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

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Astounding Annotations - Week 12

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 34


Panel 1: I think this week was probably the toughest to write. I'm not exactly sure why - I guess I just finally realized I had an entire story to wrap up and, since I was devoting the final week exclusively to epilogues, only two weeks to do it. As such, I had to set up a multiverse-spanning threat and quick, which required an absurd amount of exposition, as we'll see. To counteract that, I decided to throw in the craziest shit I could come up with, and that pretty much took the form of a Washington D.C. remade in the Mentor's image and an army of robotic centaurs.

Panel 2: Thematically, I suppose it's kind of appropriate that the Mentor and Men-Taur are walking on water, what with all the god stuff I've thrown around. But really, it just seemed inelegant for them to walk around the Reflecting Pool, so they had to go over it. I also felt like I had to explain why the hell he's so powerful he's apparently become the dictator of, at the very least, the United States. It seemed like discovering the secret of multiversal travel might be enough to do that. Keep in mind, the Mentor is, like all the other versions of the character, only 18. Thanks to Alexander the Great, the idea that he could conquer the world at that age is not as utterly absurd as it really should be, but I just thought I'd remind people (including myself) of how young the Mentor is.

Panel 3: This is kind of based on the Planet of the Apes remake (which in turn was kind of a ripoff of the Chasing Dogma comic Kevin Smith made for his Jay and Silent Bob characters), if only in the sense that that stinker of a movie put the whole "Lincoln Memorial with someone else's statue in it" idea out there. But having him wear his two gloves from previous weeks is, if I say so myself, a pretty good twist. Also the idea that he'd keep a human-sized replica next to the giant statue. Yeah, this day is pretty out there.

Panel 4: That is a great bow from Men-Taur. You just don't get that sort of respect from today's robotic centaurs. Incidentally, I created Men-Taur because I wanted a robotic version of the Mentaur (for reasons that will become clearer in Chronopolis) and I wanted to do something really different. Making it a centaur certainly qualifies as "different", and it ties in nicely with the fact that this is set in the same continuity as the Golden Age comics from Centaur Publications.

Day 35


Panel 1: The Oarsman is one of the characters Joe created for week 6, and I was glad to get him in here before he takes on a leading role in Chronopolis. To be fair to him, I'm not sure Nora's joke is funny either, but I wasn't exactly intending it to be. I guess I wanted it to be just funny enough that somebody's boyfriend - like Mr. Astounding - would find it funny because he loves the person who said it. Oh, and the Robo Rockers were created so we'd have more villains in week 13, and because I thought evil robotic versions of famous rock and roll stars was suitably absurd. According to Joe, here's who they are based on: "The fat bearded one is Jerry Garcia with a turtle body, a reference to the song Terrapin Station. the one in the suit is Paul Mccartney. he's supposed to have retractable 'wings,' but I never got a chance to draw. The tall one with the afro is supposed to be like Jimi Hendrix and the short one with the beard is after Levon Helms, the drummer for The Band. He uses a motorized vehicle with built-in drums to move around, a reference to the song Cripple Creek." So there you go.

Panel 2: The whole "you brought...him" bit is meant to emphasize that, as far as this Nora knows, the Corpsman is still the enemy who defeated Mr. Astounding and banished him from his home universe. Mr. Astounding's response is pretty much the understatement of this geological epoch.

Panel 3: I really thought I should acknowledge how convoluted the story had become, and this seemed like a good place. The shape of the mansion is a bit of a reference to Titans Tower, by the way.

Panel 4: The Corpsman's line there is a twist on a gag from Runaways, where one character points out how emasculating it is to be carried in a flying superhero's arms, and so he refuses to do it. I felt the Corpsman is far more self-assured and determined, so he'd just acknowledge it and move on.

Day 36


Panel 1: Putting the Corpsman's name in quotation marks was my acknowledgment of how absurd it had become for these characters to have conversations with each other. Would the Mentor seriously refer to him as the Corpsman? I mean, I suppose it's a decent shorthand, as using their name would be confusing as to which one he was talking to. There was also the little problem that I still hadn't revealed their name, so my hand was kind of forced there.

Panel 2: Yet another absurd glove for the Mentor, this time with a steampunk vibe. Since I satisfied the comedy rule of three with these gloves, I'm just going to assume this third glove was hilarious to all who saw it. I was also glad I was able to repurpose old quotes as hopefully badass callbacks.

Panel 3: I liked the mathematical progression of billion to trillion to quadrillion, and they all seemed to make sense. I mean, an explosion big enough to blow up the entire planet would roughly be a trillion times as bad as one that damaged a city block (actually, a trillion times would probably take out the Moon as well, but a destroyed Earth is a destroyed Earth). And a billion bombs on a billion worlds with roughly the same population as ours would mean put the death toll at roughly the number I said, as one billion bombs times six billion people per world would equal quadrillions of deaths. Also, the population of the Galactic Empire in Asimov's Foundation books is said to be in the quadrillions. (Technically, it's said to be less than a quintillion, which led to a lively debate with a friend as to just which order of people there were in the books before we bothered to look it up, but I was absolutely right when I said it was in the quadrillions. That may be the dorkiest thing I've ever written, and there are plenty of contenders for that title.)

Panel 4: This is a reference to a similar panel in week 3, although the emotions are very much reversed. I wanted the emotions on the Mentor's face to show how deeply humiliated he was and how that just might lead him to want so much death. It's a cartoonish turn, to be sure, but then we're talking about someone willing to call himself the smartest person in the multiverse. He's a guy with a cartoonish egomaniacal outlook. Anyway, to quote Hot Fuzz and Bad Boys II, shit's about to get real.

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