Monday, January 30, 2012

Production Post #2: Character Design - Lori and Captain Harrison

So this production post will be fairly simple. These are the early designs for the characters of Lori and Captain Harrison, of whom we introduced last week. Some of these designs are a few years old, especially the designs of Lori, which range from two to four years old.

These are the very first concept drawings of Lori. Over time, Lori would become somewhat of a combination of the three designs. It was eventually decided that these designs would be used for Lori's sisters.

Lori has always been a character with attitude. The trick is to find a way to make sure her attitude doesn't push an audience away. That is still the challenge we face as we write our stories for "Unbroken Skies".

Eventually I tried to make Lori a bit She quickly became less energetic and uninteresting. 
This was the first step in the right direction. Lori finally started to feel like a character. There were some tweaks here and there (mostly with the hair) but this face mostly stayed the same.
Again, a few tweaks here and there but this design is final for the most part. 
Ha! This is a terrible drawing, but it is the first sketch I made of the captain. I was being a tad bit too literal with the Samurai theme. I did very few drawings of the captain over the past four years. He wasn't meant to be featured much in the story so I didn't worry about his design until recently, where I had to have a final design within a week and a half. 
A quick sketch of the "new captain", who is a little more serious. Eventually we settled on a character who would be a cross between Harrison Ford and Gregory Peck. Hence the name, Captain Harrison ; ).
 There are plenty more concept designs to share. Stay tuned as we introduce more and more of the world of "Unbroken Skies". : )

Art by - Vince Medellin

Story by - Paul Dodson, Dave Shapiro and Vince Medellin

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Character Introductions: The Rogue Winds - Part 1

The Four Rouge Winds - Our Main Heroes

Though the inhabitants of Caelum fly every day of their lives, fighter pilots are a breed apart, a closed group viewed with awe and respect. A man repairing his light zep watches a passing Heimdurin Wespe and dreams of having the same skill and freedom. Pilots talk, spreading word of the great and the dangerous, the sharp and the stripped. Any pilot will tell you to turn your wing when Black Jack Saber’s zep runs out her guns, and will point you toward Paydin’s Hawks when you need to make a quick run with no questions asked.  Sit down in any bar, from the finest Ban Altian restaurant to the grimiest Drift hole, and you can find a sky sharp willing to fill your ear for the price of a drink. One name you’ll hear every time the stories glide toward the best in the sky: Captain Harrison and his Rogue Winds.

Captain Harrison - Mentor and Father Figure

Captain Harrison-
Harrison got his start flying with the Ban Altian military. In the years before the Horizon War, the two nations spent a lot of fuel flying along the other’s borders. Occasional skirmishes broke out, and Harrison’s wing showed a skill and ingenuity that got them decorated and promoted. He rose quickly through the ranks and found himself the captain of the most respected carrier in the fleet. And he hated it. The story goes that he got together with the pilots from his old wing and got deep into his cups. After hours of talking about the old days they decided the open sky was the only place for them. The next morning an Admiral found five empty bottles of whiskey outside his front door, each with a letter of resignation rolled up inside. The first Rogue Winds had taken flight.

Some fighter pilots eventually get tired of the life and settle down. More often, they burn up in the open sky when they meet a sharper or luckier ace. Of the original four that left with the captain, two got shot down, one lost her leg on a mission, and one chose to put his plane in the hangar for good. But as he lost friends, he met a few new pilots and rebuilt his squad. 
Harrison refused to pick a side during the war. He took missions from the Trade Guild, escorting medical and food shipments but kept away from any frontline engagement. The Winds helped more than a few refugees on both sides find safe haven out near the Drift. But luck runs out and even the best pilots turn against a strong wind. In the final year of the war, Harrison took a job from a Ban Altian agent that should have been a simple recon and recovery. Things went sideways, and when the clouds cleared, Harrison was ash and the Rogue Winds were left without a Captain. 

Lori Cross - Leader

Lori Cross- 

Captain Harrison wiped the grease from his hands and stared at his ship. He’d done as much as he could to repair her. Now he had to wait for Burn to get back with the new parts. He stepped out of the hangar, stretched, and realized that dawn had somehow arrived without him noticing. Across the street, the vendors were opening up for the day, laying out their wares and shouting to the early morning wanderers. Harrison rolled a cigarette and waited. He spotted the girl a few minutes later as she slipped out of an alley and started chatting with one of the vendors. Her eyes scanned the crowd as she talked, scanning for likely targets. Two candidates stumbled toward her a few seconds later, a couple of sharp-dressed men who didn’t look like they’d made it home from the night before. Nodding farewell to the vendor, she fell back into the street and sauntered towards the men. Neither noticed her into she ran right into the lead one, a dark haired guy twice her size. He shouted and she apologized, patting him on the back. As she slipped away, the man stopped and patted his pockets.
“Almost, kid,” Harrison said as the two men turned and started shouting at the girl. She took off at a sprint, and they pursued. Harrison made a couple calculations in his head crossed the street at a jog. Past the main drag where the market set up, the streets became a tangle of narrow alleys and tight curves. The ground climbed at a steep incline to the packed and stacked houses hewn into the rock. Harrison knew the area pretty well and guessed where she might be running. He found a likely spot and waited. The pounding sound of her feet and the shouts from the men told him he’d guessed right. She skidded around the corner, and Harrison scooped her up by the waist. He set her down, smiled, then plucked the wallet from her hand. The lead man barreled into the alley and almost ran them over. Harrison turned, placing himself between the girl and her pursuers.
“This is yours, I think,” Harrison said, holding up the wallet. “No harm done.”
“Thanks mister, but that girl and I have some business to discuss,” the man growled. His friend stood at the mouth of the alley and laughed.
“I don’t think you do,” Harrison replied. The man started to reply, but Harrison tossed the wallet into his face. His fist followed a second behind. As the partner stopped laughing and moved forward, Harrison grabbed the stunned man by the shirt. He shifted his weight and tossed the guy into his friend. The two of them struggled to get off the ground, and a flash of metal revealed one of them had a knife. Harrison’s pistol slipped out of the holster under his coat.
“Looks like you brought a knife to a gunfight. Take the wallet and have a fine day,” Harrison smiled. They took his advice. He turned around and was surprised to find the girl still in the alley.
“I could’ve handled them, mister,” she said, standing up straight and sticking out her chin.
“I’m sure of that,” he chuckled. “What’s your name, anyway?”
“Lori,” she replied.
“Have you ever thought about working flying, Lori?”
Lori Cross grew up on the streets of a Ban Altian colony called Norwind. Her parents died when she was six and her two teenage sisters didn’t have any idea what to do with a child. They found jobs working with mine crews and left Lori to her own devices. They struggled along as a family, sleeping in crowed homes shared with unlucky kids. Lori learned she could help out by acquiring a bit of extra money from fools in the street. Sure, it cost her an occasional beating when a mark caught up with her, but her agile hands and quicker head kept food in their bellies most nights. Then Captain Harrison found her and decided to turn her talents toward more legitimate exploits.
Lori was twelve years old when the Captain first met her. He and his crew were stuck in Norwind trying to get all their ships back in the air. He showed her around the hangar and started filling his empty days with impromptu flying lessons. By the time his crew was up and spinning, he’d decided to offer her a way off that rock. She hugged her sisters goodbye and hasn’t regretted it.
Lori proved to be a fast learner and a sharp flyer. In turn, Captain Harrison turned into a pretty good father. The roster of the Rogue Winds has changed over the years, but no pilot has come close to Lori’s natural skill in the cockpit. She’s brash and hot headed, but usually smart enough to get out of the trouble that causes. When she can’t…well, that’s what your wingmen are for, right? The Captain’s death hit her harder than any of the other Winds, though she wouldn’t admit to it. She took on the role of leader and has tried to fill the hole he left. She knows her inclination to shoot at any given problem keeps her from being a great captain, but the rest of the crew seems content to follow in her wake.  As long as they want her around, she’ll keep flying with the Rogue Winds.

written by Paul Dodson 
art by Vince Medellin
story by Vince Medellin, Paul Dodson and Dave Shapiro

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Production Post #1: From "Skyline" to "Unbroken Skies"

In addition to posting story content on this blog, Paul and I will also post information about the production of "Unbroken Skies". We'll discuss our creative choices and perspectives in relation to bringing this world to life. This is sort of our, "Behind the Scenes" bonus feature if you will. The first post discusses the origin of "Unbroken Skies"...

The concept that lead to the creation of "Unbroken Skies" has existed in my mind for the past four years. At the time of it's creation I was desperate to find a new story concept to work on for my portfolio. Other story ideas became stale and it was necessary to create something that could capture the imagination and inspire good work. An idea that could be somewhat abstract in it's concept yet grounded in sophisticated storytelling. Basically, something that would create a real challenge for the work that needed to be created for a strong portfolio.

Exploring a team story seemed like fun. I'm a big fan of the "Justice League" and love the idea of different individuals working together with various skill sets. Still, it was difficult to find a concept to build a foundation on. There was an idea of a team of time traveling adventurers looking for lost treasure through time, but for some reason it was difficult connecting with that story. It wasn't until I had a brief conversation with an old man at work about World War II combat pilots, that the idea of a world existing only in the sky started to germinate. I've had a deep fascination with aviation and World War II combat planes ever since I watched the film, "The Tuskegee Airmen" when I was ten. Also, I have an interest in the samurai and thought it would be cool to have a "samurai-ish" story that takes place in the air, with wandering ronin in fighter planes. Eventually this concept would find it's existence as a single page comic via the Campus Ledger, the bi-weekly student newspaper for Johnson County Community College.

"Skyline", as the story was called then, ran for three semesters. Except for our four main characters, the story of "Skyline" was very different from "Unbroken Skies" and to be quite honest, not very good. Writing dialog and making the story practical was extremely difficult, especially with the schedule we had at the newspaper. Often times I would only have one day to illustrate the comic. My good friend Bryan Timmins would often give his thoughts and his wife Julie would also help write some of the "Skyline" comics, which really saved the story. Despite the many hardships "Skyline" faced at the newspaper, the comic managed to win many first place awards including first place with the Associated Collegiate Press two years in a row. A lot of hard work went in to creating that comic and a good portion of credit should go to my wife Whitney, who handled the typesetting and layout.

The "Skyline" story didn't end after its run at the Campus Ledger. Eventually I found myself employed at Half Price Books, where I would meet my good friend Paul Dodson who would shape the struggling "Skyline" story into the dynamic and fun "Unbroken Skies". Paul has managed to give the story it's wings and a horizon to sail upon. It would be unfair for me to discuss "Unbroken Skies" further without the help of Paul, for "Unbroken Skies" belongs to us both!

This is just the first of many production posts which will follow the Wednesday posts every week. I hope you enjoy them!

The Three Nations of Caelum

"Unbroken Skies" takes place on Caelum, a world consumed by sky. The people make their homes on rock formations suspended above the dark cloud layer known as the Null. The cities are divided into three nations: Heimdurn, Ban Altia, and the Paragon Confederacy. At the edge of their realm floats the Drift, a shifting and storm-wracked belt of stones inhabited by strange creatures. The Drift marks the edge of the known world. Beyond that is open sky and myth.

Heimdurn has existed for hundreds of years, and its people take great pride in their long history. Their technological advances, like the armored airships called zeps, bound the world together by making long distance travel easier and safer. They forged the first real nation and turned hundreds of independent villages into a united people. But all greatness fades, and the Heimdurn Empire has been in decline for decades. The rule of Leopold III, whom many call “the Mad,” only hastened the deterioration and started the Horizon War. Five years after the Treaty of Nabrunay, the Heimdurins are still working to recover. Despite these hardships, the Heimdurins remain a proud and resolute people. Their new alliance with the Paragon Confederacy may be the first step in a return to greatness.

Ban Altia:
The Heimdurins have a saying about Ban Altia: it is a nation still crawling at its mother’s feet. True, Heimdurin kings built an empire when Ban Altia was just a handful of people huddling together for protection. But the Altians have grown into a powerful people in a relatively short time, a true rival for Heimdurn at the height of its power. At the heart of the nation lie the Bans, a closely knit group of cities that forms the seat of government. The Altians have spread out adding many of the outlying villages to Greater Altia. When the growing nation began to press upon the borders of Heimdurn, the empire sought to crush the it one decisive battle and launched a fleet of Behemoths. The Ban Altians proved their ingenuity was more than a match for Heimdurin strength at the Battle of Caern’s Rift. The smaller, faster Altian ships and their unparalleled pilots eviscerated the fleet and changed the course of history. A hundred years later, Ban Altia saw Heimdurn in chaos after a revolt against King Leopold and declared war against their old enemy. The Horizon War ended in a stalemate, but many in the Bans look forward to a day when the Altian flag flies over all of Caelum.

Paragon Confederacy:
It may be premature to call the Paragon Confederacy a nation. Not so long ago, they were just unrelated villages spread across the space between two great nations. Ban Altia colonized the islands as they expanded the nation. Altian governors took over from local rulers, but the people’s lives remained mostly the same. Then the Horizon War began, and the Ban Altian Chancellor looked to his colonies as a source for raw materials and fresh recruits. Propaganda encouraged young colonists to join the fight against the Heimdurin threat. When that failed to provide enough pilots, “recruitment drives” bolstered the ranks. With their factories pumping out war machines and their children dragged off to war, the colonials began to plot against the Bans. Local leaders from across the islands met in secret to discuss their options and invited a representative from Heimdurn. The beleaguered empire could offer no troops but sent a handful of their best strategists to plan an uprising. In an impressive feat of tactical coordination, the colonials freed their islands from Ban Altian control in less than a month with a few well planned attacks. They declared themselves the Paragon Confederacy and allied with the Heimdurins. A quarter of Ban Altia’s military deserted and returned home. With the new nation in the sky, the Horizon War ground to a halt. The three nations agreed to a cease fire, and the Paragon Confederacy became a world power. Now they must learn what that means for their future.

 Written by Paul Dodson
Art by Vince Medellin
Story by Paul and Vince

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

On A World Consumed By Sky...

Preliminaries for floating villages and cloudscapes... 

Opening the Hangar

As a child, my Saturday mornings started at 6 am when I dragged myself from a warm bed to watch Robotech with a bowl of cereal. That started the best six hours of my week. I’d bounce from channel to channel, buzzing on a sugar high, watching the best cartoons I could find and discovering the meaning of adventure. Eventually, I’d reach the afternoon wasteland of sports and nature documentaries, and I would stumble outside to continue those adventures in my head. It ruined me for life but in an absolutely amazing way.

I’ve gone back in my adulthood and tried to enjoy those cartoons. Unfortunately, the ProStars just can’t blow my mind anymore. My tastes have matured, my expectations changed (for the better, I think), and I find those adventures of my childhood…lacking. That is where Unbroken Skies begins. My creative partner and I want a cartoon that tells a particular breed of adventure story. We want a Saturday morning cartoon with more sophisticated ideas and more complex characters. If you’ve turned on the TV on a Saturday morning lately, you probably know that cartoon isn’t on the schedule. So we’ve decided to create it.

This blog will chronicle our process as we develop our story. We plan to have a booth at Planet Comicon in Kansas City this March. At the con, we’ll be selling our first Unbroken Skies product: Santos’ Journal. Who is Santos, and why should you care about his journal? Well, keep coming back and find out. Each Wednesday, we’ll post a blog with new art and more information about the Unbroken Skies. You’ll meet our heroes and explore their world. So grab your bomber jacket, zip up your flight suit, and strap into the cockpit. The hangar is open, and we’re about to take off!