t creating art?

 

Melissa:

Reading. A lot. And planning a Kickstarter for Above the Clouds. I want to put together a volume edition of the completed story.

 

 

Mikey P:

What advice do you give the unknowns out there trying to follow a similar path?

 

Melissa:

If I had to do this whole thing over (not that I would change anything because it’s the path I needed to take), I would start with a short story. To really get a feel of putting together a full story arc and to experience the full range of self publishing. Also, it is a HUGE thing to show that you can start a project and FINISH it. It’s huge. A lot of opportunities crossed my path when I could demonstrate I had the ability to finish a chapter and put it out there.

 

Plus, it may seem like the sky is the limit (page count wise) when working on your own comic but if you are planning on printing it, go ahead a look at prices you’ll be facing putting together a full color 250 page comic. Yeah.


 

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Mikey P:

Thank you very much for your time Melissa.  Looking forward to your future.

Check out Melissa Paglucia’s work on her website. I encourage you to read on comiXology, and make sure to be on the lookout for her kickstarter campaign!


Comic Site:

http://atcloudscomic.com/comic/

Personal Site: https://www.mpagluica.com/

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Instagram: @darksunrose

Twitter: @teecupbee

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