Despite everything that happened last year, I managed to graduate with a BA in classics and religious studies. What a boon!
It was an arduous final semester–one in which I was not able to work much on Sweet Grass and Noxious Poppies, which now sits at chapter 22 (I had reached 20 last year). Despite this, I never stopped pursuing creative endeavors. Instead, I started a brand new project that was easy to work on over the course of this challenging moment in my academic career.
This is my new comic series: The Rondout Chronicles.
In the far-off year of 2013, the science of bioengineering has advanced to levels previously unimagined. At first, it’s used to make clones of famous dead people. When evil corporation, Diznay, gets wind of this, they commission the scientists to create a living, breathing version of their famous mascot character, Michael Mouse, using gene synthesis. For an exorbitant amount of cash, they do it. Realizing that there’s probably a market for this sort of thing, synthoid versions of beloved characters are commodified and marketed to a young, impressionable audience. So now, in the brave new world of 2013, famous dead people and crazy characters try to live out meaningful lives amongst ordinary people.
Cast of Characters
A group of reject characters abandoned by society live together in an apartment in a quiet little town called The Rondout (somewhere in Upstate New York).
Gaius “Caligula” Caesar
The notorious Roman despot, Caligula, was originally cloned for the purpose of studying sociopathic behavior. He escaped along with his less-crazy uncle, Claudius, to try and lead a normal life. Caligula struggles with his own deranged mind, at times trying to be better than his past self, but often giving in to his debauched nature.
His design is based on Malcolm McDowell’s character in the infamous, 70s, X-rated film Caligula, and his manner of speech is based off of McDowell’s other famous role in A Clockwork Orange.
Buckler is a zany 90s cartoon character, aptly named for his weapon of choice: the buckler (a tiny shield used for punching goons). In this world, there are many abandoned Bucklers, for while he is a popular character amongst small children, his wild, cartoon antics wind up being extremely dangerous. Naturally, he and Caligula became fast friends. Together, they cause mayhem wherever they go!
Brima is the goddess of medicine and war–she is actually a goddess, and not a genetically engineered character at all. Why she chooses to live with the rejects is yet unknown. Perhaps she feels sorry for them? Or maybe they each have some higher purpose that is yet unknown? At any rate, she is a good influence on an otherwise mischievous gang of hooligans.
Claudius is a clone of the ill-liked, though semi-competent, emperor of the same name. In the modern world, he suffers under a great deal of anxiety, which is exacerbated by his unconventional roommates and their antics.
Pencil Stevens & Keynotes Malinowski
Since they didn’t clone Caligula’s horse, Incitatus, he had to settle for a possum and cat. Pencil Stevens is a kindly, laid-back possum, and Keynotes Malinowski is an oddball cat with poor cognitive abilities. They often leave the rest of the gang behind to go out on their own adventures.
Parfy is a fun cupcake character with little shoes and gloves. He has some weird cupcake-related abilities, like throwing sprinkles at people.
Atomic Dildo is a giant, pink, radioactive dildo. It likes crossword puzzles and has a very dry sense of humor.
The Rondout Chronicles is based off of an older comic that I made back when I was a teenager. In fact, I’m actually erasing my past pencil-work and drawing on the same paper!
This process is immensely cathartic. I will often incorporate aspects of the old drawings–such as character poses, basic shapes for objects, the way that words are lettered, etc.–which I think adds something unique into the mix. It’s as if the immaturity of the characters is reflected in the art itself, and as the series progresses, and I run out of old material to do-over, the characters and artwork will mature together. As fun as this is, it comes with its own set of flaws. For one, I didn’t know how to sketch at all back in the day, so most of the old pencil-work is scratched into the paper. These impressions stick around in the final product, and I’m not sure how much of it adds to the authenticity of the work, and how much detracts from it visually.
Another unexpected challenge turned out to be color. Usually, I use colored pencil, for its subdued nature, and I often like the results. I will let you be your own judge, but I’m not totally happy with the results here.
One thing that I think these scenes could use is some shading, which I haven’t yet learned how to do. But therein lay the fun of this project, because I’m not a great artist yet, but there is room to learn, experiment, play around, go nuts, eat all of the art supplies, call the fire department…
Some Interesting Particulars
Working from four volumes of already completed work gives me a structure that allows me to be spontaneous and get a lot of work done.
As I mentioned above, it was a hard final semester. At the end of a long day of remote college classwork, no matter what state I was in, I would always be able to sit down and work on some part of The Rondout Chronicles, because I could always find a scene to work on that fit my mood. I’ve been told that writing out of order is a great way to defeat writers block, but I was never able to do it until I started this project. With Sweet Grass and Noxious Poppies, when stuck, I could sometimes skip to the next chapter, but generally forced myself to go in order. This is a shame because, much like The Rondout Chronicles, I had a outline that I could work from! There have been many, many times when I would sit down to write, only to say to myself “I’m not in the mood for this scene”.
What’s the takeaway?
Well, whatever I write next, I should try to apply the same method that I used when making The Rondout Chronicles. At the very least, I have two projects now, one that I can work on whenever I can’t find inspiration for the other. And that’s pretty dope.
So, What’s Next?
Now that I’m done with college, it’s time to get back to work on SG&NP. At the same time, I will be working on The Rondout Chronicles whenever I feel like it. The first few episodes will be released in a strange order: with episodes 4, 5, 6, and 7 being released before 1, 2, and 3 (and possibly 0), after which, the series will continue in chronological order. Some other sort of content that I want to try: it could be fun to do a drawing livestream on my largest platform (Instagram). At the least, I will probably be posting some sketches on the ol’ ‘gram.
Until next time, here’s another sketch of Pencil Stevens: