Interviews

Campbell Whyte Tells Us About His Graphic Novel Home Time

 

Artist and writer Campbell Whyte is the creator of Home Time, a graphic novel about a group of friends whose vacation goes awry after they’re transported to a magical realm. Drawing comparisons to Coraline, Narnia, and other fantasy classics, Home Time begins with a familiar premise and takes it to new and exciting places.

Unbound Worlds: Home Time takes place in the very last break before you characters enter high school. They’re on the cusp of some major life changes. What made this an attractive moment in time for storytelling?

Campbell Whyte: I think that period of time is so intense for people. There’s such a great deal of change going on, both in your external environment as well as with your sense of self and place in the world. I have a really vivid memories around that time in my life which is so distant now they feel more like stories than real things that happened. I wanted to bring some of those stories, friendships and conflicts to the page, to wrap up all those feeling in something that could be held.

It’s an awkward time as well in terms of where individuals are in their lives. There’s a lot of focus in general around that transition from high school into ‘real life’, but I have much more intense recollections of leaving primary school and entering high school.

UW: You’re obviously a student of popular culture, as it seems the book draws from a lot of it. What were some of your own passions when you were your characters’ age?

CW: When I was the same age as those characters I was really into a lot of things. I’d like to take the opportunity to put to the forefront a work that might not be so familiar to people outside of Australia. One piece of pop-culture that is pretty foundational to Australian’s of my age is Round the Twist. It was a television series adaptation of short stories by the Australian author Paul Jennings. The books were really widely read across schools and the television series was hugely popular. It features a family, The Twists, who move to a small coastal town and take up residence in the lighthouse. Each episode is self contained and features a number of ridiculous supernatural mysteries that the kids get caught up in. I think for a lot of us it was an amazing and rare opportunity to see ourselves and a fantastical interpretation of our lives, in a form of popular culture.

I was also into a wide range of imported popular culture. Superhero comics, especially Spider-man, I was just starting do discover works such as Ranma 1/2 and was a massive Sailor Moon fan. I would have been playing a lot of Super Nintendo games, playing Warhammer 40,000 and drawing obsessively. I read a lot of Fighting Fantasy books and loved anything that explored that relationships between drawing and games. Lots of these interests are so woven into my experience of childhood that it’s almost hard to separate them. Home Time attempts to connect some of them together, to reflect how the individuals, their geography and cultural context all contribute to their identity.

UW: Do you find yourself in sympathy with one of the characters more than the others?

CW: They are all reflections of part of me. At the time, I think I would have been most like David. He’s filled with a lot of uncertainty that he covers with bravado and masculine performance. Now though, I feel more closely aligned with the doubt and anxiety of Amanda and feel very strongly for her struggle.

UW: You illustrated the story in several different art styles. That’s an unorthodox choice. Why did you go with it?

CW: There are three reasons why I chose to illustrate the story in different styles.

First of all, I wanted a way to depict the different characters world views and experiences. I thought a visual change in styles between the characters would help give each of their chapters a unique feel and hopefully reveal something about them.

Secondly, I wanted to try and counter a common experience I have when reading long-form comics. That’s of ‘snow blindness’, which often sets in after around 60 pages or so of reading. I often become so wrapped up in the story, that I find myself racing through the pages, skipping from speech balloon to speech balloon and only glancing at the art. This can be an ideal situation for some works, but I really wanted to try to slow readers down.

Thirdly, I knew that this project would take me a long time to complete and it was a tactic to try to keep the project fresh for me. To keep giving myself new challenges in rendering and stretching myself.

UW: What’s next? Can we expect a sequel?

CW: I’m currently working on the second book, which picks up right where the first one left off.

It was heavily workshopped at the recent Comic Art Workshop in Indonesia. It’s one of the most supportive and encouraging creative groups I’ve ever been a part of. Everyone is so kind, generous and knowledgeable and approaches the projects with such nurturing intent. You should definitely head over to the CAW website and see the amazing creatives who take part.

The first Home Time book was workshopped at the previous CAW in Tasmania and benefited greatly from the feedback.