Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Spotlight on Legends of the Guard contributor Charles Paul Wilson III:

David Petersen: Charles, It was great to have you on board to tell a Legends of the Guard story. I’d like to start by talking about your own comic series (with collaborators Mike Raicht & Brian Smith) The Stuff of Legend. I consider it to be an all-ages series. How do you artistically handle telling a story that will be read by adults and children? Is it something you work at and think about or just a natural subconscious process?

Charles Paul Wilson III: Something we encountered early on after our first book's release was while we felt it was all ages, it wasn't completely all ages. Especially after meeting a lot of readers at comic conventions who feel comfortable letting their eight-year-old read it but hold off on handing it to their younger ones. Paraphrasing Mike Raicht, I've started saying it's ages Empire Strikes Back and up. But I still try to be as accommodating as I can to the youngest reader we can get our book in front of without compromising what we've established in our first book or sacrificing areas of story we feel should go a bit dark.For those unfamiliar with The Stuff of Legend, it's about a boy who is kidnapped by The Boogeyman and dragged into another world populated by the boy's lost and forgotten toys. His current favorite toys mount a rescue mission to go get him and when they arrive in this other world they become realistic versions of themselves - the toy soldier becomes a real soldier, the teddy bear becomes a giant, ferocious grizzly and the jack-in-the-box becomes an acrobatic jester. And there are a lot of different characters they encounter and a variety of places they travel to in their efforts to get their boy back. I should also mention it takes place in 1944 (it's a bit of a period piece)!
David: For your Legends of the Guard story, you wrote and drew the story. Did you find it hard to exercise the writing muscle, or was it a natural extension of creating a story through images?
Charles: Ha ha yeah, kinda. Planning a story for someone else with a limited page count, I think it was a tough first time. I've always liked writing stuff for myself, whether it's just words on paper or in the computer or I want to draw them out, I still do, but I felt a bit nervous, and excited, contributing both story and art.
David: Did you start the story development with a script or an outline, or did you just start sketching story beats? I know we talked about story ideas, but I don't know your full process.

Charles: Once you and I figured out what I was going to do I wrote down some captions that wound up in the middle of the story. They were the first things that came to mind and wound up staying through to the finish and then I worked through thumbnail drawings and wrote it out as I went along, if I remember it right. It kinda came together by itself in the end though. I do remember asking myself what I was focusing on concerning areas of the plot and why they were important, and then I made story around them. Like our main character's wooden sword, what it says about him that he made it and how he intends to use it and what his foes' weapons, what they are or how they were probably acquired and how they're intended for use, say about both his foes and him in contrast.

David: The text for your story is all told in rhyme. What led you to that choice of wordplay?   
Charles: I think it was originally supposed to spark some direction and help me get to where I was going. I looked at myself and tried to think of something creative and fun I could do with my story, something that would maybe contribute to the whole of the book. Maybe something that could sit alongside all of the other storytellers' stories without embarrassing me too much, maybe, but mostly it was a fun aspect of putting the story together.

David: Your story “When Moles are Around” deals with an unlikely friendship between a mouse & mole that has both good and bad consequences. Where did the idea for this story come from?
Charles: Initially I wanted to write a story with mice interacting with wolves. I went back and re-read all of the Mouse Guard books and found some references to wolves, but my ideas began to look like other mouse versus predator stories that were already told and I was also concerned my offering would fall more on the bland side of things. And it would have.

So instead of a versus story I thought I'd make a buddy story and asked you what relationships would be like between mice and moles or rats. And you said something like mice probably wouldn't get along with moles well, that they'd dig up their housing foundations, and so I ran with that and worked it into and throughout the story.
David: The baddies in your story are pretty gritty and nasty, which I love. Was there a backstory or reason you pushed them in that direction and wearing bones and shells and such?
Charles: I think I remember imagining them as pirates, or plunderers, and they would wear outfits made up of leaves and sticks and whatever else was lying around. And that some of their outfits were made up of animals they've killed, but more telling would be what animals. One of them wears a small turtle shell, which would suggest this mouse killed a young, slow moving animal, and the leader has a bunch of baby bird skulls tied to his back. So essentially they're bullies who pick on weaker animals, or kill them and take what they want. Their insignia is a baby bird skull, probably due to some backstory with the leader. Maybe he couldn't kill a full grown bird so he went after its children, or maybe those mice developed a taste for bird flesh and somehow they thought the bird skull insignia would best represent what they are, or maybe it's a joke.
David: Is there a moral or take home lesson in your story?
Charles: I think there are a few things that can be pulled from the story that would serve as a moral or lesson, none of them my intention really, but what I like about it is two friends creatively, purposefully and inadvertently, find ways to triumph over adversity on all sides and remain friends. 

David: On my blog, I talk a lot about process and materials, and my fans are always really interested to know about that stuff too. Walk us through the process from rough to watercolored page for this story. And tell us the materials used.

Charles: For this story, and I don't always work this way, but for these pages I started with small thumbnail sketches for each page. Sometimes I work bigger. I laid out the lettering as well as the illustration in the thumbs, but I planned on working with the word balloons and caption boxes more closely than I would if I were to hand it off to someone else so I made sure I knew how they would function with the art on the page before I started. Anyway, I usually do thumbnails sketches or roughs on typing paper.

I then took the thumbs and, using a photocopy machine, blew them up until they were about 10"x10" each. I sometimes use a computer printer for this. It can be more precise and before I print I can use photoshop to move things around if I want. Panels, figures, whatever.

I used 11"x14" Strathmore Bristol paper (the yellow pad), 100 lb. smooth as the final paper. There's thicker paper out there that buckles less with watercolor and washes but I guess I've gotten used to this.
After ruling out the image area on the final paper (10"x10") I lightboxed the layouts up.

I've been favoring softer pencil lead so I probably used HB or 2B when I penciled the pages.

For inking I used Micron pens. I traveled a lot last year and with Microns I could work over pages almost anywhere.

Using the lightbox, I drew the word balloons and caption boxes on separate sheets of paper. I hadn't hand-lettered anything in a long while so it took a few tries until I got it how I liked it.

I have an old Daler-Rowney watercolor set I drag with me everywhere too, and I used those for color.

I scanned the art and letters into photoshop, made adjustments in color and lettering placements as well as some lettering corrections and sent the pages off!
David: How do you work best? in silence, around others? with the right background sounds?
Charles: Depending on what I'm doing sometimes I like it quiet. Especially during script-reading and thumbnailing pages or roughing out anything in general. Sometimes I like music during the thumbnail process, but even then that primarily consists of putting a single track on repeat for hours and hours on end.

In all other stages, and again, depending on what I'm doing, I could also listen to tv shows and audiobooks, or more music and quiet. And sometimes I like to Skype with my friends while they draw. I also found this great Magic Window app for the iPad that plays ocean, lake and wind sounds with some moving scenery, and that's nice to have on while I draw.

David: What do you have coming up next in your list of projects we should look out for?

Charles: We're currently wrapping up The Stuff of Legend, Volume IV: The Toy Collector with two more volumes to go! And this summer I'll be working on a book called WRA1TH with Joe Hill (Locke and Key) that ties into his NOS4A2 novel that was just released in April. I also have a slew of variant covers coming out ranging from Wild Blue Yonder and X Files to Regular Show and possibly a web strip I've got in the works called BEWARE THE STARE!
David: Wow! That's a lot going on! Charles, thanks for the interview, and for the story. Where can people find out more about you and your work?

Charles: You can find me on twitter @cpwilsoniii or on facebook (Charles Paul Wilson III).

Original art and commissions can be purchased/arranged through Bob at www.comicarthouse.com (email -bob@comicarthouse.com).

And if you're on deviantart you can find me at www.cpwilsoniii.deviantart.com!

Charles' story When Moles are Around will appear in Legends of the Guard
volume 2 #3 along with stories by Eric Canete & Cory Godbey

Upcoming Appearances:
Granite State Comicon: September 28-29
New York Comic Con: October 10-13

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