Saturday, August 7, 2010

Pitch Away!

Sorry for the long delay, folks! Truth to be told, since the pitch was completed and printed up, not a whole lot has happened on the Four Kingdoms front! After the pitch was completed, Rachel and I got the pages together and self-published a "pitch issue" to pass around to potential publishers. As we learned from the behind-the-scenes on the "Feeding Ground" pitch, having something printed up to look and feel like an actual comic is a huge advantage over a stapled bunch of 8.5x11's.

So, thanks to Comixpress, we were able to compile the pages together into our pitch issue, and it turned out perfectly! The box arrived sooner than expected, and now it's just a matter of getting it out so the right people can see it.

Chances are pretty high that we'll be hanging onto most of these suckers until New York ComicCon rolls around in October, as that will be the best opportunity to show it around to various publishers. Many a deal has been struck at NYCC, and we hope that we get that right pair of eyes on the pitch at just that right moment. As with all pitches, there is absolutely no guarantee of success, but Rachel and I are confident in the quality of The Four Kingdoms, and we hope that come October, we'll have some good news for you!

In the meantime, Rachel and I are keeping blogs outside the realm of the comic itself that focus on our individual endeavors - Rachel's blog can be found at, and I keep a personal blog now at

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pitch Complete!

Just a few days ago, I shipped off the complete set of pages over to Comixpress to print up our "Four Kingdoms Pitch" issue. It was a pretty momentous occasion for Rachel and myself, since we'd been working on it in some capacity or another since 2008 - creating the world, iterating on the character designs, doing the whole first issue roughs, then finally assembling the various pieces of the pitch.

What you see here is the table of contents for the pitch. As I've mentioned before a couple of times, the layout of the pitch was inspired by Stephen Christy (editor in chief over at Archaia) and a commentary he did via Twitter a while back on a pitch he'd received.

The biggest concern I had was fitting the proposal onto a single page. Getting the story across in as concise a manner as possible was really important for me, as it is a rather complex story and summing it up in a line or two can be tricky. Thanks to this one-pager, though, I can take elements from it and sum things up nicely and quickly.

The pitch contains a one-page proposal, a section detailing the five main characters of the series (Quinlan, Dakkan, Kenosh, Janik, and Hardin), a summary for each of the series' proposed eight issues, a section detailing the Four Kingdoms (called "The World Before History" because the first story takes place before proper historians have begun to chronicle events beyond myth and conjecture), a series of completed sample pages from the first issue, three covers, and the entire script for the first issue.

Also, hey! That there's a map!


Anyway, now that the pitch itself is complete, there won't be a whole lot of new material in the way of Four Kingdoms - at least art-wise. I'm sure I'll be writing some new stuff, fleshing out the world here and there. In the interim, however, don't be surprised if I or Rachel stick updates on here related more to our other works and interests. For example, expect to see some treatises here related to game design from me, and some discourse from Rachel on art and animation. It's all part of our plan to make this blog more than a niche production news site :)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Janik and Hardin emerge!

Well, we promised two more character portraits earlier, and here's a little update for them!

Janik is a close friend of Quin's... very close. Of course, what with his whole world getting flipped on its head lately, Quin isn't being particularly mindful of their relationship. While Janik understands, she is more than a little frustrated with Quin's unwillingness to take responsibility for his life. After all, that isn't difficult for her.

Hardin is the leader of a tribe of warriors and is largely responsible for disrupting the peaceful status quo in the Four Kingdoms. He sees no problem in using force to get what he wants, but then again force is really the only option he has left...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Character Portraits

Of the various sections in the pitch for "The Four Kingdoms", the character profile pictures are a prominent section that helps put the entire story summary into context. Aside from the cover image itself (which I might be posting up here soon), this is the reader's first glimpse of the characters. Each portrait had to encompass that character's personality, their role in the story, pretty much everything you'd need to know about the character - just from a single picture!

I'll be posting new character portraits here with each new update, giving quick recaps on the characters and the process we went through to get the character portraits done up.

We actually started not with sketches, but with a series of written character descriptions. Rachel and I were already familiar with each character's look and personality, but the first thing we wanted to do was create a scene for each character so that the portrait felt like it was part of a larger narrative. For example:

Quinlan: He waits alone, thinking. Wondering. Mind elsewhere, his bow held fast. Half-attentive, he looks out into the forest from his perch on the high branch, searching for intruders. His mind is instead focusing on a great many other things - tomorrow, he will no longer be a scout, protecting his borders. Instead, he will be at the heart of everything - the capital city, the king's chambers, exactly where he doesn't want to be. Already he wears the uniform, but it doesn't feel right to him - like he's in another's person's skin, wearing a costume. He waits, crouched on the branch in the middle of the Western Deep, bow in hands, a quiver of arrows on his back.

With that description, and descriptions for the other major characters in the first issue, Rachel set to work on a series of sketches, some of which can be seen above. Quinlan's was meant to be a bit morose without him looking too pathetic. Dakkan's was meant to make him look carefree and contemplative. Kenosh's was meant to portray a tense scene in the Lutren senate as he convinces them to send his peace envoy to the north. The final versions of Dakkan and Kenosh are below - I'll post up the other two soon!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Deltrada Cover

Just a quick update for everybody - the pitch materials are coming together excellently, with character profile pics, fully-completed pages, and some very cool mock-up issue covers to demonstrate how the comic would look sitting on a shelf in a store.

I wanted to share the progression of one of the covers with you - specifically our second issue "Deltrada" cover featuring protagonist Quinlan's battle against the blind Ermehn swordmaster, Red. While I won't go into much detail over the specifics of the scene, enough can be inferred from the cover image itself to say that in issue 2, Quinlan finally confronts the Sratha-din Ermehn threat and finds himself in his very first life-or-death fight. Because of this, we wanted the cover to capture that intensity - this isn't just some ordinary fight scene, this is the first time Quinlan's had to fight for his life, and so the cover had to capture the menace and raw power of his foe.

To start, Rachel sketched out a series of thumbnail images so we could see which scene layout we liked the most. There were four initial concepts (shown above), each one showing a different angle/tone/etc. The first sketch got Red's size and strength across well enough, but it felt a bit too crowded and the title text up top would have obscured about 99% of Red's sword. The second sketch, showing Quin from the front with Red swinging away from the camera, just felt awkward. Having Quinlan as the center of attention also put him on a higher footing than his foe - the idea behind the cover was to downplay Quin and make him seem less powerful than Red, and showing our protagonist so prominently elevated him a bit too much. The third sketch featured a similar problem - it elevated Quin a little too much, making him seem as powerful if not moreso than Red. The angle is also a little too straight-on, so we nixed that one.

The very last sketch ended up being the one we went with - it put Red front and center, sword in the air, bearing down on an evasive-looking Quin, who is shrinking back defensively. Rachel took the thumbnail and cleaned it up a little bit, sending it over in the form of the sketch to the right.

From here, Rachel was able to take the sketch and expand on it. In the script for this scene, the two characters are fighting in the pouring rain, so a lot of time was spent on Rachel's part looking into how water acts on various surfaces. There was also quite a bit of effort spent on his sword - bloodied from a previous encounter - and how said blood would be affected by the downpour.

With these directives in mind, Rachel went about creating the first pass at the cover using the appropriate page dimensions and flat colors - no rain or special effects, yet.

In general, we were both pleased with the layout of the characters, the angle of the shot, etc. Rachel also had to remind me that Red's elaborate tattoos, which give his character a lot more visual dimension, had not been added yet - so I was okay with the general absence of detail on Red's body and clothing.

A few things needed tweaking at this point, however - Quinlan's demeanor and pose being the big ones.

In the original sketch, he seemed a lot more animated, like he was actively trying to avoid the inevitable sword swing. In this first pass, he seemed a bit surprised, like he'd let his guard down a moment before. This, along with the various minor tweaks and environmental/special effect additions would be reflected in the next few passes.

In the next pass, Quinlan was altered to look more like he did in the original sketch, and the special effects were added, along with Red's tattoos. The title text was also added! The final pass is below. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

An Update! Also, Sunsgrove Architecture

Wow, three months between blog posts! Clearly this is what I meant when I said we'd be posting more stuff! We're hard at work putting together all the content for the pitch - from fully-completed pages to character portraits and beyond. Stephen Christy, Director of Development at Archaia Studios Press, put together a spectacular commentary on a pitch that was presented to him for the upcoming series "Feeding Ground". Essentially, this was a step-by-step look at a successful comic pitch, and it's been a superb resource throughout our pitch creation process. You can view the images (with Stephen's commentary) right over here.

Currently, we're working on getting the "Characters" section of the pitch completed. I'll show some of the artwork for that as it comes through, but I wanted to share some of the material Rachel's put together for the recently-completed pages that are going into the pitch. Specifically related to the Sunsgrovian architecture style we ended up using for the pages.

To start with, the scene in question is a playful sparring match between protagonist Quinlan and an egotistical Tesque trainer named Crim. In the background, we can see the Tamian dwellings surrounding the training area where the match is taking place. The problem was that we didn't really know what the dwellings should look like. All I'd really given Rachel was that the Tamian have a tree-based city, and that I didn't want it to look like a copy of the Ewok Village from Return of the Jedi, Tree-Top Town from Donkey Kong Country, the Elvish cities from Lord of the Rings, or Sprucetuck from Mouse Guard. In other words, I'd told her what it wasn't - but not what it WAS.

So we worked out the following four rules for the Tamian architecture:

1.) Inverse class/height tropes. What does this mean? In most fantasty tales (and in real life), the rich people live high up, while the poor people live on the ground level. In Sunsgrove, where the entire race is vertically inclined, the tops of the trees offer more living space for the unwashed masses. Countless communal hammocks line the treetops, offering even the poorest Tamian a place to sleep.

With Sunsgrove's relatively recent diplomatic focus with the land-bound Lutren, Canid, Vulpin and Felis, the upper-class Tamian began building ground-level accommodations. Diplomats and royalty began to grow accustomed to living on the ground, and the ground-level living quarters became the most valuable properties to own.

2.) Open, open, open. The middle and lower-class Tamian (ie the majority) live in the treetops. They've been leaping between trees for countless generations, so I wanted their architectural style to take that into account - it would need to be open and spacious, with lots of open archways and no doors whatsoever. Heavy curtains would keep the cold, rain, and snow out, and at the same time afford a wide open view to the majesty of the Western Deep - the forest that surrounds the Tamian capital city.

This resulted in a lot of research into various forms of "open" architecture. Archways, latticework, all sorts of things. Rachel pulled a variety of inspirations from all over the world as she pieced together the look of the Tamian city.

3.) Preserve the trees. Since the trees of the capital city are revered as sacred relics, hollowing them all out willy-nilly would feel strange. Because of this, most homes that are built up the tree trunks only partly go into the tree. Homes on the trees are generally small, as Tamian don't spend much time within them, so there wouldn't be much need to hollow out the trees that much anyway.

4.) Avoid uniform angles. This is a similar rule to one that I'd heard from the making of features in Lord of the Rings - the Elvish architecture didn't use many, if any, straight lines. Everything was naturally curved to emphasize the Elves' harmony with nature (which also doesn't feature straight lines).

While I wanted to avoid comparisons to Elvish cities like Rivendell or Lothlorien, it's a good general rule when trying to make a city that looks "natural". These rules coalesced into a pretty cohesive style for the Tamian city, focusing on circular ramps, wide arches, and generally a "vertical" feel.

That's all for now, but as the character portraits and other pitch assets come together, I'll try to get some stuff on here.