A New Wind Lifts Storytelling
First imagined as a bedtime tale for his son by Kenneth Grahame in 1908, The Wind in the Willows has remained in the top twenty children’s stories ever since. But things have been getting weird out in the Willows, as the new comic on deviantART, Weirding Willows, will attest to.
Badger, Mole, Ratty and Mr. Toad are back… but they’re joined by Alice, Frankenstein’s Monster, Mowgli, The White Rabbit, Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny as they defend the world from the Wicked Witch of the West, Doctor Moreau, the Mad Hatter, Mister Hyde and the Queen of Hearts (not to mention the flying nightmare monkeys from Wizard of Oz.)
The new direction taken by Weirding Willows, recently published in multiple formats, reflects the new worldwide comic audience being opened up by the Internet and the new technologies and the needs and desires of that audience being serviced by those who recognize it.
reator and writer of Weirding Willows, Dave Elliott, is at once introducing beloved childhood fables and adolescent fright tales in Western culture to new readers, while re-imagining them for those of us already familiar with them on some level. Tying the separate strands of the disparate fantasies into a cohesive narrative is accomplished by centering the narration in a new Alice in Wonderland. And by “new” I mean smart and engaging—rather than being simply the target of CGI effects as she’s been reimagined in the latest studio rehashes. Librarians and teachers have been embracing Weirding Willows and are reporting a heightened interest in the classic “Frankenstein” and “Jekyll & Hyde” texts as well as a revisiting of all the other fantasy figures of bedtime tales. This new comic seems to be generating an interest in a dozen classic characters’ “back stories” and that couldn’t be better news for the future of fantastic storytelling.
No better an example of the new storytelling is to be found in Weirding Willows, published by Titan. What would have once been developed as a simple “mash-up” of diverse childhood story characters in a sort of very strange Justice League, Weirding Willows has the benefit of fan input into precisely which characters have been chosen to resurrect from deepest childhood dreaming as well as a continuing conversation with the story direction with the writer as the issues progress.
The new paradigm, wherein lies the future of storytelling—opens the next chapter in the history of pop literature.
funny thing happened on the way to the funeral for the storytelling narrative, its obituary written by the traditional publishing industry: the genre is thriving rather than dying, and with an infusion of more independent spirit and creativity than has ever before been possible. Weirding Wilows is a prime example. The Internet has done more to liberate rather than destroy storytelling, the new technology encouraging fan comment, contribution and even collaboration on an unprecedented scale. The publishing houses feared their loss of total control of dissemination of “IP” (intellectual property) would mean novels, comics and all other storytelling vehicles would be pirated into chaos, creators unable to find a way to get paid for their art. Instead of this deathly scenario, a new dawn has broken – with fans exercising more direction over their favorite stories and characters while the narrative is still in creation.
Dave Elliott puts an enormous amount of effort into helping deviantART community members move forward as artists as they try to determine how they want to enter the industry.
After launching two of his own anthologies Dave has just announced, through a journal on his page, plans for a third regular anthology locked and loaded with deviant artists of every medium exclusively.
- All of the artists hired to create artwork for Weirding Willows and Dave Elliott's Odyssey are all from the deviantART community.
- Reviews portfolios for community members whenever he can.
- Introduced $spyed to Clydene Nee which launched the powerful collaboration between deviantART and Comic-Con for a newly reinvigorated Artists Alley.
- Judged the first two deviantART San Diego Comic-Con scholarships reviewing 100's of portfolios determining the finalists from the deviantART community.
- In his free time he art directs deviants work when they've attained their first paying gig.
- Three previously unpublished deviant artists work were featured on to the back of Heavy Metal magazine from a competition off of his own page.
- A full issue of Heavy Metal Magazine will be curated form submissions from Dave's deviantART page. Go to his page for more details.
he comics industry’s insiders know Dave as the go-to guy whose name alone will lend mighty credibility to any project in need of more lift to get off the ground. He’s the best coordinator and facilitator of talent in all comicdom. He’s the man who finds a way to make independent projects happen. What should be better known by the reader-consumers, fans and advocates of comic books and graphic novels is Dave’s extensive resume and well-deserved reputation as one of the most influential figures in the industry, as both creative artist and businessman.
For the last few years Dave Elliott has become known as one of the most sought after World Builders, an essential skill necessary to facilitate “Full Spectrum Narrative” IP development for the entertainment industry. From co-founding Radical Studios where he developed a new more realistic and grounded version of Hercules, that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is currently shooting under Brett Ratner’s direction, to co-founding Benaroya Comics, creators of Red Spike, Samaurai’s Blood, and The Marksman, all released last year through Image Comics. Sam Sarkar’s comic series The Vault sold to Graham King after being co-developed and packaged by Dave.
As the industry stands now, what are the best tips for breaking in?
I think the ‘Industry’ is being redefined right now. The traditional model of publishing is crumbling and what ‘is’ Industry has almost personal relevance now. If you draw Superman every month your idea of the Industry is the Direct Sale Market which caters to the 1,200–1,500 physical stores around the countrty. The Direct Sale Market expanded into the digital domain through companies such as Comixology and iVerse.
Breaking in is actually best done by proving you've got what it takes to do a great job and producing high quality, consistent, work. Marvel and DC look towards IDW, Boomstudios, Dark Horse and Image Comics for their talent. They do that because there is no hiding when a creator can't keep their deadlines or has an emotional meltdown. Editors are also scouring deviantART for new talent. They're watching creators who post often, consistently and get a lot of traffic. If you do a piece of work that you want a specific editor to see tweet a link to them but don't always expect a response. Don't send a Wolverine pin-up to the Batman editors. If you want to draw something in particular you're going to have to do some samples of that character. You can always get more eyeballs on your pages by doing mash-ups where characters meet who couldn't in their own books. Have Batman meet the new Sherlock. Draw how you would imagine the Justice League would look in J. R. Tolkien's world. Have Blade and Buffy team up against the Twilight characters. Images and ideas that will get people adding your images to their favorites and talking about them. Send people to your deviantART page by using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with teases.
All these additional hits will increase the chances of you getting noticed.
First ask yourself do you love the idea or are you doing it because others might like it. You have to love your own idea and world. If you want it to resonate with an audience it has to resonate with you first. You have a far better chance of connecting with people if your heart is in it. It'll come through. It's no guarantee of success but your chances will be higher. Here's a small list of things that you must know before you start;
- Know your world.
- Know your characters.
- Know the physics of your world and then make sure you stick to them.
If you have come up with the story first and are creating the characters afterwards, make sure they stay in character. Don't have them go against character just because you want something to happen, plan ahead. It sounds obvious but people run into it all of the time and many end up creating a new character just to move the story along. Those characters are always forgettable and a distraction.
Have you experienced having your comments and suggestions alter the narrative of stories-in-creation on deviantART or elsewhere?
Yes, we all suffer sometimes from being too close to our ideas and think that we've explained things out well enough only to find someone ask a really obvious question that leaves us scratching our heads.
This happened only recently when I posted a couple of pages of Weirding Willows up relying on everyone knowing who the characters were and the setting. You can't always rely on people having read all your deviantART entries or read every issue of your comic or book.
It's also happened when I've seen people warm to characters I wasn't expecting them to and after reading comments and seeing what they saw you have greater appreciation yourself for them. That happened when I decided to team Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny with the White Rabbit. Their dynamic changed and I now want to do a set of stories focusing on just them (and their new friend Jack. Who isn't a rabbit).
Do you see artists considering the suggestions of other artists and fans as democratic or authoritarian, as community building or interference with artistic freedom and independence?
Every artist is different. Some just want fans. Some like the real artistic discussion of method and influences. Remember, when you post something you're going to get comments and not all of them you'll like. It is something we all need to come to terms with that not everyone will like what you do. Some may take time to warm up. It is your artistic freedom to post just as it is for someone to make a comment. It is how we react to those comments that will define how we grow as artists and as members of this community. You have your freedom and your independence and only you can give it away.
Do you think stronger (or weaker) mythic narratives will be the ultimate fruits of technological changes underway?
I believe if you want to connect with as many people as possible using a mythic narrative is essential especially if you ever plan to open up your narrative to others to participate in. A well thought out mythology to the world (no matter how real or grounded) adds to the believability of it and encourages immersion into it. Techgnotic came up with the best term for the development of a story or concept that can spread across many different platforms and art forms; “Full Spectrum Narrative.” We are all in this new technological age of communication. A single device can be a book, a comic, a video game, an animation and they can all be about a single idea. Each medium can be a different facet of your concept, not just the retelling endlessly of the same story. A rich mythology give you and others a universe to play in without once bumping into each other.
Can you talk a little bit about the artist, writer, producer collaboration when building new narrative worlds? Should creators be their own Editor/Producers?
We are all producers. We ‘produce’ our work. In this new age we also need to be our own editors. More and more we'll be assembling projects to be published ourselves rather than have a publisher come along and act as the producer for us. We all have to learn how to wear more than one hat. The process of sharing messages between each other isn't much different than utilizing social media to bring an audience to our work. Fortunately as deviantART has grown so has the variety of skills coming to the community. If you need a letterer or colorist or a model just write a journal. It may take a while but somebody will always know someone who you can talk to. In comics, the writer and the artist must become their own editor and production managers. They must learn how to assemble and format everything they need, figure out how to post it and then promote it. Good material will usually get discovered but banging the drum really does help.
Producing The Lost Kids has forced me to wear a lot more hats than I could ever have imagined. Dave is absolutely right; we must all be producers as well as editors for each new IP. This takes someone with a lot of focus and energy and someone who knows how to surround himself with the right people for a direct delivery the audience.
Internet sites like deviantART have bridged the separation between creator and audience so that we are talking every reader, viewer or player in a very particular way. DeviantArt has done the same with creator and other talent. Now, being able to draw but not able to write or being able to write and not being able to draw or letter is no longer an excuse to abandon your vision. deviantART has killed that excuse. If you want to work on your own comic book, your novel, your film, your art, but lack skill in certain areas, you can now find artists to collaborate with who can fill in the blanks.
The Lost Kids and Weirding Willows are prime examples of artists coming together for a single vision, for a single story. What aspiring story creators should take from their example is that your own project is possible if you put in the time, energy and focus to put together the team you need. If you have a vision, you can now assemble the right support team—and be gathering feedback from your audience throughout the process. Storytelling is a very collaborative medium and Internet sites like deviantART are making it more and more possible and more and more fun.
A wonderful example of the potential of deviantART and how to use it to build out your concept even if you're not an artist is =FelipeCagno and his series The Lost Kids. His ideas resonated with so many artists he was able to persuade them to do pieces that he could post on his page and in doing so designed his characters and gave life to his world. He is about to finally release his comic series on multiple formats.
“I like Bradley's work because you can tell that from time to time he wants to get lost in his own details of the world he has created for his Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual adventure series. He has created a world spawned by his own interests and his love for them pulls you in.”
“Maybe it's a generational thing but I really miss the three panel newspaper strip format in this age of digital news.
2GAG (Two Guys and Guy) is a reflection on society and how we interact with each other in relationships. It is also very funny because of that. I've found myself laughing at myself many times.”
“Lost in the Vale is a lovely series produced by Julie and Alan Curtis. Julie's artwork seems to mix several influences, such as manga, anime and traditional American comics, but doesn't adhere to any and so she's created her own look that appeals to several different tastes.
Her deviantART page complements her website nicely where you can see all the designs and thought processes going on.”
“Plume is an awesome fantasy, action, supernatural western. Hopefully this will find a good publisher that will get it out to a wider audience. K. Lynn Smith has a fun series here that should appeal to most ages and sexes.
There is a universe built around Plume that even though it is only hinted at you know it is there and that she's not about to run out of story material soon.”
“Toby Cypress is one of those artists who grows and grows on you. His influences are diverse but don't expect all those influences to show in his art as many of them influenced what he draws more.
Toby decided to not bother waiting for the main comic publishers to discover his talents, instead he went it alone and self published Rodd Racer through his own company Punkrock Jazz Publishing and has been working on his next big project KURSK that he's gearing up for a Kickstarter launch but has been sharing pages and designs of his deviantART pages.”
“Humor is usually tied by geography and local circumstances. MAD magazine used to be awesome when every country could do its own thing. Carpediem, created by Rhoald Marcellius (from STELLAR Labs), is one of those action strips filled with humor that crosses every border. It wouldn't have been out of place in MAD magazine and, I'm going out on a limb here, it may just be the next Tank Girl.”
- Have you experienced having your comments and suggestions alter the narrative of stories-in-creation on deviantART or elsewhere?
- Do you like the idea of story narratives being opened up to “consumer” preferences pre-publication—or do you prefer to hold your comments until after the author has completed his or her vision?
- What are your favorite story collaborations on deviantART?
- Can you share your own favorite top storytelling and OC building tips with the community?
- Do you think comic book publishers are making comics for you or for themselves? Does this drive you to make your own?
Looking for an exclusive insiders view on participating in the Comic book/graphic novel indusry. Look no further than this journal series "Acts Of Creation."
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