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Sun, Jul 10 2011 2:54:09 UTC

Mysterious Hoatzin interview about Hobo Lobo

Today we have an interview with the Mysterious Hoatzin, Stevan Zivadinovic from San Antonio, who used a very cool mix of technology and art to create a unique looking story called Hobo Lobo of Hamelin.

Who is behind Hobo Lobo, how many people helped create it?

It's just me. Some credit ought to go to folks who've created the tools that I am using and who've looked at my code and told me how to simplify some equations. And of course there is Michael Rubin who composed and plays the harmonica piece on the third page.

Could you tell me a bit about who you are and your background?

I was born in Ye Olde Yugoslavia which has since ceased to be. My mother is a scientist and NIH likes foreign PhDs willing to work hard for a fraction of what private sector pays, so that is how I found myself in the States in the late nineties. I finished high school here and got a Bachelors of Fine Arts with a focus in painting. When it came time to become a contributing member of society, I cashed in on my programming hobby. I make my monies as the senior web developer at a medium-sized design and marketing shop in San Antonio.

How did you get the idea to make the site?

A developer here in town needed help putting together a timeline with some simple parallax effects. He needed it to not be flash-based. As I was working on it, I kept thinking about this image I had seen somewhere on the internet, and imagining being able to see around the forest in the background.

At this point I had been out of school for some years and I hadn't made any art at all. Still, I kept a hefty sketchbook where I mostly wrote down ideas. Among them I had a short treatment of the Pied Piper fairy tale and a couple of pages before it a single line entry that said ''Hobo Lobo-a lobo who is also a hobo.'' I had been trying to get something started, anything, just to make things again, and I put all of these disparate ideas into one and started cranking things out.

How long did it take between the initial concept and a fully finished site?

Well, the site is not fully finished. The parallaxer took about thirty, thirty five hours of work, and the back end and the admin took another thirty or so to get then to where they are now. There is still plenty more work to be put in the story and the production of assets, and I also keep reworking and tweaking the code as I go.

Was this mostly a technological effort, to show what could be done with HTML and JavaScript, or was it an artistic expression, to make art with new tools?

It was both. I've been aware of Scott McCloud's infinite canvas forever, but the epiphany that comics on the internet didn't have to follow the constraints of early 20th century offset printing didn't fully manifest itself until I read MS Paint Adventures.

What tools and software did you use to make it?

jQuery and a couple of plugins, TextMate, Photoshop CS3. There is an often up-to-date colophon on the wtf page, for those who are interested.

How hard was it to create, and did the technological parts or the story and art take the most time?

Not too hard. I build things iteratively. It is a kind of push and pull between what I want and what the JS will let me do. I run into problems, I solve them, build a bunch of junk code just to see if it will work, then optimize, rinse and repeat. The actual drawing is fun in different ways. I try to experiment in every panel with new ways of utilizing the parallax to present and hide stuff. The hardest part of it all is that the process is somewhat laborious and it is difficult to find the time needed to get shit done.

What kind of traction did the site get, how popular did it get and was it a surprise to you?

Googalytics claims there've been 62,695 absolute unique visitors since I started drawing in early February or thereabouts. Judging by the people mentioning Hobo Lobo on twitter, most of them have been developers with a smattering of people from the web comic community. I feel like I have yet to get a more general public following. I am unsure how to go about precipitating that. I feel like the concept is fun enough to generate an organic following, so I will let it do its thing.

Being a megalomaniac, it is easy for me to get carried away by all the superlative comments I've been getting. I try to be my most demanding critic. It is difficult to resist the temptation to go back and redraw older panels that don't quite look as tight as I would like them to.

The site indicates that there will be more to come, can you give us an idea of what's next and when we might see it?

There is an update widget on the wtf page. It is supposed to keep me honest and releasing on a fixed yet flexible schedule. It also provides a public service by giving people an idea of when the next update is happening, or why it may be late. After a long hiatus in doing art of any kind, I figured Hobo Lobo would be a good smallish project to get my feet wet with. It is a little heftier than I intended it to be, but I will finish it. After that we'll see. Maybe we will restart Herzog the Vile finally and at long last. There is also a couple of other projects in the pipe.

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