General Notes on Sorcery 101 Side Stories

General side story notes

So I’m not doing Writer Notes on From Scratch and Strange Someone. Both of them I don’t really have much to say and after how sparse the notes on As We Were ended up I didn’t think it would be a good idea to go through them page by page. They are both rather light and don’t have much over all connection to things. It leaves them as mostly shallow but fun. So here’s just the thoughts I do have on those two stories and some unfinished/unused ideas.

Strange Someone was the first venturing off into having more stories in the Sorcery 101 world. I knew I wanted to do more with Jeff and Connor. I tried to be subtle about the werewolf thing so if someone hadn’t read Sorcery 101 they could be surprised. The story wasn’t supposed to be too complicated and a good new entry point for someone. The time it was made Sorcery 101 was at page 500ish. That was making it hard for it to get new readers. It was also the first time I worked with someone else. So I learned about working with other people on things. Also at that point I realized the one thing writing wise I wasn’t getting practice on was endings. So I wanted to work on wrapping up a story successfully.

From Scratch was a story originally meant to be drawn by someone else who backed out and ended up too busy. I try to write stories to suit who the artist, I don’t know if this one 100% lines up with Jose’s strengths but it turned out well. I did a lot of looking into the 20s before writing it. It gave me some ideas for stories that didn’t end up panning out. Again I mostly did something straightforward and light. It also helped get the ball rolling on one of the hardest parts of selling stuff at cons, having a new book every year.

I had two big unfinished comic ideas.

These are ones I had outlined and started scripting. There were others but they were more kernals of stories not actual stories. The first was a story about Aaron becoming a vampire. It was about a closeted Aaron meeting and being attracted to Asagi while there was a subplot about Aaron’s wife feeling ignored and neglected. She starts an affair with Seth while Aaron is spending time with Asagi. I wrote two chapters that I was pretty confident about, but once I got to Aaron realizing he was attracted to Asagi at the same time he learned Asagi and Seth were vampires and it got hard to write. I mostly didn’t know how to go further, without getting preachy or heavy handed. It’s all still “canon” to Aaron’s backstory but I didn’t feel like it was a story I personally should be telling.

The other story is the story about how Brad became a werewolf and met Ally. It’s basically a prequel to Sorcery 101. It is the story that made me eventually realize I had outgrown the Sorcery 101 world and had outgrown it. I don’t think it was bad. But between looking up 90s pop culture reference and trying to make sure I didn’t contradict Sorcery 101 and explain to another person that Sorcery 101 doesn’t take place in our world I started to rethink doing it. I wrote the whole thing and was about to write a second draft to push some themes I saw popping up to make them more obvious and deliberate. But I never finished that second draft cause I just realized I wanted to do something different. Then I started working on The City Between’s first book Fame and Misfortune.

Read Sorcery 101 writer notes Final Thoughts

Here is another batch of writer notes on Sorcery 101. If you want to read ahead on these got ahead on these head over to my patreon.
Sorcery 101 was my first comic. It took me 11 years to completely. In that time I learned a lot about storytelling and basically grew up. It’s hard for me to look at the beginning chapters because the pacing in those early days meanders a lot. Now I definitely prefer tighter stories. That change in preference and my general tightening up of writing has left Sorcery 101 lopsided. Looking at the two omnibus volumed, a lot more happens in the second half. It’s also unclear what the story is about in the first half, even though I always planned to end it the way it ends.

I’ve gotten comments about the ending being abrupt and leaving nothing resolved. But there isn’t much else to do with Danny. The unresolved bits are parts of stories that are only tangental related. It would have been impossible to wrap them all up without another several hundred pages. I put them all in there because I saw in the stories I really enjoyed hints of other stories going on beyond the one we were paying attention to. It was something I wanted to replicate. But with my inexperience in storytelling I gave too much screen time to what should have been shorter looks at the world beyond Danny. As I realized that I started to cut out stuff in the latter half of Sorcery 101, most of it about Jeff, Connor, and Kayla. Their stories effected Danny the least, so I cut them down to what was tied to the main plot or had an effect on it, like Connor sleeping with Seth.

The amount of filler in the beginning of Sorcery 101 makes it a weird story to read. It doesn’t quite work online or in final print. I’ve notice this odd pacing in a several other webcomics. It makes me wonder if the influence/source of the problem was the same. I’m dyslexic and didn’t get into books until I discovered audiobooks in college. At the start of Sorcery 101 my main influencers of story telling were mostly TV and a handful of manga. Both of which are designed to keep going until the audience loses interest rather than to tell a story. I liked stories where there was a big picture getting slowly built from tinier stories. Shows were you still had to watch episodes in order. Those episodes had filler but never for too long and usually that gave the characters room to breath and grow. I tried to do something like that with Sorcery 101. But it is hard to read when you get 3 pages a week. It wouldn’t even work if you got a page everyday. See when TV had a filler episode or manga had a filler chapter, you didn’t have to wait long for the next chunk. Next week their be more. Where as a filler chapter of Sorcery 101 meant a 3 month break. Then if you are bingde reading the book, your story is getting interrupted by something that ends up not mattering. It reads a little bit better in print but it’s still a weird pacing for a book. Overall, after writing 1400 page comic I think long and hard about how long my stories are now and how they read but as they update and when they are finished. I also frequently ask myself is this page/scene/chapter necessary to the story I’m telling.

Another thing I started thinking about more toward the end of Sorcery 101, was world building. But that has more to do with why I’m probably not returning to the Sorcery 101 world rather than Sorcery 101 itself. Until about 2012, I fully intended to do more stories in this world. After all, then I could actually tell all those stories I was hinting at in Sorcery 101. At that point I had started to tighten up Sorcery 101 main storyline. It was easier because I told myself “Jeff and Connor starting college can just be it’s own comic.” I even wrote a whole draft of the story of how Brad became a werewolf and met Ally. But as I wrote that I started to chafe at the Sorcery 101 world. It was too close to our universe and I was tired of telling people this world wasn’t ours. Also I was going through audiobooks pretty quickly and getting a taste of better more interesting world building. I wanted to put something together that someone would look at the art and instantly see the story didn’t take place in our world. That’s why I ended up writing Fame and Misfortune and started The City Between. It would be a series I could start and stop as it interested me since that stories would all be able to stand alone and I could fully design the world. I would keep the made up histories and city names there and keep anything that needed a setting like the modern day real world in the modern day real world, like Misfits of Avalon.

I’m glad I stuck to my plan for Sorcery 101 over all though. As flawed as that end was, I don’t think I would have finished the comic if I had to come up with a better ending. There was too much about the comic I had out grown. The redoing the first 450 page to make a book made that clear. A lot of the jokes got toned down or thrown out cause they weren’t funny were over done or just plain offensive. I still liked writing and drawing Danny and everyone at the end of it but I was also starting to get offers that would help push my comics career further. Nearly everything about my life was telling me it was time to move on from this.

Read Sorcery 101 writer notes Chapter 38

Here is another batch of writer notes on Sorcery 101. If you want to read ahead on these got ahead on these head over to my patreon.

Chapter 38

Title page
So I like this idea of Danny being tied up by blood ropes. I have used it in a few promo images for Sorcery 101 in the last few years. The red and teal are the same colors I used for Enemies 2. Since this is a big chapter and is sad I wanted to tie it to a previous chapter where Danny was crushed by Seth.

page 1358 – 1360

This is where influence from Joss Whedon shows the most. Cause here is a nice happy scene before something terrible happens. I also put in some info about what lead to Danny and Jackie’s divorce. There have been hints that Danny did some scummy things before his marriage ended. Sleeping around was one of them.

page 1361 – 1366

Both these scenes are mostly set up and exposition needed for the end of the chapter. Aaron and Loki’s meeting with Kira also makes it more obvious how much power Asagi has. The order is made of Asagi, Suryu, Frost and a woman named Lilandra, who were all turned by the first vampire. The rest of the Order was turned by Asagi. So votes usually go in his favor. Also her computer business is to go against the stereotype of vampires being associated with older things and I always like it when powerful character have their own things going on.

Pat still not very good at teaching earth spells. Also, I wanted to make it clear through Pat why Cassia is going to jump Brad and Ally. Basically, no one who knows about the supernatural will buy the suicide angle.

page 1367 – 1373

So this whole fight is basically how someone weaker than Seth can get the better of him if they are prepared. Note that Aaron very reloads the gun because he knew he wouldn’t have time because of Seth’s speed. I liked choreographing the fight and thinking how Loki and Aaron keep switching back and forth on who attacks Seth. But Seth focuses on grabbing Aaron cause he’s the weakest. It was all fun to draw. That is the end of Seth’s coat but he’ll probably get a new one.

page 1374 – 1381

When Seth comes up to Danny, he’s still got a hole in his shirt from getting shot because I wanted it to be clear that he has been on the move since his fight with Aaron and Loki. This scene I also wanted to establish that since Danny know what Seth is up to now, they are a little more balanced powerwise. However, Danny also realizes that this is a case where if Seth’s in trouble, he’s in trouble. We also get to see Seth drive for the first time.

Ally and Brad’s scene is mostly about getting them in place for their finale.

page 1382 – 1389

Cars are hard to draw. Clearly artist me did murdered writer me’s parents and needed to be punished. This maybe didn’t come out exactly as planned. It was cooler in my head. If I wasn’t judging this Misfits of Avalon, I could have spent more time to make these pages work better. But they turned out okayish. I like Danny’s screaming face on page 1383. I also liked thinking of the actually effects of Seth’s bad driving such as Danny throwing up and Seth going out the window. That is the end of Danny’s porche. He won’t be buying a new one.

I always think about show don’t tell and I wanted to save the explanation for how Seth can go in sunlight for a late reveal. It’s also why neither of them flat out say it’s Seth’s pendent. But I had Seth burn his hand a little to visually make the point clear. It’s the last bit of given Danny a more even playing field before I kick all his happiness out from under him. Like Seth is still stronger, Danny now knows Seth’s biggest secret and Seth can’t control him. Seth can still threaten him but Danny can respond by not doing what Seth wants. So I’m making Danny feel pretty cocky for a guy who’s car just got totaled.

page 1390 – 1392

Cassia stays in shadow cause the sunlight will burn her up. Her hand is shaking because I wanted it to be clear how upset she is. And Brad’s wound smokes after getting grazed by the first shot to show it’s silver. Some folks must of missed that because I got some comments along the lines of “how can a shot to the gut kill Brad if a shot to the chest didn’t earlier in his life?” But that detail is why I focused on Ally looking at Brad’s minor injury rather than Cassia’s face. So Brad gets shot pushing Ally out of the way but Ally hits Cassia hard enough to knock her into sunlight. I cut off there because I wanted it open ended until Brad’s funeral.

page 1393 – 1399

I like that Seth sees Loki and Aaron and then immediately makes a break for it. I also enjoy Seth being upside down most of the scene. It made this whole scene which is very text heavy more fun to draw. The amount of text is really clunky at the start of the scene. When Danny hears the news I tired to make him look small. I probably should have done something more interesting with the text as it hits him. Cause the details aren’t super important. I maybe should have faded it out and made it the background. That would have been better.

page 1400 – 1403

This whole exchange between Aaron and Danny I tried to make Danny look small. Also Aaron offers Danny a cigarette as a peace offering to mirror him refusing to give Danny one when they first met. I also tried to make sure that Aaron is sympathic to Danny’s plite. I also wanted to end on Danny’s shocked expression about Brad. I tried to slowly zoom in on Danny as he found out in those last 3 panels.

page 1404 – 1407

This is Brad’s funeral. I had some people who thought it was Danny’s but Brad’s family is at the funeral and none of Danny’s. Also Danny’s a member of the royal family in another country. So his fake funeral is pretty showy. I asked Andrew to pick kinda dull colors for these last few pages, cause sad times. I wanted the first page to have no diolague for the same reason. When things move over to Danny’s new apartment I wanted to make is seem very empty. Any finally the last page is the same layout as the title page for the first chapter.

Read Sorcery 101 writer notes Chapter 37

Here is another batch of writer notes on Sorcery 101. If you want to read ahead on these got ahead on these head over to my patreon.

Chapter 37

Title pages
So this might be the title page I’m the least happy with. I don’t really know what I could have done instead. But I feel like I could have done something more interesting. This chapter in general is a lot of setup and exposition. My original plan for Sorcery 101 basically wrote me into a corner and made a chapter like this necessary. A lot of folks asked me if I had more Sorcery 101 planned and I didn’t but this sorta fumble near the end makes me other stand why someone would think I originally planned to slowly get all the info in this chapter out.

page 1329 – 1332

So this is mostly set up. I wanted to remind folks of just Brad’s parents and Ally’s feelings about them. There’s a little back story to Brad being adopted. Ally not drinking is just to a short hint about her being pregnant before Danny finds out.

page 1333 – 1336

Danny finds out the Ally’s pregnant. I fiddled with how to break up congratulations in this scene. I wanted it to be clear that is starts as a statement but ends as a question.

page 1337 – 1339

Pat not knowing how to turn on a computer is because I was thinking about symbols and certain ones become universal. I think I looked up why the power symbol on a computer looks the way it does (answer I found is it’s a combination of a 1 and 0 so it’s on and off). And while we all know what that means now, it wouldn’t be immediately clear to someone like Pat who has basically been a hobo since the 70’s.

Asagi’s password is basically the numbers that match the letters from the center of the keyboard and make a circle outward. I wanted it be something Asagi could remember but wasn’t attached to him and would still be hard to guess.

Kayla probably doesn’t think anything bad will happen to Pat. She doesn’t know Asagi’s rep and he is very affable. Pat however knows better since he lived with Suryu.

page 1340 – 1346

I did like writing this scene. It’s the closest we get to seeing how Asagi’s mind works. Him shaving is to make it tense without Asagi having to pull the getting too close intimidation tactics that Seth pulls. Also Asagi is very concerned about how he appears so his nightly beauty regimen would be fun to use to mirror what he is talking about. He is wielding a straight razor while talking about threats and he is doing his hair while talking about getting people to like him. I also like the bit where Pat accidently wastes a question and is annoyed with himself. Also, one of Asagi’s reasons merely being that he wants Pat to like him is Asagi in a nutshell. He wants everyone to like him.

All through Sorcery 101 people asked me why Seth grabbed Danny as a blood bond. If anyone figured it out they didn’t say so in the comments or in any emails to me. But all the info is in the comic before this point. Over all I liked this scene. I maybe should have taken the time to design a more elaborate bedroom for Asagi though.

page 1347 – 1351

More exposition. A lot of this exposition is mostly to make it clear that stuff with The Lady wasn’t going to bite Danny in the ass during Sorcery 101. I tried to make all the info drop be short and somewhat relevant. I thought of more info about The Lady but it really wouldn’t affect things and there are only some make angle I can use to keep this conversation visually interesting.

page 1352 – 1357

Damien walks into a set up. Frost cuts off his tail because I wanted to show a werewolf getting injuries back and him having been shot in the head means it’s easy for Frost and Mr. Tamura to fake a suicide. Frost is shooting himself in the head to make the blood splatter match Damien’s injuries.

And this has been Frost and Mr. Tamura’s plan for Damien being openly a werewolf for while. Lucy has been using magic to make him mentally unstable and erratic so something like suicide would be better believed. I had the news mention it to remind folks about the general public thinks of Damien. Also the new makes a nice transition to Cassia who knows the news story is a load of shit and that Brad was at the party.

Read Sorcery 101 writer notes Chapter 36

Here is another batch of writer notes on Sorcery 101. If you want to read ahead on these got ahead on these head over to my patreon.

Chapter 36

Title page
I wanted something unsettingling. I asked for Andrew to use mostly purple since that’s the color I use most associated with The Lady. Then I asked for a green because that usually makes people uneasy.

page 1299

I was orginally going to show Danny’s dreams. I decided against it because the point isn’t the specifics of the dream just that they are unsettling. Also he doesn’t tell Trish to show that he’s pulling away from her even before finding out she is sleeping with Seth.

page 1300 – 1304

As the lines get worse under his eyes, he can’t focus on anything and only half listens. Also these dreams don’t even let him finish a 15 min nap. So only fair that he shouldn’t drive. Also, I wanted Connor to be the one to mention Seth because he’s not as buried in everything else but still had a very recent bad run with him.

page 1305 – 1311

I thought a Danny and Connor trying to make small talk would be fun. His only real connection to everyone is through Jeff. He the closest Danny is gonna get to an outsider perspective on everything that is going on. He’s supposed to be texting. While drawing this page I realized it’s still 2006 for them. I had to look up phones that were out at the time. Since Connor’s a senator’s son and goes to a fancy boarding school gave him the most expensive, a blackberry. But we don’t get a good look at it, so kinda looks like a DS. Obviously that apartment Jeff and Connor are getting is gonna be stupid nice and paid for by their parents.

I liked drawing Connor’s reactions to seeing Seth and that he IMMEDIATELY removes his tie. Also I had fun with Seth responding to things Danny didn’t say.

Pat’s state is because I wanted it clear that he doesn’t heal as fast as Seth but can still recover from most things with time. So you can see some of the scars from where Suryu cut him up as well as the obvious eye patch.

Pat’s advice to see a doctor first is mostly because I didn’t want normal stuff to get ruled out by characters who know what’s going on. PTSD isn’t out of the question when it comes to everything Seth put Danny through. Also that’s far more traumatic than just touching a weird knife so I figured Danny would also focus on that. Danny glances at Connor when he gets extra vague about his dreams and says they’re personal. He probably would have told Pat solo but Connor doesn’t get to hear about Danny’s personal demons.

Lucky for Danny, Asagi knows exactly what’s going on. Lucky. Also, in a lot of fiction vampires are just naturally amazing looking. I wanted Asagi’s character to be someone who puts a lot of effort into certain look. So I thought it would be fun to show how he looks before his early evening prep time.

page 1312 – 1314

This is of course a lot of not giving Danny a straight answer so he will finish the ritual. Their dialogue is also to show that even though Danny doesn’t know many spells, he does know theory. Or at least enough to have some good guesses about what will happen. I wanted this spell to be something that is fairly easy to do. Asagi who doesn’t know sorcery needs to be able to do it. Really anyone could do it if they know how. But most don’t know about The Lady so they wouldn’t even know what the spell is for. It is so much easier then a healing spell or a fire spell.

page 1315 – 1322

I had so much fun drawing this whole scene and the shadows on the walls. The Lady gets a black speech balloon because I wanted it to be clear that despite the shape shifting, she was also the dragon who spoke to Mr. Tamura. Asagi gets called a cheater because Danny was supposed to figure this out for himself.

I wrote The Lady in that she knows everything about any creature of darkness, but since that is so much information she needs to be given context on what’s being discussed/what to focus on. So she always knew about Danny and everything about him, but touching her knife was a LOOK HERE beacon. So every time she turns to Asagi it’s to get that focus. That is also why The Lady refers to characters as titles rather than names. A lot of those she knows the most about change their names or have several alias. So Asagi is General, Mr. Tamura is Guardian, Seth is Thief, Frost is Boy-King, and Danny is Prince for obvious reasons. You can make guesses about everyone else based on what she calls them.

I also wanted her to seem alien even when in the form of a human, hence the purely purple eyes and how she floats around. She also keeps circling Danny the way she circled around Mr. Tamura as a dragon. She also doesn’t understand what is and isn’t acceptable human behavior. But just because she doesn’t understand humans doesn’t mean she will disregard their feelings.

Also, The Lady’s mind messing hurt Seth too. He is bleeding from his nose, ears, and tear ducts.

page 1323 – 1328

Danny needs a moment to take in all the correct memories. And I like that Asagi gives Seth a manners lesson and then scolds him for not paying attention.

Danny’s fight with Seth starts like Lope’s fight with him. But Lope didn’t stop between spells to yell at Seth. Seth’s neck is broken and he’s fixing it while saying he is harder to kill. I thought that would be a nice display of power while he chokes Danny. Danny listing off how Seth affected his mind, I wanted mostly down shots with a clear look at his face. Then Seth once again towers over him in a shot that is the same as right before he threatened Danny at the end of Enemies.

Seth isn’t playing around with Danny like when he killed Suzanne. So he just dodges once before hitting him hard enough that he won’t get back up.

Pat and Danny have a nice moment, which Connor ruins.