Questions and Answers
What is the Alexander Romance?
The Alexander Romance is an almost 2000 years old body of literature about the life and legends of Alexander the Great. It is the most widely translated and retold secular literary tradition from antiquity, with each successive time and place having their own version of Alexander.
What is this Alexander Romance?
Alexander, The Servant & The Water of Life is the 21st century iteration of the Romance.
One of the many cool things about the Romance is that it has survived through a chain of storytellers – authors and artists from different periods, civilisations and beliefs – translating, retelling, copying and adapting the story of Alexander for their times. Additionally, each iteration of the Romance centres around the core theme of kingship: what power is, and how power should be used.
The last full retelling of the Romance was some hundreds of years ago. Knowing how much the world has changed since (the Industrial Revolution, the World Wars, capitalism, globalisation, being online… to name a few examples), I felt it was high time I continue the chain and retell the Romance for our time.
This Alexander Romance is for the 21st century. It is a graphic novel (well, a long-form webcomic) – a relatively new artistic medium – published on the internet. It considers our changed idea of what power means and what power does. It’ll also be the first queer, Southeast Asian and postcolonial author-illustrator contribution to the tradition.
What is the website?
The website has three functions:
- It hosts the webcomic. The comic updates fortnightly. Each update comes with author commentary and a comments section for the readers.
- It is an archive-in-the-making. It records the process of creating a 21st century Alexander Romance, from start to end. Readers will get to experience the journey of how I develop a graphic novel and explore my database of independent research with author notes as well as a section for concept art.
- It is an introductory resource to the Alexander Romance in general. I have put all freely available and accessible sources onto this page – not just for myself but for students, educators and interested readers.
All of the website is public.
What tools/apps do you use?
Outlines and Ideas: Goodnotes, Evernote, Moleskine notebook, iPad with Apple Pencil
Research: Airtable, Unpaywall, Firefox, Notion.so
Thumbnails: Moleskine notebook
Sketches: Sketchbook, Procreate, iPad with Apple Pencil, Photoshop, Huion H610 Tablet
Inks, Colours, Final: Procreate, iPad with Apple Pencil, Clip Studio Paint, Photoshop, Huion H610 Tablet
How did you do your research?
I wrote a blog post explaining How I Conduct Research for a Graphic Novel. That post generally explains my process, but that’s the key word: generally. Alexander is an intensive and frustratingly demanding research project, with extant multimedia material going vertically and horizontally. The Resources section of the website provides a cleaned-up inside look* of the process, especially the Airtable database.
*it’s usually very messy and involves a lot of internal screaming
How do you balance storytelling with research, especially with representations of cultures, times and places foreign or native to your own identity?
I can go on forever about this topic, but the best place to get an answer is this panel I moderated with my friends and fellow Malaysian creatives of different disciplines, called The Value of Research in Storytelling (link). It’s almost two hours long and goes quite deep into each person’s craft and explores how good research methods are applicable in comics, illustration, editorial and prose. Another unique thing is it’s all from the perspective of Malaysians who juggle the worlds of the East and the West, so it’s very different from the usual discussions centered on Anglo-Western-based power dynamics.
Note: I’ll write a transcript at some point, once I get over the secondhand embarrassment of listening to my own voice.
Second note: There’s no one size fits all answer for this question. Where you live and who you are is going to influence how you approach this delicate topic, because those two factors affect power relations. My experience as fifth-gen diaspora in Malaysia and first-gen immigrant in Australia have informed my individual analysis on postcolonialism, racism (between BIPOC with the Anglo world, between Asians of my own country and between other Asian countries), and creative duty. This analysis will be different from an indigenous author, or an Asian American author, or whatever intersectional identity you can imagine.
How do you know when to stop, when you’ve done enough?
This is a topic I once discussed with my consultant, and we both agreed that: you don’t. You don’t know when to end your research because the truth is, it is endless. There will always be new debates and perspectives, new books to read, old books to read. Sooner or later, you’ll have to stop waiting and start making your book, or you’ll die first from misfortune or old age in pursuit of perfection or completeness.
Instead of worrying and viewing your work as the Epitome, learn to trust yourself and view your work as a continuation of a past and present. Imagine that your research subject is a ladder, and all of its books are steps. Your work is one of these steps. Your work belongs in a context. Once you embrace your context and goals of your project, you’ll know when to take that leap of faith.
How much does the research inform the writing and the art?
It’s an ongoing, dynamic interaction in every stage of the comics-making process. The narrative and artistic choices are informed by research, and the research is inspired by those choices.
When I writing the script, I research background details. Basically, the standard process of reading my sources and reading recent analyses of those sources. This is where my consultant comes in to double-check and suggest other things to look at, as he has read more about Alexander and the peripheral details. (Super grateful for him ;_;) Then from there I make decisions that try to balance the needs of the story, historical plausibility, and the actual historical events. Fortunately the Alexander Romance by its weird nature is quite flexible, but I still want to get the (recorded) historical events as accurate as possible.
However, it's when I am drawing, when I am actually embarking on the visual storytelling stage, that I research very closely on things. Material culture, art history, fashion, etc, all the visual details that carry the story in small and large ways, from big things like the size of a sarissa spear (about hand length) to little things like how the Greeks would drink from a kylix cup (fingers around the stem, however you like). I don't end my research process for each page until I lay down the colours.
Book, Merch and Other Fun Things
Will this be available in print?
Hopefully! The plan is to launch a Kickstarter. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, can I buy an ebook?
In the future! I’ll most likely compile an ebook edition for each book (4 in total).
Will there be merch?
The fun merch like pins and bookmarks will only come out during the Kickstarter. However, prints can be purchased from inPRNT (for giclee quality print) or the Hivemill store (for print-on-demand)
Who do I contact for further questions and issues?
Me. (My email is in the footer) If you send me spam, reactionary comments or any offers for advertisng network partnership, I will 100% block you.
Who is the publisher?
Hiveworks Comics. If you’re interested in obtaining a translation or regional print rights, or to engage in mutual collaboration, please email me and I will arrange it.
Are you available for an interview, podcast, panel, etc?
Read my media kit for more info. (link)
The ads are being weird!
If your ads are showing you rowdy things, they may be explained by your recent online activity. BUT if the ads can’t be explained in this way, and if they are truly offensive – i.e they pop out, make noise, redirect you to a suspicious site, become a security issue, show extreme content, please email me and I will get my ad tech to kill it.
Send me these details: screenshot of the ad, its behaviour, the browser and device you were using.
Is the comic available on Webtoons/Tapas/a third-party comics platform?
No, for two reasons. One, Alexander can’t be adapted to a vertical scroll-down format due to its traditionally print-based, experimental visual style. Two, as my publisher, Hiveworks maintains digital exclusivity, which means Alexander won’t appear on these competitor’s platforms.
WHAT IS THIS?
The 21st century graphic novel retelling of the Alexander Romance, a
account about the life,
deeds and legends of Alexander the Great.