| 'Welcome to the Wormworld' - 2009
to the
Even the biggest Journey starts with a single Step
hen I scribbled my first ideas about a mystical 'Great Worm' back in 2003 I had no idea that I was setting foot on an adventurous path that would lead me deeper and deeper into a story that, at some point, would no longer let me turn back. I often get asked how I came up with the Wormworld Saga. I can't describe it in any better way than saying that I just stumbled into it somehow. My first step on the path that would later lead to the epic fantasy adventure that is the Wormworld Saga, was a drawing that I just made up out of the blue.
The Birth of the Great Worm
By that time I was heavily influenced by the works of Brian Froud, who created spectacular creatures and set designs for Jim Henson's fantasy films 'Labyrith' and 'The Dark Crystal'. When I acquired a copy of 'The World of the Dark Crystal' (Harry N. Abrams Inc., 2003), I found out that Froud had created a whole mythology around his worlds and creatures.

Even though I didn't have a world that actually needed a mythological background yet, I nevertheless started to fantasize about a godlike creature that lay buried inside a mountain, bound by three magical runes. Its fiery tongues reached out of its prison, and the whole artwork looked like an illustrated mythology an ancient people came up with to explain the outburst of a volcano. I really didn't put much thought into the backstory of this illustration and I created it mostly for its decorative value.

However, two days later I painted another artwork in the same series, and this time the creature got a name. The Great Worm was born.

| 'The Worm Mountain' - 2003

| 'Photoshop Sketchbook, Page 11' - 2003
And maybe that's the whole secret about storytelling. You just have to start at some point and then follow the track to the next idea. And you have to let time work for you. After having collected these first fragments of a story I lost track of it and created other things. But the seed was planted and unnoticed it rested in my head, waiting to sprout when the time was right.

| 'Fireknight' - 2003
The Rise of the Firelord
The time was right in 2005. I have no idea what exactly made me pick up the old thread again but I reencountered a character that I had also painted in 2003 for the first time - the Fire Knight. Back then there was actually no connection between the Fire Knight and the legend of the Great Worm but somehow these two elements clicked together in 2005 like pieces of a big puzzle. I felt that something was building up in my head and I wanted to start keeping track of it. I started my first notebook - a handy Moleskin book that was small enough to carry with me all the time.

The first Wormworld Notebook, started in 2005
Shortly after starting my notebook I painted 'The Rise of the Firelord' and I created a connection between this character and the Great Worm. I imagined the Firelord to be a young Prince who suffered from a desperate love and wanted to end his life. He stumbled to the top of the Worm Mountain to throw himself into the fiery abyss.

The Great Worm received the Prince but he didn't destroy him. Instead, he clad the poor soul in a magic armor and forced him to do his bidding. The Great Worm was imprisoned, you see, and he needed an agent to prepare his furious return to the world. The painting depicts the moment when the Prince rises from the lava streams of the Worm Mountain and claims the 'Worm Axe' - the magic weapon that contains the breath of the beast.

From then on I frequently added new ideas to my notebook. I had a mystic background and a dark villain with an evil mission. All I needed now was a hero to save the world! The grandfather sketch from 2003 already hinted at a young boy to possibly be the hero of the story. In the tradition of classic fantasy stories, I decided that the hero should not be an inhabitant of the fantastic world but that he should come from our real world and enter the fantasy world under a quest to defeat the Firelord.

| 'The Rise of the Firelord' - 2005
The Journey Begins
Other popular fantasy worlds were entered through books, mirrors, or wardrobes, just to name a few. Being a painter I was attracted to the idea of my hero starting his adventure by stepping through a magic painting. In 2006, an international digital art community website started a contest to design an artwork on the theme 'The Journey Begins'. That was exactly the motivation I needed to put a lot of work into a single illustration. I worked on my entry for the contest in the evenings and it took me over two months to finish it. But it was well worth the effort - 'The Journey Begins' won second place in the contest. Apart from the prizes it was the overwhelmingly positive feedback and all the people that became aware of my artwork through the contest that had the biggest impact on me. I realized that I had created a strong story hook with the little boy in the attic.

| 'The Journey Begins' - 2006
And Now What?
On January 6th, 2007, I put down a little note in my notebook: "Today I asked myself the question if I should develop this story into a novel". Up until that point I had just been an illustrator who was collecting ideas for new artwork. And that worked nicely. I accompanied 'The Journey Begins' with a second painting that shows the young boy from the attic in a dangerous situation, surrounded by goblins. In 'Trapped!', I wanted to show what might wait behind the magic canvas, and I also wanted to try out another visual approach to the story.

| 'Trapped!' - 2007
I could have been satisfied with my nice little backstory: my hero was adventuring through a colorful fantasy world (of which I had even created a map of in 2007) and I had a Great Worm, an evil Firelord, and a bunch of goblins to fight against. But, as my note from the beginning of 2007 shows, I had already found that the story had taken on a life of its own. My notebook was full of questions and ideas. I started wondering about what exactly the plan of the Great Worm was. What was the mission of the Firelord? How was it, that a young boy from our world was destined to defeat evil in a distant fantasy world? How did this boy find the magic painting anyway? And - most important - who painted it? I realized that it was impossible to answer all these questions by merely painting a series of illustrations. In order to tell this story I had to set foot on a completely new path.

First Map of the Wormworld - 2007
The Rebirth of a Graphic Novel Author
Creating a graphic novel wasn't at all the first thing I thought of when I asked myself how to tell the story. My first attempt was to actually write a novel. I started writing little scenes but soon found out that prose was not the right medium for me. My mental image of the story was simply too visual, and I got constantly tangled up in lengthy descriptions of places and atmosphere. I figured out that a good writer would put these things between the lines, but that was not what I had studied painting my whole life for. I had to find a more visual medium. Some guys in my online community were doing short animations and I started to research which tools I would need to tell my story in animated form. It soon became clear that I couldn't tell the story I had in mind by animating it myself - in the evenings, after a 10 hour day job. It would have been just too much work.

The ironic thing is that telling my story as a comic should have been my first choice given my personal background. I had created comics as a teenager in school. And I'm not talking about small scribbles on notebook paper. I wrote and illustrated three full length comic books and sold them as stapled pamphlets in the schoolyard. When I left school, everyone expected me to become a comic book artist. But there wasn't any comic book industry in Germany, and I was lucky to get a job in computer games after I graduated. There I learned to master the tools of a digital artist, and I put my focus on concept art and illustration throughout the years. I totally lost the connection to my comic book past, and when I put the first word balloons into some of my illustrations it came to me as a revelation - this was the way to tell my story! After over 10 years, I had finally returned to my roots.

| Comic experiment for the Wormworld Saga- 2009
The Wormworld Saga Digital Graphic Novel
In late 2009 I started my work on the Wormworld Saga Digital Graphic Novel. I had done research on the comic and graphic novel market, and I figured that the best way to attract an audience would be to publish my work online. I worked on the project in the evenings and on weekends, around my day job. I spent nearly 350 hours creating the first chapter and the Wormworld Saga website, and I launched the free online version of the graphic novel on December 25th, 2010. The reactions since then have been overwhelming, and my journey since that fateful December day has been a story of its own. Today I'm working fulltime on the Wormworld Saga. With the help of my fans I was able to create everything you see on this website. I'm deeply thankful for that, and hope that you enjoy it as much as I do. The journey has just begun!
-Daniel Lieske

Digital sculpting of the Wormseal - 2008