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