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Nimona (the comic): a deep dive
In celebration of the Nimona movie finally being out on Netflix, I spent like three days trawling through my disastrous 10-year-old art folders, opening everything, and seeing what I could find!
and holy shit guys
I found so much
SPOILERS FOR THE COMIC OBVS:
I’m obsessed with these early sketches. No, there’s no middle step between these and the final linework. Big “draw the rest of the fucking owl” energy. Honestly, it’s inspiring. There’s no extraneous detail, only what’s important: angry eyebrows, floating boobs, Ballister’s shoulder medallion things, and this guy:
“HAVE FUN WITH THIS PANEL THAT JUST SAYS ‘TRANSFORMING,’ FUTURE ME! HAHA FUCK YOU!”
That was going to be a tiger in the first panel. It turns out tigers are really hard to draw. I could have dedicated my time to studying and sketching tigers, but instead I said, fuck it, wolf now. Wolf easier.
Again, inspirational. Work smarter, not harder, and also not smarter.
This is the best thing I’ve ever drawn. I peaked here. I can never again achieve these heights.
Also interesting that in this early version Nimona turns into a little boy instead of a little girl. Is this the first appearance of Gregor?
It is not! It is a little boy that happens to look exactly like me.
I miss Ballister’s potty mouth.
Oh my god this Goldenloin
OH MY GOD
Posting this one for Nimona draped around Ballister’s neck like a feather boa.
THERE ARE SO MANY DRAWINGS OF BOY NIMONA
B U D D Y
Oh! These were background characters that I shipped. If you look for them in the crowds Where’s Waldo-style, you can see them meet during the bank heist and later go on a date to the science fair.
I did not have a cat at the time and I wasn’t sure how to draw one. Now I have cats, and I have to say: this is EXACTLY what they’re like.
To be fair, there are some really beautiful sketches in here too. I think I like this Gloreth better than the linework version. There’s a real malicious energy to her that kind of got lost in translation.
Aaaaaand we’re back.
Oh my god I just remembered that I had an inside joke where I kept making the Director’s neck progressively longer and longer to see if anyone would notice.
Old cover sketches! It’s pretty obvious which version I was pushing. I was REALLY angling for that gold foil. Maybe someday…
Now let’s delve into the 8 billion TextEdit documents with incomprehensible names that each contain a slightly different version of a random portion of the script!!
You think I’m exaggerating! I’m not!!!!!
I’m sorry, these are going to be a pain in the ass to read. I truly never thought anyone else would ever read them and they are a fucking mess, but I still think they’re cool. Every character’s name is abbreviated to their first initial because I could not be bothered to type them out. Nimona is N, Ballister is B, Blitzmeyer is also B except when she’s BZ or sometimes DR, not be confused with D, who is the Director. BN means Baby Nimona except when it means Beast Nimona and G means Goldenloin except when it means Guard EXCEPT for the two guards named Glaves and Big Guns whose names are always written out in full FOR SOME REASON.
Shoutout to my saintly editor at HarperCollins, Andrew Eliopulos, who had to make any kind of sense of these.
"Not really but I’ll think up something better later” BITCH
I still miss the characters being able to swear but also I can’t read this without hearing Walter White’s voice in my head so it’s probably for the best.
Oh shit!! Here’s a scrapped script for a oneshot that ended up becoming the “Christmas at the Institution” special.
although I’m curious if that last part sounds uhhhh familiar to anyone else
This bit has haunted me for 10 years. I clearly wrote “anchovies” in the script. We already know that Ballister likes anchovies. This document is even NAMED “anchovies.” You know, like the actual pizza topping.
AND I STILL WROTE SARDINES IN THE FINAL.
AND NO ONE CORRECTED ME.
This scrapped bit of conversation got all the way to lettering before I rethought it.
As a huge nerd for shapeshifter physics, I did and still do find this concept EXTREMELY COOL. This physically isn’t the same Nimona Ballister met at the beginning of the comic—she hasn’t been for a long time. Even her cute, silly transformations require her to regrow herself from nothing after total brain death.
Ultimately, though, it just wasn’t hitting the way I wanted it to and I elected to leave it as subtext. The script used to have a lot more explanation of Nimona’s powers, and most of it also ended up cut—it just felt wrong to spell anything out about her as the unambiguous truth. The friction between who we want her to be and everything we don’t know about her is kind of the point. In the end, the reader has to draw their own conclusions.
But also I recommend rereading the comic with this in mind and guessing which parts made me cry by myself while drawing it, and why it’s Gregor turning into a cat.
I’ve talked before about the original ending being much darker. There’s a question at the heart of the story: is Nimona really a monster, or not?
And honestly, I would’ve had a very different answer for you at the beginning.
Nimona was a manifestation of all of my messiest, darkest, most hopeless feelings. But to her, they’re not just feelings—her powers make them literally, physically real. If she wants to forget something, she does. If she feels empty, then she is. If she wants to start all over as someone new, she will…but she can’t run from her true nature forever. Sooner or later, it’s always going to end in blood and fire.
I dunno. Those were the fears I had about myself at the time. That’s the story I set out to tell, even back when it was a silly gag strip about a shark with boobs. But in the process of serializing that story as a webcomic…those feelings started to shift. Because when other people are reading every week and seeing themselves in Nimona and loving her and rooting for her, the ruthless self-evisceration gets harder. It was easy being cruel to myself, but I couldn’t do that to them.
I joke that I changed the ending because my sister threatened to never speak to me again if I didn’t, and that’s true. But mostly I did it because she was right, and because I had finally come to a place where I could actually believe that she was right. Because the act of making the comic itself had given me the thing I’d feared I could never have: community, and acceptance, and being seen.
It’s weird now to think that the comic could have ever had a different ending. But stories grow in the telling, as Molly would say. This one kept on growing, and now it’s a movie all about hope at a time when a lot of people (INCLUDING ME) really need it. And that’s pretty cool.
…Oh my god this post started off funny and got EMOTIONAL what is WRONG WITH ME WHY AM I ALWAYS DOING THIS
HAVE THIS VERY GOOD BABY AMBROSIUS SKETCH GOODBYE