After a total of thirty Sunday comics (and even more cheesy jokes), Phenny Phoenix’s first story has been told. Here at Havok, we love to push the envelope and explore new modes of storytelling that fit the modern reader’s busy, mobile lifestyle. The Mythington Minute photo comic is one such format.
Today we go behind the scenes to interview toy photographer Teddi Deppner (you might also know her as Havok’s own Marketing & Tech Director, as well as the watchful, many-tentacled Membership Care Kraken).
Q: Where did you get the idea for the Mythington comic?
In the months leading up to January 2019, Havok was re-creating itself, and the imagery of the phoenix was included from the beginning. I’d been doing toy photography for a couple of years and when I saw a toy phoenix, I snagged it as a fun mascot for occasional social media posts. But it didn’t take long for this to bloom into the idea for an ongoing story comic.
I was raised by a master of Dad Jokes, and after years of watching and re-watching Star Trek (the original series), Stargate SG-1, and other spoofy fun like Galaxy Quest and The Princess Bride, I am irredeemably in love with cheesy humor. No joke was too silly, no pun too obvious to put a grin on my face, and that fueled much of Phenny’s story (sorry, not sorry).
Q: You said “toy photography”. What is that?
Oh, don’t get me started! Toy photography is first and foremost a ton of fun. For me, it’s all about the magic of turning a hunk of plastic that fits in my hand into a character who lives and breathes and emotes before your very eyes (mostly on your phone screen, if you follow me on Instagram).
Flash fiction is about capturing a moment in time, and breathing life into characters and places in 1,000 words, and toy photography feels very similar to me. Except I usually have to do it in one image. With Phenny, it was fun having some room to actually tell a story in photo comic form.
Toy photography means different things to different people, though. Some simply document their toy collections, creating portraits of each character. Others create fabulous art prints beautiful enough to become the centerpiece on a living room wall. Many toy photographers have a blast re-creating scenes from movies or comics using action figures or LEGO minifigures. Others enjoy creating novel photos that make toys look life-sized using camera perspective tricks. Instagram has thriving communities of toy photographers, and there are entire blogs about the hobby.
As the hobby has grown, and the merchandising aspect of entertainment franchises has expanded, there are even some toy photographers being hired by companies to create toy photos for promotional use (I’ve been sponsored and featured by LEGO HQ before, and it’s such a rush to see your own photos on the official toy company account!).
Q: What tools did you use to create the comic?
I take the photos with a Canon 80D camera, usually in a photo box that provides a plain white or black background behind the figures. That makes it easier to isolate them in Photoshop so I can create re-usable transparent PNG images, like these:
One of the biggest challenges with the mythical creature toys is that they are not articulated–they don’t have any moving parts. They’re just statues. This greatly limits the kinds of poses and angles I can do with them, if I took photos alone. For example, look at Phenny:
Phenny from the front.
Phenny from the back.
As you can see, when Phenny turns sideways a little his wing gets in the way, and I cannot get a true profile in camera.
At first, this limitation seemed highly problematic for telling a story in comic form. But with a little Photoshop magic, I was able to isolate Phenny’s head and neck, create separate wings, and then create poses that the statue could not achieve by itself.
Phenny can fold his wings back now!
Now we have a Phenny profile!
The background images for the various scenes were built either from real objects (like doll furniture I’ve made from scratch) or occasionally from royalty-free stock images. I used Canva.com to assemble the backgrounds with the PNG character images and create the talk balloons. You can get fantastic free fonts for comic creators at Blambot.com.
The unedited cabin in the woods stock photo.
How the cabin turned out in the actual comic.
The “Mythington Public Library” background by itself.
Phenny and Ling playing Bananagrams in the library.
Q: What’s next for Mythington and Phenny Phoenix?
The hidden town of Mythington is full of wacky denizens and stories waiting to be told. However, Phenny is taking a break for a bit while we feature other great online comics on Sundays. If you missed the first Mythington story arc, Havok Horde members can read it in the archives by starting with the first installment. We’d love to hear what you think of our punny mascot’s shenanigans.
Meanwhile, if you follow any fun web comics that you think Havok readers would enjoy, please drop a name or link in the comments so we can check it out!
(You didn’t think Phenny would let us get away without a joke, did you?)