Established on April 19, 2015, MAGE Magazine has had an impressive inaugural year. Having been nominated for 3 Avi Choice awards, the creative team of Ozymandius King, Andressa DePrims, Sizzelle and Othella have had their work featured in several Second Life art exhibitions and, with video playlists on Google Plus, Aview TV and SL Artist, all one has to do is Google the words “MAGE Magazine” to see these artists have made an impression both in and out of Second Life.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to interview four members of the creative team. Although I was already familiar Ozymandius and Andressa from previous interviews this would be the first time I would have a chance to chat with senior members Othella and Sizzelle, whose incites I found very illuminating.
Dean : Could you tell me about the origins of MAGE Magazine?
Othella: During my first two months in Second Life I discovered several art galleries, magazines, newspapers and photo contests but there wasn’t really a community of artists in the same way that Builder’s Brewery is a community of builders. This is why I co-founded and began promoting MAGE Magazine as a way of creating a community for Second Life artists who could help and inspire each other to be creative.
Sizzelle : At first I thought SL was just a place to explore and socialize. I hosted nightclub events and shopped till I dropped but then I got into snapshot competitions. That’s when I first saw one of Othella’s snaps. I gave her a kudos, she replied by giving me a kudos and we’ve been tight ever since.
Ozymandius : Othella posted in the SL forum that she was looking for artists to help produce a magazine. I contacted her but she hadn’t settled on a format and was still working for other SL magazines that focused on art and fashion. I didn’t really want to produce yet another fashion magazine and I think Othella felt the same way. As a kid I collected comic books but I out grew them in high school and had come to think of comics as a juvenile medium but, when I saw the Aldo the Alien comic strip Othella produced for another publication, I began to think that we could create something that was similar to Heavy Metal or MAD Magazine.
Othella : I like to read Peanuts and Garfield comic strips although I'm hardly a comic book collector per se. Then, when Oz told me about Heavy Metal magazine, I had to do some research and was surprised by the explicit sexual content. At first I was reluctant to go in that direction.
Sizzelle : I was pumped to do an adult comic. So many costumes in Second Life are manufactured so the avis can show off their bits and most of the sims I encountered in my first week were either sex dungeons or strip clubs so it made sense to do something sexy.
Andressa : I think the anonymity of Second Life and the ability to make your avatar look like anything you want encourages SL Residents to engage in sexual role play and I thought it would be interesting to explore this through the stories we tell. At the same time Othella’s done a good job in compelling us to tell interesting stories instead of just relying on sexual and violent images to get attention. Her integrity as a writer and an artist set the tone for what we’ve done and she really is an inspiring workaholic who takes the time to write character biographies and create a history for the world in which our stories take place. The Chronicle of Aria was something I was very proud to be a part of and I think a weaker writer would have relied on stereotypes when telling a story about a woman who lives in Islamic Spain. I also like the sense of humour that prevails in our stories, especially the Aldo the Alien vignettes.
Ozymandius : When I first recommended Heavy Metal magazine as a reference for what we could do, it wasn’t so much that I wanted to produce fetish fantasy stories but I wanted to see if there would be any limitations. I didn’t want the group’s creativity to be stifled by an attempt to maintain a PG rating.
Andressa : Oz is probably the most ambitious when it comes to story ideas. But it isn’t an issue of morality that limits us as much as understanding the technical side of Second Life. At first we searched for places to shoot our scenes and wrote our stories based on the locations we discovered so the story ideas were limited to what we could produce visually. But now we know how to modify clothes, and build our own sets so from a creative point of view we have more options.
Dean : I noticed that you all are relatively new to Second Life. Is this a coincidence?
Othella : I worked with people who have been in Second Life for several years and encouraged them to get involved with the creative team, but they seem to get impatient working with noobs and don’t really take what we’re doing seriously. Having said this I should acknowledge there have been several older SL residents who help with advice and donations but, considering the founding members were less than a year into SL when MAGE Magazine was established, it’s understandable that older residents are skeptical of our abilities.
Sizzelle : Most of our contributors tend to be new to SL probably because we’re new. My experience with older residents is that they already have a routine and don’t like to wander far from their Second Life homes. Even when they role play, they have very rigid rules of engagement. To be truly creative, you have to be willing to think outside of the box.
Andressa : For me, MAGE Magazine is like going to an art school. It’s a group in which I learn and experiment. I think this concept appeals more to newer SL residents.
Ozymandius : To answer your question, I don’t think it was a coincidence. I think it was survival instinct that brought the four of us together to seek safety and strength in numbers.
Dean : Could you tell me about the benefits of working as a group as opposed to working as individuals?
Sizzelle : We learn faster working as a group. No one wants to be the weak link and even though we help each other there’s always a friendly competition each month to see who gets the cover.
Othella : We usually vote to decide what images to use and what story lines to follow but I think we’ve also developed a team chemistry over the past year that makes the whole process very smooth.
Ozymandius : Working as an individual is sort of like being in limbo and it’s difficult to know if your ideas make sense or if your work is achieving the desired psychological and emotional effect. Working with a group you have instant feedback.
Andressa : It’s more fun working with a group and makes networking a lot easier. Oz had an exhibition with the Windlight Art Gallery and recommended I talk to the owner John about getting my own gallery space which resulted in my exhibition at the Creations Gallery. It’s very helpful to have people who are supportive and encourage each other to be successful.
Dean : Unlike other SL magazines, MAGE seems to be more about story telling than just showcasing Second Life images. Could you tell our readers about the different stories featured in the magazine?
Othella : We’re still refining the format of the magazine but the four main sections are The Second Life Adventures of Aldo the Alien, The Saga of Lady Dom, Second Life Perspectives and A Note From the Editor.
Andressa : Aldo the Alien is a comedic satire from the point of view of an alien who lives among humans. He wants to be cool and wants a girlfriend and wants to be a movie star but because he’s a scary looking alien he ends up being judged on his looks. This is a section of the magazine I’m starting to get more involved with as a writer, mainly because it appeals to my sense of humour but also because seeing the world through Aldo’s eyes helps me to understand society from an objective point of view.
Ozymandius : The Saga of Lady Dom is an episodic Medieval fantasy epic. Every month we continue where the previous episode ended. Occasionally we depart from the main story to provide flashbacks such as the Chronicles of Aria and the Lady Dom Origins chapter. For me this is the most difficult but at the same time the most interesting section of the magazine because the characters have a lot of depth and the stories have many layers. Even though this is on the surface a medieval story we deal with issues such as the time traveller’s paradox, homosexuality in Medieval Islam, the development of government, laws and social norms and, in an amusing way, the pairing of Yayo the Minotaur and Mez the werewolf as two of the main characters allows us to explore different cultural values such as carnivore vs vegetarian, hunter vs gatherer, warrior vs pacifist.
Sizzelle : Second Life Perspectives is a section for anyone who wants to contribute images or pictorials to the magazine. I guess the best way to describe it is it’s a section for guest artists. So even though we’ve developed a pretty good rapport as a creative team, we welcome everyone in Second Life to get involved creatively with MAGE Magazine.
Othella : The last section, "A Note from the Editor” started as a way for me to post announcements for our readers but with social media being a much more practical way of making announcements we decided to turn this section into a self referential comedy. Essentially the stories revolve around the creative team getting involved in comedic mini adventures while going about the business of producing a monthly magazine.
Dean : In your press release you stated that MAGE Magazine has been displayed at several Second Life art galleries and sandboxes. Where can people go to find these exhibits?
Othella : Unfortunately most of the exhibits featuring the work of the MAGE Magazine creative team have finished their run, but currently we have a slideshow presentation of MAGE magazine and a group joiner at the entrance of the Shiromani Sandbox. Previously we had exhibitions at the Builder’s Brewery Sandbox as part of the Relay for Life silent auction and Ozymandius had exhibitions with the Windlight Art Gallery, the Sisse Singh’s Art Gallery and the Horus Art Gallery in which copies of the magazine were on display as part of his exhibition. In the past we used a 3D book format to distribute the magazine in the virtual world of Second Life but we changed our format to a slideshow as this seems to be more user friendly. The way the slideshow works is that you drag the item from your inventory and rez on the ground to view. We also have copies of our last seven issues on you tube as part of our playlist. If you permit me a moment I would like to thank Secret Rage and LaPiscean for uploading our videos to Aview TV and SL Artist and I would also like to thank Chris Caldwell, Ian Thomson and Cristobal Bolivar for posting notices for MAGE Magazine on Facebook and Google Plus.
Dean : When working as a group do you find that there are times when you suffer from having "too many cooks in the kitchen” and, as individuals, is you’re creativity limited by the need for co-operation?
Othella : Usually we try to avoid this by designating someone to be the director of a particular project. Also, because we’ve been working together for over a year we find that there are certain styles that people possess that work better for certain stories. For example, Oz is good at manipulating the clouds through windlight settings for dramatic effect so story lines involving characters who can fly are usually given to him. Andressa is good at manipulating the windlight settings to create haze so anything that is dark or mysterious usually goes to Andressa. Sizzelle is good at using textures and colors to create a theme. She does most of the shopping and modifying to help create sets, costumes and props.
Andressa : We avoid stepping on each other’s toes by focusing on different aspects of the production. Oz has an anypose HUD that allows him to control multiple avatars, which means he generally handles the action scenes. Othella and I do most of the work when it comes to creating sets and Sizzelle is constantly sending us links to cool looking clothes, costumes, hair and props that she finds in the marketplace. Occasionally there are times when two people end up doing the same job but as far as there being “too many cooks in the kitchen” if you can put your ego aside working with people who have a lot of ideas to offer is a blessing.
Ozymandius : Each of us has their own favourite storyline and, while there is a lot of overlap, once a script is complete it’s the director, the person who is photographing the backgrounds, who calls the shots. In situations when I’m directing a scene, I try to determine before hand the "look”. Is it glossy or grungy? is it bright or dark? What are the dominant colours? Do I want the background to be cluttered or empty? Those are the questions I ask myself, then I chat with Sizzelle, who normally handles props and wardrobe, before she acquires items that complement the overall design. Even though Andressa and Othella are usually the ones who build the sets, it’s essential that Siz and I have a good understanding, because it’s Siz who will find the textures that Andressa and Othella will use to build the backgrounds. While the focus of MAGE Magazine is on photography, there’s a lot that goes into creating an image and we’re very fortunate to have someone like Sizzelle who has a talent for finding the best textures, clothes and props that SL has to offer.
Sizzelle : Othella downplays her role as the Editor but she is an excellent manager and organizer. She’s the reason why we play so well together.
Dean : After an impressive first year, three Avi Choice nominations among your accolades, how do you hope to improve in 2016?
Ozymandius : The accolades are nice and I appreciate the nomination but for me it’s about improving as an artist and as a writer. Every issue we release I want the images and stories to improve and, what I like about working with Andressa, Othella and Siz, is that they are neither lazy nor complaisant. I admire people who take pride in their work.
Sizzelle : I’m stunned by what we’ve done in the past year. I just thought the magazine would be a cool thing to do, so all I can say is I hope for more of the same :)
Andressa : I think the more time we spend together the better quality work we will produce. Oz once said “Great artists are like fine wine, they improve with age.” I hope that’s true.
Othella : Ironically the time required to produce a monthly magazine and machinima videos sometimes distracts me from my original goal, which was to create a community for Second Life artists. It’s good that we have a very compatible creative team and Second Life Perspectives does offer other Second Life artists with a way to participate and gain exposure through MAGE Magazine. But I would like to see our inworld group grow and invite anyone who reads this to send me a notecard and find out more about how you can be involved with MAGE Magazine.
Images produced by Sizzelle, Andressa DePrims, Ozymandius King and 0THELLA courtesy of MAGE Magazine