As we enter the the second half of 2020, it seems that things are generally, well, up in the air for all of us to put it very mildly, which is why we thought the above header image seemed particularly apropos. COVID-19 has impacted all of our lives in such an unprecedented way that it’s hard to even fathom when life will get entirely back to normal for us. We’re all hoping for the very best in that regard, and our gratitude for those in the frontlines of this pandemic can never be overstated.
And it is with this backdrop that we enter into the upcoming season of project collaborations where we will work remotely with participating youth (primarily through Workplace, Zoom and other similar online tools) to:
(i) Put some final touches on the completion of Issue 2 of the Back of the Yards comic series;
(ii) Begin brainstorming, scripting and full illustrations for Issue 3; and
(iii) Develop a variety of related creative content in between (including blogs, short comic features and maybe even a short video production) based on a few selected topics, as further described below.
Yes, let’s begin again by just stating with full transparency that Issue 2 is really almost done – at least from a content perspective (building on the ideas and contributions of the first round of youth collaborations). And it is within Issue 2 of the Back of the Yards comic story that we are introduced to Mr. Castaneda, the mysterious teacher who will ultimately serve as the connecting force between the various characters into Issue 1.
And we learn more about the plight of our young heroine, Tamia, as she comes to grips with reality of her troubled relationship.
Within Issue 2, we also get a little more acquainted with young Russell and his cousin, Draymond, as they encounter their day-to-day reality in the Back of the Yards.
And last but certainly not least, we learn more about Andre’s plight as he struggles to reconcile whether his recent supernatural experience was real, or in fact, just a dream.
And perhaps what we are most proud of within Issue 2 is the blending of artistic styles (which will absolutely be a point of emphasis for all future issues, true to our project’s name), with Dan Dougherty, John Golden and Andrew Dimitt (see some of Andrew’s illustrations covering bits of Castaneda’s backstory below) all offering their own unique artistic flavour to the Issue 2 collaboration, as written but Len Kody, and with further contributions from Eric Nyamor and Jimmy Briseno (very minor contributions from Jimmy, to be clear).
In summary, Issue 2 really is essentially done at this point from a content perspective, although we still have room for at least one more short independent feature. And apart from content, there is still an entire production process awaiting as we work to bring all of this content together in the final production stages of Issue 2, working with our partner, Firebelly Design. And in that regard, there is plenty of opportunity for participating youth towards the final completion of Issue 2, which will certainly be an integral part of the Spring/Summer 2020 collaborations.
And what about Issue 3?
Make no mistake about it, Issue 3 will certainly be a focus of the upcoming Spring/Summer 2020 collaborations. As part of the Spring/Summer 2020 collaborations, we will be working with participating youth on all aspects of Issue 3, from early stage brainstorming (based on selected topics as described below), to scripting, to working with artists on concept sketches, to the actual illustrations, and then finally, production.
In short, everything is up for collaboration when it comes to Issue 3. In fact, the only thing we really know about Issue 3 at this point, is that we’re pretty certain we may be use some version of the mock cover below, but even that is subject to further collaboration with the youth as part of the Spring/Summer 2020 collaborations.
And the selected topics for the Spring/Summer collaborations of 2020 are … !
So the very basic premise as we start collaborations going into a new comics issue (in this case, Issue 3), is that we will select 5 or 6 topics that will become the focus of our early brainstorming discussions. These topics are meant to be timely, reflecting current societal issues that may be relevant in the backdrop of whatever comics issues we may be working on at the time.
And because these topics will have some relevance to the current times, the hope is that they will generate lively interaction between participating youth and the artists, and in that way, act as fuel for the creative collaborations and content to follow.
So, with this general premise in mind, the topics that we will be focusing on going into these Spring/Summer 2020 collaborations are … drum roll please!:
But of course, COVID-19 has to be a topic that we wanted to be a part of our upcoming collaborations. The reality is that it would be impossible to ignore the pandemic just given its reach and impact to all of our lives. And it’s in that context that we wanted to get the perspective of participating youth in particular, and perhaps incorporate those perspectives into upcoming creative content.
(ii) “Random Encounters”
Okay, so this is admittedly less of a topic per se, and more of a descriptor of a new comics feature we are working to develop (as generally introduced here). This idea originated when Jimmy Briseno and John Golden were sharing a few “random encounters” they had experienced in the city while working on some of the original collaborations on this project, and from those discussions, they thought it might be a cool idea to hear about similar “random encounters” experienced by participating youth. And ultimately we’d like to incorporate some of those experiences into the Back of the Yards comic series, or simply develop independent short comic features with the participating youth.
(iii) Police & Community Relations
Oh boy, yes, this may be a tricky one. But we’re going to give it our best and most honest shot. We want to get the perspective of participating youth regarding police and community relations. But perhaps even more importantly from our perspective, we want to facilitate a constructive dialogue in that regard, which is one of the reasons that we’ve recruited a current law enforcement officer (who we will introduce with a later blog) to be a part of this collaborative process. And on a related note, we do plan to create a new central character for the Back of the Yards narrative that will be a police officer developed collaboratively between the youth and our participating officer.
(iv) Teachers & Education
Perhaps much less controversial, we want to get the perspective of participating youth regarding teachers and education generally. One of the byproducts of COVID-19 and the related quarantine measures is that we’ve come to appreciate our teachers perhaps more than any other time. And, of course, it just so happens that the setting of our Back of the Yards Comics series is an after-school arts program facility by the character of Mr. Castaneda. So with that in mind, we’d like to hear from participating youth regarding their own experiences with teachers, including finding out about some of their favourite teachers and related memories.
(v) Dreams & Quests
And last, but certainly not least, we wanted to go big with a topic, and what better topic to go big with than “Dreams & Quests.” As we learned early on during the project, dreams were one of the most prevalent themes from our early collaborations with youth at the beginning of this project. So we incorporated that theme at the very core of the ongoing Back of the Yards comic story narrative. And by including the same topic here for the next round of collaborations, we want to continue to build upon themes introduced by the new participating youth, and perhaps use this topic as a platform to dive into their imaginations.
And there you have it – the Spring/Summer 2020 collaborative topics! And you can see the initial questions we will use as a basis to start these collaborations here: Made Collaborative Topics 2020 Summer – Initial Collaborative Questions.
From these initial questions and subsequent discussions and collaborations, we will work with participating youth to eventually create content for Issue 3 and a variety of other projects, including blogs, short comics features and perhaps even a short video production. And we will, of course, provide periodic updates of those collaborations here on this website as things further develop.
So stay tuned for more to come!