Conspiracy of Shadows: Betrayal Webcomic

Conspiracy of Shadows: Betrayal is not only a 5 part printed comic, but now also a weekly webcomic. Over the next several weeks I will be posting a page on Thursdays from the comic. Today you get the cover, the inside cover and the first two pages to wet your appetite.

Hope you enjoy my little opus and come back for more.

Conspiracy of Shadows: Betrayal

Comments

  • Looks great man!
  • I am successfully teased! Bong, bong indeed Senkowski; well played!
  • imageThe story continues today with two, count them, two pages, instead of just one. Hope you enjoy them. As always, comments and critiques are appreciated.

    Page 3
    Page 4

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    On the game front, you may or may not have noticed me slowly filling up the Life Paths section for the Descriptor System as well as fleshing out the Table of Contents for it. It is a slow process that likely won't see an end until October or November. But by then, you will have a free game to play around with that meets my goals.

    Speaking of those goals, I have two for the Descriptor system.

    The first is to create a flexible system that will allow you to play out several different types of games and seemlessly move between them. That I think is one of the best parts of role-playing games, the flexibility. To be able to start with one thing and as you play have it move into something else.

    In the past I have found that to be to be a problem as systems often don't have the tools or even the guide posts to point you in the right direction. How do I switch from a conspiracy oriented game to one dealing with the civil war we just started? Sure we can muddle through, but if there was some actual guidence to get me started, things would be a lot less painful.

    The second goal is to really make the setting a part of the system. Luke Crane has done this with Lifepaths in Burning Wheel (my second favorite game) to a certain extent. I want to take it a step further. As you can see in the Life Paths I have worked out, I've tried to give them more specific meat on their bones. Hopefully that with the other pieces I am putting in place over the next several weeks will give me my desired effect.

    So stay tuned. As I complete sections I will continue to post about them.
  • Part Seven is posted and the story kicks into gear.
  • Just a quick update. The first issue is now available on my site for sale: Order Issue One Here
  • I've got the comic. It's a good read, though the real actions seems to be only gearing up in future issues. Torture, conspiracy, corrupt church officials, mercenaries from foreign lands, oh my!

    Can't wait to see the rest of the tale. It's a picture perfect representation of what a Conspiracy of Shadows game can be like. Literally!
  • edited August 2007
    Thanks Matt. Glad you are liking it. I am busy each night working on the pencils for issue 2. Plan to get it out sometime in October. If you or anyone else has some questions or specific comments I would love to hear them. For those just reading online, the newest page has been posted (see below). Next week, Andy K's favorite panel makes it's debut.

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  • Danielle bought the comic at Gen Con. I read it a couple of nights ago. And I like it. I've read my share of fiction inspired by someone's gaming, and almost always it has a "non-authored" quality to it. Events are told, but not with any sense of which details are important and which ones aren't. And you don't get the sense that the author knows the characters and what they're capable of any better than you do. But Conspiracy of Shadows: Betrayal is different. The stark artwork and story work together, so as you're learning to recognize the various characters, you're also getting to know them as personalities. And the telling isn't a relating of events and details ala most game fiction, but an actual mystery, with selectively authored scenes that play with the reader's understanding of what's going on. The comic feels like the rare work of fiction that rewards the repeat reader with an increasingly nuanced understanding of events. I was dubious of a comic inspired by actual gameplay, but I'm not anymore. I'm totally hooked. Can't wait for the next issue.

    Paul
  • Paul,

    Wow. Thank you. I personally was skeptical when I started working on it. Originally I had this idea of doing it as an ongoing series... In fact that was the only way I saw doing it to cover all the "stuff" However, as I began to take the scenes from game play (and our AAR) and started stringing together a narrative out of them I realized that it was fucking boring. I mean it was interesting and there were some great scenes from the game that I so desperately wanted in the comic, but just didn't work to tell a story.

    Once I had that realization it was like... it was like a fucking thunderbolt or eureka moment or whatever. I took a hard look at the work and started reworking it. I realized I was sacrificing good storytelling to try and stay true to the crap that happened. I've said it before and I will say it again, gaming is not storytelling. The story comes in the retelling after the fact. Comics as a medium is a combination of art, graphic design, typography (which I need to work on), and writing, which makes it twice as hard to do.

    I mean a game session, for the most part, is from the perspective of the players and their characters. That is great for a game, but for a narrative is really shitty. You have to show not tell even more so. This leads to hard choices. I mean I described X in the game session right, which was very fucking cool. But is X important to the story. Can I just convey X visually? Can I express it in dialog? Do I need to? If I am going to convey it as a story element how do I make sure it is not some tangent and propels things forward?

    All that shit I went through for everything in the game sessions well before putting pen to paper. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I had to cut out shit, add shit, change perspectives, motivations, language use. I mean this is based off of game play that included myself and close friends. Like any close circle, language use kinda becomes a single sound as word usage and phrases blend into an insular dialect. I had to try and strip that out.

    Once that was done then I could start the process of structuring something. Even at this point I am changing and tweaking things as I go along. All cause am damn determined not to write "game" fiction but actual fiction. I hate fucking game fiction.
  • edited September 2007
    This weeks page is posted. If I could title individual pages this one would be called Andy K's Favorite Fucking Page. It might be my favorite page in the first issue and that is in a large part due to some helpful advice from Thor on the pacing of the page during the pencil phase of things.

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  • Just posted Part 10 of Conspiracy of Shadows: Betrayal at bobgoat.com as well as my new home for comic book work, Comic Space. It is like My Space for comic books of all kinds. Well worth checking out.

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  • Hey dude, this is a retarded question to ask soooo late in the game, but I was curious:

    1) What would be the "back cover blurb" for this comic?

    2) What sorts of things will appear in it over time? Like, what's the scale?

    3a) Having put out the first issue, what have you learned about the comic process?
    3b) What have you thought about in terms of changes to your original plan for the story?

    -Andy
  • Andy,

    No these are good questions. The blurb I use is:
    There is a war going on beneath the streets of Borva. Brave men fight for their people and their home against an all powerful occupying force, donning masks as symbols of their defiance. But what happens when there is a traitor in their midsts? How will these men of honor, these freedom fighters, react?

    Conspiracy of Shadows: Betrayal is a tense drama set in Polian, the world of the Conspiracy of Shadows role-playing game. It is a story of men of honor, loyalty, and the forces at work to destroy them.
    2) The scale is a 5 issue mini that revolves around the group of characters introduced for the most part in the first issue. The idea is to resolve a single story in that time frame. My ultimate goal is to do at least three (Betrayal, Duty, & Ambition) minis of various lengths (5 issues, 8 issues, & 24 issues) with the possibility of 3 "annuals" filled with unrelated vignettes, tying them loosely together through characters that were not featured in the previous as a primary protagonist. Not sure if that answers your question of scale or not.

    3a) A metric ton load of stuff and I am still learning. I did a one issue comic back in college and shit has changed a lot since then and I knew even less then. Here is a list of stuff:
    • My pencils are ugly
    • Comic books are much harder to do well than games
    • Figruing out pacing
    • Using dialog in conjunction with imagery to do the kind of description you would find just written about in other fiction
    • How to draw the same people over and over again without actually doing it (using visual markers)
    • How to tell a single complete closed story
    • How to cut shit out that may seem cool, but doesn't help shit along
    • How to be willing to redraw and entire page or two (did that for two pages in issue one and anticipate reworking at least one page in issue 2)
    • Slowly learning how to letter
    • That I hate the coloring of POD printing and going to try a spot color on issue 2. Too much was muddled on the cover.
    • how to use dialog to mention things I want to mention without making them a part of the story or a hinderance for the story
    • What does and what doesn't work in a panel
    • Where I should add lots of detail and where I should leave the detail out
    • Basically how to tell a story effectively, which I am still learning
    • The Gamer/Comic Reader crossover is very small
    • Medieval style clothing is weird as shit (you see more of it in issue 2)
    If you got any questions about any of that shit feel free to hit me up.

    3b) You mean between when I started and the point I am at right now? Well, as I was lettering the first issue I noticed some stuff wasn't clear and that I could use the dialog to clarify stuff. So I rewrote some stuff... I also rewrote some stuff based on how my illustrations came out compared to my thumbnails.

    Another thing is I pulled the masks off earlier than I originally intended. The whole first issue they were going to be masked, but I changed my mind. I felt that they didn't look as sharp as I liked. I also wanted humanize the main characters more and felt the masks hindered that.

    There is more tweaks and changes I have made, just can't think of them off the top of my head.
  • I posted up the rough pencils for issue two recently at my ComicSpace (like MySpace for comics with much more intuitive interface). I am currently reworking pages 2, 4, & 15.
  • edited September 2007
    Newest update:

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  • Swamped at work so no game updates for at least another week. However, inking is trucking along for issue two and will be available come the end of October or early November.

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    I am out of town until next Thursday so you get this weeks comic a day early. Aren't you the lucky little monkeys.
  • Issue two is in final editorial and will hit the printer this week so I thought I would give a little preview of the cover:

  • Posted By: Keith Senkowski
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    Loving that cover.
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    And so Chapter One reaches it's conclusion... Next week two posts to get Chapter Two up and running. It is currently being printing, or so my online que tells me and should be available in the next week or two for sale.
  • I was late this week so I am feeling generous. You get two, count them two pages of Chapter 2, which is still at the printer being turned into pulpy goodness. I gotta say, Chapter 2 is a leap above what I did in Chapter 1. My sense of how to create a comic is improving as is I think my over all composition. I gotta thank Thor and Luke for sending me back to the drawing board for parts of it. Got me thinking in a different way and I think improved the overall piece.

    Chapter Two
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    Part One

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    Part Two
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  • Conspiracy of Shadows, Issue 2 is now available. To order go to my shop.
  • edited January 2008
    Part Four
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  • Heya Keith: I was wondering: A lot of your art seems to be built from live sources. Like, in the frames with people's faces, it seems like you were filtering from perhaps pictures of live peoples' faces?

    Just curious:

    1) Do you draw/create those faces from scratch, or are they built upon live models?

    2) If live models, do you take the photographs yourself (to get the same face/body, from different angles, etc)?

    It's a really stylized process, and i was wondering how you go about it.

    Thanks!
    -Andy
  • edited January 2008
    Andy,

    This whole thing has been a crazy series of finding a process that works for me. I am trying something a bit different for issue three and seeing what will happen but here is the low down for issues 1 & 2:
    1. Write the Scripts
    2. Work out my concepts of the characters. I often select a look based on a character somewhere else to start and develop from there. The Boar very much looks a cross between two friends of mine.
    3. Thumbnail out the issue at a quarter size based on script
    4. Using Poser 6 I start modeling camera shots for each frame. Once happy I export out JPEGs at 150 dpi (nice easy size to work with)
    5. I scout locations. I hit various free photo sites, personal clip library, and the many books I have on various places. I have a bunch of those books you see for $6 of say Spain or Italy or whatever at Barnes & Noble. Coffee table books are priceless.
    6. Digitally combine the scouted locations with the Poser created camera shots for my reference. I manipulate them into my frames for each page at a large size so I can get a good idea as to scale and whatnot. These work as essentially my roughs.
    7. Working from these roughs I put together my pencils at 10x15, which I then scan and go over. A lot of times I rewrite the script here, draw new panels or even pages. This is usually prompted from generous feedback I get from Thor. The man has a keen clarity of vision.
    8. I print the pencils them onto Bristol board in blue. Even though I am not photo shooting my inks later, using a blue line is easier to remove later when I scan the inks.
    9. I next ink out each page in detail with the exceptions of the borders. I then scan the pages back into the computer at 1200 dpi.
    10. I now add the borders in photoshop and clean up the ink, trying to get a uniform black because that is the dicates of the style I chose to work in. The next comic I am working on starting when this is over will be very different stylistically.
    11. At this stage I toss the PSDs into Illustrator. Type is much cleaner in Illustrator and I have a whole series of pre-created balloons that scale nicely there. I also do another rewrite of the text here, filling in gaps in the story. This is where the final script comes together cause now I can see how all the pieces fit.
    12. Finally I work out the cover, cause I am never quite sure where the issue is going to go until I have gotten to the lettering stage.
    I hope that answers your questions. If you got any more or would like some clarrification don't hesitate to ask.

    Keith
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