Most legends are made. This Legend was born.
Across the entire land of Ethrafa, there has been no name more renowned, more heroic, more legendary… than that of the Legends. Whether it’s the wild warrior Geralt Legend, the courageous captain “Captain” Legend, the artful assassin Jasmine Legend, or the prestigious pianist John Legend (okay, maybe not that one) you can be assured that wherever a Legend went, a tale for the ages was sure to follow. The Legends captivated all of Ethrafa for hundreds and hundreds of years, but as time passed, even their presence began to dwindle and fade, to the point of total extinction.
But whispers abound of one last hero, one last claimant to the Legend name. His name is Jack.
He’s also far from a hero. He just wants to slack off while he rides the wave of his ancestors’ reputation. But as he plunges from his airship at terminal velocity, the forest below him getting closer and closer, he comes to an unfortunate realization in midair: it doesn’t seem like the universe is gonna let him. Poor Jack is thrust headfirst into an adventure, plagued by pirates and guided by ghosts… whether he likes it or not, it’s time to step up and become a Legend.
As the last surviving member of the heroic Legend line, Jack has to live up to some rather lofty expectations. Sometimes he doesn’t. But that’s part of the fun!
Everything about the style and presentation of Jack Legend comes together to make it an excellent first read for someone new to webcomics or just comics in general. The backgrounds are uncluttered without unnecessary depth to them—which translates to nearly every single page being easy on the eyes—and the panel work is common-sense and easy to follow. All characters seen so far in the comic have minimalistic designs and are colored the same kind of blank white, and oftentimes they can only be differentiated by their clothes and some physical features such as ears. When combined with the backgrounds, the characters’ simplicity results in the reader’s eyes naturally being drawn to them.
If you’ve read previous Webcomic of the Week columns, you may remember that the comic Vulperra, with its myriad blue foxes, also uses this technique to some degree. The potential downside is that characters may be difficult to tell apart, although with Jack Legend this doesn’t seem to be an issue. While it definitely features some scenes of peril, as well as a spot of blood here and there, at the time of this writing, the comic also has the advantage of being fairly family-friendly. If your child is interested in webcomics but finds 7″ Kara “too girly” and The Reset Button “too geeky,” they may very well latch on to Jack Legend.
And for adult readers? If you’re looking for a digestible, lively, and simplistic yet appealing adventure… it doesn’t take a Legend to figure out what you should read next.
Jack Legend is the last of a long, long lineage of heroes. Over the course of the story so far, we see four other named ones, as well as potentially innumerable others. What sorts of other Legends can we expect to see in the future, and what did they do in life?
- Joseph: You’re right in saying that there is a potentially innumerable number of Legends! The truth is, I only have a small handful of Legends written. I really want the focus of the story to be on Jack, so though there could be hundreds of Legends, don’t expect to see so many throughout the course of the comic. One more comedy-oriented early draft of Jack Legend had Jack following in the footsteps of each of his ancestors, seeking to mimic how they found their glory, but failing miserably. For example, I had a short written where Jack tries to become a famous chef like one of his ancestors named Ramsay (obviously), but getting kicked out of a competition when realizing that he can only cook one dish well. The Legends have been artists, investors, fighters, and even thinkers. And although they were all great at what they did, not all of them were “lawful good” as you’d think heroes ought to be. I left the specifics about the “egends vague to really sell how “legendary” of a family they are; there’s so much history there that the only things that are consistent about them are their names and their glory (and the fact they are all foxes)!
How did you conceptualize Jack Legend and what would you say were your main inspirations in doing so? We already see a subtle reference to Richard Adams’ work in the locational name Ethrafa, are there any others?
- Joseph: So it may seem odd, but a lot of my inspirations are actually cartoons. The character dynamic between the main cast is a lot like the cast of The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, where Flapjack (Buddy) has a very biased view of Captain K’nuckles (Jack)’s greatness. The episodic nature of the comic closely resembles cartoons like Adventure Time, where each episode is self contained, but show some character development when put together. The tropey-ness of the world is heavily inspired from my favorite cartoon of all time, Dofus: aux trésors de kerubim. And I play a lot of tabletop games in my spare time, specifically Pathfinder, so I also draw a lot of inspiration from that. Regarding direct references, you’re the only person to catch that reference that I know of! As of now, I haven’t gotten much opportunity to inject references to any of my favorite works yet. The comic is still young, and I’ve got lots of writing ahead of me. But I’m not opposed to the idea, so keep an eye out!
In a similar vein, what would you say were your main inspirations for some of the Legends themselves?
- Joseph: The idea of a family of masters of trades is definitely inspired from the Cooper Clan, of the Sly Cooper franchise. Due to the really vague nature of how I describe the Legends, there really is no limit to their designs. I personally designed a small number of them, like those you see in the first episode, and Jack’s immediate relatives. And designing them is pretty fun too; first I think of some respectable trade / craft / profession, and then I imagine how the very best at that trade / craft / profession would look and behave.
One of the best pieces of advice I got for making comics is “You’re never going to be as ready as you want to be. Just start one day and all the pieces will fall into place.”
How did you decide to have Jack Legend be a longform adventure comic, and were there any alternative ideas you had for the project? If you had infinite time and infinite resources to do whatever you wanted with Jack Legend and adapt it into any format you wanted, what would it look like?
- Joseph: So first, you should know that before Jack Legend was even an idea, I was writing another comic called Churn. It was going to be gritty, longform, and awesome. But I realized I had no experience with writing or making comics. So I decided to write another comic as practice, get my feet wet and learn how comics work, to ensure that Churn was the best it could be. I knew that whatever I decided to work on, it had to be episodic, so I could drop it at a moment’s notice to work on Churn whenever I felt ready. I also wanted it to be lighthearted, to contrast with Churn‘s grit. And I also knew that it was going to follow a graphic novel format, so that whatever skills I learned applied well.
And that all came together to make up Jack Legend. First, it was just going to be one-page gags. Jack wasn’t a developed character, but more of a representative for a bored player of a tabletop game. Instead of getting absorbed into the role of the hero, Jack questioned everything and went on “autopilot mode.” Like, when the player skips cutscenes and ignores side-quests in a video game because they just want to finish the game? That was Jack.
But things changed and as I added more main castmembers, the scope for Jack Legend grew to what it is now. I mentioned before that cartoons are a big inspiration for me. It’s not hard to believe that I would love to see Jack Legend as an animated cartoon. It’s family-friendly, episodic, cute, and I almost write the episodes following the format of a cartoon. I even refer to the chapters/issues as “episodes!” I’m not sure if a cartoon is even a possibility for Jack Legend, but it’d definitely be a dream come true.
Somewhat related to the last question, can you describe your working process for us, from idea to completed page? What advice would you give to someone else who wanted to write and draw a longform adventure comic?
- Joseph: I really need to work on my process, haha! So first, I have the entire episode’s plot written. This is a general description of the plot, characters, key moments, etc. After that, I script 5 or so pages. Dialogue, page layout, settings, all the nitty-gritty details go here. Then, I draw thumbnails for those 5 pages. This is to capture character expressions, composition, and layout of the page. Lastly, I sketch, ink, color, and insert dialogue into the page.
Why exactly do you script five pages at a time, rather than the whole chapter at once?
- Joseph: One of the best pieces of advice I got for making comics is “You’re never going to be as ready as you want to be. Just start one day and all the pieces will fall into place.” This is in reference to the fact that there are a lot of people out there with great ideas for comics/projects, but spend so much time in the planning and drafting phases that their projects never see light. Admittedly, I might have jumped the gun and started without a full hand, but now I’m 30 pages in, closing in on the end of my first episode after a year. So to answer that question, the five pages I script at a time are a result of “all the pieces falling into place.” And as far as advice to give to someone else wanting to write a longform adventure comic (or any comic really)… just start.
How about the world of Jack Legend, what’s the process that went into crafting that? What are some locations we can expect to see in the comic, and what are your favorite parts about the world you’ve created?
- Joseph: So there’s only been two locations mentioned so far. First is Ethrafa, Jack’s home continent. We don’t really know much about it besides that it’s Jack’s home. I will say that not much goes on there. Back in the Legends’ day, it was much more chaotic. Warring kingdoms and emerging technologies meant adventure was everywhere to be had. But now, it’s civilized and stable. This is good for the average person, but there’s no need for adventurer in a continent that is 100% stable.
This is where the “new continent” comes in. It’s so chaotic, that it doesn’t even have a name yet. There are scattered kingdoms all across, each holding claim to the land, and each naming the continent something different. The continent has terrain varying from desert to mountains, tropical jungles to frozen tundra, most of it unexplored and very dangerous. As a result, groups native to the land never leave their settlements, which could range from primitive tribes who never caught on with technologies, to small villages, to large sprawling cities. All this to say, this “new continent” is an adventurer’s paradise. What does this mean for Jack? Well, the first episode is about sky pirates. The next episode could feature anything from a pack of wandering samurai, a spaghetti western in a desert village, a tribe of cannibals, or maybe even more sky pirates! I suppose my favorite part about the world is just the kookiness of it. I’m aware that it’s sorta ridiculous, but fantasy tends to be. And it gives me more ammo to work with in creating more exciting and unique narratives.
Let’s close the interview with a much more open-ended and fun question: if you had to be reborn as any person in this world, who would you pick, and what would you do?
- Joseph: That’s a toughie. I think being an artist during the renaissance would be fun. Though if my personality persists, all of my paintings and statues would most likely feature animal people. So, imagine Leonardo da Vinci working on his magnum opus The Mona Lisa, but instead the painting is of a fox, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what I’d be like.
Catch more of Jack Legend down at the following links: