Comics/ Writing

“Take to the Sky” behind-the-comic

I wrote this a while back and realized I’d never posted it. It’s about the story I wrote for the Comic Book Tattoo anthology, illustrated by Jonathan Case.

Years ago, a friend introduced me to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. It was one of the first comics I read that made me realize I wanted to write comics, too. That same friend introduced me to the music of Tori Amos. The first song that really struck me? “Take to the Sky.”

So when the opportunity to be part of Comic Book Tattoo came up, it seemed fitting to choose that song. Now I just had to find the story.

I started, of course, by listening to the song, over and over, like it was 1992 again and I was a brand new Tori fan, nodding fiercely in time when she struck the piano as percussion. And I read and reread the lyrics…passion…priest, father, doctor…sword in my hand…dyed my hair red today…purple panties…

Sword in my hand. I can’t tell you why, but all I could see when I thought about that line was the Marine recruiting ad, the guy in his dress blues holding his sword, rigorous, precise. Where do I see those ads? I asked myself. Sometimes in magazines. Sometimes on posters in the windows of recruiting offices. Where are the offices? Mostly in neighborhoods that have their share of problems.

Then I knew “dyed my hair red today” was not going to mean hair dye.

And if the sword meant joining the military, then clearly Take to the Sky would have to mean getting on a plane to go overseas…

At that point, it was just a question of how many additional lyrics I could work into the story without feeling like I was being obvious or contrived.

Script complete, it was time for the next stage — turning it over to my collaborator, Jonathan Case.

My scripts tend to be fairly light on panel description. I’ll include what I think is essential in each image, of course, but I like to leave some room for the artist, since I think the artist’s sensibility can add levels of meaning that I’d never have been able to achieve on my own. And I was so pleased with Jonathan’s art — all throughout the story, but especially with the final panel. (Spoiler alert! Stop reading if you haven’t read the story. It’s one of the few comics I’ve done that isn’t online, but you should be able to find the anthology.)

It was entirely Jonathan’s choice to foreground the woman’s hand chalking another name onto the sidewalk — leaving the reader to question whether Cassaundra’s name will join the others.

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