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February 2, 2013

Webcomic of the Month: February: Kyle and Atticus

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Written by: Dr. Bustos
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It’s the first Saturday of a new month, and you know what that means? New Webcomic of the Month! For February we have Kyle and Atticus, a story of a young (gender) queer kid named Kyle who has an amazing friend in Atticus, a robot who speaks in Morse code. Kyle is trying to live life and deal with all the struggles life can bring. It’s a great comic, and it’s still early on so you can catch up with it fairly quickly. The series is created, written, and drawn by Sfé Monster. Sfé was nice enough to answer some questions, so I hope you enjoy the interview!


Kyle starts things off in a bit of a jam.

Comic Attack: What inspired you to make Kyle and Atticus?

Sfé Monster: Kyle & Atticus actually began as a throwaway idea I had no intention of doing anything with- In 2011 I did a quick sketch of a robot I named “Attis” and posted it with a description that said I would one day like to tell the story of a (gender)queer kid and their robot best friend.  I had several unsuccessful attempts at doing an online comic under my belt, and had come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t cut out for a long-term comic project, but something about the design for “Attis” (who quickly became Atticus) and the genderqueer kid stuck with me, and before long I was writing the script and thumbnailing pages.

What really motivated me with Kyle & Atticus was that I wanted to make the kind of story that I wish I could have read when I was Kyle’s age.  I spent my tweens/early teens as a gender-confused kid desperately trying to find myself (so that I could tell myself I was ‘okay’ and that the way I felt was normal) in books and movies with little to no success.  There are not a huge number of genderqueer characters in popular media, and even when I learned the words “transgender” and “queer” and could refine my search it was difficult to find stories about queer characters that didn’t have unhappy/unfortunate ends, which continued to make me feel like there was something wrong with me until well into my late teens.  With Kyle & Atticus I wanted to to make a story with the affirming message I was looking for as a kid- something that says “you’re okay- you’re not broken, there’s nothing wrong with you.  You can be yourself and people will love you for it.”

CA: Where did that wonderful design for Atticus come from?

SM: Atticus began as an experiment to get me outside of my design/drawing comfort zone.  Generally I like to draw monsters and fantastic beasts, but when I first started working on the designs for Kyle’s pet/friend I was reading a pile of Transformers comics and thought it would be a fun challenge to take a shot at designing a robot character of my own.  I love robots like BigDog and the Soft Robot that take design cues from nature, and wanted Atticus to share in that organic aesthetic- with all sorts of nifty secrets like the ability to teleport, and arms that it keeps folded away most of the time, and feet loosely based on the Flex-Foot Cheetah (specially designed prosthetics used by amputee runners).  My very first notes for Atticus described it as “dinosaur-meets-house cat.”  I wanted something graceful and sleek- It’s a very impractical robot design, and one I know couldn’t exist in the real world, but it’s fun to draw!

CA: I remember you mentioning it was interesting to see what pronouns readers used for Kyle; what is Kyle’s preferred pronoun?

SM: Kyle’s pronoun preference will be addressed in the comic, so I can’t say anything about that at the moment without spoiling a part of the story- However, readers are split right down the middle between masculine “he/him/his” and a variety of neutral pronouns.  I’ve avoided using pronouns for Kyle since I first began working on the story (to prevent giving anything away), and it’s been really interesting to see people choose pronouns and read about their reasons for doing so, based solely what they’ve seen in the comic!

CA: Do you see Kyle and Atticus as an ongoing, or does this series have an ending?

SM: I have a definite ending in mind.  The story is “contained” in about eight chapters, but I may end up extending it if I feel like it needs more time.  Unfortunately Kyle & Atticus takes place in “webcomic time” (with me only posting a page a week) so it will still take me a few years to get the whole story out.

CA: Atticus communicates through Morse code; how did that idea come about, and is that Atticus’s second language?

SM: It was important for me (and for the story) that Atticus had a voice, but I didn’t want Atticus speaking in a way that everyone (readers, and the characters in the comic) could understand.  Originally Atticus spoke in binary code, but I realized there was no way Kyle could understand that just by listening to it so I shelved that idea.  Briefly I experimented with Atticus texting Kyle, but that became really awkward, so I settled on Morse code.  I like it, because it is such an old way of communicating being used by this ultra high-tech, futuristic robot.  Morse code isn’t Atticus’ native language, and Atticus is still learning- if you directly translate its dialogue you’ll notice Atticus gets lazy sometimes.  Lots of “u” and “r” and chatspeak.

I think we'd all be better off with a robot best friend.

CA: I noticed a drawing of Gabumon in the background; is Gabumon your favorite Digimon?

SM: Gabumon is my favourite Digidestined Digimon, but Wizardmon will always be my for-real favourite Digimon.

CA: Anyone who follows your Twitter account knows your love of Star Wars; what’s your favorite Star Wars species?

SM: My favourite original-trilogy species is the chadra-fan (the little bat-head alien that appears briefly in the cantina scene in A New Hope).  I also have a soft-spot for dugs- because they walk with their arms and that looks super cool.

CA: You also have a gender-zine that you release; are there more to come?

SM: I do have a gender zine! The Orange Octopus gender zine! I put it on hold last year as I was moving across the country, but I do plan to pick it back up- and soon!  First I would like to make the existing three issues available as PDFs, but I am definitely planning on coordinating more issues in the very near future.

CA: I know you love the show Motorcity. I’ve yet to watch it; can you tell me about it and why I should watch it?

SM: Without writing a novel about how everyone should drop what they are doing and watch Motorcity right now: Motorcity is set in “the future,” and follows a group of rebels that are fighting against the leader of a new Detroit (Detroit Deluxe) who has built his city literally on top of the original Detroit.  There is so much going for the show: the soundtrack, the animation, the character designs, the world-building, the amazingly choreographed fight scenes, the whole look and feel and style of the show… it’s all so good.  Plus, it was almost entirely animated in the States, which is pretty much unheard of these days.  It wasn’t picked up for a second season (which breaks my heart) but that means you can watch the entire show in a day (and then join me in bemoaning the loss of such a great series).

CA: Final question: You’re about to go save the day; what dinosaur do you ride on?

SM: An ankylosaurus!

Kyle has a really cool room.

So there you have it, you should really check out the comic. Sfé’s art is always top notch, and the story really draws you in with the characters. See you next month!

Alexander Bustos



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