Starting out as a series of more or less un-connected adventures that meld science fiction and comic book tropes, quantum physics speculations, posthumanist musings and general brainy madness, the series has come fo revolve around the (mis)adventures of one Kimiko Ross, the geekiest girl in a very strange world that only seems like it is ours. Cartoonist Aaron Diaz (who chose the online handle Dresden Codak so as not to be mixed up with some Latino pop star whom it is safe to assume none of us here have ever heard of) has been taking this comic to exiting new places, artistically and conceptually, but in the midst of all this, we managed to hunt him down and get him to answer some of our mostly irrelevant and randomly generated questions.
Right now, researchers are proposing to build very tiny mechanical computers out of ultra-hard materials. They think these 'nano Difference Engines' might even be a way to circumvent Moore's Law. What I'd like to know is, when did Dresden Codak start crossing over into real life, and when will Tiny Charles Babbage return from the real world to do a cameo in the comic?
I think the most interesting fiction should have a little truth to it. I wouldn't go so far as to say my comic is actual science fiction, but the fact of the matter is I simply can't resist including scientific elements because that's what I'm usually reading. Fun secret fact: Tiny Carl Jung was originally going to be Tiny Andrew Johnson, who in turn helped free the tiny slaves. I think I dodged a bullet there.
You've mentioned the impact the (sorely missed) 'A Lesson Is Learned' had on you, stylistically and in helping inspire you to actually start do a comic yourself. I also seem detect a manga influence as a sort of background element in your work, but after that I'm stuck. What other artists, online, offline, comics and non-comics would you say have most influenced your visual style? And how do you keep choosing the most delicious-looking colors?
Moebius (and in particular his work on Arzach) has had a huge impact on my art style. Hayao Miyazaki's films are another influence, especially his juxtaposition of technology and nature. As for my colors, it's nothing fancy. I don't have a lot of formal training as an artist, so most of those decisions come from studying pictures I like and going from there.
There's an interesting sense of movement and rhythm in your work. Would you ever think of working on an animation project?
I'd love to work on an animation project, but unlike webcomics it's generally an undertaking that involves more than one person. Maybe somewhere down the line when I either have more street cred or more free time.
You touch on a lot of fairly esoteric topics in the course of your comics – transhumanism, the singularity, quantum physics and whatnot. Where do you get all this from? Do you have an academic background in the physical sciences, and is this some sort of elaborate doctoral project, or if not do you have people who help you to get the scientific references right?
I've been a physics, anthropology, art and computer science major, but I've never gotten around to finishing any of them. I do, however, read a lot of books, especially textbooks and other nonfiction. Most of the earlier comics didn't require any research, but some of the more recent ones like "Dungeons & Discourse" required a bit of referencing to make sure I had all my facts straight. For me, researching a comic is at least half the fun.
Have you ever thought of having a list of recommended reading on your site? I suspect a lot of your readers would be interested in exploring the topics touched upon in your comics, and are ready to go beyond wikipedia.
It's something that's been suggested by a number of readers in the past and it really does make sense. I've been strangely hesitant, possibly because I'm afraid the list would be too long or convoluted. I'm planning on completely overhauling the site once the "Hob" storyline concludes, so I'll probably add a section for things like that when the time comes.
Will there ever be an actual Dungeons & Discourse game?
Since last December when that comic came out, a good number of fans have been developing a working model of the game. I even went so far as to add a section to my forum to give them a place to work out the kinks. I've never played a pen and paper RPG, so I'm really not able to keep up with everything they're working on, but from what I've seen it looks pretty good and seems to be in keeping with the spirit of the strip. They've been beta testing different quests in an IRC room; I sat in on one and it seemed pretty hilarious.
What happens if Dmitri and Alina say 'SHAZAM'?
People would probably laugh at them. It is not entirely clear why they wear those shirts. They are probably not super heroes. Maybe.
Your discussion forums have attracted an outspoken (which is normal for the internet) and erudite (which is considerably less so) lot of commentators, effectively becoming an impromptu community of skeptics, science fans and, at the least, agnostics. Keeping this in mind, what do you feel about people of an atheistic persuasion banding together under the banner of movements like The Brights? Also, do you think the recent visibility of atheist views is a sign of a potential shift in attitudes, or is it just a reactionary raging against the armies of the night?
Getting nonreligious people to organize is like herding cats, so any opportunity we have to get atheists, agnostics and other skeptics to socialize should probably be encouraged. The recent popularity of outspoken atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, while sometimes inflammatory, is ultimately a very good thing because it means we're closer to smashing the taboos about public and honest discussions about religion. As for The Brights in particular, however, while I do admire Dawkins' and Dennett's efforts, I'd really prefer it if they'd picked a better name. It sounds awfully pretentious and sends the false message that atheists are somehow inherently smarter than everyone else.
What other possibly new or lesser-known webcomics would you like to direct readers of Dresden Codak to?
My links page is stuffed full of moderately obscure (but still wonderful) webcomics, but if I were to give a specific endorsement it would be for my fellow Koala Wallop members, all of which really are the best and brightest when it comes to webcomics: Rice Boy, I am a Rocket Builder, Perfect Stars, Minus and the Secret Crocodile Adventure Club. These guys really push the envelope of the digital medium and represent a future for the artform that I am just delighted to be a part of.
OK, let's play a word association game to wind up. What comes to mind when you think about:
Electromagnetic fields - Forbidden Planet starring Leslie Nielsen.
Joseph Campbell -The Power of Myth
Iron Man - Does whatever Iron can.
Optical Character Recognition - Ghost in the Shell
William Gibson - I'll marry a robot I will I will
The Equator - Geostationary orbits
And there you have it!