Page 5 is Beautiful & it’s Almost Finished

Goddammit, I love Diana’s artwork. All I need to do is scribble a few ideas down, send it to her, and she sends back something better and more beautifully detailed than I could ever have imagined.

Take Page 5, for example – I wrote something vague about a scene in which Rasputin goes into a church and completely steals the show. I pictured a priest giving a boring sermon, the crowd only there because they felt they should be, and then suddenly this newcomer arrives and starts to give his own electrifying address… the crowd are mesmerised.

I didn’t say much more than that, but what came back was nothing short of glorious. I love the faces, the detail on the church roof, the different angles she’s used… even the layout of the panels is new. I suggested dividing the page into four even blocks, I think, but this layout works so much better.

By the way, here’s a fun fact: as far as I know, this particular event never actually happened. This is one of the occasions when we’ll be applying a little artistic license in order to tell our story. (“Artists use lies to tell the truth,” as Alan Moore wrote in V for Vendetta.)

The truth is that over a period of roughly a decade, Rasputin’s presence in Saint Petersburg posed an existential challenge to a church that was increasingly beginning to feel obsolete; and Russian high society, at that time obsessed with new practices such as magnetism, hypnosis, seances and mediumship, was quick to favour this new Holy Fool over old-fashioned scripture and sermons.

But putting all that into one page of our introductory chapter would have been impossible. Instead, this scene should serve as a neat visual metaphor for the whole process.

Check out these sketches below… the finished page should be online in the next day or so!

 

Page 5-9 Previews

Here’s a little preview of what’s coming up in the next few pages… accompanied by Diana’s page layout sketches, below.

Page 5. These pages continue on from the last scene at Tsarevich Alexei’s bedside – in charting the growth of Rasputin’s influence in Saint Petersburg. Page 5 features a church where Rasputin, dramatically speaking in tongues amidst the crowd, has succeeded in utterly upstaging the local priest.

Page 6. A late-night visitor at Rasputin’s apartment, and a drunken dinner party: here we address some of the more scandalous rumours that fuelled Rasputin’s notoriety.

Page 7. Going behind the scenes here, we see a different side to the character. Here’s Rasputin with his two daughters, walking in a city park. It’s our first proper look at Varya, our lead character (here, just 16 years old).

(Page 8, not pictured below, is the continuation of that scene.)

Page 9. The night of Rasputin’s murder, in December 1916. The two sisters are awake, and they watch through the window as their father is taken away by car in the middle of the night. It’s the last time either of them will see him alive.

 

Drawing ‘The Life & Death’

Our mini-story about The Life and Death of Grigori Rasputin was released as an early one-off – intended to tie in with the anniversary of Rasputin’s death, while also building a little publicity for our own project.

In the book Rasputina, we’re far more interested in what happened next – but you will probably see some of these images again. Our first chapter will serve as a prologue, retelling the events leading up to Rasputin’s death and setting the stage for our story. It will be slower, and more detailed than our 12-panel Life and Death story, but we don’t plan to waste any of this great artwork… so watch out for some of these images reappearing, as they get recycled as panels in forthcoming pages of the book.

Until then, here’s a little look at how these pages evolved: Diana’s first set of sketches for The Life and Death of Grigori Rasputin.

 
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The Front Cover

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front-cover-3Things are beginning to fall into shape now – we’ve got our characters, we’ve got a full story outline, and I’ve written a script for chapter one. It’s time to start bringing these pages to life, and a front cover seems like a logical place to begin.

Our first 24-page chapter is going to serve as an introduction, by recapping the events that surrounded Rasputin’s death and setting up the journey ahead of our protagonist, Varya.

By page 24 she’ll be in Moscow, the new capital, in the year 1920. So that’s where our cover image finds her… with the dome of Saint Basil’s Cathedral just visible over her shoulder.

Character Profiles

One of the most interesting tasks we’ve had to think about this month is developing our characters. In some cases, that has meant late nights studying faded photographs and reading through memoirs. All the characters we’ve included so far are based on real, historical figures – but some are better documented than others.

A lot has been written about Grigori Rasputin, of course, while Felix Yusupov and Maria Rasputin have both published books about their own lives. That gives us a lot to work with. But I couldn’t find a single photograph of Sergei Sukhotin, while Varvara Rasputina more or less disappeared from the history books after her father’s murder.

It’s a mixed blessing, really. Creating believable characters based on mere snippets of historical records is tough, but on the plus side, it does leave a lot of potential for telling our own story.

Anyway, here are our first eight character portraits, which now appear on the Cast page along with detailed bios. As the story develops, we’ll be adding more profiles to the list.

 
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First Sketches

Well, it’s finally happening. We’ve been talking about this project for years now – I think the first time Diana and myself sat down and chatted about Rasputina must have been around February, maybe March, 2014.

Since then, we’ve both been busy: rushing from one project to another, with no time to really put much thought into what we both knew could only turn out to be a massive commitment. But it’s a story that we both felt deserved to be told; and with the centenary of Rasputin’s murder looming ever closer – 30th December 2016 – a few months ago we decided that it was finally time to make this happen.

Here are the very first sketches. Tsar Nicholas and Tsarina Alexandra, Grigori Rasputin and his daughter – our heroine – Varvara. This is the moment that Rasputina crossed over from our imaginations, into the real, physical world.

 
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