Behind the Shadows: The Colour of Vengeance

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Dean opened the paper and began reading the contents aloud.  “Despair for I walk among you, and I am the right hand of vengeance.”

“I don’t buy it, one man couldn’t do all this,” said Dean.

Beauford looked around as the crime scene investigators began the grisly work of processing the scene. “If you want my advice, start stocking up on empty body bags and making space in the morgue, I get the feeling this guy is just getting started.” – Fallen Heroes

In this week’s Behind the Shadows we hand the reigns over to Gat Melvin, the colourist on Wrath of God. In the development of the project Gat’s use of colour was instrumental in telling the blood soaked tale of The Reverend. So without further ado…over to Gat.

Greetings, Shadow-Reader.

If you’re reading this, it means you’ve come out the other side of the psychedelic-violence and tortured roller-coaster, that is the Wrath of God.

The decision to use colour, as a visual narrator was an idea to help break up the separate timelines and eras in the Reverend’s life, dreams of a troubled childhood, hallucinations violent actions, the simplicity and truth of happiness and the concept of, ‘Reverend Vision’

There are four timelines portrayed in the story, which are:
1 – The present day

2 – The Reverend’s training

3 –  The Reverend as a boy

4 – ‘The Maria Chronicle’

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The bright, white-washed dream effect for The Reverend as a boy. Childhood is suppose to be a time of happiness and innocence, but for the Reverend, life has dealt him a very different hand of cards. With the change of his face,The Reverend leaves his past life to his dreams and begins to see the world as ‘the monster’.

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This is where the idea of ‘Reverend vision’ was born.  Remembering the film, Predator and how the alien saw in an infrared spectrum, I wanted to do something similar with the Reverend.  While he sees the
sky as blue and the grass as green, violence – death, brings life to him.

When we first meet the Reverend, he’s a man in his 50’s so his ‘Reverend Vision’ is strong, highly-saturated colours and strange mixes of tones, so it became a good tie-in.

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However when we go back into his past and most importantly his  training, the tones are much less saturated and obscure, that he is still learning this way of violence, still learning the ‘way of the dark side’.

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Why then, is his time with Maria in a mono-chrome you ask?

The Reverend knows violence, utter, bloody violence.  And what does one who knows only hate and brings destruction hope for?  My opinion…love. A simple word, a simple desire, the simplicity of black and white.

‘If a bird lives its whole life in a cage and all it knows, is the cage, does the bird even know the cage exists?’

His time with Maria are the best times of his life, he doesn’t need anything else, life is simple and shown through the monochromatic feel of this time.

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I hope you guys have really enjoyed the story and that I’ve given you more insight into everything that is Wrath of God.

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Now, ‘Go get your orange on’
– Gat Melvyn

Wrath of God is available now on Comixology

Behind the Shadows – Crossing Continents With Transmedia

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The first time someone mentioned the term Transmedia to me I was already collaborating with four project teams. We were working to produce a comic anthology centered on my urban fantasy novel Fallen Heroes. I was also co-writing the first episode of an audio drama spin off. The name I gave to this transmedia project was Unseen Shadows, which referred to the trilogy I was working on, of which Fallen Heroes was the first.

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My goal in using transmedia was to create stories in other mediums that could be enjoyed as stand alone adventures. However, when those stories were combined with the novel they would expand the world established within its pages. This meant that a single line of prose within the novel could be transformed into a 22 page comic or a supporting character could take the lead in a five part audio drama.

“I thought so,” said Napoleon, walking to the jeep, and without looking back, he climbed in. Vincent was already there, starting the engine.

Kelsey started crawling towards the jeep.  “Please,” he pleaded.  “Don’t leave me like this, you must help me.”

After a few moments, a revolver flew back over the jeep, landing next to Bob.  The next he knew, he was bursting into a fit of coughing, his lungs full of a combination of carbon monoxide, gravel and sand.  The tears came easily as he watched  the jeep pull away from him, leaving him alone with the revolver. 

The above few lines of prose from the novel spawned a spin off comic one shot centered around the character Bob Kelsey who was was a minor character in the novel.

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An Unseen Shadows project begins when someone, usually a writer, reads the novel and wants to become involved. I start by asking them what character they want to work on rather than choose one for them. This has led to some interesting choices, including both main and very minor characters being given the transmedia treatment.

The next stage is for the writer to give me a brief overview of their idea. Once I’m on board they will work up a full pitch, including any suggestions I may have made, before moving onto the scripting stage. At the same time the artist begins work on the main character sketches.

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Steph Connisbee from the upcoming graphic novel ‘The Chimera Factor’

In my goal to create stand-alone routes into the novel I am involved in every stage of the process. I approve each story pitch, comic or audio script, character design and every line of dialogue spoken by a voice actor.

There are currently around forty writers, artists, letterers, colourists, graphic designers and voice actors working within the Unseen Shadows team. Their talent and experience are as diverse as their backgrounds and locale. Members can be found in the UK, Ireland, Portugal, Scotland, South Africa and the US.

Overseeing a team spread across the world is definitely a challenge. I quickly found that email, cloud storage and social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Skype were the greatest weapons in my communication arsenal.

All the past and future Unseen Shadows projects are stored using cloud storage. The projects are divided into folders with each one containing scripts, artwork, sound files and more, with access provided for relevant team members. This helps avoid any time zone issues as folders can be accessed 24/7.

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I created an Unseen Shadows Facebook group where team members could share developments, discuss ideas, welcome new members and anything else they wanted to use it for. I also use the group to feedback on the progress of future novels or anything else of importance.

One of the main issues a writer working in collaborative fiction must face is the time demands. Projects have to be managed, timescales set and monitored. In some cases I have been the main reason that progress on a project has stalled. This can be because a team is waiting for me to read a script, approve a character or respond to an urgent email before they can continue.

A significant amount of my own writing time is spent overseeing the transmedia and collaborative elements of Unseen Shadows and that can be hard. However knowing the huge amount of work the team members are putting into their projects and seeing the end results spurs me on to manage my time better, which can only be a good thing for my writing in the long run.

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Kathryn Monroe in ‘The Heart Which Makes Us’

Working within these different mediums has meant that to effectively manage the teams I had to develop, at least, a basic understanding of the terminology within each medium be it comics, audio or more recently film. It also pays to know some of the advantages and disadvantages of working within in each one. I have been lucky to find a lot of people along the way willing to offer me help and advice on that front.

The positives with working on collaborative fiction are many but overall it is the feeling of never being alone. In the dark days when the fear of a blank screen comes calling, a piece of art, a new script or question is not far behind. The light never goes off in the world of Unseen Shadows and knowing there is always someone at work is a great motivator.

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A look at ‘Napoleon’ Stone and the Army of Set’ A choose your own adventure story which is currently in development.

These extremely talented people work on these projects not for the money, as all profits go back into the development of new projects, but because they love the source material. They constantly challenge me with their ideas, questions and suggestions for new ways to expand this world they have had a hand in developing.

I have found over the years that these new stories and characters have influenced me in unexpected ways. I have already referenced several of the events and characters created in the comics and audio drama in the second novel. An example of this is the character Victoria Sullivan, who was created for the audio drama and as such was never in the novel. I loved Fiona Paul’s portrayal of Victoria so much in the audio drama that not only is character in ‘Forgotten Warriors’ the sequel to ‘Fallen Heroes’ but she is also in a six page comic (Fight or Flight) and an upcoming graphic novel (The Chimera Factor).

Victoria Sullivan in Fight or Flight

Working with the teams has taught me how to express to a writer why a particular line of dialogue does not work or to an artist why a character sketch does not feel right. This has helped me with my own self editing when I write.

The last two years has been a great training ground for learning when to step in and when to step back and trust these talented people with my world. The collaboration aspects of the various projects have given me a deeper understanding of my own characters as I watch them written, drawn and spoken by others.

10 tips for collaborative fiction

  • Your story may be at the heart of everything but in the realm of collaborative fiction you need the creative lifeblood of your team to keep that heart beating. Respect them and their opinions.
  • Ensure your team has a clear idea of what you expect of them before they join the project. I have a statement of intent document, which every member of the team receives, which must be read and its terms agreed to before they can join the project.
  • Never dismiss ideas out of hand.
  • Used wisely, social media can be a great aid to team communication. Used poorly it can a massive time drain.
  • No one knows your world better than you but always be prepared to back up your decisions with reasons that don’t start with ‘It’s my book so…’
  • Never be scared to get your hands dirty in another medium yourself. (I had never seen an audio script before Unseen Shadows much less co-written one.)
  • Try to gain an understanding of the terminology used within the mediums you will be working in.
  • Collaborative fiction can be a huge time commitment. Keep that in mind when deciding which projects to undertake.
  • Keep yourself included in every stage of the project.
  • Communication is the key. Keep your teams up to date and ensure they do the same. So many problems can be avoided with regular communication.

Barry Nugent, Author of Fallen Heroes and founder of Unseen Shadows.

Article first published on the Writing Platform

Bob Kelsey Investigates – ‘The Return’ to Launch Next Week

Last year we launched the first story in the Unseen Shadows webcomic entitled ‘Bob Kelsey Investigates’ featuring our cynical reporter Bob Kelsey and his mis-adventures through the shadowy world of the occult and the supernatural. The first story entitled Neck on the Line is still available to read online here. Soon after ‘Neck on the Line’ story went live another two scripts went into development the first of which will be hitting the website next week.

‘The Return’ is written by Dan Thompson with art and lettering by Jake Rowlingson. In this one page story we see Bob Kelsey, who has faced all manner of dangers both human and otherwise, now facing possibly his greatest adversary to date.

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You will be able to check out the story here for free next week. If, in the mean time, you would check out Bob’s other adventures you can of course read ‘Neck on the Line’ or The Immaculate Abortion of Dina Leigh which you can  pick up on it’s own from Comicsy (Digital Download) and Amazon (Kindle) or as part of the Tales of the Forgotten Anthology also available from Comicsy and Amazon.

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To read Bob’s very first appearance there is of course the novel Fallen Heroes, where it all started.

Behind the Shadows: Prose to Script to Comic Page – Wrath of God ‘ A Dark Hero’s Rebirth’

Last week saw the digital release of Wrath of God on ComiXology but what some of you may not know is the Reverend, the two gun wielding vigilante who stars in the comic, made his debut within the pages of the Fallen Heroes prose novel. I thought it might be interesting to give you a little insight on one of the pivotal scenes from the comic and its relationship to the novel.

The Rebirth

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When Jonathan Bishop aka The Reverend  awakens from his coma with a new face  it was one the most important scenes for the character in Fallen Heroes and yet most people have never read the scene. I cut it from the final draft because I was scared that by revealing too much of the Reverend’s past it would diminish the mythic quality I was trying to instill in  the character.

Cy Dethan who wrote the script for the Wrath of God comic was the first person I let read the  scene and the moment he read it it gave him the central themes he wanted to explore with the Reverend.

The subject of the Reverend’s training is never address in the novel because it was not needed to be. I wanted The Reverend to arrive  immersed in his crusade and at the top of his game. Now, however, I have the wonderful luxury of being able to say to people “If you want to know how he was trained and learn more about his past then here’s Wrath of God.” this notion of making the comics 100% canon as far as novels are concerned has been something that has become more and more embedded with each new Unseen Shadows project.

What we get in Wrath of God is Cy doing a brilliant job of expanding on the Reverend’s past without diminishing any of the power or mystery of the character. It was also a delicate balancing act because we wanted a story that could stand alone and apart from the novel but at the same time reward readers of both. For me personally it was great to work with Cy on fleshing out the Reverend’s past and answering a few of the questions I never tackled while working on the novel.

Here’s  Cy had to say about how he see’s the Reverend.

“To me, the Reverend represents the purest form of personal commitment – an implacable crusader with every outward trace of humanity literally burned away. No act is too monstrous or sacrifice too great in pursuit of his understanding of justice. I needed to know what could do this to a man, and whether the madness was always in him. Hopefully, we’ve gone some way toward answering those questions in Wrath of God.”

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The Prose

So without further ado here’s the original scene  from Fallen Heroes.

Irene had talked one of the other nurses into making her rounds for her, and now here she was for the first time in the restricted wing.  She admitted to not being very impressed; a couple of armed guards and that was about it. She walked gingerly into the room where the unknown patient was being kept. It was hospital policy to check on all patients, even those under government protection.  He was just laying there, his face hidden behind a thick layer of bandages.  There was no doubt in her mind that he was still in a coma; feeling a little cheated by the anti-climax, she moved to the door.

“Maria.”

Too shocked to speak, Irene slowly turned round to find the patient she thought comatose now sitting bolt upright, his unusual eyes, the only hint of what lay under the bandages, scrutinising her every movement.

“What day is it?” he asked, his voice no more than a whisper, but for some reason, it sent shivers through her, and the desire to be anywhere else but here was foremost in her mind.

“It’s…It’s…Sunday,” Irene stammered.  “Sunday the third of September.”

The patient sighed heavily and slowly climbed out of his bed.  “I am alive,” he said, staring out of the window.

The urge to run screaming from the room and call someone, anyone was almost too great for Irene to ignore, but before she did, there was one question she needed answering.

“Sir, I need to know, we’ve all been waiting to know since you got here, who are you?”

The patient turned from the window, and Irene found herself looking into the strangest eyes she had ever seen.  They were an unnatural colour; Irene tried to put a name to the colour…jade, that was it, jade.

The patient walked up to her and removed the bandages from his face.  “I am wrath,” he said sadly.

The Script

The “deleted scene” from the Fallen Heroes novel that inspired this layer of Wrath of God’s flashback structure served as both a partial explanation of Jonathan Bishop’s metamorphosis into the Reverend and an open question in its own right. It follows on from Bishop’s literal “baptism of fire” at the hands of the drug lord, Vincent Gonzalez, and essentially charts the agonising process of a lost and fallen man being born again.

The whole concept of Bishop’s conversion is drenched in Christian mythology in the novel, and yet framed in a profoundly alien and threatening light. I’d go so far as to say that most of my understanding of the character was informed by reading this scene in the information pack Barry sent me. The sadness, the disconnection, the violence – the essential core of the Reverend is all at work here. – Cy Dethan (Writer)  Wrath of God

1) Cut to a close-up of the Reverend, his face a freshly healed wound. There are bandages, recently removed from his face, hanging loosely around his neck and shoulders. We’re in a hospital room, by a washbasin with a large mirror set above it. The Reverend, looking notably younger than in the previous scene (with more and darker hair), is gazing at his reflection with an expression somewhere between sadness and amazement. He’s dressed in a hospital gown.

We’re going to have several timelines running through this story. As a suggestion, it might be worth emphasising each strand with its own, unique colouring style or other easily distinguishable visual device.

CAPTION

THIS IS NOT MY FACE

2) Pull back. The Reverend turns away from the mirror, looking lost and hopeless. A nearby nurse (Irene Dickinson, for continuity fans) steps toward to help him. She looks genuinely concerned. There are two “spook” types in dark suits, armed with handguns in the room with us, but we needn’t see them both in this panel. Just a hint of one of them partially in shot would be plenty.

CAPTION

ONLY THE EYES BETRAY HIM, AND AS I LOOK INTO THEM ONE LAST TIME I BELIEVE I FINALLY UNDERSTAND…

3) One of the spooks steps forward to intercept the nurse. He raises his weapon to threaten her. The Reverend notices, looking up sharply.

CAPTION

THIS IS THE FACE OF A DEAD MAN—

4) The Reverend gets up in the spook’s face, his expression instantly hardening to a frightening degree. He presses the spook’s pistol down firmly with one hand. Both the spook and the nurse look taken aback.

The Page

All of this work led to this final page of art bringing together that fantastic work of Cy Dethan (Script), Steve Penfold (Art), Nic Wilkinson (Letters) and Gat Melvin (Colours).

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Hope you enjoyed this this little look behind the scenes.

About Wrath of God

The Reverend: a holy weapon forged in tragedy and flame – a murderous martyr whose cold judgement strikes with the force of a vengeful God. Despair, for the Reverend walks among you. He is the right hand of vengeance. He is Wrath.

From the twisted brain of Cy Dethan comes this 22 page story following Fallen Heroes favourite The Reverend; a cold blooded and ruthless killer hell-bent on a path of righteousness and destruction.

 Wrath of God cover

Published by: Barry Nugent
Written by: Cy Dethan
Art by: Steve Penfold
Colored by: Gat Melvyn
Lettered by: Nic Wilkinson
Edited by: Barry Nugent
Price: 0.69p

Available at Comixology

Work on Blood Cries Out Issue 2 is Underway

Work has now begun on issue two of the Reverend graphic novel ‘Blood Cries out’ and here’s a panel to prove it.

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As you can see from the finished page from issue 1 below the blood isn’t about to stop crying anytime soon thanks to old Rev showing his usual degree of restraint when dealing with the bad guys.

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Visitors to the next weekend’s Thought Bubble Festival will be able to get a sneak peek at the first chapter. All you need to do is  swing by Cy Dethan and Nic Wilkinson’s table (121 in New Dock Hall)where  they will have a preview of Blood Cries Out – chapter 1 at their table.  They will also have some of their other great comics for you to check out. I will also be wandering the con with my Ipad and a shed load of Unseen Shadows material and will be hovering around Cy and Nic’s table from time to time so come and find us.