I’ve always been a storyteller, because I’ve always needed stories.
Facts, arguments, charts, and diagrams—they’re all a bit lost on me. But wrap your discussion in a story and I’ll dive into its narrative without a second thought. Living inside the story makes things specific and personal, and suddenly everything clicks—the abstract thought that once made me shrug becomes real when encountered through the experience of a story.
As far back as I can remember, I made up elaborate stories to explain anything I didn’t understand—which was plenty! One of those stories was The Hidden Lantern, which I set to paper in May of 2004. Here’s an excerpt:
The great and proud country of Arsendol to the west of Linoriath was far from the terror of Tor Danosh and therefore did not fear what they had not seen. But the great kingdom of Ramish west of the desert was near to the southernmost mountains of the country where the enemy lay, and their northern borders had already been assailed, so they soon offered to help the Nandor.
Yikes. Can you tell I was reading The Silmarillion?
I’ve kept The Hidden Lantern hidden for years—for obvious reasons. When Tolkien writes like that, it’s brilliant. When I do, it’s pretentious at best.
But while I kept the story hidden, it stayed alive—and over time it began to change. Tolkien’s horse lords and Witch-Kings—drawn from his background in classic English literature—were replaced by swashbucklers and bandits drawn from my background in classic adventure films. The overwrought Middle English dialect was gradually replaced by snappy banter and silly puns.
I began speaking a language that I knew.
As a child, I spent most of my time in worlds drawn by Peanuts creator Charles Schultz, Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson, and Uncle Scrooge creator Carl Barks. My taste in comics has expanded and diversified over the years, but those three men still define my style, because absorbing their work taught me the language of comics.
It was thrilling—and eye-opening—to read newer comic works like Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet, Jeff Smith’s Bone, and Ben Hatke’s Zita the Space Girl and see the whimsy, humor, and carefree adventure of my favorite childhood comics being put to work in service of epic, ambitious, and often thought-provoking fantasy stories.
That’s when I pulled out The Hidden Lantern and changed the name to Martin and Marco.
Suddenly, the characters began observing pratfalls instead of delivering soliloquies. The cursed object that Marco acquires was no longer a wooden box but a child’s backpack with a goofy grin stitched onto it. The story thrived when I brought it into my own unique imagination and began to create out of what I knew rather than what I thought I should be. Authenticity paid off!
And once Martin and Marco got started, there was no stopping them. Three years of planning the story, scripting, thumbnailing, designing characters, reconceiving scenes and sometimes entire storylines—it’s all lead to a five-volume series of graphic novels called The Dragon Lord Saga. And at long last, the first volume, Martin and Marco, is ready for print and up on Kickstarter!
Happily, the bones of the story held up as I changed the skin. At its heart, this is a story about adventurers—characters on an unpredictable and dangerous journey. Dragons loom on the horizon, hoarding gold and power. But dragons also loom within, hoarding secrets and desires.
This is a story I’m living.
To those who believe in this project, who have backed the Kickstarter, who have spread the word—it means the world to me that you’re sharing this vision. If you haven’t met Martin and Marco yet—I’d love to introduce you. Visit them on Kickstarter (the campaign ends soon!) and at my website. I hope you’ll be a part of the story and join the adventure!
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