Every year since I was 12, I re-read Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles.
Here’s a quick piece I did, inspired by the book’s opening sketch.
Rocket summer. The words passed among the people in the open, airing houses. Rocket summer. The warm desert air changing the frost patterns on the windows, erasing the artwork. The skis and sleds suddenly useless. The snow, falling from the cold sky upon the town, turned to a hot rain before it touched the ground. Rocket summer.
Chapter 2 of the comic is going to feature a pretty gnarly and gorgeous full-page shot of Eleanor’s grand leap. I figured I could use a little practice on this scene in advance, so I took a pass at it. It’s not quite what I envisioned, but it was too much fun to not fully ink and color it.
Download the full size here!
The final page — the one that’ll actually appear in Chapter 2 — will show a bit more desperation, a bit more motion. Still, I’m pretty happy with the way this has turned out, and the huge step up in quality it suggests for future pages!
Clara’s flirtation with steampunk cosplayers was absolutely hilarious to me in the latest episode of The Guild. I couldn’t not sketch her up.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to direct your attention to Eleanor’s new home on the web.
I’ll be publishing new pages of the graphic novel each week on EleanorWitt.com. (Readers here will have a bit of a head start on the rest of the world as they catch up.)
Come check it out! Eleanor’s finally got a proper home.
The slow trickle of Eleanor comics lately is deliberate — never fear, the comic is still marching along. I’m just tangled up in the process of creating a brand new site just for the comic — with a regular publishing schedule and everything!
Trouble is, I’m just a designer. When I lift the hood on WordPress, I am befuddled by the moving parts.
If you are a WordPress pro, or know someone who is, please email me. I need someone to take a pretty design and turn it into gear-spinning, social-cranking, sexy PHP awesome.
Now you can take a (kinda creepy) Eleanor with you wherever you go!
This is something she has never dreamed. Always the dreams of falling. Never the dreams of everything falling around her. For the first time she is a stationary object, the axis of this strange, bombed-out world.
She can hardly imagine how she has come to be here, on this beach. Eleanor remembers the little boat that she and Jack chartered to take them to the island. The fat and happy woman behind the wheel, contentedly putting away several peanut butter sandwiches with slow, patient, dramatic chewing motions. As if the sandwiches were the peak of her happiness, and she was determined to enjoy every slow work of her jaw.
The boat bobbing, anchored just off the steep shore of Huffnagle. Audrey, splashing in the shallow gray water. Jack scooping her up, saying, Let’s sit on the beach. We’ll turn over rocks and try to skip them.
The only three people in the world, she thought to herself as she climbed the old path to the summit. Four, she corrected. Can’t forget our happy Quintess.
And this is where her remembering ends. What then? She had dived, she was sure of that. And the world had changed as she knifed into the sea. The stir of lazy clouds wheeled away, replaced now with this burbling black ceiling of stained thunderheads, raining not water but a fine damp mist of whatever she has been breathing.
The sea pushes at her bare legs. The waves tongue her skin thickly, leaving behind a scum of the same black grime. Eleanor absently wipes it away, but it only smudges. She is distracted by the sight now of the boat, some distance away, on its side and bleached the same gray-black as Eleanor’s legs.
That the boat is here concerns her. If this isn’t a dream, then something awful has happened. Around her the gravel of Huffnagle’s beach is clotted with ash. The lone tree that has for years clung to the side of the cliff has pulled free and dangles by one determined root. The tree is bare, stripped clean of its leaves, which toss about on the surface of the cove below.
The same cove she plummeted into twenty years before. The same one Jack had treaded water in, waiting for her.
She looks around, realizing only now that she is sitting just where Jack and Audrey had been skipping stones. Jack, she calls, but her throat is rough and her voice strains. She tries again anyway. Audrey!
She turns and looks up the beach behind her. Something is half-buried in the fine gravel a few yards away. Eleanor scrambles across the rocks, starts digging. Panic turns the hairs up on her neck, brushes against her skin lightly. She isn’t sure what she expects to find, but a terrible image of pale, drained skin fills her sight. A sound like a whimper startles her. It has come from her own lips.
The gravel slides back into the pit as she digs, so she digs more quickly, pawing deeper. Her fingers strike something cold. That whimper, again. More and more she excavates, and then she sees what lies beneath the earth. It is the boat, the old yellow paint now nearly entirely scoured away by the steady brush of the rocks. How many years must the boat have been buried here? How did it get here? She pulls at it, but it must be plunged deep into the pebbly beach, must be scooped full of smooth rocks. She pulls a little harder. The wood pulls away in her hands, wet and mulchy.
She turns at a lonely sound, a bell clanging, echoing coppery across the water. The boat is going down, the greenish old bell on the mast tipping about as the heavy water sucks at the vessel. When the water takes the bell, too, everything is quiet. All that is left is the thup-thup of the sea sludging onto the rocks. It is a windless day, or night, for she cannot tell the difference. Eleanor stands up for the first time. Her legs feel more rigid than they should. They are cold.
She opens her mouth and calls for Jack, but no sound comes. The husky shuffle sound of the waves no longer stirs the air. Eleanor turns with some difficulty, as if she has suddenly been swallowed by the deep sea. Her feet give no leverage. She looks down and sees her legs encased in plaster, the familiar steel wagon-spokes haloed about her, stitched into her bones. Her arm, too, is sheathed in a stiff cast. The rest of her body is bare. She turns about, and her hair hangs weightlessly about her face.
She recognizes this, the absence of wind and motion. She is here again, at last here again, in that void she has looked for these twenty years. Eleanor opens her mouth to ask a question, and thinks better of it, and instead concentrates her thoughts. I am here again, she thinks. Are you?
There is a low hum somewhere above her, growing louder, and she looks up and this time sees a light that she has never seen before. It grows brighter, larger. Eleanor cannot bring herself to so much as blink, but eventually the light grows so brilliant that she must close her eyes entirely. Then it dims suddenly and the dull hum has risen to a thrumming, vibrating rumble that suddenly splits wide open –
The world is full of sound again, and Eleanor rises sharply. Her hair slicks to her skin. She whips it away in time to hear Jack’s voice. That was fantastic! he is calling, but Eleanor is not listening. She bobs in the cove, looks up at the cliff, angling up high and away and blocking the cold white sun. There are no billowing black thunderheads. No ash in the sky. She looks at the shore and sees Jack standing ankle-deep in the water, Audrey beside him in her floaties. Mom! she calls, and Eleanor lifts one unbroken arm from the water and waves slowly back. In the distance, the fishing boat rocks on the slow gray swells, its coppery bell ringing dimly out over the sea.
While I’m working on new pages for the graphic novel, I’ll be sharing some short Eleanor studies I’ve written in years past while developing the character and story. (Fair warning: These pieces do not always occur within the continuity of the graphic novel. Sometimes it’s just fun to throw Eleanor into the apocalypse and see what happens.)