“The Monastery feared Mushirah. They feared her so much that they threw her in a prison cell, stitched her mouth shut and set her execution date.
Bundled into a caravan by an unknown ally, we follow her journey to the big city that could become her sanctuary, chased by
Monastic mercenaries who will stop at nothing to carry out her death sentence.”
SKAL is both written and illustrated by Jennie, an accomplished UK-dwelling artist, who favours using traditional mediums like watercolours, inks and pencil. SKAL also allows her to experiment with other techniques and practices: collage being one of them.
Jennie is a talented designer who I’ve met at previous UK conventions and whose work left a lasting impression. SKAL itself, her latest project, is ongoing, with the (12 page) Prologue completed and (50 page) Chapter One currently in progress. Due to the upcoming content including depictions of nudity, sex, blood and violence, be warned that SKAL is not suitable for children – there are graphic scenes right from the get go, which serve to deliver a much darker ‘Arabian Night’ than some might expect.
The prologue introduces Mushirah, a diviner on the receiving end of uncontrolled visions who has spent most of her life behind the high walls of a monastery. Believing that a person’s fate is decided the moment they are born, and that her uncaring and indifferent world runs exactly to prophecy, it is only when she is forced to flee – thrust into an unknown environment – that her own rigid perceptions of the world begin to be challenged.
On her journey, Mushirah crosses paths with, and unwittingly involves, several other characters. One such unfortunate soul is Voresh, a petty thief who lives on the edge with mounting debts looming over her like a sharpened guillotine. Another one is Omran, a mercenary and craftsman, part of a small ‘weapon for hire’ group in the dingier parts of the city.
SKAL is a dark erotic drama, with splashes of humour, set in an exotic world that gradually reveals the mystery surrounding Mushirah’s identity.
“Because I will always stick with the standard webcomic tradition of keeping the story free to read online, it sadly meant that Skal languished on the backburner for months when paid work had to take priority,” says Jennie. That situation changed with the arrival of a new, web-vased means for potential readers to support the work of creators they enjoy.
“This was until I discovered Patreon.com, a site that works as a supporting platform for creators such as myself,” Jennie reveals.
Founded in May 2013 and based in San Francisco, California, Patreon was created by two musicians, Samuel Yam and Jack Conte, to enable fans to support and engage with the artists and creators they love. Empowering a new generation of creators, Patreon is bringing patronage – the means by which many a famous artist earned a living – back to the 21st century.
“It’s different from crowd-funding sites like kickstarter and indiegogo in that it does not involve one huge sum of money for one big project,” Jennie explains, “but instead focuses on long term support for a creator with little ‘tips’ each time they upload content (in my case, a new Skal page).
In return for backing a creator, fans don’t just get to see the project continue – they’re also treated to Patron-only goodies behind the scenes on Patreon. Musicians, for example, can offer patron-only versions of their songs.
“Patrons of your work also get access to behind the scenes doodles and other rewards as a show of gratitude from the creator,” says Jennie. “All in all, it’s a very supportive and friendly atmosphere!”
She’s completely open about the fact that she plans to plans to make full use of the NFSW tag to help gain backing for her SKAL project. “In my case, it is nude sketches!
“I’m currently aiming to finish between one to two pages a month, with the number maybe increasing depending on how much interest there is in my story,:” she adds. “The more people like it and support it, the more I am able to produce. It is a simple, but very effective system!”
Jennie loves working with traditional media such as watercolour, gouache, ink and pencil. Although she’ll paint anything from portraits to tattoo designs, her main line of work is in the comic book industry as an illustrator. Her current projects include full-length graphic novels Clockwork Watch (a Steampunk trilogy), Myths of Steam (Steampunk Norse Gods and Goddesses!), and. of course, Skal. She has also illustrated short stories for a couple of anthologies (Bayou Arcana: Irons in the Fire, The Professor Elemental Comic: Issue 2) and stand-alone comics (Tick Tock IPA).
“SKAL is pretty much the one project where I experiment and draw everything that I personally love drawing,” she tells us – and it definitely plays to her design strengths, with some fantastic-looking costumes.
“Costumes and layers will be a key component!” she enthuses.
Aside from her graphic novel work, Jen can also be found dabbling in costume, character and environmental design, as well as working as an occasional book cover artist and costumed life model for art classes.
I like what I’ve seen so far of this new web comic, although I have to stress, it’s not for the faint hearted, but it does look pretty stunning in my book. And, for those of you who prefer your comics printed, that options is also on offer.
• To purchase the print version of Skal: Prologue visit: www.jenniegyllblad.com/comicshop.php
Skal is © 2014 Jennie Gyllblad. Images used with kind permission.