Bringing on the Green Knight

I have long been a fan of Arthurian legends. I really enjoy getting into the roots that prop all of these tales up, from ancient Welsh mythology to old tropes that different cultures would trade about in their oral traditions. It’s a lot of fun for me, and I’ve been wanting to do my own book of Arthurian tales since I was about 20.

With David Ayer directing the new Green Knight movie for A24, I was able to geek out a bit about the story of Gawain and the Green Knight, one of my absolute faves. It has just a little bit of everything peppered into the story, from impossible contest to ridiculous trading games. And woven throughout is the concept of honor, and what honor, or a life without honor, would mean to any knight of the Round Table.

I drew my own rendition of the Green Knight, which you can watch with the video I have attached to the story. I also tell the beginning of the story, which finds Gawain rashly choosing to agree to a game with an obviously supernatural being.

The Angel

As I was proofing earlier pages of the Miller’s Daughters, I realized I had made a pretty big mistake. I had missed an introduction of the Miller himself, and went from a nice scenery page to a page detailing the family dynamic of the Miller and his children. Oops. Over the weekend I put together a new page to introduce the poor old chap, and thought I would share. Here are the finished inks for the page, followed by the same art with shading.

death

img_0201

I’ll be adding text to the bottom of the page, and amending the text that was on the original second page of the story!

Sweets

I’ve been trying to get a page a week finished on the Miller’s Daughters, but it’s not going quite as assertively as I would like. No bother, really, progress is still progress. Here is the newest page:

md-page-24-tapastic

The whole series can be found here… There are still some edits that need to be done to the long-form story, but it’s still a pretty entertaining read!

 

Monster Monday: the Redcap

Research for most monsters can be a lot of fun, and pretty educational, too. Take this week’s Monster Monday inductee, the Redcap. I had no idea that the people of the border region between Scotland and England had their own unique legends. Makes sense, though, given that this area has been contested and fought over for centuries. Conflict tends to be the mortar with which great legends are built.

Redcap close

Redcaps are malicious, foul little fiends that live in the abandoned castles and ruins throughout the border regions. They may be related to goblins, or faeries, or perhaps some sort of inbred cave dwarf, but no one can really tell for sure; most folk that glimpse them are too busy running away to tell. Sadly, this rarely works, as Redcaps are some of the fastest creatures of the Other and can easily catch up with the fleetest of human feet.

Redcaps have long, tapered fingers, weathered faces, and red tinged eyes. They also sport bright red caps, sewn expertly from human skin. Redcaps are vicious and accomplished slaughterers of humans that wander too close to their haunts, and it’s not just for sport, either; the Redcap needs to keep its hat soaked in fresh blood to stay alive. If the cap dries out, the Redcap will die. Needless to say, this rarely happens.

Redcaps are also known to carry long pikes, which they are very accomplished with. They wear heavy, iron-shod boots, which may be worn to lull their prey into a false sense of security, or perhaps to keep them from running too fast to stay in this realm.

Redcap Posed

While Redcaps are very common in the Border areas between England and Scotland, there have been several stories of their antics in Ireland, too. The only reliably documented way to defeat a Redcap is to try and hide from them, which is next to impossible, since they tend to know the lay of their lands very well. If you find yourself in the hunting grounds of one of these horrid little beasts, it’s best to make your peace with life; there is probably not much of it left to live.

 

Breakdown: the Miller’s Daughters, page 24

Page 24 and 25 and probably the hardest for me, because I really held out hope that I would change my mind on the outcome. On the other hand, I already wrote the ending of the story back in November of 2015, and the outcome of these two pages are crucial to the story’s resolution.

Several different drafts of the page breakdown have come and gone, with the conclusion that the long-form, single panel page works best for this part of the story. Here is the script for page 24:

PAGE 24

Full page panel: A waterfall takes up most of the page, with little Ophie perched in her tree on the left. Foam and spray from the river below take up the bottom of the page. Text takes up the middle portion of the page.

The Rake slowly, reverently unwrapped the package, he took extra care not to spill the small cakes and pastry (he had an infamous sweet-tooth, and cavities to match) that had been wrapped up within. He licked his lips, gathered his sling, and began to fling the sugary treats at the poor girl in the tree. Being as he was an excellent shot, the branches surrounding our poor, doomed child were quite liberally spattered with sweets.

The Rake opened his pack and prodded the excitable badgers within to action. The poor little creatures had been left in an intentional state of constant hunger, and smelling sweets nearby, the badgers furiously scrambled up into the tree, climbing in a most chaotic fashion towards the increasingly panicked girl above.

Ophie lost her nerves, and began to shuffle slowly away from the safety of her perch. She lost her footing on a patch of sugar-coated bark, and tumbled out of the tree.

He really is a despicable character; I have omitted several pages of his backstory just because he is so rotten… but I might bring them back in, those pages would be a lot of fun to draw!

Here is the original concept art for the Rake, from late 2015:

Rake Concept Art

Monster Monday: the Dearg-Due

There is a prevailing custom in some older cultures, one in which you take extra care to cover the graves of the recently deceased with stones (or boulders). The reason for which might be as simple as not having any dirt around to backfill the grave, or, if you live in Ireland, it’s a lesson learned from ages passed.

Rock-Covered-Grave-300x215

Her name is long forgotten, but her legend lives on. Not for the beauty she radiated in life, but for the terror she harvested in death. She is the Dearg-Due, the Red Blood Drinker. She was once a legendary beauty, born to a family of means and highly sought after. Her heart, though, belonged to a peasant, which ultimately brought about her doom.

The young lady’s family had come into hard times, and her father wished to marry her off to a wealthy family to bring much needed funds into his coffers. A bride-price was settled, and the unfortunate woman was shipped off to her new husband’s estate.

Sadly, the groom was a terrible man. He relished acts of cruelty, and loved to inflict harm on his new bride. He would cut her perfect skin, and delight in the contrast of ruddy crimson against her pale, flawless flesh. When he wasn’t abusing her, he locked her away in a tower so that none but him could see her.

The young woman held out for hope that her beloved would mount a rescue, or that her father would come to his senses and ask for the marriage to be annulled. She struggled in this manner for several months, oblivious to the fact that her father was drunk with his new-found return to wealth, and that her beloved had perished in a mysterious fire.

Eventually, her will to carry on was extinguished. She stopped eating. She stopped drinking. She no longer resisted the cruelty inflicted upon her by her spouse. She renounced her faith, renounced her heart, and slowly, painfully, ceased to live.

The people of her village were devastated. Some, perhaps, knew what had been happening to the young woman but kept their mouths shut, and were now reflecting on their own complicity in her death. She was buried, and she was mourned. A great depression settled over the area.

The very night she was buried, a young man disappeared from his bed. His brother, whom he shared a room with, said that he dreamt of a beautiful song coming from the nearby woods, and a soft, soothing voice urging him to come and dance. He dreamt that his brother slipped on his shoes and climbed out the window, then stumbled off into the misty woodlands.

Several days passed, and the young man remained missing. Search parties were sent out, and returned without news. Finally, the boy was found; pale, lifeless and limp, in a ditch that ran alongside the graveyard. His body had been drained of blood, countless lesions and cuts marked the skin all over his arms and chest.

Panic settled over the village; one of their own had been murdered, and the graveyard had been vandalized as well. The grave of the greatly wronged beauty had been defiled, and her corpse was nowhere to be seen. People began to whisper of dark forces being at work, and wished ever harder that they had intervened before the young woman had perished.

The tragedies that befell that tiny village went on for years. Young men would wander out into the mists, never to be seen again. Children would sit up from their sleep, muttering about the wonderful songs they heard in their dreams, and struggle to leave their homes. Newly born babes would disappear in the night. Search parties were sent out day after day, but they, too, began to go missing.

Those poor folk that survived knew in their hearts that the creature that preyed on their young was one of their own creation, a fiend born of neglect and silence in the face of cruelty.

The little village grew smaller, the fields grew fallow. The woods began to creep closer to people’s homes. The water in the streams tasted of copper. Eventually, the people of the village had the good sense to flee, and never return.

Some say the Dearg-Due is still there, wandering the woods and calling out, singing a haunting siren’s song of loss, tragedy and yearning.

One thing is certain, though; the legacy of the Dearg-Due can still be seen to this day, at cemeteries all over the country. Graves, once filled, are topped with stones, all to discourage the recently dead from returning to settle the grievances left from life.

Dearg-Due
©2016  Leigh George Kade

Breakdown: The Miller’s Daughters, page 23.

Over the last year I have been working on a long-form graphic novel, which will eventually comprise a collection of original Fairy Tales and macabre morality plays. The first of which, the Miller’s Daughters, is about half way done.

The villain of the story, a wandering Rake, has embarked on a killing spree. As you can see, the story gets pretty grim:

Miller Page 11 High
Page 16 of the Miller’s Daughters

The hardest part of the story, frankly, has been that I am now at the point where the Rake is murdering the protagonists of the story. I really don’t like writing about kids getting killed, but it’s a ghost story… So I have to get through this part.

Here is the script for page 22, in which the Rake confronts Ophie Miller.

Page 23

Top Panel: The Rake is perched on a branch, several baby badgers are sitting around him, staring curiously. The Rake is clasping his hands together, looking up like a man at prayer.

Text Box:

The Rake, seeing his quarry treed in such an unfortunate manner, sat down to taunt his prey.

Panel Two: The Rake’s head and hand fill about 2/3rds of the panel. He is looking up, menacing. Little Faeries, stars, and flowers are flitting about his head.

Text Box:

“You, with your hair so dark, in that tree so high, remind me of the fairy stories, young miss,” said he.

“Of lost spirits in the wood, of sylphs, sidhe, and baine,” said he.

“Won’t you join your sister, dear?” he asked, as sincere as a jackal at an abattoir.

Panel Three, lower left hand corner: Ophie is incensed, in a defiant pose she is clutching one tree branch for support while gesturing at the Rake with her free hand. She is yelling.

Text Box:

Ophie replied only with a string of newly-catalogued curses, the depth and vivid imagery of which would have changed the nature of naval operations for centuries if they had been heard by any other ears.

Panel Four: The Rake looks shocked, eyes wide open…

Text Box:

Some so boldly vulgar as to give even this calloused Rake reason to blush.

Final Panel: Text:

Fancying up a new demise for so skillful a vulgarian, the Rake rummaged around in his rucksack until he found a decent sized package; all brown paper, grease stained and wrapped in twine.

Tomorrow, I’ll post the preliminary pencils for this page as part of the Workbench Wednesday update.