Over the next three weeks, I’m running five strips I drew for my comic-that-almost-was: Life on Sticks.

Life on Sticks was a daily comic I envisioned about a new year of students attending the Victorian College of the Arts film school – the university where I did my film degree. It’s a place unlike any other; designed to attempt a replication of what working in the industry is like, you do practical filmmaking on both your own project each year and everyone else’s. Everyone is the director doing pre-production on their own project, while simultaneously being a sound recordist or runner or something else on everyone else’s. It’s a weird little pressure cooker full of unusual people with huge creative potential, with fertile ground for drama and pain and hilarity. It was fantastic.

I loved going there (it’s where I started drawing, in fact) and I knew there was a good webcomic idea in it. But I couldn’t write and draw a daily five-panel story comic, while still maintaining Zunfa Comics. So I drew five strips to pitch Life on Sticks to a large webcomics-backing site, which would have allowed me to do both. It didn’t get picked up at the time.

(“On sticks” means to put the camera on a tripod so the shot is stable, incidentally. Eg, “Put it on sticks for this one and the reverse, we’ll dolly in the wide.” Stability in life rarely happens at film school, but you do start viewing the world around you through the lens of the camera.)

It was weird drawing these strips out of context – I had all these characters in my head, but I couldn’t draw an entire story arc just to pitch the comic. So instead I tried to draw five strips that felt like I’d plucked them out of larger arcs, but whose jokes still worked standing alone. Some of the characters were amalgamations of (or single elements from) people I knew, and as always, all of them are partially me (some more than others). Because the comic didn’t end up happening, they never had the chance to grow beyond that, but I’ll talk about the what-might-have-beens of the characters as the strips run.

I didn’t make up the ‘Devil Magic’ effect, either. It’s a real effect in Avid called Fluid Morph. Being able to join two shots together without a cut really is like dark magic, though. One of my friends called it the Devil Magic Filter, and that permanently overwrote any other nomenclature for it. I pretty much stole this joke from real life, and by “real life” I mean Tim.