…and a little history of comics.
Rather than blog about it, I spent the last two weeks working on a project. I can now announce that I have just finished writing the last 300th page.
“The Djinn Project” is my current working title, as the original two titles were dropped by me. The first one would cause problems with foreign editions (there’s a book named like that already) and the second one stopped being relevant in the end. So I’m currently thinking up a third title, meanwhile for now it’ll be the Djinn project as, you know, it features The Djinn. Lots of them.
There are three goals in this project. One, improve my art even further and initialize a switch into a larger format, meaning I’ll be drawing on much larger sheets of paper than I usually do.
Second, obviously, is to tell a damn good story. And I can say this. From all the scripts I have finished so far, this one’s the best.
And finally… Third, it’s supposed to be a “love letter” to all the great artists I have discovered over the years, but mostly to a group of French artists, with Philippe Druillet being the main one among them.
The summer of year 1991 was the first time I saw Druillet’s art.
There used to be a Polish comics magazine, simply named Komiks (which, interestingly is singular in Polish, komiksy being plural). Not the most original name, I know. But the art inside? Most of it was great. I never got the entire run, but what I did manage get over the years of my childhood introduced me to a lot of great artists and titles. The first issue came out in 1987, originally under the title “Komiks-Fantastyka” and it was a quarterly supplement to a magazine named “Fantastyka” (fantastyka being a Polish word used to dump together both SF and Fantasy. that lasted for about three years and in the middle of 1990, when the publisher changed, they dropped the “fantastyka” from the title and switched to a monthly schedule.
What was inside? A great Polish sf comic titled Funky Koval by Parowski, Polch and Rodek, followed by Yans (since the original “Hans” sounded too German) by Rosinski (our best “export artist” of that era) and Duchateau. Later, we were introduced to Jean-Claude Mezieres and Pierre Christin’s Valerian, the Spatio-Temporal Agent; Le Trende & Loisel’s Pelissa (or the Search for the Bird of Time, assuming this is how it translates to properly, printed as Roxana in English if I recall), Marvano and Haldeman’s Endless War (or Eternal War), Andreas’ Rork and many others. There were no Druillet or Moebius comics inside though. But… there were articles.
See, it was a magazine after all. While most of what they did was present an entire story each volume, they also used inside covers and two or four additional for various written pieces. And in that particular May 1991 issue (which was couple of months late at this point) there was an article about Druillet.
There wasn’t much. Only three pages total, half of which was taken by art. But what art it was. While at this point I’m aware these weren’t best examples of his art, they totally blew my 11 year old mind. These three illustrations, all from Yragael (one being a nearly full page reproduction, one being a full page shrunk into a tiny panel and one being half of a page with the bottom text part chopped off also shrunk to a panel) totally redefined how I was looking at comics and opened the floodgates of my imagination.
This article was later followed by two more, written by the same person across the next couple years, both with further illustrations (this time from the short story AAARRRZZZ, one panel from Agorn and three or four images from Vuzz). Now that I look through my old comics that survived from that period (basically one notebook pretending to be an issue of a magazine), I can see how big influence these few pages were on me.
At this point I managed to read (not own, unfortunately) most of short stories that appeared in Heavy Metal magazine, and also had the chance to read The Seven Voyages of Lone Sloane, Delirius, Gail, Urm and Yragael. And, I even managed to buy one, the final volume of Lone Sloane titled Chaos, which right now proudly stands as the pearl of my collection.
“So you’re saying that you’ll be ripping off Druillet in this book of yours?” No, not quite. See, this is just one of inspirations. There were others. A short excerpt of Richard Corben’s Mutant world that appeared in an anthology issue of Komiks. All the weird illustrations that were reprinted together with an article about the Heavy Metal magazine, a gallery by Enki Bilal (showcasing art mostly from “The Town that Didn’t Exist and the Nikopol Trilogy; that scene with violent bloody hockey match still burns bright in my mind) and the Gandahar movie, featuring designs by Philippe Caza.
It came out around the same time as that Druillet article did, and it caused similar creative avalanches in my brain. I don’t know who made the decision to bring over here a movie that’s so strange and features lots of nudity (it’s Caza, so half of female characters don’t seem to know what clothes are) and how did it manage to land on the VHS rental store shelves right next to “Chuck Norris Karate Commandos” (both rented at the same time)… but it was one of the most beautiful animated films I saw in my life. I saw it recently, for the first time with the original French dubbing and it’s still marvelous. A bit slow at times, but that just gives you more time to soak in with the exquisite art.
Was there more? Yes, there was plenty more, but I can’t name half of these things at this point. I’d recognize them if I saw them though.
So all of these will be a deliberate influence on this particular project. These and a lot more, who (like aforementioned Corben) go beyond the francophonic comics market.
Right, that’s out of the way.
Now, the format itself. The story is written with six books in mind, each one being 50 pages long (plus two pages for comments or annotations or somesuch), full color and unfortunately in American Comics size (technical limitations that I have to abide to if I want this printed fairly cheap and easily sellable through an online store). I’m hoping that, if the title catches on, I can have someone print an oversized hardcover edition. That’d be great. But that’s too far in the future, I first have to draw this thing. I’ll try to do the best job ever.
And I still need a new title.