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The Reign of Terror Comic Book Teaser
Posted on 12-Nov-2003
How it Got Started
As we were finishing our September content, it fell upon Orion to begin work on the teasers for the event. Originally, Orion had planned for Oswald’s machinations to occur in September, but a few changes made to the story arc pushed this back to a more… appropriate time.
Regardless, Orion had crafted a tale of treachery and murder waiting for use in October. And so the story simmered for a few weeks, as the Olthoi strengthened their grasp on Asheron’s Island and prepared to assault the mainland of Ireth Lassel.
Oswald continued his schemes, but delayed for a month thanks to a proposition from a mysterious lavender-eyed man. As the Olthoi swarmed the world, Nuhmudira vowed to bring down the queen.
As the midway point of the event approached, Orion’s attention once again shifted from content to teasers and he began penning four of them. Over the course of the following week, the concept of presenting one of our teaser segments as a comic book format evolved, and I turned my attention towards my storyboard paper and illustration board.
What was originally slated to be a 4 page comic expanded into 6 pages (there just wasn’t enough room in 4 pages to give the story any justice). This was a relative first for me. I have been a fan of comic books for most of my life, and have drawn lots of inspiration and style from the ones I enjoyed the most, but I had never done all the work for an entire comic before.
Once it was decided that this was something the team wanted to support and present as a teaser, I had to decide how I wanted the presentation to look. I had two ideas, both of which had their merits.
The first was the final result you see on the Zone - a full comic book style presentation. This format would allow me to tell the story through less text and rely more on the action within the sequences.
The second idea was a series of full-page graphic novel images. This style was attractive because it would allow me to create several full-page images with more dramatic impact. However, this way would force a heavier reliance on text.
After a discussion with the team it was decided to go with the first option.
First, I started with the text. Orion’s written teaser was still in my inbox and from there I broke it down into suitable bits to fit into 5 pages of story.
Once I had broken the flow down how I wanted it, I proceeded to storyboard out the images. After many crumpled papers, I had completed a series of rough images (as that is what storyboards are) that would represent the imagery of the comic.
Once the storyboard was set, I began to pencil it out onto pages of heavy illustration paper.
With the storyboard at my side, I sat down and began sketching out the full pages (10 inches by 15 inches). I have spent a great deal of time honing my abilities in illustration so these parts were the easiest for me (and the most enjoyable to do).
As I was penciling out the pages, something felt like it was missing in the flow of the story. It was then that I decided to also create a cover for the series. Luckily I had already sketched out a concept that I’d had for Oswald in July. That concept sketch was translated to a larger medium and the base for the cover was done.
With the pencil work laid down, it was time to darken the lines on them. Originally I had considered using just the pencil art for the final, but the lines were too light and not suitable for scanning.
Out of all the stages of the process, the inking was the most difficult for me. I had already finished the line art and was eager to move onto the digital work (coloring and lettering) but it was necessary to ink the images in order to make the work easy to work with in Photoshop.
With the Inking done, it was time to scan in the images and begin coloring. Much like my two different style ideas for the sequence format, I had two different ideas for the coloring.
The first idea was a full comic book style of coloring, with solid, vibrant colors and a lot of color gradients. This style was definitely more work, but it would provide a bold sense of color. This may or may not have been a good thing.
My other thought was to use a subtler scheme for the colors, relying on cool colors and grays for the most part and using brighter warm colors for emphasis. This style is an excellent way of drawing the eye where you want it to go because the color can’t help but stick out.
I decided that the second choice would provide me with more dramatic, dismal and gritty feel. I would use only a few colors on each page to accent various items, such as torches, blood, Oswald’s eyes and Elysa’s hair.
I knew right away how I wanted the lettering to look. Using the standard Comic Sans font (with a few effects added) I could create a simple style that could be easily recreated throughout the 5 pages.
As I began lettering, I realized that the text I had from Orion was a few lines too short to tell the story coherently, and asked for his help with a few additional lines.
Once the letters had been laid out, I gave the images a once over and prepared them for Ibn to send out to Microsoft.
The Final Impression
After completing the project, I did have some concerns. This was the first time I had done anything like this (meaning the entire process including all steps) and at the time I felt it could have used more polish. The live team, as well as others at Turbine, reassured me that the project looked great.
All that remained was the wait. I was anticipating its release on Monday, and began to get anxious about it towards the late afternoon. I wanted to see it posted just as much as the players did!
Then it was released and the reception for it was amazing. The feedback from the players was honestly more positive than I had originally hoped. In some ways I even feel bad for the remaining pieces of the teasers, as the comic pulled some attention away from them. There was some negative reaction, but most of it was minor. Some people thought that the comic hinted at new content (such as capes, or deception love), but as Ibn quelled any concerns or wild expectations those misunderstandings faded. People enjoyed the comic just for what it was.
The whole process was a learning experience for me. In the time I spent on the 6 page comic, I learned that one person alone is not meant to produce a comic book. While it was fun, it was taxing; particularly working in areas I have little experience with such as lettering. The amount of time it took for me to finish the project was about as much as I expected. However, I am also the kind of person that doesn’t like to stop working until the job is done, so it received a lot of attention each day.
Looking at it now, I do not feel that doing something like this on a monthly basis is something I am capable of along with handling all monthly art tasks for Asheron’s Call. Also, doing them frequently would remove the feel of something special. If I were to create another comic, I would venture to say it wouldn’t be until the time was right and the event it was teasing was as important as an assassination attempt on Elysa’s life.
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