Sunday, January 3, 2016

Ten Years of Kalibourne

Gwen as Kalibourne after her first transformation in 2006 (left) and in the current story arc (right).
Today marks the tenth anniversary of my longest-running collaborative project. Because on 3 January 2006, the very first page of Yuusha Hime Kalibourne hit the interblag.

Back in the day, in an effort to teach myself to draw, I started this little webcomic called ConScrew. It ran for nine years with occasional co-authors, but mostly it was my own attempt at an action gag comic that somehow developed a metaplot and required four separate story arcs to wrap up even remotely satisfactorily when the time came.

During that time, I enlisted my friend Rob Lantz to write a super sentai send-up that is still apparently one of my readers' favourite arcs. We worked surprisingly (or unsurprisingly, depending on whom you ask) well together, to the point that when I wanted to expand and try out another story, I immediately called on him to be my writer.

My concept was fairly bare-bones at the start. I love both magical girls and giant robots, especially Sunrise's yuusha franchise, and I wanted to play with a character that combined -- and then busted -- tropes from both. In my mind she'd always been a green-haired girl in a power suit of some sort, and I knew she'd need a rocket punch, and I knew that yuusha hime ('brave princess' or 'hero princess' in Japanese, a one-off of the anime series Yuusha-Ou GaoGaiGar or King of Braves GaoGaiGar) would be in the title. But until Rob and I started hashing it out, she didn't actually move much beyond that.

Over the course of several long brainstorming sessions, Rob eventually decided that -- since every good superhero needs a theme -- we should base any imagery out of my love of Arthurian legends. So we ended up with Kalibourne, a hot-blooded heroine with a subtle bird motif on her armour. Day to day she's Gwen Stanton, a liberal arts major who isn't entirely sure where her life is going until she discovers that she has the power to make a difference.

Over the years Gwen has intervened in everything from assaults to burglaries to natural disasters. But she's also being targeted by a wealthy entrepreneur and his gang of otherworldly assassins who want the suit -- and her mentor -- in their control. Meanwhile, her friend Lu Fei seems to have it out for her crime-fighting alter ego.

Because it's us, the story and art are rife with references to anime, superhero comics, sci-fi, and anything else we particularly love. We've also dropped in a few nods to my old college, including one character who's an amalgam of my two medieval lit professors from back in the day.

Rob is not easy on me with these. If I write for myself as an artist, I let myself get lazy. I don't want to draw a car? They parked off panel. Shortcuts everywhere. Not so here. Cars, crowd scenes, characters getting limbs ripped off... Even from the beginning, Rob's never gone easy on me. But I am damn pleased that he has pushed me, because I think -- hell, I know -- we've both grown because of that. I'm still a million miles from being any sort of award-winning artist, but I'd say I've evolved at least a bit in the last decade.

Even after ten years, there's still some story left to tell in Kalibourne. Things are getting heated and we are approaching endgame sooner rather than later... but you still have a chance to hop on board.

If you're a fan of superheroes, 80s and 90s anime, Arthurian legends, or shouty girls beating things up... and you really really want a whole lot of webcomic backlog to read... consider giving Kalibourne a look.

You can even start right at the beginning and marvel at exactly how awkward my art is.

If you'd like to see the rest of my comics, go straight right to the landing page and take your pick.