Creation of Sister Claire
In the beginning, there was nothing.
And then, there was an idea.
Many ideas, in fact, which filled countless sheets of printer paper and sides of school notebooks. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t have more stories to tell than I had time to tell them. But those will have to wait their turn to be told, because this site isn’t dedicated to them! So prepare yourself to learn more than you ever cared to know about the real backstory of Sister Claire, from the inspiration all the way through the creation process.
A Little History:
To really explain the origin of Sister Claire, I have to admit something personal. I was born in Rome, Italy, and went to a real all-girls Roman Catholic school run by real Roman nuns. These weren’t your cutesey “Sister Act” cheerful, youthful, singing nuns. No, my teacher was an ancient old witch who ran our 1st grade classroom like a boot camp, ordering us about by our last names. I’m proud to say that I got special treatment; she had a special name for me: “Tonta.” (which is Italian for ‘stupid girl.”) I would bring small toys to hid in my desk at this nightmarish school, as though they were talismans that could protect me from the fearsome nun. However, every time she found them she would snatch them away and put them in a basket at the front of the class, where the “good” girls could come and take them as a reward.
When I ran out of toys, I started drawing and cutting out pictures of cats and other animals to keep me company, my only friends. Those too were destroyed on sight, but fortunately they were easily replaced. I gained two important things from this: the ability to draw quickly, and inspiration for Claire’s main antagonist at the beginning of the story, who shares the same name as my cruel but well-meaning teacher: Sister Marguerite.
Despite my bad childhood experience in Roman Catholic school (or maybe, because of it) I always remained very interested in nuns. “Sister Act” and “the Sound of Music” were among my favorite movies as a child. Perhaps it was because I was tickled by this ridiculous fantasy of nuns being adorable and lively, when I knew from firsthand experience that they were really shriveled old vampires who loved nothing better than physically and mentally abusing young children and making everyone in the world as miserable as they surely were.
“Sister Act” in particular was extremely influential in regards to Claire’s character; she is almost directly based on Sister Mary Roberts, the shy one. I even went so far as to completely rip off her personality, her mannerisms, and “novice nun” outfit, although naturally in Claire’s case these traits are all stylized and exaggerated to an extreme. Claire is nowhere near as willful and brave as Maria, the protagonist of the Sound of Music, although you can certainly expect to see some homages to that in the future.
Absurdist humor has always been a favorite of mine, such as that in Monty Python skits and Mr. Bean. I wish I could list all of the influences on the strange and warped world that Claire lives in, but it’s hard to say specifically how I get these weird ideas. Most of the time, they’re just brain farts that pop up out of nowhere; the kind of thing that years down the line make you say, “Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time…”
As for influences on the art style, there are two which really stick out in my mind. I’m constantly surprised by how many people think I’m trying to draw a “manga.” Certainly, there are Japanese elements in my work, because I try to mix all of my favorite things into one style. The biggest Japanese influence is Junko Mizuno.
I adore her artwork as well as her intelligence at self-marketing. I swear, that woman have done illustrations for every Joe plumber who asked offered her money. And she’s made quite a name for herself with her adorably grotesque girls. I really aspire to her level of professionalism, creativity, and insanity.
The other biggest influence on me is (and always will be?) the Powerpuff Girls by Craig McCracken. was From the minute I saw them, I fell in love with their absolutely minimalist and adorable designs, which drove me to create thousands upon thousands of bad fanarts and fancomics.
Sister Claire’s First Appearance: Hell’s Habits
In highschool, I became hopelessly infatuated with manga and anime, particularly Sailor Moon, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Magic Knight Rayearth. Naturally this prompted even more horrible fanart and Mary-sue “original characters” to be made for every series I latched onto. On the side I worked on my own personal projects, which were mostly all terribly-drawn ripoffs of said series. I’m not ashamed to admit this, because I know that every self-respecting Sequential Artist goes through this phase. Don’t try to deny it, you!
One project was a bit more original than the rest, and for a while both my best friend and I collaborated on the story, which was called “Hell’s Habits.” The basic premise was this: a team of nuns plotted to replace the Pope with a “Tickle-Me-Elmo” and then take over the world, using their cross-swords, rosary-whips and holy waterguns. The leader, Sister Bubba, was a blood-thirsty, lesbian Lara Croft lookalike with a habit that looked like a cross between a sadistic schoolmarm and Batman. Together, these nuns would have to battle Star-of-David-wielding ninja Rabbis, Telekinetic Buddhists, exploding muslims, and gypsies with Tarot-card powers that rivaled Card Captor Sakura. It was possibly the most offensive piece of crap I ever had the joy to illustrate.
Unfortunately, most of the concept art has been lost, and we never really got around to drawing any comic pages of it. However, I manage to find some sketches recently, quite by accident. And I was shocked to realize that Sister Claire made her first appearance way back then. Of course, she was called Sister Mary back then, but as you can see, it’s clearly a crappy anime version of her.
Sister Marguerite is here, too. And check out what Sister Claire is listening to.
The years passed, and this story faded from my memory. I worked on other things, and only came back to the concept this year, in college. I had to come up with a story for a Comicbook Scripting class. At first, I was going to remodel the original “Hell’s Habits” theme, with 4 nuns working as sort of a Power Rangers-style sentai team, each having a super power related to their patron saint. Claire’s character had the power to speak to animals, her patron saint being St. Francis of Assisi. (Trivia Fact: There is also a St. Claire of Assisi.) However, this idea was soon scrapped.
I then changed it to more of a “Wizard of Oz” parody called “Super Sister”, where I first came up with the concept of having Claire be pregnant. She was to be accompanied by a “Deus Ex Machina” robot, a satyr-like female demon, and an Southern Belle-accented angel. I loved the idea, but it still seemed too cliche for me. I must have re-written the story at least 30 times, and I drew the infamous “toilet” scene at least 5 different ways. I still have the original scripts and concept art of a version where the evil Cat is actually an evil Chameleon, which was meant to represent the biblical demon Legion. This idea was eventually scrapped because I found it extremely hard to write for a character who was actually hundreds (thousands?) of spirits in one body, the cat design was much better received by others. Gabrielle’s character went through several physical makeovers, although her personality was always essentially the same; eventually resulting in the blue businesswoman you see now.
To get all deep and metaphorical, this was the final and last evolutionary stage, if this comic was a Pokemon. I finalized the major elements of the story, wrote some new characters, took some out, fixed some plot holes, and gave it what I thought would be the perfect name for this trippy-ass colorful story: Black+White. It matched Claire’s palatte, physically and mentally. She starts out in a black and white world, knowing only what she has been told. I kept with this “Wizard of Oz” inspired theme by making the beginning of the comic completely devoid of color, until Gabrielle shows up and turns Claire’s world on its head.
Unfortunately, all the different variations of blackwhite.com are either being held hostage by advertisers or hosting interracial porn sites, so I had to come up with a new title, and fast. “Nun-sense” was another briefly entertained idea, but it’s associated with a musical, and is just a bit too clunky. Eventually I settled on the most obvious and easy to remember title: Sister Claire.
I hope this explains all of the thought and influences that went into the series, and that you enjoy the final product. You’re the reason I do all this, after all!