Fun facts: June 21st is the first day of summer here in the States. It's also the birthdate of my incomparable first mascot, RaiStar Twinkle!
And for the last fact that brings us to this blog post: People, it is the one year anniversary for the release of SolForce Vol. 1: Wave One!!
Speaking with a few parents about the development of these characters since my preschool days, this was the main takeaway: If Strawberry Dough was the establishment of my graphic novel style and publishing, SolForce was the upstart. While I could spend an entire blog post chronicling the creation of ALL OF THESE TOONS, I'll start at spring 2013 when I began the true development of the graphic novel! Let's start with this image.
In the image above is what many followers grew accustomed to between 2013 and 2014 as the main cast -or as I called them since high school, the Originals- of SolForce. The reason I bring this image to your viewing attention is because many of you who have seen or read Wave One will notice a big difference in one thing:
Before the ink-on-watercolor rendering style was acquired in October 2013, I painted everything on the computer! These character designs where drawn and painted between February and April of that year and if there was anything that was going to define my fate when it came to my work on SolForce and my burgeoning art career at the time, it was this:
"It seems that you already have a style set in place with what you're trying accomplish! I'd say... just keep drawing. Go to model workshops so you can polish up your designs. Try mixing other mediums, too. You really don't need the college courses." -Anonymous Grad School Director
Hearing that from an already accomplished Visual Development director blew my mind. There I was, some wide- eyed, cold-as-ice New Yorker over in San Francisco wondering what was I doing wrong the whole time. In retrospect, nothing.
Need proof of the polished designs? Look below:
Past 2013, watercolor pencils became my best friend! It was portable, easy to use & challenging to master. When I was slowly devising my plan to create the first Strawberry Dough book that fabled New Year's Eve, I decided on using watercolor since I wanted to ease into printing a 40- page book. Fast forward a year later, I took advantage of SolForce: Wave One's covers utilizing my mix of watercolor and digital painting.
Cover for "Episode 1: Taste the Sunshine"
Cover for "Episode 2: The Witty Kitty"
Cover to "Episode 3: Psi- Wave"
Looking back at how this all played out at the various book fairs, it was clear to me that I made the right choice by switching up my mediums tenfold! Had my characters ONLY been rendered on Photoshop, the appeal wouldn't have leapt off of the comic pages onto the audiences' eyes. With pages like these being some of the highlights to many of my readers:
The first episode, Taste the Sunshine, was perhaps the most difficult story to pin down, because I was on the verge of slowly introducing readers to a new world of fiction and the characters of Sunshine City. I lost a good amount of sleep over this story more than the next two, but one thing I DID know: the Detectives John Clue, Robert Miles, Geraldine Archer and Martha Clue were going to have some fun fighting off a giant monster of slime!
To quote a few of my Cartooning students: "The Witty Kitty's my favorite to read 'cause Revenda's a kitten girl, and she's a geek! I quote her to my friends, sometimes." With that said, The Witty Kitty was definitely a lot of fun to write and read through since this second episode branches the path between seasoned hotshot detectives and a new teenaged recruit. Revenda also talks most like me, only second to another SolForce character.
The book was rounded up with Episode 3: Psi- Wave. For those who read all through it, they were able to tell me that this one seemed to be the most personal, yet action packed story of the three. I couldn't agree more. With the Psychics of SolForce being the most loved yet feared toons of the land, it's easy for any one who feels simultaneously ridiculed and special to relate to them. In the beginning pages, I made sure to have the seasoned and grizzled astronomer Walden "Waldoo" Doolittle summarize the backstories of the company mascot and tough-as-a-cookie wishing star RaiStar Twinkle, the never- aging Golden Age Animation actor Manny Q., and SolForce intern and graphic designer Ceasar "A.C." Southermire. It gave readers of all types enough context to what was then and what may come in the future!
With a year passed, I think it's safe to say that SolForce has a pretty promising future ahead! To reiterate from the intro, Strawberry Dough was the establishment while SolForce was the upstart. It helped me prove to many parent, teacher, librarian and book fair organizer that my original independent cartooning can have an assured place on their all-ages graphic novel shelves in the future!
Oh... and speaking of the future...
All the while, during a short wait for my Cartooning students to show up one day in May, I was armed with a piece of tracing paper and a trusty ink pen. This was the result:
Tune in for many a preview blog post over the summer! And stay sol-ful!!