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What Inspired Charlie & Clow?

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charlie and clow the case of the wendigo panel

Charlie & Clow, Charlie & Clow: The Bonus Arc, and The Case of the Wendigo all sprang from one initial idea I had when I was in college.

I want to say it was around 2009 or 2010 when I thought of the original story – in the original, Charlie wasn’t the main character. The story, instead, focused on a red-haired character named Margot.

Margot (pronounced “MAR-go”) was a lead singer in a punk band dating Charlie, who in this story was the lead guitarist. Charlie’s brother, Jared (who in this version was much beefier) was the drummer. All three made an appearance in my first minicomic, Breakfast for Dinner, which is now out of print (and will stay that way).

This version of the story, with Margot in the lead, had two drafts. In draft 1, Charlie was kidnapped by a demon and Margot had to team up with Jared and a guardian angel named Clow to go into the spirit world and rescue her. Draft 2 had the band narrowed down to Charlie and Margot, and both died in a car accident on their way to a gig, and Clow helps them navigate the spirit world.

I finished chapter 1 of both versions and dropped them. Because I didn’t like the directions they were going, which was that they had NO direction. There was no set end goal.

Plus, every time I went to make tweaks, I found myself drawn more towards Charlie than Margot. I wanted to know what Charlie was up to, and in my imagination, she was way more engaging and talkative than Margot ever was. Margot was secretive – Charlie was open and engaging. So I made her the lead.

Margot’s design stuck around, though – she was the inspiration for Claudia’s final design.

charlie and clow the case of the wendigo claudia

The two are very different in personality though. Margot was abrasive, crass, violent – very stereotypical punk. Claudia is more Gothic Lolita in look, but very mature and calm in demeanor.

Jared, Charlie’s brother, makes an appearance in Charlie & Clow: The Bonus Arc, but as an extra – and this time he’s a rock climbing instructor instead of a drummer.

charlie and clow the bonus arc comic strip jared

The drummer aspect was put into Rob, the drummer of Roxie’s band in the Validation bonus comics.

validation roxie bonus comics

So once I did the main character shift, I thumbnailed the first draft of Charlie & Clow…and I LOVED it! I had WAY more fun writing and drawing for it. Charlie was just the main character I was looking for, and the world she occupied was more interesting for me to explore.

charlie and clow comic page 12Of course, a more interesting world couldn’t be contained in only 24 pages. That’s why I made Charlie & Clow: The Bonus Arc, and now I’m making The Case of the Wendigo.

charlie and clow the case of the wendigo comic page 23I actually tried pitching the trilogy under one name to Oni Press, but got rejected – I think that was around the time that the company picked up comics like The Mighty Zodiac and Merry Men, though, so I can’t complain.

Besides, it was a learning experience, and helped me realize that the original pitch was pulling the story too long – the pitch had at least two chapters after The Case of the Wendigo, but I realized they were unnecessary. And by unnecessary, I mean that the characters (Charlie, Clow, and the rest) would have finished character arcs at the end of The Case of the Wendigo. So sequels after that were not needed.

In terms of the visual inspiration, I always wanted to make a comic about punks and goths. I love the fashion choices of both subcultures and always wanted to draw them. I also wanted to pull from my brief experiences in Chicago, but also use set locations from Wheeling, WV – in particular, the Bridge of Suicide Hill (which I talked about before).

The plot really came about after noticing something about urban fantasy as a genre – from Supernatural to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to the absurdly popular books on the shelves like Twilight, The Dresden Files, and others like them, I noticed one thing…

The characters in too many urban fantasy stories are white. There are so few black girls in them on the mainstream shelves.

THAT was a major starting point for the new draft – again, in my imagination, Charlie was much more open than Margot, and that was a huge plus, as well. I knew that if I wanted to make an urban fantasy story with a black girl lead, that lead was going to be Charlie.

The reason I’ve stuck with this story so long is because of Charlie – I love her as a character. I was inspired to make her because I knew two awesome ladies in college, who were the inspiration for her personality and skill sets. Charlie & Clow, the print book, is actually dedicated to both ladies: Natasha Burton and Tifah Lockhart. If either of you are reading this, thank you. You’re incredible!

I hope this shed some light into what inspires a story to come about – it can be very messy, and long, and lead to dead ends, but it’s all part of the journey. And I’m glad I took that journey, because it lead me to a badass main character and a story I MASSIVELY love to draw.

Thank you for reading.

You. Are. Awesome.

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The YO-ICE Free Sketch Card Giveaway

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sketch cards

Yes, I’m doing another giveaway! Why? Because this Saturday, Sept 9th will be my third year at Youngstown Indie Creator Expo (or YO-ICE for short) and I wanted to celebrate and reward my peeps who can make it to the show.

If you’ve always wanted a custom, trading-card-sized piece of art, here’s the rules for the giveaway:

  1. Make an appearance at this year’s Youngstown Indie Creator Expo on Sept 9th, from 11 am to 6 pm, at the First Presbyterian Church of Youngstown, OH.
  2. Leave a comment below to let me know who or what you would like me to draw for you. Keep in mind the art is black and white, and small – trading-card-sized small.
  3. Come to YO-ICE and pick up your card at my table!

Super simple.

I’ve already done this three times at other events this summer, and I’m happy to do it again. So if you’re able to come to this year’s YO-ICE, leave a comment below and tell me what you would like me to draw for you.

Thanks for your support!

You. Are. Awesome.

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Wynd the Wise Woman

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wynd the wise woman dungeons and dragons

I’ve been meaning to share this sketch and the story of this woman for a while now.

Wynd the Wise Woman is an NPC (Non-Player Character) in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign I ran last year. This woman is actually tied into the origins of the world I designed, but without getting too spoiler-y: she’s the wise woman who lives in a fancy house in the south part of Jopennt, the first town the players enter.

People in Jopennt say to avoid her house, though, because no one knows what kind of magic she does – all they know is that there are little people who work in the house, and things explode all the time. And lately, people have been disappearing when they get close to the property.

Wynd lives with a band of 12 gnomes, and they’re figuring out the magic and science behind gunpowder, weather forecasting, and bags of holding. She’s a treasure-keeper and has ancient armor and weapons, and she only accepts payment in the form of jewels – no copper, gold, silver, or platinum allowed.

Wynd’s house also has unusual features, like a cabinet that remains empty except for whatever object she needs at that moment. In one session the players were helping her make dinner and she said to one player, “Dearie, get into the cabinet and get the salt for me,” and when the cabinet was opened, the shelves were empty except for a single salt shaker. A few minutes later she said, “Oh darnit I forgot the tea. Can you get in the cabinet again and get the tea for me please?” The player opened the same cabinet and all the shelves were empty except for a single hot pot of tea. No burner or flame was present.

One side quest the players can do is solve a mystery – two of Wynd’s gnomes vanished and it’s the players’ job to find them. Poke around enough, and the players find out that on one end of the property there’s a veil that connects to the realm of the faeries. The gnomes (and some towns people) have been vanishing by inadvertently walking through this veil.

That’s just a sampling of what she does in the campaign. Next time I’ll share a sketch of another important NPC from the campaign.

Thanks for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

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What You Can Do After Charlottesville

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The neo-Nazi and white supremacist riots in Charlottesville, VA happened this last weekend. You cannot deny it no matter how many anti-Antifa posts you see (which, thanks to Snopes, we know those anti-Antifa posts are fabricated). You also cannot deny it no matter how many times you say “but I have a black (insert indirect personal connection here).”

Charlottesville is a culmination of many forces, some brewing over the last 60 years, some brewing over the last 8 months. But it happened, and now we are here.

It’s ok to be angry. It’s ok to be a little (or very) scared.

Do not let those emotions change who you are. You are more than anger and fear.

Fear is a luxury we cannot afford anymore.

Now is the time to take a stand and do the right things. And believe it or not, you (the United States citizen) have the ability to do something to make a difference.

Here’s a short list of things you can do: Continue reading →

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