A comic strip by Alasdair Wilkins and Joseph Shivers, as seen in The Harvard Crimson!

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Astounding Returns is our latest ongoing story. Due to our busy schedules, we will update whenever we are able to complete additional pages!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Astounding Annotations - Week 3

So here we go with what I'm calling "Astounding Annotations." Basically, this is an opportunity to explain some of the more obscure references I threw in (and there were a bunch of them), and to give some idea as to why I did this in the first place. Yeah, I'm aware this is pretty damn self-indulgent, so I'll try not to go on and on. And away we go...

Day 7


Panel 1: That's our homage to the ultra-famous Action Comics #1 (see it here). I thought we should up the ante a bit from the original car that Superman hoisted. A tank seemed like a good substitute, although I think I originally lobbied for a train. The actual dialogue is an homage to intentionally absurd modern descriptions of superpowers, something Wildstorm's Authority comic is especially noteworthy for.

Panel 2: A word about the costume. Basically, I didn't want to do anything too Superman-ish, so instead I went with two of the most noteworthy alternative versions of the Man of Steel: Captain Marvel and Wildstorm's Majestic, who respectively are the most light-hearted and most hardnosed versions of Superman, which seemed like an amusing basis for a combination. Mr. Astounding has the buttons of Captain Marvel, and to some degree his cape. His boots and his emblem are both more based on Majestic. Together, I think they actually make for a pretty awesome design.

Panel 3: Regarding the name Mr. Astounding - I'm always shocked that there are a few decent superhero names left, and Mr. Astounding is definitely one of them. My original impulse was to go with "Astounding Man", but there was a Silver Age Superman comic where an alien had his robot pretend to be someone who called himself Astounding Man (long story). Considering the hyper-obscurity of the original, I probably still could have used Astounding Man if I had wanted to, but I started thinking about other superhero naming constructions, and it seemed as though the "Mr. [Name]" formula is sorely underused. The only really good example is Mr. Fantastic from Fantastic Four, and even he is usually just plain old Reed Richards.

Panel 4: That's a reference to the one stellar sequence from Superman Returns, where Brandon Routh's Superman hangs out in space and spends the night answering distress calls. It's a remarkable moment in an otherwise tragically unremarkable film.

Day 8


Panel 1: This day is almost nothing but references. This panel is our sole Marvel homage, as this is based on the first full reveal of Mary Jane Watson to Peter Parker in Spider-Man. I thought it was the most iconic representation of beauty in comics, so it seemed like a good choice for our reveal of the perfect Nora. Oh, and I felt justified in making alt-Nora a supermodel because that's what Mary Jane was.

Panel 2: This is a reference to Detective Comics 27, which first introduced Batman. We made a couple of changes, including turning the gangsters in the original cover to the cops in this panel. Oh, and we cleverly removed the rope that Batman used. Because Mr. Astounding can, well, fly, making a rope a bit redundant.

Panel 3: And this is an homage to the cover of All-American Comics 16, which marked the debut appearance of the original Green Lantern.

Panel 4: No comic references here, although the Mentor's machine is meant to look like H.G. Wells's time machine.

Day 9


Panel 1: In my earliest conceptions of this idea, I had Mr. Astounding traveling to the universe in which the Mentor lived. There, he would find the Mentor waiting for him, who would then proceed to give something like this spiel (at the time, I hadn't really decided what he was going to say). For various reasons (which I'll get into later), that idea probably would have made much, much more sense, but I instead decided that for time constraints I would have to have the Mentor travel straight to Mr. Astounding. Giving the Mentor so much power pretty much meant I had to make him a much more powerful character in general, which I think worked out fairly well in terms of the interplay between the various versions of our hero.

Panel 2: I thought it made sense that if the original version of our hero was scrawny and Mr. Astounding was really buff, then the Mentor should be fat. Considering I did base the character on Battlestar Galactica's Lee Adama, whose brief stint as a fat version of himself remains his most famous moment, this was probably highly appropriate.

Panel 3: I tried to make this sound pretentious. It wasn't too hard. I've decided not to explore what that says about me.

Panel 4: And there you go - this comic is officially another superhero deconstruction. I lasted all of, what? 12 panels of superhero heroics before I made Mr. Astounding more than a superhero. Oh well. By the way, the next week title "Revelations & Remembrances" is a reference to two of my favorite stories from the original run of the cult British science fiction show Doctor Who, Revelation of the Daleks and Remembrance of the Daleks.

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