Interview with Cherie Hellemeyer

Hello there, and welcome to! Could you start by telling us the name or names of everyone on your creative team?

Cherie Hellemeyer; I do all the art, story and promoting on my own.

Where are you all from?

I hail from the Midwest, in particular, Missouri, around the STL area. I’ve been here my whole life except the first year of my life, which I lived in Texas and California for brief periods.

Share a little bit about yourself: childhood, education, family life, etc.

Early on, both of my parents noticed my talent for creativity and nurtured that through my whole life. My mom put me in lots of those science and art camps during school breaks, so I think that helped me experience a lot of different things when I was younger, and I enjoyed them greatly. My dad has his own screen printing business, and taught me how to do it, as well as showing me all different ways of going about making art. I graduated from high school, and went off to make bad decisions for the next 8 years… which had a negative effect on all that creativity.  I currently have an almost 6 year old in Kindergarten, who seems to have artistic talent as well. I’ve been with my partner for 2 ½ years now, and we’re trying to get into a better house.

Tell us your latest news. What kind of projects do you have going on?

Oh gosh, Blighted: The Odyssey. This is my baby right here, and I do have to say: It’s long. It is a hugely extensive story, and it’s also a two-parter. Blighted: The Odyssey is just Part I, and it’s just now getting into the format I want. I wish I was faster, there’s so much outlined that I need to get into Photoshop and do the digital version.

This project has two main points:

  1. To improve my skills and style, on rough draft as well as photoshop.
  2. To get this story to you. To my beloved readers. It’s been in my head so long, and it’s grown so intricate that it must be told.

When and why did you begin writing/drawing?

It’s always been with me in some way or form, I just always kept trying to improve. I lack in both departments, in my opinion. I do think my writing and art style is improving here within the last few months, but I think it’s mainly because I’ve been practicing so much lately.

What inspired you to start expressing yourself artistically?

Music and manga, actually. That’s the best way I can put it. I love to read manga in silence and draw listening to music.

How has your style changed since you began?

Toned down the manga vibe, but not entirely. I’m able to draw really detailed pieces with paper and pencil. Digital improvement was huge though. I still need to learn a lot to get where I want to be.

What do you find the most challenging and/or rewarding about writing/drawing?

Challenging: Finding time. I’m so busy all the time being a mom, working 40+ hours a week and drawing for 4-5 hours a night. Coffee is love.

Rewarding: Though it may seem silly, I love seeing comments and seeing how much people enjoy what I do. It really pulls me through.

How much of your work is based on reality, whether it was experiences or people you know/knew?

I take pieces of everything. Not much from experiences, I tend to let my imagination carry out the scenarios and the like.

What have you learned while working on your latest project?

Art is hard! -laughs-

But yeah, it takes a lot of work to get where you want to be, no matter how big or small.

Do you have any advice for other writers/artists?

Just… do what you can at your own pace. If you love doing it just because it makes you happy, do it. Unless it’s heroin. Don’t do heroin.

Do you have any links where we could find your work? How about social media accounts where people can follow you for regular updates?

ComicFury-This is one of the two comic sites I post on:

Webtoons-This is the other:

Instagram-I post a lot here:


Deviantart-I post other art here besides Blighted.

Tumblr: Updates slow, because not a huge follower count:

Interview with T. Perran Mitchell

Hello there, and welcome to! Could you start by telling us the name or names of everyone on your creative team?

My name is T. Perran Mitchell and I’m the Writer, Letterer and Creator of The Chronicles of the Tal Nor. I work with Kelsea Jewell, who provides the art.

Where are you all from?

I’m from right outside of Philadelphia, PA and Kelsea is from Washington State.

Share a little bit about yourself: childhood, education, family life, etc.

I’ve always loved comics and storytelling. When I was in first grade I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and Dyslexia. Because it was the early 80’s and public school didn’t have the resources or programs for children with learning disabilities, I ended up needing to go to a special school for children with learning disability. Needless to say, this was not the easiest experience to go through. The one thing that helped me through it all were comics books. I latched on to heroes like Daredevil and the X-Men. People who overcame disability and being different to make the world a better place. For me if Kitty Pryde, Nightcrawler and Storm had to go to a special school and wear a uniform, maybe it was OK if I did too.

Tell us your latest news. What kind of projects do you have going on?

We just published issue 2 of The Chronicles of the Tal Nor. I’ve plotted out issue 3 and started to flesh out the details for that issue’s script. I’m also putting together a collection of short comics I’ve written with the hope of releasing it towards the end of the year.

When and why did you begin writing/drawing?

I remember writing stories and trying to draw comics all through grade school. As I grew older I saw that my talent was in storytelling and not illustration. That became my focus; however, after graduating college I needed to pay the bills. I started working in the software field and decided to try to make a career out of that. As they years passed I kept feeling like something was missing. About five years ago I realized that I’m not really happy if I’m not writing and decided to dive head first into comics.

What inspired you to start expressing yourself artistically?

I’m most inspired by my experiences reading comics both as a child and as an adult. Comics gave me so much as a kid and I would love to give that back.

How has your style changed since you began?

With every story I write I try to become a better storyteller. I try to find more ways to reach the reader and connect with them on an emotional level.

What do you find the most challenging and/or rewarding about writing/drawing?

I love the understanding writing gives me. As I get into the characters’ heads and learn about their thoughts and feelings, I’m better able to empathize with the world around me and see things from other points of view.

How much of your work is based on reality, whether it was experiences or people you know/knew?

I was lucky enough to have a number of incredible roommates in college. I draw on some of their traits to inform my characters. My comics are primarily fantasy and the world that my characters live in has been created by me from whole cloth.

What have you learned while working on your latest project?

Issue 2 was the first time I tried my hand at a murder mystery comic. I feel like I just scratched the surface of the genre and would love to take another swing at it down the road.

Do you have any advice for other writers/artists?

Start small. I know we all have a grand epic we’d love to create, but we need to master our craft first. Make a 3-5page comic. Nothing is as inspiring and will help you fight the self-doubt we all feel more than having accomplished something. Once you have a win under your belt, you can move on and create bigger and bigger projects. Also it’s a lot cheaper to make mistakes on a smaller project and because it’s done faster you can learn from them faster.

Do you have any links where we could find your work? How about social media accounts where people can follow you for regular updates?

The website for my work is and you can follow me on Twitter @TPerranMitchell



Interview with Grant Penick

Hello there, and welcome to! Could you start by telling us the name or names of everyone on your creative team?

My name is Grant Penick. I write and draw the comic while my Fiancee Alix, who is my Editor, she keeps me in line with dialog and grammar.

 Where are you all from?

I’m from Lubbock, Tx.

Share a little bit about yourself: childhood, education, family life, etc.

Born in Texas, and moved when I was 7 to New Jersey where I picked up comic art from a friend in the 4th grade. Never really thought I would be creating comics later on in life, was just a fun hobby to pass the time.

Tell us your latest news. What kind of projects do you have going on?

Well, just working on the comic as much as I can. My brother and I opened a graphics shop up, so a lot of time is devoted to that, but every free moment I have goes to the comic. Also have another comic in mind, developing the story right now and I will probably be starting that next year after I finish my first book with Osker.

When and why did you begin writing/drawing?

I picked up drawing comics in the 4th grade from a friend that I saw drawing a comic one day in class. Created some crazy adventures with my characters. Stole most of the teachers printer paper, I think she let us honestly. I didn’t start drawing or writing comics as a potential profession until I was 29. I went to school for 2d animation and game art/design and had Osker as a game idea at first. I couldn’t find a programmer to work with so I decided to put Osker into a comic. First story I’ve ever really created with a full story.

What inspired you to start expressing yourself artistically?

Always been an artist, as long as I can remember.

How has your style changed since you began?

I first had a very loose style in my comic for speed, but the more and more I drew the pages, the cleaner and more colorful they became. The current pages are more my refined style, and most likely will remain like that. I’m a masochist in the detail of each page, that’s for sure. Some of the pages when I first began took about 5 hours to complete. Now, with the more refined, more detailed style, some of the latter pages I’ve drawn up have taken about 30-40 hours.

What do you find the most challenging and/or rewarding about writing/drawing?

It’s definitely makes it all worth it when someone reads the comic, and gets a big grin on their face about what’s going on in the story. Even though Osker is a dark, gruesome story, there is comedic relief and I try to keep it light hearted at times. The challenging part of writing and drawing the comic, is there slight changes in script after I have something set that I like that doesn’t necessarily line up and I would have to split the script, and figure out how to connect the new parts of the story, the dialog, or just the sequencing.

How much of your work is based on reality, whether it was experiences or people you know/knew?

Not a lot, most of the characters in my story are completely made up, I might later down the line use some of the people in my life as inspiration for characters.

What have you learned while working on your latest project?

Creating a comic is a ton of work.

Do you have any advice for other writers/artists?

Plan everything out, get a solid story/script, and it’s okay to change things here and there, but a general storyline is a must. I have several friends that have webcomics, that they don’t have a storyline and they are already having plot holes in the beginning of the story because they don’t have a guideline.

Do you have any links where we could find your work? How about social media accounts where people can follow you for regular updates?

The comic is here:

FB: grantpenickart

Twitter: @oskercmao

Interview with Paul Hobbs, Writer and Illustrator of Robot Love Cow

Paul’s artwork will be posted shortly. In the meantime, enjoy this interview!


Hello there, and welcome to! Could you start by telling us the name or names of everyone on your creative team?

My name is Paul Hobbs, writer and illustrator with my brother, writer, Kevin Hobbs. He was the one who came up with the story for our book, “Robot Love Cow,” which was initially conceived as a short film we had planned on making.

We also worked together to come up with our series, “Finch, Former Sidekick,” later titled, “Finch and the Sidekicks.”

Where are you all from?

That’s a long story! We moved around a lot growing up. I was born in Independence, Mo. And Kevin was born in Jacksonville, Fl. We grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and spent a lot of time in the south, and in the Chicagoland area. We moved back to the Kansas City area, where I met my amazingly supportive wife, and where Kevin lives now. My wife, Sarah, and I live outside Austin, Tx with our dog, two cats, and five beehives.

Share a little bit about yourself: childhood, education, family life, etc.

Like I said, we moved around a lot growing up. I also got to travel abroad through Asia. I went to four different high schools, but comics and art were always a constant for me. I was lucky. Unlike a lot of parents, mine were incredibly supportive of me persuing a love and interest in the arts. I was fortunate enough to attend Columbia College of Chicago, where I studied animation and screenwriting. I found that I loved the writing and storyboard aspect of filmmaking, which translates so well into making comics.

Tell us your latest news. What kind of projects do you have going on?

I’ve got two projects in the works right now. We are getting ready to release a big compilation of our Finch, Former Sidekick stories from the past eleven years… except issue #3. It’s just bad. Kind of funny, but just awful!

I’m also working on a follow-up to a comic I did called, “Adventures of Hanuman,” based very loosely on the Hindi character who is a super-powered monkey. He’s a fun, virtuous character, and an homage to when comic book heroes were straight-forward good guys.

That follow-up issue will feature most of the Finch, Former Sidekick characters and be an homage to old 1950’s scifi movie serials.

When and why did you begin writing/drawing?

I started when I was very young…when I was old enough to hold a crayon! My mom said I would go through coloring books like crazy.

I loved, and still do, science fiction, cartoons, and comic books. They were a great escape for me as a shy kid, and I would obsessively draw my favorite characters, which were often Superman, Batman, Wolverine, and Spock.

What inspired you to start expressing yourself artistically?

I think it was that I had a lot of positive encouragement when I was younger. I could create something and enjoyed doing it.

As a kid, I loved comics and Mad Magazine was a huge influence on me. They really inspired me to tell stories and to keep drawing.

How has your style changed since you began?

I embraced the simple, yet exagerated imagery in cartoons as an animation student. I also came to love how the starkness of black and white can enhance a visual image and story.

What do you find the most challenging and/or rewarding about writing/drawing?

I have to recognize my limitations. Sometimes when I’m writing, I have to ask myself, “can I make this look good on the page?”

The most rewarding part is just having created something and seeing traffic on my blog from all over the planet!

How much of your work is based on reality, whether it was experiences or people you know/knew?

I would say that all of it, even the crazier stories we’ve done are based on situations we’ve been in, or just born out of our own philosophical ideas and beliefs. The two that are most literally based on actual situations I’ve been in are the Finch, Former Sidekick stories, “Sick Day,” and “Drive-Thru Drive.” I just like telling the kind of stories that entertain me.

What have you learned while working on your latest project?

Puting together the Finch anniversary book, and finding some unfinished pieces that I’d like to revisit, have shown me how much I’ve grown as a storyteller and artist. Moreover, it’s shown me how much I’ve grown as a person from who I was when I wrote those as a younger person.

Do you have any advice for other writers/artists?

Always keep working at it. No matter if you are a professional, working artist, or a guy like me with a family and fulltime job not in the arts, love what you do and keep expressing yourself.

Most importantly: seek feedback if you want to get better. Share your work and be humble enough to listen to feedback and be willing to learn.

Do you have any links where we could find your work?

You can find our work on Amazon, and at I’m also on Twitter and Instagram as @finchcomic.


Interview with Alexander Aghayere, Creator of GRIM GENESIS

Hello there, and welcome to! Could you start by telling us the name or names of everyone on your creative team?

My name is Alexander Aghayere.

Where are you all from?

I am from Aurora, IL— a small town about an hour away from Chicago.

Share a little bit about yourself: childhood, education, family life, etc.

I was raised in a very open and loving household with my older sister. My dad was originally born in NIgeria, where his household life as a child was practically “black” to my “white”. However, in contrast, my parents made it really important that me and my sister knew we were loved and more than that fully supported in whatever we loved. Unfortunately that didn’t stop me from being misunderstood early in my childhood especially in school. I had no sense of how others felt about me when I was young so as a result I never really understood myself. Art really saved me from that.

Tell us your latest news. What kind of projects do you have going on?

So, aside from my graphic novel, Grim Genesis, which is still in progress. Im also a fine artist working on building my portfolio for the gallery scene. I recently was invited to sell my work through and, two prominent art publications, so that’s pretty cool.

When and why did you begin writing/drawing?

I fell in love with cartoons, like real love, when I was in junior high. I found the ability to create a whole world, a whole actual story extremely interesting. I also had been a fan of comics for some time so when the two loves collided in high school I found a voice and a reason/ muse to tell my own stories, whether it be through fine art, illustration, or most presently, Grim Genesis

What inspired you to start expressing yourself artistically?

Art really is a mirror. When we look at any image we don’t just see the art and the narrative and or feelings it holds, we also see ourselves by reflecting on our perceptions of artworks. It’s with that idealism that I found art to be my craft of expression, I loved seeing my feelings, raw and unfiltered. Art honestly showed me who I am.

How has your style changed since you began?

It’s strange when I think back, I really don’t think that I had a style through all of highschool and a lot of college as well. Grim Genesis truly came from the “heavens” solidified a perspective within my artwork that eventually turned into a style that I feel is really recognizable as my own.

What do you find the most challenging and/or rewarding about writing/drawing?

I think the biggest challenge of creating anything is being able to balance creating something for yourself that is genuine and authentic for yourself only, instead of for others or commercial success. People can tell the difference, I feel. I know I can with my own artwork. Luckily I feel that writing and drawing is much more rewarding than it is negatively challenging. I love storytelling and I honestly think there is no better way to do that than through comic books and graphic novels.

How much of your work is based on reality, whether it was experiences or people you know/knew?

When I think about it I feel that it’s about 50/50 between my own experiences and things i’ve either been inspired by or made up. Naturally, I think farther into that question and come to the conclusion that I don’t think that there is much of a difference. We are all connected, the ability to express emotional empathy is proof of this. I truly believe that my story is not really “my story” alone, there is only one story with multiple perspectives and billions of actors.

What have you learned while working on your latest project?

Going big is worth it, every time. When I started Grim Genesis I had nothing but nostalgia fueling my reasoning, I wanted to do something to help escape the close mindedness of college, subsequently, I brought to light a story that I feel has taught me how to survive, how to actively live.

Do you have any advice for other writers/artists?

Make. Keep making, for only you so others can get learn from your perspective. Also, don’t worry about making good looking art, that goal is overrated and is objectively impossible to achieve without giving up who you are.

Do you have any links where we could find your work?

Go to my website Supreme.Grim, and you can see all of my illustrations, fine art and other things.

The Origins of REDemption Part 11

When we closed last week’s part of the history, I had the first print issue of REDemption in my hands, courtesy of an artist named Chuck. (At this point in time, the story was known by the longer name The Redemption Project.) Unfortunately it was the only issue he would ever draw.

Looking back, I don’t think his departure was a bad thing…not that he was a bad artist or a jerk, but for other reasons. I’m not going to get into all of that here, other than to mention what I have said previously: he thought I should rearrange the story, which would have screwed up my vision.

Now that I think about it, he didn’t say this to me until AFTER he had resigned. So maybe it was just a friendly suggestion in the form of parting words. Who knows? He hasn’t worked on it since that issue, so I guess the importance of his intent is long gone.

This left me floating in limbo. I could not afford some of the rates that people were asking, but I knew it was asking a lot to expect people to draw all of this for free. I tried shopping around via message boards and Craigslist ads again. Eventually someone responded: a young woman whose name I have forgotten, so I will just call her Christine.

At first, Christine told me she was willing to work for a rate of $10 per page. This stunned me, and I asked how she could possibly get away with that. She said it was because she still lived at home and had no bills. I said, “Well, that works!”

I sent her a couple character biographies, and she sent me back samples that were amazing. Then I gave her the script for Part One. Again, incredible results. Finally I said, “Okay, if you are ready to come on board, then I will send you the outline of the entire comic.” She said okay.

And that was where it took a dive.

She wrote me back with a critique of the story, saying how this and that tangent had nothing to do with the main thrust of the plot (meaning the search for a cure to the zombie virus). I can’t remember every change she suggested for the story, but I do remember her closing the email by saying, “In the end, these are only just suggestions. It is your story, and I will draw it like you want.”

I wrote back, saying, “Yes, the story stands as is.” I may have even offered a brief explanation of how the comic was “Dungeons and Dragons meets a Romero movie,” and then explained how D&D campaigns are LOADED with side adventures that have nothing to do with the main story.

Well, she proved her previous statement (“I’ll draw it like you want”) was insincere because once I set that boundary of her being the artist and me being the writer, she never contacted me again. This bummed me out because of the quality of her work, but if the alternative was to compromise my vision, then it’s better we didn’t wind up working together.

A handful of other artists came and went. Some were such blips on the radar that they aren’t even worth mentioning by name. Let’s just say it was a tough search and leave it at that, mmm-kay?

At one point, I got so fed up with the search that I decided it was time for me to take on the artistic duties myself. After all, I was the one who drew that 24-page origin story “Of Forces Beyond” back in high school. Why not?

I asked around for the best books that might help someone learn how to draw. Chuck recommended a trio of books from DC Comics. There were also a handful of books recommended by Jason Brubaker, who is infamous in the webcomic world.

I bought all these up…and then I never got around to opening ANY of them. Life was just too hectic at the time. The freelance writing work was coming in at a fast pace, and those assignments had deadlines so I could not push them aside. Plus my day job did not pay very well, so I had to keep doing overtime. There was a brief point in time where I just gave up on it.

Actually, no…scratch that. I never gave up. However, I had to accept the fact that there were other things in my life that required more attention.

Sometimes we have to put our dreams to sleep, because even they need to rest.

Join me next week for Part 12. I cannot say for sure that will be the last installment, because I thought we’d be done by THIS point! However, there is one thing I know for sure: it will be a fun-filled, passionate read!




The Origins of REDemption Part 10

Ten weeks into the history of the comic. It has been a great trip down memory lane, even when it came to recalling the frustrating moments. When we last left off, I told you that I went straight from writing Part 4 into Part 5. I wanted to keep the ball rolling while the ideas were popping; no point in pausing the new material so I could go back and type up what I’d just written!

Part 5 is interesting in that the action is grandiose. The team takes over the National Institute of Health (NIH), and there is also a showdown between them, the army, AND the Unexpected Enemy. So much going on!

Writing this story in five parts made me think of the original five film PLANET OF THE APES series. If we follow that analogy, then I guess Part 5 is the equivalent of BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES. However, I like to think the only comparison that can be made is that BATTLE ended the original APES movies, and Part 5 ends REDemption.

Why do I hope the comparison ends there?

Because BATTLE sucked, and REDemption: Part 5 does not!

It was a fun challenge for me to figure out how the team could take over the NIH campus. Certainly there was no way a full-on assault would work. Their takeover had to be slow and stealthy. With that in mind, I drew inspiration from two of my favorite video game titles: the SPLINTER CELL and HITMAN games. This worked in two ways: (1) It made their takeover more believable, and (2) it helped me to slowly escalate the drama until the climactic battle happened.

All while I was writing the story, I had kept in touch with Clarence about drawing. Every now and then he would send me a sketch. I figured it was okay if the work was sporadic because, after all, the story wasn’t even done yet. On top of that, the work he sent was amazing. It was like he had peered right inside my imagination and could see how I wanted the characters to look. I had faith he would be the one who brought the comic to life in a way that was closer to my vision than I had even thought possible.

However, what I did not know is how much of his own personal things Clarence was dealing with at the time. I mean, EVERYONE has “personal things,” but his turned out to be much heavier than most. At the time I was not very understanding or empathetic toward his plight. Once I got done writing the story, my mindset was, “You said you wanted to work on it, so…work on it. Show me something. Produce.” His responses became less and less, as there were frequent times when he went off the grid and never looked at Facebook messages or emails. By forcing the issue, I think I forced HIM out of being willing to work on the art.

I never apologized for that. He no longer lives in New York State, nor are we in contact in any way. As unlikely as it is that he would read this right now, I just want to announce it in public: Clarence, I am sorry for pushing the issue like I did and not being empathetic toward you.

At some point during the history, when I realized Clarence was not responding, I started seeking out comic book artists via message boards and Craigslist ads. There were a handful of people who said they were interested but then vanished on me. Eventually I got a response from a gentleman named Chuck, and we started talking more in depth about working together.

Meanwhile, I wrapped up the handwritten version of Part 5. Not one to rest, I jumped into typing up Part 4. However, I could do this only from home, so I had to devise an approach. It wasn’t hard to do: I set an alarm so I could get up before my wife and son. Then I would type up material from 20 pages per day. Since I typed only Monday through Friday morning, this meant I worked through 100 pages per week. Not a bad rate for a guy with a wife, two jobs, and four kids! The story was completely typed out by April 2012.

During this completion phase, Chuck sent me samples of his work. It was a little less detailed than what Clarence had done, but as far as I was concerned, I was happy that (1) he was putting his own spin on it, and (2) somebody was producing SOMETHING.

Chuck drew the opening sequence with the little girl on the hill, as well as the scene that followed after it (the one with Vietnamese scientists in a lab). He compiled all of this into an issue, and he sent me about 10-15 copies of it. I was pleased with it, with the exception of one moment that killed the suspense and the shock of a revelation that happens later in the story.

Unfortunately, this first issue was all Chuck ever got to draw. He wound up getting commissioned for a lot of other projects, and mine had to be cut out.

However, this was not necessarily a bad thing. I think if we had continued to work together, Chuck and I would have not wound up seeing eye to eye on the story anymore. I say this based on something he said to me shortly after he mailed out the copies of issue #1. I’m not going to reveal what it was here (because sharing the disagreement would be to reveal a major spoiler), but I will say that his words showed he disagreed with how the story began.

I thanked him for his input, and then stuck to my guns. I wrote this story with a specific outline in mind that builds toward a certain kind of crescendo. To remove one part of it would be like taking a card out from the bottom of a house of cards.

Despite this disagreement, it still took the wind out of my sails when Chuck had to resign. It meant starting up the search again.

And we will talk more about that next time!




The Origins of REDemption Part 9

This has to be the slowest Thursday ever. As proof that it has knocked me for a loop, I am only just getting around to writing this blog post! Well, they always say “better late than never.” Now I am going to prove if “they” are right or not, my dear readers!

When we last visited the history of the comic, I had just whipped up an approach and outline to Part 4 of the story. (REMINDER: I modeled their search for the Immune Child after Captain Willard’s pursuit of Colonel Kurtz in APOCALYPSE NOW.)

However, there wasn’t enough time in my day to let me type up Part 3 while also writing Part 4. I had to choose, so I decided to focus on typing up the mammoth of Part 3, which (in handwritten form) had filled up FOUR 3-subject notebooks.

Needless to say, this was going to take some time. I didn’t want to lose touch with Part 4 completely, so I would take a couple minutes every day to just pore over the outline, making sure it was as tight as I could get it.

Somewhere along the way, I was talking with an old friend from high school about the comic via Facebook. I told her how the protagonists needed to go beyond the quarantine wall to look for a functional lab. She told me about the National Institute of Health (known as NIH going forward) and said that any research into searching for a zombie virus antidote would be bound to happen there.

I’d never heard of NIH before, so I looked it up. (Got to love Google!) While I was not able to get pictures of the interiors of the buildings, I DID manage to find a map of the entire grounds, with each building labeled. This got the old creative juices flowing.

At first I got hung up on the fact that I did not know what these buildings were set up like on the inside. Then one day I decided, “If people can suspend their disbelief and invest in a story with zombies and what not, then they can also accept the fact that I am going to manipulate the interior of every single NIH building.”

So that was what I did. I came up with a plan for how the team could invade the NIH, and I wrote up an outline for Part 5 with that as my starting point.

Needless to say, there is a LOT going on in Part 5. The team has to safely make it all the way east to the NIH. Not only is the Federal government still after them, but they also have to worry about other survivor groups. We are also introduced at long last to a full-blown view of the Unexpected Enemy. Last but not least, I created another major HUMAN antagonist in the form of an insane Army leader named General Phillips. Imagine if Thunderbolt Ross from THE INCREDIBLE HULK comics was completely insane, and you have General Phillips.

There were also some neat little twists that I threw in with FBI Agent Bill Davidson. I don’t want to say too much about what happens with him or we will wander into a spoiler mine field. Needless to say, he is not your typical one-dimensional, stone cold, humorless Agent Hotchner (Thomas Gibson’s character from CRIMINAL MINDS).

Eventually I finished typing up Part 3, and I dove right into writing Part 4. By this point the outline was incredibly well-crafted, so it was just a matter of taking each bullet point and fleshing it out into a full-blown story. Some bullet points took longer than others to bring to fruition, but in the end I think every last one of them was expanded to the necessary length.

My previous pattern had been to write a section out by hand and then type it up. However, that was only because I found myself temporarily stumped with how the action should flow in Parts 2, 3, and 4. I did not have that problem moving from Part 4 to Part 5; both outlines were written one after the other. Therefore I decided to move forward with writing the last segment of the tale. As always, the story flowed out of me almost faster than I could write it down; it’s like the words were all just sitting there in my brain, waiting to be discovered. Whenever a story writes itself, I take that as a good sign.

Now you may have noticed that, all while I am talking about the process of me writing it, I have done very little talking about any artists stepping up to draw it. In fact, the only artist I have mentioned is my former coworker Clarence.

For those of you who may be wondering what was happening on the visual side, fear not! I will address this in next week’s post because guess what? Just because I am closing in on the end of the writing process doesn’t mean the history is done being told!



The Origins of REDemption Part 6

When last we left, I had decided to forge ahead with the story without Nick. My friend and former Vanderheyden Hall coworker Clarence was an amazing artist, so I had asked if he wanted to draw it. He asked for details of the story, and I gave him the outline for parts 1 and 2. To my joy, he got back to me and said he was VERY interested.

I got to work and tore through Part 2. The only section where I had trouble was the opening. Once I figured my way around that, the rest of the story wrote itself.

That is…until I got to Part 3.

I knew the Immune Child would be born by the end of Part 2. That was going to be the closer. This meant that Part 3 would be when Molly and her team start searching the West Coast for a geneticist and a lab where they can test the child’s blood. Keep in mind I also saw far ahead in the story, to a point where the Immune Child has grown up and become a jerk; he takes off on Molly and company.

In other words, he had to be OLD ENOUGH to take off. And at the beginning of Part 3, he was just a baby. That’s a hell of a lot of time to kill!

Before I even got to Part 3, I had a vague idea that Molly and her team would get in various “side adventures” during their search. After all, there’s no way you can go up and down a post-apocalyptic wasteland without running into adversaries that are NOT tied to your main mission. (This was reflective of yet another influence of Dungeons and Dragons: when running a campaign, there is something called a “random encounter” table, where the person running the game [known as the Dungeon Master] rolls dice to determine if the party runs into enemies while traveling to the next destination on their quest.)

However, what I hadn’t thought about was just how many side adventures to put them through. If the baby is a newborn at the start of Part 3, and I planned on the Immune Child taking off when he was 16-18 years old…well, shit, that’s a hell of a long time, which could result in a hell of a lot of side adventures! That’s anywhere from 5,840 to 6,570 days! And in a crazy world like the one I had invented, they could potentially get in a new adventure every single day!

Unless I wanted the comic book to be a half a million pages long, I needed to get a grip on how I was going to approach Part 3. I decided to put the project on hold until I figured this out.

Weeks went by. I grew more and more frustrated as time went on. Eventually I started reaching out to friends, even ones who I knew didn’t have a creative bone in their bodies, just to share the problem with them and see if one of them might accidentally say something that caused a breakthrough. I also figured that maybe the more I talked about it, the more I would think about it, and an idea would suddenly come.

Well, it did, but not during one of the times when I was carrying on endlessly about it.

I remember it so well. I was heading into my martial arts class when the whole thing blossomed in my mind like an atomic cloud. One minute there was nothing there. The next minute, the ideas were coming so fast and furious that they were searing my brain.

Every 4 years.

I could come up with 4 medium-sized side adventures that happened every 4 years. By that point, the Immune Child would be 16 years old. Then I could have one final event happen when he was 18. That would be Molly’s team attempting to blow up the quarantine wall. (Why 18? Because in our modern society, that is the age when people are legally recognized as “adults.”)

I want you also to notice the significance, dear readers, of what I laid out here. There were 4 side adventures, which we can also call “events,” while the team traveled the wastelands. Then the wall destruction mission was a fifth event.

Five major events.

The story was split into five parts.

See what I did there? 😉

Suddenly I had my outline for Part 3. Ideas for the 4 side adventures were pretty easy to whip up. When I got home that night, I set about writing a more detailed outline of Part 3. I knew that the Immune Child was going to be grown (and a jerk) by the end of this section, so that also helped me create an outline for Part 4. At this point my memory is a bit foggy, but I believe I was also able to roll right into the outline for Part 5 as well.

One other thing to keep in mind: the other piece of the story I was juggling involved that Unexpected Enemy. At this point I still had that antagonist making an appearance in Part 3. Over time, this would change, but I will get to that later.

I shared the new Part 3 outline with Clarence. It made his excitement for the story grow by leaps and bounds. His reaction convinced me of what I already knew: that I was really on to something special with this story.

Only time will tell if you agree. 🙂 Stay tuned for Part 7!




The Origins of REDemption Part 5

In the last segment, we learned how I decided to restructure the story from 3 parts to 5. I showed my ideas to my friend Nick, and he did not agree with me on several points.

In my version of the story, Molly helps to raise the Immune Child, but she treats him more like a possession than a human being with feelings ‘n’ stuff. Over time this changes, and she starts to unlock the part of herself that can actually feel again.  In other words, she is REDEEMED. (I put caps there to stress that this was the first appearance of the theme of redemption.)

I showed it to Nick. He said, “I don’t think Molly and the kid should ever meet.”

I said, “But…she’s there when they deliver the kid against her wishes.”

“Okay,” he replied. “Let me rephrase. She shouldn’t be in his life anymore when he gets old enough to remember her.”

At this point I’m thinking: All right, maybe he just doesn’t see the big picture yet. Let him read on.

Next part of the story: as I mentioned in the last post, Molly and her team face an Unexpected Enemy. In the original version, the Unexpected Enemy comes along when Molly’s team runs a mission where they try to destroy the quarantine wall. I imagined a scenario where the wall was blown up, and the Unexpected Enemy died in the blast.

However, as I said before, this structure was cramming far too much stuff into Part 2. Therefore, I dragged out the Unexpected Enemy story arc, and it wound up lasting until Part 5. In fact, it took that long to get a clear look at this other foe. Regarding this change, Nick had no input either way.

Moving along. We get to the point where the Immune Child grows up and becomes a jerk. For reasons I would rather not disclose here (because that would be a MAJOR spoiler),  he takes off on the group. They have to pause everything they are doing so they can hunt him down again. The search takes a while.

Now here is where I was stumped. If the Immune Child refused to be a part of the group, then how would they convince him to come back into the fold?

I ran it by Nick. His solution?

They don’t convince him of a damn thing. Instead, they KILL him. Then they take the blood out of his body and resume searching for a lab where they can test it.

I said, “Wait a minute. Killing him makes no sense. If he is alive, then he can keep reproducing the blood that could save humanity. If he’s dead, then the only supply they have is the blood in his body when he dies. And how would they preserve it? Eventually it would degrade.”

I waited, but Nick was at work and couldn’t reply. However, I did have one more thing to add: “Also, the idea of the Immune Child coming back into the fold to help the mission is another example of the theme of REDEMPTION. He goes off like a selfish brat, but then he comes back for the greater good. Do you see what I’m getting at?”

Eventually Nick wrote back. All he said was, “Yeah I get it. I just want to make sure the story is right.”

Huh? Wha?

I didn’t understand what he meant. Make sure the story is right? Well, since we are the ones creating it, aren’t WE the ones who determine that?

By this point, I had also reached out and was talking to an artist friend of mine named Clarence. He had drawn some basic sketches of a couple characters, and I was excited to have him on board. I talked to him about what Nick said. Clarence had the same judgment of it that I did: Nick shot my ideas down, but offered no alternatives up to replace them. When *I* came up with a new idea, he would shoot THAT down…and again, make no suggestions for replacement.

Finally, I had to make a call. It was tough, but I had to decide to continue on without him. The bulk of it had been my idea anyway, so I didn’t think (and still don’t) that I could get in any kind of plagiaristic trouble. As for acknowledging the ideas he gave, I can do that for sure. Without Nick, I don’t know that I would have thought of the quarantine wall, nor would there have been the concept of the Immune Child growing up to be a prick. So he deserves credit for that.

With Nick out of the fold, I realized two exciting things: not only could I write the story however it made sense to me, but I could RENAME it!!!!

So, INFECTDEAD went out the window. But what to replace it with? At first I had no idea. Since “redemption” was a major theme in the story, I considered calling it REDEMPTION. However, at the time there was a video game out called RED DEAD REDEMPTION. The timing seemed too close to me, and I did not want to be harassed with the question, “So is this an extension of that open-world Western video game???”

More thinking. I wanted REDEMPTION in the title. Then I thought: how about REDEMPTION AMONG THE DEAD? It could be abbreviated RAD!!! How cool would that be?

Actually, not very cool. Now instead of having just one word in common with that video game, the title had TWO words in common! Back to the drawing board.

I thought back on the 5-act structure and how that came from Shakespeare, so for a while I jokingly called it SHAKESPEARE WITH ZOMBIES. However, that was just a place holder until I found a real title. With no clear answer in mind, I decided to abandon the title search and just did what was most important: I got back to writing the story.

However, after Part 2, that didn’t prove to be so easy either. Stay tuned for Part 6!