For today’s 31 Days of Magic project, from the Strategic Sorcery community around Jason Miller’s teachings, I’m supposed to create an elemental, or a servitor.
An elemental or servitor, eh? An elemental is a spirit attached to one of the four elements of classical magic, usually understood as Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. Some sources explain a fifth element, the Quintessence or Aether or Azoth. I’ve usually found working with Elementals to be challenging, but I do work with Water and Air elementals pretty much every day in the course of my tai chi work. They’re my opponents and partners — not entirely there, but not entirely not-there, either. Fire and Earth elementals are somewhat rarer, of course.
But I’ve only sometimes made servitor spirits, and I have a particular servitor spirit in mind that I’m in need of calling into being. You see, there’s a genuine need in this world for tools that teach new forms of writing and storytelling. Students don’t go immediately from being bad at something to being good at something, there are a number of stages in between. It takes time to learn how to master a new art form, even one as sophisticated and complicated as magic. Five to eight years of practice at any skill is often enough, but not always.
What’s more important, really, is consistency. More frequent practice seems to yield better results in magic, as in music, as in artistry, as in almost everything, really. I’ve long been a fan of web comics like Erfworld and the Order of the Stick, because they use the language of comic books and the metaphors of gaming to tell complex stories week after week. I’m also a fan of Strong Female Protagonist, which uses comic book tropes about superheroes, and the issues of feminism, to examine ordinary ethics in a world with superpowers. And then there’s XKCD.com, which wrestles with issues of mathematics, language, ethics and science in a web-comic format. Even my friend Angi Shearstone has done amazing things with comics.
But many of these existing web-comics are by talented artists, who spent years honing their gifts. And they are the work of people who have ‘gone pro’, as it were. They’re committed to this work that they’re doing. And there’s precious little available that bridges the gap between “I could make a comic” that a student or a young person might make, and the work of professionals. Making Comics, and Understanding Comics, both by Scott McCloud, help bridge the gap. The Design Library at my school has books on making comics, too.
But there’s precious little to show students, that represents the authentic work of someone trying to be a comic artist or graphic novel artist — the practice work that helps bridge the distance between “I barely know how to draw” to “I’m ready to go pro.” I’m somewhere beyond the “I barely know how to draw” but it’s unlikely that I’m ever going to “go pro” — in the meantime, I’ve created a bit of a short story, the first arc of a web-comic, as my servitor.
And so I launch my servitor into the world: Episode 1 (of at least 10, coming in the coming weeks and months) of Dabbling, my own graphic-novel/web-comic story about a powerful magician who decides that the best way to teach people about magic in the 21st century is to make a comic about it.
As I said, there are at least ten episodes planned and written. This is the first. And if it turns out to be popular, maybe there will be more. In the meantime, consider this a servitor launched into the world — my own take on the powers of magic in the 21st century, as explained by a magician learning to make visual storytelling come alive.