The great thing about a medium like webcomics is it can be used for anything, and any story, and that’s precisely what our interviewee of the day has done with Champs. Mharz joins us today from the Philippines to talk about her webcomic, which follows a lesbian boxer as she pursues a fellow ring fighter who’s won her heart.
CHAMPS – Mharz
Dunstan: Let’s start with the obvious – what got you into art in general, and webcomics specifically?
Mharz: I’ve enjoyed drawing ever since I was a kid. My initial dream was to become an animator. I love to create cool characters just like I see in the animes I watch. When I got to work in animation, I realized that creating a full season anime will take forever if you’re just one person and that’s where I found out about webcomics so I gave it a shot and I ended up totally enjoying creating webcomics.
Dunstan: A lot of webcomics are autobiographical, fantasy or slice-of-life. What inspired you to draw a comic about boxing?
Mharz: I am very fascinated with strong women. I really don’t like females being portrayed as weak damsels. Also, most sports/fighting comics have male leads, and even if females get the lead, they are mostly portrayed as a “fanservice” (you know what I mean), so I thought wouldn’t it be cool if females engage in a tough sport like MMA and they have all the spotlight? No fanservice just strong girls proving their skills and also being sweet and fluffy to the person and things they love. So that’s how I ended up thinking of CHAMPS.
Dunstan: What’s your process for CHAMPS like, from idea to posting the final page?
Mharz: I usually write the plots first in the good ‘ol fashioned notebook. Then I make thumbnails/storyboards of the pages. Writing usually takes the longest because I consider myself a more art-oriented creator so writing pretty much consumes way too much brain power for me. Once the thumbnails are finished, I can finally coop myself in and focus on drawing the actual pages. I usually do it per chapter and build an insane amount of buffer so I can post consistently even if I don’t work on it for months.
Dunstan: Has finding an audience been difficult, or have you managed to find your niche?
Mharz: It’s always been a struggle for me. I’ve been working with webcomics for four years now and gaining audience for me is a very slow crawl. I’d be the first one to admit, that my marketing skills is pretty much lackluster. Sadly, there’s only so much I can without getting in a pinch financially and without getting burnt out. I just try my best and keep going and hope that someone with a lot of clout will give me a chance.
Dunstan: Why a webcomic rather than a traditional graphic novel?
Mharz: For someone like me who doesn’t know anyone big in the industry, webcomics gave me the opportunity to be able to share my ideas and stories to people. Especially people across the globe. Also I don’t have the resources and financial support to be able to do it the traditional graphic novel way.
Dunstan: Representation is a hot topic in media right now. What does it mean to you, regarding writing lesbian representation and Filipino characters?
Mharz: I certainly can’t remember the last thing I read with a Filipino woman as a central character. I’m honestly not sure if you’ll stumble upon a work that has a Filipino character unless the writer is Filipino themselves. Locally, there are tons for sure, but internationally, it’s gonna be unlikely. I do want to share our culture to the people outside the country. We have so many cool things here like food and such and hopefully, through Tala I can. Writing lesbian story is something that makes me happy. I am actually more attracted to women than men, and I love reading romance stories about two women.
Dunstan: How can readers and interested folks support you?
Mharz: Sharing my comics on your social media really helps a lot. It’s free and doesn’t really take up much of your time but if you have some spare money, consider supporting me on patreon (http://patreon.com/avimharz ) and on ko-fi (http://ko-fi.com/avimharz ). You can also buy some books at (http://mharz.storenvy.com ) or digital pdf copies on gumroad (http://gumroad.com/mharz )
Thanks so much to Mharz for her time! This is the second in the series of webcartoonist #PrideMonth interviews – check out the first interview with Melissa Capriglione of Falconhyrste here.
Have you read CHAMPS yet?