No one has frequently asked me any questions yet, so I have made some up.
How did A Stray To Botaram get started?
I wanted to try making a comic strip, with the criterion that it be simple to produce, but not so simple as to make the artistic aspect irrelevant (which last is often the case with so many ‘talking heads’ strips).
I considered the approach that Larry Marder used in his legendary comic, Tales of the Beanworld. Starting with very simple and iconic forms, he created a complex story with its own unique ecosystem and physical laws. I decided to begin this project by creating some simple forms and combining them until something arose that I could use.
Using a vector-based drawing program (Adobe Illustrator), I overlapped a mass of simple shapes, then used the Division tool to break the mass into a group of puzzlelike pieces. I combined some promising pieces into the two main characters, Aun and Chax (they had no names at first). I set a few rules to keep things interesting: pieces had to be in black or white, and could be rotated, flipped, and resized, but not stretched, squashed or otherwise edited into a different shape. I later decided that the pieces could be butted together like tangrams to form other shapes, but that they could not be overlapped to the point that they lost their identities. Also, as the story got more complex, I first allowed shades of gray, then gradients.
The comic began with a few tame gag strips. Proto-Chax looked angry, so I thought it would be fitting to have him attack Proto-Aun, thus I gave Proto-Aun a weapon to defend himself, and that and a few puns comprised the first strip. The comic had no depth, and I had no clue of what was to come. In the second strip, I added some words from a nonsense poem that I wrote many years back. I noodled around for a few strips and added some ideas I thought were interesting, and the characters started to wake up, while the structure of the nonsense poem added a sense of purpose. Thus, my collaboration with my younger self has proven fruitful, and I hope that he would have approved what I have made of his work.
Over the past four years, the story has grown in complexity and sent me as a storyteller in odd directions that I had no way of foreseeing. I am pleased with the story’s progress so far, and I hope to continue telling it until it reaches its foreordained conclusion. I know how it ends, I am just working out how to get there from here.
Where is this poem?
I haven’t put it online yet. I may reveal it within the flow of the story, or save it for the afterword.
What tools do you use to produce this comic?
Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.
Do you know that “Botaram” is a word in Portuguese?
I didn’t until after I began this comic, when I researched (read: googled) some of the nonsense terms I used in my poem. At the time I wrote it, I was doing web design work for a company with an international presence, and I may very well have seen this word out of the corner of my eye. Shame on me for not choosing a name like Poictesme or Graustark.
I will worry about it at such time as the nations of Portugal and Brazil decide to sue me. For now, Eu botar o fora da mente.