Lauren Schmidt, the creator of the WebToon Original Yuna & Kawachan, shares her creative process and what inspires her work.
I included Yuna & Kawachan — a post-apocalyptic webcomic about a girl named Yuna and her mascot friend Kawachan — on my first webcomic roundup. I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic narratives, although it takes more than just an apocalyptic scenario and consistent tension to fully engage me. If I don’t find myself invested in the characters, then why should I care if they get devoured by zombies, abducted by aliens, or die during a pandemic?
Yuna & Kawachan is one of the very few post-apocalyptic stories I’d recommend to someone who is reluctant about the genre. Lauren establishes her two main characters and sets the stakes right from the first episode. I find myself caring about what happens to Yuna, Kawachan, and the other characters. The storytelling from start to end never fails to impress me. There’s even a major plot twist that I didn’t see coming the first time around, even though Lauren cleverly provided hints beforehand.
And now that Yuna & Kawachan has ended, I’m excited to have Lauren Schmidt here to share her ideas and process from her unforgettable webcomic.
The Geekiary: Thank you so much for taking the time to be here. Let’s start by introducing yourself!
Lauren Schmidt: Thank you for having me! I’m an NYC-based freelance artist with experience in commercial animation, storyboarding, and now comics!
TG: Thank you for taking your readers on the ride that is Yuna & Kawachan. Thank you for sharing Yuna’s personal journey, thank you for the well developed plot and characterization. It’s an overall impressive and gorgeous post-apocalyptic story. I’m curious about how the story got to where it is now. What is your creative process?
Lauren: Yuna & Kawachan started as a little sketch I drew while I was in a creative funk in early 2018. I had written a short comic as a personal challenge the year before and kind of wanted to push myself to write a short story comic, and these characters seemed interesting enough to be the focus of that.
I thought I could just write a short, open-ended story that I could write other “episodes” for when I had the time. Kinda like these two weird characters blowing in, meeting a new character in this world, solving a problem, and then the two of them riding off into the sunset together. Something I could reasonably do on a busy freelance working schedule so I could have breaks and not worry too much about a complicated narrative.
But I really got attached to Yuna and Kawachan and a more linear story started to unfold and I shifted early on to where it is now. Somehow it worked out!
TG: For me, the lore about the demonic creatures and their origins fascinated me from the get-go, but really, what truly makes this story are the characters. This is especially important in apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic narratives. You can have zombies, aliens, a pandemic, or any other disaster scenario, but you have to make your audience care about the characters. You’ve done an excellent job there. All the characters are as complicated and complex, even the “non-human” ones. If someone unfamiliar with webcomics were to ask me for recommendations, Yuna & Kawachan would definitely be on my list. When working on earlier drafts, have there been any significant changes to the story or characters?
Lauren: Oh yeah, there have definitely been some changes with certain parts, especially between the “original version” and the version made for Webtoon Originals. When the comic was greenlit for Originals, I redrew and reworked a few things that I felt didn’t work out so well, like story pacing or characterizations. In some of my earliest drawings of Kawachan, there’s a lot of weird, almost goofy chaotic energy in the poses. Kawachan softened a lot between early sketches and what was put into the comic.
Junichiro is also a character that changed a bit. The original short story format had Yuna and Junichiro being polar opposites: Yuna is the clichéd plucky teen girl protagonist who avoids dealing with the situation they’re in by being cheerful. Junichiro is the “realist” and he’s almost cartoonishly mean but also has a good grasp on how screwed they all are.
Once the series got expanded I wanted to bring them both in the middle, Junichiro dropping the “me-myself-and-I” approach to survival and Yuna slowly coming to terms with her own fears and finding the strength to keep going despite that.
TG: What are your favorite TV shows, movies, webcomics, or other media? Anything that inspired Yuna & Kawachan?
Lauren: I think exploring friendship and platonic relationships is really fun and probably a result of all the television I grew up on where friendship saves the day in the end. It’s cheesy and found in a lot of stories but I feel like it can be done so well!
I also, weirdly enough, am not the biggest fan of the post-apocalyptic genre, or specifically the zombie genre. I think there are some really solid examples of good zombie stories (Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later, Telltale’s “Walking Dead” games, Train to Busan, etc.) but I also grew up during a time where I was a little bored of the genre. I think I had one too many conversations with teen boys bragging about how they’d “be so good” at surviving an apocalypse. When I started Yuna & Kawachan, it was sort of a challenge of how I would write a story in that genre.
TG: What are you planning/working on now that Yuna & Kawachan is done?
Lauren: I’m working on figuring that out. I’ve been brainstorming ideas and talking to a few people. Nothing is set in stone, but I might be able to pitch ideas in the near future. Whatever happens happens! I do really like telling stories so I’d love to have that creative outlet again but I’m also giving myself some room to rest a little after Yuna & Kawachan.
Webcomics that Lauren Schmidt Recommends:
For more great webcomic recommendations, check out our Wednesday Webcomics archives!
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.
Location: DC Metro area
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