Welcome to leveL!
“Level. A city unlike any other. A sprawling metropolitan utopia. Technologically advanced and socially just, it is the highest achievement of civilization. We built upon our labour, our struggles, our ideals…and we have reached the sky. Truly this is the city of dreams.”
leveL is a good old fashioned sci-fi adventure webcomic. Full of fun characters, exciting action and mysterious happenings, we follow our heroes as they traverse the city of Level. However, there might be something deeper at work here, waiting to crack through the surface. So tread lightly, dear reader.
leveL updates bi-weekly. Every other Thursday you will be treated to the next installment of pages.
This is the labour of love of one Nate Swinehart, a silly, shaggy haired animator guy living and working in Los Angeles. Delve deeper into the mysteries of that individual on the Nate page.
You can follow leveL and keep up with any developments at these fine establishments:
If you have any question (or any fan art you’d like submitted to the art page :D) please E-MAIL NATE. He loves feedback, it makes him feel like he’s special!
Now…if you are a seasoned veteran to leveL and have some serious questions, or if you’d just like to hear more of this project’s history, please read on…..
“leveL is a science fiction/action saga. It tells the story of Cael Dalton, a quiet teenage boy living in the sprawling megacity of Level. Haunted by a dream he doesn’t understand, he finds himself thrown in the middle of an whirlwind adventure that just might lead him to the truth he’s been searching for.”
In 2002 I wrote that summary for a little webcomic idea I had. Now, it 2013 and you’re sitting on a new website for a project of the same name, using the same summary. Some of you might have some questions, and if so you are in the right section of the website!
So, what gives? Well here’s a short FAQ to help catch anyone up to speed on just what the heck this website is about and what they can expect from the world of leveL…
Q. Wait, leveL? Didn’t I read this comic like 5 years ago??
Quite possibly! And if you did, thank you for reading it and welcome back!! I published leveL for the better part of 8 years at www.levelmanga.com (http://levelmanga.com/main.php if you care to see the old one), doing it in my free time to practice drawing and just for the sheer enjoyment of the project.
Q. Yeah, that comic was cool! But then it stopped updating…I thought the artist died or something…
…Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated X) In fact, just the opposite happened: Life. leveL saw me through a lot of changes in life. I graduated college, I moved to Japan, I moved back to America, I went back to school for Illustration, I moved to Alaska, I went back to school AGAIN, this time for Animation. For a long time leveL was really the one constant in my life. To this day some of my best friends are people I met through the comic, and it pushed me forward into my current career of animation.
Q. So what gives? Why’d you quit the comic if you love it so much?
Well, I was able to maintain leveL through a lot, but once art school seriously entered the picture there was just no way to maintain it. I had to go on hiatus if I hoped to finish my animation thesis and graduate at all. The good news is: I did! And I now have a full-time animation gig where I get to do what I love every day :D So, that side of the story has a happy ending.
Q. And so you just abandon your comic and all us readers?? *sniff*
Not at all! I always knew that I would return to leveL at some point…though for a long time I wasn’t sure how. After it had remained dormant for so long I was at such a different place in life than when I had conceived it. I ruminated on the idea for a long while…I had learned a lot about storytelling, a lot about art…and I looked at leveL and just saw an artistic mess. A kind of twisted, beautiful artistic mess that I loved, but a mess none-the-less. I realized if I wanted to whole-heartedly return this story, I was going to have to start from the ground up.
Q. …The ground up?
Yes. And so for the past year, in super secret stealth mode, I have been re-imagining the entire story of leveL.
Q. Wait, what?? You’re starting the story over??
No! I’ve re-imagined it! I realized that I couldn’t just pick up leveL where I left it off, but I knew no one wanted to sit through the same events that they had already read for the past 8+ years all over again…so I’ve created a kind of spiritual successor to the old leveL. The same characters will show up, though not always as you would expect them. The roadmap will look vaguely familiar, though we will be going to places you’ve never seen before.
I spent a lot…a LOT of time taking into consideration the original readers of the comic. I want anyone who was with this thing from the beginning to still be entertained and enjoy the story I’m putting out. It’s a wholly new story that should feel vaguely familiar every now and then.
Hopefully I’ve succeeded in some small way and at the end of the story you will look back and compare it to the old one and say ‘oh yeah, I can see how these are the same thing….just totally different.’
Q. OK, but how can I trust you will see it through? Why should I invest my hard-earned reading time when you might just disappear at a moment’s notice or start it all over again?
That’s a super valid question. Actually, it’s a lot of the reason I worked in secret for over a year. I didn’t want to announce this project to the world unless I knew that I was going to be able to stick with it. As school is over and I have settled into a fairly secure job, I was able to gauge what I could get done and how long it would take by drawing out the entire Prologue before telling anyone what I was doing.
Yes that’s right, there’s already an entire chapter of the comic finished.
So as a sign of good faith (and a thank you to all the dedicated readers out there), along with the launch of the comic I’m also providing the prologue, 44 pages of comic, all in one fell swoop! Huzzah!
As for starting over again….that’s never going to happen. This is the final incarnation of leveL that the internet will see. The only thing that could make me go back and re-do it again is if I was asked to by some outside party in the development of a published work or other piece of media, and I’m not holding my breath on that one.
Now, I’m also not blind to the fact that life happens, and I can’t predict the future. If circumstances were to arise that I couldn’t continue to produce leveL anymore, I would present the ending of the story in some other form, be it in scripts or a summary of some sort. I’m not planning anything like that happening, but just so you know: I will not leave you hanging, dear reader.
Q. So how much of this comic do you have planned?
A lot, haha. I’ve broken the story down into three books. I have outlines for each book and a very specific chapter breakdown for the first book (you should see how many Google Docs I have. I’m all about the Google Docs.) I work by writing a script for each chapter, then thumbnailing the whole chapter, then making a color script, then working on the pages in story beats, 3-7 pages at a time.
Q. What do you use to draw you comic?
I use a wacom Cintiq and Photoshop CS6 :D My babies…
Q. Hey, OK so I just read through the whole comic, and my favorite character is missing! What gives??
All I can say is…keep reading :) The leveL characters are some of the nearest and dearest to my heart, so chances are if there was a character you felt an attachment to, they are going to pop up X)
Q. Hey I just read through the whole comic, and this looks WAY different than your old style! What gives??
Ah yes, my ‘style.’ Well, here’s the thing…in order to keep myself artistically engaged in the project, I have decided to take advantage of it as a place to develop my own personal style further. That means I’ll be experimenting with techniques, trying new things and going where the inspirational winds blow. If you note inconsistencies in the style, that is (hopefully) just me growing as an artist. There’s no question if you look at the first page and last page of the old leveL, you can see an amount of artistic growth. I hope to keep that tradition going, so with any luck if you don’t like where my style is at now, you will like where it’s headed.
Q. Meh, I read through the whole comic and I don’t like it. The old one was better.
Awh, I’m sorry you feel that way. I hope you’ll stick with the new one though, because I promise that it is going to some pretty exciting, awesome places. No hard feelings either way, I’m seriously flattered you enjoyed any of my work :)
Q. Hey…I’m new to this site, I’ve never heard of leveL…do I have to read your other comic before I start this one?
Absolutely not! This comic was written to be a stand-alone piece, so if you never saw the old leveL you aren’t missing out on anything. If you are aching for more comic though, you are welcome to go back and read the original…there aren’t really ‘spoilers’ in it, but it will give you a better understanding of the flow of the story and the essence of some of the characters. It’s up to you :)
Q. OK! I’m on board to read this comic, is there an update schedule?
Yes! leveL updates every other Thursday. Each update will be a complete story ‘beat’ about 3-7 pages long, depending on what’s happening in the comic. The hope here is to give you a satisfying amount of content rather than a fragmented page that might stop mid-conversation.
It’s been over a year since this update schedule was put into place, and it has proven itself to be, sadly, unrealistic. When I started the comic I had a lot of buffer and pre-production work finished…as time has gone on, not only did I eat through all that, but the pages have become more elaborate productions requiring more time…and the story beats have become longer. leveL isn’t and never has been a comic that’s well suited for short incremental updates. You lose track of what’s happening in the story, the moments don’t play out as they are meant to, and (worst of all) as my schedule has become more rushed I’ve been forced to put out work I’m not happy with to satisfy the schedule. Shoddy work goes out and deadlines get missed. Nate gets unhappy. The skies darken.
SO I have reached a resolution on this matter. From now on, there is not a set weekly update schedule for the comic. Instead, I will release large updates of entire sections of the comic at a time…whole scenes with beginning, middle and end that also give me the time to plan out the entire segment, design it to satisfaction, and have a better reader experience overall.
If anyone is bummed by this, I promise you it’s going to make for a better comic.
Q. Are you basically saying you don’t have time for this comic any more? Are you going to abandon it??
QUITE the contrary. If anything this new system is going to have me working harder on the comic. Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere. The advantage of the new system is you get more quantity, more polish, and a happier Nate.
Q. Wait…so with this new ‘big chunk’ update idea, does that mean you’re going to be a cliffhanger whore like you were last time?
Q. So, are you gonna do a Kickerstarter for this comic??
Kickerstarter is a super awesome thing, but right now I don’t have any real need for it. I’ve got all the resources I need, I just have to sit my butt down and draw the darn thing. However, if some aspect of the project were to come up that Kickstarter could help make happen, I would absolutely be down with trying it out!
Q. So you already have an art job and you aren’t asking for money…why are you doing this comic anyway?
I’m doing this because I love this story and these characters. I want to share it with people and I’m willing to pour a good deal of my life into it for that aim. Simple as that.
Q. Hey. Hey. I found a part of your website that’s broken…
Augh, please let me know if you run into any technical difficulties! just leave a comment or email me and I will get on it straight-away!
Q. Ooooh, I want to draw fanart for you!
Eeee, please do! Email me any drawings you’ve done and I will post them on the Art section!
Q. I have a question I don’t see on this list, what should I do??
You should write it in the comments or email me!! If it’s a common enough question, I will add it to the list…if nothing else I will at least respond to you with an answer :)
Aaaaaand there you have it! I hope that help clears anything up…like I said: anything you want to know, just ask! From the bottom on my little blonde heart, welcome back to leveL. I hope you all enjoy this new comic and are excited for the long, adventurous road we have ahead!