How Someone Who Had Never Read A Comic Book In Their Life Became A Graphic Novelist

Bellatorem Chapter 1

From Octavius Ra:

While I grew up watching fantasy movies like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, my true love has always been, and will never cease to be, Star Wars. Like most kids growing up in a small town, I wasn't really exposed to celebrity or artistic culture. The notion of becoming an actor or a writer was, at first, never on my radar.

I always enjoyed drama class in school and I probably should have attended an acting or film school for my higher education. But conservative, small town values led me into pre-med. It wasn't until a fluke chance landed me in some major brand commercials while I was teaching English abroad in South Korea that I realized that there are actual jobs for actors.

Fast forward a few years of boring grown-up jobs and acting in some random independent films; I found myself at a pivotal point in my life. I could continue to do unfulfilling acting jobs that paid little to nothing and which had scripts that were oh-so-uninspiring, or I could make my own movies. The problem? I had never written a movie in my life, and I was only interested in writing a movie that I wanted to watch, which did not necessarily mean one that I could financially produce.

So how did this turn into a graphic novel?

After six months of learning how to write the screenplay and actually writing its first through final drafts, I found myself with a script that would cost more than $100 million to make. That left some pretty big gaps in my strategy. The results were three days of frantically adding and messaging people on LinkedIn in hopes of some helpful counsel on making my screenplay into a film.

One gentleman by the name of Eddie Gamarra, a top literary manager at Gotham Group, recommended I make the screenplay into a short film or a graphic novel. The problem with the short film, I thought, was that it would still be very expensive. But with a graphic novel, I only needed my laptop and an illustrative partner.

The only issue was, I had never read a comic book in my life.

So naturally, I thought to myself, if one were to write a comic book, one should actually read a comic book. While researching which comic book I should read first, I discovered that George Lucas had teamed up with Stan Lee at Marvel to do a screenplay adaptation of A New Hope into a comic book miniseries. As I read the first Star Wars comic book, I recognized that the dialogue and the visuals were identical to the movie's.

I realized that I could take my screenplay and adapt it in the same way, as either a comic book miniseries or graphic novel. The only thing I was missing: Stan Lee and Marvel had Ralph McQuarrie — so I needed my own concept artist. I found a brilliant one in Aleksandra Klepacka. Once we had developed some of the main characters, I was able to partner up with my sequential artist, Sandra Grygier.

So where are we now?

I have been working on my screenplay-turned-graphic novel for the past two years. So far, as well as having created 18 pieces of concept art, my team and I have completed chapter one (which is available digitally, in all its glory, on our website). And we are now about to launch a Kickstarter to fund chapter two.

Bellatorem is a fantasy set amidst a never-ending war between the righteous Monaki and the evil Serici, who wield unfathomable powers. In chapter one, we saw the beginning of the Sericis' return through their attempt to assassinate the Dragon Emperor. This event will turn the state of the universe into turmoil. But in chapter two, we will see the introduction of the story's hero, a freed slave who will rise up to fight the evil threat of the Serici.

Please be sure to check out our Kickstarter page.

Follow writer and creator Octavius Ra on Instagram @octaviusra or on his website

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.

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