Archive for the ‘Graphic Novel’ Category

Image courtesy of Christine Kozol

This past Saturday, I had the honor of moderating the panel for Womanthology at c2e2 in Chicago with a bunch of awesome women. The program listed 7 of us: me (you know…Jessica Daniel), Candice Reilly, Lauren Burke, Raven Moore, Stephanie Hans, Katie Shanahan & Jean Kang. Unfortunately, Stephanie couldn’t make it. Some of our Chicago food did not agree with her (I know it wasn’t the pizza. In fact, that might have cured her.) and she was greatly missed, but at the last minute, we had two additions to the panel that made it that much more awesome…Gail Simone and Janet Lee joined us. Surprise panelists much to the delight of our modest yet awesome crowd.

This was my first time moderating a panel. Heck, this was my first time public speaking, but I managed to pull it off with only a minor twinge of nervousness playing out in my voice and a few missed opportunities when it came to question time. A few of us were quite a bit nervous, but as the panel went on, we all started to loosen up a bit and our excitement over the project and what it has done for girls and women really showed. We discussed our work on Womanthology, why it was important, why we got involved and how it has helped us in terms of working in the comic industry. You can watch it all on YouTube…

The questions were overall great questions from the audience that really added to the discussion and led to further conversation after the panel about the direction of the industry and the desire for more women-centric comics. One of the things I found quite interesting was the discussion on creator owned comics and the uprising trend toward self-publishing. Besides discussing this at the panel, I had this conversation multiple times over the very long, tiring, crazy, fun weekend at C2E2. I do a lot of lurking about when it comes to this topic as a writer. As I get more and more work out there and bit by bit, more recognition, it is something I research extensively. I am really not sure what I will do when it comes time to get Nyctalopia to the masses, but I do know that retaining rights to my own work is important.

If there is one thing this project has done for me, it is get me to come out of my shell more, step back from the keyboard every once in a while and get out and actually meet some of these terrific women who all had a part to play in the massive tome of fantastic-ness that is Womanthology. As I continue to work toward my goals, I am learning more and more how important it is to have a network of not just people who might just click on a link you share and actually take the time to look at your stuff, but a network of people who you can consider friends and who will support you and share enthusiasm about each other’s projects. The comics community is really a great community of people who sincerely want to help each other succeed. If anyone has any thoughts about the panel or the topics we covered, I would love to hear them! I am still much to exhausted from the weekend to cover everything from C2E2, so in the next couple of days I will get at least one more post up about  Sunday-when I took my monsters with me and possibly one about networking on Friday.

“And so the hunt begins. Tonight we will feast, we will drink and we will celebrate as we await the beginning of the hunt. He rides out on his great steed, hunting the spirits who wander the earth, on these the darkest days of the year. We put up the tree for the benevolent spirits to hide in, out of the cold and safe from Wodan’s hunters. We burn our yule log to protect us from the evil spirits, those that would try to enter and harm us. When it ends, in 12 days time, we will feast again and celebrate the return of the light.”

Grandfather told this story every year, and every year, I listened and dreamed of meeting Wodan and joining him on his hunt. Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be a part of that hunt, not huddled inside, feasting and warm, laughing and telling stories. I waited for the feasting to end, for the mead to run dry and the elders to doze off and dream their muddled dreams of warmth and wine. I dressed quickly in the soft supple leathers given to me as a gift this very night. My pack was ready, and uncle’s axe, left carelessly by the door, slid into my belt easily. I wrapped myself in my fur cloak and took one look back at those I loved as I walked out the door, sliding it closed silently behind me. I climbed onto my horse, a shaggy thick thing who shambled across the snow.

Weariness set into my bones as I plodded along, searching until finally I saw a speck in the sky, there and then gone, to the east. I set my horse to a canter as I rode off in search of Wodan’s ravens. The horn blew, loud and insistent. Excitement fueled me as I rode straight into the famed hunt. Wodan pulled up quickly in front of me, his hair and beard a shock of thick white standing out against his dark armor.

“What do you seek? The hunt begins, return to your home or fall victim to the spirits of the land.” Wodan spoke in a booming voice, tall upon his horse with his spectral army arrayed behind him. I looked him straight in his eyes, one blue and one black as night, an eye in which the wonders of the worlds are revealed. Inside I quivered, but my voice was steady and strong.

“I come to join you on your hunt. I would bring in the sun with you and defeat the darkness.” I said.

His laughter came as a surprise, echoing across the land. “Then tonight you shall.” He said, his eye twinkling. I felt the change in me as I became a part of the hunt, my steady horse turned into a wild destrier, snorting and stomping her feet, ready to hunt. “Come young one, hunt with us,” he said, and I fell in beside him, removing my axe from my belt.

We hunted throughout the night, finding spirits and demons across the land and sending them back to the darkness of their world. Long into the night the hunt continued as I rode beside Wodan, never feeling the cold. We talked as we rode, telling each other stories, stories I would one day tell my own children and grandchildren as my grandfather did. We hunted until the darkness began to fade.

“Return to your home now, young one.” He said as he turned away, his army following behind as they rode up into the clouds.

I awoke in my bed, huddled beneath my furs, no sign of my ride with Wodan. Around me the elders still slept. I padded across the floor, wondering if it was all a dream when I noticed a small package beneath the tree. I opened the package quickly. A small stone, the size of an eye and black as onyx fell into my hand. I grasped the stone in my hand, closing my eyes and feeling the power in this small stone, this gift left for me from the great Wodan.

*This story was originally published in the Womanthology Holiday PDF for backers of Womanthology.

*First Draft story idea #1 for Womanthology. Read the previous post for how I write when writing for comics. Would love to hear feedback/comments on any of the stories I post.

The rain fell fat and unrelenting, dripping down the sides of the tent. The flashes of lightning illuminating everything for a moment in time, stripping away the brave faces to show the fear and excitement underneath before only the glow of the lamp remained. The group huddled around the table, going over the plan once more. For months they had been out here, unearthing the ruins, pouring over the bits of lore they could find, and researching all they could.

Finally, it was time. The four women gathered their gear as the thunder burst, a bomb exploding in the dark, the lightning flashing in the aftermath. They stepped outside, silently beginning their trek. No flashlights or lanterns were allowed, they saw the forest through heat signatures and outlines. Deeper into the forest they went, silence their shield, the rain blocking their scent. Kat took point, signaling to the others the way to take, keeping an eye out for the sentinels the lore told about, not entirely sure they were real, but wary nonetheless.

The ruins loomed before them, covered in a phosphorescent glow. Lighting struck again, closer this time. They removed their goggles, relying on the light from the ruins. Four stone pillars stood up from the ground covered in moss, vines and runes. Silently, nervously, the four women began setting up their equipment, modern versions of the ancient tools used when the creature was contained centuries ago. Technological upgrades to monitor the surroundings and energy output, but the tools themselves were the same. Each woman took a pillar. Gail took the first pillar, preparing to recite the ritual pieced together from the pillars and the lore. Miranda stood at the second pillar, pouring over her calculations once more, not quite convinced that the time was right.  Marie stood at the third, recording everything they did. Marie was the dreamer, the one who believed without a doubt that it would work and that they could regain the world the creature once inhabited. Kat took the fourth, weapon at the ready, wary and watchful as the other women set up. Belief or not, she knew the dangers of what they were about to do. Marie expected a kind creature, but centuries of captivity could have changed the being. She would protect the others to her death. These four women were the only family she had left. Kat made one last sweep of the perimeter before resuming her spot at the pillar and nodding to Gail to begin.

“From the earth we crawl, relying on her to nourish and sustain us. To the earth we return to nourish and sustain others. In this way we are all one.” Gail nodded at Kat, hoping her translation was correct. Kat jammed her rod into the pillar between the runes. The runes began to glow brighter. Excitement permeated the air. Kat scanned the grounds as Gail continued.

“The air gives us breath, filling us with the sweetness of life.” Gail nodded to Marie. As Marie jammed her rod into the pillar, the air shimmered around the pillars. A beast leaped forth from the pillar, razor sharp claws swiping at Kat.

“You will not free her.” It said in a guttural voice as it lunged at Kat again. Kat leapt back just in time and raised her gun. She shot, emptying her clip in the beast with no effect. The beast lunged again swiping at Kat. Kat dodged too slow and felt the scrape of the claws along her arm as she grabbed her knife from her belt. She attacked the beast, swiping the beast across the throat. The air shimmered again and the beast disappeared as another beast leapt from the pillar Marie had opened. Marie rolled out of the way as Kat threw her knife. The beast leapt again, but not fast enough. The knife took it in the leg, knocking it down. It howled in pain. “You must not free her!” It screamed before it too disappeared.

“Continue!” Kat yelled, knowing there would be at least one more beast through and hoping she had enough time to destroy it before the poison from the claws completed its course. Her arm was numb and it was spreading fast. She grabbed another knife from her pack, ready and waiting for the beast to come from Miranda’s pillar.

“Fire warms but also destroys; it heals and harms. Fire teaches us balance.” Gail shakily finished the recitation and nodded to Miranda. Miranda jammed her rod in the pillar, nervously scanning the area. For a heartbeat, nothing happened and then the air shimmered around Miranda’s pillar.

“Quickly Gail! Finish it!” Kat yelled as she threw her knife. The knife wobbled in the air, slamming into the beast’s belly. The beast turned toward Kat and kept coming. Kat couldn’t move, her left side completely numb from the poison. She could hear Gail reciting the last part, but her eyes were focused on the creature. She slowly pulled her last dagger from her boot as the beast reached out, wrapping his paw around her neck and lifting her from the ground.

“You will die. She is ours. We hunger for her. We need her.  She is our prisoner!” The beast snarled at her, increasing the pressure on her neck as she jammed her knife into its throat with the last of her strength. It screamed in pain, relaxing its grip and dropping Kat to the ground before shimmering out of existence. Kat pulled in deep breaths of air, unable to move as the poison finished its work. She stayed huddled on the ground as Gail plunged her rod into the pillar. Miranda began to move to Kat’s side as a crack filled the air. The ground shook and the pillars radiated beams of light, joining in the center and shooting upward. Miranda froze mid-stride, staring into the light. The women stared, transfixed as the light burst outward, revealing a woman. Made of earth, filled with the breeze, fire her clothing and water her hair, the woman fell to the ground. Marie and Gail took a tentative step toward her as Miranda reached Kat’s side.

“Kat? Kat can you answer me?” Miranda checked her pulse. Kat groaned, trying to speak but she was still numb everywhere. Miranda checked her bag, pulling out the scanner and ran it down Kat’s body. She breathed a sigh of relief.

“Paralysis. Hang on I think I have something…” She rummaged around in her bag and pulled out a syringe. “Ah ha!” She pulled open the syringe and injected Kat. “Give it a minute Kat. You’ll be good as new.” She said, turning back to see what was happening with the woman. Marie and Gail where standing over the woman looking bewildered. The woman, the creature, lay prone on the ground as she pulsed and radiated with the elements. Miranda walked over as she heard Kat rustling behind her, getting to her feet shakily.

“I never suspected the creature would be so…beautiful.” Whispered Gail as the other women neared her.

“She’s hurt. Can you help her Miranda?” Asked Marie.

Miranda scanned the creature, looking at the machine in frustration. “She’s not human. She doesn’t register on my sensors.” She got down on her knees and reached for the woman, her hand drawn to the fire around her, hovering over the fire before reaching down tentatively to touch her. The other women gasped as Miranda touched the flames without crying out.

“I can feel her power. She needs us. They did this to her. They turned her into this for their own desire for power and control. We have to help her. Come closer she needs our energy or she will die.” Said Miranda.

The other women gathered around her, kneeling and reaching out to her.

“They contained her in human form. They took this poor woman and destroyed her and they took the soul of the earth and shoved her into a body.” Marie said shakily, near to tears as the creature filled her with her memories. Her memories, her world before and her life in captivity, the human inside her crying out in pain for thousands of years, all of this filled the women as they poured their energy into her.

The creature pulsed with the power, growing stronger, before finally breaking free. The world around them lit up with color and the women shielded their eyes from the sight. The ground beneath them rumbled as the wind blew in gales and lighting struck the pillars, lighting them on fire. Rain fell, dousing the fires, leaving only piles of ash where once the pillars stood. Just as quickly as it began, it was finished and before them laid a woman, no longer filled with the essence of the earth. Above her, the spirit of the earth hovered, coming nearer to the four women and brushing each of them with a gentle breeze. She leaned in to the woman on the ground and kissed her, healing her and giving her life once again. The four women stared in amazement. Marie reached out to touch her, but the spirit only smiled before bursting outward in a shower of light and color, absorbing into the world around them.

Miranda turned her attention to the woman, scanning her. Relief and amazement on her face as the woman groaned and sat up. She looked around at the women, her eyes ancient and filled with understanding. She had absorbed their memories as they had absorbed hers.

“Thank you. I feared I would never be free. All I hoped for was death, but when they trapped her inside me, She kept my body alive. It was her only way to survive. We kept each other alive in pain for centuries, and now we are free because of you.” She looked at them each, not a trace of hatred for what was done to her.

“What will you do now?” Gail asked. The woman walked over to where one of the pillars once stood and touched the ground, tiny wildflowers sprouting under her hand. She looked at Gail, her eyes filled with determination.

“Change the world.” She said.

When I sit down to write  Nyctalopia, the graphic novel I am writing, my writing process is very different from that of a short story or novel-writing. The only similarity is that it still starts with prose. I begin as if I am writing a story, but with the idea in my head that pictures will take place of the descriptions. I focus a lot on describing the scenes from the beginning. Dialogue rarely factors into the beginnings, knowing that as the process goes along, I will add dialogue based on my artist’s drawings. I keep tidbits in the back of my mind, and as I continue writing the story, the dialogue begins when I need it to. Sometimes it’s a matter of needing to see the drawings first before I know what the characters will say, or sometimes they really don’t have anything to say and I would rather have narrative in that panel. But I am getting ahead of myself here. In the beginning, I don’t think in terms of panels but more in telling the story. I just need to get the story out on the page, trying to make scenes that I want a certain way as vivid as possible, leaving others with less description because I’m unsure how exactly I want it to look, and what I need from the beginning is the bones of the story, with some bits of fat hanging from them. This is my first draft. Occasionally, my artist sees them. In fact, she drew the first 5 pages of Nyctalopia from prose, not script. My first draft is messy, filled with typos and errors, but it’s still a story. These first drafts are usually handwritten, although they are occasionally typed as I sit on the floor, glorified typewriter on my lap, with a cup of coffee next to me. I finish the scene or the short story or the page in prose form, breathe a sigh of relief and walk away from it. I’ll work on something else, or work on a different character’s scene but I always leave it to sit for a while, even if it’s just a few hours (but more likely a few days, or a week, it depends on how much my artist has done and how soon she needs the pages).

I revisit the pages and start the script. I go through the prose, editing the typos, writing notes in the margins for changes I want or crossing out entire sections altogether. I start writing out the script, going through each panel and describing the scene in detail. Occasionally, I’ll only write a bit about what is going on, knowing my artist can draw that particular scene better than I can describe it with words. As much as I love words, sometimes a picture says so much more, showing an idea in all its glory, full color, in a way that my words can’t capture. That’s the point of a graphic novel though isn’t it? If the words worked better, well… there wouldn’t be the need for the pictures. My script is her guideline, but it’s really a way for me to understand the layout of the scene and see the flow of the pages before I see the pages. I fully expect that my artist will take the panels and draw them the way I want them, but change it up. She may take my script for one page and turn it into two pages, or she might combine panels together into one. She will call me if she thinks something should actually be changed, but I expect her to bring the pages to life in her own way. It might be my words, but it’s our story.  I’ll write what I think the character will say, or think, or narrate, or the sound effects. This helps me see the panel in its entirety, and it also gives my artist a story to read.

Once I have the draft of the script finished to my liking, I send it off to my artist and wait, talking to her about anything she needs changed or any clarification. She sketches it out and sends me the sketch or comes over so we can go through the pages together. I tell her if I want anything different, but that’s pretty rare, and then I take copies of the sketch pages and start writing all over them as she works on the finals. I decide loosely where I want the text, now that I have the images to work from. These pages get scribbled on, and maybe one day I will remember to do this part in pencil so that I can erase. I change wording, give new dialogue altogether or leave it as I wanted it. I might give these pages to my artist, but usually I wait for the finals to do my final draft. I fill in the text, send it off to her and let her put it in and finally have a finished page (hopefully).

What is the point in going through all this? Well, if you are like me, I actually like to read about other’s processes, but I also had another motivation. We (my artist and I) are currently working on a project for Womanthology. This will be a short story, 3-4 pages in length and I have been writing out a few of my ideas. I write them as prose, using the same method, but as a whole story, not just a scene or chapter. These stories, just like Nyctalopia, start with a lot of description. These are my first drafts, before I take the pen to them and turn them into scripts for my artist. I decided I wanted to share them on this blog, in all the first draft glory that goes along with them, so that I could invite feedback and comments, share my work with my fellow creators and anyone else who cares to read them, and hopefully make a decision. The first one will be up in the next day or two, followed by another when I have it finished. I wanted to share the process as a sort of apology for the roughness of the stories. First drafts are never the prettiest. Read, comment, and don’t forget to check out the Womanthology page to see what the project is all about.

First, let me inform you this is not a traditional review of the comic-con, what they had there, how it differed from last year or others, or why I was happy/disappointed with the experience. I went to the convention with a very specific reason in mind. It wasn’t to see all of the amazing stuff throughout (which I didn’t have time to do), or go to a bunch of panels (I went to one), or to get cheap light sabers for my kids (which I did). It was to promote myself, get an understanding of the industry, and meet some like minded individuals, whether as established graphic novelists or beginners like me. We arrived later than intended (by we I mean myself, my artist/cousin, and fellow writer/note taker/sister) and immediately met up with some other fellows we knew who were also attending and began immediately whipping out our portfolio and talking about our story shamelessly whether they wanted to hear it or not.

Lunch time came fast, and while we sat there eating our salads and talking about the weird things kids do, we started to peruse the panel lists for the day. Really, we should have come better prepared with a schedule of events and what not, but the fly by the seat of our pants approach enhanced the day’s outcome I do believe. (On a side note, fly by the seat of our pants is a very weird phrase when you think about it. And I really wish I could fly by the seat of my pants. I wonder if butt wings are necessary, or if it just happens?) After attempting to watch the costume contest, which when you are 5’2” tall and in the back is really impossible, we took the trek to the Archaia Comics panel all about writing indie graphic novels. In that one hour panel, I learned quite a lot about the industry, and what to think about when submitting a proposal. Things that as a beginner in the field I never would have thought about, like page size, and color scale for printing. (Another side note. If my cats keep popping holes in the fabric of my couch, I am going to murder them and fry them up for dinner.) The culmination of the day came when we were informed at the panel that Mark Smylie would be doing portfolio reviews at the Archaia Booth.

I had done some research on the possibility of getting anyone actually in the industry to review our work, and it seemed like the possibility was pretty slim . I had no hopes of it actually happening for us.  (OK so I may have had an extremely slim hope of it happening, just like the daydream that they would immediately pick it up, it would become an immediate best seller with a high budget movie to follow, leading us to become multimillionaires in a matter of a year, but hey, who doesn’t have dreams like that?!) I was happy to show our measly 4 completed pages, 3 more inked, and a sketchbook of script and sketches to anyone that happened to look in my direction. (I tried to get R2D2 to look at it, but he just made some beeping noises and flirted with my cousin.) So anyway, we made our way down to the booth, got an appointment with Mark to take a look at our stuff and spent an hour in unbridled excitement over the opportunity we just landed. We wandered, we talked to a friend in Artists Alley, I called my husband, we fretted, we were flushed, nervous, excited and scared. In short, we were everything a newbie would be in this position.

Finally, the time came to go back to the booth. We got there a little early and were able to sit down with him early as someone along the line didn’t use their whole time. He takes a look, says “Oh, post-apocalypse, huh? We are actually looking for something like this.” The amount of air that filled my head at that moment could have powered a hot-air balloon. He then went on to tell us how we could improve the work and artwork for a submission, talked about the story and gave us some advice on that, and 45 minutes later someone else from the booth came over to tell him they were getting backed up. 45 minutes?! No way, I thought. It was over much too soon, even though we had overstayed our welcome and were getting glares from others standing around waiting, large portfolios in hand. The rest of the day was spent wandering around, not really paying attention to the comic-con itself, (which I’m sure was awesome. Please C2E2, don’t leave us in the hands of Wizard World alone!) babbling about everything he said, what we could do, and telling anyone who would listen that we actually got a portfolio review. Including the 3 paragraph text I sent my brother-in-law who had already left so I wasn’t able to babble in person. I am sure we annoyed some people, probably got some aggravated looks, but for all that I examined all of Mark’s body language while he talked to us, everyone else could have disappeared for all the attention I paid them.

Now maybe Mark Smylie really is just that great of a guy to be able to talk to all of us trying to break into the industry in a helpful manner, or maybe he actually saw some potential in us. I don’t know. Either way, I am still a little high on energy, my regular freelance writing gig is taking a big hit, as are my finances, as I devote more and more time to the graphic novel. We are beginning to self-promote, get a web-site started, work on the facebook page, and write and draw so that we can submit the first chapter, summary and all that good stuff by the fall. The name of the graphic novel you ask? You are on the edge of your seat you say? You can’t wait to see some of it? Well, I won’t keep you in suspense then. Head on over to our Nyctalopia Facebook Page and “like” us. The first 4 pages that we showed are up there for all to see. Leave some comments, tell us you loved it, or tell us why you didn’t. All we ask for is that you play nice and be constructive in your criticism. Or I’ll send my cats over to your house to pop holes in the fabric of your couch.