I have always been drawn to Mythology. It came from reading comics at such an early age. All of the allusions in those early comics I read fascinated me. With every reference, I wanted to learn more about where those stories came from. I am fascinated by the evolution of ideas and how things from our past pepper the cultural references of today. The chance to draw from those early stories makes me feel connected to those ancient themes and traditions. The chance to develop something along those lines allow us to explore universal concepts related to our present. I wanted to start finding a way to explore Neit’s struggle through those supernatural forces that work behind the scenes to alter humanity’s destiny.
From my early notes to David when describing Nocere & Nepenthe: “They will never be seen as something completely human, so taking some artistic license around their look so that they never really quite make sense is important.”
Nocere was first. In my struggle to come to grips with my own chronic nerve pain I started exploring the words that might describe my state. Her name is Latin for “harm”. She is one of the gods that seeks to form a connection to Neit. Appearing to him in visions, I wanted to develop an angry elemental force that was obsessed with mind altering harm to people through her tenuous connection to our reality. It is not clear in the early issues if she means to assist him, teach him, or is an antagonist. Does she feed on harm, does she want to spread as much of it as she can. You’ll have to wait as those aspects of her personality are revealed through the story.
When I was searching for an artist for the book, I was connected with David and I started scrolling through his work. I found inspiration in some of his drawings, especially those that pushed the boundaries of physical form. Since I wanted the supernatural aspects of this book to appear in dream-states it made sense to draw inspiration from his portraits that played with those lines and form of the human figure. Nocere is not concerned with developing a human aspect beyond something simply recognizable as a being we might recognize and interact with. I considered something like an image negative at first. I took one of David’s drawings and created a negative along with my descriptions to inspire something almost surreal when he set about designing Nocere.
I loved the complexity around it, as if she is trying to approximate what shape a human should have, but her anger/drive could not quite bring herself to completing the look. Having that inverted like this with a strong outline could give the impression that she cannot quite manage to fit herself onto our plane. So more chaotic, unfinished, sketchy, than polished.
I had a pretty clear idea after these early conversations about what I wanted…something more ominous look in terms of dress; potentially innocent, but actually quite malignant was the path I wanted to send him down while he went to work bringing her to life.
I wanted a more ethereal state for Nepenthe. I drew inspiration for her name from Latin as well; a medicine to Neit’s sorrow, a drug of forgetfulness. I have also grown tired of the traditional goddess. The beautiful and desirable type that men lust after. I find the whole concept played out and not something to which we want our young women aspiring to. The impossible standard that we can never attain but still desire isn’t a concept that is very interesting to me.
After a lifetime of seeing pencil work from so many comic artists, I wanted to see if that kind of sketch-like quality could transfer to the finished inked page, especially after the coloring was added. I drew inspiration from representations of Norse goddesses as not every aspect of them is something “sexy.” In the early stages, she proved to present the most challenging to develop a representation of since it flies in the face of what we have come to expect in comics and in those forms of femininity we have been trained to desire and even lust after. When David presented me with her sketches, for a moment I resisted (even I am not immune to those media influences I’ve consumed my entire life). He was dead on when it came to producing what I had asked for, and I had to remind myself that this is something that is supposed to transcend those kinds of traditional representations.
David created these perfect representations that in his words, “warpy and abstract with Nocere, and Nepenthe will have those softer lines, almost a dotted line quality. Just as ethereal, but stylistically drawn very different.” What I found so exciting was that he was interested in stretching his own style to develop what was needed for this story. We’re not taking the easy, predictable way out here.
In the age of Artificial Intelligence, that responds to our prompts by formulating answers based on the highest probability of the next word, doing something representing the uncommon thought on the common matter became even more appealing as ChatGPT was just taking off while we were producing the early pages of the book.
When it came time to ink and color, I discovered that what I had in my head was going to present much more of a challenge on the finished page.
From my early notes on coloring, I sent to Dan: “Part of what we are going for is the supernatural elements for Nocere and Nepenthe. Nepenthe (especially) we want as a little more ethereal. Trying to create a visual representation, but not quite there. With Nocere we are going for something similar, but she has trouble with the actual structure of her representation. So basically not quite as tangible as any other element of the book. Some dream sequences that come up later will also have that kind of blurred half dream state/half “real” look.”
Not so easy to pull off, but that’s why I went to the best artists I could think of for this book.
David’s insights that we were looking for, “…a classic comic style coloring, but softer. Still lots going on, but everything isn’t rendered,…largely flat areas of color. Thematic coloring, less literal.” David’s nod to earlier comics excited me because I want this to pay a certain degree of homage to those creators who had such an impact on me in my formative years. For Nepenthe especially, colors that aren’t quite contained by the outline of her body seemed a perfect representation of an elemental force that struggled to maintain form, or is it our minds that can’t comprehend the form? I wanted to play on that ambiguity.
I’ll have a lot more to say on this as we move forward!