Doan Exhibition Opening at Access Space, 9th June 2006

An Interview With Harriet Lowe

A/S: So far you've only seen "Doan" on screen at What did you think when you saw the prints?

HL: The prints turned out really well. I like this one ("Time is a life support system...") and that one ("Wow! Said Doan...") best. I think that a landscape format with two episodes on is the format that works really well.

A/S: We understand that the character "Doan" is based on a game made by "Square"...

HL: I applied for a playtesting job with Square recently - no bloody answer, though!

A/S: The game, Chrono Trigger, is well outdated now. Didn't it work on the Super Nintendo? Do you like the retro feel of those old games?

HL: I grew up with the Sega Megadrive, but then I started playing SNES when I got older.

A/S: And the SNES didn't even use CDs or floppies! There must have been a tiny amount of data in those games, hence the blocky low-res graphics.

HL: The problem with CDs is you can't drop then and stand on them, but you can with cartridges. Floppies are easy to dismantle. Anything that's possible to dismantle gets dismantled in my house.

A/S: Those games seem so primitive compared to today's games - no way could you get 3d in those days!

HL: You could get 3d games on a cartridge - I always enjoyed Landstalker which was in isometric 3d... which was really stupid for a platformer because you have to jump at stupid angles.

A/S: Do the pieces have titles?

HL: I don't have names or numbers for the pieces.

A/S: When did you start doing these kinds of drawing?

HL: I don't remember when I started making cartoons - I've always drawn things and written things since I was a child. I used to draw a comic called "Gandin Hraff" which was about a man who always got thrown out - he travelled around the world getting thrown out of places. Then I drew manga but I wasn't very good at that.

A/S: Lots of people seem quite confused by the pieces - in fact, I spoke with your mum who said that your cartoons were always a mystery to her. Does it matter to you that some people just don't get it?

HL: People who play games like Chrono Trigger will understand the pieces - and I'm not bothered if other people don't get it. Anyway, when I was young the last thing I wanted was for my mum to understand what I was writing!

A/S: Do you still have your early cartoons?

HL: Yes, they're all stored away somewhere. I was thinking of redoing Gannin Hraff.

A/S: So your cartoons feature "Doan" and "Doran" and you use both names for your email names sometimes. Why the different spelling?

HL: Doan and Doran are a bit like my personality - they are my alter egos. Doan and Doran are completely different personalities. You only see Doran on Phantasy Star related cartoons like PSOffline. Doan's more into Chrono Trigger things, and Spaced Out.

A/S: So Doan and Doran are aspects of you - but they're two different personalities. Do they ever meet in your cartoons? Could they ever meet?

HL: I have a place in my head where Doan and Doran meet and discuss what's going on - but I don't encourage it because they don't like each other very much. Doran says that Doan's stupid and doesn't get high enough grades. Doran's an ascetic - a bit like Raistlin in Dragonlance (except not evil). She thinks that to be a super-intelligent mage you have to be physically weak. Doan's kind of post-apocalyptic and slightly feral - she's fed up with Doran becasue she wouldn't last five minutes - Doan likes surviving things.

A/S: So sometimes you call "Doan" she - and you've established that she's your aler-ego. But sometime Doan appears as a little old man.

HL: It's a bit ambiguous what gender Doan is - sometime's he's an old man, sometimes she's female. The official story is that it doesn't matter in Doan's world because everything's irradiated. Doan's race is sterile... and there are only 19 of them. But they're so high level that they can't die.

A/S: Even in the face of a huge disaster? Are they completely invulnerable?

HL: They simply can't die - even in the face of a global apocalypse. If one did die then the others would simply go back in time and import another copy of that one - or their dad, or their grandad, or someone.

A/S: So what about Doran? Is Doran one of the 19?

HL: Doran's not one of them - she's in a completely different story line.

A/S: So what about Doan and Doran meeting? Would that be possible in your cartoons?

HL: They probably could meet in theory - but they live in different solar systems. Doran doesn't want to leave Algol. Doran can't travel in time like Doan can - but on Algol there's a strong narrative field, so she (Doran) can travel to any important event in history.

A/S: What sort of important events?

HL: The key events of history are the release of Phantasy Star 1, the realease of Phantasy Star 2, the release of Phantasy Star 3 and the release of Phantasy Star 4. Once she's there at those moments then she can move forward in time to interact with all the end-of-level bosses, who are the main characters in "Phantasy Star Offline".

A/S: Okay, so we think we understand the differences between "Doan" in the "Doan" comic strip (Chrono Trigger Doan) and Doran... but what's the connection between "Chrono Trigger Doan" and the "Doan" character in "Spaced Out"?

HL: Doan in Spaced Out is much younger than Doan in "Doan" - which is the Chrono Trigger world. Doan in Spaced Out is essentially me - but she's Chrono Trigger Doan as well. I guess that Doan in Spaced Out could be Doan in younger years. I guess maybe they could only meet through time travel - probably one is just the other one earlier on.

A/S: What about the other 18 members of Doan's race?

HL: I've given stories to two of Doan's race. One of them is the Operator of The Information Centre... and two more are the two stupid guys in blue suits. Another one is the child who is really civilised, but that everyone's trying to teach to be feral.

A/S: What's an Arris Dome?

HL: The Arris Dome is an apocalypse-proof dome that all of Doan's race live in. It's where they survived the apocalypse.

A/S: Who is Alphador?

HL: Alfador is a purple cat who is evil and runs a huge corporation - who aren't Microsoft... honest! Alfador isn't really conspiring against Doan - because there isn't really that much of a a coherent plot.

A/S: What is Lavos?

HL: Lavos is some kind of alien that burrowed into the planet's surface some time ago, and in 1999 he emerges on the surface and causes the apocalypse. We're now living in post-apocalyptic times. But most people haven't noticed because the apocalypse happened on a different planet, Guardia. Anyway, Access Space would easily survive the apocalypse - you know about the fallout shelter in the basement?

A/S: We just noticed the huge drain outside. It'd make a pretty substantial shelter - even if it is a bit smelly... Is there a flexible relationship between the characters, their worlds, and the real world?

HL: Sometimes the characters realise that they are in a web comic - and they're vaguely aware that they're derived from a video game created by the godlike Square. Sometimes they step out into the real world - like when they get onto the Desktop of my Mac. When my monitor failed in the real world that affected the characters - they realised that something was wrong with the colours, and they got access to the monitor to try to correct it.

A/S: So what are you working on now?

HL: Right now I'm working on more "Doan" episodes - but maybe more "Spaced Out" ones, too. But similar things tend to happen in Doan and Spaced Out, so it's hard concentrate on them both at once. It would really help me now if more people contributed characters to Spaced Out. I'd like more sprites and plot idea suggestions - whether they're from Access Spacers or anyone else.

A/S: Recently lots of people have been playing Runescape in Access Space - and you have a Runescape character. Runescape characters are small sprites similar to Spaced Out sprites - do you think that Runescape might influence Spaced Out?

HL: I suspect that Runescape is starting to influence Spaced Out - it might be a source of plot ideas. But there isn't that much Roleplay on Runescape - people are just fighting and making things. It'd be nice to have a diary or blog on "Runespacers" that says what people's characters are doing. Or run a Runescape roleplay server. It'd be fun if people roleplayed their Runescape characters properly, with a separate, developed personality.

A/S: So who is "Tehexile"? You use that name in your email addresses sometimes...

HL: Tehexile is "The Exile" spelt wrong. I always have been "The Exile". I consider myself to be an exile from roleplay worlds. I don't want to be on this planet, I'd rather be in the post-apocalyptic world of Doan.

A/S: Even in a post-apolcalyptic world?

HL: It's a post-apocalyptic Utopia - when they go back in time to the period before the apocalypse, they find it overcrowded and controlled by big corporations. In one episode characters from a hall of residence are transported to Doan's home - they say, "Compared to student accomodation this Arris Dome is Utopia". In "Doan" I satirise things I don't like - I use it to take out my grudges. I don't like student accomodation.

A/S: So what's your final word to people who don't get it?

HL: Read it again and if you still don't get it then play the game. In fact, play any game. I'm into lots of roleplaying games - Chrono Trigger, Landstalker, Phantasy Star (any of the series), Fading Suns, Dungeons & Dragons - though I think I prefer "World of Darkness". And I should mention Edgewalkers - it's a new game that one of my freinds has made - check out In fact everyone should have a go at roleplaying games. Reality is like a prison and it'll just make you stay there if you let it.