S.H. Cotugno is a 2012 Calarts graduate who went on to work on a number of the largest animated sequence of the 2010s and 2020s together with Gravity Falls, The Owl Home, and Star vs. the Forces of Evil.
Along with their work in animation, Cotugno self-publishes the digital graphic novel The Glass Scientists, which has been considered greater than six million occasions. Now, the sequence, a modernized tackle the traditional Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde narrative, is increasing right into a graphic novel for younger adults.
We’ve been following Cotugno’s work since they have been nonetheless an undergrad and just lately spoke with the now-veteran animator about working in each mediums, the psychological toll of working alone, and the timeless enchantment of the Jekyll and Hyde story.
Cartoon Brew: What impressed you to provide your personal graphic novel?
Cotugno: I began writing the define that might grow to be The Glass Scientists as a solution to educate myself story construction after I used to be rejected from the Disney function story trainee program in 2012. Even after I managed to interrupt into story as a board artist on Gravity Falls, I caught with the observe as a result of I missed getting to inform my very own tales, like I had carried out with my pupil movies at Calarts. A few 12 months into the endeavor, the story felt strong sufficient to show into one thing actual, however I used to be method an excessive amount of of a scaredy-cat to think about pitching it to a studio (an informational session telling us that Disney TV wouldn’t think about a present with characters over the age of twelve additionally had a chilling impact). Making a comic book felt like a way more achievable purpose than making a whole tv present, so I Kickstarted a prequel comedian in the summertime of 2014 and launched The Glass Scientists as a webcomic the next winter.
Is that this your full-time gig now, or are you continue to animating?
I’m nonetheless very a lot within the business! Proper now, I’m working as a supervising director on an unannounced present for Apple TV+. I’ve been spending my nights and weekends on this comedian for over eight years now, so it hasn’t been too troublesome to juggle my comedian work with a day job. The trade-off is I haven’t had a lot of a social life throughout that point, and I don’t actually know find out how to go to golf equipment, drink alcohol, or keep un-monetized hobbies. As soon as this comedian is completed, I’ll discover myself within the embarrassing place of making an attempt to suit all of the experiences I missed as a twenty-something into my mid-thirties. However I’m additionally trans, and in response to the brochures, second adolescence comes with the territory.
How did the talents you picked up working in animation translate to storytelling utilizing nonetheless photographs?
Making comics is sort of much like storyboarding, so it was fairly pure to translate my expertise in thumbnailing, composition, pacing, character appearing, and primary visible communication into this medium. I additionally did a few visible improvement internships at Pixar and Disney Characteristic after faculty. I did terribly at each – I’m a bit relieved The Good Dinosaur went via a complete rehaul after I left, if solely so nobody needed to repair my horrible makes an attempt at plant mannequin sheets – however I’ve been capable of apply the talents I realized in colour, worth, and form language to The Glass Scientists as nicely. And, in fact, working within the business teaches you to place out constant work on a deadline. I nonetheless get tripped up over the elements which can be unique to comics, particularly the jigsaw puzzle that’s panel structure, however on the entire, it’s been a reasonably seamless transition.
Would you encourage different animators to discover engaged on webcomics?
Sure, however perhaps not in the best way I did it! A full-color, totally serialized story importing one web page at a time over the course of a decade is just not precisely essentially the most environment friendly type of storytelling. For those who’re eager about beginning a webcomic, I’d advocate itemizing out the stuff you care about and discovering methods to slither round the whole lot else. As an example, should you’re excited to discover character dynamics however don’t care an excessive amount of about your setting, discover fashionable methods to simplify or get rid of your backgrounds. For those who hate drawing crowd photographs, set your story someplace that permits you to keep away from them. And should you hate drawing circles inside circles in perspective, perhaps don’t write a narrative in a Steampunk-adjacent style that can require you to attract these silly goggles time and again.
How did you discover the expertise of working alone? Clearly, the exhibits you labored on had massive groups of artists contributing; with the comedian did you have got individuals round you to bounce concepts off and ask for critiques?
Oof, actual discuss? I don’t find it irresistible. Once I was a child, I believed I’d love working at dwelling on my own all day, nevertheless it seems I tremendous don’t. I had about an eight-month stint final 12 months the place I used to be working full-time on the comedian with a few part-time improvement gigs on the facet and actually, it wasn’t nice for my psychological well being. So a lot of my associates are within the business, and when everybody else however me was staffed on a present (this was earlier than the current dry spell), it felt like I’d dropped off the face of the earth. Plus, I give myself method harsher notes than any community may. Now that I’m again on a crew, I’ve observed my temper has improved considerably.
With that mentioned, I’ve managed to search out nice critique companions whereas engaged on The Glass Scientists. I’ve a incredible author’s group that my associates and I put collectively over the pandemic, and so they’ve given me a ton of insightful notes through the years, as did my former editor at my comedian community Hiveworks, Atla Hrafney. It’s straightforward to lose perspective whenever you’ve acquired readers reacting to each micro-update you put up weekly, so it’s been important to get this type of suggestions early and infrequently.
What drew you to the Jekyll and Hyde story for this mission?
I’ve been obsessive about Unusual Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde since I used to be a teen. As a mixed-race, queer, and nonbinary individual, I’ve all the time been drawn to tales about characters caught between two worlds, and I can’t think about a personality that embodies that duality greater than a man who would actually relatively cut up his soul in two with science magic potions that match himself into anybody field. Jekyll and Hyde isn’t precisely the largest fandom on the market – it’s no Marvel or Star Wars, except you depend Common’s Darkish Universe franchise thingy from a couple of years again – so The Glass Scientists is mainly my try and trick different individuals into liking the identical 140-year-old, vaguely queer-coded science fantasy that I do.