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Maria Schweitzer (’21) talks about her thesis story, ‘Mission: Red Rock’

We shot a few questions Maria Schweitzer’s way to learn more about her entertaining thesis story, ‘Mission: Red Rock’!

Mission: Red Rock is a young adult graphic novel about two unlikely friends that examines the tension between self-acceptance and social validation. Richard Wallace had dreams of becoming an American hero, but after a string of failures was dismissed from the US Air Force. Now decades later, Richard has secluded himself to the outskirts of Las Vegas where he owns and operates Out of this World Souvenirs, the largest alien tourist stop in Nevada.

Rosie Rodriguez is a thirteen-year-old self-declared professional UFO treasure hunter determined to find the evidence she needs to prove her late grandfather wasn’t crazy. Rosie knows the answer lies in the desert terrain of Red Rock Canyon and won’t stop until she finds what she’s looking for.

When Rosie and Richard discover the existence and escape of an alien from the secret government agency, the Federal Bureau of Foreign Species (FBFS), the two want to seize the opportunity and embark on a mission to capture the alien before the FBFS. For both Rosie and Richard this mission is personal, an opportunity to finally receive the validation they believe they deserve but their beliefs and their goals will be put to the test as they learn to navigate new obstacles.

What is your thesis story titled, what is it about, and what medium did you decide on?

Mission: Red Rock is a YA Graphic novel about two unlikely friends who race against a secret government agency to capture their escaped alien from Area 51. The art is traditional ink and ink wash.

What themes do you want people to connect with?

There are at least two themes in this story that are important to me for people to connect with. One is self acceptance and the other is the idea of being a hero and what that means.

After graduation, how would you like the thesis story to help your career? 

I am currently continuing to work on this story but from a new perspective. I’m looking forward to using the art and story from my thesis to help shape this new version of my story.

Do you think you would have told this story if you’d never attended MFA Visual Narrative?

No. I never considered myself a writer. Especially a writer capable of putting together a story long enough for a graphic novel. I came to MFAVN to learn those skills and it’s been an amazing experience learning how to tell this story and stories for the future.

What tools did you use to create the story? Feel free to share a tip or two about them.

My process is constantly evolving with each project. For my thesis I decided to flip my usual process for penciling and inking a story. Before this I usually did traditional pencils and worked digitally on the inks. For my thesis I decided to digitally pencil and traditionally ink over those printed pencil drawings. I really loved this process and the energy using traditional inks brought to my work. Working digitally on the pencils allowed for easier adjustments on the composition and design while working traditionally on the inks allowed for happy accidents and more natural looking lines that I felt expressed the tone of my story better.

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