Sunday, May 27, 2007

What's Been Going On

I will be very honest, my motivations have been on other creative interests recently. I love the IR Haven blog and I'm still behind everything that it stands for 150%.

In the last few months, however, while I've had a blast thinking up NITNF topics every week, it's also been the primary reason I've been posting to IR Haven at all. Sure, there have been other things I've posted about, mostly "real life" things, but they've been few and far between.

Recently, for Mother's Day, I was motivated to sing lead on a song, Brian Littrell's "You Keep Givin' Me." (video of Littrell's live performance below). That was a wonderful experience and I hope to keep singing lead. It brings out a different side of me, a different creativity I had almost forgotten (since I haven't sung lead in over 10 years). I never stopped performing on electric bass guitar and even started singing backing vocals with First Light, but lead is a different level. It's very scary but equally rewarding.

The other area of creativity I am actively involved in is drawing comics. I started drawing superhero comics when I was 10. I ended up creating a superhero team I called the AR-MEN (don't ask me what the "AR" stands for, I've had no idea for 28 years, it just worked). I built lives and careers and families for the characters and it became almost a generational superhero team.

It was always therapeutic. I started drawing mainly because I couldn't do sports well. I had terrible depth perception because of my nearsightedness and glasses really didn't compensate. And kids being kids, back then it was still cool to pick on kids for having glasses. I dealt with rejection like any kid, I avoided it like the plague and went and did something else: draw.

It became a ritual to go into a room and draw for hours. I'd listen to music and just pour my ideas onto paper with pencil. Never pen, never colors. When I had my major surgeries as a pre-teen, my art kept me sane in the hospital and at home recovering.

In fact, the intensity of what I was going through made for my writing change, it deepened my stories. Characters started going through some serious situations, not just "It's Captain X and his evil hordes attacking, prep the megaship for battle!" No, a teenage lead character had to deal with entrapment through pregnancy by an evil teen female. Did I mention I was 12 when I had the surgeries? And no, I was not seeing/dating anyone at that young of an age, I just had an overactive imagination.

The combination of drawing art and writing story were always releases for my emotions and my stress. I'm convinced the comics kept me stable in high school, because I was a real mess (hmmm, what teenager isn't at one point or another?) for so many reasons (most of which I can't go into, there just isn't room on the blog). I was even drawing the AR-MEN when I went to college and when I met and became friends with Angel. Angel inspired me to write an AR-MEN story about racism. I can truly say it was one of my best single issue stories and it took my writing style to another new level.

When I became a Christian in 1996, I tried to keep writing the AR-MEN comics but have one of the characters become a Christian and see where things went from there. It really didn't work. I felt that I did a good job with the Christian character but continuing to write superhero comics was problematic. Unless you want the most boring, overintellectualized superhero comics in the universe, you must have fighting in superhero stories. I decided that I needed to end the AR-MEN stories...and I did.

But just because you stop writing the stories, it doesn't mean the stories or the desire to creatively express goes away. An artist is always an artist, whether they like it or not. I had a breakthrough idea: As a Christian, I wanted to offer up my talents to the Lord and see what He would bless me with. And I didn't want to do it alone. I asked Angel if she would help me write a brand new non-superhero story that would somehow be Christian. I wanted us to write and create as a team.

We prayed together and we asked the Lord to bless us with the characters and the story and the ability to put it all together in a way that it would appeal to the average person, not just Christians, while still remaining strong in His message.

We had to wait a few years for everything to come together but it was so worth the wait! The first thing that developed was a really rough idea of the story premise and an idea for a short dream sequence. We also created a small list of main characters, a mixed-race family that went through a bitter separation and divorce.

The characters are: a Asian/Caucasian man, an African-American woman and their two daughters as well as one of the daughter's best friends, who happens to be a real Christian. The parents stay in touch to keep up with their children's lives and over six years, the parents' bitterness lessens and to their surprise, they fall in love again. So now the family has to try and undo the damage caused by six years of divorce and estrangement (the father and daughter moved away to Canada as part of a relocation by the father's job).

The next logical question for us as writers was "What part does the Christian friend play in all this and what will make this a Christian comic?" We had to wait for that answer, too. But what an answer we ended up getting!

The comic officially made it's debut in 2003 and we have been working hard at it ever since. It began as a comic strip, although probably more like Sunday comics size than the traditional 3 to 5 panel "gag at the end" strip you see in the daily newspapers. The first 38 strips comprised the initial story, what we ended up calling "Book One." That took the longest, almost four years. I got inspired to go ahead and go back to full-page comic book style instead of comic strip style. Book Two took 4 months to write and draw and is 22 pages. We're now working on Book Three.

Here are the characters:

We initially hosted it on Comic Genesis but I also recently mirrored it on Drunk Duck (DD for short, and don't let the name fool you, it's a neat community!). Both webhosts are free. I have been more impressed with DD because it has a great commenting and rating system and a good user interface for organizing your site plus an active and healthy forum area that encourages community communication. So I will give the link to our comic on DD, Due East starting at the very first strip. Click on the graphic below to start reading the comic (opens another browser window or tab)!

We put up a webpage for detailed backgrounds on the characters here and more detail on the background story here.

In conclusion, I just wanted to let you all know that I haven't forgotten IR Haven, I've just been in another creative vein right now. I will have inspiration for IR Haven, too, but I'm waiting on it. I don't want to put just anything online, I want to give my best!

Best Wishes,

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