Monday, October 22, 2007

"They call me John..."

One of my favorite characters was written by Manly Wade Wellman. Back in the 50's he wrote the stories of John the Balladeer, or Silver John. Wellman was from New Jersey but moved to the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina. He lived only a couple of hours from where I grew up. Wellman loved the folklore and music of the mountains. The Silver John stories were full of the simple folk and ways that make that area so special. He was never insulting in his writings of these people, but had a great respect for them and their culture.

John the Balladeer wandered the mountains after returning from the war. He strung his old guitar with silver strings, like the minstrels of old. He knew a countless number of songs either learned or written himself. These songs and the folklore that accompanied them held the keys to battling the strange forces and people that threatened the mountains. He battled everything from witches (hoo doo folk), ghosts, creatures both from and not of this earth, gaints, and ancient gods from before the time of man.

With his guitar, his wits, his faith in God, and a song for every occasion, John the Balladeer righted any wrong he came across. He became somewhat of a legend himself in the hill and valleys of western North Carolina as he walked from town to town.

I have such a love for this character and his stories that I've always wanted to adapt them in comic form. He's relatively an unknown creation and the idea of Appalachian folklore isn't something people have seen much of. I love the old time songs from mountains and the stories my grandparents told me. So much so that while reading the John stories, I knew or could match an actual song to the one sang in the book. I'm teaching myself to play clawhammer banjo to be even closer to the songs and the stories that come with them.

Below are some sample pages of what it would sort of look like. Not completely finished, as I haven't done any of my usual effects stuff in Photoshop. This is straight off the board, so to speak. The first two are from "o' Ugly Bird" where John first meets and offends Mr Onselm.

The next part happens later own toward the end. When Mr Onselm "hoo doo's" some of the men to confront John. He sends the ugly bird after him, but since John strings his guitar with silver (known to be harmful to evil) when he bashes the thing with it, the bird is turned to goo by the time it hits the ground. The bird was Onselm's familiar, so once the bird is taken out, Mr Onselm isnt far behind.

*I'll update the last page with the finished version as soon as I get it done this week. Until then you'll just have to decipher my rough layout. Sorry bout that*

These are just some little scraps of spot illustrations from a couple of stories.

After I finish this current Cemetery Blues series, I plan to start working on adapting this. It'll be a hard sell, but it's something I believe in and am very close too.


Jillian said...

Beautiful! Evadare would love it...

Boatwright said...

thank you :D

I take it youre a fan of the Wellman stories?

shonokin said...

Somehow I never saw this. I'd certainly encourage you to keep this project alive. Or resurrect it as the case might be!

chaosdancer said...

Oh gosh, I wish I'd heard about this earlier! I hope you come back to this idea. I love these stories and have been reading them to my son, and he loves them too. We'd both love to see a comic someday.

Ardashir said...

The art is beautiful, and I hope you do get to make a comic or graphic novel of the John stories. I love Wellman's work, and I think his John stories are among the very best American fantasy I've ever read.

I especially like the picture of John and Rafe Enoch from "Walk Like A Mountain"; poor Rafe! He had such difficulties with his intended wife.