One year and a couple of months ago, I was in the shower – the place where I have all my best ideas – and found my mind wandering to villains. Video game villains. Particularly, how ridiculously unfair and unlikely their situation is – to be powerful, whether magically or physically, sometimes to be extremely intelligent and cunning, to have an army at your disposal scattered across the land, to have tricks and traps – only to be defeated by one or two or at most a small team of pure-hearted individuals. Your army trashed, one by one – your challenges bested – and ultimately yourself flung into lava, blasted into oblivion or lying in a crumpled disgraceful heap.

It’s really hard to believe, when you think about it. And yet we’re just trained to accept this nonsense as the way it is. The hero is meant to win, after all.

But how maddeningly frustrating must it be for the villain himself – who doesn’t have this wider perspective, who knows only that he’s trapped within a world where every effort he puts forth, every brilliant plan that by logic ought to render him unstoppable, meets with failure? And thus the idea for The Fourth was born.

Sort of.

See, I’ve always wanted to get a book published, and I originally wanted to write it as a novel – maybe with some illustrations, but those wouldn’t be the point. It was going to be quite different than it was now, rather less humorous… and I planned on doing it all on my own. But like the few other story ideas I’ve had – I haven’t exactly been full of them for the past ten years or so – it was, in truth, likely going to sit in some cobwebby corner of my mind and rot away for all time.

Luckily, that night I decided to share my idea with my boyfriend. He was skeptical – but only of the book part. He thought it was a great idea, but suggested that the story could reach a much wider audience as a webcomic. It was my turn to think he was ridiculous – true, I loved to draw more than I loved to write, but I didn’t have much faith in my art. What’s more, I was an extremely slow worker – I didn’t think I’d be able to make a comic page every week.

Then he told me we really ought to do it three times a week. So the story moved along quicker and people didn’t get bored, you know.



But somehow it happened, and for the vast majority of the time, has kept on happening. For a full year. Victor’s faith in me has allowed me to work and improve at a rate I never thought possible. In the very beginning, my ideas were stagnating, like my original characters always have. I knew we would have a main villain, and Derk and Lorelei are based loosely on figures from a dream I had long ago… and then a hero, and I guessed a princess, probably… but beyond that I struggled. At first I clung madly to this creation as being my own, and I wanted to come up with everything myself… but letting my partner in life be my partner in imagination was the best decision I could have made. I decided to let him into my head and let him be my co-writer; we would create this world and its inhabitants together. We finished up the last month of school in an obsession, talking about our villain and his right-hand man and the mysterious little healer by day and night, at lunch and on the way to band practice sharing an umbrella in the rain. Victor gave most of the characters their names and reined me in when I wanted to make the characters’ histories too dark. As we started working on actual comics, I let him take over as full-time writer of the dialogue and most of the jokes, as I had to admit he is better at that sort of thing than I. Now, the story and the characters are shaped seamlessly by the both of us working together. I couldn’t tell you which aspects of Idenau or of the characters’ personalities he came up with versus me, and it doesn’t matter. We are partners.

Over the past year or so, I’ve learned just how much you can accomplish when someone you care about believes in you. So believe in someone else! You might be surprised at what your faith and encouragement can do.

I’ve also learned that there’s no shame in being co-something. Co-creator, in this case. If I had kept trying to come up with everything on my own, the characters would be radically different – and worse – if they existed at all. I appreciate Victor’s honesty in shaking his head at some of my earliest sketches of Lorelei and Derk, and his nagging at me to draw the characters a lot and with varied expressions before actually trying to put them in comics – something that benefited me greatly with the ones for which I obeyed. Working with him to create our own world is one of the many things that has helped cement our relationship. So my next advice to you is: if you want to create something of your own, but are struggling, seek advice from a friend, your mate, a sibling – whoever you care about! If you can come up with a fantastic story all on your own, that’s great… but not all of us have the motivation. Working with someone else can give you that spark and dedication. As in all things in life, you don’t have to go it alone.

Before starting the comic, I did mostly video game fanart, and illustrations for theater productions and the school newspaper… whatever popped up here and there. Having a creation I can call my own has done wonders for my confidence as an artist, not to mention the constant practice has allowed me to improve noticeably and work more efficiently.

The best thing about the comic though, has been… you guys! We may not be a super popular comic, but from the very early days we had at least a few people who would comment regularly. That’s grown into quite a bunch of people! And I keep up with you all as best as I can… I’m so happy there are people who enjoy the story enough to pay attention to the little details and inside jokes, and wonder what’s going to happen next, and speculate on how the characters are really feeling. I love talking to you guys because that makes the whole process worth it – waiting to see what you’ll say about each new joke or twist we throw at you! I am forever grateful to all of you, and endeavor to keep making you smile. Whatever it is that makes you keep coming back here, I hope we never lose it. I’ve been talking a lot about me and Victor, but the point of a fictional world is to condense your imagination and share it with others, is it not? To make other people smile and laugh and maybe even cry, to give them a sense of adventure and escapism. I hope we provide that for you, I hope we are a little light in your day every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, as each comment is for me.

Much love, my friends.
-Courtney Svatek