CJ Vickery

Current Development

Film & Animation

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The Automaton

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The origin

The Automaton is a Sci-Fi series I've been developing in parallel for a comic and animated format. I initially had no intention of building a story around this character when I first drew him. He was simply a robot in a desert wandering around without an arm.

But something about that first image captured people's imaginations. Friends and strangers alike reached out on social media to ask what his story was, and what would happen to him next. Of course, I had no idea what would happen to him next, or how he had even come to be in that desert in the first place, so I did the only thing I could do: draw some more.

Over the next few weeks I gave him a name (SAM) and drew up more sequential panels of his adventures. He became a snarky, sentient bot charged with an impossible task. The more I drew, the more everyone (including myself) fell in love.

Notably, This process is quite different from how I tend to develop ideas. I would normally start with a concept or a "hook" and begin to fill in characters and plot points with broad strokes as I hone in on the finer details of the story. But in this case, starting from a single character and building everything else out organically from him has proven bountiful and rewarding.

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The Concept

A robot powers on in the desert with a missing arm and a faulty battery. He's been programmed to save the last surviving humans from a dried-up, irradiated earth, but this sentient machine must learn to make his own choices.

SAM as a character had proven captivating enough for many people. He liked to complain, he was smart and snarky, and I think despite his chassis he was oddly relatable to the squishy fleshbags who took interest in him. This gimmick would easily wear thin, though, and I'm sure anyone could come up with a number examples of characters whose shallow snark turned from asset to liability in their respective stories. Thus the story had to go deeper to find a home in what I believe to be a sincerely interesting and under-explored philosophical question.

A robot can be programmed. Commanded to embark on a task and stripped of free will.

With true artificial intelligence all but incipient, we find ourselves brushing up against the quandary of a sentient entity facing a de facto enslavement via their coding. So what would happen if this sentient being struggled against that directive; resented the suppression of their free will? What if he agreed with the moral imperative of his programming, but disagreed with the means? These questions drove me to find a story that could explore a sweeping and epic narrative full of action, drama, and comedy, but could also punch above its weight and reach a genuinely literary status.

The pilot comic issue and animated episode are coming soon. You can join my mailing list, check my social media, or bookmark this site to keep tabs on development.

Defending Champions

 
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The Origin

When I picked the pencil back up halfway through college, I was brimming with ideas for films and shows, but none quite satisfied my love for Saturday Morning Cartoons and all they represent.

I set out to create a show that could serve as a vehicle for cartoony action and comedy, while also indulging my love for music in a story driven way. Thus, setting two burnout musicians as our unwilling protagonists set the stage for a delightfully ridiculous concept.

The Concept

When two burnout musicians squatting in an abandoned warehouse accidentally become the Defending Champions of an intergalactic contest of strength and skill, they must defend the Title and themselves from any challengers with wit, cunning, and killer riffs.

The stage was set with two lovable underdogs who were made the primary target for countless beings across the universe. There instruments became their tools for defense, and their ingenuity and tenacity could supplant the brute strength they so clearly lacked.

 
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It Starts

with a good villain...

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The Villain

With two underdog protagonists, the best foil would have to be someone so self-assured he could easily be surprised by any display of competence. But with Zythril, the mantis-inspired conqueror, this confidence was most interesting when it came from a place of deep insecurity and entitlement.

With a nemesis who has everything to prove, he could truly do anything in the name of achieving his ambitions, effectively ramping up the stakes and putting our underdogs in the most dire straits.

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The Heroes

Rock and Kelly might be underdogs, but that term can mean many things. I never want to create characters that must be played for fools to be interesting or funny. Thus, these talented and intelligent musicians must be underdogs due to their inherent flaws and a society that doesn't value their talents.

In this case, Rock's nihilism and Kelly's neuroticism allow them to be intelligent characters that can play foils to one another while still self-sabotaging their chances at success. Truly they will need steadfast guidance to realize their potential and stay alive. 

 
 
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The Fiercely Independent Podcast

I've always wanted to do a podcast, and in fact, I've started a great many. Though they've never seen the light of day, and I've never found a concept or topic with the staying power to inspire me to launch, I've finally settled on the topic I keep coming back to. Everything I do or make, I yearn to do with as little outside influence or assistance as I possibly can. This results in an unyielding guerrilla mindset that allows me to experiment and produce in ways that larger teams and studios rarely have the luxury of doing.

As such, I've gorged myself on entrepreneurial advice, independent art best-practices, and DIY dictums  everywhere I can find them, and thus developed a personal philosophy unto myself that I think others with similar aspirations could benefit from. In it, I discuss the state of independent art, lessons I've learned from my own creative adventures and misadventures, the lessons we can take from other successful artists, and general artistic explorations across mediums.

It's a resource I wish was already out there so that I didn't have to be the one to make it, but I also love the sound of my own voice. So I'll be out here, filling the airwaves for anyone who cares to listen.

If that sounds like you, you can find it here:

 
 

Three Days

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Three Days

This album is as much a personal challenge as it is a musical work. Facing a long rut of creative nonstarters, I needed to complete a substantial project to rebuild confidence, gain momentum, and reinvent myself for a new phase of life. With a long weekend on the horizon and an empty house, I challenged myself to record a complete album in three days by myself.

I had been toying with material on my acoustic guitar for a few months since my former bandmates had moved and I became more reclusive musically. By forging the material in a loose environment where only the stickiest musical ideas passed my filter, I felt I had a strong foundation to build upon.

I took this material into the studio, and on a strict schedule of 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. for each of the three days, I tracked guitars, keyboards, bass, drums, and vocals, often writing material as I went, to create a 7-track, 45-minute LP. It became a story of creative rebirth with each song explore a different facet of the process. I took the following week to master the album, and released it on iTunes, Spotify, and Soundcloud.

What resulted from this was a progressive rock concept album taking cues from the likes of Pink Floyd, Uriah Heap, Deep Purple, and Soundgarden. Tight rhythms, heavy riffs, soaring leads, and wailing vocals buoy the album with bravado and excitement, while lush guitar and vocal arrangements supported by atmospheric keyboards fill out softer moments that explore a fuller sonic palette. It coalesces into a brash, articulate sound that ranges from contemplative passages to roaring progressions that fills the album wall to wall with a true musical journey.

Please take a listen if you're interested. I still feel that it holds up today as one of my best completed works, and I think you'll enjoy it.

 
 

The Enlightenment Series

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