Doing an origin story about a group of characters no one has ever seen before is a daunting task. What do you include to get the characters over to the readers. And what is too much? You know the parts no one would be interested in. It's a tightrope I've been on for a long time.
I envisioned this story as one whole piece. Then I broke it apart and found I needed to add parts to help fill in the cracks after I broke it. It made me elongate the story to fill in the pieces. That's why I was hyping book two as a continuation of the origin. But since August, I just didn't think the origin needed to go further than my intended collection known as book one. I had quite a bit of issue #3 finished. At least my original layout of it. It was then I decided that I wanted to make it the end of the origin. That meant incorporating the front part of the story intended for book two. Once I broke free of the constraints of doing a normal length comic, making issue #3 as long as it needed to be, everything fit into place. So now issue # 3 is almost 40 pages. I feel like it finishes what I started and leads my characters into further stories.
It's not a perfect story. But if I thought that, it would scare me. I've said it before, it's close. If you liked what you've read so far (assuming you do since you're on this site) you should enjoy the issue. If you were on the fence, this issue has more character moments and story, not just one big adventure like #2. Motivations and reasons are more obvious and a few surprises.
I really can't wait to hold it in my hands.
The dreaded "To Be Announced." I've seen it on countless books, movies or video games. Never in a hundred years did I think I'd ever use the term. But as of this post, I am.
It's hard. I'm extremely close to getting to the production stage, full rendered colors (most pages are at least flat colored), lettering, putting the pages all together, to print. But with the holidays, and even with my part time design schedule it's just not going to be this year when I get it done.
It's depressing. But I have to own up to it. It's better than continually putting a new month on when I'll be done and be disappointed. As an example, I got up early Friday with intentions to draw. But a client who I had been trying to get her book done before Christmas so she could use it for gifts, threw some changes in on me. Before I knew it, between that and a few trips out to get a handle on my Xmas shopping, the day was gone and I just couldn't finish the page I had started two days before.
This is hard. I knew it would be. But more than anything it's hard just finding the time to do it. Forget having to come up with panels to draw. The actual process of putting a comic together, almost by yourself (the coloring is the only help I get) is just a big weight that sometimes is hard to manage. I understand why they assembly lined the process at the big two a long time ago.
I won't ramble on more. This is more to say I'm pretty sure it will be done in January. But in case it isn't, I'm not advertising it as such.
I know it's becoming a broken record, but I'm delayed...again!
But this time it isn't purely because something is keeping me busy elsewhere. With issue #3, my intention is dealing a nice conclusion to the origin story while setting up the second book. As such, I was trying to go no further than the page count I had for issue #2, which was 26 pages. But as I kept drawing and working out the story, I just felt like it needed more room to make sure things are at least tied up so that I feel I have a nice foundation to go further. So that's why issue #3 is taking longer than expected. More story content is good right? This is what happens when you try to transform a graphic novel into sequential breakdowns. I was trying to compress my story to fit within the confines of a comic. Only to make adjustments and additions after the publication because I didn't give myself enough time or room. I don't want issue #3 to suffer the same.
I saw Book One and Book Two as two halves of the same whole. But while breaking Book Two's story, I felt there were some elements that I could add to issue #3 to allow it to finish the storytelling I started in Book one and allow me to expand the story of Book Two better. So now, the books stand a little better on their own.
Chalk it up to learning as I go on this. So many things evolve and change during the creation of a book. As an observer for so many years, it looked like things fell into place so easy for some creators. But this work has changed so much just in the year and a half I've actively been working on it. Forget the last 20 years of development, hands on definitely changes your point of view and work flow. You find yourself changing course mid movement because you want something to look a certain way or be interpreted another. While aggravating it makes the process longer, the refining and focusing make the product better. And that's what I want.
More to come as this first week of December unfolds.
A lifelong comics fan, Mike W. Belcher is the writer/artist of MAN IN THE MASK. A story he's had with him for over 20 years.