Guest Blog Post 

Temporary change in my blog publishing schedule

I wanted to take a moment to inform you about a temporary change in my blog publishing schedule for this month, due to a particularly hectic schedule.

I am publishing the guest blog post earlier and the blog serial is pushed to next week. Thank you for your understanding and continued support.

To Capture a Califex wasn’t supposed to be my major

comic project this year.

I signed up for a creative project mentorship with the amazing Chris Oatley, and the first assignment was to plan a project that, once the thumbnails and vis-dev was done, could be completed in 2 weeks. And I gave it a red hot go.

I grew up reading epic fantasy stories from the likes of Tamora Pierce, Robert Jordan, Raymond E. Feist and Fiona McIntosh as well as many long gone fantasy webcomics and I’m still low-key obsessed with the genre. (or maybe high-key? I will definitely gush for as long as you will tolerate about the audio book of Mary Brennan’sA Natural History of Dragons and how amazing the whole Memoirs of Lady Trent series is, don’t get me started.) 

My first one paragraph outline was a 12 page story of two bottlebrush tree Dryad siblings, who need to learn to respect each other’s abilities and decisions. The youngest secretly follows the eldest away from their home, and they both get captured by another forest creature, and have to learn to respect each other and work together to escape.

I was pretty pleased with the outline and shared it with Chris and got the very valid feedback that it felt like a story for a middle grade reader which was definitely younger than I intended. Ooof.

I went away, determined to rework the outline into something more mature and appropriate for the young adult genre. No longer siblings, no longer dryads, but I still wanted it to be a bit of an adventure quest that goes wrong and I felt the bones of the story structure still worked.

When I needed a non-human story catalyst, as an Aussie I immediately turned my thoughts to our weird and unique fauna both live and extinct. Despite our reputation for deadly creatures, we actually don’t have a lot of large land based living predators.

We did, however, have one very cool, very bad ass looking mega-fauna, the Thylacoleo Carnifex.

Weirdly, its closest living relatives are the herbivorous Koalas and wombats, but to me it looks a lot like a Quoll, an adorable but carnivorous lil’ predator found in Australia and Papua New Guinea. But you know, if it was the size of a leopard.

I decided the creature that sparks off the whole adventure would be based on a Thylacoleo Carnifex and named the species ‘Califex’.

Since there are more reference photos of Quolls than there are Thylacoleos, I did some sketching of Quolls as practice before tackling the Califex’s final design.

When I started the character design process for the Protagonists Amala and Temon, I started with their basic body shapes. Although Amala is the protagonist with the most to learn, it was important to me that all the characters make the same fundamental mistakes because respectful and reciprocal collaboration is something as humans we all need to learn and remember. Despite the class and education differences, in this quest they are equals and so the easiest character design choice to me was they be equal in height. 

I then used these body shapes a bit like those paper clothing dolls to brainstorm how they would dress.

I’m passionate about using a natural setting inspired by the Australian flora and fauna that I love and for me that means that their clothing should be appropriate for hot weather so I took inspiration from ancient civilisations in hot climates like the Mediterranean. 

Just a small sample of the reference images I collected

For Temon, being a less wealthy town local, I wanted his clothing to be practical and somewhat plain that gets even simpler and more practical when heading into the forest. He would have fine clothes, but they are saved for special occasions and he’s ready to work at any moment. His footwear is sturdy and provides protection.

Amala, being an mage who received an education in a city, and who is also a bit prickly about her station and projects a front to cover her own self doubt, would dress finely in the town. She’s not a complete ninny though, so she adapts her clothing to be more practical when they set out into the bush. Her sandals though, are probably cool in the heat but would ideally be closed for more protection.

I didn’t end up doing a lot of brainstorming for Amala because I hit on what I felt worked and liked pretty quickly. I did more experimenting with her hair and ornaments however, and even changed her again slightly once I got started on the comic proper.

After I reworked the outline and started character profiles and designs, the comic would come in at 14, maybe 16 pages I thought. A bit long for a project to get done in 2 weeks, but now I was invested. After more feedback, I made more edits and got even more invested. When I sat down and wrote the first draft of the script it was 28 pages. 😅 

By this stage though, I was all in on To Capture a Califex. No smashing this out in 2 weeks. After a few more rounds of feedback and edits the comic ended up at 31 pages, but a satisfying action-adventure comic that I am super proud of, so no regrets! 

Here is a sneak peak at how the designs turned out in the final comic in the inking phase… 

 And finally, enjoy this shot I really really like of the titular Califex 😎

I hope you enjoyed this little behind the scenes peek of my new comic To Capture a Califex.

About The Author

Jana Hoffmann is a comic artist, illustrator, writer, and earnest dork with an adventurous heart and soul.

She grew up with dreams of wielding swords and magic like Alanna of Trebond, deftly manipulating political opponents like Mara of the Acoma, and having the strength of conviction made manifest like Egwene al’Vere. She believes stories have power, and she wants to change people’s lives and the world for the better with her comics.

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