Now, at last, it can be told!
Last Tuesday saw the release of The Light on the Moor, which told the origin of Josiah Witherbloom. To celebrate, I thought I’d write a blog (well, a series of blogs, actually) talking about the origin of Grace & Witherbloom. No worries, there won’t be any story spoilers here so feel free to read even if you haven’t started reading the books. But if you haven’t, what are you waiting for? 🙂
The story of Grace & Witherbloom begins over four years ago. As I type that, I can’t actually believe it. But there you go.
In 2007, DC Comics launched the (now defunct) imprint called Zuda. the idea was that the site would act as a sort of “American Idol” of web comics. Creators would enter a 10-page debut story for a possible web comic. The Zuda team selected what they thought were the best comics and concepts, and then readers would read the comics and vote for which one they wanted to become an ongoing comic on Zuda.
I was really excited by this prospect. Part of this was that I was deeply jealous of my friend David Willis and the amazing success he’s had in the web comics world with strips like Shortpacked. David and I met in high school, and although we haven’t actually seen each other in real life for well over thriteen years now I have always kept track of him and his projects. He’s a funny and genuinely nice guy and it makes me happy to see him making a living making comics. It also makes me seethe with barely contained jealousy. I always wanted to be a comic book writer and artist. There’s just one thing that separates David and I. He worked his butt off at it. Me? I had a lot of raw talent and a bunch of wishes. Also, I was a tad bit lazy with. But more on that next time.
So, here was my chance! I was going to have a web comic! Success would be mine! But, what to do? What comic to make? I had a couple ideas floating around my head over the years for various comics. Some superhero stuff, some sci-fi stuff and even some “everyday life” kind of ideas. But none of the old ideas felt quite right. So I started to think about the sorts of stories I like to read about and what would be fun to draw day in and day out to get a weekly strip out. That’s when I hit upon a fantastic idea… Doctor Who! The thing you always hear about Doctor Who and why it’s so great is that it has such a great format. Now, that’s not all it took to make a multi-media phenomenon that is about to celebrate it’s 50th anniversary, of course. But it is a huge asset. The Doctor can go anywhere in space and time. Just think about that. The possibilities are endless. Only tight budgets have him constantly ending up in London or some small village in the UK. So, what if I could do something like that?
I’ve been a Doctor Who fan since I was very little. I have found out this is somewhat rare for American Doctor Who fans my age. Most of them either found it in their teens or even later. I’ve been watching it since I was 8 years old. I used to stay up incredibly late at night to watch in on PBS. Which, for my eight-year-old self, was 10:30pm. They played the 4th Doctor years on a loop. You have to realize, when I first started watching I knew NOTHING about the show. I was watching it in a void without any sort of coverage and absolutely no one I knew had any clue about what it was. A few years later random teachers in their 30’s might nod appreciatively if I mentioned it. But that was it. Certainly no other kids knew about it! (It’s been even more difficult to find fans of my other great love at the time, Are You Being Served. In fact, it wasn’t until I was in college and met my friend Laura that I met another real-life fan of the show.) So when the Doctor changed his face at the end of Logopolis, I was flabbergasted! I was even more confused when the next week they played the 4th Doctor’s first story, Robot. Eventually though, my PBS station did play all the stories that are still in existence starting with the 1st Doctor. When I was a kid, I had no idea that the stories were of varying length. PBS stripped them all together into one huge story and aired the whole thing in a night, regardless of length. So for stories that lasted 6 episodes or more this was a HUGE time commitment, and I certainly was not able to stay awake for all of them.
I explain all this to say, Doctor Who is practically ingrained in my DNA. So trying to create a series that could have that sort of mish-mash of genres and elements really appealed to me. I could draw pretty much anything I wanted to, for a start! My initial idea was to have two leads who were time-travelling sleuths. So it would be ____ & _____: Temporal Detectives. I didn’t have names at this point, obviously. There are two big flaws with this. First of all, time travel is a pretty well-worn thing. Also, in my mind Doctor Who kind of owns it. I didn’t want to remake Doctor Who, I just wanted a story with similar possibilities. Next, the whole mystery angle was also kind of limiting. I like a good mystery, sure, but I didn’t want to be writing them all the time. I suppose in some ways The Girl Who Died Backwards in the last little echo of this first idea, though certainly no plots were thought of at this point.
So after doing some thinking, I decided I would come up with a way to have my two leads be long-lived individuals. I played around with ______ & ______: Immortal Detectives too… but again, I wanted to lose the detective angle. So I decided these two would have some foreknowledge of historical events. Now, I can’t actually say yet HOW this is, because it hasn’t been revealed in the books yet! But I thought my solution was pretty novel and I liked it. My plan was to have the first 10-page story finished just in time for Zuda’s launch in fall of 2007.
However, while the comic I submitted to them was, indeed, called Grace & Witherbloom it differed from the eventual books in many ways…
To Be Continued!