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, June 4, 2009

Astounding Annotations - Week 14 Day 1

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 40


Panel 1: So, let's take this one day at a time. This particular epilogue is primarily designed to set up Astounding Returns, our sequel web comic (starting next Wednesday!). As such, I wanted to wrap up the various storylines we've seen all the various secondary characters go through over the course of Astounding and raise some more questions the future. But first, I wanted to put the Mentor in a Magneto-style jail in Mr. Astounding's basement. It just seemed right. Oh, and I leave it up to the reader to decide whether the Corpsman really would kill the Mentor, or if he's just using Mr. Astounding as an excuse to not have to get his hands dirty. Not that I would blame him.

Panel 2: This is, if I'm being perfectly honest, somewhat clunky writing. As becomes clear at the end of the day, I needed the Mentor to have access to a sophisticated enough computer system for the original Mr. Astounding to punch his way through that. To do that, though, means granting him a hell of a lot of power, which doesn't really jibe with the whole imprisoning him thing. This highly vigilant A.I. that the Corpsman talks about is meant to get me out of that logical problem, but yeah...really not sure it actually makes any sense. Eh, maybe the Corpsman's just a little too desperate to give him a shot at redemption. It's happened enough times between Superman and Lex Luthor, I suppose.

Panel 3: I think that's known in the writing world as "setting up conflict." Or something. I just liked the part where they said stuff that sounded badass and hardcore.

Panel 4: Another big logical question I had to address - why didn't the Mentor or Corpsman just use the machine to go home? My answer, mundane as it might be, is that it's broken. There are deeper reasons for this, as we see tomorrow, but it seemed like a straightforward reason for them to be stuck here. I guess I also could have had Mr. Astounding send only the Mentor and Corpsman to his universe, keeping the machine in the void. But then, the Mentor could theoretically build another one. I think, at least this once, my first choice was (thankfully) the better way to go.


Panel 5: Thanks, Corpsman, for asking all the other big logical questions. Really taking one for the team there on the exposition front. Although it was actually kind of important for me to remind people that, according to the rules I had set up, there had to have been a Mr. Astounding before our protagonist transferred his mind into Mr. Astounding's body. If I hadn't pointed that out, I'm pretty sure the twist at the end would have been completely befuddling.

Panel 6: I tried really hard to find a non-creepy, non-weird emotional register for this scene. Can either of them really understand the idea that this person - who looks exactly like someone they know very well - is basically a total stranger? Is Nora trying to cheat on Mr. Astounding here, and would that even be cheating if she was? And is the Corpsman even really attracted to Nora? The answers are, in order, "Probably not", "I don't think so", "I'm not completely sure, and it's something my characters should probably debate down the road", and "Not nearly as much as Mr. Astounding is." There you go - you just learned something. You're welcome.

Panel 7: Nora's line here was the big part of my effort to make it clear this wasn't a romantic scene, but instead one built on a bond of mutual survival. Again, totally up to you as to whether I pulled it off.

Panel 8: Hey! It's his name! Isn't that...something! I thought it would be nice to finally reveal his name after all these weeks because, in the end, it really wasn't meant to be a big deal. I just couldn't come up with one in time to write week 1, and I thought it would be better to just leave it alone once I got a few weeks in. I was worried that revealing his name would have to be a big, well, reveal, but I felt I could slip it in the epilogues as an afterthought. More on the exact origins of his name tomorrow, but I will say this - Ted is a great superhero name, and I was glad to give it to Mr. Astounding/The Corpsman/The Mentor (though the Mentor is probably an Edward). If it's good enough for the Blue Beetle (got to love Ted Kord), it's good enough for them.


Panel 1: I thought the coin flip was a good enough gag to waste a panel on. What can I say? Cold fusion is hilarious.

Panel 2: I wanted to call the world he tapped into the "underverse", but that was already taken by Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman series. "Mirrorverse" works just about as well, and it even vaguely ties into something I mentioned in a radio play. Ooh, that's good vague continuity!

Panel 3: I had to be really careful here, as the Mentor had to logically react as though Mr. Astounding - the man who he had tried to destroy - had suddenly returned. Of course, that's not the case, and so I didn't want to tip the audience in that direction lest they get confused. So the Mentor's line had to work on a number of levels. It had to, on a storytelling level, make the action clearer, not fuzzier, which meant reacting to the sudden arrival of a person without saying who that person was. And then, on a narrative level, it had to make sense upon rereading that he was reacting to what he thought was Mr. Astounding. Even I get confused just trying to figure all of that out.

Panel 4: Is it a plot hole that Mr. Astounding knows to refer to himself as "the real one"? Maybe, but I guess he's fairly aware he was displaced by some sort of presence and relegated to the mirrorverse. I think it just about makes sense. Well, I don't know about you, but after all that narrative gymnastics I'm really ready for some Astounding Returns, coming next Wednesday, June 10 to this very website. What? Nothing wrong with a little self-promotion.

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