Page 10 of the project I’m working on for Jason Rodriguez’s Colonial Comics anthology from Fulcrum Press.
My outline-y script reads:
Eunice further assimilated into Kahnwake culture. Daily life centers very much around corn: planting, gathering, drying, grinding, cooking. Being invited with the women to the fields is a big moment.
The home life in the longhouse is warm and communal.
So this is essentially a non-sequential page, but a series of vignettes that add up to Eunice’s generally happy childhood at Kahnawake. Â It’s a matter of putting the anecdotes into an overall page design or architecture that really can be read in any order. Â Since she left no written record of her time there, it’s all made up.
I definitely wanted to make use of the very first sketch I did for the story:
Then Â lot of scribbling to figure how to arrange things:
The rough. I decided to curve the drawings in that middle tier around the “archway” of the bottom panel, giving it more of an architectural feel:
The final line art, with blue pencils showing. Â No real reason to show this, I just like the way the blue pencil looks (the scan’s patched together, hence the different coloring):
The next page for this story, about the aftermath of the Indian raid on Deerfield Mass. in 1704, which I’m working on for the Colonial Comics anthology from Fulcrum Press,Â was originally scripted like this:
Page to be divided diagonally, maybe.
JOHN HALF: John returns to Boston.Â He becomes a celebrity, delivering sermons on his captivity.Â His book is a colonial best-seller.Â He continues his efforts to redeem Eunice.Â
EUNICE HALF Eunice further assimilated into Kahnwake culture. Daily life centers very much around corn: planting, gathering, drying, grinding, cooking.
Being invited with the women to the fields is a big moment.
The home life in the longhouse is warm and communal.Â Â
Thumbnailed like so:
But if felt like too much story to pack into an 8×8 page — at least with the kind of storytelling I’m going for. Â This was going to be too dense a page to be easily read. Â I asked the editor if it was okay to make the story 2 pages longer (it has to stay an odd number for the book layout, and I could use an extra page at the end as well).
So, the story will now run 13 pages and here’s the thumbnal of the new page 9, Â just the “John” part of the old page 9:
As you can see, I changed the text on the last panel. Â I liked the juxtaposition of ‘not giving up hope” with the burning-down candle, but… as you WILL see in the next page, it needed a line more suited to the transition back to Eunice at Kahnawake. Â So I ended the page on the notion of not knowing what was going on with her… and now we shall see!
The next page in the story I’m drawing for Fulcrum Press‘ Colonial Comics anthology.
My “script” for the page:
The Mohawk children have an easy life.Â Running around and playing.Â Eunice watches shyly as they play.Â They call her over.Â Then she is playing with them.Â Â
As you can see I added in the element of Eunice’s Indian mother intervening on her behalf with the other kids.
Â I also realized that the transition from the narrated/dialogue pages (John’s story) to the wordless pages (Eunice’s story), needed to be smoothed out with a line of narration. Â Otherwise it seemed too abrupt. Â The rough pencils:
The square format lets you do some fun things that wouldn’t be possible in a conventional rectangular page. Here I tried to play with the two diagonal axes of a page divided into four equal quarters. Â So there’s the parallel/contrast between the lonely girl in the first panel and the playing children in the last, in the axis running top left-bottom right between two square panels. Â And then the opposite, axis – top right to bottom left – Â in which we “ride” a rough diagonal through the series looks from one character to the others:
Does that make sense?
The line of narration, by the way, is invented, not from John’s book. Â I don’t want to take cheap shots to exaggerate John’s anti-Indian attitude. Â But he was quoted (I didn’t make a note of where, but probably in John Demos’ The Unredeemed Captive), referring to the Indians as “wretched.” Â So I thought it fair enough to use the word here.Thanks!
Continuing the process of drawing a short comic about John and Eunice Williams and the Deerfield Raid of 1704, for Colonial Comics anthology from Fulcrum Press…
Where the first 5 pages were primarily visual, these two switch to a dialogue mode. Â The majority of the dialogue is taken from John Williams’ text, some of it moved around from different parts of the book. Â For instance, the story John tells Eunice of the girl who’s forced to wear the cross, was actually a story told to John by his son (who was also captured) in a letter. Â I’m not sure if John had heard this story when he met with Eunice for the first time at Kahnwake, but I thought it presented his attitude toward children in captivity pretty well.
The Jesuits attempt to get John to convert (â€œby all means of flatteries and threats).Â Some of the following text to be used:
Â I had many disputes with the priests who came thither; and when I used their own authors to confute some of their positions, my books, borrowed of them, were taken away from me, for they said, I made an ill use of them.
It was propounded to me, if I would stay among them, and be of their religion, I should have a great and honourable pension from the king every year. The superiour of the Jesuits said, “Sir, you have manifested much grief and sorrow for your separation from so many of your neighhours and children; if you will now comply with this offer and proposal, you may have all your children with you; and here will be enough for an honourable maintenance for you and them.â€ (and never expect to have them on any other terms)I told them, my children were dearer to me than all the world, but I would not deny Christ and his truths for the having of them with me. Â What is a man profited if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
Â â€œAfter much supplication, Governour de Vaudreuil (of New France), arranged for me to see my youngest daughter.â€
Â John is brought to Kahnawake see Eunice.Â Before he sees her, the Mohawk tell him that â€œthey would as soon part with their hearts as my child.â€
Â PAGE 7
The first meeting between John and Eunice, in the church at Kahnawake, with Jesuits present.
EUNICE: Father! Have you come to take me home?
JOHN: God has not willed that yet.Â Are you well?Â
She looks downcast.
EUNICE: Yes, father.
JOHN: Have you been mistreated?
JOHN: Do you remember to say your catechism?
EUNICE: Yes!Â But they make me say prayers in Latin, father! I donâ€™t understand a word.Â Will it do me harm?
JOHN: Be strong: I have been told of an English girl bid to take and wear the cross, and cross her self: She refused; they threatened her: either to cross herself, or be whipt, she chose to be whipt; but seeing her choosing indeed to suffer rather than comply, they desisted.Â
Eunice doesnâ€™t seem encouraged.Â
The layouts of these pages are fairly straightforward, my thumbnails were loose — extremely so in the case of page 7. Â I didn’t bother scanning the roughs, which I usually only do if I’m piecing them together from sketches and other attempts.
Drawing these two pages was much faster than the previous ones. My main focus was on the stylization/schematization of the characters. Â The style of drawing the two characters turns out to be different. John is more of a caricature style – almost Mort Drucker-ish at times , while Eunice is more of a Manga-influenced indie-comics look, that’s a little new for me; I’m really enjoying the simplicity and expressiveness this approach to her character allows. Even so, keeping the depiction of the characters consistent from page to page is proving a challenge.
I don’t guess the following merits the word “script,” but this is what I was working from for this page:
At Kahnawake, Eunice is welcomed warmly, embraced by her Indian â€œmother.â€Â Her rags are taken off and she is dressed in a new outfit, in the style of the Mohawk girls.
NOTES: Â The Iroquois nation at the time practiced the “Mourning War,” in which captives were taken for the purpose of replacing members of the tribe that had died, to ease the grief of their loved ones. Â “Captives could be adopted as a family member, literally taking the name and social position of the deceased” * Â It’s unknown whether Eunice was captured for this purpose, but possible, and I’m playing it that way.
The action of this page was also inspired by a passage in a book I read for research, “The Indian Captive,” by Lois Lenski, a fictionalized account (written for children in 1942) of a similar historical case. Â The sensual appeal of the Indian clothes, faciliatate the Â symbolic “changing of the skin” into that of an adopted culture.
I also thought Â of the early shojo manga device of the “style picture.” Â Shojo manga was aimed at young female readers, and the presentation of clothing and costume was an important element. Â Often, an entire vertical section of the page was devoted to showing a character’s costume, in a panel that was often only loosely connected to the narrative flow of the comic, and using a decorative background rather than spatial continuity with the story:
I wanted to get something of that feeling of that for this page.
The rough version:
The final (so far):
Since Eunice obviously can’t understand the language of the Mohawks, I thought of getting the dialogue translated, so that readers couldn’t understand it either. Â I emailed the tribal council at Kahnawake to see about a translation, but haven’t heard back. Â In the meantime, I think the blank balloons might be a good solution!
The decorative pattern around Eunice in the “style picture” is based on the Iroquois “three sisters” of beans, corn and squash. Â My friend EJ Barnes, however, has since pointed out to me that, because I’m an idiot, I drew gourds instead of squashes (EJ didn’t call me an idiot, that’s my term). Â So that will have to be re-drawn.
*Evan Haefeli and Kevin Sweeney, Captors and Captives: The 1704 French and Indian Raid on Deerfield
Upcoming in June from publisher Thames and Hudson, “Comics: a Global History, 1968-present,” written by Alexander Danner and me. Â I want to post some snippets from the book, including some great comics images (from foreign lands and bygone days) that we couldn’t quite fit in the book. Â
As the title suggests, the book covers the period from, roughly, 1968 until 2010. The introduction, though, provides some background on the development of comics around the world (focusing mainly on Europe, Japan and the U.S.) during the post-war era through the mid-60s.
In the Japanese section, after exploring Osamu Tezuka’s breakthrough work of the late 40s and early 50s, we move on to the 1950s gekiga movement:
By 1956 or so, a small rebellion against Tezukian hegemony was stirring in Osaka, led by a group of young up-and-comers including Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Takao SaitoÂ¯ and Masahiko Matsumoto. Reverent admirers of Tezuka, they nonetheless felt the need for more bite in their manga, and hence gekiga (meaning â€œdramatic picturesâ€ as opposed to manga, â€œplayful pictureâ€) was created to, as Tatsumi put it, provide â€œmaterial for those in the transitional period between childhood and adulthood.â€ * Distributed through the inexpensive rental libraryâ€”or kashihonâ€”market, the early gekiga stories were mostly thrillers and mysteries for adolescent male readers, with cinematic paneling and lighting effects inspired by French and American film noir.
Matsuhiko Matsumoto – Rinshitsu no otoko (The Man Next Door) – 1956 from Kage #1
The young gekiga artists of the 1950s,Â like Matsumoto, were great fans of OsamuÂ Tezuka, and their cartooning style owedÂ much to his. They pushed his â€œcinematicâ€Â qualities a little further, with more use ofÂ angles and of â€œaspect-to-aspectâ€ panelingÂ (images of details within a scene, employedÂ to build atmosphere or, in the case of thisÂ page, suspense), and in general brought aÂ darker, tougher mood to juvenile thrillers Â and mysteries.
This first wave of gekiga** creators collaborated on two anthology periodicals, KageÂ (“Shadow”) was launched in 1956. The magazine was a success, sparking a boom in crime-themed, short story manga collections for the inexpensive kashihonÂ market. But Kage’s small Osaka publisher,Â Hinomaru Bunko,Â was in perpetual financial straits, and when in the following year it appeared that the firm would go under, Matsumoto and Tatsumi accepted an offer from a rival to start a second, noir-ish anthology, MachiÂ (“City”).*** Â Here are some images scanned from facsimile editions of the first issue of each of those titles:
*Quoted in “God of Comics: Osamu Tezuka and the Creation of Post-World War II Manga” by Natsu Onoda Power
** The term “gekiga” wasn’t yet used during the heyday of Kage and Machi. Â Matsumoto favored the term “Komaga” to differentiate their work, geared for older readers, from manga, which was still thought of as a children’s form. Tatsumi coined the term “gekiga” a few years later.
***As recounted by Matsumoto in his autobiographical “Gekiga Fanatics”
I begged of God, to over-rule, in his providence, that the corpse of one so dear to me, and of one whose spirit he had taken to dwell with him in glory, might meet with a Christian burial, and not be left for meat to the fowls of the air, and beasts of the earth : A mercy that God graciously vouchsafed to grant: For God put it into the hearts of my neighbours to come out as far as she lay, to take up her corpse, recarry it to the town, and decently to bury it, soon after.
â€œThe next day we were made to scatter one from another into smaller companies; and one of my children carried away with Indians belonging to the eastern parts.â€
John sees Eunice led away in a different direction.
Eunice is brought to the Christian Mohawk village of Kahnawake.
John to Quebec, to live among the Jesuits.Â
This is where I started to re-define what John would look like, and I did it in the name of comedy — there is only one portrait of John Williams (that Â I could find online):
…but I don’t know; not much to work with there. Â I wanted to have something visual going on in these “expository” panels Â — some counterpoint to the text, and I went for the laugh, caricaturing John a bit as an uptight bluestocking in the same nose-in-the-air posture whether offered a glass of wine or conversion to Catholicism. Â So I exaggerated nose, chin, forehead for that effect. Â And he probably wouldn’t have brought his wig along for the long march to Quebec, so I was happy not to have to deal with that!
Rough page 4:
As much as I liked drawing poor Eunice Williams senior’s beautiful tombstone…
…it seemed to me that stepping out of the forward movement of the story at that point wasn’t working. Â Eliminating that panel made it possible to add another beat, showing how John ends up with the Governeur. Â The final line art:
The third page of the story I’m working on for the Colonial Comics anthology from Fulcrum Books. Â The script for this page (notice a little bit of overlap with the last panel of page 2, I split one scene into two:)
Long march begins, 80 captives and 250 Indians and French soldiers, through the snowy wilderness.
Behind them, smoke rises from the burning houses of Deerfield.
JOHN: â€œThe journey being at least three hundred miles we were to travel â€¦. the place we were to be carried to, a popish country.â€
Eunice (mother) canâ€™t keep up with Eunice (daughter).Â Mother slips and falls into river as they cross. Mohawk warrior raises his tomahawk to kill her.Â Eunice (daughter) turns and sees, cries out. Another Mohawk man comforts her, picks her up and carries her on.
“My wife told me her strength of body began to fail, and that I must expect to part with her; saying, she hoped God would preserve my life, and the life of some, if not all of our chil dren, with us; and commended to me, underGod, the care of them.
â€œin passing through the river, she fell down, and was plunged over head and ears in the water; after which â€¦ the cruel and blood thirsty savage, who took her, slew her with his hatchet, at one strokeâ€
…Also those last couple passages are from John Williams’ book (full text available here, by the way). Â I put them in not neccesarily to use as text in the final comic, but just description to work from.
First a thumbnail:
Then I roughed out the page (assembled from sketches and pulled together on lightbox):
And finally (or so I thought):
Pretty happy with this. Â I especially like the weird awkward falling figure in panel two, and the shape created by the prone figure in the next panel (which goes back to this teeny sketch weeks earlier:)
Buuuuuut… I took the finished page into the BCR meeting, and got some valuable feedback, especially from Shelli Paroline. Â First off, she recommended restoring the lettering in the first panel, which I’d thought to do without it. Â But I think that it will make the transition from one scene to the next smoother for the reader.
Secondly, there was some uncertainty as to the attitude of the Indian who picks Eunice up at the end. Â I also realized that, in this “cinematic” style of story-telling (cutting from different angles on the same action for the fall into the water, Eunice seeing her, the killing blow, the reaction), there was an unecessary “beat.” Â The middle panel in the middle tier, looking over the mother’s head as Eunice runs toward her: doesn’t really add any new information, and it does something weird to the pacing. Â So I could get rid of that panel, and add another beat to clarify the relationship between Eunice and the Indian man:
There now! Â Thank you lightbox for allowing me to preserve what I liked in the first version (I re-draw the whole page, I guess so there’s a nice original page as an end product). Â Though I’m not sure I don’t like the “striking” panel (panel 4 in this version) better in the one above.
Oh, and in case you’re interested, the finished work is drawn with brush and India ink (Dr. PH Martin’s Black Star) on bristol (Borden & Riley).
More preliminary work for the Eunice Willams story. Â Here are some sketchbook pages of character studies, mostly of Eunice and her father John, then of a Mohawk character who takes care of Eunice after the raid.
It’s actually been quite a long time since I’ve drawn a story, and I’m searching for a new style, or at least for the style I want for this story…
I don’t want to draw this story in as “realistic” a style as the sketch above would indicate though. Â The process of stylization I’m going for can be seen in the difference between this study…
…and the approach to the characters on this page of studies:
For an upcoming anthology on the theme of Colonial New England History (see also http://colonialcomics.tumblr.com/), I’m drawing the story of Eunice Williams & her father John, who were among those kidnapped by French & Native American raiders in Deerfield, Mass, in 1704. Â Here are some preliminary sketches: