Written by Neil Greenaway
When you see Dailen Ogden's art, you are almost certain to stop and have a closer look. Her pieces have a naturalistic fluidity to them that is hard to quantify, but it is her masterful use color that really makes her work stand out from the crowd. Before I had met Dailen at the 2018 Phoenix Comic Fest, several friends had already told me that I needed to seek out a copy of her self-published comic, The Liminal #1.
The Liminal (written and drawn by Ogden) is a story about Taylor Holt - a paranormal investigator with a weird eye and a ghost for a roommate. She gets migraine headaches and helps stranded mermen. In a world where magic is just as real as technology, Taylor is just trying to get by.
Dailen was kind enough to take a few minutes away from her table to tell me a little bit about her new series, the learning curve she went through creating a new comic, and what the future holds for The Liminal!
Neil Greenaway: Can we start off by having you tell us a little bit about The Liminal?
Dailen Ogden: It’s a comic that when I pitch it to customers I basically say that it’s Jessica Jones meets Sailor Moon in the unending horror of the void.
NG: At the very least, the premise sounds unique.
Dailen: So definitely magic, bright colors, and blood. The actual premise is that of a mystery/thriller: set in the backdrop of a world where 25 years ago they cracked open a mountain and found an artifact that introduced magic to the people. Flash forward to the modern day - magic and the internet have both filtered into the cultural world consciousness in the same way, or in similar fashions. They are both a big part of worlds both developing and developed, and there’s all kinds of weird spooky mysteries going on.
NG: Is there a central mystery? Is there some plot to be solved?
Dailen: Yeah there is. It’s only very lightly teased on in the first issue, but if you are the kind of person who will read little captions and look for little details in the background - then it will come as a little less of a surprise to you later when more chapters start to release.
NG: Intriguing! Now, is The Liminal your first book or had you put out other comics before this one?
Dailen: I’ve never put out a book before this. I’ve done a little bit of like contract work on a couple of comics for Pop Culture Classroom, their Colorful History comic series - but this is the very first book that I am completely at the helm.
NG: Very cool. With you being the only one working on this, how long did it take you to put this issue together?
Dailen: A really freaking long time, let me tell you. It’s taught me a lot and it’s given me a major appreciation of why most comics are done with a four-person team. There are a lot of things that go into it, a lot of working parts in comics. Even though they take you a very short amount of time to consume, to make them correctly takes a long time. A big part of comics is that if you are doing your job right people won’t even notice you. I’ve learned a lot about those things through this process.
NG: Are you also doing the coloring and the lettering?
Dailen: I am, everything. Design work, too, for the book. The logo is mine. All of it.
NG: When you do all the art for this, are you working digitally or traditionally?
Dailen: A little bit of both. For The Liminal I tend to mostly work digitally but for other comics I’ve worked traditionally as well. It’s just whatever strikes my fancy.
NG: There has been a bit of a resurgence lately of people hand lettering their comics. Are you doing traditional or digital lettering?
Dailen: I am doing digital lettering. I have very abysmal handwriting. As much as I would love to hand letter comics in the future, I really need to work on my lettering skills first. It would have to be up to my standards before I would include it in a book. In the meantime I am using Blambot Fonts. Nate Piekos, he has very courteously put his fonts out for free for smalltime freelancers and people who are self-publishing. He has made his work readily available as a resource for people like me who can’t hand letter for anything.
NG: I was just talking to Ed Piskor, who does Hip Hop Family Tree, and he said he spent 12 years teaching himself to hand letter only to realize that the computer still did it better.
NG: Yeah that’s got to be a hard pill to swallow.
Dailen: (winces) Youch, I feel that in my soul.
NG: Going back to The Liminal a little bit, how far forward have you planned it? Is it a 6-issue miniseries, is this a universe?
Dailen: I have a 3-arc story planned. It will probably be 3 volumes. I don’t know – the volume lengths are a little bit indeterminate at this point but it’s definitely going to be a full-length feature rather than a novella or a miniseries. I don’t have it quite mapped out enough to tell you the exact page count incoming, just to say that there’s going to be 3 major arcs that I want to split up into volumes.
NG: Do you know where it ends?
NG: So, it’s just the middle stuff that is missing at this point?
Dailen: Yeah just a little bit. It’s interesting because beginnings and endings are the most important parts sort of the story. Those are like the buildup and the resolution, but those middle parts need to be gracefully done and I find that to be the most challenging part of any story that I tell. It’s like, I have this really cool climax and ending figured out - but how do I get from point A all the way to point B?
NG: Given how long it took you to put the first issue together by yourself, in the future would you like to work with a team? Or do you feel it’s important to keep this story to yourself?
Dailen: You know, I love working with teams on other comics, but this one is kind of my baby. It’s not that wouldn’t trust anyone else with it, but I wouldn’t want to burden anyone else with it. It’s definitely very much my experimental foray into all of these things and so on top of being very much my story to tell, it’s also my avenue to practice all of these techniques. That said, R. Alan Brooks did write me a guest script that will be coming out in a couple of issues. I have a little more character and plot build up to do first, just because his script contains a pretty important reveal, but I am very interested in bringing in talent. Rather than having a team work with me on the full comic itself, I’m really interested in bringing in guest creators and things like that. I really love the idea of variant covers for my book. So, it’s not so much that I want to be a lone wolf as much as I need the practice on these things. But I am interested in seeing other people’s contributions as well.
NG: If other people wanted to contribute, which would be more important for you to maintain control of: the art or the authorship?
Dailen: Probably the authorship for the most part. The nice thing about Alan’s script is that we sat down and had a long, really thorough conversation about where the comic is going, what the world looks like and how it functions. When he wrote something for me it was sort of like getting to read a script that I had written myself but had forgotten about, where it was very exciting because it fit in really well. But definitely maintaining the authorship is the most important part for me because I have a very clear idea of where this is going and what story I am trying to accomplish. I do like seeing other people’s contributions to it. I need control over the main cannon, the main storyline - but other people bring really interesting things to the table.
NG: Did going through the production process on the first book give you any insights that will help with future issues?
Dailen: Yes! So much, absolutely. I have a much more consistent coloring scheme down, like a real strategy. I have learned a lot since then making sequential pages for other people also, so I do feel like issue 2 is going to happen at a much more reasonable pace. Now I have a very clear idea of what kind of formatting I need, what kind of files I need to export, where I send them, how I organize them. All of those things were very much kind of a shot in the dark learning process in the first issue, and so it should go much much more smoothly the second time around.
NG: When you put The Liminal #1 out, did you do any kind of crowdfunding for that?
Dailen: No. I backed it myself.
Dailen: Yeah, it cost a lot.
NG: I have to imagine.
Dailen: I did The Liminal myself. Entirely. I didn’t really know that much about comic printing. I didn’t know what the quality would be like, and I am always a little afraid to put something out to a crowd if I can’t guarantee it’s a good product. So, for the first one, I did fund it for myself. I’m actually funding a second run myself, too, but with a different printer. We will see what happens.
NG: That was actually going to be my next question - Are you looking at crowdfunding at all for the future of The Liminal? Having felt the financial burden of self-publishing the first print, why not look at something like Kickstarter for the next one?
Dailen: I guess it’s one of those things, with crowdfunding and things like Kickstarter - I always feel put off by the fact that it doesn’t go all the way through if you don’t make your goal. And I’m still a little bit low in terms of social media reach. I guess what it comes down to is at this current point in time I’m not sure that I trust crowdfunding to get it done for me. With that said, for some of my upcoming books and probably for the next few issues of The Liminal - I will likely take preorders to help offset some of the costs. That is something that I do with my enamel pins and with some of my other prints, but I know and trust where they come from. Preordering is probably going to be the way to go for me in the future rather than crowdfunding, and let the crowd sort of help me with it but not relying on them entirely to get it paid for.
NG: Speaking of your enamel pins, you have some really cool designs. Are these all your designs as well?
Dailen: They are.
NG: And who do you go through to have those done?
Dailen: I actually have a relationship with a factory out of China.
Dailen: Yeah, it’s a pretty good time. People are a little bit secretive about their sources for that kind of thing because sometimes if a source gets overloaded the quality dips strongly. So I won’t mention their name in the interview, but I do like them very much and I think they are lovely people and I like working with them.
NG: If people want to see more of you or find more of your work where would they look online to do so?
NG: Thank you very much for your time.
You can also purchase prints, pins, stickers and more at Dailen's Etsy store!