Chapter 2 – DON’T JUDGE A FOX BY HIS TAIL
The dog behind the character
Meet Foxtail. Foxtail is the first dog that I rescued off the streets of Santiago, a loyal and reliable friend, and a mentor to our heroine Shellshock. Before Shelby (or Shellshock as I call her) came into our lives Foxtail was the only dog of the household for a whole year. His life was chill, and maybe even a little bit boring. He didn’t mind though, because the life that he endured previously was anything but fun.
Santiago is a city populated with feral and homeless dogs, the way that most big cities are filled with pigeons. Here, generations of dogs breed and colonize city streets, alleys, and local dumps for generations on end. Many of these unfortunate creatures don’t know what it’s like to have a home. Foxtail was born and raised on the streets, but he had high hopes of one day being a house dog. That day came when he was less than a year old.
In Chapter 2 of Shellshock, Foxtail will tell his tale of how he came to be a house dog and what it was like living on the streets prior to that.
In the meantime, I will tell you a little bit about him and what an incredible job he has been doing in helping me raise Shellshock.
When Shellshock appeared under a tree in front of our house one day, she was badly hurt, starved, and had difficulty standing, breathing, drinking and even keeping her eyes open. She spent the following three days in a nearby clinic, in the hands of a very talented and devoted veterinarian. When she was finally released into our care, she required constant attention and assistance. She was still very weak and seemed to not know anything about being a dog. Foxtail, who is usually not very interested in socializing with other canines, took her under his wing immediately.
He began sharing his most prized possessions with her, sharing his favorite pillows, and teaching her which areas of the yeard are used for which purposes.
He even invited her to share his own summer dog house, and let her put her name on it. She didn’t know that such luxuries existed.
Before long, these two were inseparable, and as soon as Shellshock gained some strength and weight they were always playing, scheming and laughing together.
It soon became apparent that Foxtail’s new job was not just to teach this pup how to dog, but also to keep her out of trouble. Her energy turned out to be endless, and her mind never-resting. We also began finding her in high places all of a sudden. One day she would be hanging off a windowsill, one day she would be on top of a wall, or on a garden trellis. We began to suspect that this pup can hover.
Today, almost five years later, we live far away from Santiago, in the countryside. Foxtail and Shellshock have several acres of land to play on. They share an elevated dog den, equipped with two rooms and a terrace, and when it gets chilly outside they live and play in the house more than they do outdoors. The two are completely inseparable. Where one goes, the other immediately follows. They hunt together, play together, defend their home together, even take trips to the vet together when only one of them needs the attention.
By turning these two amazing companions into graphic novel characters, I want to tell their story from multiple angles. The aim of “Shellshock” is not to burden the readers with the tragedic reality of street life, neglect or abuse. While these topics are addressed, I try to balance my novel with humor, delight, and beauty that these incredible creatures teach me every day. I don’t want to make my readers to cry and to harbor negative emotions towards the human race. “Shellshock” also demonstrates the generous and kind side of humanity, as well as the dangerous and reckless side of canine life. Life is complicated and messy, and so is the issue of homeless dogs. Mainly, I want my readers to see dogs the way that Shellshock and Foxtail are teaching me to see them and to enjoy their journey.
Working on the novel
On average, a single edition of a given graphic novel is 35 pages in length and takes between three months and a year for a team of four to ten people to create. Kat Dattilo and I are the only two people involved in the creation, editing, production, and publication of “Shellshock,” and we do it all in our spare time from our day jobs, paid artist contracts, commissions, a farm and a family to manage. In total “Shellshock” consists of 6 books, or chapters, each roughly 35 pages long. The entire story is already written, by me, and together we work on illustration and coloring one chapter at a time. Because we do not have the luxury of taking this project on full time, and because we each have to fill multiple production and post-production roles, it takes about five to six months of continuous work to produce one chapter that will take you guys less than half an hour to read, but days, months and years to enjoy the artwork. Finally, with all said and done, we get to keep $2.00 each from each book sale. Needless to say, we do not do this for the money.
Why do we do it?
We both feel that Shellshock’s story is one that needs to be told. Through her amazing character and a splash of fantasy, we can cover a wide range of dog and human issues that are very important to address. Issues like homeless dogs, where they come from, why they spread, why they may be dangerous as well as sad and helpless, why they need help, how they can be helped, how this situation can be prevented, how house dogs are treated, and finally, the climax of it all, the ethics of dog racing. At the same time, we want to entertain the readers and present dogs in such a human and relatable way, that people will want to spend more time with their dogs, and take that one extra step to house or help house a dog in need.
Separately from raising awareness about dogs and entertaining dog lovers, Kat and I plan to donate to actual dog rescue groups. Our promise to you, the supporters, is that with each new 100 sales made, we will donate 30% of our earnings from those 100 sales to a new dog rescue group. Announcements on these events will be made on Facebook in Shellshock’s personal page. Of course, 30% of what we make is not much, but it’s a start. Help us spread the word about Shellshock and we can start making a bigger difference for real dogs.
How we do it
In an earlier article, I took you through the step by step design, drawing, coloring, and formatting process that Kat and I follow when creating these books for you. If you haven’t yet read that one, I think you will find it very interesting and informative. It takes you on a journey from the very first sketch, through a sea of edits, all the way to the final brilliantly painted by Kat color version of a given panel. You can read about it here. This behind-the-scenes information also appears at the back of chapter 1 of “Shellshock.”
In this volume, we have a surprise for you. When Foxtail speaks and tells his tale, the drawing style switches to a new and different format. I think you guys will really like it. But, you must wait for the book to come to find out. The new chapter, and every new chapter from now on will also start with a few “previously on Shellshock” pages to get you guys caught up with the story in case you did not read the previous chapter, or in case you need a refresher even if you did.
A bit of a tease
“Shellshock” Chapter 2 is in its final stage of production, where Kat and I tediously format and finalize the color panels before I add the text bubbles and reformat the whole thing once more to submit the manuscript for publication. It will be published very soon. We thank all you for patiently waiting for this chapter. We were ambitious and wanted to have it ready much sooner, but alas, there are only so many hours in a given day. We will never trade quality for speed, so we humbly grind.
We do want to share with you some glimpses into what we have cooking. Not the super secret style part, of course, but a bit of a tease nevertheless. Please enjoy the pictures. Visit Shelby’s personal page, check out Chapter 1 if you haven’t already, and do stay tuned for Chapter 2.
Thank you all for making this possible.
Thank you for reading.