Friday, July 23, 2010

Some environmental designs

Yesterday I finished a scene in Crogan's Loyalty, and held off on writing the dialogue for the next one because I knew I had a long car drive today, and that's the best time to work on that sort of thing. So I drew some environmental designs for something I've been kicking around... less a story than a general idea.

 (Click for a big version) With the new Crogan story I'm basically moving nonstop through the wilderness, and I'm putting a lot of effort into the environments, but there's not a great deal of design going on, more of a tweaked depiction of nature.  In my sketchbooks I've been approaching environmental design from a more functional standpoint, thinking about how specific actions and scenes will play out on them, and being confined to them as more of a stage.  It's the way I appoach design for animation, but rarely for comics.  I'm curious as to how it might work for the latter.  The next book (featuring Daniel Crogan) should give me the opportunity to try it out a bit.  I dabbled with it some in March, with the fort, but I want to push it further.  With these, I was looking at it the way I'd imagine toys as a kid, what I'd want in a playset.  That's not a bad starting point, I suppose.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The problem with endpapers

Recently, the history blog 1775 questioned the validity of my use of beards in the Crogan series, the primary concern being that both David and Jonathon Crogan have them despite living in the mid-eighteenth century, in which beards were rarely, if ever, sported by English citizens, even those on the fringes of society.

And the thing is… the writer, J.L. Bell, is absolutely right.

I’ve talked at length about the genesis of the Crogan family tree in interviews (here, here, and here, if interested), but one thing I haven’t talked about is the age at which I conceived it – twenty-four – and the challenges that it now presents me.

The first point – the age – is of note because, however interested in history I was, I had but a cursory understanding of a great deal of it. I’d spent a lot of time researching pirates, the Crusades, and the mid-to-late nineteenth century British Empire, but aside from that the majority of my knowledge was peripheral at best. This means that a few of the characters portrayed in the family tree are going to require some creative solutions in order to make them jive with both real history AND with what will deliver the most entertaining (and genre-satisfying) narrative, which is where the challenges come in. 

Take, for example, Peter Crogan.  Originally I had his endpaper picture dated 1922 - luckily I'd begun researching the Legion before Vengeance was published, and discovered the the emotionally satisfying navy blue coats fell out of service during WWI.  I'd always thought of the Legion as a twenties thing, but thankfully I was able to revise the tree before the first book saw press.  Now, however, I'm stuck with whatever mistakes I've made, but rather than thinking of them AS mistakes I prefer to think of them as challenges.

The most pressing of these challenges is one of the points of contention raised by Mr. Bell, namely the beard and outfit of Jonathon Crogan. Though the buckskin has precedence, I picked the hat and beard at random, and both have proven anachronistic. My thought, at the time of the initial drawing, was that the French and Indian War was going on in the late 1750s, and that most of the men on the frontier would have been the trappers and hunters of popular imagination.

Now, while the presence of trappers and hunters is without doubt, the ones most often documented and popularized (with the furry hats and furry faces) date from the 1820s – some seventy years after my character’s visage is depicted.

This is going to require some sort of rectification, but my ideal is to create a solution in which the anachronism is explained away rather than disowned. Perhaps this picture is following a long trek, before razor’s return, or maybe Jonathon lost a bet requiring him to forgo shaving for a full year. Whatever the cause, I hope that readers will have confidence that I will do all in my power to ensure historical accuracy, including matters of hirsutism.  And, as I've mentioned, the years shown in the endpapers are not necessarily when the books themselves will take place

With each new volume I am confronted with the sheer joy and overwhelming terror of engulfing myself in an entirely new period, and in learning about said period I often find out information that requires me to take the project in a different direction that originally intended – the current project is a testament to that. I am by no means a historian – I am an entertainer, but part of my job is to make sure that those who ARE historians have as much if not more enjoyment than the general populace, free of inaccuracies except when narratively unavoidable, and in such instances I hope to make certain that the spirit of the time and people involved are depicted justly, if not factually.