The delays are done. After almost a year of the comic progressing at a snail's pace, it now moves as though born by the feathered feet of Hermes himself. Or just an average Greek. Either way: not a snail.
After Issue #1 came out, I was unsatisfied with the color art. It wasn't because the colorists who worked on it weren't talented and wonderful- because they were- but because a series of unfortunate events caused three different colorists to work on the book and each of them tried to maintain the other's style, cramping their own. It made the final product a bit disjointed. That, and I desperately want to hide the beginner lettering mistakes I made (all of which are nonexistent in Issue #2).
I took time to learn color art myself. I've always dabbled, and I am one of those three color artists on Issue #1, but I took a few months to learn the (relatively more) proper way. I'm coloring every page of Issues #2-4. That adds time to the process for each, but mostly it added time to #2 while I studied and practiced. I have to thank the Youtube channels of Kurt Michael Russell and (the former channel of) Matt Hollingsworth for help getting a neophyte at least to the level of journeyman.
Things also slowed down because I started writing for (part of) a living. It can be hard to write all day and then summon the will to write for yourself, no matter how much you love the project.
Anyways, the initial learning period is over. There's an infinite amount of knowledge and technique to take in but at least I feel confident enough now to color my books while I take it in. That means that the nearly-a-year gap between #1 and #2 won't be repeated. #3 will be out shortly, followed by a re-release of #1 with updated (and significantly more rad) lettering and colors, and finally the release of #4.
At that point I'll assess my options for printing a collected volume and hopefully hit local (Midwestern) conventions in support.
That's where we are in all this! Cheers!
This particular comic, anyways.
Hey and welcome to my first in a hopefully regular series of essays on writing. Tonight, I'm showing you how my first comic series, Blessing, is made.
It all starts with an idea. Trite, but true. Extremely trite, but still just a medium level of true. I knew I wanted to write about family, and in particular the challenge of maintaining parent-child relationships when one (or both) parties is... less than amenable. It's an area that's near and not-so-dear to me, so I have a lot to say. I also knew I wanted to write about gods and legends and lore because... fun. And the two combine well (just ask Homer), allowing for stories about universal problems with universal stakes. Lastly, I knew that I wanted to write about gods and myths that haven't received as much attention as the oft-used Norse and Greek pantheons. I chose North American: the stories and characters from native tribal religion and settler folklore. Many characters are entirely new, but since I created them and I'm American, too, I'll consider the theme intact.
Next, I begin a collection of notes- a running list of random thoughts that fit the project's theme and may help the telling. Lines of dialogue, titles, character ideas, even whole plots make it into this collection. I call it "Gemming": amassing a hoard of gems that can be mined later to finance the expensive endeavor of creating a serialized story. Here's a screenshot showing a small fraction of the notes I created for Blessing:
Then, once the plot concept has crystallized enough, I beat out the basic story structure, its skeleton. I make note of important moments like thresholds crossings and midpoints. I'm a structure nerd and and I'll go into story structure in detail in a future essay, undoubtedly to your collective horror. Here is the issue one portion of that outline:
If not for spoilers, I would show the full outline. Anyway, I color code each story beat by issue. Green is issue one, blue issue two. You'll see issues line up well with act breaks closely, because the breaks present convenient emotional swells that lend themselves well to issue-ending cliffhangers.
(Because it's almost certainly not obvious: I use "Punch 1" and "Punch 2" to denote the two beats that force the protagonist through the threshold into act two. Again, structural nerdiness to come later).
After that, I zoom in further, breaking down the events of each issue page-by-page, making sure to not try and pack too much on each page. Comics, more than most mediums, benefits from letting moments breath.
If you compare this outline to the finished issue, you'll see that almost every single page changed in some way from outline to execution. The more I write, the more often the outlined ideas survive to publication, but I suspect I'll always end up calling audibles here and there.
Next I actually write the dang thing. This is the step all writers will tell you that they absolutely love. Or hate. Often both.
Comic scripts are written much like movie and TV scripts- breaking down the action moment to moment and calling the dialogue, except the reader is not an actor or director, it is an artist or team of artists. And unlike movie and TV scripts, the guidelines for formatting comic scripts are... essentially nonexistent. Compare the dense prose of an Alan Moore script to anything written "Marvel style", i.e. essentially an outline, and you'll see what I mean. My scripts lie somewhere in the middle. I dictate what is in each page and in each panel, but I leave it basic; just what the scene requires. The rest is up to the artist(s). They need to have a certain degree of freedom in order to have fun. And when an artist enjoys their work, it flourishes. Here's a snippet from issue one:
Alright, that's it for part one. My hand is cramping and the new episode of WandaVision is out. Stay tuned for part two soon, where I break down my artists' processes and how we all work together to make it happen.