Curia Regis

Robin Hoelze­mann dives into the depths of in­de­pen­dent web comics.

Comic Heroes - - Contents -

So, what is Curia Regis?

Curia Regis ( CR) is an 18th cen­tury-in­spired fic­tional his­tory about try­ing to steal a coun­try. It fol­lows Maren, a courtier about to have her loy­al­ties and ethics tested, and Jac­ques, an heir to a con­tested throne, as they try and make the fu­ture they want a re­al­ity.

What in­spired the se­ries? What at­tracted you to this style of story?

CR is a kind of ex­per­i­ment. I love sto­ries. All sto­ries, in any for­mat. Many of my favourites are in a sub­set of the fan­tasy genre called a ‘fan­tasy of man­ners’. Books in that sub­genre are an eclec­tic mix of Jane Austen-es­que so­cial con­struct, and ad­ven­tures dra­mas such as the

Three Mus­ke­teers.

When I started Curia Regis, that kind of thing didn’t re­ally ex­ist in comics. I wanted to see if I could build a story around emo­tional beats, fo­cus­ing in on con­ver­sa­tions and in­ter­per­sonal con­flicts while the po­lit­i­cal land­scape es­ca­lates in the back­ground. A cou­ple of years af­ter I first started draft­ing the story, I dis­cov­ered things like

Strangers In Paradise, and the comics scene started ex­pand­ing so quickly. I’m ex­cited to be one of a new gen­er­a­tion of sto­ry­tellers who

Be­low: At 190 pages and span­ning 11 chap­ters, Vol­ume One of Curia Regis is a grip­ping read. First re­leased in 2016, it quickly es­tab­lish­ing a loyal army of fans are mak­ing new things ac­ces­si­ble to read­ers look­ing for some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent.

How would you clas­sify it? His­tor­i­cal drama?

Fic­tional his­tory. The world it­self is built very loosely on 18th­cen­tury France, but I wouldn’t even go so far as to call it al­ter­nate his­tory. It’s en­tirely made up. Talk to us a lit­tle about your process? What does a week on

Curia Regis look like?

When I’m knee-deep in a chap­ter of

Curia Regis, my weeks all start to look oddly sim­i­lar. I have a dif­fer­ent day job, so I work in batches to get as much out­put as ef­fi­ciently as pos­si­ble. Week­ends are spent on tasks that re­quire a lot of men­tal in­put: pen­cilling pages or writ­ing. Week­day evenings, when I need a lit­tle more flex­i­bil­ity, are spent ink­ing or flat­ting the comic. The more brain­power some­thing needs, the more likely I am to do it. When I have a ded­i­cated ten-hour chunk I can in­vest in teas­ing out the de­tails.

What ad­van­tages does go­ing the we­b­comic route of­fer?

Know­ing you have read­ers wait­ing for the next page of the story is great for keep­ing mo­ti­vated. It also teaches new cre­ators to sched­ule, which is vi­tal if they in­tend to have a fu­ture ca­reer that in­cludes work for hire or dead­lines of any kind. You learn to fig­ure ef­fi­cien­cies into your work­flow, and get a feel for when you need to stop work­ing on a page and move on. It also helps you build up a body of work that shows you can work se­quen­tially.

In some ways it has sim­pli­fied the an­swer to “How can I break into comics?” Put your work on­line. Get it out of your head and out there for peo­ple to see it.

What disadvantages, if any?

I think this is go­ing to de­pend heav­ily on the per­son. For me, the we­b­comics for­mat has some ma­jor disadvantages that tie back to how long it took me to com­plete the first vol­ume of the comic.

I worked on Vol­ume One of CR across a pe­riod of five years, and it shows. I felt lim­ited in how much I could change the writ­ing or plot in ret­ro­spect, be­cause the ma­te­rial was al­ready out there. I can’t go back and strip out scenes that I don’t think work any­more; I can’t con­dense the plot and make things neater. I can’t ap­ply five years of learn­ing back­wards. It’s more dif­fi­cult to edit your own work when you’re work­ing page by page, and I do think long-form sto­ries suf­fer for it.

In all hon­esty there are al­ways go­ing to be things about Vol­ume One that I wish I could go back and re­move, be­cause I feel like they weaken the nar­ra­tive. At the same time, it’s an in­ter­est­ing chal­lenge to have that frame­work there and un­change­able. We­b­comics do keep you mov­ing for­ward.

Does the story have an end­point?

Ab­so­lutely. The end­ing for CR was in my mind the day I started writ­ing the first chap­ter. At this point, most of the key char­ac­ter scenes for the sec­ond half of the story are locked down, and I’m smooth­ing out the ruf­fles. The stakes are high for Maren, Jac­ques and the gang, and if you’ve read Vol­ume One, we al­ready know a few of their endings aren’t flex­i­ble.

Has any­thing changed be­tween plan­ning and get­ting it on the page?

On a mi­cro level, ev­ery page of

Curia Regis goes through mul­ti­ple it­er­a­tions. I write ev­ery chap­ter in prose first. It helps me vi­su­alise scenes and char­ac­ter in­ter­ac­tions. In the next stage I write it again as a script and things change. Then when I’m lay­ing out the pages, things change again, and again when I’m adding the di­a­logue. Then it’s bound to change again when I’m proof­ing for print.

Then there are those char­ac­ters that just take over. Mas­ter ma­nip­u­la­tor Carolina (Lina), for ex­am­ple, was never meant to have such a big role. I wound up re­draw­ing and writ­ing the full first chap­ter of Vol­ume One par­tially be­cause she needed to be in­tro­duced ear­lier to ex­plain the fo­cus she was draw­ing later on. Some­times it just feels right to shape a story around cer­tain char­ac­ters – all the plan­ning in the world won’t save you from that!

How was your ex­pe­ri­ence with Kick­starter?

Bril­liant and ter­ri­fy­ing. I’ve de­scribed it to friends as an emo­tional roller­coaster. I am in­cred­i­bly grate­ful to every­one who pro­moted and pledged for the book, and I’d rec­om­mend it to any­one who needs a lit­tle help in get­ting a project funded.

My ad­vice to any­one think­ing of tak­ing the plunge is to do as much prep work as you pos­si­bly can, be pre­pared to keep your head in the game for the full 30+ days it re­quires, and for the love of God, re­mem­ber to in­clude postage and a fi­nan­cial buf­fer!

What sort of re­search is re­quired?

In the ini­tial writ­ing stages, it can take quite a bit of dig­ging around so­cial struc­ture, mil­i­tary his­tory, ar­chi­tec­ture, art, and on one mem­o­rable oc­ca­sion, whether or not match­books were around in the 1740s (spoiler: they weren’t). Just be­cause it’s fic­tional his­tory doesn’t mean I don’t want the comic to have a firm, be­liev­able foun­da­tion. Root­ing it in a time pe­riod helps. From there I can tweak, add in a few modern twists, and gen­er­ally work it into some­thing I’m com­fort­able with.

What’s next on deck for you?

At the mo­ment, I’m gnash­ing out the de­tails for Vol­ume 2. It’s the sec­ond half of the story, so there’s a lot of loose ends to be tied up in a neat lit­tle pack­age, and I’m de­ter­mined to do it right.

To keep sharp in the mean­time, and to stop burn­ing out on one project, I’m work­ing on a dark fairy tale about a wolf witch that a for­est peo­ple say comes alive at night. I ex­pect the full story to be avail­able at Thought Bub­ble in Leeds this Sep­tem­ber, but read­ers can fol­low along as I work on it on Pa­treon. www.whatido.co.uk

“Get your work out of your head so peo­ple can see it” Robin Hoelze­mann

Be­low: Jac­ques II is the leader of the rev­o­lu­tion

Above: Maren is the high­est rank­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary

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