Long Ago, In a Desert Far Far Away...

Some of our teachers are really good at that kind of slow, mind-torture that makes you want to curl up in a ball with a bag of chips, mindless tv and just gnaw on your toes.
Know what I mean?

They all pretended to take pity on us after finishing the grueling 1950's Silver Age Adventure Comic project. At 24 pages, in 2 weeks, that was quite an exhausting feat!
No homework!? Awesome!
Just a little sketchbook homework? No problem.

We were told to draw hats from the mid-1800's:

And horses, standing, trotting and cantering:

Not too bad at all.

When we got in to class... we were given this "Blood and Dust" outline with character descriptions, settings, etc.

We were each assigned either a character or a setting to research online and make sketches. Ready?....GO!

Here are some of the great sketches from my classmates...

And here is mine - I was assigned "Abigail's Hut" which is a goat-herder's hut built against a mountain, above the San Pedro River.

Next - we were each assigned 2 of the 24 pages of the comic. We had general descriptions of what happens on each page and we needed to draw thumbnails of the comic panels, actions, and also write the dialog and narration. This was a little like doing Mad Libs as we could read what the action was for the pages before and after ours, but we didn't yet know what the other pages would look like!

I got pages 10 and 11. I read them over and over, then broke up each description into what I saw as the action shots... the individual panels on the page. I sketched out the general forms and viewpoints, then checked with Hedj to see what worked with the mountain lion on the next pages. Then I wrote the dialog. Since Lucia is alone in her hut, she has to talk out loud to make it clear what she is thinking. Dither also talks to himself, but it's in his character description - that he is "talking to himself". (The numbers in the speech balloons match up with the numbers below with the dialog.)

When we had finished, the teacher showed all the pages on the screen and read the captions. It was actually a pretty good comic! These were meant to be rough sketches to show action, placement, etc. - to be refined in the next step. Some were rougher than others, but they all got the story across.

We were all waiting to hear when the next step would be due...
Ah... nope. That was it.
We had just gone through the whole process of writing and sketching a 24 page comic - in 4 hours. That was it. Done.

This time, homework was to pick a setting, time period, something that intrigued us and research it, see what tangents we discovered, make sketches of some of the elements, and letter a page based on something we read.

I started with Trailer Parks...

I have an unexplainable passion for Airstream trailers. And Gypsy Caravans. So I got a bit distracted looking up stuff and gypsies too. I learned that they are actually known as "Romani" and "Gypsy" is a derogatory term coming from the belief that they were nomads from  Egypt. I remember in the book by Phillip Pullman, The Golden Compass, the people (who travel by boat caravans) are known as the "Gyptians". Hmmm. Interesting.

As I clicked through on links to other nomadic types of folks. I learned about hippies, folks who travel to concerts (there was one at Stonehenge to rival Woodstock!) and best of the best - "house trucks". Yes, houses, wait for it.... built on TRUCKS!

It was a real thing. That old Model T looking one? It was a NEW Model T when that one was built. The crazy Victorian-ish one with the cow-catcher on the front made me think of something you'd see at Burning Man... My brain started combining stuff - A trailer park of house-trucks - in the middle of the desert... with that trailer "mansion" in the middle!

Here's my research, as my lettering project:

I had NO idea what to expect yesterday when we presented our homework in class.
Another 24 page quickie comic?

Nope. We got a lecture on 3-part story structure that incorporates two major Plot Points - those being major turning points in the story when the main character must make a very important choice. AND - Star Wars was our example movie.

Star Wars - A New Hope... that's the FIRST Star Wars for us "older" folks and the what?... 4th? Star Wars for young people? It's so confusing. BUT it is still the BEST of the stories. And we learned why.

We also learned that the Blood and Dust story we had worked on last week, was a "rip-off comic"! Meaning, the setting (a desert in the West = desert planet of Tatooine), the characters (Lucia Salazar = Luke Skywalker, etc.) and the plot line (ours ended with the old goat-herder telling Lucia she knew her father a very long time ago and giving Lucia his sword = Obi Wan giving Luke his father's lightsaber, etc.).

Yep, we were a bit gobsmacked! I don't think any of us saw that coming!

We also learned some really fascinating stuff about George Lucas' wife, Marcia Lucas, who was the film editor for the first two, original, Star Wars movies. She was responsible for making them the amazing stories they are and she won an Oscar for her troubles. But after they divorced, she agreed, as part of the settlement, never to work in the industry again. George was so distraught over her leaving him - he had her erased from the Star Wars history. Once again proving that History is written by the winners (men).

If you have been puzzling over why all the other Star Wars movies were so ..."meh." Maybe this will help explain it. Every funny scene, every emotional exchange, every bit of humanity in the first two Star Wars movies, was edited in by Marcia Lucas.

[Note: in my notes, I misspelled her name "Marsha" - it is "Marcia". And the stained glass artist was Tom Rodriguez. There's some interesting stuff about this on the internet!]


You're wondering what this has to do with our next assignment?

This is the BIG ONE we've been warned about. Forget wheensy, 24 page comics we work on as a team... our assignment is a 96-page Graphic Novel, we do on our own, called the "Rip-Off Graphic Novel".

After lunch yesterday, we were told to randomly select 3 movies from IMDB, read through the plot synopsis for each and pick one. I got Prometheus (but I couldn't do another Space comic so soon), The Mummy (which I thought would be fun, but the Plot is so ridiculous and convoluted I had to eat a cookie to feel calm again) and The Maze Runner (I've seen the movies and read all the books - and found out there's a new prequel coming out this year!!!). Can you tell which one I picked?

We had to analyze the story and find the Plot Points for our chosen movie.

THEN - we were supposed to "rip-off" the story and apply it to our researched setting.


So - I needed to apply the idea of boys trapped in a forest in the center of a giant maze, whose walls change every night and is filled with horrible monsters... with a trailer park in a desert.

For four hours. I tried. I kept getting so confused. And overwhelmed. 96 pages!!? I'm a children's book person. My brain thinks in 32 page limits, taking out everything extra. This is three times my limit AAAAAHHHHH!!!!!

I wasted a lot of time looking at Google images of The Maze Runner and then trailer parks.... until I suddenly noticed something freaky... from above? trailer parks look like MAZES!

Oh - now I had something to work with. But how do they get to the maze/park? And what traps them there?

And how do I introduce the one girl who shows up and changes everything?

I wandered around the hallway and the gallery, thinking.

There was a pile of newspapers on the front counter and I thought, "How do I introduce the teenage girl to the trailer/maze story?" and flipped open the paper to the... OBITUARIES... where the first thing I saw was for a 16 year old girl who had died. She was really pretty and not only left behind a lot of family, but many beloved pets, including a gerbil... didn't say how she died.

Obituaries. Hmmm...

Oh I needed to FaceTime my Art Director for some serious brainstorming. I was scribbling notes frantically as we talked...

So what would the bad creatures be for the trailer park?
Not monsters...
Worst thing in a trailer park.
And they are mechanical created by the bad guy...
Who lives in the trailer mansion in the very center...
And no one ever sees him...
Maybe it's actually a little girl who is really good at science...
And trailers come every 30 days to bring supplies..
But they never leave...
they get piled up on the trailer mansion...
keeps getting bigger!
And then the...

WHOA! Tune in next week to see if we can actually make a story fit for a 96 page graphic novel!!?