Saturday, February 27, 2010

Who was I?

I'm going to try to make some sense of this now, whether or not any of this makes it into the first chapter all depends on how much time I have until the project deadline and whether I can figure out how the hell I'm going to tell it in comic form...

(A disclaimer before I begin...some of this might disturb you. It still disturbs me. I probably shouldn't be this open about it, but it's all kinda part and parcel of this project...)

The memory of my nervous breakdown is fading, now - which makes sense since it was over 7 years ago - making it that little bit harder to tell this story. One thing that keeps resurfacing is the memory of lost identity. I remember believing that I had all sorts of incurable diseases (and that said diseases defined me, I guess) and I also remember believing I was other people...celebrities, mostly. Projecting myself onto others to make myself seem more important, I don't know.

When you're growing up all you want is to belong, to find your place in the world, figure out who you are and how you can use that knowledge to make a difference. While I was having my little episodes, boy, did I ever think I was going to make a difference! I thought I had incredible godlike power, that it was my duty to use that power to save the world, and that I was the smartest, most important person in the world who was being quarantined (on the psych ward) by the government so I couldn't foil their plans for world domination.

...No, REALLY. I honestly thought that. How messed up is that?

And that's not all. Before these scary grandiose delusions started to manifest, I just felt really good. Too good, though. I remember feeling so in touch with everything, every molecule, every living thing. I felt invincible. (If that sounds like an LSD trip to you, you're not alone - but NONE of this was drug-induced) My drawings had also gotten a lot better. I understood everything (or thought I did, anyway) as my mind was going a mile a minute. I thought I was unlocking my full potential (now you see where the godlike power delusion comes from). The world - no, the entire universe - made sense, and I had finally figured out who I was supposed to be.

...Unfortunately, no, I hadn't. Everything went downhill from there - I'll spare you the rest of the details. Instead I'll try to illustrate the two sides of this coin for you, visually. Here's a drawing I did while I was...manic.

Spontaneous, colourful, here's one I did during my descent into full-blown madness.

Jagged. Very tense. No more colour. Those patterns are kind of interesti--DEAR LORD WHAT THE HELL IS THAT THING. D:

Ok, not the best example... Here's another one...

Two people with FOREIGN OBJECTS STICKING IN THEIR HEADS - A PARASITE AND TWO GIANT RAZOR BLADES. Obviously at this point I had finally figured out something was wrong, but I was powerless to stop it. (Powerless?! What happened to the godlike power you said you had?!) I had to keep on going wherever the madness was going to take me.

What makes this so difficult for storytelling purposes is that none of this was gradual. It was quite sudden and came on without warning - all I know is that it was caused by a lack of sleep. And believe me, I wanted to sleep - to this day I still have no idea what caused me to stop sleeping for an entire week for no reason. Since it wasn't gradual, I can't figure out how to make it fit into the "rising action" portion of the standard storytelling model.


A drawing by Nate Powell, another comic artist I admire whose style is starting to rub off on me. Maybe.

My main problem with drawing is that I lack confidence. I don't draw nearly as much as I should, as I suffer from constant anxiety about whether my work is any good or not, and constantly compare myself to other artists. (I also worry about unintentionally ripping someone off, although that's never really happened) And that's why, when I first saw Nate Powell's graphic novel Swallow Me Whole, I threw up my hands and said "That's it. I quit." I saw no point in creating my own comic about a teenager suffering mental illness if such a breathtaking work as Powell's had already been drawn (and in a fraction of the time that mine is going to take to finish, to boot).


It's fortunate that when I first saw this comic I happened to be at a release party for a Saskatoon comics anthology and I had brought some of my work along to show the editors in the hopes that they would publish me. They were very impressed and the owner of the comic store even gave me a free t-shirt, and told me he wanted to hold an exhibition of my work in the store. This was my reaction:


I went home as confident and energized as anything, anxious to draw my comic after all, realizing that it wasn't about being the first to create a graphic novel about mental illness, but about telling my own story. And adding to those already out there - since, let's face it, Powell's is still one of only three or four. It's still largely unexplored territory.

But I couldn't have come to this realization if it weren't for the kind accolades from the people at that release party.

Now why is that? Why do I need constant validation of my skills? I shouldn't. In fact I've been taught (by snarky internet forums) that it's a BAD thing. That mindless praise is wrong because it doesn't teach you anything. I don't know. I still haven't figured that one out. let's move on. Lately I also find myself inspired by the Flight comics anthologies. They tend to be very heavy on the whimsy, with lots of stories about cute fuzzy little animal-type characters and that probably doesn't appeal to most of you. But never mind, that isn't why I like them. (Okay, MAYBE it is, I am a girl, after all) I like that a lot of them lack dialogue, giving them loads of atmosphere and leaving them open to interpretation. I've incorporated that into my work, first with At The Hundredth Meridian and now with this comic, although I freely admit that I do it partly because I can't write dialogue. I always struggle to find the right words to communicate and I've always been able to say so much more with a drawing. It's tragic, because I want to do both. I want to be a master of pictures AND words. Someday.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


"Ewww....get away from me!!" Stuck in quite a rut right now...gonna be a while before I post any more pages...I thank you for your patience :p

Friday, February 19, 2010


I've had this image in my head for a while, so here's a quick sure was fun to colour something again :)

I wanted to use a portion of this for a blog masthead but it doesn't seem to be working very well...oh, well...I'll keep trying...

(Edit: Tried to fix the arms)

(Edit 2: Aaaaand we have a masthead! It's not terrific but it's better than'll do till I make something better!)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pages 4 & 5

AT LAST...two new pages for you lovely people :)

(Next - pages 6 & 7)

(Previous - pages 2 & 3)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Yes, I Loved "Black Hole"

What's this? I dunno. I don't know where it fits in yet, or if it even fits in at all, but damn it was fun to draw. (I think I actually drew this over the Christmas holidays, because that lamp and clock radio can both be found at my parents' house :p)

I have many more finished pages I could post, but I'd rather not since none of them directly follow the first sequence, so I'd just end up confusing everyone. Of course, THIS doesn't follow the first sequence, either...D'OH!!! Screw it. Here's another one.

"Page 4," huh? I like this, except "Exquisite Corpse" really has nothing to do with the story at all. It...sort of did, at one time...I...think. Joel suggested making the notebook the focus of this instead, and have THAT as my chapter splash page. Probably not a bad idea. Hilroy's lawyers might be all over my ass, either way.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Old comics & influences, part 2

Instead of doing ACTUAL comic work, I'll write another one of these.

I promised to tell you about my favourite graphic novel ever. That would be Bryan Talbot's The Tale Of One Bad Rat. His magnum opus is The Adventures Of Luther Arkwright, but I feel Bad Rat really doesn't get the credit it deserves. I never see it mentioned in discussions of graphic novels, and I never see it on anyone's "top ten" lists. Ever. Despite a recent deluxe hardcover reprint edition. Come ON. You've got no excuse, people. Go out and read this comic NOW.

Bad Rat concerns a young girl named Helen, who runs away from home to the English Lake District fleeing sexual abuse at the hands of her father. In the end she meets a couple who take her under their wing and give her a job in their pub, and she finds the strength to stand up to her father. This story accomplishes everything that a good story should: It explores a serious issue with grace and authority, it is populated by well-developed characters (the one that drew me in initially was Ben, the Geordie street musician), and it is sad, powerful and moving. Bryan Talbot also knows when to let the drawings communicate the story without text...and oh HOW they communicate...

Reading this comic was a huge revelation for me, on the level of "Comics can do THIS? Why didn't anyone tell me comics could do THIS?!" I really do suggest you read it for yourself because I can't even put into words all the reasons I love it. When you're finished reading Bad Rat, also check out Grandville, Talbot's anthro steampunk detective story - it's a lot of fun...


Speaking of fun, my second comic was not GRIMDARK serious like New Edge and was only drawn for fun. It was called These Days, and it concerned Ian Curtis returning from the dead and running around present-day Manchester, accompanied by Mark E. Smith. Yes, REALLY. You can read the whole comic in its entirety online here (as much as we completed - myself and my co-writer), if you feel so inclined. Uhh...but be warned, it's very stupid. A lot of people seemed to enjoy it though, so...stupid in a good way. Sure.

Next: my largest current influences. Also, the story of an obnoxious wizard and his even more obnoxious "friends," battling an ancient god named after a record producer.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Jigsaw Puzzle In Space

Well, it's now February. How many pages have you got, Elaine?

*checks*...fourteen? And I've not finished inking a lot of those either. Oh, well.

Here's a fragment from yet another sequence I started today. I'm concerned that it's really cliched...I have the same concern about another sequence I've almost completed. EEEUUUGH. Do I just worry too much? I have no idea. The internet has made me so jaded and cynical.

Fun fact: this is not actually in space. Er, not like I had to tell you that, I suppose. :p