This week’s webcomic is unlike any of the ones I have featured previously. It’s dark, gritty, and definitely for mature audiences only. Before you read any further, let me reiterate, this comic has graphic depictions of violence and sex; if that’s not your thing, take note — this is at least rated R. Now that I have officially warned you, know that I didn’t say that to scare you off, but it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. If you’ll excuse the pun, what captivated me the most about CAPTive was not the graphic nature, but rather the story.
CAPTive begins with John, the main character, committing suicide. All in all, not what one usually expects, which I also liked. The story then follows with segments from John’s life, and presumably what led up to the murder/suicide that happens in the first couple of pages. This psychology major just can’t wait to see how Mr. Severt handles the mental illness aspect, and I also can’t help but be intrigued to find out what is going on with the rest of the Parker family, as there seem to be some deep-seated issues there. I think that if you like a good psychological story, and aren’t squeamish, you should definitely check out CAPTive. Read on as the comic’s creator, Steven Severt, and I discuss CAPTive.
Kelly Melcher: Would you mind first introducing yourself?
Steven Severt: Well, my name is Steven Severt and I’m 24 years old. I live in Celina, Ohio with my wife, Amanda, and my two beautiful daughters, Morgan and Melanie. I work as an “equipment staff” for a major Honda supplier, Celina Aluminum Precision Technology, or CAPT (hence the capitalization in my comic). I don’t particularly like doing maintenance work, but I’ve been with CAPT since I left high school. I’m actually much more interested in art and criminal justice. I’ve bounced around taking online classes for criminal justice here and there, but can’t seem to get the time to get my required credits and degree. I considered art school (Joe Kubert’s in New Jersey actually) when I left high school, but it just wasn’t in the cards. I needed money, a place to live and insurance… so it was off to the plant.
Anyway, I pretty much gave up the things I enjoyed doing as I became an adult and instead got married, bought a house, and had some kids… I thought that was what people were supposed to do when they grew up. Several years later I realized that a situation like that is hopeless and that I needed to get back into doing the things I enjoy doing. So here I am restarting Rival, working on my comic and articles for the site, and still pursuing a career in criminal justice, not knowing whether or not life will ever take me down that path. Matter of fact, I recently interviewed with the U.S. Border Patrol and am currently trying to transfer to Wright State, which is a local school, to finish my degree, but I find myself wondering these days if that would get in the way of Rival and what I have going on there.
KM: Could you tell me a little more about Rival Comics?
SS: I started Rival Comics back in 2003 with some of my friends while I was still in high school. We had no idea what we were doing back then and had never launched a webcomic before, and hosting sites weren’t nearly as plentiful as they are now. My friends and I loved writing and drawing for comics, but had no idea how to get them online and decided to launch our website, which was rivalcomics.com at the time. Rival took off in ways that we had never imagined at the time (partly thanks to wonderful webdesign and promotion from Atlas Image, a then up-and-coming web design firm). We were getting attention from artists and writers, both professional and amateur, from all over. Within a short amount of time we started publishing other people’s webcomics as well as the ones we were making in house. Life was good. Sadly, we couldn’t keep up with the hype we had built because we were still amateurs ourselves, and since we were all fresh out of high school, most of the people involved wanted to go off to college, military, or wanted to start families. Naturally, the site fell apart.
I was also working full time and starting a family of my own and I let the site disappear. I thought that I’d never make a comic again, but within the last year I had the urge to get back into the game. I could not get the thought out of my head, so I started writing for a comic called Rogue Faction, which I actually started producing (the first two pages are still available on Drunk Duck). I realized a lot has changed since my last venture into webcomics, and that hosting sites were available everywhere and that anyone with a webcomic, regardless of its quality, could have it online in a matter of minutes. This only amplified my want to get the Rival site back online. I always wanted to be a publisher, not just a host, with comics that were actually worth reading. With the urge to relaunch Rival growing more and more everyday, I continued writing for RF, when a new idea popped into my head for a story based loosely around my own life. This story eventually became CAPTive, and the story that I knew I would use to relaunch the Rival site. I wrote an article that explains exactly how the idea of CAPTive came about which might interest you. It’s called “The Story Behind the Story” and is available here.
I suppose the rest is history. I relaunched the site and started building a whole new following after several years out of the webcomic game (even though I was broke and had no idea how to build a site… thank you WordPress!). My goals are the same as they ever were, but I am probably more determined than ever after seeing what has happened to webcomics since I left the scene. Rival Comics seeks to change how we view webcomics and online comic hosting by publishing high quality, regularly-updated titles for free online as well as in print (CAPTive volume 1 will actually have its first print run in another month or so). We also seek to build a strong community with our social network that is available on the site and through our Facebook page and other affiliations. Above entertaining and setting a standard for quality, we want to build a sense of belonging that is devoid on all the hosting sites that host thousands of comics from any genre or level of quality.
KM: Who do you think your target audience is for CAPTive?
SS: Target audience? Ha, anyone that takes the time to read my comic is welcome, but I think I mainly make it for my own enjoyment… it’s just an added bonus if anyone else enjoys it too. Obviously, CAPTive is not for younger readers. There are no tight-clad super-heroes or talking furry animal people, so parents might want to take note not to let their little ones flip through the pages of my comic. When I came up with the idea for CAPTive, I did so as a disgruntled, underpaid factory worker who was totally upset with how life was turning out and didn’t quite know what to do about it. CAPTive is probably really for those like me who feel they are in a place in life that they just don’t belong. I tried to make the main character easy to relate to, for a homicidal, suicidal schizophrenic. An everyday guy with an everyday name, wife, job, etc. I think that others that have hit that mediocre spot in life and just sit back and think “is this it?… this is what life’s really about??” are the ones that are going to enjoy reading CAPTive. Oh, and people that work at CAPT, naturally.
KM: You have a character with a mental disorder. What kind of research did you do beforehand?
SS: Figuring out John’s mental disorder was an interesting process. You see, I have a condition called psoriasis, which is in no way comparable to John’s condition, but it’s definitely made life harder. It’s uncomfortable and embarrassing, and it has cost me a fortune to treat over the years. Since everything in CAPTive is loosely based on something in my life, I wanted to incorporate that into the story, only heavily exaggerated to make the plight have more impact and to make the character and his struggles more interesting. I also needed a genetic disorder that was incurable and that would have impacted John from birth, which is very important to the storyline, but I really can’t spill the beans on all that right now. It also needed to be something that would cause a plethora of health problems so that I could highlight the amount of money being paid for treatment and the aggravation that comes from the failure of those treatments to produce results.
So far in the story you’ve learned that John has schizophrenia and you see him pop pills or have hallucinations on occasion. You also see John’s father struggling with John’s medical bills in the beginning of CAPTive #5. What most readers didn’t know until CAPTive #5 is that the schizophrenia is only a byproduct of his illness, Digeorge Syndrome, which can cause all sorts of problems throughout the body and mind. When I started the story, I had no idea what illness to give John, and I definitely had no idea what Digeorge Syndrome was, but I spent countless hours researching genetic diseases online (thank God for Google) until I found this disease, which fit perfectly with the story and will continue to do so in the future. There’s still a lot of this story that will be revealed that revolves around his condition.
KM: What is your long-term goal for CAPTive?
SS: I sat down and asked myself the same question recently. When it started, it was meant to be a series of short stories that I would work on between chapters of Rogue Faction, another comic I was working on at the time. I never intended it to be a huge project like it is now, and I’m still figuring out how far I want to take it. After CAPTive #5 is finished, CAPTive will be going in print, and be on sale locally as well as online, which is something I never thought I’d do with this story. I plan on releasing a new volume every time I have five short stories done, but I’m not entirely sure on how many volumes I will release. I’m having a lot of fun with it, and still have plenty of content to cover, but I would imagine I will feel like these characters stories are finished after the third volume. I definitely do not plan on running this webcomic forever… there’s only so much bad stuff you can make happen to one group of people.
KM: How would you best describe your artistic and writing style?
SS: Terrible. I’m not a writer by trade and ended up writing this story simply because it was personal to me. Oh, and because all of the people that used to write for Rival when it started in ’03 are long gone. Drawing is one of my biggest passions and always has been, but I’m not quite sure how to describe the style. You see, when I was a kid I read a lot of comics… mainly for the art. I used to try to emulate art from the Kubert brothers or Joe Madureira, but I couldn’t ever pull it off. I suppose my art style could be defined as a child’s frustrated realization that he will never be a famous comic artist because he simply doesn’t have the skills, but still makes comics anyway because it’s fun.
KM: At Fandomania we like to know: What are you a fan of?
SS: Oh, I’m a big-time nerd. I love classic super-heroes like Batman, Spider-man, the X-Men and Daredevil. I’m also huge into Star Wars (the original trilogy). LOTR is also almost as excellent as Star Wars, and I’m a total James Bond nut.