As I explained last time, I had created this world. It was a big world with this village where everyone dressed traditionally and time seemingly stood still. It was remote, being surrounded by unspoiled wilderness in all directions. This hamlet needed a name and I struggled with it for awhile. It had to have a name that defined its demeanor, something that had to establish immediately to the viewer. Since this idea was inspired by Maple Town, I tried saying various names over that conveyed a sense of tranquility. Some of the names I came up with in this design phase were Rose Town, Rosy Town, Sun Town, Sunton, Paxville, and Sunnytown.
In the end, I came up with the name “Sunnyville” after trying out a few combinations. My instincts told me that this would work and it had a nice ring to it. From there on, I developed the concept some more. As I said before, I didn’t know what I was going to do with this world. I could have just concentrated on the day-to-day lives of the townspeople, but that alone would have been boring. Sunnyville Stories would not have worked in that case. You have to understand that comics is a very personal medium. For a comic to work, you have to be able to connect with the reader. If you are unable to connect with a reader, then your comic won’t work.
As I said in the last entry, I remembered how the first episode of Maple Town had Patty Rabbit and her family arriving in their new hometown by train. That really got my brain working. I recalled some of my own personal experiences having moved to a radically different location. So I invented a character for the readers to view this traditional looking village with – the character of Rusty. Rusty was there from the start. I conceived him as a teenager who had to leave behind everything he knew and move to this very strange looking place. We’ve all heard stories about characters moving…but I still felt something was not quite right.
Rusty was a teenager. He was unsure of himself and he needed someone to relate to and confide in. That’s how I created Samantha or “Sam” for short.
I should emphasize right now that the Samantha I created back in 2005 was quite different from the one you know now in Sunnyville Stories. In fact, she was not a cat – Samantha was a rabbit! Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, I have not been able to locate my old sketchbooks from that time period so I can’t share with you the concept art I did for Samantha.
The world I created ended up being different from the one I eventually put together in 2009. The comics series was going to be called “Sunnyville 77” and in addition to Maple Town, the plot had elements from the 1989 movie UHF with Weird Al Yankovic. In this early prototype of my work, Rusty moves with his father and mother to Sunnyville. Rusty’s father, Al, was an oddball wearing eyeglasses who was sent in to revive a local TV station known as Channel 77 which was operating just outside of Sunnyville. Rusty met Sam soon after and the two would not only have adventures in town, but also with helping out Rusty’s father at the Channel 77 TV station.
There were more changes. Sam and her family were rabbits rather than cats (as I said before), Sam’s father was going to be the town doctor and Sam’s mother the town nurse, and Sam’s older sister Margaret was going to be a bully who went after Rusty as well as her little brother Jason. In fact, I even wrote a scene that involved Rusty walking in on a naked Margaret as she was taking a shower!
So you might be wondering why wasn’t this 2005 prototype series produced? Life got in the way. The year 2005 was turbulent for me as I was going through emotional problems. I thought the series wasn’t good enough in its current form AND my drafting skills were weak. I shelved the Sunnyville project while going on to look for a day job and work on my drawing.
Interestingly enough, I never forgot completely about Sunnyville. At various times between 2005 and 2009, I kept coming back to the idea for some reason. Why? Maybe because it was too good to give up. But it wasn’t until 2009 that Sunnyville started to become a reality.
I will continue that in the final post of this series on Saturday.