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

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Astounding Annotations - Week 13

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 37


Panel 1: Ah, Week 13. I'm going to warn you right now - this won't be the longest entry I've ever written. Just a crazy schedule right now, so I'll try to keep this to bullet points. Big thing here is we introduce the gods. I'm not sure if we clarify that they are actually gods, but that's their deal. The script is a mix of Norse Runes and the Tengwar script from Tolkien. It proved a little too ornate so we cut it down for the next week. This is also meant to set up the narrative conceit for how we're presenting this week. They're accessing and replaying people's recollections of the event, so that's why people narrate this week.

Panel 2a: I'll say it right now - if we had had a week 15, we wouldn't have done the diagonal boxes. To call this week rushed (as I know some people have) is a fair criticism, but I really tried to justify this in terms of the change in pacing that comes with going from four panels to eight. The vague in-story reasoning behind it is that this is meant to replicate the fact that Mr. Astounding can't allow himself any complete thoughts for fear of activating the bombs. I think my original line made that idea slightly clearer than what he ended up saying here.

Panel 2b: I really only did this because I knew Terror-Saurus was a fan favorite and he deserved a return appearance. Well, as much as anything in Astounding can be considered a fan favorite. You're welcome, five people I happen to know!

Panel 3a: I liked the idea of bringing back the other versions of himself our hero had become. Still, I was mostly working backwards from the fact I knew I'd be talking about them in Week 14, and it would be good to see them again.

Panel 3b: And then I created the Robo Rockers in Week 12 because I knew I needed someone the winged version of our hero could plausibly impale with a sword. Huh. I really wrote this thing backwards, didn't I?

Panel 4a: If someday Astounding becomes a major motion picture, I think this is the scene I'm most looking forward to seeing. Who doesn't want to see a secret agent have a martial arts battle with an ape in a spacesuit? Nobody, that's who.

Panel 4b: This is a vague reference to the series finale of Justice League Unlimited, where Batman grabs onto the back of Darkseid's head while he fights Superman. It's not exactly helpful, but you've got to appreciate the effort.

Day 38


Panel 1a: I wanted to make it clear that, as much as Mr. Astounding had tried to create a threat for his allies specifically so he'd worry about them and remain distracted, these heroes were far, far too good to have much trouble with these villains.

Panel 1b: I was really going for ludicrously, awesomely over-the-top narration with lines like this.

Panel 2a: Joe described what the Corpsman does here as a mix of Captain America and Oddjob from Goldfinger. Yep, that sounds about right.

Panel 2b: This is probably the part of the comic where we most hurt from our confined space. Joe did his absolute best and I think he just about pulls it off, but I'll be the first to say I put him in a really difficult situation by trying to condense two weeks worth of action into one.

Panel 3a: This is pretty much where you really you need something for narrative reasons - in this case, I needed to get rid of everyone except the Corpsman and the Mentor - and you sort of hope you managed to unintentionally come up with a good reason for that earlier in the comic.

Panel 3b: Fortunately, the idea that the Corpsman was a cosmic anomaly and thus had no true home world to return to just about worked. I guess you could argue what he did to Mr. Astounding in Week 8 made their universe his home world, as his consciousness became the permanent controller of that universe's version of him. Still, I think that point is ambiguous enough that this just about makes sense.

Panel 4a: Again, I really wish we had a full panel to really explain this. Actually, that probably would have needed two or three to make it clear visually.

Panel 4b: If I can ask a logical question of my own comic (and I'm going to say I can)...who the hell thought it was necessary to build a "multiversal map" the size of a billboard and put it near all the bombs? Eh, I guess the Mentor just felt there were some spare Men-Taur robots who needed something to do. It's also a bit of a plot hole how the Corpsman knew the universe they were headed to was the void, but keep in mind we don't show any of the dialogue from this week. The Mentor probably recognized that universe as the one he had just visited.

Day 39


Panel 1a: I was glad I was able to keep the narrators fairly straightforward. It was going to vary quite a bit more at one point, but giving Mr. Astounding the first and third days and the Corpsman the second day seemed much cleaner.

Panel 1b: Again, creating the void was sort of a happy accident. It was only when I was desperately trying to resolve this threat (which in and of itself was just a desperate attempt to make an abstract problem a concrete one) that I realized he could bring all the bombs to the void by making that the one thing he thought about them. Of course, they really should explode the instant they arrive. Maybe they can only detonate once every bomb has left the Mentor's universe. Yes, that'll do.

Panel 2a: I didn't exactly want Mr. Astounding to say he was going to let these bombs kill him, but, yeah...that's what he's doing here.

Panel 2b: Again, I would have liked more time for him to deal with the Corpsman and the Mentor.

Panel 3a: Although I think the pacing here works sort of well. I think the motion of Nora running towards them works nicely with the idea that we're speeding towards the ending. Well, I think so. This also sets up why they're still in the Astounding universe in week 14.

Panel 3b: This was where I wanted to make it clear what the hero had learned and how he had changed. He had been given a power that meant he never had to make a difficult decision, but now he's ready to do just that.

Panel 4: This was, in a sense, the payoff for there not being any dialogue. I really wanted the fact that no one else (other than the gods) had spoken this week to emphasize the importance of what Mr. Astounding was saying here.

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