Hi, everyone! In a little under 2 months, on August 2nd – my 21st birthday – I’ll be launching the new Kickstarter campaign for Swift Spark and the Defense Five. In anticipation, I wanted to write some blog posts talking about my journey with the Swift Spark so far!
Today’s #1: Swift Spark: Some Backstory
In May 2016, I began working on a webcomic. Back then, I had a list of several ideas, all based around the characters I’d created on DeviantART in 2013.
The characters themselves were inspired by a mishmash of things I was particularly interested in at the time. Phineas and Ferb being the most important source of inspiration. The core idea began as five friends, three of which were children of European immigrants who moved to America – the other two were American.
Back then, immigrating to the USA was a dream of mine. Now that I’m an adult I would still love to live there, California in particular, but my better judgement knows that I’m probably better off somewhere else.
Funnily enough, I remember wanting to make an animated series out of these kids right off the bat. I was 12 when I posted a video online that was nothing but a voice over of me with a drawing of my characters – feast your eyes…
Image is courtesy of my DeviantART account.
I also made a website. You know, one of those hosting sites like Weebly (except it wasn’t Weebly) for my “animated series”. I wrote a theme song… I even wrote a synopsis for an episode.
I’m not sure if I still have any proof of it at the time of writing this – I might go look for it. But I remember, and it makes me smile thinking back.
The drive was there. Even at age 12.
I wrote a book featuring one of the characters that same year, a Dutch 90-page kid’s book. You can actually order it at most Dutch book retailers if you have the title and ISBN. I have been toying with the idea of rewriting it and re-releasing it, as I published it under my deadname… A name that as of May 2022 no longer “exists” as it’s no longer my legal name.
This was the book’s cover – Bella is probably the character whose design has changed the least since her inception.
You can probably find the book through a quick search of the title+name.
I continued to work on my characters, deciding to incorporate them into a three-novel (by now four, as I added a spin-off later on – I am in the process of rewriting the first one) fantasy series I titled “The Guardian Trilogy”.
During this period, I got to know my characters and who they really are. The inspirations remained, but became less and less obvious as time went on. They came more and more into their own as I, as an artist and writer, did the same.
So… back to 2016. Another bolt of inspiration would strike 14-year-old me.
I’ve always been a Spider-Man fan, and 2016 Spider-Man was finally introduced to the MCU. Admittedly I was a little apprehensive about accepting this “new” Spider-Man, because I personally felt disappointed over the cancellation of Andrew Garfield’s career as the friendly neighbourhood superhero. But after watching Civil War I was sold.
Miraculous Ladybug had also aired its first episode in September 2015, so from one thing came another – briefly after Civil War’s release, I began toying with the concept of my own superhero.
Add to that being inspired by a webcomic I used to read at the time, called “Ava’s Demon”. I wanted to do a visual story just like that. I wanted to write my own webcomic.
As I said at the beginning, there was a list of multiple things at the time. Pirates, monsters and superheroes. The superheroes ended up winning because of the aforementioned pique in interest.
I began drawing, writing, sketching… and by August 2016, I began on the first chapter of “Swift Spark and the Defense Five”.
I had decided that it would be an “alternate universe” version of the characters I’d been working on. In one universe they would travel to Lunaria, the magical world of the Guardian Trilogy, and in another, they’d be superheroes.
Funny how in 2022, every popular piece of media now seems to involve some kind of multiverse. Considering the mainstream popularity of comics now, it was sort of inevitable.
In a few months’ time, I produced the first 40 pages. In January 2017 (or December 31st 2016), I uploaded the first page.
Initially I began posting it to Tumblr, but by June of 2017 I’d moved the comic to Comicfury, halting posting to Tumblr altogether.
In 2020, I added Webtoons and the comic’s own website to the list. And as of 2022, I’ve been actively posting it to Instagram and Twitter as well.
Some of you have probably never seen the original. Truth is, I have redone the prologue and first chapter three times.
For reference, here’s a comparison:
2016 – 2019 – 2021 respectively.
The funny thing? Once the whole comic is complete, I’ll wait a few years and come back… redo the whole thing again. And then release the new version in one go.
I currently plan to do this in 2026. But we’ll see.
In 2016-2017, I played with animating the characters a little as well. It didn’t look great and I didn’t truly plan on doing anything further with it either. Or perhaps I thought I didn’t.
The original plan was to write a 12-chapter webcomic, that didn’t feature the two year time-jump that it has now.
The main antagonist was supposed to have super powers of his own as well. The first sketch featured a man with a badly scarred face. The rest of the details I hadn’t worked out yet…
There are several plot points that changed over the years, but as I am still in the middle of working on chapter 9 and have another left to go – as well as a short epilogue – I’d like to keep that discussion for after I finish the webcomic. No spoilers, so to say!
In 2019, 3 years later, the definitive shift to animation began! That was also the first time I redrew the comic – just the prologue and the first chapter, though.
You can see James’s design finally beginning to look like it does now. The style gradually got more cartoony, before in 2021 I landed at where we are now, and in the first half of 2022 I made the final proof of concept for the pilot.
In these three years I played with the style a lot, whilst redrawing the webcomic for a third and final time as well. It took me about six months to get the 200 pages I’d done by then redone, and I’ve been working with that style ever since.
The first Kickstarter was a bust, but I want to discuss that in a separate post.
I began this journey in webcomics in May 2016. Now it’s June 2022. A little over 6 years later. I am currently colouring the pages of chapter 9 – I still need to do the flats for 40 pages. After that, I’ll go through each page again to shade it. So, all in all, I’ll be done with chapter 9 in 17 days – including the time I’ll need to add the text balloons.
Afterward, I’ll take a little vacation. Since returning home from Orlando on January 20th, I have been working on this comic every day – so I’ll have been working for about 154 consecutive days.
In that time, I have finished 295 pages, and half-finished another 70 (from the line art onwards). I think taking a month to do something else for a bit wouldn’t hurt.
In August and September, I plan to finish the remaining 80 pages. By then, the Kickstarter will start and end.
All I can say is that I hope after finishing the comic, I’ll be able to get right on with the production of the pilot.
Sign up for notifications about the Kickstarter – you don’t want to miss when we launch! If you already have a Kickstarter account: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/pan-tastique/swift-spark-the-animated-series
If you just want to use your e-mail for now: https://www.backerkit.com/call_to_action/e687e920-4df2-4dff-89cb-f0a312ee83ed/landing