world-building and graphic novel in-progress

Posts tagged “world building

Brogh Gaelic Time, 1

I’ve been working a bit on the Orc language lately (which I may or may not be sharing on Patreon with translations…), but that’s got me thinking about the other languages we’ll be coming across soon, particularly these lovely badger folk.
This time of year, leading up to March, always gets me thinking about my own roots too. I’m Irish, and love being so, and there’s a lot about Celtic culture that’s going to be reflected in Brogh culture (in the same way my Orcs are very very Viking).
In interest of honoring that, and not driving myself crazy having to come up with multiple fantasy languages, I have elected to have my badgers speak Gaelic. Which I am now also learning myself 😀
So have some Eunan speaking of himself!
Pronunication: iss farr may.
Translation: “I am a man.”
(Yeeeeah, very binary-centric, as the first few lessons irritatingly were, BUT interesting and important that he is saying so.)


All content © Rachel Terwilliger.



Hello dear readers! Here’s a sneak peek of this month’s Ranger level bonus sketch for “Tock the Gnome” patrons!

Full thing viewable here.

(Happy Arella happens so infrequently, though, I had to share.)

I’ll be posting another bonus sketch there later for all patrons, since progress is very slow this month due to show prep, so I hope you consider checking it out!

See other bonuses here, and full comic readable here!

“Tock the Gnome” Q&A time!


(And look! Bonus art 😀 Piece title – “Crew Means Family.”)

Here we go! Thanks so much to everyone who sent in questions! Anyone who wished to remain anonymous will be marked as ‘ — ,’ otherwise you all get credit. Everybody go check out their work too, they’re wonderful!


(From Murasaki99I’m curious about the history of the gnomish lands Tock calls home – it’s history and government.  Is it a hereditary monarch?  A democracy? 

Well, much of the far, far past of the Gnomes has been lost – but it seems, at least, that it has always been a hereditary monarchy. It still is to this day, currently ruled by a Queen, and she traces her own lineage as far back as the start of their technological revolution – which has been going on for a few generations. It is likely that she is of the bloodline that came before that, too, but that was such a shift in their culture that her own claim to power relies on that association.

The monarch is advised by a council of other noble-folk, of course, and the day-to-day running of the nation is delegated to many individuals down the line (from the capital, to other cities, to smaller communities within those cities, etc. etc.).

It also seems that the Gnomes have always lived up on the mountains, atop the plateau, and have a long history with the Dwarves – who live further within the mountains and deep into the plateau itself. Much of that history has also been lost, though there are records of some wars, and what knowledge does remain makes everyone cautious enough to limit contact between their cultures (noted here and here, previously).

Currently, at least, most Gnomes live within the cities – which are carved into the mountain itself, with maybe 10 to 20% on the surface and the rest inside the earth/stone of it. A few towns do exist on the mountainside, mostly farming and shepherding communities.

Just enough to sustain the population – as time has gone on, more and more Gnomes have moved within the mountain. Hmmmm….

(From GiantPandaHow did Tock meet Eleanore and Bumble?

Tock met Bumble when she was very young, by happenstance – literally running into him on the street as she was trying to get out of one scrape or the other. She was the equivalent of a human 11 year old, age-wise, and he was like a 10 year old. Since they live in the same neighborhood, she started hanging around him more and more – realizing, of course, that he was never going to get into any fun by himself – and he let himself get pulled into her adventures very quickly in order to escape the rigidity of his family life.

She met Eleanore a little later, when she was like a 13 year old. Eleanore is older – at the time, more like a 17 year old to Tock’s early teenagehood. The shop where Eleanore lives and works (and did then, too) is nearby Tock’s neighborhood, though not technically the same community. Still, her curiosity had taken Tock all around the city, and she happened upon that store eventually as well. She saw something in the window that struck her fancy, went in, introduced herself, and their friendship grew from there.

Eleanore was charmed by Tock’s openness and zest for life, and though Tock’s parents had hoped that an older friend would be a calming influence on their daughter, the opposite is true – she tends to bring Eleanore out of her shell more, just like she does with Bumble.

….well, maybe less destructively. But same concept.

(From DrMistyTangWhat was the inspiration behind Tock’s outfit design?

Victorian fashion in general, especially the 1880’s, more traditional/medieval fantasy design AND, honestly, a bit of Sailor Moon and floofy fantasy dresses like the one from Labyrinth 😀

As for her clothes in comic-canon…


Her first outfit includes a lot of basic steampunk design. I was just getting started, so I took a lot of inspiration from what I’d seen so far in studying/obsessing over/worshiping steampunk in general. That and her work clothes come from that basic understanding.


Her second outfit comes from a bit more exploration of what works there, what is more practical steampunk-wise, etc. It definitely gives me a strong “Alice in Wonderland” vibe, too (I picture it blue, if the comic were in full color), but that was more of a happy accident than actual planning.


Also, the shoes – I secretly love shoes, and apparently Tock inherited that. So no matter what level of practicality the situation demands, Tock will do her darndest to wear heels. She thinks they’re prettier.

(That didn’t come about until recently, design-wise, so her earlier designs feature flat boots. She still wears those kind of boots for her work in the airship.)

That’s all we’ve gotten to see her in so far, but we will get to see her in two more gowns soon – her own finery, and a more fantastical dress she’ll be wearing in an upcoming dream sequence (SO excited for that, btw).


Her actual gown I designed with the idea that it might not be as up-to-date, fashion-wise, as the things she tries on in the shops. I imagine she had to create the bustle herself, on top of an older, wider skirt frame, and it has wider, floofier sleeves than some of the more modern dresses (what Eleanore’s wearing is a good example of current Gnome fashion).

Note – though we’re not going to see it in canon very much, older Gnome fashion design was more along the typical fantasy lines. The Victorian/Steampunk elements didn’t show up until the technological revolution. Good examples of what the clothes looked like in the past can be seen in any images featuring a certain long-haired, often sad-looking Gnome woman wearing a crowned hat.

Which, you know, may or may not mean anything 😉

I do also feel like I get to play (with the imagery from things at the end of that long list I started with) more in the illustrations for the comic than the actual pages. Good examples of that are “Princess?” and “Only Natural.”


In “Princess?” I was heavily inspired by the dress from Labyrinth (without really even meaning to) and lots of moments from “Sailor Moon,” both in the actual manga and some of Takeuchi’s illustrations for the series.


In “Only Natural” I tried consciously to blend steampunk elements with more traditional fantasy elements, which hopefully will be more and more a theme in Tock’s wardrobe as things progress.

(From — ) What would each character’s favorite fairy tale be?

Gonna do these for just the main crew**:

Tock – The Twelve Dancing Princesses (unexpectedly, right?)

Bumble – The Maiden Without Hands

Onna – Toads and Diamonds

Eunan – The Nightingale

Actia – The Prince with the Golden Hand

**And a note – as I’ve shown with Wednesday’s post, versions of these stories in Tock’s world may vary from what we’re familiar with. The links above go to the more traditional, human tellings.

(From my dear friend H.M. Barone) How did you first get into steampunk?

I think it all happened very gradually around early 2010 (actually had to go back into my older artwork to see what I was drawing back then, for clues!). It was popping up in different things I was already into, like DragonFable, and I just felt drawn to it. I really enjoy Victorian culture anyway, especially the fashion (as already noted). The addition of alternative-thinking as to the technologies and attitudes that could come from such a setting really, really inspire me. Clearly. At whatever struck my interest in the first place, I just started slowly learning more and more, until I was hooked! My wife also got me an Abney Park album, “Lost Horizons,” early on in my interest and that definitely encouraged me to keep pursuing it.

I just think its so beautiful and so creatively expressive. Who wouldn’t want to play in that world?

(From my friend Susan) How did you come up with the name Tock?

I honestly don’t remember! I imagine it was something like ‘tick tock,’ and how Clockpunk and Steampunk share really similar elements.

Her last name, Corrigan, comes directly from Faerie lore though.

(Also from Susan) How did you come up with the story?

I touched on this in some detail in the “In the Beginning” post I did, but I also want to share about my inspirations – the reason Tock is on her quest, for example, is because of my own love of fairy tales and how I like the idea of inverting the Classic Prince Quest. I wanted to tell a fairy-tale story that played with those themes in unexpected ways. And since I was just falling in love with Steampunk, I had to pull that in too, as well as my love of the fantasy genre in general.

The dynamics of the characters beyond those overarching themes are heavily influenced by my experiences playing table-top roleplaying games (especially Dungeons & Dragons, and a bit of World of Darkness too). With that, and my tendency towards family-like team dynamics (among my favorite shows are “Firefly” and “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” btw) the setting of the story and the way the characters live and move in that world came together very easily.

I must also mention that my amazing wife was extremely helpful at the start of it – I’d decided I wanted to do a comic, but I didn’t know what about, so she asked me questions about what the characters and the world would be, etc. that drew the story out of me. She’s really good at that ❤ (She also is responsible for certain elements of the story, like Actia’s being/backstory and how dragons will work, once they show up.)

As things have developed from there – more and more as my own spirituality has developed – telling a story about Faerie and bringing Faerie back into the forefront of fairy tales has become important to me as well. So expect to see that grow even more as Tock gets to explore and learn about the realm she lives in 🙂

(From — ) Why do you think its important to tell these stories?

At first, I started this comic just for fun. But as things have progressed, Tock’s story and the importance of her quest has grown tremendously in meaning (even if she doesn’t know it yet) – partly from inspiration, but also partly because things are very dark in the world right now and I think its important to tell stories about Light and Love, to put more of that kind of energy into the Universe. Our Universe, AND other realms.

I believe that what we’re doing to each other and the planet – the hurt, the violence, the complete disregard for each other’s personhood and refusal to protect the natural, gorgeous, vital world in which we life – is having an effect on all of us AND things we can’t see (yes, like Faerie).

So in telling these stories, I hope that the troubles in Tock’s world and how her story plays out among them will put more positivity to that negativity and inspire others to be more Aware.


Thank you all so much for your questions, and for reading!

Stay tuned for one more bonus tomorrow. And remember that the Print Sale and the Crossword Puzzle Contest are still going on, too!

Bonus art, “The Gnome Queen”


For Seven Years of Tock too ❤

Anybody who has been following this site since I started the comic may remember her – this is Queen Adamine, the ruler of Tock and Bumble’s people. Despite the cultural problems her people face (which Tock will be speaking on in the comic, sometime soon) she is considered a generally benevolent ruler.

(Also, this is what I actually intended for Sunday Gnomedays this week, but didn’t get it done in time. The next two Sunday Gnomedays will indeed be Tock-related.)


All content © Rachel Terwilliger.

In the beginning…



(I believe I promised a story about how this all started, as part of Seven Years of Tock, so here we go!)

Once upon a time, a young aimless illustrator submitted various drawings to an indie magazine called “Crossed Genres.” They had an open-submission policy that paid artists when their submissions were for publication, so it seemed like a good deal.

Unfortunately this was many years ago, so a certain….. skill level was lacking, and the illustrator did not get accepted. Still, she tried, and the people who ran the magazine were very nice and encouraging to her.

A while later, this magazine saw fit to hold a competition – seeking webcomics! If accepted, the chosen comics would be published online for their members, one page a week for 52 weeks, and then published in print in one big compendium. Even though I hadn’t gotten any of my illustrations accepted, one particular member of their team reached out to me (whoops, dropping the vagueness) and encouraged me to submit a comic.

I honestly don’t remember WHY I chose to submit – I was actually at a rough patch in my life, so perhaps I thought that creating a comic would fill a certain hole in my spirit. But that’s a different story.

Anyway, I did choose to give it a shot, but then the question was – about what?

My wife is very good at asking questions to get at the root of what I want to express with character and story, so when I came home that afternoon with that decision – the questions began, and Tock was born.

I decided I wanted to tell a story about a Gnome (surprise) who fell in love with an Orc (surprise) while going on an semi-inversion of the Prince Quest – off to rescue fair maiden in a tower, and all. Setting: steampunk, because yay ❤ So that meant airship, and thus a crew, including a pilot friend of her’s and a magic user of some kind, since the Orc would fill the warrior ‘slot.’

I came up with the vague description of the plot, with a couple of character designs and example images as instructed for submission.


However, without realizing it, I had censored myself – as you can see, Tock and Onna look a bit different from how they truly are. Due to my own worries about how the characters would be perceived (by the people in charge of picking the winning submissions, particularly), I thinned Tock out – so much for my size-positive mission. And in my excitement I didn’t think about why a “warrior class” person and a “mage class” person would look the way they do – so Onna’s fantasy armor looks very generic, and I didn’t have much of a reason for why Eunan wears robes like that.

I did not get chosen :/ Retrospectively, I can see why – not only did I hold myself back in character design, but the kind folks who were interested in me enough to encourage me could see that AND that I didn’t push the story as far as I could have. Again, they were super nice about it though, even so far as to say that to me so I could learn from it.

That rejection did hurt, but you know what happened? I did it anyway.

Tock got redesigned – slight tweaks, but still noticeably more well-rounded (both metaphorically AND physically, as you can see!). Onna got the biggest overhaul of all – I actually went and thought about what kind of armor she would have, as an Orc in her kind of culture (nomadic, almost scavengery at that point. The Viking details came later). Bumble didn’t change at all, and Eunan’s robes slowly evolved into a more Celtic design – so still very magey, but with a reason.

"Tock the Gnome," page 48

The story itself also got expanded. Certain details – like an early idea of Onna getting magically shrunk down to Tock’s size to better accommodate their romance (I know, yikes, right?), and a secondary plot about the current Gnomish princess, eventually got scrapped – I looked farther out than the scope of Tock’s quest to see what else is really going on with the world, and why her quest might have importance BEYOND her own, selfish motivations. The plot of the quest itself was adjusted to incorporate a greater vision – new characters were added, certain old characters of mine were pulled in to give the world history, and voila! A much more solid story slowly began to take shape.


I created this website in March, 2010 to announce the project, with a plan to launch the comic on August 30th that year – which I did, and though progress has always been pretty slow – here we are still ❤

"Princess?" ink and colored pencil on paper

Page by page and bonus content by bonus content, things have still been evolving and growing. The importance of some side characters increased, and another new crew member was added to address the treatment of a certain beleaguered best friend, rounding it out from 4 to 5 (which flows better, in my opinion. I always felt like something was missing at 4. And also thanks to my lovely wife, who is very much inspiring Actia’s creation and actions).

More and more the cultures of the world have been developed, the perfect match of Vikings and Orcs eventually smacked me upside the head, Gnome culture and religion grew to encompass a fuller pre-quest life for Tock and Bumble  – and also to point out problems with how the Gnomes view life, in addition to the wars and conflict that have already been mentioned world-wide.

(Psssst, there’s trouble with how ALL the races are acting, but any more details would be spoilers!)


My own spirituality has been informing the comic more and more, too, so how very Faerie the world is has drastically shifted – I didn’t plan on actually addressing how  faerie-natured all the creatures of Tock’s world are, originally, but now that has become a huge part of the story and an informing factor of any of the foreshadowing we’ve seen so far.

I guess all I can say in closing is that I’m very grateful for how far the story has come, that I didn’t just give up on it – and even more importantly, that you all have stuck with it for so long!

Thank you so much for continuing to read the new pages as they come, and for your comments and likes and feedback on the bonus content I post. And especially to those of you who support it on Patreon – every cent gets us closer to more frequent updates! (And for those of you unfamiliar, there’s even more bonus work and world-building info up there, so please consider taking a look!)


Gratitude from the bottom of my heart once again, dear readers! And happy Seven Years of Tock!


All content © Rachel Terwilliger.





Sketch – At Boundary Market II


A little bonus work, also available on Patreon with bonus information and Dwarf/Gnome culture notes!

Page 74 is coming along slowly but surely. Lots of wee detail work.


All content © Rachel Terwilliger

Glimpse – At Boundary Market


Part of the gift I drew for my wife for this lovely Valentine’s Day<3

A Tockverse Gnome and Tockverse Dwarf sharing a sweet kiss. The rest of the piece is about the gems and minerals market where Gnomes and Dwarves have the vast majority of their interaction, and why that is. But that’s a tale for another time.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! May we all be grateful for the Love in our lives, whatever forms it takes.


All content © Rachel Terwilliger.