Interview Date: 10/16/2018
Anime Herald: Historically goblins are viewed as antagonists, or mischievous side characters (at best). What led to the decision to choose a protagonist with goblin blood?
Katie O’Neill: In a lot of folklores, goblins have a reputation for being talented craftspeople and having an affinity for metals. I really liked that aspect, so I chose to focus on that for my goblin lore.
Anime Herald: The very concept of a Tea Dragon is fascinating. Mixing flora and dragons seems to be a unique interpretation. Where did that originate?
Katie O’Neill: I’ve always enjoyed creating small creature designs, usually just one-off ideas that come from mixing different creatures or ideas together — kind of like Pokemon or Avatar: The Last Airbender. When I happened to post them online, I got a really great response, so I felt encouraged to explore the idea further!
Anime Herald: Was The Tea Dragon Society at all inspired or influenced by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples graphic novel series Saga? There seem to be a few parallels and I’m curious if they were intentional.
Katie O’Neill: I’ve read the first volume of Saga and I thought it was wonderful! I wouldn’t say it influenced me very much, as I had pretty much finished work on The Tea Dragon Society by the time I read it, but I deeply appreciate the character designs and world building.
Anime Herald: Why are Tea Dragons so finicky about feeding time?
Katie O’Neill: They get very hangry! For me, it was important for Tea Dragons to be incredibly difficult and annoying to keep, otherwise it wouldn’t make sense for their husbandry to decline so much — and it means that the rewards for those who do are even more special and rare. So imagine the most pampered, fussy cat and then multiply it by fifty.
Anime Herald: Moving from a webcomic to a printed book can be tricky. Did you run into any challenges along the way that you’d care to share?
Katie O’Neill: It actually went pretty smoothly! The intention from the beginning was to have it posted online as well as printed as a collected book, so it was always made for both purposes. For anyone who is new to making a webcomic, I’d always advise working at a printable resolution, even if you don’t intend to make the comic in a standard comic page size — it gives you a lot of freedom later on.
Anime Herald: Bonus question: Are we going to learn more about Brick’s personality? :)
Katie O’Neill: Brick is a mysterious fellow, but I would definitely like to give him more time to shine in future!
You can find more of Katie’s work on her website.
Special thanks to Katie O’Neill, Melissa Meszaros and Oni Press for making this interview possible.