Welcome to Part 3 of ‘Bata Neart Begins’.
Throughout much of my time drawing Manga-style comics, I had harbored fantasies of having my work becoming actual Anime. I had even gone so far as to believe that I could go to Japan, get work with a production company (somehow) and make those fantasies real. It would not be until later, that I would realize how fool-hardy that plan really was.
By 2005, I was in the final year of my degree and plans about what to do next were swirling around in my head. I felt the need to do one last crazy thing with my youth before I would have to settle into career and responsibilities. It was around about then that I had learned about TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language). This turned out to be an easy way to travel to different countries under the guise of being an ‘English Teacher’. I earned my TEFL ‘degree’ by simply attending a 2 day meeting and paying a fee. I had intended on using my TEFL to travel to Japan after my degree, and become an English Teacher there….but my plans eventually changed.
In the later years of my degree I had befriended several Chinese students in my college. In fact, all but a dozen people in my course were from China. They had persuaded me to travel The Middle Kingdom instead, and on further consideration this seemed like a good idea. The country was much bigger, had plenty to see, and above all…was MUCH CHEAPER to live in. I made my mind up, and when the degree finished, I was off to China.
By the time I had actually traveled to China, Bata Neart’s first chapter was coming along steadily. I was several pages in, and although my production momentum was much slower than it is now, the chances of me actually completing a comic chapter looked really good.
Life in China was…interesting. So interesting in fact, that I’m not going to be able to summarize it in this article. (I will instead save that for a series of later posts which I will name ‘Huai’an Hi-jinks’) Instead, I will only mention the 2 main points regarding Bata Neart in China. ¨
The first, is that in this rural Chinese city I actually pulled off a completed first chapter of this comic. Thankfully, guest English teachers in China are usually given a western-style work schedule. I had received a Monday to Friday rotation, while the regular staff were working 7 days a week (as were the students). Thus I had the free-time to draw and ink the 25 pages of Bata Neart’s first chapter. Delighted with myself, I then continued to plan for Chapter 2. Some challenges had to be overcome though. Chapter 1 was only a prologue to the main story, and writing it was fairly simple. All of the characters that appeared would not be seen again, and thus I never put that much thought into their design. My time in China was about to end, and I had one project on my mind….to design a main character.
This is the second point regarding Bata Neart in China. I count Shanghai’s Pudong Airport, to be the birth-place of Bata Neart’s finalised main character, Ashling.
At the time I was returning to Europe, and on my final 6-hour bus ride from Huai’an to Shanghai, I scribbled together some ideas about Ashling, and what she would look like. I had taken a considerable amount of design ideas from my original 2003 Bata Neart poster, but I knew that I needed to add more of an edge to this comic’s heroine. Female Leads in Anime/Manga tended to be distinctive in how they appeared. This was usually achieved through an interesting hair (or outlandish) hairstyle, an interesting costume, or a combination of the 2. I had intended for Ashling to be a somewhat normal Irish teenager, and be a character that most people could relate to, thus she needed to be dressed normally. That had left me with only one option; crazy anime hair.
I tried many different designs for her on that fateful bus-ride. Most were re-hashes of well known anime/manga characters from series ranging from Sailor Moon, to Nadesico. Finally, while I waited for my flight in the airport, the final ‘hair-do’ appeared on one of my mindless doodles. Out of nowhere came a crazy ‘M’ shaped pattern that defied both logic and gravity. I wasn’t too certain if this would work, until I re-drew her a few times in different poses. Each one looked interesting, each one caught my eye. That was it, the final design.
On returning to Ireland, I continued production on Chapter 2 in earnest. It wasn’t long after my return, when I was approached my fellow artist friend Susu. She knew about my Manga style comicwork, and was looking to make a new artist magazine based in her then home-city of Munich, Germany. She had asked if I was interested in contributing my newest comic to the publication, and I jumped at the opportunity. The publication became known as ‘YesIF’, with a core concept that all types of art were welcome to join in. It was a sort of open magazine that would welcome artists of all levels in and would encourage reader involvement. The outlook was very promising.
Much to my own foreboding, I was asked to modify Bata Neart’s first two chapters, and merge them into a single one-off story. I was very reluctant to do that at first…but in the end I relented, and went ahead with a changed ‘Chapter 1’.
Alas, YesIf only ever reached one issue before the publication broke up. Issue 01 is still available to this day as a downloadable PDF here
Bata Neart faced the wilderness once again, with it’s best chance of publication seemingly lost.
To be continued…