Friday, June 23, 2017

Making of Pepper-Chronicles: Coordinating overseas




To celebrate the German publication of Pepper-Chronicles, I am planing on a series of making-of posts about this comic here on my blog in the upcoming weeks. Get more info about it here: pepperchronicles.com - considering the English edition, we are still working on that. Oh, and if you speak German, you order it for cheap moneys (10 Euros cheaper) at our indiegogo until end of June.


How do you handle an international project like this with two project partners in a different time zone over the course of five years?

The answer for me was Facebook. We used a private group to get a lot of the coordinating work done. This, plus a couple of skype-meetings every month. And let’s not forget the stubborn persistence I tortured my project partners with over the course of five years.
The Facebook Group was an amazing tool in coordinating between script, storyboards, layouts, inks and color. On each stage, we used the comment section to suggest changes, thoughts, ideas and spot mistakes. 


Each stage of a page usually had an album-folder (“Storyboards”, “Layouts”, etc.) and if I wanted Rabekie or Dan to review them, I would tag them or e-mail them about the new additions in our group. 

The FB-group was very useful, but it also became quite challenging to keep track of all the folders, and the vast number of image-files. Over the years, keeping track of everything sort of became my major job, so after some time Rebekie just called me “art-director”. It truly challenged me to stay in control of everything sometimes, but honestly: Without the FB-group it would have been a near-to-impossible task.

The skype meetings started when I left for Austria in 2012. The most useful aspect of them was to stay in touch, keep the project running and fresh, but also to talk trough bulks of the script and spot inconsistencies, suggest changes or just pat Dan on the shoulder for doing a great job.



Rebekie and I sometimes used those meeting to just work on the comic on the same time. Sometimes I would use the screen-share-function in Skype to show her things in Photoshop, and vice-versa.
All in all: It took a lot of work to keep it together over the past five + years. Honestly: I had to revive the project a couple of times. I had to plea and to beg sometimes. But in the end, Rebekie and Dan always delivered fantastic work.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Making of Pepper-Chronicles: Evolution of Story & Characters/ II


To celebrate the German publication of Pepper-Chronicles, I am planing on a series of making-of posts about this comic here on my blog in the upcoming weeks. Get more info about it here: pepperchronicles.com - considering the English edition, we are still working on that.
Mage Jacop Tucher

The second main-character of our story is Jacop Tucher, student of Acco’s magic academy. Just like Mara, Jacop has always been an alter-ego for me. He sort of appeared in my graphic novel “Xoth!” (a lovecraftian horror-comedy) which I published with Zwerchfell in 2007 – he even had the same name.




In the same year, I started playing a pen-and-paper Roleplaying game called “The Dark Eye”. In the game, I played a wizard called Jacop Tucher, a red-haired young wizard. The character wasn’t really very good at anything, but he always had a place in the group for his good-hearted humor and slight tendency towards darker shades of morality. I am still playing this character today, still with the same round of friends. I have grown with him for over eight years now.  

So it wasn’t a hard decision to use him again for the Pepper-Chronicles. After all, it felt like I knew him already. And he embodies my love for the classic inept, but loveable anti-hero.

World & Magic & Religion (if you want to be completely surprised by the world, maybe don’t read all of this)

Back when we developed the story, I was drawn towards Western Orientalism in art. I wanted Mara to enter a strange world, just like me coming to New York in 2009, or India in 2003. So I wanted Acco, the main location, to be much bigger, busier and stranger than her hometown Zarg, a little village in which people prayed to unicorns, the ultimate symbol of innocence and purity. In Acco, they treat unicorns like rats. 
  

Magic &  Religion

One of my favorite aspects of the world is the magic system. I LOVE magic systems with a little bit internal logic to them. The BEAT and the RHYTHM of all things plays a very important role in religion and magic as well. People pray to the beat of the dragon (his heartbeat) and wizards use their heartbeat to change the rhythm of things.



For the main location of our story, Acco, we decided to have the city’s most iconic vegetable also be the source of most of the magic: The Pepper. I loved the thought that the Pepper’s spiciness is a great source of magical energy for wizards, and so they can use the pepper to create powerful spells – in particular various forms of making the pepper explode, sort of like a pepper-spray spell for defense.  Personally, this whole system was very loosely based on the idea of the rules of quantum mechanics, the beat being more or less the energy level & vibration of particles on the most molecular level. 



So there it is: Magic & religion is more important in the world of Mara Payne. Hard science is slightly frowned upon, which is why we have a bunch of radical mathematicians form a cult in our story. Enough of the world! Feel free to find out more about it by reading our story!

Friday, June 09, 2017

Making of Pepper-Chronicles: Guest-post by writer Daniel Scribner

To celebrate the German publication of Pepper-Chronicles, I am planing on a series of making-of posts about this comic here on my blog in the upcoming weeks. Get more info about it here: pepperchronicles.com - considering the English edition, we are still working on that. Today's blog post is a guest article by writer Daniel Scribner, who created the script for our comic. Here we go!
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I first met Anna-Maria at a role-playing game about the most dysfunctional adventurers ever. Her wizard sprayed colorful magic from her crotch and performed Sailor Moon style costume changes. Someone else was a pirate who was afraid of the water. I think I played a very confused space marine.

You had to be there. 

But our senses of humor matched up somehow, and we got really good at turning a bunch of crazy random things into a single funny story. It even had a beginning, middle and end.
Turns out, Anna-Maria had just started on a new project, and she said she was struggling a bit with the story. (I never knew until now that it all started with a dream!) She asked me for a little advice, and we met in a cafĂ© to talk it out. 

Four hours later, we were still going. I had ten pages of notes, a list of story beats, three character maps, and a bunch of world-building, and I was trying to explain the merits of three versus five act plot structures. That was probably what broke her, and she asked me if I just wanted to write the damn thing for her so she could focus on the art.

The second meeting, Becky joined us and it turned into another four hour meeting. Anna-Maria had the basic idea of Mara Payne, a town guard who is too strict for her little village and comes to the big city to solve crime. She called it a reverse “Hot Fuzz.” 

(Below: Early concept art by Rebekie Bennington)

But we needed to know a lot more about what made her the way she was. Why doesn’t she fit in? What makes someone leave home and travel a hundred miles with nothing but hope that it will be better? That takes someone brave, and someone who thinks big.
Pretty soon, we knew that we had someone great on our hands. Becky was already doodling concept art as we talked out the character. 

We all knew we wanted a Strong Female Protagonist™. But that meant avoiding a lot of stereotypes – she isn’t looking for romance, she isn’t everyone’s mother, she doesn’t run around in high heels. And she’s not a perfect heroine. I just love her broken nose and the big stubborn jaw Becky gave her, so I went with that all the way to eleven. She doesn’t always understand other people and she doesn’t compromise. And she’s a little crazy, like her creator Anna-Maria. 

(Below: NYC Pepper-Chronicles Workparty - Dan writing, Anna-Maria doodeling, Becky inking)

When I sat down to write her first dialogue, I needed to know how she spoke. It needed to be intense, but also funny as hell. I was a huge fan of the Tick as a kid, and it was a perfect inspiration for Mara too . But I also put her in a scene with her father right away, so we could find out some of that back-story from the very start, and see a lot of her personality. What happens when she’s more relaxed?

But it’s not enough to come up with a backstory and some motivation. What makes Mara so interesting is how she changes. Over the next few meetings, we talked more about how we wanted to see Mara grow, and made a bunch of notes about the things that had to happen along the way to push her.

The biggest source of all that change is her new friend, Jacop the Wizard. More on him and how they drove the story next time!

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Daniel Scribner has been writing and editing since he was conceived in 1979. Since then, he has produced six plays in NYC and the wilds of New Jersey, including Trivial Pursuits and The Spickner Spin. He has even won a few awards, and was a Spielberg Fellow for drama in 2000. His short stories are published in numerous literary journals and genre fiction magazines. The Pepper Chronicles is his first graphic novel, and it terrifies him.