I wanted to tell a story, and specifically a love story. Linking readers through time to each other. Initially, because I’m the definition of vanilla straight man, it was a man and a woman but that just felt very dull – too much like the basis of a mid 90s rom com.
So I thought I’d make it a lesbian couple. Two women separated by decades, linked by a single book, and that became more interesting – one living a life in secret, the other much more open.
The book, The Well of Loneliness was suggested by John, I wanted a book that would’ve been old enough to have been around in the 20s (why the 20s? I wanted to dress the reader in something recognisably from an older time frame, this felt right).
The large selection of books in panel 4 is based somewhat on the book shop in Belfast Keats and Chapman – which my kids call “The Maze”
Anyway, the idea is the book opens a portal from present to past. Or maybe past to future. And maybe those people meet and kiss or maybe it’s symbolic. I haven’t decided.
Oh man, this was a hard one. Frankly, I found the idea of an avenging god of unrequited love absolutely appalling. And it was hard to figure out how to tell a story that wasn’t going to be… gross. I’m not sure I’ve done it. But at least it’s funnier than it might have been.
Unusually I sent this to John not fully formed, leaving the dialogue out of the bottom (when I write I usually hate every bit of dialogue I write. It’s the hardest part of writing for me).
I knew he (ie our little incel in the strip, not John) was gonna say something – and look, I actually really liked the drawing of him (and still do, I love grotesqueries – it’s how I was made) and I didn’t know if I’d have to scrap all of it and come up with something new.
Anyway, after mulling it over, I figured I could keep the art if I lightened the dialogue. I was going to add a voice from off panel of his mom (because of course) saying “Johnny your dinner!” “NOT NOW MOM!” but that was really over egging the pudding.
Still hope you enjoy it, I quite like his gross little face…
Is this the shortest comic adaptation of Beowulf? someone phone the guinness book of world records.
Oh I was so excited to get this tweet early from John.
I’ve never been into fantasy, I was hard wired for sci-fi, but as I’ve gotten older and come to understand just how much the sci-fi I enjoyed is really just fantasy with a different skin (sci-fi- it’s science – but science so advanced it’s indistinguishable from magic! so it’s just magic then? shut up brain)
But, and I dunno where the inflection point happened (certainly within the last 20 years) maybe it was Game of Thrones? maybe it was just a general boredom of sci-fi or maybe it’s the need to escape from reality into a world not permanently connected to the internet (and the news) but I’ve wanted to draw some fantasy.
(Actually, maybe it was from going to see Beowulf in the cinema in the 2007 film, which, for all its flaws, I rather enjoyed).
Any resemblance to creatures living, dead or fictional is entirely coincidental.
I wanted to do a one page short story, there’s a variety of cool muck monster things in fiction, and I love the pairing of god with streetwise magician (who is named here Jack)
The pencils on this show though, that it took a fair amount of fiddling to get something that I thought would work.
(And even now, having written the dialogue and then stripped it off just to upload it here, I think dialogue-free might be better?)
I’m sure John won’t mind me saying I’m taking full blame for the comic strip, John’s tweet (as contained in the captions) is all I had to go on.
I think the story element of this works well paired with the info captions. And I suspect this might be the direction I start pushing more of the strips in. It doesn’t feel like writing, though, of course, it is.
There’s a alternative version of this which is much more of a kids comic one, I started drawing and abandoned it fairly quickly.
We ended up, somehow, out of sync with the folklore thursday account, tweeting our stories on week ahead of theme (christmas, a confusing time all round). So this is a resync strip. John sent me the tweet and I had all sorts of ideas for what Hidebehinds could look like (9 meter tall stick humanoid stick insects stuck in my head) but I wanted to do a goofy cartoony style, and so, this is what you get!
I could’ve gone gory, had toyed with the idea of the a hidebehind suddenly spotting the reader (after despatching the lumberjack) but that would’ve need a creepier art style than what I was going with.
Seymour Roger Cray was an American supercomputer engineer. Beneath his suburban home he constructed a series of tunnels. When Cray reached a creative impasse he would retire below. “While I’m digging, the elves will often come to me with solutions to my problem”
I’m fairly sure: Cray was messing around. And I think we’re only just getting by with this as a folklore tale by the skin of our teeth. THAT said, having slept, ate, and breathed computers from an early age and always ALWAYS been fascinated by Cray super computers, I’m not gonna argue the point. If Elves are what he said, Elves is what I’m drawing.
Reading John’s tweets usually fairly quickly pops an idea into my head, and this idea appeared fully formed. Initially though, I drew the supercomputer in Cray’s head with a whole bunch of Elves working away at it, but then it felt wrong – we don’t hear mention of the elves until later in the tweet and so I didn’t want to spoil that fun surprise too early. If anything I regret not making the direction of Cray’s walk follow the reading direction, if I had time I’d redo it (and if a publisher comes along and wants to print the entire run of these things, I’ll certainly look at them all again…)
I can’t remember when I first heard or say a Cray supercomputer, but it was fairly formative. Look at that weird part alien, part Henge computer design (it’s actually more of a C shape, with a gap, but I stuck that in the rear view on this drawing). She’s a beaut. And, as time wears on and Moore’s law keeps progressing, she’s now only about a fraction of the power of whatever device you’re currently reading this on. Ain’t technology grand?
(Now If I can just convince John that Turing got his ideas from pixies, Ada Lovelace from Gnomes, and Steve Jobs consulted with swamp monsters then we could have a full set of technological folklorist…)
Crank up the manifest, hoist the gibbert, weigh up the anchorage. We’re back!
Having tried to push myself to do a little bit of writing over Christmas (you can see the results at my blog pauljholden.com) I thought I’d approach this first Folklore Thursday of the new year with an eye to creating some sort of story (and I mean more than just the surface thing). I started laying out the pencils to the tweet and found that, well, all I was really doing was illustrating John’s words. Not actually adding anything of significance. So I thought I’d add a character – that at least gave me a little agency.
Having adding something like a protaganist, I figured the easiest thing to do with those words was make him get younger – so he’s stepping back in time, but ONLY in his own lifetime. Then I thought – I don’t think that’s what John meant, but I liked the fact there was room to decide that’s what it could be. So then I added a little impetus to our character, maybe he’s finding this place and wants to travel back in time but he’s been tricked.
That decided, I started seeing what I needed to add to the art to sell that little narrative. I added a loved one in panel one (thus fulfilling something I’ve always wanted to do which is to draw a doomed romance comic) and then panel two I was going to have him drop a note detailing the cancer diagnosis of his wife. But then I wondered if I couldn’t add a second narrators voice, a conversation he was having. (or had had). Which would help explain what was going on for him. Layering and layering the story telling. I’m hoping it worked.
Also, that last bit of captioned dialogue is partly the response in the conversation he’s having with some unnamed person but also partly me having a little fun and saying to John [Reppion] har har, I tricked you – you thought this was going one way and it went another 🙂
I’m not sure what John makes of it yet. Could be he hates it (hope not!) but we’ll see.
So, here’s a special thing, just for you (for the moment) a two pager.
John will be tweeting a two tweet thread.
I had planned more, but this came in late with double the normal workload. I struggled a little with building a story telling narrative around the first tweet, so instead I decided to try and play something clever, a christmas bauble on christmas tree, but it would be the planet Saturn, with the god Saturn behind it (the god of course, lending its name to the planet).
That done, I wanted to do a more traditional comicbook narrative thing for the second tweet, but time really did kick my arse (panel 1 would’ve been hundreds of gladiators killing and stabbing each other, panel 2 bodies piled upon bodies in front of the temple of Saturn and panel 3 the ancient roman symbol of christianity – the Chi-Ro symbol on banners in front of a burning rome.
Even I, as fast as I can be, just couldn’t turn that around in a day (not given my time-budget on this is only about 3 hours). So sketched and abandoned, and instead this, which actually is thematically closer to page 1 and not-so-subtly suggests that Christianity is build on the blood shed of rome.