ancient relics: part 2

This is a continuation of the previous post.

People always ask why the characters are not human. in the beginnings of the project they were still always the kangaroo lizard aliens, but originally it was just because i was an edgy teen who wanted some sci-fi spice. that was really about it. but now i am a boring adult who wants some sci-fi spice but also realized how useful a non-human is as a tool to make the reader re-evaluate their expectations.

i was looking back through some of the old drawings and realized i sometimes forget how different it is now. the first official page was only completed in 2017 after i graduated college. it was a good seven years from its inception until I began to work on it in earnest. a lot changes in that time.

tastes change over the years of course, but people really don’t. i have pretty much the same underlying motivations as an adult as I did as a child. I’ve come to realize that understanding is one of the most important things to me, though that understanding can manifest in different ways. I want to understand the motivations of people and I love playing with ideas strange and mundane. the comic has always been about that and almost everything I make has that motivation somewhere at the core.

of course, ten years helped me understand people a lot better. it helped me understand myself better as well.

i’ll never claim to be particularly fast at working on things. nor am i a particularly fast learner, art included. i’m a pretty slow boy. long story short: this page process took way too long. it wasn’t sustainable while getting pages out at a rate that didn’t wear thin on the patience of others or myself. i learned from this that I needed to do it in monochrome and simplify the workflow. which is fine. i never cared much for color anyway.

even the first published chapter of the comic took a lot longer than the subsequent ones. people occasionally note that it looks a bit different in style compared to the others and they are correct. some of that is that I switched tablets and software that made certain line types either more or less difficult. but honestly most of it is, again, I found that i needed to simplify the workflow more. chapter one was created between 2016-2019 during a pretty dark period of my life. i worked around eight jobs over the course of a year and realized later that I was also putting undue pressure on myself with the comic. I was driving myself nuts in addition to difficult circumstances. i had to ease off a bit.

I definitely enjoyed working on the comic more after i eased off. chapter 2 and especially chapter 3 were much more fun to create in the day-to-day. ‘professionals’ in the comic field crank out many more pages a week than I do. four is about the max I can do, usually fewer than that, sometimes none at all. but this is just how I’m wired. all we can do is the best with our gifts and our circumstances. I’m definitely a lot happier in life when I give from what I have and not from what I don’t. and trust me, i’ve tried to change who I am. I wanted to be more of a hustler. but you can’t really change how you’re wired. I’m more at peace with that now. does being slow or unproductive make one a bum? maybe, but you would only know by comparing yourself with others. comparison never ends well. it will either fill you with arrogance because you see yourself as superior, or it will lead to self-hatred because you think you are worse. neither is good. we all have our strengths and struggles for a reason.

so where do we go from here? one day at a time, as always. I’ve found there’s no use worrying about the future. God will provide and he will continue to meet my needs. I have invaluable worth apart from my work. I personally need to ease up on the self-pressure. if I’m a slow man, forcing myself to be otherwise isn’t sustainable.

perhaps in another ten years i’ll revisit this topic and see what’s changed by then. 🙂 hopefully this journey can bring encouragement to others who struggle with similar hurdles.

ancient relics: part 1

what a difference twelve years makes.

the concept that would morph into this comic started back in 2010 back when I was in early high school. i was really into bionicle and sci-fi and history and i wanted a way to combine these interests.

At that time I had the fairly common habit of doing endless concept art and not much real comic work. but in hindsight I don’t really regret it or think it was a mistake. I personally wasn’t prepared at the time to do consistent pages. I was still in a major period of honing my artistic skills and I just needed time. I was learning. some pages or layouts were attempted here and there as tests but nothing took off. I wasn’t ready yet.

and I wasn’t even really sure what I wanted the story to be about. I had all these ideas for settings and locations and concepts (still the way i am!), but not really a good idea for the story itself. i am not a writer. i don’t deal much with plots, i tend to focus more on shorter character pieces rather than having some big overarching saga. but at the time i was more unaware of my own strengths, and wasn’t really working towards them well.

the original tale revolved around lain (a very different character from what she ended up being) and her journey across the land. there were always sci-fi elements and the sudden attack of the renes with an unknown weapon. it always took place in a pseudo-ancient setting with anachronistic elements. I enjoyed working on it a lot, despite angsting over it as only a teenager could. but i’m also glad looking back that i didn’t really ‘release’ it until years later. it just wasn’t very good. it did have core elements with merit, however.

i would take short breaks from it here and there, dabbling occasionally. i’d come back to it as I grew and wondered why I did some cringy thing and update it. then i’d look back on the update and update that. this happened for six or seven years. but gradually i began to feel that I could finally deliver some quality work as I became more confident in my art and my understanding of people. I began it in earnest after college once I finally had time.

the character interactions definitely became the primary focus over the years. i realized how much the story was changing over those years and saw no reason to think that it would really ever stop changing. i’m just not a person who can sit down and commit to a decade long story. in hindsight i really think it was a wise choice to go with the anthology format because it makes the story so much more flexible. I can basically do whatever I want and I can switch off when I get tired of one thing. It was probably the best choice I could have made with the way I work. but I don’t think I would have known that was a strength of mine unless i doodled and didn’t ‘have much to show for it’ for those years.

it’s hard for most creatives to not cringe when looking at their old work. creatives tend to be detail people, and being a detail person means you notice flaws easily. this very much includes your own flaws. but I think it’s important to keep old work around for the sake of others. for a curiosity of course, but hopefully also as an encouragement. if I could get something out there then many others can too. 🙂

more of the saga to follow.

An oral tradition

Stories existed long before writing. Some of the most ancient texts we know of likely had a long existence as oral accounts way before they were first penned. Oral traditions do rely on the faultiness of memory, yes, but I think they are much more accurate than many give them credit for. Especially if your society is organized around these histories, they would take every precaution possible to prohibit the corruption of information. Many probably trained their whole life to be oral tellers. One particularly interesting technique I discovered recently is that storytellers often skipped a generation (so a grandparent would tell their tale to their grandchild, skipping their child), which I think is really smart. You would have half as many steps for something to go wrong.

Many cultures far removed from the west still have strong oral traditions. It is fascinating how many cultures who had no contact with each other have shockingly similar stories about a global flood. 🙂

Anyway, here is some insight to the design process of a major player in ch4, of which storytelling plays a large role. He likely has been a teller for most of his life, and is respected by his people as such. He is their library. They would trust him much more than some joe schmoe telling the same story.

Words about words

As mentioned previously, I spent a couple weeks before ch3 doodling the characters and trying to streamline them more before I had to draw them in motion. In hindsight I wish I did that more for ch2, but hopefully I learned my lesson.

Silne was based off of a sketch i did a couple years ago, and was originally going to be a specific different character. I ended up splitting Silne and this other character who I will still likely use. It wasn’t the right time yet. Though I don’t mention verbally it in the story, you can tell by the two sets of tattoos that she has that she was once married.

The story itself was one of the earlier ones I came up with and remained mostly unchanged, though of course I tweaked some details as I went. It was originally going to have much less of Arbo, the old man, but previous chapters focused quite heavily on two characters and I wanted to branch out just a little bit. I still think I enjoy working with few characters rather than a gigantic cast, at least in a per-chapter basis.

The armor of the rene took a little bit to get down too, since I wanted to show similarities with the armor in ch1 (for both Allano and Rene) without making them identical. they likely wouldn’t have much standardization between troops if this was real life, but you also want to make it recognizable to the reader. The allanos have armors similar to malwan’s outfit from ch1, but the militia organized halfway through the chapter is more rag-tag since they are not professionals. I ended up with the rene’s “shark tooth” helm because I thought it was cool and unique. All of these designs will likely show up in the future to some capacity.

sharp-eyed viewers of a previous post may be able to infer some interesting tidbits about the rene.

Old lady sneak peek

since chapter 2 is wrapping up fairly soon, I thought I should show some of the character design i’ve been working on for the next. starring: OLD LADY


geezer represent

mainly working on face stuff and tattoo designs. simplifying things. trying to get rid of tedious-to-draw stuff now so i dont have to deal with it when i’m actually working on the pages. this is more preliminary stuff, i will refine it as i doodle more.

for the tattoos, it can be tough finding a balance between a lore-friendly, interesting design and one that doesn’t muddy the body language or expression. in the real world, if they were this crazy about their tats they would probably cover up a lot more of their bodies that I’ve shown. but like i’ve said before that can really muddy the silhouette and body language for the reader so even if it’s ‘lore accurate’ it’s not always ‘the thing that should be done’.
so anyway i’m currently leaning to the tat design on the lower left. the design on her arms is the one she got as a teenager, the design of her family. inspired by some polynesian designs. the one on her torso (the grey part) and head is the design she inherited from her husband’s line.