It's finished. Excuse me while I catch my breath...
Just as I finished this episode, I realized "Hey! I've just written a 400 page origin story!" Which, I think I have. XD Strange, isn't it?
This was an interesting Episode in the evolution of the comic. With the help of my wacom tablet, which allowed me to shade the comic in Painter Classic, as opposed to using watercolour, I was able to create a work that was... rather satisfying. I enjoyed the art from this episode, compliments of discovering the crisp Berol dart pen (excellent inking qualities) and drawing the panels by hand, which, for some reason, worked pretty well. I think (I hope) the comic is finally to an artistic point that contents me. It isn't perfect, but I like what I produced this episode. Go me.
Plot-wise, Episode 4 lacked the frenetic-ness of Episode 3, the episode that nearly killed me. And for that I am thankful. It allowed me to relax and take my time as I drew and wrote, something I really appreciated when school was in (first year animation WAS out to kill me, yanno). This episode gave me a chance to delve into John's past and concentrate on characters other than Raven.
Lethe and John's messy confrontation is one of my favorite segments in the comic, mostly because it allowed me to write a genuinely nasty character, who has no qualms about anything he does... and for Lethe to take a Terry Pratchett (Men At Arms) quote out of context, and twist it into an excuse for why he acts the way he does. As for John's painful 'what happened'... I have no intention of ever showing what occurred. I think it is best (and more effective) if it remains off camera, for him to struggle with. Still, he's a doll, isn't he? Definitely one of my favorite characters.
The issue of free will was the backbone of this particular episode: Lethe, for all his insisting that all he wants is freedom from the "shackles of heaven," soon shows a level of blind hypocrisy that I felt, at times, might have been too pointed (oh well). He may be down, but perhaps not out, completely.
Elspeth, however, is dead. She will not return. I hoped her death would impact both readers and characters, and if the public's reactions to her demise is any indication... I think I did my job. :)
The new characters were fun: Madeline got more page-time than I had originally anticipated, mostly because her princessy-feminist personality seemed to demand it. Aaron and Banai were an unlikely fun pair, visually interesting (one a worn warrior, the other a feeling-less raver chick) and Biblically accurate, if interpreted differently from the book. *chuckle* ^_^
Lacey, I think, was the character that ... well, she didn't necessarily evolve, but she certainly expanded. I hope I got across her personality well: she's half raving psychopath, half messed-up little girl. Again, readers seem to take to her. I'm sorry her story couldn't end on a happier note, but that did not appear to be in the cards. And yes, Eli is back, and alive.
Poe was given a bit more to do, and readers instantly polarized on whether she was right to demand Gabe's absolution from his family, or whether she was being a complete bitch. It was interesting to watch: so many very strong opinions! Personally, I think her reactions are very human. When hurt, she runs, just as some of us do. In the end though, she proved herself a decent person by returning to save Gabe's ass.
.... which brings us finally to Gabe and Raven. Again, there was a lot of reader polarization on Gabe's lying, but much of that IS my fault: there wouldn't be much comic if Gabe had instantly told the truth. It's sad, but sometimes a plotline demands a character be a dick. But also, it never seemed, to me, to be out of Gabe's personality: his whole life he's hidden who his family is. Like he said: "lying runs in the family." In his case, though, lying was what he thought he needed in order to survive.
Raven has evolved a bit too. She's no longer so timid, is now assertive enough to fight for her friends (her clobbering of Lacey was hella fun to draw), and I think she's finally realizing that she needs to fight. Demonkind isn't going to leave her alone. Hopefully Episode 5 will deal with that realization, and allow her to kick ass. Because I want her to.
As for Raven's discovery of Aaron... well, at first I resisted the plotline of the 'lost father', but the comic seemed to insist it had to be dealt with, and I hope I dealt with it in a fashion that is moving, and not ... uh, cheesy. Ultimately, the plot is not about Raven finding her father, but losing her parents. The final conversation between Raven and Aaron took me a while to script, and ... well, it broke me up inside, for personal reasons.
... and I suppose these personal reasons .... well, I have not been public with this, except to a very few close netfriends, but it is something that has impacted this episode greatly. Recently my father decided that he no longer ... wanted to be a part of our family, and left. I cannot describe the hurt I feel over this, only to say that it is a horrible half-grief: I cannot grieve for him, he is not dead, only gone, only chosen to be gone. My father and I were once very close. Now I can barely speak to him. Things reached a brutal low over Christmas, when he promised he would come home, then checked himself into a hospital to get away from us. It was then that I considered disappearing from the internet. Just shutting everything down and leaving ... but with the exception of one lovely person (sarcasm alert), my readers seemed to realize something was very wrong, and pulled together to show me I was supported and loved... if not by my father. I thank you for this. For you, I continued the comic.
Things got better after Christmas, but no easier. I find it is best if I do not think about what has happened, what my father has chosen to do. Some days are good, but some are still very gray.
Although I had decided to do this Episode revolving around Aaron/Raven Lacey/Lethe long before my father left, I think what I was going through at the time impacted it very deeply. This is certainly the most emotional piece of work I have ever created.
In the end, though, I enjoyed it. Despite the hard, hurtful times, I loved doing this Episode. I enjoyed the now-pretty artwork, the interactions of the characters and the fun I had with the dialog. I hope you did too.
Oh, and Episode 5? Yeah, it's going to happen. :) It's strange how I always start out thinking each episode will be the comic's last, but I already have a plot (which I must do! *laughs*) for Episode 5, and I hope to get it up and running eventually. What can I say? I do love this comic very much, and there are still more mysteries and conflicts to be solved. (However, Ep5 will not start until I get Episode 1's revamp finish. As of this writing, I have 35 more pages to do.)
Faith Erin Hicks, August 16, 2001