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A Little Background

Poison Fruit was meant to be a movie. Ever since, several years ago now, I first read Webster’s Duchess of Malfi, I have wanted to create an adaptation that would make it accessible to 21st century audiences, while still maintaining the atmosphere and pathos of the original. If possible, I also wanted it to be set in space. Those were the two things I knew for sure, all of the other details fluctuated as I kept the project on the back burners of my mind. I considered different media: live action, stop motion, marionettes. Different formats: a feature, an OVA, a streaming television show. Different scopes: would it be just Duchess, or would I bring in material from other Jacobean plays? I also thought about the world itself. For a year or more I was decided to make all the characters extraterrestrials. If there were any humans at all, they would be in strictly supporting roles. But as I explored the concept, I realized that if I wanted to make them relatable, I would need to make them fairly human. And, as much as I love Star Trek, we don’t need any more green-painted women or otherwise human characters with bumpy foreheads. If I was going to have aliens, I wanted to make them alien, but Poison Fruit is a human story.

Around the time I had a pretty good conception of the project, I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to make it work on video. To tell the story wanted, I would need, at the minimum, a full season TV show. My production company is, for the most part, a one-man-band operation. Animated productions typically employee dozens, if not hundreds, of specialists. Even if I could somehow raise the money to hire them all, and find a place for all of them to work, I have neither the experience not the administrative support structure to show-run that size production, which meant I would have to give up a lot of control to someone else.

I was a bit stuck until the webcomic idea occurred to me. I like to joke that a comic is just an animated movie with an extremely low frame rate. In a comic, as compared to a movie, I can dispense with all of the animation between keyframes, all of the audio and accompanying lip-sync, and most of the editing. By going with more of a manga aesthetic I could use simpler backgrounds. By doing it mostly in grayscale I could eliminate most of the color design work and all of the color grading, while significantly simplifying my texture and lighting work. And besides, the manga is almost always better than the movie, so why not just make the manga?

So there you have Poison Fruit, a movie adaption of a play expressed as a web comic.