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The Cover is out!

It has been a few weeks in the waiting and each time I saw it I wanted to show everyone I knew. It took me a bit of effort to not release it too early. Here it is. Issue 1’s cover by James Liswed:

DEfront-web1200h

Redoing our revisions.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As of a few hours Antonio is done with the pencilling and ink of our comic.

But Sander, you made that same claim almost 2 months ago. Are you a liar?
Well not about Death’s End I am.

Ernest Hemmingway famously once said that the first draft of anything is shit. A sobering thought as a writer. No matter how good you think you may be, you are not above a very simple truth: you won’t get it right the first time.

Issue 1’s script went through a hundred different versions. Characters were added and removed. Even the main character changed.When the original comic took the viewpoint of Halias, the revised one saw everything through the eyes of Leonardo.

While in the original there were shapeshifting creatures floating through the Undercity, the revised one has none of that. Not because it was bad, but because it had no point.

When the script was finally given to an artist, I kept on making tweaks with every page of art that came in. At one point my artist even scolded me as there were at the time 3 different versions of the script. Each of them equal in what happened in them but with very different content.

When a perfectionist works with perfectionists you can be certain that if you show them what they wrote or drew or colored a month later they’ll regret choices they have made. Small details unnoticable by others, but glaringly obvious to them. J.K. Rowling said that she considers it now a mistake that Harry and Hermione didn’t end up together.

George Lucas tweaked his movies even when others thought they required no tweaking.It can be detrimental to the work. I actually told Antonio as I was considering a revision to warn me if I went George Lucas.

Our first page was an example of a long struggle to get it right. In January of 2016 an e-mail chain between myself and Antonio named Genesis was formed. In this chain the first page was shared by Antonio.

This was what he sent me:
Page 1
And this is what actually ended up as page 1:
DeathsEnd-1-1-COMPLETE-v4-REV3

You can notice that the same events transpire in that page. However the framing is very differently. We no longer focus on a random member of the crowd in the first panel. Leonardo is way less dramatic.

The thing is, when Antonio sent me this, it felt off… But I couldn’t point out what felt off.
It looked good. The quality of the art was top notch. Everything felt good enough. But this was page 1.

This was the page that everyone would see as they open the book. This would be the page that has to convince people to flip the page and continue. So it has to be good.Some might even say that it should be held to a different standard than the rest of the comic, but I’d disagree with that.

The same quality should be expected from every page afterwards. No matter how you turn it. A first page has to achieve more than the pages afterwards.

After we announced the work on issue 1 was done, we gave it to a few people. Dialogue was tweaked. Mistakes fixed.

Some panels were redrawn as they lost the impact we wanted them to have. On top of that a full page was added to the work.

Page 16.5 it was nicknamed. One that was simply pushed into the comic to achieve two things. Add context to the scene that followed. Add some more time with a character.

And eventually the final page. My god that final page. A last page is an inviation to issue 2 as much as it is a closer to issue 1.

What we had looked good. But Antonio kept coming back to it.

“What if this character looks like this instead?”

Dialogue was switched around.

Even now I’m not sure if Antonio won’t message me tomorrow-morning going “let’s give that page another shot”.

This comic is going to age me thirty years, but it is so fun and satisfying seeing what I have in my mind come to life.

Fingers crossed that it will be smooth sailing from here on out.

Lore: About the Grimmbreakers.

Grimm is an old nickname for death, and this will tell you enough about these men. They are the ones who oppose Death, who break it and fight it.

Grimmbreaker refers to a healer who uses his arcane skills to mend wounds. They are members of the Order of Fluids, though hold no direct ties to the Church.

The Order of Fluids was an Order founded at the end of The Age of Plagues, during which an Eastern Blight thinned much of the Narvasi Empire’s population. A Council of Healers was founded to bring together all knowledge of medicine and disease. These ranged from Witchdoctors who use blood to improve the potency of their cures, to Wilder Shamans who claimed the best method for healing involved artifacts made from animal and human bone.

The Council of Healers tested and tried every method presented to them. Realizing all medicine could be boiled down a study of fluids, They formed the Order of Fluids. Many methods were considered dangerous or simple superstiion and were banned by the Order.

This led to a purge of quackery with many who held harmful believes ending atop a pyre or at the end of a Blacksteel Sword.

Members of the Order of Fluid would travel town to town with healing draughts and enough knowledge to help someone with a fever or to bind a broken leg.

Grimmbreakers were the elite members of this Order. Capable of using their knowledge of the Arcane to speed up healing.

Death's End Promo Art 3 Grimmbreaker HiRez(1)

The core rule of arcane healing is that one cannot push the body beyond its own limits. While a broken leg can be forced to heal in minutes, an amputated leg will never be grown back.

Healing falls under the school of creative magic. The rule of Balance states that in order to avoid going mad you have to avoid tapping into your own source of energy.

Therefor the energy to heal is drained from other living creatures, which results in their death. This includes rats, dogs, cats and humans near death. The further the healing strays from what the human body can do, the more energy is required.

Even by keeping a balance creative energy has an effect on the mind. The more someone acts out creative feats, the more this person begins to urge for the opposite. For destruction, deconstruction, suffering and so on. This is why Grimmbreakers often hunt for the animals to use in their healing rites.

A Grimmbreaker, especially a good one, is cold and calculated and unpleasant to be around. They are so focused on their purpose that they forget how to be human.

As the constant battle with Death is a costly one, Grimmbreakers are not cheap and are rarely open for charity. They’ll take their payment whether you want it or not and being in debt with one can lead to unpleasant circumstances.

Pitch Perfect. Getting the story out.

In the past 24 hours I have sent pdf-files and polite e-mails to a small dozen adresses all a variation of submissions@comicbookstudio.com.

As soon as google informed me that the mail had been sent, I felt a surge of panic crawling down my spine.

Should I have said that?

Did that page actually look good enough?

Why am I doing this?

There’s a saying in Dutch that a cobbler shouldn’t leave his last. Referring to the footbased item that a cobbler uses to make shoes. It’s a warning that one shouldn’t leave behind what he knows.

Of course you will never learn anything new if you stay at home and believe that no one can learn new skills. Pitching is one of those skills that feel very alien to me.

I’m someone who is easily excited. The type of person that looked forward to the season finale of Dexter, because something good should have come out of that clusterfuck.

After a questionable finale I’ll tune into The Walking Dead again, because that’s who I am. I don’t need a lot of convincing that something will be worth it.

In year’s gone by I tried to convince my then girlfriend that Doctor Who was a show worth watching. I may have tried to have her watch it so many times that I put her off it. So how do I convince someone to spend time, money and other materials on my intellectual property?

I wrote a summary and a cover-letter. I showed it to the people that I work with. Wrote it again. Wrote it again. Wrote it again. Shouted at my computer screen. Wrote it again. Scrapped the entire thing. Wrote it again.

Over and over and over and over.

I wrote it so many times that I might have more drafts of the pitch and cove-letter than of the actual script I am pitching.

So then it was up to google. I found a nice list of publishers and direct links to their submission sections. A lot of those were no longer accepting submissions. Some were only accepting complete series.

Some had a very strange requirement where they needed contact information of EVERYONE involved.

Those I could (and wanted to) submit to I have sent a pdf-file and a customized cover-letter. If I knew any of their titles I mentioned it in the letter.

The waiting game begins as I prowl through google once more and try and find more places to submit to.

We’ll see what happens. I can’t promise I won’t throw something when I get a no. Besides my ego I’ll hopefully get unscathed out of this.

Talk to you all later, I’ll be furiously pressing F5.

Lore: About the Brothers of Ash.

The Order of Ash are servants of the church and exist to keep the balance between life and death.

In the ages before the church was formed, these orders already existed in many forms among primitive cultures. This makes them the oldest of the Five Orders of The Balance, which is the name of the Church.

During prehistoric times many cultures believed that evil spirits would reanimated dead bodies. To avoid this the corpses were burned and the ash crushed.

Touching a dead person was often taboo, so only a few were allowed to do so. In return for that act they had to repent for this through their life. Often it meant a humble lifestyle focused on good deeds and selflessness.

 

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A brother of Ash offering Sweet Death to a suffering man. A Grimm, a spirit of death, is silently observing.

A lot of these believes and taboos are gone now, but the Order of Ash and their Ashen Men remain an important part to the Church of Balance.

Specific to this religion is that every Order and member represents two sides of a single aspect of life. With the Order of Ash this is not only death, but also life.

Expectant mothers can come to them for support and guidance. Female members of the Order often act as midwives during birth. A child is marked with ash as soon all the necessary checks are done.

The Brothers of Ash care for the abandoned and weak, especially orphans. They run large orphanages in the cities. A common sight is to find a Brother of Ash standing on the corner of a large street gathering donations for their many charities. Those who donate have a small ash dot placed on their head. Many give to have that mark.

It is believed that an act of kindness can wash out sin. Touching the dead still being sin, means that their acts of good are also a selfish way to cleanse their own soul.

Similarly many criminals will attempt to justify their criminal behaviour by donating vast sums to the Ash Charities. This has led to the Church allowing crime as it funds their needs. Their belief is not about good and evil, but about balance.

Brothers of Ash provide care for animals and plants. The first day of the year, called Soil Day, Ash is spread on local fields. It is believed that this aids in getting a good harvest.

They also will provide aid to veterinarians in delivering animals.

Ash-Houses are the central gathering place for mass which takes place on every full moon, ten times per year. The Ash-House contains ten wooden statues representing the Ten Forces that guide the world.

On the last day of the year these statues are burned. A mooncycle later the year starts again with the spreading of this ash on soil day. The time in between is known as The Time of Rebirth. It is a time for rest and reflection.

The Order spends this time crafting these intricate statues once more. Knowing they’ll eventually be burned at the end of the year. It doesn’t bother them, as they realize the same is true for the Gods and for life itself.

During this time of rebirth none of the dead are burned, but instead burried in shallow grades to be dug up and burned after.

The Ash of the dead is spread on Ashenfields. There is one in every major city: a vast sea of ash and bone. Beside the fields are Mourning Trees, a specially created tree that bears a fruit called Sweet Death.

The consumption of the fruit means a painless and comfortable death and is often used by the elderly as ritual suicide.

Men of Ash perform autopsy on every dead person passing their way. They take out any organs that may provide useful to others and give them to Grimmbreakers. In an attempt to understand death they also perform experiments on the dead.

As the Men of Ash are figures of the fleetingness of life they care very little for the material world. This can be seen in the clothing they wear, which are often ragged and simple. Life is afterall always about death.

Lore: About the Watch.

Known formally as The Domestic Military. They are the police force within the Kingdom Ayas. As opposed to members of the regular Military, Watchmen wear cloth uniforms and are trained with a focus on diplomacy and investigation.

To become a member one needs to apply at a Watchhouse where a Lieutenant will process the application. It should come as no surprise that records are kept of most citizens and strangers have little chance to be accepted. Those who are gain the rank of Recruit.

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Recruits handle most practical and administrative duties. They aren’t bound by vows yet nor wear they a uniform. They are considered the help of proper Watchmen.

After a year of good conduct a recruit automatically is ranked up to Private. From there on they are considered a fully fledged member of the Watch.

This is done through a ceremony where they gain The Iron Shield, which identifies them as Watchmen, as well as take their vows:

I take these vows to be the sword of justice, the shield that guards freedom. To bring justice to those who break our laws through life and the glory beyond.

Privates may rank up to Corporal. This title puts them in charge of several recruits and makes them respo nsible for communication between them and the officers.

To become an Officer (any rank above Corporal) one must take Officer’s training at one of three Military Academies. After their training they become Sergeant.

One Sergeant is hand-picked by his lieutenant to replace him when he retires, often they are nicknamed First Sergeant and act as the right hand to the lieutenant.

Captains choose a lieutenant to act like their right hand, usually the most senior. It is this lieutenant that takes over the position of Captain when there is a retirement.

Towns and villages have a lieutenant present who reports directly to the First Captain of a nearby city.

Every city has at least one Captain present, though some have up to four. With the rank First Captain referring to the most senior of the Captains. He reports directly to the Governor, who rules a province and holds the rank General.

The equipment of a Watchman is their standard marine cloth uniform, with variations possible for both personal preference, practicality and rank. A weapon, depending on the training a baton or rapier.

Their Iron Shield, a piece of metal denoting their name, their number and their rank. It has the words: The Shield of Freedom, The Sword of Justice, written above it. This is the Watch’s motto.

Officers also carry keys to many of the city’s most important buildings. Though this is only a courtesy given to the most senior, as losing these keys cost a city quite a lot.

A member of the Watch can be summoned by ringing bells on the streets. There are also booths across the city where an officer is often present. And the Watchman also regularly patrols an area.

They act as neutral party in disputes. Focused on making certain both parties are satisfied. If someone is caught in the process of a crime a Watchman will often employ The Silver Law.

This is a law that states that petty crime can be resolved with payment of a single silver coin. If the criminal has no silver on him, the law implies that they must work at a local business, which the officer chooses, for a single day.

In the Capital, Eleas, the Watch is the largest in the realm. It has around 400 members including 100 Officers: with 20 lieutenants and 3 Captains.

Upon the age of 65 member of the Watch is taken off active duty, though their vows remain a part of their life. Quite often an elderly Watchman will choose to spend the final ten years of their work teaching at one of the Academies.

Welcome to the website!

The first reviewcopies of Death’s End are out and the first reactions are in. I can say that the reactions are mostly positive. There are some very honest criticisms that deserve our attention.

We set up this website a while back. While it is still going to be some time until the first issue releases, we hope to be able to use this as the central hub for news surrounding Death’s End.

Finally here is some new promotional art. As always drawn by Antonio Alvarez and colored by Esther Pimentel.

 

Death's End Promo Art 4 Leo HiRez

Development of Death’s End #1

In the late autumn of 2013 I posted on reddit seeking an artist to work on a crazy story-idea.

For the next few months I was writing, while our artist was drawing. Things happened and the artist, the great Katie Rodriguez, had to take time off our project to work on different ones.

Several months after this event the team has now expanded to three new people:

Antonio Alvarez, who handles the art.
Esther Pimentel who gives our comic color.
James Liswed who provides our characters with lettering and post-processes the comic.

Other help we receive from Bill Stapelberg, who is very helpful in sending us characterdesigns.

So where does that put us now?

The first issue is done. Though stories are never finished merely abandonned. As long as it isn’t out, I’m tweaking it. Right now making sure all the dialogue is fun and pleasant to read.

We’ll be releasing the first of september, likely on Comixology. From there on we’ll see.
I don’t want to do Kickstarter unless we really need the funding. Right now I’m just excited for the next step.

Thank you all.

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