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Writing Comics – Torsobear: Yarns from Toyburg

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Another childhood dream crossed from the bucket list – I have a comic coming out later this year, a gripping criminal tale of immigration, class struggle and that old time racism set in the fluffy noir wold of Toyburg. Torsobear: Yarns from Toyburg is now up on Kickstarter.

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Earlier this year I noticed a message in my favourite on-line haunt Whitechapel about a comic anthology looking for writers and artists. The anthology was called Torsobear, and it was built around an one-off story by Brett Uren published in a digital magazine called Outré. It was a weird little crime tale of dismembered teddybears set in a world of toy detectives, lemonade rain and true crime, and it sounded really interesting. I read the original story and…  you know how there’s this romanticized notion of an inspiration hitting you like an lightning bolt, stories just coming to you and so forth, which is of course bullshit since creative work is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. Well, that’s what happened in this case: I wrote a pitch of the story on one lunch hour and sent it out – and the people behind the anthology liked it quite a lot. It took me two afternoons to write the script itself, not counting the time it took me to finally figure out how to use Scrivener to write scripts, and with little revision it was done. Man, after having struggled with certain texts in a way that resembled pooping out a cactus, having a story leap out like that felt simply wonderful.

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Justice in Ye Olden Times in my Torsobear story The Big Wind Up, illustrated by Saoirse Louise Towler and lettered by Mick Schubert.

Then it was the time to get the story illustrated. I was introduced to an illustrator called Saoirse Louise Towler, whose style was just utterly splendid – something out of a children’s book but with a weird little twist. It felt just totally perfect for the story. When I got the first illustrations, I was simply blown away. This was my first comic script, and seeing it turned into incredibly beautiful illustrations felt simply magical.

And then the rest of the drafts and illustrations for the other stories started to flow in to the project on-line space on a surprising pace.

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I’ve taken part in many indie projects of different varieties, and one thing in common with most of them is a certain amount of faffery. With this one I’ve been really surprised at how fast and efficiently things are happening. As I mentioned in the beginning, we just started a Kickstarter for the project and we’re looking for a publisher, but to me it looks like most of the work is already done. I’ve seen finished pages from most of the stories and day in day out new material keeps flowing in. I certainly don’t hate this. As for the publication, we’re currently aiming for July, and it looks like we can really make it.

So, that’s another item off the bucket list of stuff I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid – to publish a comic. My history with comics starts with Donald Duck stories, which are a little bit special here in Finland. Their Finnish translations are extremely creative and they’ve been recognized for their creative use of language a number of times by even some governmental institutions. After those my favourite comics were especially Tintin, but also Lucky Luke, Asterix, Iznogoud, the original Moomin comics (which aren’t that Japanese pastel coloured crap, but in which the Moominpappa and the police chief make moonshine in the basement and so forth) and that sort of stuff. I never really got into the “traditional” superhero comics until I was in my 20’s, when things went gritty.

Tintin stories were my favourite comics when I was a kid - right after the Donald Duck stories at least.

Tintin stories were my favourite comics when I was a kid – right after the Donald Duck stories at least.

I got most of my comics from second hand bookstores and the library, but I think it was in the beginning of the high school when my friend Jere pointed out that there is a second comic shelf in my home city Jyväskylä’s library, and this one was in the adult section. And, dear diary, this is how I discovered underground comics. I read all of the issues of Suuri kurpitsa I could find, all the other zines they had in stock, as well as a ton of the adult comics and graphic novels.

I also tried my hand in drawing comics of my own, but that just didn’t take off. As a kid I drew Disney and Tintin characters, but trying my hand in original content, I didn’t feel I was good enough at drawing (although, in hindsight, I was well on the zine level of stuff). It also took me embarrassingly long time to realize that not all comics are written by the people who drew them, and that there are actually people who never touch a pen, they just write the scripts. After that little epiphany I’ve kept an eye out to have a story written by me drawn, but time after time those projects have just petered away like so many indie enterprises do. Looks like I finally hit the paydirt, and how!

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Also, it looks like the lightning struck twice. This setting seems to be very conductive for inspiration for me, since yesterday, stepping off the bus, the idea for a second story for a second Torsobear album hit me like a brick on the face. I really don’t hate this.

At the writing of this, we’ve reached 25% of our Kickstarter target in a little less than a day, which is all kinds of awesome! So, head on in and send us some buttons, and check the latest Torsobear: Yarns from Toyburg news at torsobear.com!

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