The Fantastic World of Verse!

Sam Beck is a comic artist and freelance illustrator from Toronto. She writes and draws the webcomic Verse!

Synopsis: Verse is a low-fantasy action/drama comic. It follows Fife and Neitya, two kids from vastly different backgrounds whose paths become intertwined in mysteries and machinations much larger than themselves.

When Fife sets out on a journey to the city of Maidenstone to continue training as a weapon-smith, he becomes immediately lost. A mysterious traveller provides him with a magical compass, but when Fife forgets the Verse to activate it, something strange happens to the amulet he wears. It breaks, revealing Neitya, a horned girl who looks like the monstrous Vel. But all Neitya can remember is her name, and she doesn’t act like any Vel that Fife or others in his society have ever seen.

The two decide to travel together in search of answers for Neitya. They meet a group of deserters who fight the Vel terrorizing the countryside. A scholar with the best intentions tries to help Neitya but ends up exposing her to a strange cult who is determined to bring the true force Magic back to the world, and Neitya is the key they have been looking for.

Did you go to school for either art or writing? If so, what school?
I didn’t! I actually went to school for graphic design and practiced in that field for about 6 years before leaving to focus on illustration and comics.

What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?
I’ve always loved fantasy stories, I feel like I can get really lost in those worlds compared to something like sci-fi. They are also very saturated so it really forces you to think outside of tropes when you are world-building or coming up with characters. With Verse I always describe it as “low-fantasy” there isn’t a whole lot of fantastical elements that factor into the story (compared to Lord of the Rings or something), and I really enjoy working in that space. I think the other part is I love drawing nature and pastoral scenes, and fantasy was the easiest route to get me to draw those types of settings often!

Are there any particular writers who have inspired you?
I think for Verse in particular one of my biggest writing inspirations was Garth Nix and his Old Kingdom series. I think if you’ve read any of the books from that series it’s easy to see how it fits into the DNA of Verse. Straying a bit from novel writers…the other huge influence in how I thought about world-building and approaching writing was the podcast Friends at the Table, specifically their Seasons of Hieron series. Both approach fantasy in a way that felt really fresh too me and I wanted to capture that while writing Verse.

Your backgrounds and environments are breathtaking! How long does it take you to complete one page?
Thank you! As I mentioned before I love drawing nature scenes, I have hundreds and hundreds of photos saved so I can grab references when I need one. A page typically takes me between 5-7 hours to complete. This comic has been my second job for a while now!

Do you have any favorite artists who influenced your style?
So many. I always go back to Jake Wyatt and Taiyō Matsumoto. Wyatt’s comic Necropolis started around the same time as Verse and I’ve always been enamoured with how he draws scenery. Taiyō Matsumoto’s work has been a big inspiration to me since I was in high school. GoGo Monster was really influential for comic storytelling. I think I also need to pick out Moebius as another source of inspiration when I first got into comics. It’s really hard to single out people because I follow so many amazing artists but it’s rare for someone’s entire body of work to stick with me for a long time.

What is your process like for creating comic pages? What tools do you use?
I do everything digitally. I use a wacom tablet and occasionally an iPad if I’m travelling. I still use photoshop for inking/sketching and then flat colours in clip studio. I start off with a very messy layout and place in speech bubbles, then sketch things in with a bit more detail before moving onto inking and colouring. I also use sketchup for some 3D models if I’m going to be reusing a setting often (like if it has a lot of buildings or something).

How long did it take you to plan the comic before even beginning to physically create it?
I started writing Verse in 2014? I actually have about 30 pages drawn from that first version. Then life got busy and I couldn’t work on it for a few years. I picked it up again in 2016/2017 and re-wrote everything and totally scrapped the first draft.

How long do you plan on going with Verse for the foreseeable future? Is there a definite ending or are you planning on going for as long as you can?
There is a definite end! My plan is 3 books (Book 1 being out already in print). As the books stretch out into the future their plots are a lot more hazy, but there is absolutely a point I want to get too, it’s just a matter of filling in all the details between here and there.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced during the course of making Verse? If you could go back in time to the point where you just started making it and give yourself a pep talk, what would you say?
Can I give myself the pep talk now? But seriously, Verse is at a point where the story begins to move at a very fast pace and it’s a bit daunting having to sit down and fill in those details I just talked about. I write very loosely and that worked for Book 1, but there is now so much built up that all the pieces need to fall in place. There is a sense that I have to stick the landing on a lot of things or it’s not going to come together at the end. So really it’s a bit heads down for me at the moment, a lot of writing and problem solving, but I know this work is going to count when I get to drawing it.

What is your favorite part about working on Verse?
I love all the characters I’ve put into this world. And trying to think of their unique voices and how they work their way out of different situations is incredibly fun for me. I think when a new reader picks up Verse the world and art are probably what stands out (and that’s great!) but my focus is always on how the characters are growing throughout the story. Writing dialogue is my favourite thing to do.

What is your LEAST favorite part about working on Verse?
I think my least favourite thing has less to do with Verse and more to do with just webcomics in general. Writing a long form story is hard when readers get a page every few days, that’s not how I’ve intended it to be read, but it’s the best thing I can offer for a comic that is free. Keeping myself motivated to see the big picture is really hard sometimes.

Do you have a favorite character to write for? If so, why? Tell us more about them!
I love writing for Fife and Neitya, but if I really had to pick Fife comes out ahead. Probably because his mode of operation is high-anxiety and I can personally relate to the feeling of being 100% unsure of what you want to do and being scared all the time.

Do you have a LEAST favorite character to write for? If so, why? Tell us about them!
I don’t dislike writing anyone, but Branca and Ophelia have very authoritative voices so they end up being the hardest for me to write since it’s very different from my own voice.

Do you have a favorite character to draw?
Drawing Branca is always fun because her outfits are over the top in every sense. She is this imposing figure, very goth, many long flowing gowns and jewellery. I have an embarrassingly large pinterest board for her.

Do you have a LEAST favorite character to draw
For a long time, I had the hardest time drawing Neitya’s horns at the correct angle, I think I’ve gotten better over time but it still trips me up sometimes.

Where can we find you?

Anything else you want the people to know about yourself or your comic?
Chapter 6 just ended as of writing this! If you need a low-fantasy comic set in an interesting world with diverse characters now is a great time to pick it up.


Have you read Verse yet? Let us know what you think in the comments! Or, hey, go to the creator’s site and show some love ?

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