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Heart of Empire is designed for the comicbook rather than the computer medium and should ideally be read as such. The purpose of this CD is to supply additional information. However, if you are proposing to read it on screen for the very first time, you may want to avoid reading the annotations this time around as they are constantly referring to later parts of the story and will therefore undoubtedly interfere with your enjoyment. The entire comic is here and if you want to read it then start at Heart of Empire colour page one, or go to Heart of Empire colour page one in high resolution.
Also, because you cannot really enjoy Heart of Empire to it's full without also having read the prequel - we added it to the CD-Rom too: you can read the whole of the Adventures of Luther Arkwright here on the CD in standard resolution and also in high resolution.
These annotations are not necessary to understand or follow Heart of Empire but, for students of the comicstrip form, may occasionally give an insight into the mechanics of the construction of the drawings and composition of the pages that contain them. Lack of space prevents us from doing this with every page and with each panel (also it would be very dull) so I shall just point out examples I'm particularly fond of.
The real audience though is the fans, the readers who simply want to know more about the origin of some of the ideas in the story, the symbolism where unclear, the references and in-jokes and, basically, what was going through my mind whilst working on this book. There's everything here from anecdotes to brief indications of for example where a character's name came from. This is not at all an academic work; its aim is to entertain and enlighten. I'll strive to keep it informal and not too self-indulgent, though the latter will be really tough.
Perhaps the most frequently asked question writers and artists are asked is that old chestnut "where do you get your wacky and zany ideas?" The true answer is "everywhere", though I usually say that I draw a big pentagram on the floor and summon the muse of comic storytelling, who sells me them at discount. In this CD-Rom I'll be pointing out where specific ideas came from, when appropriate and not too boring. When asked in future, I'll be able to say "Buy the CD, asshole!" though of course I'm far too polite to actually do it.
Of course much of the business of creating stories is intuitive and an unconscious result of everything you've experienced or read before. Here I can only point to the places where I know where the ideas came from.
Seeing this is about where ideas come from, I can't go much further without mentioning Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius and the other influences on the forerunner to Heart of Empire, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright. I don't want to repeat here what's already in the interviews on this CD-Rom, but I'll just mention Illuminatus! by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad, The Airtight Garage by Moebius, the writings of Colin Wilson and the films of Nic Roeg, Sergio Leone, Sam Peckinpah, Francis Ford Coppola and Stanley Kubrick.
Since finishing The Adventures of Luther Arkwright I'd been vaguely thinking of a sequel, sparked off by imagining what would happen next. Even though I didn't have a plot in mind, I started collecting thoughts and visual ideas as they occurred to me. This is my usual method. I always carry a notebook in my back pocket. Into this I'd scribble any notions I thought were relevant. Every now and again, these would be posted into a cardboard folder labelled "ARK 2" where they'd ferment for a while.
After I'd accumulated a fair number of notes, thumbnail sketches and ideas scratched onto the back of beermats, I bought an indexed notebook into which I'd enter these ideas under the appropriate section, eg; "Imperial Palace", "Fairfax", whatever. This becomes The Bible. I find this a good way of focusing on the material and starting to think of it as a whole.
When I start to become totally involved in a story, that's when it comes alive: the fun bit; the 1% inspiration before the 99% perspiration, when I'm living in a complete world of my own invention, when nothing is closed off and everything seems possible. At this stage everything I see, hear or read is grist to the mill.
For something like Heart of Empire, history books are a great fount of inspiration and you'll see lots of examples in the annotations where I've adapted an event or character straight from history.
Usually I can't watch a movie without studying its plot structure, picture compositions, lighting or scene transitions and, if they're good, seeing if I can apply them to comicbooks. When I'm in the middle of creating a new story, I apply them to it, if appropriate.
The plotting of the book took ten solid days (this is after I'd played with the shape purely mentally for a few weeks). For me, the structure of the piece is very important and has to be rock-steady before I begin the scripting. (see also a detail of the structure blueprint, and also a very high resolution detail of the structure blueprint) I taped together three A3 sheets of paper and built the plot, scene by scene. I like working like this; you can see the entire structure at a glance, see plot threads interweave, foreshadow events, chart climaxes and lulls, move scenes round, edit and add. This went through several drafts, reworking the structure until I was satisfied.
Several scenes that I was quite keen on were forced out because they didn't advance the story or wouldn't fit smoothly into the narrative flow. One in particular had Queen Anne weeping a single tear whilst watching a performance of King Lear, a personal show for her alone in the Palace, making the connection between Anne's rejection of Victoria and Lear's rejection of Cordelia (one of Victoria's names). The trouble with it was that it wouldn't have been suitable early in the story, but wouldn't fit later on without being forced. Also it ultimately didn't add anything extra storywise.
The first draft of the script took four or five months.
Comics are a visual medium and, before committing a story to type, I work it all out visually in a series of extremely rough thumbnail pencil sketches with basic dialogue and notes. The sketches are very basic and rough because, for one thing, they need to be done quickly and I often go through several drafts and, secondly, I like to create the finished look on the page itself, to keep the element of spontaneity.
You can see the thumbnails and rough script drafts for pages 83, 94, 123, 127, 130, 180, 182 and 188. After this stage it's typed up on the computer where the dialogue crystallises. As I was writing it for myself to draw (and for the perusal of Randy Stradley, the editor) I could miss out the vast Alan Mooresque chunks of description I usually cram in if I'm writing for another artist. The script was then constantly annotated, added to, edited and fine-tuned whilst I was drawing the book, something that never happens in commercial, production-line comics. There are four examples of the printed script with annotations, suggestions and changes: , page 28 / 29, page 146 / 147, page 192 / 193, and page 273 and 274.
The final version of the script, the lettering draft, was only done when it was finally time to send each chapter to Ellie DeVille. The story was designed to eventually appear as one book and so is structured as a novel, not as an episodic monthly book.. That's why the chapter lengths varied in the comicbook edition (between 25 pages and 41). I could only break up the plot at appropriate points. I'm still astounded that Dark Horse let me get away with this as they knew beforehand that some issues would actively lose them money because of the page count. This decision was down to the personal faith in the project by publisher Mike Richardson, to whom I must give thanks.
Even so, I shared the cost of the eight extra pages in issue 5, just so I could have one extra page of space that I felt the story needed (comicbook printing works in multiples of eight). I also drew two pages for nothing in this issue to keep within the budget, because I felt one sequence needed more room to breathe. I must be nuts.
Go to the next page in the introduction.
Heart of Empire Directors Cut and the Adventures of Luther Arkwright: All text and images contained on this CD
are copyright by Bryan Talbot 1997 - 2006:
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