It’s not unusual to find an artist who succeeds in one medium but envies those who excel in others. Such was the case with romance fiction writer Diana Laurence of Greenfield, Wis., author of the popular Soulful Sex anthologies and the vampire romance novel Bloodchained. Her “impossible dream” was to create comic books.
Few romance authors are comics geeks, but Laurence was one. She idolized the stars of the graphic novels genre, particularly Neil Gaiman, writer of the renowned series “The Sandman,” and Terry Moore, who wrote and illustrated the romantic series “Strangers in Paradise.”
“I tried to draw comics, but I’m no good at anything beneath the neckline,” says Laurence, who did create a set of trading cards with portraits of her characters in 2007. “I’ve been envious of comics artists all my life. It would be such a thrill to be able to capture visually what I see in my imagination.”
Laurence did experience a similar thrill in 2008, when a fan of her work from Austin, Texas named CC Rogers sent her a piece of fan art. It was based on one of Laurence’s short stories, “Abigail’s Archer.” Laurence was delighted with the rendering. “CC captured the scene and my characters with astonishing accuracy,” she says. “Her talent was obvious.”
The two struck up a correspondence, and it turned out CC had also always wanted to do a comic book. Together author and artist decided to experiment by creating a “graphic excerpt” from another of Laurence’s stories, “As Commonplace as Rain.” The two-page spread utilized existing dialogue from the story. It was offered free to readers on Laurence’s Web site.
The success of this experiment meant only one thing: it was time for the two to create an original comic book. Due to the rising popularity of Laurence’s novel Bloodchained, it made sense to place the story in that universe, a Renaissance-style fantasy country called Audica. Laurence wrote the script and storyboard for “Sign of the Bloodletters,” about an encounter at an inn between mortals and the morally ambiguous blood-drinking “Roicans” introduced in the novel.
“Vampire romance is all the rage right now,” says Laurence, “although when I wrote Bloodchained the phenomenon had yet to take hold. I’m delighted, as it’s one of my favorite genres. And the gothic atmosphere of vampire romance is perfect for comic books. A firelit inn at night…mysterious strangers…romance and danger…great elements for the visual medium.”
Laurence found new challenges in writing a comic book, but it was exhilarating to take the first steps down a road trod by her heroes. “I gained even more respect for people like Gaiman, Moore and their ilk,” she says. “Writing for comics is so much more than laying down dialogue. The plot has to unfold at a meticulously planned pace. And the action must be conveyed in ‘stop-motion,’ if you will. The writer needs to be sensitive to what her vision will require from the artist.”
But did she enjoy doing it? “You bet!” Laurence says. “I can’t draw, but I can certainly describe what I want drawn. It was tremendous fun laying out what I wanted to see on each page.”
CC Rogers took the script and improved upon it further, resulting in a 12-page comic book that showcases the romance and mystery of Laurence’s tale. The author says, “The two protagonists are so attractive, and the mood is quite haunting. CC did a fabulous job conveying the action from dramatic visual angles, and it really draws the reader into this mysterious, magical world.”
Says Rogers, “It was both pleasurable and educational to work with such a talented and experienced writer. As a fan of Diana’s works, I was deeply honored to help bring her characters to a new medium. I am extremely pleased with the comic we created and hope the Bloodchained fans enjoy it as much as we do!”
The completed “Sign of the Bloodletters” is being offered free for onl
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