Sometimes Magic Sounds Like Tape

Influence Map

So I went to deviantArt to clear out my inbox for the first time this year, and lo! Somehow I got tricked into participating in a meme:

An excuse to look up pictures of shirtless Ozai? Score!
(Full-sized version here.)

To elaborate on these influential things…

WARNING: Verbose Fangirling Ahead

Calvin & Hobbes
Greatest Overall Influence

Oh man. It would be impossible to overstate how much I love this comic, or how much of my apparent cleverness I owe to being obsessed with it as a kid. I’d spend hours a day just reading and laughing. It was pretty good for the vocabulary, too; I had to keep a dictionary handy when I was seven or eight years old, to look up words like “sanctimonious” or “semantics” or “Australopithecus.” Newly informed, I’d get the joke and laugh some more.

So many good times~♥

(Now whenever I pick up a C&H book, it’s pretty much the same experience, only without the dictionary.)

Biggest Artistic Influence

So, up until my last year of junior high, about 99% of my “portfolio” consisted of bad DBZ and Sailor Moon fan art. (The other 1% was good DBZ fan art. Mmm… Zarbon. But I digress.)

Then along came an ElfQuest book, with its defined cheekbones and round noses and solid, believable, three-dimensional figures. The characters still had the big eyes and voluminous hair that I loved so dearly, but without the two-dimensional, over-stylized features that I’d gotten used to seeing in anime. All along, I’d assumed that my only two options were “pointy, flat manga” style or “tiny-eyed, box-chinned superhero” style. But no — you’re allowed to combine your favorite elements of more than one style? Eureka!

Not only did Wendy Pini clue me in that there are more than two ways to draw comics, her art is also responsible for (finally) getting me interested in figure drawing. Sadly, you would’ve had to pay me to read a Burne Hogarth book in junior high; now I’m saving up to buy ‘em all.

Long story short, you should totally read ElfQuest.

Biggest Writing Influence

Terry Pratchett. ‘Nough said. ♥

(Seriously. If I started listing things that I love and admire about this guy’s writing skills, you would have an essay right here.)


This has so many elements that I love to see in a story: The characters are well developed, and evolve throughout the series. Everyone has some lovable and/or respectable traits, and even most of the villains are easy to like. Every main character gets at least one Crowning Moment of Awesome. The “magic” system is internally consistent and well integrated into society, and you constantly see it put to new and creative uses.

My favorite thing about it is that, even though there’s plenty of drama and epic fight scenes, the series keeps an overall feeling of lightheartedness and fun. Definitely the kind of adventure I’d like to write.

The Front

I found this comic after I’d been making the old version of TM for a while, and quickly realized how many things Jerzy Drozd did right that I was doing wrong. (Hint: He did everything right.) The entire story is obviously well planned, well paced, well drawn, and well formatted. The characters’ personalities are all so well-defined and strategically polarized that it’s a joy to watch them interact. (Seriously — I defy you to resist laughing at any scene where Dick and the Brigadier General are in the same room.) In short: very inspiring. Even though the setting and premise are very different, it embodied all of the qualities that I wanted True Magic to have.

There’s also audio commentary to go with each issue, which I found incredibly helpful and entertaining. So yeah: the comic isn’t just awesome; it also tells you how it’s awesome. :D

Anyway, read it!


As I said earlier, elsewhere: I totally have to thank the person (Shazzbaa?) who recommended this book by Robert McKee. Near the end of the old version of TM, I was painfully aware of how flawed my writing and plot structure were, but I couldn’t figure out what specific things should be different. Then I started reading this, and every other page was like a clue-by-four upside the head. It really helped me define exactly WHY so many parts of the comic were bugging me, what elements I was missing, and how I could actually do ‘em right.

This book is pretty much what decided me in favor of rebooting TM instead of quitting. (Because it’s only worth starting over if it will be different enough, after all.) I’m probably still doing a lot of things wrong, but writing the comic is about 2,000% more fun and satisfying now.

I ♥ RMK.

Buffy: Oh, Joss Whedon. How I love your unique blend of drama, horror, handsome dudes, and ridiculous humor. ♥

Michael Jackson: This guy was like inspiration on two legs. I never say this kind of sappy stuff, but… he put his heart and soul into his performance, and it showed. He was the best at what he did, and every time I saw one of his short films, it renewed my motivation to try to be the best I could be, whatever I happened to be doing. (Just for fun: My favorite MJ dance sequence. Better than Thriller, I tell ya.)

Emperor’s New Groove: Ah, this movie is just so silly and fun and cute — and it has such great comedic timing! It’s one of those films that I can watch any number of times, and still pretty much giggle continuously from start to finish. (“Why do we even have that lever?”)

Gargoyles: This was my favorite cartoon as a kid. My friends’, too. At recess, we used to stand up on our toes and stomp around the playground, flexing our “claws” and snarling at the other kids. Time well spent! (Oh, and one of the best things about this show? Everyone had long hair.)

Zebra Girl: Somehow, among the hundreds of webcomics I’ve read over the last ten years, this is the only one that’s had a significant influence on my drawing style. And I have no idea why! I guess Joe England’s art is just magically delicious appealing. See for yourself!

Alice Cooper: There’s just something I love about this guy’s overall style and stage persona. He’s got the sinister, the sexy, and (most importantly) a bit of the silly goin’ on — all adequately demonstrated in this fine video. (“Well I ain’t evil, I’m just good lookin’.”) ♥

David Bowie: Same idea as above. He’s got a specific dramatic/charismatic style — a “mood,” if that’s the right word — that matches some of the feeling I’d like to incorporate into my own stories. (Note, however, that any resemblance to a certain TM character is entirely coincidental. Or at least it was last time, oh ho ho.)

…So there you have it. TMIssion accomplished!
There are a few thousand other things that I could include, but they wouldn’t fit in the template.

Now, artist friends, go try the meme yourself. (And no, you don’t have to spend an hour writing a wall of text like I did. Unless you want to.) I’d love to see what influenced and inspired you guys the most, too. :D

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11 Responses to “Influence Map”

  1. Riverfox237 Says:

    I like this; it’s interesting reading about what has inspired you in the past. =) I can totally see you being influenced by Calvin & Hobbes; I grew up w/ that comic, and the humor is indeed one-of-a-kind and genius. Discworld and The Emporer’s New Groove don’t surprise me, either. ;D I would love to do this sometime, although I think I would have a hard time picking specific things to fill all of those squares!

    Thanks for posting, Aja; it was fun to see!


    P.S. Because I never got to say it in an email when the 100th page came out…OH MY WORD IT’S GAUTH!!!! *somersaults*

  2. Aja Says:

    *high-fives for the Calvin & Hobbes love*

    Glad you found it interesting! And you should totally try it. I’m sure you have some cool things to put in. :D Like the meme creator says, it makes for a nice thing to look at whenever you need an inspiration boost.

    P.S. Woo!

  3. Riverfox237 Says:

    I think we only need Something Under The Bed Is Drooling and Attack of the Three-Headed Zombie Killer Snowmen to recomplete our collection. :3 We used to have almost all of them, but for some reason the collection was discarded, much to everyone’s sadness.

    I think I will! I might even add in C&H myself, as that was one of the comics I read the most as a kid. (That and Garfield…gotta love Garfield. Jon is awesome in his sheer geekiness.) It would definitely be fun to try! =D I’ll let you know if I ever complete it.

    (And you said that page 100 wasn’t gonna be all that monumental…;) As if reintro of a favorite character wasn’t huge. Oh you tricky person, you!)

  4. tulsileaf Says:

    I’ve wanted to read all of Elf Quest. Many, many, many thanks. A pity it’s flash.

  5. Cy Says:

    That was very insightful, thanks for sharing. Makes sense why I love your art so much! I need to check out that book Story, I could use some help.

  6. Aja Says:

    @Tulsi: Many welcomes. :D Just be careful — once you get past Kings of the Broken Wheel, a lot of the remaining stories turn out to be unfinished.

    @Cy: Definitely check out Story. It’s aimed at screenwriters, but the advice is awesomely helpful for any kind of fiction. (Especially the tip to “leave dialogue for last.” That idea alone has probably saved me from dozens of hours of wasted work.) Let me know if you get any neat insights from reading it!

  7. tulsileaf Says:

    More questions raised for each answered. /me wonders where the gliders came from…

  8. Iroke Says:

    Oh man, I’ve seen Alice Cooper live, and it’s the best concert I’ve EVER been to.

    “Note, however, that any resemblance to a certain TM character is entirely coincidental. Or at least it was last time, oh ho ho.”
    …Does it have something to do with how he met his wife? 8DDDDD /fangirl mode ON

  9. Aja Says:

    Aheh. XD I’d never heard that story before!

    Amazing what you can learn on Wikipedia. 8D

  10. Iroke Says:

    I love that story XD Whether or not he was telling the truth doesn´t even matter xD

  11. Purplefire Says:

    Hee hee, I did this meme months ago but it’s always fun to see the influences of other artists. :) Emperor’s New Groove!!!! “I’m sorry, you’ve thrown off the Emperor’s groove.” “Soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooorry!!!!!!!!”