“I’ve been a geek, pretty much since I was born,” says St. John’s native Christo Stassis with a laugh.
Stassis just might become the coolest of the geeks once his new app for iPhone and iPad is made available, hopefully later this year.
Stassis is creating a 3D comic book for Mac devices called “Dragon 6,” inspired by Greek mythology, his own travels in Japan and an old French poster.
“Growing up, Greek mythology was my bedtime stories, and I’ve always been into Japanese animation,” said Stassis, a first-generation Greek-Canadian.
Having graduated from College of the North Atlantic’s digital animation program, Stassis said he got the idea to create the comic book after studying Swiss painter Theophile Steinlen’s 1896 poster, “La tournee du chat noir.” He decided he’d like to design a dragon in the same style and as he was drawing it, ideas about the character came to him.
One day, he sat down and turned the character sketch into a two-page story, which then expanded into a comic book.
Set in an ancient fantasy world, “Dragon 6” explores the classic theme of good versus evil.
“In my story world, dragons are protectors,” Stassis explained.
“There was a goddess who created these six dragons. People looked at these protectors as angels, so in my world, angels and dragons are the same thing. They’re based on the various elements — earth, fire, air, water, void and steel — and in this world, dragons controlled all nature, so if they combined their powers, they’d have the ability to change the world.
“As in most stories, you need a villain, and in my story the villain is pure evil, personified. If it controlled the dragons, if it captured them, it could remake the world in its own image, an image of good and evil.”
Stassis, who says he’s aways enjoyed comic and pop-up books, decided to make “Dragon 6” 3D, and then, after fooling around with his iPhone, decided it would work perfectly as an iPhone and iPad app.
The project is still in the early stages, although Stassis has his layouts, storyboards and characters organized. The next steps, he said, involve realizing the designs and fleshing out the fantasy world.
Earlier this year, Stassis received a professional project grant of $1,200 from the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council for the project, which he used, mostly, to purchase the needed software.
Through his day job as design lead at GRI Simulations Inc. — a company which makes training simulators for remote operated vehicle pilots — Stassis is used to working with animation software. Last month he went to the Game Developers Conference in San Fransisco for his work, learning about new technologies in the animation field, things he can use both in his career and with his comic book project.
After drawing his images on paper, Stassis uses standard art programs like Photoshop to create “Dragon 6.”
“I try to use a combination of 3D art with 2D hand-drawn art and pictures I’ve taken of the world to do my backgrounds,” he explained.
“I take all the images and I just put them together in Photoshop and then I can move everything around on the screen into a proper layout. The great thing about the computer is once I put it there, if I don’t like how something fits, I can move it.”
Stassis plans to make the book interactive — for example, touching a dragon on the screen might make its wings beat, or readers might be able to physically move a dragon through the forest to get to the next chapter.
He hopes to have “Dragon 6” completed by late November or early December, and will release it as a free app, in stages at first. Once he gets feedback from users and builds it into the larger, finished project, he plans to charge for the entire compilation.
“As long as I’m registered as an app builder for Apple, I can send the completed app to them,” Stassis explained.
“They’ll decide if it’s appropriate and if it’s deemed appropriate, they’ll release it into the app store so that anyone can access it.”
Stassis’ target audience, he said, is people in their late teens and early 20s, people who like role-playing games and those who enjoy fantasy novels.
“People like myself,” he said, chuckling. “Cool geeks.”
Stassis said although he’s concentrating on “Dragon 6” for the time being, he’s already got notes made for future projects, once it’s completed.