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Not Nora, creation and thoughts

The comic Not Nora was my project for summer studies in 2020. It is a science fiction short story of an android living in the place of a family's dead child.

The story was inspired by, and in part based on a dream I had back in 2017. Upon waking up I wrote down what I could remember of the dream, and continued to create the initial draft of the story. Over the years I revisited and edited what I had, but couldn't decide quite what I wanted to do with this story yet.

Then, during my visual art studies I saw an opportunity to try something I've wanting to for a long time—comics—and realized that Not Nora would be the perfect length of a story for such a project. As the summer studies course started, I had a finalized script and it was time to draw.

picture 1: storyboard and printed out script, with notes written on both. picture 2: in progress comic pages from a scene, before scanning and digital work.

Reworking my script into a storyboard to serve as a rough draft of the pages was the jump into unknown. If you've never done anything similar, it's a lot more work than it looks like! Still, I enjoyed most of the work prior to actually drawing the pages.

I have designed characters for my personal use prior, and helped others visualize their ideas, but never quite like this. A comic demands consistency and recognizable features in a way one-off illustrations don't. And having decided to work with very limited colour, almost greyscale, that was even more important be aware of. Something that gave me quite the headache was that the main character wore a total of nine different outfits for the 30 pages of comic! Most side characters only needed one set of clothes, thankfully, but this certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone, as clothing has never been something I design or draw a lot.

Concept art sketches and character design notes of the main character of Not Nora.
Concept art sketches of outfit designs for the main character of Not Nora.

Alex is an interesting character to me in that I feel I didn't really design him, but rather he manifested from my subconscious. He is the only one I remember meeting in the aforementioned dream. The beginning of his scene in the comic, and the general feel of the character we see next are a part of that dream I still remember.

cropped panel of Nora and Alex's meeting from the comic.

While the story is entirely fictitious, there are things that are connected to me and my life. The locations are based on my home and the school I went to when I was around the age Nora (the real one) would have been when the comic takes place. And a few years prior, I experienced the death of a young member of my family following a long fight with cancer, which is reflected in the fate of the original Nora.

On a more personal level, the story serves as an allegory for my journey of self-discovery. 'Nora' is not who their family or peers want them to be. They don't know who they are, really; the only frame of reference available is the outside expectations, and all they know is that those expectations are misguided, if not outright wrong. Social isolation and complicated family relations in part caused by this uncertainty and assumptions are a reality both 'Nora' and myself have dealt with.

'Nora' choosing a new name—initially online and then elsewhere—and leaving behind one belonging to a dead person is perhaps the most on-the-nose part of it, at least to those familiar with the concept of a deadname. It was actually during the creation of this comic that I received the papers informing me that my own legal name change had been approved.

Step-by-step comparison of thumbnail/storyboard, sketched and lined page, and final page with toning, and text..

This was my first serious attempt at comics, and as such there's things I would do differently had I started with the experience I now under my belt, but hey, it's done! That was the most important thing from the start, haha.

Chances are I will dabble in comics again at some point, but I can't quite say when or to which extent, yet.

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