In my last post I had talked about the Cardboard and Steel storyline. Taking the character of the CTS and trying to make a more serious comic out of him bothered some people who preferred Gabe running around hitting people with the tube. I can completely understand that, our CTS comics are weird. We’re constantly trying new things with the art as well as the story telling. Some times it works and some times it doesn’t. About four months after the Cardboard and Steel storyline in which we introduced the concept of "The Wandering Age" we did the first WA strip. It’s a pretty good example of one that I don’t think worked.
Called simply The Wandering Age it was part homage to Stan Sakai and part attempt to distill what should have been a four or five page story into one strip. Obviously Usagi was a huge influence for me. It’s a true Samurai Epic and Stan is one of if not the greatest cartoonist working in comic books. With this comic I decided to try Stan’s heavy crosshatching style of inking. I think I pulled it off decently but the pacing of the comic is a mess. None of the action flows from panel to panel, the action sequence (if you can call it that) doesn’t read very well and the last frame is weak. This is an important strip though because we learned that you have to give a story the room it needs.
It was another six months before we did The Wandering Age 2. Taking what I had learned from the last comic I gave this story a full eight panels. I tried using a limited pallet with this comic. It was something I’d never tried before but I’d seen Kazu do on Copper a few times. I think this comic is a lot more successful than the last one. I feel like the story flows really well from panel to panel. That’s something that’s hard to do without any dialogue or narration. I also like the way this comic ends. The little smile on her face as she raises her umbrella is one of my favorite moments from any CTS comic.
In August of 2003 right between these two comics we started the "Purity" storyline. This was supposed to be a twelve page comic that we would give first page by page to our Club PA members and then eventually release for free in its entirety. Purity is the origin story of the current CTS. It was supposed to tell the story of how he acquired the tube, his transformation and the creation of the dark lord. Some of that probably doesn’t make sense and I don’t want to go into anymore detail. At some point this is still a story we want to tell and I don’t want to ruin it for anyone.
Here are the original four pages of Purity that people who donated to Penny Arcade back in 2003 received.
When we plotted out the current storyline on the white board it ended up being four pages. We thought about trying to crunch it down to two but decided in the end to give it the room we thought it needed. It also had a single line of dialogue in it. It was actually on the bottom of this page. The original plan was to give the girl a word balloon and let readers see what it was she was whispering into the ear of the CTS. After we looked at the piece as a whole we realized if it only has one line of text it could very easily have none. Removing her line lets readers sort of form their own story.
Here are a few more detail shots from today’s comic strip.
It did a lot of research on the sort of house they might be in as well as the tea ceremony itself. One of my favorite things about Stan Sakai is that he says he researches everything and if there’s ever any question he goes with what looks cool.
I’m still painting the background in each panel and then drawing the characters over the top.
It may seem silly but I’m pretty proud of myself for giving an entire page to the CTS entering a tea house and sitting down. I could have easily tried to cram this into a couple panels but I love the way this page is paced.