Latest news and updates

Introducing new article series: The making of 'Checkmate'
by CherryPie

Hi, Checkmate readers!

For a while now, I've been thinking about using the "blog" feature of this website for something more than just the occasional news. I've received several questions from you guys about my creative process, and I've always loved reading about how other artists and writers work. So I hope you'll enjoy this new series of (lengthy) articles I've prepared, which will be posted here on a regular basis (every two weeks, maybe? Haven't decided yet). The blog feature doesn't allow you leave comments under the text, but let me know what you think in the comment section under the latest page!

Well, without further ado, I give you the first article of...

1. ON RESEARCH AND INSPIRATION

Whenever I start a new writing or comic project, one of my favourite parts is doing all the preliminary research and making a list of inspirations, references and material that will help me build and design my story. When I started working on Checkmate, I thought the research part would be pretty brief and easy compared to the other project I’m currently working on, which is an adventure thriller about political conspiracies, piracy and the Triangular Trade set in 18th century England. Naturally, that project involved huge amounts of research on 1730s politics, economics, religion, slavery, seafaring, architecture, clothing, etc. (I have over 150 Word pages of notes and dozens of period documents, pictures, paintings, ship blueprints, sketches and such.)

So after months of arduous work on that project, I thought Checkmate would be a piece of cake. After all, it’s set in the modern world! Well, except it’s not – not quite. I soon realized that the 1980s, even though they’re a very recent past, are “period” enough to require research on pretty much everything. What did a 1985 computer, phone or car look like? What was the structure and hierarchy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation at the time? How did the streets, buildings or hospitals of Pittsburgh look like? What were the big differences in the field of medicine between then and now? What elements appear in an autopsy report, and what exactly was Project Blue Book? What were the typical 1980s fashion and hairstyles?...

Unsurprisingly, my primary database was the wonderful goldmine that is the Internet. 15 years ago, doing research was so much harder! Nowadays I don’t even have to go to the public library or buy a book on a specific subject – a quick Google search usually gives me all the information I need. I collected images of various 1980s places, objects, clothes and accessories; I went to the FBI website to read about their history and organization; I watched a lot of 1980s movies to get the right “vibe”.

A tool that proved extremely useful to create the comic’s environment was Google Maps, especially the Street View feature. I live in France, and I’ve never been anywhere near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I had no idea what the city looks like. So I spent hours “walking” through the streets of Pittsburgh with Google Street View, making screencaps, taking notes, “visiting” the FBI building on East Carson Street or the Presbyterian University hospital in West Oakland. I would never have been able to draw a realistic version of Pittsburgh if it wasn’t for Street View!

I also discovered the hilarious – and useful! – concept of “Judgmental Maps”. I found a “Judgmental Map of Pittsburgh”, which is a regular map complete with subjective annotations such as “Scary ghetto”, “Million Dollar Homes”, “Old people & White trash”, “Creepy and desolate”... Not only did it make me laugh, but it actually helped! For instance, when I was looking for a good spot to place an old, abandoned factory, I looked up neighborhoods marked as “Poor”, “Run down” or “Creepy”, and found the perfect place. Same for the Earle residence, which I wanted to be located in a rather affluent suburb.

Medical research was also a big part of my preliminary work. Being a nurse in real life helped a lot, of course; I work at a hospital and I have dealt with various types of injuries in the E.R., intensive care or surgical units. However, I still had to do some in-depth research about cardiothoracic surgery and stab wounds to the stomach – diagnostic examination, symptoms, consequences, treatment and recovery. I found a lot of detailed info on both French and English medical websites (and some not-so-medical websites – hey, Wikipedia can be useful sometimes!). I watched several episodes of E.R. featuring stab victims, which came in handier than I thought (the series may be a spiced-up version of daily life in the E.R., but it’s medically accurate). I admit, I did far more research than necessary, and learned a thousand things that will never even be mentioned in the webcomic – but I’m biased when it comes to medicine, I just love it.

In addition to the “technical” research, I made a list of references and things that inspired me – books, movies, TV shows, comics, music... Some of these works were an inspiration for a specific scene, or a great character, or an interesting way to tell a story; some others were just stories taking place in Pittsburgh and/or in the 1980s. All of them are works that I like and admire for some reason. It could be The Silence of the Lambs for its plausible and fascinating depiction of the FBI’s hunt for a serial killer; Homeland for its brilliant way to create suspenseful situations and cliffhangers that make our hair stand on end (seriously, if I had to choose one person in the world to give me a class on storytelling, I’d pick the guys who write this show); The Dreamer webcomic or the French Aldébaran comic series for their ability to make each page gripping... There are so many!

And of course, there was the “in-universe” research on Twin Peaks. Checkmate is a prequel that takes place four years prior to the series’ events, and I’m trying to be as respectful as possible of the world, characters and events Lynch and Frost created. I re-watched the entire series and Fire Walk With Me and took note of every small detail about Cooper’s and Windom’s past – their friendship, the murder of Caroline Earle, Windom Earle going from talented FBI agent to psychopath locked up at the “local laughing academy” (thanks, Albert), all things related to Project Blue Book, Windom’s research on Dugpas and the Lodges, etc. I also re-read Scott Frost’s Autobiography of Special Agent Dale Cooper, which briefly mentions the events surrounding Caroline’s murder. However, I didn’t take that book as main reference, since I was written after the series and doesn’t always follow the same timeline and events. It did give me some ideas, though.

As you can see, I ended up doing a lot of research for this webcomic (my “Research and inspiration” folder for Checkmate ended up being almost as big as the one for my 18th century project!). I probably did more than I needed – it’s so easy to get lost in the bottomless ocean of interesting web pages and new discoveries... But I’ve always set myself high standards when it comes to realism in fiction. Historical, scientific or technical inconsistencies can ruin a good story, so I’m trying to be as thorough as I can. And it’s so much fun!

Behind the scenes: Sketches and research
by CherryPie

Hi guys! I promised you some behind-the-scenes stuff to compensate Monday's "not-really-an-update" update, so here it is!

Here's some research for a character I was really looking forward to introducing... The one and only Diane! Very 1950s-inspired, elegant and classy. (Note that the reference pictures are only for the clothes and fashion accessories. I imagine Diane to be much older than the women in these photos!).

These are the first stages of making a comic page: thumbnailing on a sketchbook with a ballpoint pen (as you can see, the thumbnails are really small!), then drawing the page on A4 paper with a blue pencil, then "inking" it with a black mechanical pencil.

   

Sometimes I do the storyboard/thumbnails directly in Photoshop, to get a better view of how the page will look in full size and where to put the speech bubbles. They're not as messy as the sketchbook thumbnails... Here's one of them compared to the finished page. As you can see, they do look pretty similar!

   

That's it for today! Would you be interested in seeing more of these "making of" posts? Do you have any specific questions about my creative process? Please let me know by leaving a comment under the latest comic page or on the Facebook page.

'Checkmate' returns!
by CherryPie

Hi everyone,

I hope you all had a great summer! I myself had an amazing time discovering the west coast of the U.S., from the Pacific Northwest ("I've never seen so many trees in my life!") to San Francisco. The landscapes around Seattle really did look very Twin-Peaskish!

Anyway, holiday is now over, which means Checkmate is back! Page 20 will be posted next week, on Monday.

I'm excited to be back! See you soon!

 

'Checkmate' is going on summer break!
by CherryPie

Special announcement for all Checkmate readers:

For the next couple of weeks, I'll be on holiday in the US, visiting the West Coast from Vancouver to San Francisco (and hopefully stopping by Snoqualmie Falls and North Bend on the way! I just need to convince my non-Twin Peaks-fan friends that it's worth the (small) detour).

I won't be able to post new pages from there, and besides, I need a few weeks to build a new buffer (man, 20 pages already... Time flies!). I'll try to post some behind-the-scenes stuff on Mondays if I can, and I'll be back soon with new comic pages, of course.

Have a great summer, guys!

'Checkmate' featured in Brasil and Germany
by CherryPie

While I was checking Google results for Checkmate today (it was the first time I did, actually - I don't pay much attention to page rankings and such), I found out that the webcomic had been featured on various websites around the world. What a nice surprise! I thought I'd share a few with you.

Here's an article from Twin Peaks Brasil and another from the German site Seriesly Awesome. Click on the pictures to read!