This post is a part of a series of articles about Cloudscape’s Life Finds A Way anthology. Visit the landing page for more information on the project.
What’s your name?
My name’s Can Richards! I’m 20 and I live in Cape Town!
What’s your artistic background?
I’ve been drawing all my life, but I’ve been seriously doing comics since I was about 12! I graduated high school in 2016, with various Art Eisteddfod awards, and have since then been working on various webcomics, anthology comics, and zines. I’m currently studying for an Illustration degree.
[Ed. Note: an “Art Eisteddfod” is an arts festival. South Africa has a National Eisteddfod Academy]
What comics/comic creators inspired you to make comics?
Interestingly, even when I already realised I wanted to do comics, I hadn’t actually read many comics as a kid, because comic shops tended to be few and far between where I live! Now, I’d probably say my inspirations were Sydney Padua’s Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace & Babbage, Kate Beaton’s Hark, A Vagrant!, and my dad’s old copies of 70’s Casper The Friendly Ghost comics.
I’d also say one of my biggest draws into doing comics for myself would have been this one time when my grandfather showed me some of his favourite old Felix The Cat cartoons when I was, like, nine – they were from the silent film era, so all the characters spoke using speech bubbles, and I was absolutely entranced!
My grandfather was a horticulturist by trade, and my comic, Macadamia Rose, deals with grandmother-and-grandchild bonding and has a lot to do with flowers, so I think I subconsciously made it a tribute to him. He unfortunately passed away about a month before I created and submitted the pitch.
What about Life Finds a Way caught your imagination enough to submit a story?
Like anyone who’d been around any internet or TV at any time in the early-to-mid 2010’s, I feel like we’ve all been absolutely bombarded with different takes on apocalypse media, good and bad. But the specific hope-centric, non-grimdark brief for Life Finds a Way was something I was very drawn to! I believe that a piece of media doesn’t necessarily have to be gritty or upsetting in order to have value, and something about the brief just made me itch to play around with this sort of worldbuilding!
On our theme of hope, what did you find fun about creating stories within this framework? Furthermore were there any unexpected challenges?
I think one of my biggest challenges was visual worldbuilding, my script involves lots and lots of flowers all over the place because I scripted this with no care for the artist’s suffering, and I am the artist.
In all seriousness though, I think it was really fun to create a post apocalypse story where all the characters clearly love each other, and where there’s a palpable sense of community, rather than ‘every person for themselves’. Macadamia Rose pays homage to the fact that my favourite post-apocalypse media tend to be very colourful ones, rather than gritty monochrome ones!
Part of the fun of Post-Apocalypse is the worldbuilding, how do you deal with the limitations of the short story format with that in mind?
I think the visual aspect of comics as a medium helps with this, because you can casually drop little visual worldbuilding details in establishing panels, and even in the background of panels in general! (The editing process for this anthology was a godsend for this, with the editors kindly giving me advice for things to tweak for visual worldbuilding, like giving me tips on how to make sure a bunker setting actually looked like a bunker).
As for stuff that can only be conveyed via text, it’s good to know where your story calls for narration, or where details can be dropped into the dialogue while still sounding organic. In Macadamia Rose, this is worked around because the title character is usually talking to her grandmother, who’d realistically have the experience and knowledge to convey this information!
What’s your favorite post-apocalypse media, and why? (Games, Movies, Books, etc.)
I have a complicated answer here, but essentially my first immediate thought was the worldbuilding for Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys – a post-apocalyptic story comprised of an album, two music videos, several Twitter accounts, and a comic book mini-series, by Gerard Way/My Chemical Romance and their friends.
The music videos set up this Bladerunner/Mad Max/Akira inspired world with a lot of potential and vibrant aesthetic appeal, and the comics contain visually stunning art by Becky Cloonan; although despite my love for it, it’s not my favourite example of Way’s actual writing (for me, that’s his Doom Patrol run). However, the fandom is what really inspires me, since interactivity was a major element of Killjoys’ original promo material – there is a huge community of Tumblr accounts dedicated to fleshing out this world, from what the characters do in their day-to-day lives, to their pathos and emotions and interactions and community, to the slang, down to the very food they’d realistically consume!! Reading many of these fandom brainstorming sessions had a lot of bearing on little details in Macadamia Rose!!
My other favourite post-apocalypse media is Adventure Time.
Clichés, our editors outlined some that we did not want in our stories in our narrative guide. What elements about post-apocalypse media do you think are over-done?
Chosen One tropes!! Heteronormativity! To be fair to Chosen One storylines, I feel like it can be done well and one can turn that subgenre on its head and provide commentary with it, but that’s not always the case.
Also, I hate the fact that a lot of popular apocalypse media I’ve seen has like… no disabled people in it. Or, like, really badly written disabled people. I feel like if the world got destroyed in a big war or whatever, a very large amount of people would likely have disabilities, and it’s very demeaning to assume communities wouldn’t help their disabled members, or that disabled people just wouldn’t be able to handle themselves.
Post-apocalyptic fiction can often be a reflection of anxieties that occur in contemporary society, does your piece reflect any societal anxiety that you can identify?
Possibly environmental issues? There’s this definite theme of the environment basically reclaiming itself, and humanity properly learning to live in harmony with it.
There’s also a theme of identity, and your claim to your own identity, which I feel has a lot of ties to the identity issues often discussed today in activism circles and general social media. I tried to give as much leeway as possible in how the reader can interpret certain themes!
Do you think you could survive a week in the wild with a knife, a poncho, and a fishing hook?
HECK NO!!! I stabbed my own finger with a fork once while just washing dishes!! However, I do think I should just be given a knife and poncho anyway, so I can just LARP as Snufkin from Moomins. I just think that would be Very Cool Of Me.
Where do you look to find hope for humanity’s future?
I really admire how people of my generation, even people quite a bit younger than me, are very often taking mass action against things like climate change and discrimination. The state of the environment and world politics is a mess, but we’re not going down without a fight!
I think it’s nice to see how the internet functions as a conduit for change!
Do you have any projects you’d like to plug?
I have a bunch of webcomics up on Tapas (cancan-jpg) and other social media already, and I’m currently working on a bunch of webcomic concepts at the moment, including one called ‘Into The Midnight City’ (it’s got things like vampires and detectives and cake baking), so stay tuned for that! 😀