Teenaged bard Meghan Susan Green discovers her literally miraculous talents – and learns how dearly such gifts can cost – in the urban fantasy series ARPEGGIO.
Created by author Satyr, artist Syme and editor/ letterer Sandi, Arpeggio explores fear, fame and friendship in hidden places. As Meghan pursues her musical talents, she literally changes the world around her. To what end? Stick around and find out.
Based in the fictional city of Rutherford, Tennessee, Meghan’s adventures center around that hub of American adolescence: high school, specifically Crow Creek High.
Built in the 1950s as part of an “experimental” stage of school construction, Crow Creek boasts five large buildings, a vast campus, trees, paths, and two fountains in addition to the usual basketball court, track, auditorium and football field. Once majestic, its campus has begun to crumble from age and budgetary cuts. Nestled in a wooded area near Raven’s Park, Crow Creek’s fortunes have declined. It’s too big and expensive to maintain properly, yet too great a landmark to simply abandon.
Crow Creek’s mascot is, of course, the Raven; its colors are black and red, and athletic cheers often revolve around adolescent plays on Edgar Allen Poe. The extensive school grounds give fits to administrators like “Dead Man” Walker; there are too many places
where students can get into trouble, too many secret niches and getaway paths. The last few years have seen surges of gang activity, and the rumor mill features more than the usual amount of weird gossip.
As economic hardships bruise Rutherford in general, prosperity ebbs from the Crow Creek district. The school, once emblematic of Rutherford’s pride, becomes a symbol of its decline. Most higher-income families move their kids from Crow Creek to Gracefield High in Shooter’s Ridge. Meanwhile, kids like Meghan – daughter of a departed actress and a would-be rock star – fill the halls of Crow Creek High.
Rutherford itself is a small city in the Smoky Mountains, near the Tennessee-North Carolina border. Straddling the Snoquale River, the town dates back to the mid-1700s, while the French crown still held territory in North America. Expanding throughout the 20th century, Rutherford gained a bustling tech community in the late 1980s. Sadly, the bursting of the IT bubble in the following decade sent the city into a tailspin. These days, Rutherford – like so much of America – is a memory in motion, too exhausted to run strong yet too stubborn to give in.
In such places, in such times, magic begins to grow…
Like many songs, Arpeggio began as a playful riff around a memorable theme. The strip has roots in Satyr’s teenage-actor days, when he crushed on a perpetually barefoot classmate named Vera and dreamed of “holding court” with an acoustic guitar and a pack of friends in a secluded corner of Groveton High School. The whole guitar thing never panned out, but the idea of ragged rebels staking out their hidden campus sanctuary stuck with him.
Decades later, Satyr found himself swapping high-school memories with indie musician S.J. “Sooj” Tucker. Both of them had been geeky malcontents, and each one wound up running with their creative passions, making precarious livings by playing Daedalus… or Icarus… by essentially jumping off cliffs and flapping like mad until they either crashed or flew.
Between high school and Arpeggio, Satyr’s mad flapping produced a wave of of urban fantasy projects, a period gigging in local bands, and the award-winning roleplaying game series
Mage: The Ascension (1993-1999), Mage: The Sorcerers Crusade (1998-2000) and
Deliria: Faerie Tales for a New Millennium (2003-present).
Elements of each project eventually inspired Arpeggio. The short story “Special Guest” introduced the character of Rol and the image of a spectral guitar-girl whose music charms the masses. A precursor to Meghan, Wendy Carter, appeared as a sample character in Deliria, along with the idea of sorcerous youth gangs and the mysterious Raven’s Park. Genét began as the protagonist’s sidekick in the never-realized Internet TV series Crossways, while ragged barefoot malcontents wander through Mage, Deliria and various Satyr tales like “Elynne Dragonchild,” “I Feel Lucky” and Holy Creatures To and Fro.
Magic & Music
Through it all runs the concept of magic as music, an idea expressed in Deliria: “Magic is like music. It begins as a harmony of the heart, rises through talents and precision, resonates through instruments, swells to a crescendo and echoes through the world. Everyone can feel it, but few can express it. Skillfully performed, it can enrich or destroy. The two are intertwined. If you think of each spell as a song, you’ll understand the heart of magic.”
Meghan would surely agree… once she’d managed to wrap her head around exactly what it is she’s doing!
When Satyr met Sooj in 2004 (fittingly enough, at the Oregon festival Faerieworlds), their shared views of magic and music combined. In Sooj, Satyr found a real-life urban fantasy character; in Satyr, Sooj found a mythologist. Sooj later introduced Satyr and Sandi to one another, and the creative alchemy exploded when they both met Syme at Norwescon 2008.
Look & Feel
Although Bryan Syme likes saying, “I just draw what people tell me to draw,” his creative style remains a huge influence on Arpeggio. A longtime comics and gaming fan, Syme attended the Art Institute of Seattle, where he honed his creative chops and met his wife and collaborator Tabitha. Bryan’s gift for capturing nuances of personality (combined with a knack for reading Satyr’s mind) solidified the tone for Meghan and her world.
Several elements were changed – to vastly better effect – by Bryan’s approach to Satyr’s initial outline… the most dramatic of which include significant alterations to Walker and Genét. Bryan’s dyslexic misreading of “Jenny” gave an intriguing new dimension to Genét’s character, and his shift from the original Goth-chick concept to a sharper, sassier look clicked in ways the initial brainstorm did not.
Literally drawing his influences from anime films like Cowboy Bebop to Frank Miller’s Sin City, Adam Warren’s Empowered and Mark Jackson’s White Wolf work, Bryan fills his art with storytelling cues. The rundown quality of Crow Creek High, the pop-culture t-shirts and evocative body mods, the visual shout-outs to The Breakfast Club, Venture Brothers, Return of the Living Dead and The Boondocks – Bryan packs his panels with clear yet uncluttered details.
Rounding out the creators, Sandi Buskirk combines a sharp eye for detail with her love of literate fantasy and the experience of raising two teenage girls. (Her youngest daughter, Jessica, looks the strip over occasionally as well.)
With web design from Ria Loader (our web deva), and a logo colored by Courtnee Fallon, the strip is finally complete.
Arpeggio is the result. Enjoy!