Early on, when we were in the planning stages of the graphic novel, we had to ask ourselves a lot of questions. What were the most important elements of Emily's story: what do we keep and what do we let go? Of the many styles and directions we could go, what design do we choose for our web-comic? How do we include the feeling of the Victorian era, in a time period that feels far distant? How do we make it feel like Emily's world?
The main idea in our heads for the overall theme was that of a Victorian Scrapbook. Ah, those elaborate conflagrations of calling cards, magazine cuttings and mementos that Victorian crafters seemed to utilize as a way to get out their creative urges.
But sometimes, those early Victorians over-did their urges...quite a bit. So, we decided to keep that feeling minimal. Maybe pull it in here and there in spots. An element here, and a touch there, and every now and then when the page called for it, one of those really elaborate backgrounds that feels like something that someone from Queen Victoria's era may have hand drawn.
But some pages are just moving the story on to one story element or the next and not all call for something this "designy". So what do we do for our backgrounds THEN?
I remembered Emily's eye trick. Remember how she could see the wallpaper in the air? In Chapter 6, we learn that Emily, "by a certain movement of the muscles of her eyes...could produce a tiny replica of the wallpaper in the air before her". (By the way, Daniel surmises that Maud's description of this perfectly describes a stereoscopic effect that some people can get by crossing their eyes while looking at any repeating pattern.) Although I might not be able to include this interesting piece of trivia about Emily in our story, we figured we could certainly use the idea of her "fairy wallpapers" as the go-to for many of our backgrounds.
Part of this means using real Victorian wallpaper in our backgrounds (in the above case, we took photos in a historic Victorian era house that we based Douglas Starr's rented house on). But, we thought it would also be fun to remember Emily's love for creating her "fairy wallpaper" in the air, when it came to the backgrounds for our full pages.
There's one other facet of this fun fact that I want to mention and it has to do with the rather strange wallpaper we chose for Emily's own room. In our research, we learned that Victorians who were a bit less well off, might not be able to afford real wallpaper. So they would sometimes fake it by using newsprint and magazines on their walls.
Emily mentions herself being quite used to pinning her special pictures up on her own walls, and so it seemed to be reasonable to imagine that the little upstairs room in the house her father rented, may have been papered with newspaper. It's a little remembered factoid from a bygone era that adds to the overall intrigue of the Victorians. But interesting, nevertheless. I mean, in what other time period can you paper your house with cocaine ads and still be perfectly innocent in motive?
And yeah, that bottom right hand ad is totally a mini artist Easter egg tribute to Montgomery.