Writing is easy - it's a solo job. You don't have to be a team player, you set your deadlines, you're not holding anyone else up. Not so with comics - typically these are team efforts - if you to make things difficult and obstacle prone, write a comic.
One of the changes since 2016 for Sachi Ediriweera's Lionborn, is that his team grew larger. I got him to give me some time, and tell us what it's like managing a comic book team, spread across the planet.
So what's Lionborn about?
“Lionborn” is a graphic novel which re-imagines the historical tale of Sinhabahu with detective noir elements. We follow two characters; Sheerdas and Sivali who are based on Sinhabahu and Sinhasivali from the original legend. The story takes place 8 years after the siblings broke out of the cave and begins with Sheerdas returning to the city after a long absence to investigate a crime which Sivali has been wrongfully arrested of.
When did comics become important to you for storytelling?
As I can remember. It started out with strips--Calvin & Hobbes, Garfield, Blondie. I started reading DC and Marvel through Gotham Comics; a discontinued Indian label which reprinted comics from the Big Two for Asian markets. I'd been drawing since a kid, but I started getting serious about it after I moved in to a digital workflow. Still, all I did was abstract art and fan art of comic characters. Eventually, drawing a comic was something suggested by many. And with my experience in filmmaking and writing stories...I gave it a shot, and here we are.
Sinhabahu is widely known, yet less is known apart from a few critical details. My tick boxes were-- it had to give me more creative control, be able to tell it in a grounded fashion with no supernatural elements, and be relatable to Sri Lankan audiences. Sinhabahu's tale was the way to go. Plus, the original story doesn't mention Sinhasivali much after the siblings escape the cave. Plus the opportunity to completely flesh out Sinhasivali's character was something I was looking forward to as well.
What was your decision behind choosing Lionborn as the title?
The legend says the character was half-man half lion, with lion paws, which is why he was named Sinhabahu. In my story, I’ve kept things grounded; in Lionborn the Lion is a man who was once a great warrior. The character wields gauntlets which resemble lion paws, which is how I imagined it could’ve been in reality. The story is about facing consequences of one’s past, of legacy and redemption, so the title 'Lionborn' was the perfect fit.
Comics are so much more than an one-man job these days. How did you manage, juggling multiple people? How did you even go about finding them?
Making comics requires a team. The size of the team depends on what you want a professional to handle, and the project budget. For Lionborn, recruiting team members was a learning curve of sorts.
Lionborn started out as a black-and-white comic close to 3 years ago. I was the writer and artist with probably plans to recruit a letterer. Then I decided to rework the art and story and try colors, by hiring a comic book colorist.
I found Chris Lissman through Deviantart. As with artists, even colorists have their own style. I found my cover colorist, Vinicius Townsend through a Facebook group. His style is more glamorous. Dark Horse Comics' Brett Weldele doing a variant cover, too. Fellow Sri Lankan, Prabath Wijayantha did some additional coloring in the pages. This was the team I had when Issue #1 was launched at Lanka Comic Con 2016.
Then I saw Toben Racicot's comic lettering on Reddit. He re-lettered the entire book which gave the book a complete face-lift.
The next--and most exciting person to join the team was Katie Kubert, who is a former DC Comics' editor. She worked on Batman, Nightwing and Batgirl. Katie joined in as a consulting editor to improve plot points and dialogue wherever possible. And I must say, as a creator, a comics geek, and an artist - the experience was beyond words. When I got my first batch of notes for Issue #1, I was thrilled. Having worked years in the industry, Katie gave some brilliant insight that helped me shape the final book.
Apart from the 06 core team members of Lionborn, the book features a variant art gallery section with artworks by 15 comic artists! I am pretty excited about this as some of the pieces here look absolutely gorgeous.
As for coordinating with everyone... it all happened through emails. (God bless technology). I've collaborated with few overseas artists in the past while making short films... so this was something I was very comfortable with. Getting stuff done hasn't been much of a problem as long as you deal with professionals too. Though I admit, there have been occasions where I had to push timelines, but overall, I am extremely happy how this project came together.
So how did it go at Lanka Comic Con 2016?
Lionborn was planned as a 7-issue miniseries. I self published the first issue, and launched it at Lanka Comic Con 2016. Needless to say, I wasn't expecting the enormous response. Within a couple of hours, all copies were sold out. It was great to meet many folks who had been following my illustration work for years and to see them come and support this passion project of mine. I continued working on the remaining issues of Lionborn after Lanka Comic Con and began approaching international comic publishers in February 2017.
Unlike the traditional approach of a script and sample art, I had an almost finished graphic novel to show publishers. Lionborn was a hard sell: they preferred to develop material to match their existing schedules. Since I had a pleasant experience with self-publishing, I decided to continue with that. But, instead of 7 issues, the full book at once. It made sense economically. It would also be easier to market and distribute one completed book opposed to 7 books.
Where did you print it?
I got quotes from Sri Lanka and Dubai. Surprisingly, the costs were close to each other, so and I decided to print it in Dubai as it gave me more control in assessing quality.
What are you doing differently / what are you going to build on, this time? What your goals / metrics, as a vendor an creator, for Comic Con this year?
I've expanded my stall space this year as I will have my illustrated posters as well as Lionborn for sale. Hence, giving me more space to move around and engage with visitors. As usual, I am expecting to do a bunch of signings and looking forward to say hello to everyone dropping by.
The future for Lionborn
As any self-published author can attest, getting word out is no easy task. I'll most likely be attending the Cons here in Dubai and see how things take off from there.