SUPER TOMAGO #1: LANCER
Hi! Welcome to SUPER TOMAGO #1, the first post for my "premium" newsletter where I will be showing you a real behind the scenes look at some of the projects I'm working on. It's going to be a bit of a crazy ride, but you'll get an honest look at how I work and see some of what it takes to bring a comic to fruition.
If you're a storyteller (or just curious about the creative process), my hope for this newsletter is that you'll be able to glean some insight from the way I work and apply it in some way to whatever you might do. All knowledge is self-knowledge after all.
With that said, let's begin!
Since September of last year, I've been working on an idea for a new comic series called "Lancer". It'll be a sprawling science fiction space opera with furious mech action. In tone, it will be something more realistic and probably darker than anything I've done (Oscar covered some pretty dark subject material but it had the guise of the fantastical to dull the edge somewhat).
I've also never drawn mechs, spaceships, or gunfights before so it's definately something that's outside of my comfort zone. But after doing alot of kid-friendly material over the last several years, I'm really yearning to make a comic that I would want to go to the store and pick up for my own enjoyment.
Right now, I'm not that worried about being outside wheelhouse because I've been in similar situations in the past. In fact, none of my previous projects were based on an expertise or comfort with the subject matter at hand and there have been some hilarious failures in the past (ie. for the entire first issue of Ninjago: Garmadon all the LEGO minifigs were initially drawn with two butts, one in the front and one in the back. Needless to say there were alot of revisions).
I already know there will be mistakes and difficulties ahead, but making comics is supposed to be fun and "mistakes" can often lead you to surprising and exciting new discoveries!
I've been working on the pitch and outline for the comic for about three months n and I now have a pretty clear idea of what "Lancer" is about. I'd say the pitch is about 70% complete and right now I'm focussed on ironing out the character arcs, themes, and relevant details of the world. With a fair amount of confidence, I can sum up "Lancer" like this:
It's a war story about a callow girl with prodigious talent and a grizzled veteran whose lives are unexpectedly intertwined when a mysterious red mech known as a "Lancer" enters their lives. They have an opportunity to alter the course of humanity, but only if they can overcome their own personal traumas and grievances.
I'm going to avoid specifics for now (because I don't want to spoil the story), but the initial idea was something quite a bit funnier and absurd.
The story was about a team of grapplers who must use their wrestling and jiu-jitsu skills to take on the Kaiju that keep invading their languid tropical seaside town. I wanted to explore some of the difficulties of a middle-aged hero and the idea of destiny not arriving when you expect it to. It was called "Kaiju-Jitsu".
I actually really loved this initial idea and I fully intend to revisit it again one day, but several things happened while I was developing it. One, despite having a funny premise and tone, every time I tried to develop the characters for the setting, the story took on a much darker voice. It just kept wanting to be something other than I intended.
Secondly, I noticed during this time that there were several comics out already that was already tackling this subject matter. Notably, James Harren's Ultra Mega and Daniel Warren Johnson's Do a Power Bomb. I'm a big fan of both artists and I also didn't mind treading in the same waters as them but since the story seemed to be taking me away from such similar shores I just decided to follow it and see where it took me.
By the time I switched directions I had already written a rough draft for the pitch and drew some character designs. Some might regard that as wasted work but to me it felt like a natural evolution of whatever creative impulse that compelled me to work on this idea.
THE STORY BEGAN EARLIER THAN I REALIZED.
Now that I've been making comics for a while, I've noticed that I'm often not in control of the story I want to tell especially in the initial "blue skies" stages of planning.
While i officially began work on the comic last September, I think the initial seeds were first planted when I first came across this youtube clip of (then) 16 year old martial arts phenom, Victoria Lee. That was several years before I began work on "Lancer", but something about the juxtaposition of her youth and innocence mixed with the violent nature of a skill she excelled at made for a really compelling character.
Tragically, Victoria Lee passed away just a few weeks ago. This came as a shock to me and it's something I think about every few days despite obviously never knowing her. While I still don't know for sure what the final shape of "Lancer" will be, I am sure that the little I've seen of this young girl's life has had a huge impact on the genesis of the story and my main character.
I'll end this newsletter at this point. I meant to cover more topics with this post but I guess I had alot more to say that I thought. I hope you enjoyed this first "edition" of SUPER TOMAGO and please let me know in the comments if you have any questions or if there's anything specific you want me to talk about in future newsletters.
In the next newsletter, I'll show you what "Lancer" is shaping up to be but it seems apropros to end this newsletter with this touching tribute to Victoria Lee. May she rest in peace.