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

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Astounding Annotations - Week 9

So here we go again 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. This is the comics equivalent of director's commentary, so if you've just stumbled upon our little site you might want to check out the story itself first (I recommend starting here). And yes, I'm aware this is all pretty damn self-indulgent, so I'll try not to go on and on. And away we go...

Day 25


Panel 1: If I can go back to last week for a second, the "Next Week" caption for week 8 (and thus this week's title) was far and away my favorite. If I can nominate one thing that I did as actually sorta inspired, then titling the big Astounding/Corpsman brawl "Stop Hitting Yourself" has got to be it. Also, I love that Joe put a couple random people between Mr. Astounding and the Corpsman in this shot. I'd love to know what those two made of what they were seeing.

Panel 2: These next two panels probably win a shared prize for most ludicrously obscure references. "By the way, that was a complete lie about the healing factor" is a reference to The Young Ones episode "Oil", where Vyvian says pretty much exactly that about the oil he had claimed to have discovered. Oh, and since this is our first really good look at the Corpsman's symbol, I'll point out that, like Joe said in the description from the last post, this is a caduceus, which is the symbol of medicine where two snakes are wound around a staff. However, the two snakes are actually positioned such that each is biting the other's tale, thus also forming an ouroboros. That last part is easier to explain - it's a reference to the fact that the Corpsman and Mr. Astounding are alternate versions of the same person battling for control, which is pretty much the closest two superheroes can come to devouring each other. The caduceus is on there for a few reasons. Mostly, I thought it would be cool to combine the two images, but it also fit nicely with the name "The Corpsman", as a corpsman is a medical officer in the US Navy. And, since I'm going through the character's conception completely backwards, I called him "The Corpsman" in the first place because that pretty literally means "The Body Man", which made sense as he was the body left behind when Mr. Astounding's mind went elsewhere. Honestly, after a while this all jumbles into a vague idea that "The Corpsman" is a pretty cool name and has a pretty great design, which is ultimately all we were really trying to accomplish. More on his look in a little bit.

Panel 3: I need a breather after all that. Anyway, the reference here is to the Justice League Unlimited episode "Dark Heart", where Batman also flies through the air and says "Now would be good." Here's the exact moment:

Panel 4: Wow, this might just be the most hideously overwritten day in the entire series. I don't know why there are so many convoluted sentences. I guess I just really fell in love with these particular phrasings. I mean, I stand by all of them, but I'm the first to admit I'm taking twelve words to say about three or four.

Day 26


Panel 1: Just in case this wasn't completely clear, the Corpsman goaded Mr. Astounding into punching him on a very carefully arranged trajectory that would send him flying towards Nora's room. To ensure he actually landed in her room, they used a powerful electromagnet to pull him through the wall. I admit this is completely nutty, but I hope it's nutty in a cool comic book kind of way and not in a lousy writing kind of way.

Panel 2: I wanted the Corpsman's narration in the previous panel to suggest he too might feel something for Nora, and then for his narration here to completely undercut that suggestion. Also, I believe Nora gets to be the first person to swear in Astounding. She sure as hell won't be the last.

Panel 3: Radion is the substance that killed a bunch of New Gods in the recent insanity that was DC's Final Crisis. I still don't know what I make of that whole mess, but radion clearly stuck with me enough to throw in a tip of the hat here.

Panel 4: Got to love Darth Vader's cameo in our big dramatic moment. And, for the record, the Corpsman shot first. He always shot first. Just want to make that clear while Star Wars is on my mind.

Day 27


Panel 1: This panel does some serious heavy lifting in terms of making the Corpsman's plan even remotely sensical. (That's not a word, is it?) For the Corpsman to have any chance of defeating Mr. Astounding, he needed to have weakness. After all, Batman couldn't really defeat Superman if he couldn't use Kryptonite. But since Mr. Astounding's powers are just a chosen manifestation of the protagonist's larger, godlike abilities, it doesn't really make sense for him to have weaknesses. Thus why the Corpsman made Mr. Astounding specify radion was his only weakness in the previous day, and thus why here the Corpsman connects radion to the magic lightning from Week 5. I think I just about played fair here, but I'll admit it's close.

Panel 2: This isn't exactly a reference so much as a further link to the larger comic book universe I connected Astounding to - the world of Centaur Publications. Those comics from 1938-1942 featured tons of mind control and involuntary hypnosis, in particular from the heroic Dr. Hypno. Of course, hypnotizing people against their will can be found in pretty much any speculative fiction, but I felt way more comfortable putting this in knowing that, yes, the chosen universe in which Mr. Astounding lived did indeed have involuntary hypnosis.

Panel 3: Really going for the dramatic moment here.

Panel 4: Whether we accomplished it is up to you.

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