Bata Neart Begins: A story is born

Hello and welcome back to Part 2 of Bata Neart Begins!

By late 2003 to mid-2004, it had been a long while since my last new comic attempt. I had spent half a year living in Norway as an exchange student, and in that time my Eden comic had come to a crashing halt. When I had returned to Ireland, I decided once more to try again with a comic project. Throwing some ideas down, I began to create a story and universe which revolved around war, rebellion and odd forms of magic originating from a parallel dream-world. As I fleshed it out, I attempted to draw the first page. But disturbingly, I didn’t even get past the first panel. Artist’s block caught me straightaway while attempting to draw one hand clasped around another.

Disheartened, I went for a walk. While walking, I started to wonder what I was really doing with my art. As far as I saw it, all I had accomplished so far were 2 failed comics, and a hefty portfolio of sub-par manga style work, and to add insult to injury, I failed to even start the 3rd comic. I had walked several miles with dark clouds swirling around in my head. Genuine thoughts of just giving up my comic ambitions came to mind, but thankfully it didn’t come to that. Just when I was feeling the lowest, a shot of light exploded in my head. It was an idea for a story that had just formed, and that despair had suddenly become excitement. I rushed home to flesh this new idea out.

Magical Girls

Around about this time, Anime had become a lot more mainstream on Irish television, and some days when early off college I would encounter a lot of Anime on kids’ tv. This is where I encountered ‘CardCaptors’ for the first time. For those who don’t know, ‘CardCaptors’ was the horribly bastardized English dub of ‘CardCaptor Sakura’, a CLAMP production which featured a elementary school-girl by the name of ‘Sakura’ (shockingly enough). Her relevantly ordinary life is screwed up, when she encounters a deck of enchanted cards (which sort of resemble Magic the Gathering cards), and is compelled to hunt them down when they all fly off.

In my initial impression of the show, I considered it beautifully animated and drawn, with an alright (if repetitive) plot arc. But I considered Sakura herself to be a little too ‘perfect’ to be a likable in my mind. For a child, she seemed to have very little mischief in her character, and the only non-plot drama she brought to the series would be her being gruff with her older brother. She was too damned good, and that put me off since I had never met anyone like that. I’m guessing she was some kind of rose-tinted ideal of what Japanese girls were supposed to aspire to. But that is only my guess.

But what I took away from that show, was idea fuel. When I went on that long dark walk, an idea came to me as a series of ‘What if?’ questions based on CardCaptor Sakura:

  • What if you replaced Sakura with an Irish girl?
  • What if that girl was nearly twice her age?
  • What if you replaced all this ‘Clow Card’ nonsense with Irish Magic and Mythology?
  • What if you ditch the quiet Japanese School, in favour of a far more rowdy an Irish Secondary School?
  • What if…..?

It was then, that first sparks of Bata Neart started fly around my head. The characters, location, and even a good chunk of the overall plot were settled in my mind before I got home that day. It was good timing; I got drawing straight away.

The drawing of Bata Neart started off with two one-off images in my portfolio.

Bata Neart Poster (2003) - Produced late in 2003, this character design heavily influenced the lead's final design 2 years later.

One was a imagined poster for the series, made back in late 2003, featuring the lead character and some weird shadowy folk in the background. The lead’s name hadn’t come to me yet, but early on I did decide that most of the cast would receive traditional Irish names (particularly the girls). I had also decided that the Irish Language (Gaelige) would feature strongly in this comic. Gaelige was something I had always wanted to work into my comics, ever since I began producing them. ‘Bata Neart’ is actually made up of 2 Irish words, the meaning of which will be revealed in the comic (or to the owner of an Irish/English dictionary).

Aoife and the Caldron Born (2004)

The second drawing featured my main lead’s side-kick coming across a ‘Cauldron-Born’. It was at this stage that I had decided that mythical Irish creatures and monsters would also feature heavily. Cauldron-Born were a particularly chilly example of such creatures. They were depicted as unstoppable zombies who would just keep hunting you down…

Thus, near the end of 2004, and into 2005, I began work on the very first chapter of Bata Neart.

By then, my college days were ending…and on the horizon was China.

To be  continued…

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