Let’s Talk About Fantasy Racism: An Interview with Hannah Camarato and Alex J. Vincent, Creators of “Dragon Curse”

Dragon's Curse by Hannah Camarato and Alex J. Vincent
Images courtesy of Hannah Camarato and Alex J. Vincent

Creator/colorist Hannah Camarato and artist Alex J. Vincent share their creative process and inspiration behind their webcomic Dragon Curse.

As an avid reader of genre fiction, I’ve recently found myself being pickier about the high or low fantasy I read these days. One of the issues I still encounter in the fantasy genre is the way it mostly approaches racism and privilege. Fantasy racism, usually between non-human races, very often tends to lean towards the black and white idea of good versus evil. In some books/series — and I’m not just referring to well-known classics like Lord of the Rings — one species or race is beautiful and or wholly good, while another race is described as evil and/or ugly.

Whether writers like it or not, everything that’s penned or published is a political act. Even media like Marvel and DC comics, animation, commercial books, and more conveys cultural values, sentiments, and ideals of its time (intended or not). Thus, the lack of complexity in the fantasy genre shouldn’t be justified. (Note: Yes, I have read N.K. Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, Victor LaValle, and other genre authors who explore racism and privilege in their work).

So when I first read the webcomic Dragon Curse, the themes of complicity and personal responsibility pleasantly surprised me. The webcomic earned a spot in my July roundup for this reason and more. It’s my pleasure to have the creators Hannah Camarato and Alex J. Vincent here to talk about their creative process behind Dragon Curse.

 

Dragon Curse
Images courtesy of Hannah Camarato and Alex J. Vincent

The Geekiary: So excited to have you here! Let’s start by introducing yourselves!

Hannah (she/they): Why hello there! Likewise, we are just as excited to be here! My name is Hannah Camarato, otherwise known as halocam on Webtoon, and I’m the author of Dragon Curse! I’m 23 years old and my fiancé, Alex, and I are based out of Orlando, FL. We met working as caricature artists in various theme parks, but our true passion is storytelling. It’s a pleasure to interview with you!

Alex (he/him): What she said! My name is Alex Vincent. I’m 26 and the lead artist for Dragon Curse. Comic drawing has always been a passion of mine, and it’s my dream to work full time as a comic artist/writer someday.

TG: Dragon Curse is fun, endearing, and thought-provoking. The story provides a great balance of humor and drama. How have you two come up with such a wonderful story? What’s your creative process?

Hannah: Well, one day, while at a local chain bakery establishment, I looked at Alex and said, “You know what? We’re making a webcomic!” And then boom, it happened. Just kidding, it took a lot of work after that day. Luckily I’m a huge daydreamer, and I had a couple of ideas floating around in my head for stories.

Dragons have always been a love of mine, but more than that, I’ve always had the desire to tell a story about issues that were important to me, such as overcoming prejudice and biases. I think that, combined with the fact that Alex and I are huge nerds and share the same sense of humor, is what allowed Dragon Curse to come to be. Alex can tell you a little about how we create each episode!

Alex: Right, basically, Hannah writes every episode in advance, describing each panel and dialogue. I draw the transparent line art, and then airdrop them to Hannah’s iPad for her to color and word balloon! We’ve created quite the little system with our iPads; Procreate is all we use!

Drawing each character quickly was hard at first until I got to know them more. Now, I try to make my sketches as refined as possible so I can produce enough of them every week!

TG: Dragon Curse shares an important message about complicity. One elf sets off the curse that causes the dragons to shrink and become wingless, but the rest of the elves have done nothing about it afterward. Personally, I don’t see too much of that in epic/high fantasy. Fantasy racism (between non-human races) is common, but it’s mostly (if not usually) black and white. It’s violence and war without nuance. Complex or complicated angles and issues are rarely explored (please correct me if I’m wrong). So I’m impressed by the scenes where Mal rightfully points out the elves’ silence when the humans nearly killed off the dragons. Has that theme always been there from the start?

Hannah: Thank you so much for highlighting that! You put it into words perfectly. Yes, as you mentioned, oftentimes, racism/bigotry within the fantasy genre is… a little too simple for me. Rather than the conflict deriving from two groups hating each other for seemingly no reason, the conflict in Dragon Curse stems from a past injustice, and more importantly, the repercussions of a kingdom’s failure to act and protect those it put at risk.

And sure, life can be full of bigotry for the sake of bigotry, and there are plenty of comics, novels, and TV shows that highlight that. But in the real world, conflict is more complicated. Each side will always have its own justifications for its beliefs, which is why it’s important to analyze our feelings often to make sure we aren’t perpetuating harmful ideas.

Dragon Curse shows that it’s okay to recognize our own failures and shortcomings, while making a promise to do better in the future. Viktor, the Elf, and Mal, the Dragon, start out hating each other because of their own perceptions of the past, but throughout their journey, they reveal to each other the truth about what really took place, and all the complications behind it. I want Viktor and Mal to illustrate not only to the world of Dragon Curse, but to my readers, too, that the best way to solve problems is to try to understand each other.

Dragon Curse
Images courtesy of Hannah Camarato and Alex J. Vincent

Alex: Exactly. The curse was created by one elf who saw it necessary to protect humanity, but he failed to consider the deadly ramifications it would cause for the dragons. And now, his own kingdom is labeled the enemy of dragonkind. Mal does have a point: from the dragons’ perspective, the elves cursed them and then left them to die. And I think the elves have some reflecting to do if they truly want to create peace moving forward.

TG: What are your favorite movies, TV shows, books, etc.? Anything that inspired Dragon Curse?

Hannah: I have so many favorites, it’s hard to choose! I grew up reading and watching all the mainstream fantasy genre stories, like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, etc. But my favorite book series is Eragon, of course. I mean, it’s an epic story about DRAGONS! So that series has been dear to me ever since I was a child. As for comics, we love The Adventure Zone podcast and graphic novels by the McElroy Family.

I think The Adventure Zone inspired Dragon Curse in a major way, in terms of its sense of humor and world building. We love how diverse and inclusive the world of The Adventure Zone is, and I wanted Dragon Curse to have a similar vibe. While there is conflict in Dragon Curse, none of it has anything to do with sexual orientation or gender identity. My characters are diverse, but they will never suffer hardships because of it. That’s how the world should be!

Also, a good bit of our sense of humor comes from the McElroy Family’s shenanigans. They’re just hilarious.

Alex: Yeah, definitely. BUT! We can’t mention our sense of humor without bringing up The Office. Hannah and I are that couple who has watched The Office 1,000 times and could recite every episode from memory.

On the more fantastical subject, I love the same things Hannah mentioned, but some of my favorite fantasy narratives come from video games. I’m a huge fan of Skyrim and The Witcher. I like how The Witcher contains down to earth fantasy themes that you don’t often see in other realms of the genre, and it’s complex in terms of what is good and evil, kind of like we were talking about in Dragon Curse.

TG: Besides Dragon Curse, are you two working or planning on anything else?

Hannah: Although I’d love to start writing fantasy novels someday, currently, I’m just focused on Dragon Curse. But Alex on the other hand…

Alex: Oh, yes! I’m working on a graphic novel right now! It’s a sci-fi fantasy story that encapsulates another topic that Hannah and I value the importance of: mental health and coping with anxiety. It’s currently called The Rogue’s Gallery, so keep an eye out for it! As for when it will be done…I have no idea.

Dragon Curse
Images courtesy of Hannah Camarato and Alex J. Vincent

Dragon Curse is available to read on WebToon.

 

Webcomics that Hannah Recommends:

The Doctors are Out ( LGBT featured) by Blau

Castle Swimmer (LGBT featured) by Wendy Lian Martin

The Dragon Tutor (WebToon Canvas) by Mar_Mai

 

Comics that Alex Recommends:

Space Bandits by Mark Millar and Matteo Scalera (sci-fi action)

Oblivion Song by Robert Kirkman and Lorenzo De Felici (sci-fi-action)

 

For more great webcomic recommendations, check out our Wednesday Webcomics archives! You can also find more about Black creators and their works on The Geekiary here (Note: Alex J. Vincent is Black).

Author: Brahidaliz Martinez

Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. They’re a submissions editor for Uncanny Magazine. Their various areas of interest include intersectionality in apocalyptic and disaster films, Artificial Intelligence, writing for animation, YA SFF, and LGBTQ+ representation in children’s media.

Pronouns: he/they
Location: DC Metro area

Twitter: @brahidaliz


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