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Walter White: The perfect Antihero.

Villains and antiheroes commonly make choices that turn their life from the path of right to the dirty backwater streets of wrong. Yet no one sets out to leave the world worse than they enter it. We all strive to be good people. Pablo Escobar continuasually saw himself as a Robin Hood figure dreaming of Colombian presidency. Whether it is fiction or reality,  no one sets out to do evil. So why is it that a despicable figure like Walter White, never lost the audience? Why is it we root for these terrible human beings and even hate the factors (Skyler) that stop them from achieving their criminal goals?

Characters that fill the audience’s hearts with sympathy will always be able to carry stories. Breaking Bad could have been a story like that. A down-on-his-luck chemistry teacher that suddenly learns he will soon be dead. The underdog-tale is up for grabs. Yet the show soon veers away from that and as the story and seasons progress, the actions Walter White takes drop the sympathy level until it approaches absolute zero. Yet, we still watch. We remain captivated. We care.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor breaking bad

While sympathy definitely is a strong method to create a bond between character and audience, it is not required. Yet no great character can exist without there being empathy. My dusty old dictionary defines empathy as the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.T

The action of understanding the feelings, thoughts and experience of another. When you write someone going to the dark side you wouldn’t understand them if they made the choice to commit crimes and hurt people. Such clear choices between good and evil are predictable. Human beings want to be good. So such choices are examples of bad writing.

At the start of Breaking Bad the choice Walter makes isn’t between: “Make drugs” or “Not make drugs.” That choice is simple, it is two-dimensional.

The choice is between providing for his family through crime or die leaving behind a pile of debt.

Yet there is also an underlying motivation. A sub-consious one that is rarely said out loud.

At the core of any human heart is the desire to be appreciated.

Walter White was not appreciated. Not by his students, nor his family or the car-washowner.

is own birthday party wasn’t about him and what he achieved. People relished in rewatching the video of a drugbust as brother-in-law Hank Schrader smiled over a pile of money. Money Walter White never would have.

Ernest Hemmingway once said that what is moral and immoral to him is between what feels good and what doesn’t.

Walter White, a man whose genius brain was wasted on yawning sixteen-year-olds, could show off in the kitchen of the RV. He had a captive audience in Jesse Pinkman. He was providing for his family and he was doing something that no one else in the world was doing: making quasi pure meth.

The justifications came. I did it for my family. I wanted to provide. Over and over the same rational. Until he believed it himself.

At its heart though, he did it for himself. In his final conversation with Skyler he admits that it felt good and he felt alive.

We may not be able to justify what Walter does, but everyone knows that feeling. That’s what great characterization is… Someone whose actions, no matter how deplorable, we can understand.

I leave you with a video where Cranston talks about dealing with the death of Jane. The thought process he goes through in this video perfectly underlines this theory.

What I learned from writing a fantasyworld.

I recently finished the first issue of a comic I’m working on. It is a fantasycomic
set in a world that I had been working for close to three years. As I sit down
awaiting the release of the comic I wanted to share a few things that I have learned and experienced during the time writing and worldbuilding. I hope it will people attempting similar endeavors.


A story has three elements: plot, character and setting. A setting can be as simple as the officepace of a paper-company and as complex as a universe at war. It doesn’t matter whether your story is fiction or non-fiction, fantasy and scifi or drama and comedy. Any good story has a setting that is interesting and contributes to both the plot and the characters.

A great example is my favorite television show of the past few years, Breaking Bad.
A show set in the New Mexican city Albuquerque. It is not a public secret that the city was chosen for its support of television productions. In short picking Albuquerque was financially a sane choice and was not the setting that Vince Gilligan imagined the show to be set in.

However from the first opening scene of the pilot we pan down to a pair of pants drifting in the wind amidst the desert. From that moment on, the show embraced its setting. Landmarks all across the city were used for iconic scenes and its proximity to the mexican border became a major plotpoint before the second season was over.

The setting was as much a character in Breaking Bad as the colorful Saul Goodman and it gave the entire show this Western feeling with treinheists and shoot-outs.

While the worldbuilding on shows and stories like these aren’t as featured as promintently as the ones in fantasy, it is always present. A great scene is when Hank meets with one of his colleagues from El Paso and he notices the statuette of the Patron Saint of Drugdealers on one desk. It is a small detail that adds quite a bit to the world and to the characters inhabiting it.


JK Rowling from time to time drops a small detail on the Wizarding World on her site Pottermore. There is no narrative tied to it, yet the Harry Potter fans consume this content like her books. Some would say it like has to do with the lack of any other Harry Potter content and it is absolutely a contributing factor. Even in the heyday of Harry Potter’s success, fans would consistently ask Rowling more about Hogwarts, and the Ministry and other Wizarding Schools. The reason for this great desire to know more is that Rowling never reveals it all.

In fact how could she? She’s telling a story not writing an encyclopedia. So you have these tantalizing elements that speak to the imagination. History literally drifts through Hogwart’s halls in the form of ghosts. Just like our own history people have a facination for the history of fictional worlds.
One of the best-selling fantasybooks of all time isn’t a story with a well-defined narrative. It is the Simarillion, a tale where the only consistent character is Middle Earth. I like to believe that the same curiousity that draws people to museums on Roman art is at work here.

George Lucas created the world of Star Wars in immense detail. More than three or six movies could ever explore. Different people than Lucas still contribute to it. In the form of novels, games, and new movies. The success of Star Wars isn’t just its characters. Rogue One promises a new story with new characters. Here it is the strength of the world at work.

So what went wrong during the 90’s? I have to admit not being a Star Wars at the time and not being one at the time of writing either. I am aware of Star Wars and enjoy most of the content the world provides. However I couldn’t talk along with the true fans who can name every character and tell me their biography.

However it does prove a point tha having an interesting setting won’t be enough. In the end a story is the combination of many elements of which worldbuilding is just one contribution.

I learned during the writing of Death’s End that the world shouldn’t be the star of the comic. I had to resist the urge to have a character go “Oh these guys are the Order of Ash and their purpose is to…” . I want to show off my world, but people don’t care about the world yet.

I once caught myself trying to come up with the names of all the Kings that had ruled over one of the kingdoms I had created. I had their names, the reasoning behind their names, the reason they are remembered and what happened to them.

I would now say that may have been a little bit of a waste of time. Of course I enjoyed it and so nothing that is enjoyed is truly wasted effort, but I never really came down to pose the question why I was creating these Kings.

I may mention 2 or 3 of them in the story. Use of their histories as a parrallel. In the end though, there are far more Kings then would ever fit into a story that isn’t about Kings.

George RR Martin has drawn up elaborate familytrees in which you can follow the blood of Old Valyria all the way to the Mother of Dragons. He didn’t waste his time on that. In a story about thrones and titles, claims and succession… All those elements are relevant.

The Dance of the Dragons both foreshadows and contextualizes many of the events that happen in the plot.

So the worldbuilding you do, or at least the kind you put in your story, should be relevant to the story you are going to tell. It is fun to create and expand and build.

On reddit there is a subforum called /r/worldbuilding. It is an immensly popular subreddit where people simply talk about the worlds they have created. Stories and narratives are playing second fiddle in this place. It is about maps and legends and the saga of a Kingdom fallen into despair. It’s about drawings of shields and weapons.

That’s fine, it’s a good hobby and it certainly is mine. There’s just a danger that the world you create will overtake the story you will write. A lot of people that make themselves guilty to telling and not showing, are people who want give some kind of information and struggle to incorperate naturally into the story. In my opinion the best solution then is to not put into the story. Many great writers remind you to kill your darlings. It’s harsh advice, but definitely true.


If you ever have a day to spare look up the apendices for the Lord of the Rings trilogy films. Like the books provide backstory in its apendices, so do the apendices reveal the background to the movies.

They go through the castingprocess with you. They show you the locationscouting. One of the most memorable elements of these is the part of these videos about the propdepartment.

The thing about Middle Earth was that everything had to be made from scratch. They didn’t have the luxury to go into second-hand-stores and bring back half a dozen pipes. It had to fit in the world.

Peter Jackson during one of his first days of production told the members of the team to forget that they are making a movie about fiction. These things really happened. This is actual history and they are going to develop it as if everything that is going on was real.

So they inscribed elvish into armor and paid great attention to which fabrics they used for which characters. The wizard Saruman described in the books as wearing a white coat (or a coat of many colors) has a coat withered by time in the movie. It has stains and is off in its coloring. Saruman the White is an ancient figure who has lived a long time and so his wardrobe shows that.

It goes further than props and wardrobe and even setdesign. During Bilbo’s opening narration Hobbits are seen playing boardgames. There is an entire culture of tradition hinted at in the scenes set in Rohan, but never does a character sit down and say “Well we do this because of that”.

These details are what makes the world feel real. Realer than the words Tolkien put on paper. If you begin to drop the ball on contuity, on details, on the ridiculous things that you believe no one will notice, then the world falls apart.

Every reader knows that what you are doing is fake. So try and put as much effort into making them forget. Remind yourself how a certain character from a different culture would act or react.

In The Wheel of Time Robert Jordan explores a culture of characters for whom water is very important. So they make Water oaths. It is a small detail that reminds you the world is bigger than what you can see.

The Undercity of Eleas.

The Capital of Eleas is known as Ayas. Though the pitoresque descriptions of this magnificent city are often limited to its higher level: The Highcity. It is a series of pristine castles, palaces and mansions. Little or no stores are present and Inns are a bit too extravagant for the common traveler.

The true heart of the city lies underneath in a series of expansive tunnels and networks: The Undercity. It is connected to the Highcity through seven entrances each having a massive gate regulating traffic from and to the city.

If there is one thing the Highcity is great at it is keeping the filfth out. Because that is how they view the Undercity: common, base, like rats squeeking under the floorboards. An inconvenient truth.

They need the Undercity. You can’t have a city as great as theirs without money, food, and people coming in and out. The Undercity has a vast economy with markets so long that you can get lost for days. You can find anything there, both at steep prices and low bargains. Undercity folk are great at negotiatiing while Undercity merchants could sell you a dog for a wolf.

If you want to find something, that is the place to be. Even the Highcity nobles know it, as they sneak in with their faces hidden and covered as if the stench would kill them.

The Undercity had once been part of what makes the shine on the pearl of Eleas. You can notioce it in the buildings. They are tall and beautiful, though perhaps falling apart. The Undercity was a city in development.

Yet history happened and frustrations sown long ago sprouted up. In their greed people turned to greedy men. Soon the Undercity no longer belonged to the people, but to a few powerful men and women.

Drawing a map of the Undercity is nigh impossible. The many levels would make any cartographer desperate. However, the city can be roughly divided into seven districts:

An area filled with tall appartments build during a time of prosperity. Now turned into a mockery of their former glory. While it is comfortable living here, it was once home to the rich and wealthy who wished to be close to the Highcity.

A series of narrow tunnels leading deep within the heart of the city. Once the central place for mining, with small housing for miners. Now it is a slumb controlled by gangs.

Near the gates it has a series of almost Highcity quality buildings, with its upper levels in the Highcity. It is the heart of the local guilds.

Where craftsmen and merchants gather. You can practically get anything here, at least if you brought coin.

A series of inns and pubs where both those new and those not new to the city lose their innocence.

The main residential area. Used to have the largest Undercity temple that now lays abandonned. Idols houses thousands of people in relative comfort.

With a city as big as Eleas there are parts of it still uninhabited. Simply known as The Shades. The darkest depths of these tunnels contain secrets you’d rather not discover.



I’m not a marketing savvy kind of person. I’m excited to tell my story, not really capable at making it profitable.

Comics cost money though. The team I worked with went the extra mile with me, but in the end the only fair way to work together on something that is financially uncertain is to pay ahead of the work. I respect my team too much to have them bet on my skills as a marketeer. Which are limited to standing on the corner of the street and peddling my ‘latest issue that dropped’.

One thing I do realize is that for something to sell well, people must like it. There is this annoying thing about buying things that you are never entirely sure if you’ll like it until after you buy it;

The only soluiton for me would be to throw the first issue online for free and ask money after the fact. I considered that, but in the long run I have to be a little selfish.

I did get in touch with potential reviewers. The frustrating thing about is that interest in an indie comic is rather low. I’m still looking for more people to give me an honest review and am willing to send a review copy in exchange for the actual review.

I don’t care about nice words. I didn’t write a story to entertain anyone but myself. I wrote it because it was fun to write. This part: that’s a cherry on the cake. Still… Liking it yourself and hearing other people like it, that’s a world of difference.

It makes you feel vindicated. It gives you that feeling of satisfaction that comes with being told you were right all along. It tells you that the road you are on is leading somewhere good, at least for now.

I’m terrified. Not because people won’t buy it, but because people will buy it and feel they’ve wasted their 2 dollars. I’m scared that I will read a review and realize that all the bad things being said were in my head all along. When you work on something for as long as I did, you begin to notice the flaws. You begin to see where things aren’t flowing well. Where a line of dialogue is out of place. You have this constant urge to toss the entire thing in the can and start anew.

I read once that all writing is abandoned, never finished. If you read interviews with Rowling right now she can’t help but state things about mistakes she made. Hermione and Ron for example. It does feel like abandoning this thing. That I’m finally letting it go because I would spend a lifetime perfecting something and never finishing something more. In a few days everything I have written for issue 1 will be set in stone. There won’t be any fixing it, I will have to deal with the consequences of what I wrote. I’m fine with that, but will I be fine with it in a year? Will I be writing this in a year?

It’s scary. It’s exciting.

Right now two people have read the comic. Both nice people I hadn’t interacted with before. So there’s no bias. I didn’t tell them to be nice, I didn’t make them write a nice review. I wanted an impartial opinion.

You can read Jay Brown’s review here. He gave it a 7/10, which I find a more than well-deserving number.

Cassie Parkes of comicconfever describes it in her review as “a rather distinctively individual comic which blends high fantasy with mystery, suspense and horror to create a refreshingly unique narrative among some familiar fantasy tropes.”.

High praise it feels like. I hope I can satisfy others. Death’s End is coming on september first. It will be available for order on the website in a digital format with Comixology coming when they finish the bureaucratic process.

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:


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:

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

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.



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.

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