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!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Astounding Annotations: Week 14 Day 2

The next part of Astounding Returns isn't quite ready to go yet. If you saw last week's opener, I'm sure you'll agree with me when I say it'll be well worth waiting for whatever Kevin comes up with. In the meantime, here we go again with the penultimate edition of Astounding Annotations. Try to contain your excitement.

Day 41


Panel 1: A lot of this is ultimately going to be explained - or, at the very least, made clearer - in Chronopolis, so I'll only address what's directly pertinent to Astounding. At its most basic, this epilogue came about because I realized that it was kind of unsatisfying to never provide even the slightest explanation for why Ted Ellis got his powers. (It was also unsatisfying to never reveal his name, something I also rectified.) With only a week or two to go in the writing process, this scene with the gods suddenly clicked into place.

Panel 2: Lord Hawksmoor is a very blatant homage to Authority superhero Jack Hawksmoor. Incidentally, Joe simplified the godly font quite a bit. I think it still looks great. Even better, perhaps.

Panel 3: I will say this much - there are five gods in this scene, and four of them speak. There's a good reason why the fifth remains silent. And the other four all are meant to have reasonably consistent motivations and characterizations, even if they're fairly rudimentary. For instance, the one who has been talking for the bulk of this panel is the least imaginative, most objective of the group.

Panel 4: "The anomaly" is the Corpsman. Just so we're clear. I don't know how easy it is to pick up on that right away - to be honest, I'm still not sure whether any of this epilogue makes sense unless you actually wrote the damn thing - but there at least is a pretty big reveal at the end of the day which should help make things hang together.


Panel 5: So the gods had lost a member of their pantheon, and they needed to give the powers to someone else. For some reason, Ted Ellis was the ideal candidate to receive such godly powers, but the Ted Ellis of this universe - Mr. Astounding, in other words - refused. Thus they reverse engineered the perfect Ted Ellis by finding someone who would choose to live in this exact universe but would also be receptive to the powers of godhood. In the multiverse, the Ted Ellis we've followed for all these weeks is the one who would choose to live in this exact universe and be this exact superhero. There are other Ted Ellises who might choose to be Batman or Spider-Man or some other copyrighted character. But that's another, much more litigious story.

Panel 6: Ah yes. "The Chief". A reference to Isaac Asimov's "Spell My Name with an S" with maybe a pinch of "The Last Trump" in the implied mechanics of godly relations. Both very much worth reading, like pretty much any Asimov story. And yeah, the Chief might be God. I'm not saying either way.

Panel 7: Agent X-20 lives in a godless universe. I sort of like the idea that every single religion plus atheism is right, one way or another, but it just depends on which universe you live in. I decided to make the spy's universe godless because of James Bond's ultra-atheistic attitude in Quantum of Solace. Is that the most subtle reference of all time? It just might be.

Panel 8: The reference to agents here is meant to be as obvious as it hopefully appears. I like to play fair as much as I can, and I'm pretty much signposting the reveal of Byrne and Campbell at this point.


Panel 9: We're getting a bit meta here, as the next day is exactly that - a happy ending.

Panel 10: At this point, these are pretty much all narrative contortions meant to make the two other days of this week make sense. In this case, I'm explaining why the powers Ted Ellis still has in the next day's panels are there. I think this sort of ties into philosophical concepts of the inseperability of body and soul, but I might just be talking out of my ass.

Panel 11: And this is meant to explain why the original Mr. Astounding showed up in yesterday's panels. The gods let him out.

Panel 12: And no, I didn't know the shocking truth about Byrne and Campbell when I first wrote them into week 7. Does this twist make perfect sense in terms of what we saw there? Eh, it's debatable. I think it can all be made to cohere well enough. But that's just me.

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