On the Verge: the Arrow of Time, seven

Of all of the covers that I’ve done for these chapters, this is probably one of my favourites!

I’ve always felt that this chapter was really where things started to get moving. Hannah’s ready to get involved in all of this weird science that’s happening, so Lucas takes her into the field – where she promptly does exactly what he says not to. I also managed to squeeze in two character bits in here:

  • We meet Andi Anderson in person. At this point in developing the story, I realised that it would be an ideal time for Lucas to actually run into her and we could see that they have a bit of a history. I also loved dropping hints at things that have happened but not really explaining them. I wonder if I’ll ever go back and tell those stories?
  • I also got to introduce Michael Conklin. He’s a bit of a supporting character in this story but he is integral to the overall story of Edge Inc. and Lucas (they were partners at the FBI). I had ideas about expanding his role and developed a whole story just about him to kind of feel out his character.

In general, this was a pretty fun chapter to do. We finally got some action happening after what seemed like a lot of talking heads, plus we end with Jeremy!

Next week, more fun as this whole thing keep rolling. Thanks for reading!

On the Verge: the Arrow of Time, six

The cover for this chapter of the book features one of my favourite techie things that I included in the story: the weird goggles that Lucas puts on. And because they’re one of my favourites, why not put ’em on the cover!

This chapter serves two main purposes:

  1. I needed to quickly provide information about the Incidents that have occurred. We’ve kind of touched on them a bit but this is where we really start digging into what’s going on.
  2. And I also really started to explain just who la Fleur is and her reasons for wanting the technology. Up until now she’s kind of appeared and hasn’t explained herself.

There’s a lot in this chapter and going back and re-reading it, I can’t believe how much I sort of slipped in. The intent was to focus mainly on the two Incidents that have happened and continue to develop Hannah’s relationship with Lucas. But I also managed to slip in:

  • Hannah’s a workaholic! She’s been doing this since Agnosto put her on it.
  • That Hannah is actually pretty smart and on the ball. She figures out that the two events are connected. (I mean I knew this already, but it was good to show).
  • Hannah’s reactions to the Incidents. Lucas just kind of takes it in stride, but it was fun to show what the “weird science” actually did and her reaction to it.
  • The evidence that they’ve collected – not that it does too much for them.
  • Lucas is pretty smart as well and he knows things from his experience.
  • They’re still pursuing the Shadow Gang and the bank robberies. Even though we (the reader) know what’s going on, these guys are still trying to figure it out.
  • Jeremy’s journal! This will come in handy in a little bit but we’re finally introduced to “the Arrow of Time”!
  • La Fleur isn’t exactly what she seemed and she may be a little bit crazy.
  • The Professor isn’t exactly ok with everything. La Fleur is forcing his hand a bit.
  • The Professor reached out to la Fleur… because he wanted to finish developing this technology.
  • La Fleur funds the protesters and the Watchtower!
  • La Fleur will do anything to get the Arrow of Time working – including using Jeremy and Hannah however she sees fit.

The one thing that I really love about the Professor in his scene is how uncomfortable he is. I liked playing with the panel layouts on those pages so that he’s looking at Mackenzie and Jacob in different panels, not at la Fleur.

And then finally, the chapter wraps up with a completely different look at la Fleur. Just like in the last chapter, we get a backstory, but we also get an bias that is completely different from what we’ve just seen on the previous pages. Which one is correct?

As you can see, we’re halfway through and really starting to cover some ground. Next week, things start to get interesting! Thanks for reading.

On the Verge: the Arrow of Time, five

We’re back with the next block of pages and our next character cover – Agnosto Mercury.

Aggy only appears a couple of times in the story, but each of them are pretty important. In preparation for this chapter, I actually wrote a complete history for both Edge Inc. and Agnosto himself. I kind of always intended to go back and do a short story with Aggy, but it just didn’t happen.

Anyway, here’s the cover and the full chapter!

When I was putting together Chapter Zero, I knew that the next chapter after that was going to start this way – with Hannah sitting at her desk again, starting at her computer screen. So the idea was that the opening spread would definitely resemble the last chapter. As far as the character building here goes… I knew that Hannah wouldn’t just sit at home twiddling her thumbs. I’m sure someone out there might question her going back to work while Jeremy is missing, but I know for a lot of people, when something bad happens, they need to get back into their routine to feel normal, or bury themselves in work just as a distraction. And that’s kind of what Hannah needed to do.

The other thing to point out is that this chapter is really Hannah’s “call to action” in terms of a heroic journey. She’s down right now and she’s looking for something. So Agnosto gives her something to do and from here, the story starts rolling.

This chapter was one of those where I needed to cover a lot of ground to really get the story going and set up the characters (especially Hannah and Lucas and the way they interact). But then I started adding in all sorts of extra little bits. I was working on THE INTERVIEW short story that featured Edward Hopper and I kind of fell in love with writing him (which is why he ends us being in so many OTV stories). Anyway, I threw him in here just for shits and giggles, but that meant adding some pages. Then I added in Cheryl (and Hannah on the way to the meeting) which added in a couple of more. So this chapter grew in the telling.*

And finally, this Daily Recorder story that ends the chapter was really fun to write. It was a way to really give a quick backstory to Hannah (which was great), but at the same time, I wanted to write about her in a completely contrasting was to how she’s so far been presented in the story. For me, one of the big themes throughout this story is the media and how it presents information – usually with a bias of some sort.** In this case we’re not really sure what that bias is, but there definitely is an angle that’s different from the Hannah that’s presented in the comic. At the same time, there are facts in that story that are true. So does that make the whole story true…? This is where you’ve really got to be a smart, objective reader!

Anyway, lots and lots of stuff happens here in this chapter! I hope you guys enjoy.

*One of the great things about working on a webcomic is that you don’t have to worry so much about keeping a story to a certain length. You can just tell your tale however you want. This can sometimes be an issue – and at times I think I let this story ramble a bit – but for the most part, I love that I got to include stuff that I probably would have cut if I was aiming for a typical 22-24 page comic book.

**The point here is that ALL media has a bias and if you don’t see that, then that’s where we run into issues. This idea that media can be fair to both sides and completely balanced is crazy. If you happen to agree with everything that you see and read on a given day, you probably need to expand the news that you’re consuming.

 

On the Verge: the Arrow of Time, four

It’s not that stuff hasn’t happened in the story up until now, but this chapter is where things start to get interesting…

I’m really happy with how this cover turned out. I’ve got to admit that drawing “cool” covers for OTV has been hard because not a lot of “cool action” happens – Hannah isn’t a superhero after all. But I think I managed to capture a good amount of Hannah’s personality and attitude here.

Ok, as many of you already know, this was the original chapter that I created for THE ARROW OF TIME. At the time I called it “chapter zero” because I wasn’t 100% sure just what I was doing and I was pretty sure that this wasn’t the actual start of the story, but it’s a good name because this is pretty much ground zero for when the shit hits the fan.

I’m still really happy with how this chapter looks 6+ years later. I was just figuring things out at this point and this chapter really set the mood for how the rest of the art ending up looking. I was also trying some stuff out with the storytelling and seeing what I could do and after the fact, I think those things I tried really do work.

This chapter is also where we start to follow Hannah – which is key because she’s our gateway into the world of On the Verge.* Whereas I discussed earlier that Jeremy, Lucas and the Professor were set up to follow the three different types of scientists, Hannah was purposely different. She’s new to everything and really seeing it for the first time just like the reader is. Plus, since she’s not defined as one of these types of scientists, she really gets to question why things are like they are.

I always worried about not really focusing on the main character until this far into the story. But at the same time, I kind of like the plot twist that it serves. We kind of follow this celebrity scientist and the poof! he’s kidnapped. And at the end of the day, it’s how everything kind of shook out. I really tried fighting Hannah being the main character, but it just made so much sense. And now that everything is done, I kind of look back and wonder why I ever doubted it.

So a couple of quick points that I feel are worth sharing:

  • One of the big things that I was trying to do was figure out “how” to draw the characters here – which is one of the reasons why Hannah is doing so much different stuff. Page 95 for example has seven panels – six of which are Hannah pulling different faces as she works.
  • The original story that made up “chapter zero” ended when Hannah arrived at home and found the appartment in shambles and Jeremy missing. At this point, I decided I didn’t know what to do next and went off and did part one of THE JUMPER. When I came back, I added the six pages where Mr. Tall deploys the test for the Arrow of Time.
  • And then the last bit with the Daily Recorder got added in when I decided to go back through and add those sections to each chapter. This really provided me an opportunity to give the reader lots of detail on things that had happened and not take up too much space.

Anyway, I’ve always really loved this chapter and I still do. It’s got a bunch of great little character moments in it and a couple of hidden Easter eggs. I’m glad it still holds up!

*One of the things that I think worked especially well about the Harry Potter series is that as you read through it, Harry is basically the stand in for the reader, seeing everything for the first time. I liked that idea and wanted to replicate it.

On the Verge: the Arrow of Time, three

And we’re back with the next chapter and more new art featuring two of my favourite characters from this story – Mr. Tall and Mr. Small.

This was another chapter that first started out completely differently. I was still working away on just what I wanted this story to be when I decided that I kind of left things hanging with the Professor in the previous chapter. So it made sense to go back and kind of finish that story. Last week I explained about a bit about the “29 Day comic Project” and because it worked really well, I figured it was best to take the same approach with part two of the story. So in September 2012, I wrote and drew part two of this story in a month and then published it all the following month.

Anyway, when I made the decision to include all of this chapter within THE ARROW OF TIME story, I redrew and coloured all of the pages, just like I did with last week’s chapter.

I had fun with this part of the story. It was important to introduce Mr. Tall and Mr. Small here because they’ll play a larger role down the line. As well:

  • I really wanted to start to really explain the Professor’s motivations. This wasn’t to make excuses for what he was doing, but I wanted him to be more than just an evil genius.
  • I didn’t just want to introduce Tall and Small, but I felt like I needed to explain how Tall and Small aren’t just the Professor’s henchmen. They actually work for La Fleur and are keeping an eye on the Professor. I knew I wanted these two guys in the story because they served a variety of purposes, but it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to have them be the Professor’s henchmen. I mean how would he even find henchmen? So once I sort of figured out the La Fleur angle, it actually seemed to make things fit together better.
  • It was important to really tie Jeremy to the Professor. This is an important link that needed to be made because I needed to really explain how this guy (Jeremy) was really the guy who was going to be needed to figure out how to make the machine work. Plus I really liked the fact that Jeremy was this prized student and has formed this relationship with the Professor. What do you do when your mentor goes bad? That was a fun angle.
  • And then finally we go back to La Fleur. To me it was important that with each of her appearances, we start to evolve her character. She really is controlling the Professor who’s obviously in over his head and this continues to be something that happens right until the end of the story.
  • Also! I managed to squeeze in another Daily Recorder story about the protesters. This is one of those things that keeps building through the whole story, so it was fun to keep plugging that in there.

So yeah, there’s a lot that’s happening in this bunch of pages and I think it’s really setting up what’s coming next. I hope you enjoy!

On the Verge: the Arrow of Time, two

Here’s the next cover and the full chapter… enjoy!

Ok, so looking back, this chapter was kind of where I started to figure out just who and what this story was about. I knew what happened at the end of the story, but I had no idea exactly how to start that off.

Anyone who has been following this project for awhile may have heard me talk about my “29 Day Comic Project” and that was the original “project” to create this series of pages. My goal with the #29DCP was to (A) draw every day, and (B) create a story from scratch on Day 1. So that’s what I did… and it wasn’t until about Day 20 or so that I realized that I created a great opening for THE ARROW OF TIME.

The question then was what to do. I had the Prologue mapped out (and you would have read that last week) and I’d already done what is now Chapter 3 (which you’ll see in a couple of weeks). So I debated about how to fit this block of story in. At first I thought about doing a separate book (but quickly tossed that idea as impractical) before finally settling on the fact that I was going to have to include everything together. So I set about completely redrawing the whole chapter, adding colour and tweaking the copy.

The goal with this chapter is really to build on what happened in the Prologue, start really adding in some “weird science” and to focus in on some of the various characters that will play a big role in what’s to come. I established Jeremy and Hannah in the Prologue, so it was fun to jump to different characters (and I think all those Game of Thrones books helped me figure out how to do that!).

Anyway, my goal for the story was to create a “sci-fi thriller” and that meant really trying to build up some mystery and I feel like this chapter really did that.

On the Verge: the Arrow of Time, one

Happy Tuesday! So last week we wrapped up THE ARROW OF TIME story, but as I mentioned I have new art to share because I’ve created covers for each of the chapters. Also, even though I’ve collected the whole story in the archive (since pretty much day one), I realized that not everyone may know this.

So my plan is to post the new cover artwork each week (one chapter a week) and post the accompanying story pages from the chapter as well, in case you’re interested in re-reading.

Anyway, let’s get to the art, here’s the cover to the first chapter and the full chapter.

*****

This is also a great opportunity for me to offer some overall thoughts and insights into each chapter along the way. I did post stuff for certain pages as I went, but I was really trying to not give away the story and spoil things. And because of that, it was hard to really keep track of exactly what I could or should say. In most cases, I went with the approach of just not saying anything. But now that everything’s been posted, it’s an ideal time to go back through and dig deeper and explain what I was thinking.

So one of the big things that got included in this chapter is the three types of people that I felt framed the idea of “edge” sciences:

  • Those that stayed in their labs and universities and books and researched, researched, researched, developed theories and tests and pushing things forward
  • Those out in the world who dealt with the consequences of edge science on a daily basis, and
  • Those who took all of the knowledge that they had and applied it, no matter what the consequences were.

The key thing about this idea is that each of the “personas” is reflected in the three scientists in the story:

  • Jeremy is the researcher, always striving for knowledge and pushing forward
  • Lucas is the man-on-the-ground, out in the real world dealing with edge sciences and how they affect people, and
  • The Professor is the character who’s going to apply all of this knowledge, consequences be damned.

I think what I wanted to do with these different types of scientists is to really frame edge science as a field of study that had lots of different people involved and lots of parties who have different interests that they want to protect. And to be honest, my guess is that this is probably true of the real world to some extent.

Now back when I was first writing the start of this story, I felt it was super important that I included that the public wasn’t entirely on-board with “edge” sciences. This kind of provided a key counterpoint to the three scientists in the story. I think the key thing to me was that I wanted to establish that edge science was really out there, crazy sci-fi stuff and could be very dangerous and that not everyone was ok with blindly letting scientists do whatever they wanted to do. So the protests served to really highlight that people had maybe had enough and were starting to push back. What’s interesting is that this has actually happened in the “real” world since I wrote this. The stuff that’s happened with the Hadron Collider, etc., kind of proves that in general, weird science freaks people out. I’ve probably spent way too much time over the years really thinking about technology and science and how it affects our lives. The minute I started using a computer in my artwork, it became apparent that technology was changing things and this actually started to be reflected in some of the art that I was creating at the time.

The other thing that I remember really wanting to include was how people that know nothing about edge science would actually try to debate with someone like Jeremy – ie. one of the top scientists in the world. Now back when I was first starting to work on this, the anti-vaccine debate was something that was going on and I found it really amazing to follow. What interested me the most was people who had no formal training in science trying to tell professional scientists that they were wrong.* The thing about this whole debate, is that it’s probably gotten worse as we’re not literally having a renewed debate about global warming (hard to believe) and “fake news” or “alternate facts” are part of our daily life. Anyway, if you’re interested in these types of things, I actually just read two really good articles that I’d recommend: “Why facts don’t change our minds” and “How America lost faith in expertise”.

So yeah, it’s crazy how some of this stuff seems more relevant than ever. Crazy times indeed.

*Maybe it’s because as a graphic designer and illustrator I deal with people who think that they’re designers and illustrators (it’s just pictures and colour, right?), but I could empathize with this debate.

On the Verge – The Arrow of Time – Page 326

How do you end a 326-page story that’s taken you six years to write and draw? That’s the problem I was faced with. What does it say about me that I found writing the start and the end of this story to be the hardest? I’m sure there’s something worth exploring in there…

Anyway, today we reach the conclusion of THE ARROW OF TIME. I’ve had an absolute blast working on the project and I hope you guys have had fun following along. As you all probably know by now, I’ve primarily done all of the artwork on my lunch breaks. So you’re looking at six years worth of lunches (which is crazy when you think about it!).

So without further ado, here’s the final page…

As I said above, I really struggled with this page. Finishing up the the action at the start of this chapter was easy to figure out. Then, once I’d decided on how to tie up the storyline and visit all the characters again, I was pretty much done. But I really struggled with finding both the words and images to finish the story off. After a lot of re-writes I decided to end the story in the way that I found worked best with a lot of the shorter OTV stories that I’ve done over the years — a little open-ended.

But in the end, I think everything came together and guess what? We’re done.

Despite this being the end of the story, I do still have a bunch of stuff to post over the coming weeks. I have cover art for each chapter (or issue) that I want to post and I’ve got tons of thoughts and notes from the whole process that I want to blog about as well. So more is definitely coming.

The SUPER BIG question that’s still left open is just what to do with this story. I’ve done a very good job of working away and making a comic, but I’ve done a crap job promoting it and getting it in front of people to read. I’d always intended to do some kind of printing but I’m not too sure about that anymore. So I’m going to spend the next little bit trying to figure out what to do with it and hopefully get it out into the world somehow.

You know, after 326 pages (and over 500 if you count all the short stories too) and 6+ years, it’s a little strange to be done. I’m looking forwards to doing some new stuff, but I would definitely like to come back and tell another OTV story. I don’t think I’m done with these characters just yet. I’ve learned a lot through this process and one of the things that I’ve learned is that I really do love these characters. I think THE ARROW OF TIME has come to a pretty tidy conclusion but Hannah has obviously grown a lot and it would be interesting to come back to her and the rest of the Edge gang and see what challenges face them next. I feel like I left a lot of dangling threads — something that I did on purpose — and it would be great to be able to take those somewhere at some point.

Last point for today. I just want to say that I’m super proud of myself for seeing this thing through to the end. Six years is a long time and there were so many obstacles to overcome throughout the process. I had so many chances to give this thing up for a variety of reasons. But I stuck it out to the end and finished. I know that there are a lot of webcomics that don’t make it, so I’m really proud that I managed to finish this things off right and tell a complete story.

Anyway, next week we’ll take a look at some new art and I’ll try to get around to blogging about stuff too. Thanks for reading!

On the Verge – The Arrow of Time – Page 325

Let’s not waste any time, here’s today’s page!

I think one of the big things that I wanted to do with this half of the chapter was to really have Jeremy (who’s supposed to be the knowledgeable one when it comes to edge sciences) explain everything that’s occurred.

At the end of the day though, it’s all just speculation – which is something that I think was important to point out. I like the idea that we don’t know everything and that science can’t explain absolutely everything. The fact that there are still mysteries in the world is really cool! So it was important to me that as we wrap everything up, I kind of reinforce that message – that no one knows everything and that it’s important to keep an open mind.

Anyway, I’ve had fun working through all of these ideas and whatnot and I hope it’s made for a satisfying conclusion to everything.

Next week I will post the final page! Come back and see how it all end. Thanks for reading.

On the Verge – The Arrow of Time – Page 324

Better late than never, right? Here’s the new page for the week!

I promised to share some thoughts about the things in this story – where they came from and what my perspective on it actually is. So today, I wanted to start with these two (Hannah and Jeremy) and their relationship.

One of the major drivers of this whole storyline is the relationship between these two characters. You always hear writers telling people to write what they know – so that’s what I really did here. Way back when I was starting this project (so Fall 2010), my wife and I had only been married for a short period of time and before that we’d dated, lived together, been engaged… it was kind of where my head was at. So I wrote what I knew which was two characters in a relationship, how they interacted and what they’d do for each other. I don’t really mean that this is a personal story in any way and reflects me personally, but at the same time, I do understand what being in a relationship with someone is like, so I basically wrote that.

Now the interesting thing to me is that this is definitely NOT what I set out to write. I set out to write a cool little sci-fi story with some invisible thieves, disappearing people, time travel and weird technology. But once you actually sit down and have to put people into situations, you really need them to be relatable and have relationships.

I think one of the reasons why I ended up rejigging the start of the story as much as I did was because I kept going back in and adding in more stuff with Hannah and Jeremy. By the time I’d gotten into Chapters 4 and 5, I knew where the story was going and how important their relationship was, so I needed to establish that relationship right away. This meant really setting up Jeremy being away and travelling, which carried over to Chapter 3’s conversation between Hannah and Jane when they’re getting coffee. It’s obviously not been easy on Hannah with Jeremy being away on a book tour and becoming a celebrity scientist… But when he disappears, things kind of crystalize for her and, Hannah being Hannah, she does everything she can to get him back.

To bring this full circle, this last chapter has really been about wrapping everything up. So once we’d touched base with all of the characters, it was really a matter of coming back to Hannah and Jeremy – which is where we’re at with two pages to go and them deciding that they need to make time for them (something I think is actually an important message for any relationship to work!).

Anyway, I think this aspect of the story has been the one to surprise me most because I didn’t really intend to have it. But I think the story is a million times better because of it.

*****

I haven’t given an update lately because I’ve just been too damn busy. But today I wanted to hint that I’m currently working on a big new exciting project and I’m hopefully going to be able to start sharing stuff soon!

Other than that, I’m looking forward to getting back to work on Last Chance later today and we’ll see how it goes from there.

As always, thanks for reading and come on back next week and we head to the finish line!