Saturday, November 1, 2014

Comic Series Planning - Part 3: Developing Theme, and some concept art

My current series of articles on this blog chronicles my efforts to come up with a story idea that I can develop into a digital comic-book series. The series will use DAZ Studio renders for artwork, which means I will need to buy resources from DAZ or build them myself in Hexagon or Blender before I can produce the panels of artwork.

But before doing any of that, I need to develop the theme and story of my comic. And that is what I have been working on for the last couple of months -- I've sunk many an evening and weekend into it, in fact. 

Unfortunately, my first story idea turned out to be unworkable (or at least, so hard to make work that I was severely struggling). In a nutshell, my story was based on the epic poem Beowulf, which I have always loved.  I envisioned that the monster Grendel had had a daughter (who of course is not mentioned in the poem) and that this daughter, found as a baby by Beowulf after he killed Grendel and Grendel's mother, had turned good and was out there hunting other monsters like Grendel (since in the poem, the author mentions thousands of other monsters who are just as bad as Grendel being "out there"). The story was set in the modern day, and Grendel's daughter, being more or less immortal, was still alive today, still hunting these creatures.  As part of her quest, she had received much training, especially in martial arts like Kung Fu and Kenjutsu.

Now, I found many elements of this story to be cool and interesting, but trying to work with a 1500 year old protagonist is difficult. I admit here that my friend Stuart warned me about this, and although I considered his advice, I tried to make it work anyway.  I still think I could have, maybe, made it work, but as I built the storyline, it became very grim and dark and violent, and this began to make me uncomfortable. It's not that I don't sometimes enjoy a "GrimDark" comic, as some of us like to call it on comic websites, but rather, that there are so many GirmDark comics out there already among the published titles (most of the DC New 52, the entire Marvel Universe, and most Image comics can be classified as GrimDark, in my opinion), that it's pretty much all you can find any more (a fact I have lamented about on this very blog in past months). I'm not sure I think the world needs yet another GrimDark comic -- I'd really rather do something more in line with the tone of the Bronze Age, frankly.  Additionally, the storyline had taken a turn into more urban fantasy and maybe a little dystopian, and I had originally set out to do more of a classic superhero story.  

In the end, my reluctance to do GrimDark coupled with the difficulty of a 1500 year old character and the overly complex plot I had to come up with to justify the logic of the world made me feel like I was battling against the story -- it didn't just flow out of me. And I have done enough creative writing to know that this is a bad sign -- although writing is certainly hard work and challenging, the ideas should come so fast I can't keep up with them, and with this story they just... weren't.

As I struggled to find the story with this difficult concept, I began toying with another idea - an idea based on all the research I had done for the story about Grendel's daughter. I imagined a story about two sisters, twins perhaps, who are martial artists but embrace different philosophies. One would embrace the hard, aggressive, "external" arts, while the other would employ the softer, defensive, "internal" arts.  This idea took hold, and I started picturing a YinYang symbol, with one girl being the Yin side and the other the Yang side (I also toyed with a brother-sister combination, but for various reasons I will explain in a later post, I settled on two sisters).  

This idea began to appeal greatly to me, and also seemed a great deal easier to execute than the Grendel's-daughter story.  The girls would not need to be 1500 or even 150 years old -- in fact, they're going to be college aged.  They are going to live in a world of Superheroic Martial Arts (as the old game Champions would have defined them) - a world much like ours, but in which people can use qi powers and elemental powers to do amazing things such as breathe fire or turn their bodies to iron.  

Such a setting has many appealing aspects, not the least of which is that it will be much easier to pull off visually, in DAZ Studio, than what I was planning to do with Grendel's daughter. For example, the "Grendel's daughter" story would have required many flashbacks that would have necessitated massive numbers of period props from ancient Denmark, ancient China, feudal Japan, and so forth, to tell the story properly.  That story also called for travel to another plane (a place sort of like Asgard in Marvel) and massive numbers of non-human characters (due to it being more of a fantasy than a superhero story).  The twins story, however, has a much more down-to-earth setting. It will only need to take place in one city, with maybe some trips to the outskirts of town or occasionally to another city -- there will be no need to do world-spanning adventures as I was planning to do with the Grendel story.

And so I have abandoned Grenel's daughter (at least for now) and begun working on a story of two sister martial artists - a Yin character and a Yang character. I don't have names for the girls or the series yet, but I do have this vague idea that there will be a Yin Yang symbol somewhere in each issue -- maybe on each cover.  One idea that came to me last night, for example, was creating a YinYang lighting scheme that I could use as a spotlight to cast the symbol behind the girls or under their feet or what have you. I tested this out in DAZ Studio this morning and it works really well. Here's a quick shot done against a generic cracked-floor prop in just a few minutes.

The more I work on this idea the more I like it. The theme of the story will be about balance, and what happens when one goes out of balance, and the girls will represent the two sides of the coin, the passive and aggressive, the Yin and the Yang. Now I just have to come up with villains, a world, and character names. I've actually already done some of that, but I won't say any more just yet until I develop the story further.

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