“Ithaqa” is a 1920s Lovecraftian horror comic book series written by Michael Watson ’13 and illustrated by designer Theresa Chiechi. The adventure series is set in Ithaca, the home of the main character of the comic book, Mookie smitts, and his gang of misfits. As they sneak through the town’s underground bars and the Wharton Workshop museum sI lent Film studio, Smitts and company uncover a plot to destroy the srhythm–time vsontinuum.
Watson graduated in Film and Photography with a concentration in Film Production at Ithaca College. The first seeds of an idea for a comic book have started his senior year of college, he said. It was first influenced by the Golden Doorknob Film Contest, an annual competition open to students of the Roy H. Park School of Communications. The films in the competition are two minutes or less long, and a character in the film must somehow face death after encountering a doorknob. Watson said he wanted to take the weirdness of the golden doorknob prompt and apply it to his comic, creating something interesting and original.
The idea for the comic really solidified after having a disturbing nightmare, Watson said. In his dream, Watson was walking around his house and noticed black ropes emerging from random objects or rooms, such as a rug and his stove. He followed the ropes to a nearby wood, where he said he encountered a bunch of tangled and disgusting black ropes that just looking at them he knew they represented something sinister.
“I woke up and I was like ‘Oh man I have at write that down, ”he said. “The thought of something so trivial in the corner of my eye… leading to something horrible really struck me. “
From there, about a year later, Watson developed his ideas around the muniverse ttheory, which postulates that there are multiple universes that include all space, matter, time and energy. In turn, the idea for the comic became a multiverse-themed horror rather than “THe said he first imagined the Blair Witch Project-style horror.
Watson used a Kickstarter campaign to finance the comic strip. The Kickstarter is still running today and looking for donations, Watson said. He said he made a point of raising enough money to be able to pay his staff for their work. He slowly saved his money for what was, at the time, an untitled and unknown project, he said.
” Since the first day, I knew I was going to pay everyone involved before me and to the best of my ability, ”Watson said. “I thought no one was ever going to… just let me jump on a project.” If I was going to do something like this, I was going to have to put some money aside bit by bit, paycheck by check.
Watson was originally scheduled to take a tour of the Finger Lakes region for the comics from March 20-28. The tour will now run digitally, the result of the widespread coronavirus that recently caused the ccollege to cancel major events like Ithacon, which Watson was scheduled to attend. The first issue of the series will still be on sale at Buffalo Street Books and in line.
Instead, Watson will conduct live Q&As and publish exclusive artworks and animations online. Watson said by email that he also hired actors currently out of work due to COVID-19 to perform a theatrical reading of issue # 2 of “Ithaqa,” the second of 12 issues Watson has planned for the series. Currently, the first two issues of the comic have been kickstarter funded. These digital-only live performances will take place from March, 31st at April 4.
“Our team is committed to finding a way to create a digital alternative to a physical book tour,” Watson said via email. “Our plan is to get the fans into the casting, the rehearsals and the staging process.
Getting the comic published was a group effort. Lisa VillaMil ’13 met Watson in the English lessons they shared in college. About two years ago, Watson hired VillaMil to edit the comic for grammar as well as to review the story itself. She remade plot holes and suggested new story elements from the Watson foundation set.
“It takes a lot of proofreading, especially for something this big, so you don’t miss a thing,” VillaMil said. “But you also want to try and keep the voice of the writer because… that’s Michael’s story.” I just help him create the best story he can create.
For Watson and VillaMil, the comic included countless drafts and rewrites of the original script, which was around 700 pages long. About a year and a half ago, a representative from a publishing house in London suggested that Watson and VillaMil rework the story entirely, giving it its current version.
Lucas Gattoni, the creator of the comic book logo and comic artist, also assists in the production of the comic., Theresa Chiechi, who both responded to the ads Watson posted on DeviantArt.
Gattoni said by email that for the logo Watson wanted to hijack the letter “C” in Ithaca and overlay a “Q” on it for dramatic effect. After some sketches and research on film titles from the years 1920s, Gattoni and Watson have decided on an art decorative version – the basis of the current Ithaqa logo.
“I did over thirty different questions, both with ink on paper and with digital drawing software on a tablet,” he said via email. “By that point the cover was already finished so we used it to add the rest of the design elements and after four revisions we went with the final logo! ”
Beyond the logo, Gattoni designed the balloons, text, captions, sound effects for the comic book. and background pages like the introductory page.
After responding to the ad, Chiechi asked for reference photos to shape her sample sketches. She said it gave her a sense of the style, landscape and architecture Watson was looking for. A restricted palette of earthy or cool colors allowed her to explore the changing seasons of history, Chiechi said.
“I’m just excited that other people are excited about this,” she said. “I want a fandom. … I am delighted that people are seeing this incredible story.
Watson said this Taking the comic through small steps has been a painstaking process, but taking stock of everything that has changed since he started the process helps.. The project is still in development.
“It’s amazing that I want to be a writer, and here I’m going to be on a book tour,” he said. “It’s the dream, isn’t it?” And yet it almost feels like… you can crush it anytime you want because it’s been such a slow build for so long.