codex: MASS EFFECT LOST SCROLLS ORIGINS
This is the original version of Page 1 of the Mass Effect Lost Scrolls comic. I like to come back to it from time to time to remind myself of how it started - not just from a product perspective but also an intention too.
I think it must have been 2018 when I did this and I was genuinely in a different time of my life. Internet 3.0 was ready to make itself official, webcomics were gaining more momentum with the aggressive growth of social media apps geared toward visual art and I was trying to reconcile the part of me that was an artist with the part of me that had a full time job in a completely different field.
What's interesting to note about this page isn't the quality of art from the perspective of what I could do at that age. What's interesting is the quality I deliberately resorted to in a desperate act to keep up with online content creation demands. In late 2021, early 2022, we would come to identify this as toxic hustle culture but in the early days of good ol' 2018 this was where the gold rush was. The problem, though, was what it did for me artistically. It put me on a path where my art became something else that I needed to run away from.
When I started to make comics in my teenage years, it was an activity that I ran to in order to get away from the stresses of life. As I started to push myself to "turn the hobby into a side hustle", as we said in those days, making comics started to become another one of life's stresses that I needed to run away from. I lost the magical connection artists get when we flow with our artistic creation and making the comic started to become a stress and work that kept me away from my wife and seeing my then one-year old son grow up. The irony, of course, was that the whole reason for the Mass Effect Lost Scrolls comic was to act as a father's loving letter to their son. The comic is about my son and for my son yet it was keeping me from growing with him.
The name of the game, back then, was "staying relevant" and the only way to stay relevant was to get content out frequently and consistently. Everywhere you went, and every "grow your following" guru repeated those words like gospel. It didn't matter if you felt like drawing or not; it didn't matter if you enjoyed it or not - if you are scheduled to update your comic every week then you must update it each week regardless of what it takes.
Unfortunately something had to give, whether it was sleep, time with loved ones or the quality of your work. One had to die if you wanted to make it in this game. It was manic and it was toxic but we all desperately chased it, myself included. From the first pass of Page 1, clearly I chose "quality" as the one that had to go.
Initially, I was obsessed with the route that would get things out the quickest. I had to win that algorithm game. First was this level of quality but it was too much against my liking so I resorted upwards for a comic that was just pencils. Chapter 2 was originally just pencils - no inking or colours or tones. When I saw that the story was developing in my head faster than I was able to draw it, I opted for a "light novel" format for Chapter 3. As Chapter 4 came along, though, I was being gripped by the appeal of sequential art for storytelling and started it again - this is where the current run of Mass Effect Lost Scrolls really began.
It was around that time that my purpose for the comic changed. The purpose of the comic was:
To act as a loving letter from a father to his son and maintain a tangible connection between us.
To act as an artistic journal for me to chart my artistic development.
To continue the story of Maru Shepard, after finishing the Mass Effect Trilogy (for the fifth time).
Following that moment of redefinition in my head, I went back to Page 1 and remastered it to a standard that I could be proud of. Not all pages since then have been complete pride and joy. There have been frustrations of trial and error as I zeroed in on techniques, processes and styles that I could look at and feel a sense of accomplishment and a sense of achievement. Chapter 3 Page 23 was the first time that I felt those feelings - for the first time, after finishing a page, I felt pride and satisfaction instead of relief that it was finished.
This was a stark difference in experience and I liked it. It was around that page that I started to actually enjoy making the comic. Making it gave me an intrinsic reward that took me four years to find but I cannot discount that the journey started with a quickly scribbled greytone page with no plot.
It really is quite a thing when an idea and a plan come together. The comic has started to live out its purpose to me and, with it, so have other aspects of life started to make a lot of sense.
Art truly is a wonderful gift.