Drawing His Future

Joel Douglas Abrahamson works toward creating a feature film through his comic.

 Aspiring filmmaker and, for now, inadvertent comic book artist Joel Douglas Abrahamson has never previously used the term “go-getter” to describe himself, but he agrees the label may be applicable in this case.


“Maybe I’m also a bit of a control freak,” the 26 year-old native Albertan laughs. The hats of producer, promoter and entrepreneur might also fit.


One thing’s certain: this Vancouver Film School graduate hasn’t been afraid to embrace whatever workload may be necessary to make an idea nurtured since his student days a cinematic reality.


“I believe in the project 100%, and that it’s going to succeed,” says Abrahamson of his original script Alchemy — which at present is adapting into a self-published, 400-page “pulp graphic novel.”


Book one, titled Black, is presently available online and at both comics and related pop/memorabilia shops in Edmonton and Red Deer. (The project’s slickly produced, professional website lists Calgary as “coming soon.”)


Alchemy was originally a 10-minute, unproduced short film script Abrahamson wrote while at VFS. It was while working at a music store — while getting up early each morning to re-write the screenplay — that Abrahamson had an inspiration.


“I always wanted to retain my overall vision and control of the property,” he says.

“I haven’t simply pitched the script as a script for that very reason. And I was also looking for a way to increase its chance of getting made.  That’s when I thought of adapting it into a comic – especially given the success of comic adaptations in the last however many years.”


Abrahamson need not even name names: superheroes have become even more ubiquitous thanks to the X-Men, Spider-Man and Batman franchises. And then there’s the success of other comics adaptations like Sin City, a particularly conspicuous influence on the artist/filmmaker.


The challenge was, Abrahamson has never drawn a comic before — only storyboards for film. And while found that experience highly transferrable, the now self-taught comic artist admits: there was a lot more to it than he imagined.


“It’s really taught me patience. I also didn’t appreciate how long it would take; if I’d known beforehand, I might not have undertaken this project.  Especially because I’m such a perfectionist; I’ve really refused to fast-track this.”


Black concerns Catholic high school student Becky Sinclaire, who after being turned on to drugs by her less-than-virtuous counterpart may require rescue by her sister — before she descends into an inescapable pit.


For someone who wasn’t focused on producing comics for their own sake to begin with, Abrahamson has produced one that often impresses simply at a glance. Various pages of the dark, moody, sometimes-ethereal Gothic tale look like the work of a far more seasoned artist. For that matter, they’re just fantastic to look at.


“Character and story are the most important elements, but I also want something that’s beautiful,” Abrahamson says. “That’s why I also love film noir — it’s the one genre of film where style is the most important thing.”


But Abrahamson also feels his powers as a comics artist growing. “I love Frank Miller, but in the follow-up volumes I’m working on, I’m no longer just trying to imitate his work.” 


What he envisions at the end of his labour of love is a film adaptation as faithful as the Robert Rodriguez/Frank Miller co-directed Sin City was.


“I intend the eventual movie to be close to the graphic novels in look and story — even though only about one per cent of the original script is in the comic. There’s a lot left for people to discover in future incarnations.


“But it’s also become a beast of its own, now," says Abrahamson.


Abrahamson hasn’t lost sight of his plan: he and his wife plan on making the move to Vancouver from Red Deer to shop the property around once sales have reached 10,000 copies. But in the meantime the, er, “busy beaver” intends to make the most out the print creation that’s become so much more than he envisioned.


“I’m really focused on making something of the books right now,” he says.


For more information on Alchemy – Book One: Black, including how and where to buy, visit the artists’ website at http://www.alchemygraphicnovel.com/index.html.



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