I can carry something in my head.
Got a taste for indie comics? Plug in to Philadelphia designer Eric Callahan's new site Pete And Black Duck for a digital dish like no one else is serving.
Eric Callahan is the type of creator who holds his ideas close throughout their maturation. "I have a few creative outlets and the process changes for each, but one constant" he reveals, "is the gestation period."
For his debut, he didn't want to make a newstand comic book or even a digital comic book. He wanted to build a complete platform where he could use all the tools he desired, including guided-view swiping and animated elements, to push his stories forward.
"I have really good visualization skills, so I can carry something in my head, looking at it backwards and forwards, flipping it over, working out the details before it ever hits paper or pixel. That was certainly the case with Pete and Black Duck."
Pete and Black Duck is the title of Callahan's mystery adventure starring a theater set painter who discovers that if the proper elements are in place he has the unnerving ability to hold a photograph and actually read the thoughts of the person during the moment the picture was taken. Callahan explains "Once I decided that I was going to give graphic storytelling a try, I would walk to my day job virtually every day experimenting with different premises until I hit on the concept that the main character could hear the internal monologue of people in pictures. This, I thought, had potential to sustain a story."
Building the story from as personal a place as possible Callahan walked through the steps of his characters to flesh out the world in which they lived. He says "After I had the premise set, I took a trip to an antique store to buy some old photos." a scene which is mirrored in the comic. "The idea was to let the people in the photos tell me their stories — figuratively, of course."
"Most were mundane — happy couple, not so happy couple, bratty kid, etc. Then I saw this one fellow. He was so interesting." Callahan said that he was struck with inspiration for the hook to his story's mystery.
"There was just something about him — his clothes, his expression — he had a great story to tell, or even better, to hide." he mentions of the anonymous photographed character. "From there the story within the story just poured out."
Callahan said that the experience of creating an original comic book style story is one he'll never forget. "It was very exciting and not a little manic — one of those rare and fantastic moments when I was a conduit and it was all flowing through me."
The visual style that Callahan landed on for Pete and Black Duck is notably cinematic with compositional elements of noir and a heavy reliance on a rich shadowed palette for the moody scenes which have been carefully crafted into a nostalgic love letter for 1985's Philadelphia. A huge amout of his own personality and idiosyncrasies were embedded in the story's presentation.
He admits, "I’m something of an inspiration pack rat. Maybe we all are? I’ll keep hold of anything — a scene from a movie, lighting from a play, turn of phrase from a book, pacing in a song, an interesting bit of trash on the street — anything that may be of some use later."
"One good aspect of getting older is that my collection is enormous and it’s that much easier to identify the elements with the most staying power. The point being that I think I have a lot of good material to work with. So, I guess there’s a combination of thought exercise and exposing the nuggets that come out of that to stimuli in the hopes of some 'creative reaction' informed by a lifetime of careful observation."
Callahan took a hands-on approach and built an online site from the ground up to feature his stories. There he blogs about his creative process and clues everyone in to his forthcoming flood of content for Pete and Black Duck. The first episode is available now with another two Acts on their way.
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