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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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Blogging Every Day in November?!

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holy banana pants johnson and sir ackles

Yeah, it’s pretty bananas, I know.

Even though I’ve been feeling sick lately, I’ve also been feeling a creative slump. When I sit down at the drafting table to draw, I either can’t focus or I can’t muster up the energy draw the thing that’s in front of me.

It’s not just election bullshit, either; it’s the day job scheduling me so I have to get up at 3:30 am (which no sane human being should ever be obligated to do so). It’s trying to handle KickStarter, TWO Patreons, two webcomics, and freelance gigs on top of the day job. And trying to do all of that while trying to remember to eat and sleep. And shower. Grace bless whoever invented showers.

“But,” I can hear you say, “if you have all that shit to do, why blog every day? Wouldn’t that be more work?”

Yes and no.

Yes, on the surface, it seems like more work, but to me, it’s a good way to purge whatever is up in my brain part to make room in the brain part for new ideas. I’m doing this to kick-start the creative juices.

It’s also a good way to keep track of the work I’m doing, and bringing you along for the ride so maybe you can get some ideas.

As far as comics or works-in-progress goes, that’ll all be Patreon-exclusive. So instead, I’ll be blogging about ideas, stories I’ve wanted to share, new books and comics I’m reading, and I GUESS I’ll do list posts. But if I’m going to do a list post, it’s going to be how I want to do one, not just obligatory traffic-boosting clickbait.

If that all sounds like your cup of tea (and I’ll be writing about tea, also), stay tuned and come back tomorrow! (Maybe tomorrow’s post will be about tea… Maybe. Possibly.)

Thank you for reading.

You. Are. Awesome.

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I Was a Librarian

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librarian selfie with books art sketch
(Click to enlarge)

Yep.

My first ever paid job in high school was being a librarian. Technically, I was a page, so my job was to re-stack books, DVDs, CDs, and other stuff people checked out and returned.

The cool thing was I was a page at a time when libraries just caught on to the idea that graphic novels were cool. So the graphic novel section was growing and getting all kinds of cool additions. This was how I was exposed to works like Cairo by G. Willow Wilson and M.K. Perker (which I reviewed here), Paradise Kiss by Ai Yazawa, and (most importantly) Making Comics by Scott McCloud.

I, as a page, was also supposed to clean up small messes. I have found many strange things in my time as a page, from abandoned wallets to an ash tray that was ripped out of a truck. But that’s a story I’m going to get into…right now.

I was sorting in the large print section when I found this aforementioned ash tray. And I was really confused. So I took it to the sorting room and approached the other librarians, saying “I found this weird ashtray. What should I do with it?”

My manager in her corner office said “BURN IT!” But one of the other ladies said she would hold on to it until someone claimed it. After all, it was an ash tray that belonged in a car. Someone should get it, right?

Ten minutes later I’m back in the large print, moving onto Non Fiction next to it, when a greasy guy in a leather jacket approaches me, looking nervous, saying, “Uh…did you by chance see an ash tray around here? It’s for my truck.”

True Facts.

Anyway, I was a page for two years until I graduated high school and went to college.

For a semester I had a minor in Pop Culture (because Bowling Green State University, my alma mater, was one of the few schools that offered classes in Pop Culture studies).

While I was studying this oddball field, I worked at the Browne Popular Culture Library.

Yes, this was a thing.

It was a very cool thing, too. It carried all manner of comics and graphic novels, and they even had dime novels from as far back as 1910. There were movie scripts, posters, and a ton of Star Trek memorabilia (I heard the library has the largest private collection of Star Trek memorabilia carried by a library in the United States). There were also pulp magazines, though they were rarely, if ever, read… The pulp was so old they were kept in special boxes so the light would not damage them, and if they were ever handled, it was with gloves, so the oil on your fingers wouldn’t damage the pulp paper.

The library even carried copies of the original elvish dictionaries written by J.R.R. Tolkien himself.

So with all of this awesomeness within our walls, you would think we were slammed with people.

But there was a catch: The Browne Popular Culture Library is what librarians call a “closed-stack” library. That means everything was kept behind closed doors, and if you wanted to check out anything, you had to fill out a form and a librarian (like me) had to run back and fetch it.

We had our catalog online, which is how you can find books in the Pop Culture Library in the first place. But once you got the book, it wasn’t allowed to leave the floor.

So…no, there weren’t a lot of people clammoring for the books there.

My time there was short, but I enjoyed it. It was the job that got me into comics as a cultural force, rather than comics as throwaway entertainment.

Because the cool things was: I saw a ton of old AND new comics in that library. I saw the original pulp magazines and dime novels.

And yes, the popularity of mediums changes. Dime novels aren’t really a thing anymore, and digest comics like Archie, I’m sad to say, are starting to lag.

But though the popularity of storytelling modes might change, the constant thing is that there are stories, and they are there, waiting to be read.

It’s fascinating to see the arc of popular culture history, seeing what was popular and what faded in favor of the next fad, and why the next fad was so huge.

Comics are, I dare say, the new fad in storytelling, because their potential is being rediscovered. Back in the 1950s, comics in the U.S. took a giant leap backwards (that’s a VERY long story I’ll save for next time), and since then comics as a medium in the U.S. has been playing catch-up with the rest of the world.

Comics are reemerging as a fad, and I would say that’s a good thing. It’s an artistic medium that deserves to be created with, studied, and read.

How long will that fad last? I don’t know. Tell me what you think in comments.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you tomorrow.

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