So, I'm in the process of designing the three books. Not just the characters, but the way the art itself looks, right up to the text elements that will be used throughout each. My process involves me sitting with paper and just sketching out the basic look of letters that will set the visual style each book. Currently, I'm working on the first book, the modern one. Working in pencil, much like when drawing a piece, lets me put down ideas as they come to me, without really committing to any one or another. That is, until I ink it.
Just a few minutes before I started on this, I saw a video on Facebook that was highly disturbing. It was trauma and abuse that was happening in a moment, and that was plastered on the internet for all to see. It was so upsetting that I zipped past it down my timeline and had to actually sit and take a breath. It was likely shared to call out what was happening as a "Hey this is not good! Find this person and bring them to justice!" but it was also shared without comment. I sat down to work on this title right afterwards because I needed to do something with my hands, and think about my work.
It was maybe the last year or so that I latched on to this idea of not my work to make spectacle of trauma. There are things that will happen to characters in stories that are part of their lived lives in the world I'm creating. There is no hiding from the fact that some of it will be bad, but all of it will be necessary to tell the story of who these people, my characters, are. I can not skip over those parts because I don't like them, but the point is how the story is framed by me, the artist.
There is never a story to be told that calls for the "creative re-imagining" of trauma unless that re-imagining heals its victims.
This note is on my instagram. I live by it in my work. I have said in my streams that I would never tell a story of trauma, simply to sell it as entertainment because it's not entertainment. Watching someone survive through a brutalizing encounter is not the story I want to tell. My stories are adult stories that happen to adult people, yes, but being an adult and engaging in content meant for adults does not inure us to highly upsetting, emotionally charged, trauma-triggering content. I am a human being and I must write these stories and draw these images first, and hope that others can read them and look at them and be touched, entertained, maybe even inspired.
I was watching the latest episode of All Rise tonight (on CBS, it's such an excellent show, I recommend it!) and I love it. The characters in the show all feel something and they express those feelings in how they defend or prosecute their cases. These people are about something and are working to make the law mean something for people who are typically targeted by its abuse. It's a beautiful show and I thought of how not real it is. Or, how not real I suspect it to be. I don't work in a law-firm, or in a courthouse, but the fantasy is still there. And that's the point of the show.
What I love about fantasy is not just taking the occasionally traumatic experience and turning it into something positive, but that it can make us feel a little less bleak about the real, troubling world we live in. I wouldn't call it an escape, but rather a different way of looking at the world around us, getting us to ask the question, "Why can't we have it this way?" Why can't the reality of a courtroom look like this fantasy? Why do we have to stress ourselves out over translating the modern reality of something into something "real" when we can accept the place of fantasy in our lives?
I don't mean to say that stories of historical import are not for consumption, but they should not be all that we consume. Some stories are important to remind us that certain events happened, and this is how they unfolded. I believe in the place of that, alongside the need for the fantastical "what if" injected into modern stories, especially those that are meant to imply similitude in the everyday. We can, in fact, have both. Fantasy allows us to do that. It allows us to tell stories of what could be, not just what isn't. The things that are hoped for in our lives? That's fantasy, and we shouldn't use the word "fantasy" to mean something that can never be, because I don't believe that's what that means. For me, it's another way of seeing the world.
And that's the world that I illustrate.