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This is a look behind the scenes of making my entry for the Big Drawing competition of the Kamper Stripspektakel 2022. The theme was “Do not think in limits, but in possibilities!“. One of the first things that came to mind was a sketch between Robin Williams and Elmo. With only a stick Mr Williams shows the amount of possibilities you have as long as you use your imagination.

This became the starting point. I had the solution in the story, but there was no problem. I found the probleem in the solution. Imagination can be beautiful thing, but it also has a darkside. You can see the most awful things in everyday objects. So at least one of the characters should have a fear so big it starts to limit the abilities of this character.

Since I had two kids in mind their parents had to be away. Otherwise they would intervine and the children would not be able to overcome the problem on their own. At home was possible, but it would have to be Home Alone (haha!). No, outside would be fine. I like to draw environments with trees and bushes. And it's also a spot that can be beautiful as well as scary. In the open air all is well, but you also have the dark corners, where a sudden sound can put you on alert right away.

A brother and sister were starring in my last story. So I was thinking of mixing it up, but when the looks came into my head it had to be these two. Usually I have some names in my head, but this time my mind was blank until it was very late in the process. I even asked a friend for suggestions, but an idea came to me before she could reply. I'm familiar with the name 'Reilly', so I let a search determine if that was going to be the name of the boy or girl. Reilly means courageous, valiant. So that would fit for both. I decided that it would be a good fit for the boy. Even if he doesn't start out brave, he would be by the end of the story. For the girl I initially thought about names meaning mentor, teacher, things among those lines. But nothing seemed to fit. Since the sister is a creative thinker I wanted something that would be synonymous with free style. Jazz came to mind and it stuck. Mom and dad were going to be called mom and dad, so that worked for me. It certainly worked for those classic cartoons like Dexter's Laboratory and Cow & Chicken.

I have one day between announcing to a friend that I was going to participate and the finished thumbnails. Impressive, no? Yeah, that can't be right. I give myself three to six days of writing the story in my head before starting on the thumbnails. I would advice to make reference models of your characters. Even for a one shot. The ones I made are very rough and not final. But they helped.

The title takes inspiration from the Queen song: 'It's a Kind of Magic'. It was tempting to use the name of the song when translating the comic from Dutch to English, but it wouldn't have been accurate.

First page
Initially I wanted to go for that flip the page, see the surprise/transformation on the other side formula. That's why Jazz already has the sticks in her hands on the last panel in the thumbnails. This didn't work. The reveal that Reilly was scared needed a slower pace. Three panels was slow enough and now we end the page with revealing the problem. Works for me.

Panel 1
The poses here were decided in my mind for a long time. Not a bad thing if you still have some more panels to draw. Colour wise I wanted to use the three primary colours. I knew green was going to be the main colour here. So the primary colours should highlight things. So that meant red for Jazz and blue for Reilly. I considered switching it, but since Reilly was feeling blue it seemed the way to go. The bus was yellow at first, but I realized I wanted a light colour to represent the magic and white wasn't going to work as I wanted different degrees of the magic colour. With white that would mean different shades of grey and grey is not a good choice if you want to represent light. So yellow became the magic colour and the bus became green and blended in with the background. Not a bad thing as the main goal of the bus was to show how the children got there and a bonus for the readers that like to hang around on a panel. Different shades of green and brown were used in order to give the feeling depth. Notice how we go from light (foreground) to dark (background) while it would make more sense to do the reverse. Seeing how we go from an open spot to deeper into the woods. But hey, got to put a spotlight on those main characters.

Panels 2 and 3
I think the discomfort is shown enough in Reilly's pose. It's a subtle and that makes for a nice contrast with his expression on the next panel, which is more exaggerated. Having Reilly's fears depicted wasn't from a particulair example, I just remember it being done a lot. I did want the fears to actually appear in the story, so the witch I had considered didn't make it in the final version. The moon was added to indicate that the monsters only come out when it's dark. I tried to avoid the use of black in the background of the third panel as that's done so often and I felt I could still give the feeling of dread with another dark colour.

Second page
Here I wanted a slow pacing. Panel 4 would be Jazz shown in thought, but before I started penciling I thought it would be nicer to have her interact with her brother and also the poses should indicate something about their relationship. She is his guide in this big world. Panel 5 was all about showing Reilly waiting, I thought this was clear enough so no explanation text was needed. Panel 6 had Jazz closer to Reilly, but I thought it would make more sense that he sees her coming from a bit away and this allowed him to express his doubt about the solution she was bringing. Which brings us to her announcing the reveal of the real solution in panel 7.

Third page
The true reveal of the solution: imagination! In panel 8 I did want to use black in the background, because now it makes the magic yellow appear even brigther. Of course He-Man and She-Ra were an inspiration for the transformation. Originally it was going to be two separate panels: the transformation and Reilly's excited reaction. But the moment was important, so one big panel worked better. The English text of panel 9 reveals it's inspiration. How can we talk about power and not mention the responsibilities that come with it. Thank you uncle Ben! I've had panel 10 described as manga. Boy wasn't wrong. I'll take something if it works. Certainly one of the panels that took the least amount of time, but it really pops. For the magic versions of Jazz and Reilly I introduced a new colour for each to represent the armoured parts, but for recognition I reused the colour of their normal selves.

Removed pages
Due to time constraints I dropped 2 pages from the story. The first one would have Jazz and Reilly reach an open field. Jazz and Reilly would pretend that they were riding fantasy animals or horses in order to cross the field faster. So one panel would have them running and the second panel would be an identical one, but you'd see them in their magic form and riding imaginary beasts. It wasn't an obstacle, more like Jazz seeing this as an opportunity for Reilly to train his imagination. The other page had them crossing a stream of water. This wasn't dangerous, but Jazz would turn the scene into a canyon where they had to go across on a line and using their wands as a way to balance themselves. They'd be thightrope walkers. I had Reilly saying: aren't you making things worse now, sis? But this was meant to be a build up to the final challenge. I've caught myself mentioning these as filler to others, but now that I'm writing and recollecting there certainly was some thought behind them. Still the story does flow better with the six remaining pages.

Fourth page
I started with the middle panel, drew the bottom panel after that and the top panel last. This was the order in which it was clear to me what I wanted in each panel. I had panel 12 clear in my mind. I did wonder if it was clear that all the trees in the Scary Woods were Tree Monsters. So I thought about them facing the audience directly, but that didn't make sense. They were supposed to be waiting for the children to enter and facing them. Having one of them shown from the side an one almost facing the readers worked better and that way it was enough for the other Tree Monsters to have the arm like branches as a recognizable feature. Panel 13 was another clear one. Just a cool action panel. I didn't want the sticks to be swords, because that would mean the children would be harming the trees in reality. Wands allowed them to use magic blasts. These are very harmful for Tree Monsters, but don't touch the trees in real life. Panel 11 was a little complex.I wanted to show the transition from happy woods to Scary Woods, so there had to be some sort of transition. This was achieved mostly by the colouring. There also had to be some obstacle that made it necesarry to go through the Scary Woods instead of walking around them. The thorny bushes became this obstacle. Also lots of leaves so it's not always visible where those thorns are going to be when you try to walk through them.

Fifth page
The page with the twist. Reilly becomes overconfident and gets confronted with that other monster that dwells in the Scary Woods, the werewolf. I needed a situation where both children would loose their magic for a moment. So Reilly had to see the threat alone in order for Jazz to be uncertain enough to also loose her magic. A few risks on this page. Panel 14 is ok. We see Jazz warning Reilly that he's getting too excited and is almost out of her sight. Panel 15 was a risk as the twist comes right away. But I knew I already had a paused moment on the page and two would be too much. Also the depiction of Jazz being half in her magic form and half normal could appear weird. I think speed worked best here. A slower depiction would give Jazz more time to be calm and react differently. But this way the reaction in panel 16 makes sense. They are still in the Scary Woods and Reilly has lost his magic, so a quick solution seems needed. The pause on panel 17 was meant for comedic effect and to build tension. Introducing the fox was another risk. While it increases the comedic effect, some might also think this was the 'werewolf' that Reilly saw. I really saw an opportunity here to do something what I enjoy in the comics made by Don Rosa, a funny moment with a character that is not really involved in the main story. Worth it!

Sixth page
A lot of things happen here. Panel 20 was designed to give a false sense of danger while also being the start of getting things resolved. The speed lines here were done by hand to give that shaky camera feel. The background and objects are in the same colour scheme in order to indicate that things are getting grim. It's the same reason why the siblings have a bit more shading here than on the other previous panels. The word Stop is the announcement of things getting resolved. I thought about having Jazz saying: Mom? in panel 20 already, but that would be too soon. Now the moments of danger and relieve have their own spot. It slows down the reader, which I think was needed. We are near the end of the story after all. In a way panel 21 is already the ending. Jazz and Reilly have achieved the goal of reaching their parents and we have a funny reveal. Still, nothing wrong with showing a little growth in character in panel 22 along with a proud sister. The pan and lid armour are something from my youth. The weapon of choice was probably an umbrella or a big spoon. And a wink to books! What a source of joy and knowledge.

Thanks for your attention. While it seems like a lot I still left out certain things. So feel free to ask me about stuff and let's have a fun talk about comics in general.

For the ones that enjoy watching people draw along with some chill tunes I made a video. It also includes some footage of the award ceremony, filmed by Renée Rienties.

In closing be sure to check out the Instagram accounts of most of the people that were celebrating with me during the award ceremony: