This is a weblog of one person's multi-year quest to write, draw, and publish a graphic novel. This is my story: my trials, tribulations, successes and failures. -- Robert Stradley, Weekend Artist
2004 The Journey Begins
A New Year's Resolution -- This is the year that I will resurrect my dream.
In 1969 I had discussed with my college suitemate, Mr. Elkanick, the idea of writing and illustrating a free form novel length book where actions were drawn while dialog and descriptions were written. But neither CWRU nor the Cleveland Institute of Art would agree to let me try. I was told by both that “Comics would NEVER be something to be studied at the collegiate level.” So I put my dream aside for the practical world of Engineering.
Thirty five years later, I will start actualizing my dream. What is it? My dream is to do something new, something fresh and unusual, and something unique in graphic novel form. The aphorism goes: write about what you know.” I choose to write and illustrate the characters and situations experienced in a 1980's RPG game world developed for my family and friends. This will be the story of Gwendolyn and Rolfe in the world of Leeland.
It shouldn’t take long. I only have to learn to write, to draw, to letter, to ink, to tone, to color, to composite, to publish, and to web code. I have weekends and a few evenings to work on it, and the rock hard determination of an Engineer. Five years ought to do it. Let the work begin.
Editor's note: [Snicker] See the number of years at the top of the page. Give you a hint of what really happened?
The Selection of Characters
How does one go about assembling a team of heroes? We start with the Team Leader, of course.
1. The Leader is Gwendolyn – half-elf mage, strong in healing magic, animal friend.
2. Where she is, her consort is: Rolfe – Zwergen fighter, chief cook and bottle washer.
3. And her personal friend, BrightEyes – pixie illusionist, general pest.
4. In town is Gwen’s half sister, Zanteena -- half-Thal dancer and shamaness.
5. And with Zanteena is her boyfriend Beaumarais – Thal thief.
6/7. Along the way they pick up some Magic: Panache and Nénufar – elfin fighter-mages.
8. And some Muscle in Claude – the Calabrisian blademaster.
9. And some Muscle in Tanon – ranger.
10. And some Muscle in Ogluszyc – mountain man.
Why choose these particular characters over the hundreds of others? These characters resonate with something inside us. They speak of something that is as true today as it was in the 1980’s when we played them. They are all outsiders, looking for a home. They find it in Gwen’s Troupe!
Studying the Genre
The Weekend Artist spent several months studying graphic novels, comics, and the state of webcomics. I called it research; my wonderful wife called it loafing instead of getting down to business. Only time will tell who was right.
[Editors’ note from an historical perspective: As usual we both were right. Study gave him insights in to the genre and ideas for development. However, we'd be 3 months further on if he'd just jumped in and done something.]
Breaking Gender roles and Preconceptions
What did I learn in my studies? Be bold; be unique; break stereotypes. My characters are everyday heroes, not superheroes. They are thrust into greatness; they are not fighting for it. Gender roles are not just bent, they are smashed. Every character has at least one major flaw. Several are inept due to attempting things beyond their current capability. [Much like me, in fact.] They may not be recognizable as heroic archetypes, but dang-blastit they’ll be unique.
How did I break gender roles and preconceptions?
- Gwendolyn, is a balance-loving tree-hugging half-Elf female doctor. She is also the war leader [go figure].
- Rolfe is a Zwerg and is shorter than Gwen is. He loves to cook & clean. He is content to be a support to his wife in her career.
- Zanteena is a beautiful half-Thal [an oxymoron in its own right]. She is the second strongest character [after Og], and is much stronger than her boyfriend Beau.
- Beau is an inept Thal thief [a new concept when we wrote it]. He is just in from the swamps and hasn't a clue about towns or adventuring.
- Og is a romantic gentle giant Bearsark [Nuff said].
- Claude is a blademaster trying to prove that sword-work is an art form.
- Tanon is a frontierswoman who is good at everything she sets her mind to [an unusual role model in 1980 and still a bit dodgy today in the publishing world.] But she is expert at nothing, and it rankles.
- BrightEyes is an adventurous, loud mouthed Pixie. Given her size and the fact that Pixies are normally shy and reclusive, she is as out of place as a New Yorker on a ranch in Texas. On the other hand, she's got that mouth and a ton of illusion spells, so it all evens out..
Deciding on Story Style
One of the key issues of any writing is to determine the genre and style to be portrayed.
For instance a horror story is written differently from a romance. Even within the romance genre, there are nuances of style – young love, mystery and love, adventure and love, love and rockets.
For Amberleigh Chronicles, I chose the genre of heroic adventure with a style of lighthearted romance. I’m shooting for Nick and Nora Charles meet Frodo and Company, which was exactly the way we played D&D in 1980. The juxtaposition of dark and melodramatic villains with lighthearted romance should play well in a periodic format.
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One doesn't have to be a professional to be a comic's creator. There is room for the talented amateur, especially with the proliferation of web comics. As a Weekend Artist, you can learn what is important, a bit at a time. You can apply it. You can modify and hone your craft. When it is good enough, you can make your own comic and publish it. That's what I'm doing, and you can too.
What I have listed here on the Weekend Artist is one person's journey through the twists and turns of learning how to draw, how to ink, how to write, how to digitally enhance, how to code, and how to navigate the Federal Copyright and Trademark systems.
And if just one other person is helped and encouraged by what I have done, then the Weekend Artist section is worth the time and effort expended.
Editor's Note: The tutorials previously shown have been deleted. They are all now better executed by professionals and available in on-line Blogs.
Quote for 2004
Choosing what you want to do and when to do it, is an act of imagination. Actually doing it is an act of creation.