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Safe Passage: There and back again

Kelly Aarons

Welcome to another edition of WoW Insider's Weekly Comic, Safe Passage.

One year later, and I'm back where I started. To this day, I still can't believe that after my flagship comic, Byron, the Tauren Rogue, I was given the green light for another comic series. Safe Passage was actually one of the two ideas that I originally approached WoW Insider for, but I settled on Byron for my own reasons.

Byron was immensely helpful in more ways than one. If you remember my postmortem from last time, it was essentially my training wheels, a way for me to get a feel for the processes, along with my own strengths (and weaknesses) in comic creation. The first and most important thing I had to do was to get a writer. My guild leader once again agreed to help me flesh out the story from the beginning, so I hope the story was more consistent this time around.

Safe Passage began when I first heard of the post-Cataclysm Camp Taurajo quest lines. I actually hadn't done the quests when I wrote this; I hadn't gotten into the beta, so I went purely on research. If you know of my other work, then you know I have a soft spot for our large, bovine friends, and I thought that the Taurajo situation in Cataclysm was the perfect level of ambiguity to make an interesting story.

Enarrai was another of Ktok's brilliant ideas. The original synopsis for Safe Passage was:

Two Horde soldiers (preferably not Tauren) find two Alliance children in The Barrens and try to escort them back home. The situation at Camp Taurajo has ignited hostilities for both factions, but caring for these two innocent girls will provide grounds for negotiation.

Or something like that.

Developing characters

Early in the story, Ktok suggested we put a mature face on the side of the Alliance, and Enarrai was born. Instead of this dark, mature story being told by two young children, the Alliance now had a smart, sharp and tenacious night elf hunter who would lend her own adult perspective. Personally, I think she was a great addition to the story, although I wish I could have used her owl a bit more ...

Ash'gor and Mig'ai were quite challenging. I don't think Mig got as much screen time as I would've liked, and I felt that Ash got a bit, well, neutered, ability-wise. He's obviously no High Overlord Saurfang, but if his apathy was due to either protecting the girls or he just didn't care anymore, then I didn't convey that well enough.

I won't lie when I say that I took great delight in portraying the girls, Lisaara and Brynne. The children were actually the first characters to be designed, Brynne especially. I wanted a blond human girl who idolized her father. She wears oversized work boots and is constantly a mess, all because she enjoyed adventuring much more than being a boring lady. Lisaara was also designed to be a quite, timid shaman from the very beginning, although I think her shyness severely inhibited her growth in the story. Brynne is so powerful that she practically speaks for the both of them, and I wish I had balanced it out a little more.

Art-wise, I'm quite pleased with this series. I was worried that my "shojou flower shop" (as one commenter called it) would put a lot of people off, but I was pleasantly surprised when people responded well to it. This is the first comic where I used screen tones, so I still have a very long way to go. While Safe Passage is a human interest story about war, death, loss, and prejudice, I felt that showing the softer side of the two Horde members was very important. I probably did go a little overboard on some of those flower scenes, though.

The view from both sides

The most important thing I wanted to talk about was the Horde versus Alliance in this story. As a storyteller, I tried my best to see this from both sides. Yes, I play Horde exclusively, but that doesn't mean I hate the Alliance. I did a ton of research into General Hawthorne and what he had to go through to execute the attack. In a character-driven game like World of Warcraft, it's nearly impossible to label any large faction as the good guys or the bad guys, because there are plenty on both sides. At the end of the day, the Horde and the Alliance are at war. Things like old hostilities, language barriers, misinformation and rumors would add to the flames of anger. A single, relatively unimportant Horde solider would have heard the (exaggerated) rumors and maybe only seen the charred ruins being sifted through by human looters. Alliance soldiers may have heard that Hawthorne was a great man, but another jealous lieutenant may have said otherwise.

I realize that the characters may have had skewed opinions, but only because they themselves only know so much. I don't write and draw stories like this for my own biases and opinions but to tell a story, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes people. Ash and Mig were one side, and Enarrai, Brynne and Lisaara were the other. Having them come together for a common goal, while not much, is a simple gesture of peace, and in the tumultuous months after the cataclysm, I think a few would welcome the reprieve.

Next week will mark a short prologue story with the mysterious (and now late) adoptive father of the two young girls. After that, well ... I won't spoil the surprise.

Thank you finally to everyone who read, commented, criticized, loved, and hated this story. I read each and every comment, and appreciate every one. See you all next week!

Gallery: Safe Passage | 48 Photos

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