Interview with Sunny and Gloomy, Creators of RAINBOW!

By: Michele Kirichanskaya
Mar 6, 2024

Sunny Funkhouser Aka Sunny (they/them), is a neurodivergent, queer creator who has been writing ever since they were a teenager. Sunny is autistic with ADHD and likes to collect dolls, make reborn dolls, crochet, act, and sew. They love learning how to do things creatively. An avid table-top gamer, Sunny is a big fan of Dungeons & Dragons and Magic the Gathering. Musical theater is their other love aside from writing and Gloomy. They’re also an ENFP for people that like that sort of thing.

Angel Aka Gloomy has been making comics since they were 10, starting with a lovingly crafted Sailor Moon rip-off. Despite the soft magical girl influence in their work, their favorite genre is horror. Besides drawing, Gloomy loves to bake and garden (in theory, if they could only keep things alive), as well as collect merchandise from whatever is currently suiting their fancy, typically cutesy things like Ghibli or Sanrio. Opposite Sunny, they’re as introverted as they come, but consider themselves friendly anyway. They’re also obsessed with bagels.

CW: Brief discussion of post traumatic stress disorder and maladaptive daydreaming.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourselves?

Angel: I tend to keep to myself most of the time– it can be difficult sometimes to get me out of the house and away from drawing. When I’m not drawing either professionally or for personal pleasure, I’m usually playing gamecube-era games, watching horror movies, reading webcomics or baking.

Sunny: I’m the reason Angel gets out of the house. I’m a nonbinary writer, and I love to be constantly doing things. I love theater and learning how to do things myself. I love to sew and crochet. I enjoy spending time with people. I like going to restaurants and amusement parks, and just playing Jackbox with my friends. I work at a special needs elementary school, so I’m always busy running around with the kids. I only really sit still to write and to binge shows with Angel. I’d never be able to work an office job.

What can you tell us about your debut graphic novel, Rainbow!? What was the inspiration for this story?

Angel: When we first made RAINBOW! when I was about 14, there were a lot of boys-love type comics getting popular on the webcomic hosting sites I visited, but almost no comics about girls to match them, and what little there was were usually sexualized. We wanted to see something that reflected ourselves more (at least, who we were at the time anyway), and so, RAINBOW! started. The characters were even originally based a bit on us, though I wouldn’t compare myself at all to Mimi anymore!

Sunny: RAINBOW! started as a way to explore our queer identities we were both just figuring out. Over time, RAINBOW! became a way for me to tell a story about a girl like me (though I wouldn’t compare myself as much to Boo now) finding her place in the world and rejecting the influences in her life that were hurting her. It became something really special to me. Boo is a girl that tries so hard to be good that she doesn’t really consider herself and her happiness beyond fantasies that are a way to cope with the difficult parts of her life. She learns to stand up for her own happiness and to fill her life with people that help her grow.

Can you give us any trivia (that hasn’t already been given) about the characters from Rainbow!?

Angel: Way back when we created them, Boo’s fashion sense was meant to be heavily influenced by fairy kei, and Mimi’s by scene fashion. Boo has stayed quite similar, though toned down since she couldn’t realistically afford many fancy clothing pieces. Anything particularly cute or detailed in her outfits, she more than likely made or altered it herself. Mimi, on the other hand, completely changed her fashion sense since her inception. Though it happened slowly over time rather than all at once.

(Spoiler) From what I’ve seen of your comic, it appears that Rainbow! explores some elements concerning mental health, including depictions of maladaptive daydreaming. Could you discuss your decision to include this in the comic?

Sunny: While we never intended Boo to have any specific condition as far as her daydreaming is concerned, it has been very interesting to hear from people that can relate to Boo and her issues with daydreaming. Her daydreaming is meant as a coping mechanism to deal with her less than ideal life. Boo likely suffers from some form of post traumatic stress disorder at the very least, but her daydreaming represents her desire to escape from reality and enter a fantastical realm where she is something special and important because that isn’t how she feels in reality. She loses control of her coping mechanism when her real life problems become harder to ignore. A fantastical land that once brought her comfort starts to become corrupted. It takes healing her real life to heal her inner world.

As creatives, what drew you to the art of storytelling, particularly to comics/graphic novels?

Angel: When we met as teenagers, we both drew and told stories individually, each with a specific interest in anime, manga and comics. My first comic was at 10, and was essentially a Sailor Moon ripoff. Sunny would often write and was more skilled in telling a wider story, but they were less interested in drawing them, while I was more focused on drawing and better at smaller character details than full plotlines, so we decided to combine our strengths to make comics together instead.

Sunny: In a way, I think it’s magical the way Angel can take my words and paint such beautiful pictures with them. I see my own words in picture form and suddenly it isn’t something I created, it’s something we created, and it’s better for it. Angel adds so much in beautiful backgrounds and subtle expressions. It’s incredible the way they make me see RAINBOW! in a completely new way.

How would you each describe your creative process?

Angel: I’d say I can’t quite turn mine off, it’s always in the back of my mind when I look at just about anything, when I’m doing anything, it’s always churning in some way or another.

Sunny: I agree with that! My creative process is just a part of who I am and the way my mind works. If I’m listening to music, I’m imagining my stories. If I’m taking a walk, I’m stopping to jot down ideas in my phone notes app as they come to me. I like to write down every idea I have, but I don’t often look at what I write down. I see what stays with me while my ideas turn and turn like a rock in a tumbler getting smoother. I lose a lot of detail, but Angel has always been better at remembering details.

As a creative, who or what would you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration?

Angel: For me, Naoko Takeuchi and Osamu Tezuka’s art influenced me a lot growing up. Nowadays I really love the art of Leslie Hung and Rii Abrego.

Sunny: I grew up really loving to watch any anime I could get my hands on and it’s probably still obvious in what I write now how much influence anime had in my early development. Actually, the thing that has been most influential to me, Avatar the Last Airbender, was also inspired by anime.

Growing up, were there any stories in which you felt touched by/ or reflected in? Are there any like that now?

Angel: I’m sure I’ve mentioned Sailor Moon enough, but… Sailor Moon! Still one of my favorite things to this day. Also, Treasure Planet was one of my favorite movies as a kid and still is. I always found its story and protagonist to be more unique and relatable than a lot of others that I saw as a child. He quite influenced the protagonist of our next adventure, even.

Sunny: I have a bad memory, especially in the moment, but I’ve already mentioned Avatar the Last Airbender. What that show was able to do truly made me a better writer just from experiencing it. It was one of my earliest fandoms. I used to make amvs for it. I love how they were able to make something that was accessible to a young audience, but didn’t talk down to them. Avatar the Last Airbender told a story of trauma, loss, friendship, doing what you believe is right when no one else will. It is special and I aspire to make something so special. I hope RAINBOW! is also able to make certain conversations accessible to a teen audience in the same way without talking down to them.

What are some of your favorite elements of writing/illustrating? What do you consider some of the most frustrating and/or challenging?

Angel: I find laying a comic out to be the hardest part— just planning out the panels, where the speech bubbles will fall, etc. It can make starting an episode difficult sometimes, but it’s all smooth sailing for me once I’ve finished sketching. My favorite things to do is probably coloring and designing outfits to suit each character’s different fashion senses.

Sunny: I tend to struggle with the finer details. Some people have to take a lot out of their first drafts, but I have to add a lot in. I start out with laying out the critical parts of the story. Angel often tells me to flesh out things I gloss over so they will be easier to convert to comic form. My favorite thing is to put together the plot like it’s a mystery to be solved or a giant puzzle. I love to sort out how it all fits together into a meaningful story.

Aside from your work, what are some things you would like readers to know about you?

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet but that you wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?

Sunny: I base a lot of my work on my own experiences, but usually by taking just enough of the real experience to make what I write more real, so I can make a lot of experiences work for a lot of different scenarios. If someone were to ask me if RAINBOW! is based on my life, in a way it is. Anyone that feels seen by RAINBOW! know you aren’t alone!

What advice might you have to give for other creatives?

Angel: Whatever art you want to create, start it! Planning is necessary of course, and it’s good to have a solid path laid in front of you to start with, but all of the planning in the world will be no help if you are always waiting to start because you think you aren’t ready, or you aren’t good enough. The best way to learn is to get experience!

Sunny: Always remember the reason you create. Never lose sight of the childhood wonder that causes you to pick up your creative tool of choice. I started writing because I wanted to read what I wrote. I wanted to create for me, and soon after I met Angel and wanted to create for them too. I might not be as far along with my writing if it weren’t for Angel reading my writing over and over and begging me to write more. I felt so motivated. If possible, find yourself an Angel. If you can’t, just write for you. Never lose sight of the initial spark that made you want to write in the first place. Childlike wonder is so important.

Any specific advice for those hoping to make their one graphic novel one day?

Angel: Start a webcomic! I’d suggest starting with a shorter one-shot to get an understanding of your own process, what parts you like best, what parts you struggle with, how much time you need, etc. It might be hard, but try to resist starting with a project that is your “baby”— experiment with things that you won’t stress the need to be perfect and that you can be more malleable with.

Are there any other projects you are working on and at liberty to speak about?

Angel: We have plans to begin another webcomic after RAINBOW!, and similarly, it’s also a story we’ve had together since we were teenagers. It’s a ghost story, but not one that is particularly scary despite our affinity for horror. Rather it’s about friendship, love, loss, trauma, and perseverance, and has a larger cast and story compared to RAINBOW!.

Sunny: That story has been a challenge because of the large cast! I’ve always been better at telling small stories, so I can’t wait to spread my wings and finish a story to that scope. I’m so happy when I work on it, and I can’t wait for people to read it!

Finally, what LGBTQ+ books/comics would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

Angel: I’m a little behind on brand new ones, but I love The Prince and the Dressmaker!

Sunny: I am a fan of The Witch Boy series by Molly Ostertag. I own those books! Love them!

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