In Retrospect: Timeline
Jun 29, 2016, 12:00:22 PM
Well okay, the timeline began on the previous page...
It's pretty much self explanatory, but why not, let's dig in and add more detail to the timeline, and I'll tell you the story of how This Mortal Coil came to be.
The timeline only covers the production of this comic, but the idea for This Mortal Coil goes back to January 2010.
The comic came to me while I was walking on a treadmill.
I like a meandering walk. It's a great way to let your mind shuffle ideas around and who knows what crazy thing you'll cook up.
I was reading the end of Sandman Vol. 1. There's a scene with Morpheus and his sister Death. Death enter's a baby's nursery; the baby's been put to sleep, but he dies at that point, and the baby upon seeing Death speaks: "Is that all the time I've got?" That scene always stuck with me.
It was that scene where the whole thing clicked. Go check out One of Us. If you've read Gaiman's Sandman, you'll see the parallels. I pretty much wrote the scene around that line.
This Mortal Coil is mostly inspired by watching a ton of anime and reading comics such as Preacher and Sandman. The idea of This Mortal Coil being expressed in high contrast a la Sin City was there from the beginning as well. To a degree even Kamiko's Harajuku Lolita fashion too, which was inspired by the movie Kamikaze Girls, which is about a Lolita girl who befriends a Yanki girl (or thuggish Japanese girl).
I don't know when I had the title, but I borrowed, I mean stole it, from the Bard himself.
But you know...
I probably wouldn't have acted on the idea. It would have remained shelved indefinitely, but my friend, the then head of our Drawing Meats group wanted to make an Ashcan comic. It would be a collected anthology of short comics and stand-alone artwork. We would take it to the Alternate Press Expo (APE) in San Francisco and table there.
"Comics help sell a book," was what she said to us.
I happened to have this idea, so I thought I'd try my hand at plotting out the first six pages, which became the short story "One of Us. (which you might also know as the Joan Osborne song).
In April of 2010, I drew the 6 page comic and tried out the black and white. I didn't have a great grasp of it, or how it should even work, but I tried anyway.
I also drew this, which I believe is the very first bit of artwork for Kamiko, which wasn't on this website until right now:
I also drew one of the first pinup pieces of Kamiko for that book, which to my surprise was not on this website either:
You might consider these drawings as her Lolita ita phase as the dress has a lot of lace and ruffles but no real design as a Lolita outfit.
My short comic and the pinup were in the Ashcan we created for APE 2010. We had a lot of fun tabling at the convention.
This Mortal Coil: The Novel?
A year went by after APE and for National Novel Writing Month 2011 I wrote a draft of This Mortal Coil as a novel. It wasn't The Rabbit and the Moon. It was an attempt to flesh out the characters and the world and to give Kamiko life.
I know there are at least 50,000 words towards a Mortal Coil novel, but in the end it didn't really gel together. Although, a lot of ideas came out of it, which ended up in my extensive catalog of world-building notes.
Instead of going at this as a long novel, I thought it would be better to think of it as a TV serial like Doctor Who, (where some inspiration comes from as well). This way I could have various villains and plot threads going and have shorter adventures.
As a comic, at least I could end it after a story rather than having a huge mythology that would span thousands of pages that needed to be resolved.
Don't get me wrong, I'd love to dig into the mythos of This Mortal Coil, but maybe only a bit at a time, as I place more value on the smaller stories, and also not all of the worldbuilding if fleshed out so I'm flying by the seat of my pants. Cartoons like Steven Universe, Adventure Time, Bravest Warrior (see a trend here?), and Rick and Morty have shown me that this is a pretty good way to go with storytelling.
The Rabbit and the Moon
After the novel, Drawing Meats spurred me on again towards the creation of This Mortal Coil as a comic.
One of the group activities we introduced was The Original Character Project where someone in the group proffers up their original character (or O.C.) and everyone takes a stab at drawing him/her. I was chosen to go first and I picked Kamiko.
I didn't have to draw anything for my own character, but I did and I drew a picture of Kamiko catching the moon while a rabbit and little girl watched on. I'd love to say I drew heavily on my knowledge of Chinese mythology, but more than likely the ideas were inspired by Sailor Moon (it's fitting since Kamiko's a magical girl and she's heavily anime inspired).
Here it is:
24 Hour Comic Day
Someone mentioned this at Drawing Meats, there was 24 Hour Comic Day. You work non-stop for one day and produce a comic.
How this for a crazy idea: I'll turn This Mortal Coil into a 24 Hour Comic Day thing.
I literally had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I started to put together storyboards and then began drawing. I thought... "yeah, how hard could this be."
I started and stopped. Started again. I didn't like anything I made. It was messy. Perspective? Backgrounds? Lolita fashion? Whuuutt... There were so many unanswered questions. I had no idea where the story was going to go, or what it was.
After a few hours I was dead in the water.
But I thought, what if I really did this. Like, For Real?
Like I put the full weight of my capability to write, to illustrate, and to code behind this thing.
At that time in my life, I felt that I needed a project.
I had friends who wanted to do indie games, but the logistics of organizing friends to do that, and the fact that I worked at a game company, meant that it was a no-go. I was better off doing something on my own and I could make something bigger than me, something I could own. Something very personal, and hence the idea was spurred on again.
March 13 2012
I began to write The Rabbit and the Moon as a script in Scrivener.
As an experiment, I had been writing some short stories and practicing some ideas I learned while reading Robert McKee's Story, which is a great book on the nuts and bolts of storycrafting.
I fleshed out the mythology of my story based on the Lady of the Moon. Having watched enough anime and NHK documentaries on Japanese life, I melded my rudimentary knowledge of Shintoism and my love of folklore into The Rabbit and the Moon. Oh, and time travel, grandfather paradoxes, miracles. Yeah, they all kinda grew out of writing the story.
Try to build a decent story. Make it fun and crazy. Don't worry if it's, pardon my French, somewhat shitty.
Not the first draft being shitty (it was), but the first story could be shitty.
It simply had to exist so I could get the snowball rolling.
Of course, once you write, you gotta rewrite.
I finished the first draft in July of that year and took Steven King's advice in On Writing: I let it sit a while and worked on something else.
I focused on building the website. That ended up being a long and fruitless adventure. It wasn't until my lunch buddy, and friend from Drawing Meats, Randy, asked me why I wasn't drawing the comic.
He was right.
I was spinning my wheels learning various web technologies and writing code to build this webcomic site when there was no comic to present on it.
If anything, I owe it to him to propel me towards the creation of the comic.
In December I began to storyboard and finished the work in February.
6 Months Equals 32 Pages
This is the odd metric I go by when I think about This Mortal Coil's production timeline. Once I had storyboards for the while shebang, I began to draw. It took me 6 months to produce the first 32 pages of This Mortal Coil.
When I talk about production time, I look back to this number 6 months = 32 pages, and I think of the work divided in that giant chunk of time.
When I cut pages, I think of chopping out 32 page blocks because it saves me half a year.
On September 5, 2013 the first 32 pages went live.
When I needed to get the website going for displaying the comic, I used Wordpress and wrote PHP to present the comic. It took me 3-5 days for the very first comic reader.
Maybe I had to waste all of that time exploring options, battling with UX design for the site, and writing code that went nowhere. I didn't want to do PHP. I wanted something sexy like Ruby on Rails, but sometimes you gotta stick to the devil you know and get the work done. When I needed the knowledge I had absorbed it all and it was flowing back out of my fingers into this site as the first comic reader.
I was originally going to serialize the comic page by page, but Randy and I discussed it and at the time it seemed to make sense that I should release all 32 pages at once.
In retrospect, that might not be a great idea.
I was thinking of it like a "Netflix model." People want to binge read/watch stuff. So giving them 32 pages would let them do that, but the problem was...nobody knew this thing existed and to let people know you had to post and post consistently week after week. There's also advertising and social media thrown into the mix, and I didn't have a keen sense of that ground game or scheduling pages for a weekly run, and all of that meant the comic didn't see much of a readership for years.
I'll stop here and continue with the next page of the Timeline which will cover the rest of This Mortal Coil's production.