In our original pitch, we described Azalea as being able to “draw out memories from objects just by touching them.” We were thinking less about psychometry and magic totems and more about the way we relate to objects every day, how we come to inhabit them, outsourcing our memories to mementos, giving them power beyond their practical use. One of my criticisms in “Saving Zelda” was how videogame items too often become just keys for disguised doors, losing their resonance in the process. Azalea’s ability was initially imagined as a step back into that natural wonder about the secret lives of objects.
We were also thinking about magic in our world. I’ve always enjoyed fantasy stories, but I rarely find the magic very evocative (wizard duels are particularly boring, as I never know what the rules are; or when I do, they lead to things like Voldemort losing to Harry because he didn’t do his wand homework). One way we began to talk about it involved the breakdown that occurs between subject and object. A lot of magic – telekinesis, mind-reading, fire-starting – can actually be done, albeit more slowly, with bodies and technology (minds tell hands and forklifts to move things, mouths betray thoughts to ears, matches ignite). Magic basically cuts out the middleman.
But if magic can make one’s will become reality more directly, it can also confuse one’s sense of inside and outside, subjective experience and objective world. This struck me as interesting because such confusion is already present in our daily lives. We are prone to all sorts of magical thinking; even as we age, we can’t avoid it. And so, David and I pressed ahead with a sense of magic that would hopefully relate to our actual, everyday experience of the world.
How to give shape to Azalea’s ability on the page was a challenge from the very beginning. This early concept art from last summer (before the characters were clear or the script even written) got at some of the original ideas we had, but it was too flat and boxy. It was a comic-within-a-comic, but it felt almost digital with its trail of ghostly panels.
I discussed with David something more physical, appealing to Azalea’s senses and perception, something more analog than digital. I used the word ‘thick’ to describe the objects she touched, though I wasn’t even sure what I meant outside a contrast with the ‘thinness’ of the rest of her world. By spring, it had evolved into what you saw in the last update.
This looked beautiful and had a lot of great detail to suggest the differences in the past, but it still lacked something. The panels functioned more like overlays or windows, still too rectangular, and the golden fringe suggested an idyllic past that was certainly not the case in our world.
Recently, David came up with an approach that skewed Azalea’s visions more directly, folding the panels almost like origami and giving them a strong material contrast with the ‘real’ panels of her present. As you can see in the rough layout below, the results are less like portals, more like paper.
In some ways, this approach resonates with our original desire to make a book out of Second Quest. We knew going all digital would be easier, but when we were planning the Kickstarter, that desire to create an object that would actually unfold (like Azalea’s visions) was just too strong to ignore.
Thanks for reading!