Textured surfaces are like image soup to me. No matter where I flick my gaze the patterns twist and evolve into beings suspended in time. If I focus long enough I see faces in just about everything. It is like a dimension that opens to reveal bizarre comic pages drawn by some wistful, otherworldly spirit. A gorilla on the rampage, an orc in full battle gear or even a pleasant peasant may be found hidden among the random lines on a marbled tile bathroom floor or in the organic pattern of the bark of a eucalyptus tree.

At first this was a fearful experience. When the light would dim and the hazy shadows of my bedroom would begin to hum, the haunting, thick atmosphere would make me dread reality. And shutting my eyes was no relief as the blackness behind my lids was just as rich. Swirling, kaleidoscopic sand merged, faded and grew into ephemeral flash animated creatures. Surely when you too close your eyes and look into the darkness you also witness an impermanent churning of patchy space?

Nowadays, when I observe these apparitions, fear does not even come into it. More, there is a fascination. Sometimes I draw inspiration from these illusions and create characters. But turning an image into a substantial character takes so much more effort. The characters in ZzzonkedOut have evolved over time and have gradually become their own people who, at times, speak to me about their desires. “I wouldn’t do that!” one shouts at me as my writing nosedives into superficiality, “and can you please, please change the colour of my sneakers? Ughh. You have no fashion sense.” It is very exciting as a writer when the choices of the characters dictate the storyline.

The story was also influenced by its design. I wanted this comic to have a strong Australian essence with real characters that leave a pleasant burn in the hearts of my readers. For this reason you will see in ZzzonkedOut characters based on Australian animals. Some of the characters’ attitudes and idiosyncrasies formed as a result of researching habits of various Australian fauna. However, using animals also brought problems to the story. Early on I had to find a good reason for employing anthropomorphism. Not only that, but I wanted to retain a human element, which meant I needed to discover the purpose behind human and animal coexistence. My own experience of the power of lucid dreams led me to an investigation of shamanic dream yoga which answered this question. And so I have come to understand the importance that animal spirits play in facilitating a sustained presence in the collective lucid dream that is the Dreamstream.

As you become familiar with the characters, they are fed back into the subconscious and become phantasms swimming in the darkness waiting to emerge once again from some random decoration.