"In this new era of crypto and NFTs I wanted to explore the idea that even we ourselves are capable of being exploitable digital assets," says writer Christopher Sebela about .Self (opens in new tab), his new comiXology Originals series.
"In .Self, we play with the concept that you can see yourself in different bodies that have chosen to follow different paths and dreams you may have let go of over the course of your life either because the dream was silly, or you changed, or life just didn't allow for it," says the writer.
The five-part "mind-bending, thought-provoking" .Self debuted Tuesday, November 2 as part of comiXology's digital exclusive line and is illustrated by Cara McGee, colored by Rebecca Nalty, and lettered by Aditya Bidikar.
The story is set in a future in which anyone can swallow a device called a Postscript that makes a digital back-up of all your feelings, memories, and physical reaction, and combines it with a scan and analysis of all your hard drives and social media posts to capture and store a complete snapshot of who you are.
When you die, all your files are then uploaded to an artificial body called a Blank for two days, to put you in charge of "writing your own ending" and getting closure with friends and family on your own terms.
In .Self, the protagonist Natalie Winters's seemingly ideal life is upended when her Postscript account is hacked, her backup files torrented online and people begin making bootleg copies of her.
Now, dozens of Natalie Blanks are using their 48 hours to pursue dreams she's long since forgotten, and enlisting her to help them. Now Natalie must "stop them, delete everything, and save herself."
".Self is a book about someone who is comfortable for the first time in their life and then realizes that that doesn't actually equate to happiness," says Sebela.
"I feel like it's so rare to see a woman in her 30's go through this sort of journey of self-discovery, learning new and surprising things about herself while also confronting some of her demons, so I'm thrilled to be a part of this series," says McGee. "It also gave me a chance to draw the sort of stuff I haven't gotten to draw in any of my other published work, which was super fun."
Speaking of McGee's drawing, the artist walked us through her process of creating the cover for the first chapter of .Self step-by-step...
"Whenever I'm doing a cover for an issue, I tend to want to show a bit of what you can expect from the story inside rather than a glorified pinup (okay, I like doing those too)," McGee tells Newsarama. "With the first issue, obviously you're going to have a lot of plot to work with, but you don't want to give away anything too big. So, step one is doing a handful of thumbnails and talking to Chris to see which would be the most appropriate."
"For cover one, we decided to do thumbnail five, since the focus is this piece of tech that we introduce in the issue which pretty much has Nat literally trapped (I think we can all sort of relate to that). I kept coming back to this idea of social media and tech having this overwhelming presence, demanding attention and giving unwanted attention back."
"I play around with the sketch a little bit, doing a few passes before I find something I like, then tighten the sketch up with inks. All of this is done in Clip Studio."
"Fleshing things out a bit more with flat colors and adding the hands. I want the attention to be on Nat, so I'm leaving the hands really basic."
"Next, I add some shading and smaller details on Nat. In the past when I've colored my own work I've tended to stay away from using black, even with the lineart, as I tend to like the softer feel of color holds on lines, but I wanted the tone of this series to be much darker and more intense than my previous work, so I tried to lean into it."
"I have a tendency to overthink and nitpick my own work to the point where it takes way too long to get in, so I had to force myself to stop working once I hit a point I was happy with. Filters cover a number of sins anyway. [laughs]"
"Adding the text notifications and final details was probably my favorite part of the process, and finally gave me what I was wanting from this cover, though I think I still made a couple more tweaks after this. But then I submit it so more talented people can add the title graphics before I agonize over it even more [laughs].
ComiXology Originals titles are free to members of Amazon Prime, Kindle Unlimited, and comiXology Unlimited, and can be purchased in the Amazon Kindle Store and on comiXology.