Friday, September 26, 2008

The Swimming Lesson Revisited

A few years ago when Black Mermaid Productions™ (BMP) included Bruce Love (we casually called ourselves BMP [Classic] at the time, as opposed to BMP [New Wave] which is now the two-person team consisting of Jozef and myself), we toyed with the idea of releasing a children's picture book called The Swimming Lesson as our first foray back into publication. 

This book was a 32-page, full colour story featuring Tilaweed, Hyfus, and their offspring Illora, as well as Tentus and No~Fin as the supporting characters. Check out the Character Gallery on our website for more insight into their publishing history, although it must be noted that the original 'disfigured' Illora never saw print and has now completely been reinvented. 

At the time of writing this picture book, these characters had already gone through their physical and emotional metamorphoses and transition from ElfQuest: WaveDancers to the Eternal Spheres™ Elf~Fin™ universe. We also had had serious talks with a major children's book publisher in Sydney about releasing the book. However, the managing editor wanted us to reduce the story from 2000 words to no more than 600 words and re-conceive it as a starter book for four to five year olds, which we understood would fulfill her needs in terms of publishing trends in the market place but which we thought didn't serve the bigger picture of what we wanted to achieve long term with our Intellectual Property. 

The actual picture book idea came at a time when we were disillusioned with comics after a long legal battle in the USA over these very characters. The other dynamic within the BMP team itself was that we were pulling in three very different directions – Jozef wanted to do picture books, I wanted us to novelise and illustrate our stories, and Bruce wanted to do short films. Needless to say, this is not a good recipe for focus and success. Consequently, we didn't achieve very much during that time period except to rediscover our love for comics, as well as to essentially create the sequel to the Elf~Fin™ comic book series/graphic novel we're working on at the moment – the Hyfus and Tilaweed underwater love story, which is progressing nicely. In fact, we even started serious talks with a very decent publisher the other day, but discovered we had very different professional and business needs. We subsequently discontinued negotiation because it would have meant signing away a large chunk of our Intellectual Property, although we must add that we parted on very good terms. We were reluctant to proceed as too much work has already gone into developing the creative property as it stands now, our love for and attachment to our characters and stories, and because we are quite understandably – as we're sure you will appreciate – jittery about signing any contracts that involve assigning copyright.  

Anyway, we posted some of the picture book roughs onto the Eternal Spheres; Elf~Fin page of our website (scroll to the bottom of the page in question to see what we're talking about), but I discovered another lovely piece in our archive the other day, which we thought you might want to see. The original draft reintroduced Korillia into the story, but she was such a force to be reckoned with that we decided to give her major page-time in the third installment of the Elf~Fin™ series. 

The picture book has been put on the back burner for the moment, although Jozef is keen to add it to our repertoire down the track. It will offer a slice of life within the continuity of the greater story arc. The other good thing is that picture books and comics books are no longer perceived as being incompatible in the marketplace – some comic book publishers such as Jim Valentino's Shadowline and his new Silverline imprint are adding picture books to their lists (Bruce the Little Blue Spruce), and some traditional picture book illustrators such as Working Title Press in Australia are adding comics/graphic novels to their list (Captain Congo and the Crocodile King). 

No comments: