What goes into making a comic?
Beyond Badr is a transmedia effort that explores the rise of the Islamic Golden Ages. Have you ever wondered what goes into making a comic book?
The Beyond Badr Comic series was originally produced in 2016 as a complement to our video game development, but what was needed to create the first comic we ever created?
We asked Beyond Badr creator Kelvin Ali about the creation of this comic series who candidly broke down the struggles we’ve collectively encountered.
“The comic was never meant to be a stand-alone product. We experienced several years of inconsistent game production assets by very junior development teams and artists from around the world, who we thought would have the right potential to develop essential technical skills. This was a very frustrating process as we also had poured a lot of capital and resources into creating requests from potential investors which never panned out.
The allure of the great VC was something we didn’t have any experience with and it was a very high risk considering the amount of time, effort, energy, and capital we invested to seek out the best talent with the resources we had. We were sidetracked often providing valuable and confidential research and documents to interested parties, and I learned of several horror stories from others along the way that helped us to make very tough choices. We decided that we needed to remain as an indie developer as I studied, publishing deals, rights, and contract offerings which are typically not in your favour as a creator at times.
This took me around the world and unknowingly to several offshore production houses which both disappointed and shocked me as I soon realized that big game development also had a potential darker production side to it. As a small indie developer, with experience in business and having an ethical perspective, I tried where I could, to explain better ways to do things when I saw and could comment on specific conditions and situations that would not be acceptable in the west.
I tried to help local talent with various opportunities working with ‘remote teams’, however, this was something that people were just not familiar with only a few years ago.
The need for a brick-and-mortar location in several countries was an essential component for local talent as I noticed many psychological issues arise from remote workers, especially younger talent, who we provided tools to be effective, but their physical dwellings posed challenges. Parents and elders who advised them often did not understand how it is possible to do work at home and earn a living just a decade ago.
I knew that our model could work, but traditional thinking would derail potential talent often over time and we had to review our asset library and investments. This led us to decide to work on 1 specific product at a time as the world churned on.
I was studying and writing a narrative based on the creation of prototype game requirements to appease potential investors and it occurred to me that the narrative for Beyond Badr would critically define our level design. We had to flush out a realistic development plan.
Co-Vid 19 hit us like many small businesses pretty hard and while we had our narrative created, we literally had to pivot immediately in order to save our IP development with the talent we could trust deciding to rebuild upon our initial comic assets which launched in 2016.
Our comic production was very intense over the past few years and we are approaching the end of this phenomenal run. We have found ways to make the process more efficient and we are now into asset production of the final 3 episodes of The Madani Chronicles.
When I was seeking talent in 2012, I explained the game concept and also hadith which I did not have the chronological wisdom of at the time pertaining to Emperor Heraclius for factional warfare and for conceptual raiding of tribal caravans which led to the initial and very first acts of Islamic warfare. It took me several years to understand where hadith and Quranic revelation ‘lined up’ and I realized that I had to make this clearer for developers. There were so many misconceptions about Islam that very perpetuated by over a decade of Islamophobic propaganda, so let’s just say, it was not an easy concept to present as many people had formulated their own views already on the subject matter. Most of it not being good.
During the pandemic, I spent a lot of time-making du’a, praying, and researching while we were in lockdown and I’ve finished writing the narrative for the entire production run, which will conclude in 2022.
Each comic I wrote accounts for about 20+ written pages of notes and research and transliteration into a modern, yet authentic English narrative. All languages change over time however, the Quran and Hadith do not, a promised miracle of revelation from Allah (swt), so I know how critical authenticity had to be to bring the content into current frameworks of civilization for learning and teaching.
Our comics are meant to teach a topic and provide valuable lessons from a period that is not covered in western or Eurocentric-based societies. My intention was to help anyone, Muslim or otherwise just understand how this religion and ideology started. So many people have no idea that they have or had ancestral Islamic heritage before the western concept of slavery came into existence and divided nations.
I had to clear up many misconceptions of Prophet Muhammad (saw) as my love for him as a human, a prophet, a leader, a just ruler, and most likely one of humanity’s greatest gifts had been consistently slandered by uneducated and quite frankly racist writers. It saddened me that for several decades there was no real access to this knowledge. I had to learn Islam from English scholars via cassette tape and then cheaply produced CD/DVDs, and then in person full-weekend courses which absorbed over 8 years of my life consistently. Several trips to the Islamic world, Umrah, Hajj experiences, and religious tours with scholars only solidified for me that I didn’t waste my time and effort.
I understand looking at society today that most youths with not have the zeal or resources, or desire to make these personal sacrifices. Those ‘refugees’ that are coming will want to become ‘westernized’ as quickly as possible just to fit into their community and society. People need to understand each other.
The rising prices to attend Umrah and Hajj are out of reach for so many today. I was fortunate to be blessed by Allah (swt) who accepted my humble pleas and allowed me to gain experience and wisdom. This came from a pure intention, coupled with planning, and diligent use of personal wealth. Most people I believe would rather buy a new car than go for Hajj with their families. Faith is hard to measure when you are struggling financially.
When I write a comic narrative, dawah has to be given, assets have to be produced, and we need to clean up everything during post-production. End to end, each issue is roughly 2-3 months of constant development and production with several contributors needed in multiple locations around the world.
After production is complete you need to distribute and market and we’ve partnered with Amazon to make this accessible to everyone and to also leverage their production capabilities. Printing of products is another process that is very time-consuming and costly to get the production and asset specs for each page right. Optical scanning technology often fails and lots of manual technical corrections are then needed to get a comic ‘passed’.
We have bootstrapped since 2012 and we have not asked for investment or created any type of fundraising campaign as I refuse to beg ‘our ummah’ for resources to do this and Allah (swt) has allowed us to continue with our heads up and pride intact.
I have taken the financial burden upon myself to make this happen and it has not been easy, but my intention is known to Allah (swt). I hope people will support us and we will keep on going until the mission and goal is complete. We are only a few years out to finish our transmedia productions. I hope that Allah (swt) allows me to see the benefit in this world, it would be awesome, especially for our team who have worked so diligently for many years. We are that very far off from a ‘break even’ point, but that’s just the marketing and business side of things. Our team members are certainly hoping that I am leading them on a successful journey, I will admit, it has not been easy.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, all that I asked of our creators is that our Beyond Badr assets are to be done with Ihsan and excellence and I have seen an evolution and progress of the quality over the years. Our animation and gaming experiences will certainly build upon the comic quality and I am certain with next-generation technological advances by the time this is all over, we will have made a mark in several industries and certainly, we will have produced very good content.
For too many years I have studied from the most wonderful books that were shoddily printed and mass-produced with very little quality control. Today, very few people read books in my opinion and that is a tragedy, it is one of the reasons why I felt a need to preserve this knowledge in a more relative and familiar format to what human beings are consuming. In many western lands, Islamic populations are expected to increase by 2030, so I hope that the next generation of creators will be able to have some inspiration, guidance, and wisdom from our products.
Beyond Badr is an incredible research–intensive production. After 20 years of study, this effort was all I could truly create and I know my time on this planet is unknown. At my age now, the best years of my youth are over and I know that when I meet Allah (swt) to account for my deeds, I didn’t waste my life. When you don’t have abundant resources, you have to become very resourceful and I know I tried my best with what we could achieve.
When I flushed out the project, I intentionally choose artists who knew nothing about the subject matter. I wanted to gain their perspective and also clear up misconceptions about Islam. I wanted them to have an objective and clean slate in their mind when formulating images about what I had written in our narratives.
Artists often never got it right due to language barriers and remote communication which was very difficult at times. Limited internet bandwidth caused by poor technology infrastructure in developing nations hampered progress, in areas where we could afford to train talent. We had to create trust and our post-production efforts are intense when we sync our narrative to the concept panels.
The question you asked me was, ‘what goes into a comic production’?
Like any project, you have to have the right mindset, to begin with a good and clear intention. A great team. A captivating narrative and a broad vision. Obviously, financial resources, computers, drawing tablets, many software programs and licenses, publishing agreements, and platforms market to distribute. Order fulfillment, technical and customer service support post-release, coupled with an insane amount of heart and fortitude also. I think that would sum it up from the business needs, but for me, it is a little more personal because I’ve taken the weight of Islamic oversight upon myself.
That is a burden and also a good intention to make sure I am doing my work with Ihsan. I am the one who will have to bear witness to Allah (swt) of what we did and why and should something we do be incorrect, then that’s on me. I couldn’t have that burden on anyone else with the theological knowledge I have acquired.
We have several Islamic and very faithful eyes watching over and meticulously scrutinizing before we release our comics. That is a part of our post-production and quality control. Multiple perspectives and feedback are also critical to each comic release and we have both male and female critique with post-production each issue, which provide very valuable feedback to the entire team so yeah, it’s a lot of work.
I hope that anyone who takes a chance by trusting us or purchasing from us can be confident that this was truly done for them. We provide an incredible amount of free and good content daily on social media so there is always perpetual goodness on our pages and communications. If I can save anyone, time, effort, humiliation, or persecution, or even just a little bit more comprehension and understanding of Islam and what it can be, then maybe we will have earned some respect and also a good deed when it’s over. Insh’Allah.”
Are you creative? What is your skill and specialty?
We’d love for you to share with the clan! We are grateful that you’ve decided to visit our community today and we hope that you will become a member of our social media tribe. Looking for a cool gift to give to a Muslim or a history buff, why not give a gift of ‘The Madani Chronicles’, one comic or all of them containing a valuable lesson with Prophetic and Authentic Wisdom cover to cover!
We invite you to become a member of our clan by visiting beyondbadr.com/clan to accept some cool digital gifts!
Happy Holidays, Your friends,
The Beyond Badr Dev Team!