Greetings, Comic Fans! We have a special treat for you today. An interview with Courtney Kraft about her upcoming web comic project, Sora. We’ll start with a description of the comic straight from the website, then follow the interview. If all goes well in the planning stages, the first pages of Sora should go live on February 24, 2012.
“Sora” is a young adult fantasy manga by writer C.L. Kraft and artist GEIKOU about four girls lost in a world that isn’t their own. On their journey to find a way home, they will discover Sora’s fate rests in their hands.
The story of “Sora” was conceived as a tabletop roleplaying game inspired by the works of William G. Wells. Courtney was so intrigued by how the game was unfolding, that she took notes during every session. Utilizing these notes, she started writing screenplays based on the events in the game.
In 2010, Courtney approached GEIKOU about collaborating on a manga version of “Sora.” GEIKOU’s art style was perfectly suited for the story. This lead to a major overhaul of the scripts, but also resulted in a lot of positive and necessary changes.
“Sora” is currently in production.
COMIC ATTACK: Hey Courtney! Please introduce yourself in a few sentences for our readers.
COURTNEY KRAFT: Hi there! I’m Courtney Kraft, author of Sora. I’m a woman who has fully embraced her inner geek to become a better person. For years, I’ve loved anime and manga. Now at long last, I’m taking that passion and creating a work that embraces everything I love about them. Also, I really like shoes.
CA: You work for G4. What is your official position there, and what do you do?
CK: I describe myself as a mild-mannered video game journalist by day and vigilante internet personality by night.
CA: What made you decide to take your group’s Dungeons and Dragons campaign and turn it into a web comic?
CK: The game that Sora is based on was the second campaign set in Sora, an original world created by my friend Will Wells. After the first two game sessions, I really liked the story and thought it might make a great screenplay. I started taking notes at every session. My original plan was to make it a screenplay trilogy. But no studio in their right mind would take a risk on a high-budget fantasy with no established franchise. Plus, I would lose creative control. I don’t recall the exact moment when I decided to make it a manga, but I’m pretty sure that it hit me when I was looking at GEIKOU’s art one day.
We both would love to print the series, but with the way the industry is going, there is a growing demand to read manga online. Being a social media buff, the web felt like the right place to start.
CA: Are the characters based on your group’s player characters? (If so, which one did you run?)
CK: Only the four main girls were player characters. The rest were created by Will, or by myself during rewrites. After the game, I created their back stories and motives, so they aren’t the same as they were in the game. As for which girl I originally played? Well…that’s my secret.
CA: Can you take us through your process of transforming this from a gaming session to a web comic?
CK: What a fun process it is! The first draft was getting it all on paper. The second draft was making it a cohesive story. Now tabletop games are very expansive, and almost always have a lot of excess characters and events. When I decided to write the manga version (third and fourth drafts), I had to take a chainsaw to it first, a kitchen knife second, and a scalpel third. In fact, writing a main character out was one of the best things that could’ve happened to the series!
I like to say the “spine” of the original game is still there, but all the bones, muscle, and flesh have been replaced. The characters are stronger. The villains have solid motives for their actions. Every scene and word of dialogue has a purpose.
It’s been really amazing watching the characters grow and take shape, but that’s a whole other interview!
CA: Where did the name World of Sora come from? [Editor’s note: Courtney informed me the comic’s title is just Sora, but that domain was taken.]
CK: Sora is the Japanese word for “sky.” It is the name of the world, decided on by my friend Will, the creator.
CA: How did you come up with the names and physical designs for your characters?
CK: Most of the characters kept their original names, with tweaks here and there. In the game, the girls were from Tokyo, but for the manga, I wanted their origin to be more vague. So I altered their last names, and now the story begins in the fictional city Zion.
The physical designs were tricky. I had very clear images in my mind of a few characters, and not so clear ones for others. I would describe their physical build and personality to GEIKOU, who in turn would sketch their designs. I realized very quickly that I would have to come up with a fashion esthetic for the world. Once we settled on some basics, we would go back and forth until we were satisfied with the designs.
CA: Who and/or what will be the main conflict for your heroes in the story?
CK: Jishin, Unmei, Ayumi, and Misako, four very different girls, have been teleported from Earth to Sora for reasons unknown. They believe that if this is all real, then there has to be a way home. They’re given a lead to search for a holy woman, known as “the kinsho,” who has the power to create a portal back to Earth. However, time magic hasn’t been working properly. They will have to get to the heart of the problem before they can go home. As it always is in these tales, that’s easier said than done.
There is a second plot line tied into all this. A young man named Hikano is traveling to the same city where the kinsho resides. He and his brother Abera accompany the girls. But Hikano is keeping a dangerous secret that will drag the girls into a bloody conflict between several countries.
CA: What made you decide to tie the Tarot into your world?
CK: Jishin’s hobbies always included divination. When I took over writing the series, I decided to play up this aspect and use it as a foreshadowing tool and motif. Because of that, all the characters needed signifier cards. The manga takes it one step further where each chapter title and its cover art will reflect a tarot card. (I’m especially excited for the chapter titled “The Tower.”) Even the logo invokes the tarot. The letter O is our own version of the Wheel of Fortune.
CA: How did you decide to approach GEIKOU to do the art for you?
CK: GEIKOU and I have been online friends for a few years. We didn’t even meet in person until a few months ago. One day, I was just browsing her work and thought to myself how it would really suit Sora. That inspired me to try out a manga version, and thankfully, she agreed to take this journey with me. She is amazing to work with. I am truly grateful to her because she’s helping make my dreams come true.
CA: Will the comic be solely in black and white, or do you plan to do the occasional color page?
CK: It will be in black and white mainly to allow for a quick turnaround time. It’s also the tradition of the manga style. Hopefully we’ll be able to do color cover pages now and then.
CA: Sora deals with both powerful magic and advanced technology. How will these two at-odds powers affect your world?
CK: The world is going through its fourth major phase, if you will. The first age was very magic focused. The second age was when technology advanced and replaced magic. This phase ended when people took technology too far and it ended up nearly destroying the world. Since then, people rejected technology and went back to the old ways of magic in the third age. This story is set at the start of the fourth age, approximately one thousand years after the devastating catastrophe. Society is now in a renaissance phase where people are cautiously starting to integrate technology back into their lives. Some areas are more open to this idea than others, as the reader will see when they follow the girls on their journey.
CA: How long do you intend Sora to run?
CK: It’s funny because I thought this would be the length of about three volumes of manga. But once we started laying out the first two chapters, I started to realize that it’s going to be a lot longer physically than I thought! There is a beginning, middle, and end though. This series will come to a close someday, but there is plenty of content to enjoy for a long while.
CA: Have you decided on a format for the comic? Will there be a strict panel format, or will it be more loosely plotted out?
CK: Since I wrote this for the screen originally, I never planned to lay it out as a strip or even page by page. Scenes end when they end, but now I’m trying to think on how to pace it so that pages end on dramatic beats to entice readers to come back the next week.
CA: If the comic generates a big enough fan base to support it, do you think you might publish it in physical form? Or do you have any other merchandising ideas cooking?
CK: I believe the phrase I’m looking for is “Hell yeah!” Sora is really meant to be read in book form, so a physical publication is the end goal. There is a lot of potential for merchandising in the form of tarot cards, jewelry, artwork, temporary tattoos (or in my case, real ones), figures, etc.
There is also a lot of potential for…ahem……….fan fiction. In fact, I encourage it.
CA: There are some definite anime/manga influences in Sora. What are your favorite series?
CK: My top three are Revolutionary Girl Utena, Hellsing, and The Vision of Escaflowne. There are a lot of little nods to anime and manga sprinkled throughout the series along with a few other geeky references to Star Wars, Doctor Who, and Star Trek. Mostly from Jishin.
CA: Do you still play pen and paper RPGs?
CK: Whenever I can. A lot of my friends are into White Wolf games right now. I think they’re great for creative stimulation. In fact, I LARP (live action roleplay) all the time. I’m a nerd, and I love it.
CA: Do you play many video games? What are your favorites?
CK: Well I do write video game news for a living! I really suck at games that require reflexes, but I love turn-based RPGs like Persona and Final Fantasy. However, I’m a die hard Mass Effect fan. Lately I got into interactive mysteries like the Ace Attorney series and 999 [Editor’s note: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors].
CA: Manga Next is coming at the end of February. Do you plan on attending and promoting Sora there?
CK: I really wish I could attend, but it doesn’t look like I can make it this year. However, we will have an ad and an exclusive multi-page preview in its program guide.
Good luck with Sora, girls!