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

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Astounding Annotations - Week 11

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 31


Panel 1: Hey, sorry I sort of let these slide for a few days. I'm back now and I'll spend the next few days running down the rest of these, including a separate post for each day of Week 14, what with it being extra length and all. Anyway, onto Week 11...to be honest, this is a week I kind of want to let speak for itself. This was very much Joe's week to flex his artistic muscles and I tried to let my writing take a bit of a backseat, although there are some plot points in here as well, I guess. You know, like the whole "threat to the multiverse is real" thing. In any event, this panel is a reference to The Far Side. But I'm going to guess you knew that.

Panel 2: And this is Monty (I had to ask Joe about this one, if I'm being honest). The thing about oxygen is another reference to Watchmen, specifically when Dr. Manhattan forgets Laurie needs air to breathe when she's on Mars.

Panel 3: I'll say it right now: I sort of like Foxtrot. I don't think it's a great comic strip - there's really only one comic strip I'd consider "great" - but it always seems pretty good-natured and diverting whenever I glance at it. Make of that what you will. Incidentally, if I can talk about this week in general for just a second, I'll say that this was one of the earliest ideas I had for Astounding, and I wanted to do this for a few reasons. One, I wanted to make it clear that every conceivable universe does, in fact, exist, even ones where people look radically different and the absurd physics of comic strips rule. Two, like I said at the beginning, I thought it would be a cool thing to do artistically and something Joe could have some fun with after all the absurd exposition-y lettering I made him do each week.

Panel 4: I really thought about just having the Corpsman say "Good grief" and be done with it, but that just seemed like one homage too far. So this is pretty much the joke equivalent of having your cake and eating it too, as I both essentially do make the reference but also acknowledge the silliness of it. Oh, and reason number three we did this week was that I really wanted to see Mr. Astounding hold his cape like Linus's blanket. That just seemed like too good a visual not to do.

Day 32


Panel 1: The Jaspers Warp is from Alan Moore's run on Captain Britain, and it refers to a massive shift in the nature of reality, which is pretty much exactly what's going on here. Although the shift in Captain Britain is even trippier, truth be told. I think the Mentor as Dilbert's boss is probably my second favorite image after Mr. Astounding as Linus.

Panel 2: I. Love. Calvin. And. Hobbes. Really all I have to say, although I will point out it was another Calvin & Hobbes parody from a Superman comic that helped give me the idea to do this. I'm not exactly sure where it is on the web, so I'll upload the version I saved from a year or so ago. Click on it for the bigger version.

Maybe my favorite comics page ever. Lois Lane as Calvin's mom works a little too well. Although Superman as Calvin's dad would have been really interesting.

Panel 3: Ah, Doonesbury. Joe rather cleverly drew the Mentor as the hallucinatory character Mr. Butts, just to really emphasize the fact that the Mentor doubts the reality of his own existence.

Panel 4: This is Barney Google and Snuffy Smith. I did not know that. Oh, and "I'm so, so sorry" is a frequent refrain of the Doctor's during the second series of the revived Doctor Who. I really do tick all the geeky boxes, don't I?

Day 33


Panel 1: And here we burn through a bunch of remaining characters. According to Joe, this is the setup: "the Mentor is Mallard Fillmore, the Corpsman is Beetle Bailey, Mr. Astounding is Dagwood Bumstead from Blondie, and the setting is from B.C."

Panel 2: Ah, and here's where the plot gets dragged back in. I think it's a tribute to Joe's designs that, even after all that awesomeness, I was still glad to see the real versions of the characters back.

Panel 3: I'll admit, what Mr. Astounding does here is arguably overkill, what with destroying an entire universe and all. But it is a lifeless universe and it is a way of proving something definitively. Oh, and it provided narrative justification for the indulgence of doing all these comic strip parodies. It's really your call whether that's sufficient justification, but that's my case for the defense.

Panel 4: Hey...where are they flying off to? I mean, it's a void. I dunno. I just thought it looked cool. And the terrible truth of Astounding is revealed. In the end, we were just trying to look cool. I think this week succeeded better than most.

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