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After planning it for some time, in September 2011 I moved to Brighton, UK to continue my studies and thus I enrolled at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Brighton.
The course itself is not as demanding as I thought it would be, but when the projects amass, then the shit hits the fan and I have to come up with and create loads of preliminary sketches, rough editions of projects and then, after interim crits, final editions, so this is quite time consuming and I have to timemanage myself quite harshly in order to create a schedule to do my comics, music etc.
So, back to comics! Right when I got to Brighton in Septembe 2011, I noticed a flyer that advertised a nationwide graphic novel competition held by Myriad Editions, which had a deadline on October 1st, 2011. Having already begun my Dryland graphic novel (I was at 22 pages at the time), I rushed to greyscale/colour in all the pages and letter them in order to submit it in time! And I did! By November 2011 I was sent an e-mail from Myriad telling me that I was in the top 25 and by Christmas 2011I was told I was in the top 7 finalists. i attended the final event where the winner was announced (as chosen by Bryan Talbot, Ian Rankin, Paul Gravett and other esteemed artists and critics) and I managed to get a lot of great feedback.
After the event I managed to get my stuff together and I self-published the first chapter of Dryland, as DRYLAND Book One///Chapter One and I booked a table at the May 2012 Kapow Comic Con held in London in which I managed to sell quite a few copies and land a deal to have the whole first book/graphic novel published by an esteemed publisher (more on that in the future)!
At the same time as I began drawing Dryland I also started planning my "Tales of The Smiths" graphic novel. It needed a lot of researching, as most of the biographies written about them, as well as The Smiths themselves, contradict one-another in regards to the facts and I need to be as precise as possible. The first episode was published in the back of my DRYLAND Book One///Chapter One comic and the rest of the episodes will be serialised online daily from socomic.gr starting September 3, 2012 and hopefully the rest will be collected and published in a single format graphic novel.
Other than the above stuff, I'm also writing a new concept album that will follow up my previous one and I'm currently rehearsing and gigging with a new band that I put together in Brighton,Ghosts of Future Past, in order to unleash my musical vision upon this world! More news on that wonderful project will be announced in the near futrue! Till then, log onto our Facebook page, Like it and listen to our music and videos! yay!
In the meantime, if and when I find the time I will definitely end my Giant-Size Fascists trilogy comicbook with a third issue, as the series essentially led to my most successful comic to date and I've had people ask all the time when the heck am I going to bring some closure to the darn cliffhanger that ended the second collection.
Well, that's about it! As my life progresses in the UK, I will be updating this entry with more info, images and so on, so keep your eyes peeled on the newspage on the frontpage for updates!
The future is definitely what you make of it.
For more info on Dryland:
1. Introduction to the Dryland books
2. The publication of Dryland Book One///Chapter One is here. Click here to find out how to purchase it!
3. Preparing Dryland (the origins of the graphic novel in the making)
4. Director's Commentary (a detailed breakdown and "director's commentary" of Book One///Chapter One)
On to the graphic novel itself, and specifically this first chapter of the first book of Dryland. The story begins with the engagement of a young man, Nidas, with Voula, the daughter of a wealthy goat owner (in pre-war Greece, just 70 years ago, owning 1000 goats was still considered a feat). Nidas is the shortened form of Leonidas, used primarily in my province of Xiromero/Dryland; he and Voula are my paternal grandparents.
As a brief interim I'd like to add that as I was indeed trying to find new ways to write a longer story, having just studied Aristotle's Three
Act Structure, I was also in quite a chipper mood to investigate new ways of positioning my panels and therefore in the storytelling structure of the graphic novel itself. Therefore those first 20 pages, mostly drawn within my Film Editing school (in my mandatory English lessons class, where a register was taken and which lessons I happily ignored in order to draw), were an panel structure experiment and, if I'm not mistaken, none of the pages have a similar panel grid (other than the spreads)! Hey, innovating is fun! Keeps the juices flowing!
In regards to the first image you see, a rough of the cover for the whole edition that will collect all the chapters of book one (it depicts a man and an old woman trapped in a snowstorm under a tree); all I wanted to emphasize there is the harsh nature of the events that will follow. It is not a spoiler in the sense that showing Auschwitz on the movie trailer of Schindler's List is not a spoiler. How the events ended up are history; the real tragedy lies in the mysterious way that they unravelled.
I used the device of the letter written to his Uncle Kostas, firstly so I can reconnect the origins of my wanting to tell this tale with the discovery of my relatives in the States, secondly so I can move the narrative onwards with some straightforward catching up with what's happening and lastly to introduce the reader to another character, Uncle Kostas, who will be the lead in another Dryland book.
In these first pages, the young man is treated with some disrespect at first (due to the fact that his family is so small and he is the owner of a very, very small amount of goats) and some facts about my grandfather's childhood starts creeping up, like the fact that he grew up an orphan and his grandmother raised him, until she also died. My grandmother Voula could talk for hours about how much livestock her father owned before his own demise. She was so proud of him and her well-off days in the Greek countryside.
After Nidas is introduced to Voula's huge family in turn brings in his brother, the only family he has, other than his Uncle Kostas in the States, who has a constant chip on his shoulder. An argument is about to begin because he's to uptight to shake hands with anyone, but the spirits return back to normal and a dance of Chamiko begins (Chamiko is a traditional Albanian/Greek dance that is danced by men, very slowly in our region, where the lead dancer shows off his prowess and strength, by doing air kicks or balancing on one leg).
Giotas (short for Panagiotis in Xiromero and my grandfather's younger brother) was a head case, to say the least. He died in the late '70s, so I never got to meet him, but his temper is legendary. In his life and times he managed to elope with the daughter of one of the wealthiest landowners in the Peloponese (only to have her disowned); he was put in jail for this after a month's long ...boat race from isle to isle and in the end he lived as a farmer himself on the mountains of Aigio (where his temper led him to more trouble, like doing jail for poking a man's eye out, after he'd insulted him, with his spoon). He even stabbed my grandpa once over some stupid argument. So anyhow, as Jetties will also play a pivotal role in one of the next books, I need to establish him as a menacing dude, who you're kind of afraid of, but also want to hang out with. The charm of the wild one, the outsider; 'cause although the stories of Giotas' outbursts seem outlandish and plain violent, the family kind of chuckles with a weird pride whilst retelling them. I know I do.
When my great-grandfather escorts Nida outside to take a breather and have a smoke, the conversation spans from Nidas poor upbringing (a chance to expand upon the character) to illegal tobacco trading in the region (tobacco trading had been monopolised by the government and even rolling paper was sold under government or royal consent). When my Nidas realises that his father-in-law is in on the trading he eventually agrees to help out and earn some money for himself, as well as fit in with his new family.
I've decomposed this double-spread below, so you can see the flow of the conversation (the two men talking about the illegal trading and lighting, smoking and extinguishing their smokes, each from their own perspective).
After my grandfather and his brother were orphaned (too long a story to also retell here, plus I have to keep some cards to myself) they were separated, one, my grandfather Nidas, sent to some relatives in the isle of Lefkas, while Giotas remained in Palairos/Zaverda with their grandmother. When she died of malaria in 1933, the two brothers were reunited (Nidas being only fourteen) and they lived together in a hut their father had left them. Some relatives gave them some goats to begin a herd, but the times were already too tough and they never managed to really make it as goat herders. They tried several occupations, but they constantly befell upon hardship.
The scene where Nidas' Father-in-Law gets on his case is purely to establish the fact that it was a male-dominant society and family and he had the final word in what would happen. Also, having a temper will also explain his stance when he won't be able to rationalise the situation when the story tragically ends.
I added Psarris, Nidas' old horse, to the mix, 'cause my own father is so fond of retelling all the adventures he had with him in his own younger years when the horse was even older. Psarris had been ploughing all his life, carrying wood, wheat and milk on his back and obviously was also used for horseback travelling within Xiromero. His name means white haired and he was too, in his own hard-earned way, a part of the family.
In the following scene, where Nidas is being slanted by another son-in-law of my great-grandfather, I needed again to create a backdrop for what was to follow in the story's resolution. Being accepted into the family probably meant the most to Nida, and to gain that, after so many years of being on his own, was far more important than owning any flock of sheep or goats or whatever. More the reason why the end of the first book has far bigger repercussions than one could tell.
What can I say about the below panel! I just needed to get this in the book somehow. Just like most towns in Greece, underneath its ancient ruins lie the traditions and the superstitions which were seeped into the subconsciousness of the later generations. Thus the reference to the Golden Hog at Kechropoula is a story that many old Zaverdians will be glad to tell you. Kechropoula is the medieval name of the ruins of the acropolis of Ancient Palairos, about 3km west of the modern town.
Even today the residents of the town are afraid to walk too close to the ancient site, as they fear it is haunted. Should you do so a Golden Hog with its little golden piglets will appear and devour you. I've heard lots of people claiming to have seen the Golden Hog and my grandparents always used to scare us into doing various tasks or to behave cause the "Golden Hog" will come and get us (a bogeyman of sorts for our town, amongst the myriad bogeymen of our region).
Strangely enough, as I also happen to be a history buff, I've researched the significance of the specific animal in our region from ancient times to present. Besides the obvious scary parts in the Odyssey, where Circe turns Odysseus' shipmates into pigs (Odysseus/Ulysses being from Ithaca, practically across the sea from my hometown), and besides the fact that the Calydonian Boar hunt took place in a neighbouring town it must be stressed that pigs were considered symbols of death in Ancient Greece, due to their nocturnal habits. I also found a passage in Lucian's Dialogues of Courtesans that mentions: 'I find Chareas, as they say, so smooth; he's an Acarnanian sucking-pig'. Acarnanian pigs were apparently so succulent that they were used as terms of endearment in ancient times to describe someone as dearly loved. I don't know how this slipped into medieval society, how it became a golden hog scary tale and then seeped into the era I'm writing about, but the fact is that the province had a special relationship with pork! Souvlaki anyone?
The final page of the first chapter concludes with the six protagonists heading towards Mount Perganti, a part of the Acarnanian Mountains that surround Nidas' world.
Even today the Mountain is revered by all the people of the region. From the mountain and it's natural source Korpi the region managed for years to gather their precious water for their homes (the source was sadly sold to Nestle years ago, who now bottles it and sells it worldwide). One of the most sacred monasteries in the area, Panagia Romvou (dedicated to the Virgin Mary), is built on a plateau of this mountain range between the town of Monastiraki, where Voula and her family are from, and Vato (close to the path where the group is heading).
I subtracted all grey scaling from the figures in this splash page, as I was trying to capture an ominous scene, that feeling where the reader is starting to realise that this will lead somewhere dark.
A place of no hope.
Mountains do that to you. The awe that their enormous, godlike, size spreads to the human population has caused many adventurers to go on vain journeys to conquer them.
How can someone truly conquer a mountain?
By placing a little flag on top of that gigantic heap of rock and soil?
When it comes to mountains, the only thing that man truly conquers is his fear. And this fear is what motivates that ominous feeling that the reader is provided once faced with that mountain that fills the entire page.
Just so I won't leave you there at the end of the first chapter, wanting, hopefully, for more, I have included below a tiny preview of things to come in the following pages, where Nidas follows his in-laws in order to learn the tricks of the trade so he can take over their tobacco smuggling business.
As the first third of the Aristotelian Three Part Structure is about to end, the point of no return, the most integral part of the theory, is about to reach its climax. Nidas is about to embark on an adventure beyond his control and his, and his family's, fate is about to be snatched out of his fingers.
That's it, folks!
I hope this preview and commentary intrigued you enough so as to seek the published edition when it comes out and I hope that you revisit my website soon, as more treats will await you as the series unfolds and is developed furthermore!
All the best to you and your families,
11 Feb. 2012
Autumn 2012 Update: I just managed to sign a contract with an esteemed publisher (more news later in the year) and it seems that all the chapters of Book One (including Chapter One, which I had self published) will be collected and published in a single graphic novel in 2013, thus:
a) making me a very happy man and b) making my final copies of the first chapter that I self published for Kapow a collector's item! So, enter my online store to purchase those last copies before they run out (Dryland Book One///Chapter One also included the first print of a Tales of The Smiths episode)! :-)
CLICK HERE to purchase the publication of Dryland Book One///Chapter One
CLICK HERE to read about Preparing Dryland (the origins of the graphic novel in the making)