“Voices” Music Video: Process Blog

For “Voices,” the first single off of our latest album, I worked with multi-hyphenate artist Mark Landry to create this video:

Here’s the process we took to get there:

For the song “Goodbye at the End of the World” on the last album, Dust Among the Stars, I created an animated music video. I loved how it turned out, but as not-a-professional-animator, it was a colossal undertaking. So when it came time to think about music videos for Dreamers & Runaways, I knew I wanted to do something that was similarly unique, but I also knew that I couldn’t take a bite from the same apple.

The ideation process for the “Voices” music video literally began in the dark, with me thinking through the lyrics of the song, and allowing whatever images they might conjure to come. It was about the same time that the U.S. had decided to separate families — literally ripping children from their mothers’ arms — at the southern border. As an American, and a parent, this was simply too much to bear, and it’s no surprise that those images crept into my darkened little mental theater, and a story began to take shape from there. But a scenario that starts with militaristic thugs in masks yanking a baby from a mother’s grasp and that ends with a rally full of thousands of followers started to feel like an animated project again, and one that I would simply not hold up under.

That’s when the idea of doing this story as a comic came to me. I am very fortunate to have a friend in Mark Landry, who created the comic Bloodthirsty: One Nation Under Water. I reached out to him, to bounce ideas off of and see if he might have any interest in drawing the comic. So Mark came on board.

Step one was the script. I’d never done a comic script before, but there are some great resources out there. I relied on Dark Horse Comics’ sample pages that they make available.

Mark had a ton of great insight on my first pass of the script. After we talked it through and I made the necessary changes, Mark moved on to thumbnails.

We massaged those a bit, and he went to pencils, working backward through the book. The final pages were the most difficult and time-consuming, with all the detail and crowd work, so he started there.

Thumbnails through layout through ink

As Mark did all the pages by hand, scanned them in, and sent me inked pages, I started lettering and coloring them. For lettering, I bought fonts from Blambot, which were an absolute joy to get to use. Please never use Comic Sans. Please support these great craftspeople.

To get the aged comic look, I relied on a set of tools called DEBASER from True Grit Texture Supplies.  It’s an amazing bunch of tools, and I thought the results they created were outstanding.

As a matter of fact, in order to learn DEBASER, I colored a black-and-white version of the first page of EC Comics’ legendary story Judgment Day and tried to make it look like the original. You can see the results here:

Original (L), Fantagraphics Key Art (C), After DEBASER (R)

But during the coloring process, Mark and I hit a snag in terms of scheduling after his light table broke. The song premiered online while I was literally driving to San Jose for WorldCon 76, so we needed to get the video done quickly. With Mark about to start another project with a hard deadline, and his light table out of commission until a replacement could arrive, we discussed me creating the cover of the book. I don’t draw well, and this seemed like an impossible task…but I took a couple of reference photos in the hotel at WorldCon, and started doing pencils for the cover on my iPad.

I created the finished cover in Illustrator.

I started putting the actual printed book together, and pulled in some vintage ads from real 1940s comics. These public domain sources are available from the Digital Comic Museum, a site I simply cannot recommend highly enough if you have any interest in vintage comics.

One painful, explanation-heavy trip to FedEx Office later, and I had an actual, printed comic in my hand. I put it on my kitchen table, and filmed it to create the finished video, shooting in 4K so I could push in for greater detail, since the video was mastered to 1080.

That’s about it. If you buy Dreamers & Runaways on Bandcamp, a digital download of the comic is included as a PDF. If you want to check out Mark’s other work (and you totally should), you can see much of his brilliant painting output at LandryImages.com.

And finally, if you are an eligible nominating member of WorldCon 77, the “Voices” video is eligible to be nominated in the Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form category. Help spread the word!

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Dreamers & Runaways

So much undone
But we packed her car
“Maybe I’ll come back”
She said with a bitter laugh

But we’re still here
You and I, you and I
Our story still unfolding here
Among the fault lines

Los Angeles
A siren’s song
For dreamers and for runaways
Beckoned by Pacific waves
But everyday
It all goes wrong
For waitresses and millionaires
Who disappear into the desert air

Broken glass
Ground into
The sidewalk gleams
Like so many buried dreams

But we’re still here
You and I, you and I
Like flames on the mountains
And haze in the sky

Los Angeles
A siren’s song
For dreamers and for runaways
Beckoned by Pacific waves
But everyday
It all goes wrong
For waitresses and millionaires
Who disappear into the desert air

We’re still here you and I, you and I…

Long Ways Left

There’s an old man screaming at a young mother next to me
She steps in between him and her child instinctively
She didn’t ask to come under this fire
Riding on a subway car shouldn’t draw this kind of ire

I told her I was sorry after he got off the train
She said “Sometimes it happens and…It’s ok.”
But I know and she knows that it’s not
Add it to the list of things that somehow we forgot

We all get our wounds that just won’t heal
We all get our scars we know
Nobody else can feel
So much we thought by now that we’d outgrow
But we’ve still got a long ways, a long ways left to go

There’s arms locked across a road and tension in the air
They’ve all lost so much and still nobody seems to care
They’ve all been called anarchists and frauds
They’ve been called most everything except a child of God

We all get our wounds that just won’t heal
We all get our scars we know
Nobody else can feel
So much we thought by now that we’d outgrow
But we’ve still got a long ways, a long ways left to go

The long arc of history
Bends, they say, to justice
But it takes its time

There’s a pair of tired eyes staring out into the distance
Where they thought they were heading to didn’t look a damn thing like this
They never saw their bridges burning bright
Until the day began to die and they lit up the falling night

We all get our wounds that just won’t heal
We all get our scars we know
Nobody else can feel
So much we thought by now that we’d outgrow
But we’ve still got a long ways, a long ways left to go