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May 29, 2013

Idea for a Webcomic...

So if you remember this post, you may know that my brother and I have had on-again, off-again discussions about making our own webcomic.  Or maybe just a comic in general.  Or some kind of story, at least.  Truth be told, it wouldn’t be the first time; with him on art duty and me on story duty, we actually made a couple of little picture books when we were younger.  We made a story about hamster commandos, and another story about stick figures roped into a magical world.  And…well, I guess that’s about it, but the point still stands -- if the two of us sat down and put something together, I have a sneaking suspicion we could make a truly astounding (or at least mildly entertaining) product. 

The problem, of course, is that we actually have to sit down and decide what kind of story we’re going to make.  If you’ve been reading this blog for long, you probably know what my tastes are by now -- and I’m almost certain that a lot of my tastes aren’t going to appeal to dear old big bro.  Troublesome as he may be, I don’t think that he’s so difficult as to shoot down any idea that isn’t his own.  And indeed, the two of us teaming up to make a comic seems like a potentially-smart move.

Well, either that, or an abysmal space-time vortex that removes the very concept of joy from the universe.  Could go either way, I think.

Now, I’ll be frank.  I’m not saying that we’re going to make a webcomic right now, and certainly not going to make any announcements to do so (especially given the existence of I Hraet You).  I’m just making this post as a bit of a “focus testing” -- or brainstorming, if you prefer.  The next time my brother and I discuss the possibility of a webcomic, I want to bring some intriguing and well-thought out premises.  Maybe then we can think about how to move forward instead of spinning in circles about cybernetic implants.

Enough talk, then.  Here are some rough ideas I’ve been mulling over.

In a nutshell: Agents travel through the multiverse and intervene to prevent dystopian futures

In detail: In the distant future, the Akashic Record has been observed, documented, and harnessed, allowing for a view of nigh-limitless data about alternate realities.  Using this data, a special organization -- the Spatial Exploration Agency or SEA for short -- uses that information to come up with rough predictions of a dimension’s future.  Once they do, if they detect a high probability of a dimension facing a turning point -- one that could lead to a massive catastrophe -- then the SEA will send in agents to step in and prevent it from becoming a dystopia. 

In doing so, the ‘verse is not only spared and pushed down the path toward a utopia, but the change in a ‘verse’s path creates energy that can be harnessed; in turn, that energy is used to power the SEA’s home-verse’s sprawling and spreading infrastructure.  Essentially, in order to ensure prosperity (or sustainability) of the home-verse, its people have to get in deep with other ‘verses.  The story follows the adventures and exploits of two agents as they -- partners, and skilled (if dichotomous) ones at that -- travel across space for the sake of preventing disasters and ensuring their home is secure…all while becoming increasingly-aware of the consequences of their actions, the dangers facing their home world, and an unearthly threat encroaching reality itself. 

Why it might work: Conceptually, I think it’s an interesting idea, and there’s something to be had from travelling from one wild area to the next a la Star Trek or Doctor Who; if nothing else, if done right then there could be a wealth of story arcs to explore and plenty of worlds worth taking a look at, interest willing.  Arguably, Resolver could be the comic that stands as the ultimate reconciliation between me and my brother; I’ve got a character in mind for this one, but I’m more than willing to let my bro offer up his own so they could act as a team.  Likewise, I’m sure he could throw in his own ideas for which worlds they could visit next, and the two of us can build an overarching plot from there.  Much like the multiverse concept itself, there are infinite possibilities.

Why it might stumble: There are a lot of mechanics that’d need sorting out.  Ideally, travelling to other worlds would just be a matter of spatial travel, not time travel; that way, if there’s a failed resolution of a dystopia, the agents can’t just hit the reset button and time-travel back (something that could add a bit more tension and set up ideas/stories for later).  But beyond that, there’s some real work that I’d have to put in coming up with how exactly the agents resolve issues.  Diplomacy is an obvious choice -- and what my lead would excel in -- but I was also thinking of something along the lines of a digital device (a smartphone or something, maybe) that would let the agents alter a landscape.  But again, I foresee that causing some problems conceptually, and consequences in the story proper.  Even beyond that, just because we COULD come up with infinite worlds doesn’t mean that we will -- especially if it comes down to making each one distinct and fleshed-out.  Giving each world an arc of its own could help, but again, there could be problems.  It could all just lead to headaches that we’re not prepared for.

Four Dudes Go to Hell
In a nutshell: It’s exactly how it sounds

In detail: After a massive stone spire erupts in their town, four best friends decide to investigate one night to see what’s going on -- and if at all possible, try to find a Sasquatch to show off to the world.  As you’d expect, it doesn’t quite go as planned, and the buddies all find themselves transported to Hell.  So what was once an expedition has now become an escape mission; the four of them will have to brave Hell and figure out a way to get back home, all while learning about a plot to invade Earth, how to protect it, and how to return to the crushes each one of them left on the surface.

Why it might work: Eagle-eyed readers (or just investigators of archives) may recognize the title of this one; it’s actually a story I started posting early on in Cross-Up’s life, but ended up dropping because…because.  But potentially, I think it could see second life as a webcomic.  If the problem with Resolver is that it’s too complex, then 4Dudes lends itself to a simple yet comedic tale -- something easy to digest without having to worry about massive arcs.  The focus is on giving Hell a strange but nonetheless hilarious interpretation, and the small cadre of characters could make for some strong scenes.  And indeed, the Sasquatch would make an appearance before story’s end.

Why it might stumble: Staying power could be an issue in this case.  Developing a comedic version of Hell might be interesting, but it’s still just one area; there’s always the risk of it getting boring or played out before the end.  Even beyond that, there’s still the issue of ensuring that the story goes for as long as needed, and not a page more; the last thing that’s needed is to draw out a story with an obvious beginning and end.  And lastly, considering that it’s a comedy the comic will either be made or broken by my ability to keep the good jokes coming.  There’s nothing worse than a comedy that doesn’t make you laugh.

The Seife House
In a nutshell: A think tank tasked with saving the world…that’s already been destroyed

In detail: Billionaire, CEO, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and more recently, recluse -- Leonhard Seife is all those things and more.  In his twilight years he’s shied away from the public eye, but life continued on unabated.   But as fate would have it, eight of the town’s denizens -- random folk from all walks of life -- find themselves drawn to (and inside) Seife’s mansion.  They expect to find the old man and his servants ushering them out.  And by “usher out” I mean “throw into the nearest dump truck”.

 What they find -- via recorded videos -- is that their entry has been anticipated and engineered by Seife for a single reason: he believes that the seven of them hold the answers he seeks.  The issue at hand, of course, is that just as he finish explains their reason for entry, the world they knew turns into a hammered wasteland, with the only thing remaining being the mansion.  If they want to restore the world to normal, they’ll have to search Seife’s mansion for clues and information.  They have no choice but to play his “game” -- and unfortunately, they’re not alone in there.

Why it might work: The scale here is being dialed down for the sake of a more intimate tale -- but that might not be such a bad thing.  The mansion may very well become a character in itself, with plenty of secrets to be uncovered and mysteries to be solved.  More to the point, the close proximity of the cast -- and strangers, no less -- lends itself to developing these characters in ways that two partners or four best friends can’t.  The antagonists (and the conflict as well) lend themselves to mysteries as well; if there’s one thing I like in a story, it’s the ability to make both the characters and the audience go “what the hell is THAT?!”  And on a whim I came up with a potential plot twist -- one that could completely transform the story into something truly wild.

Why it might stumble: Keeping the mysteries going strong time after time could prove to be a challenge; I’m no expert when it comes to stuff like this, but I would assume that the pacing has to be right with both gains and losses for the cast if I want to keep that intrigue.  Otherwise the comic would run in circles for weeks on end.  And of course, if there’s a threat inside the mansion, I’d have to figure out how the cast is going to combat it; instinct suggests that they’d have to avoid direct combat, but I feel like there are mechanics to be had that could enhance the story and the characters (you can tell a lot about a person by how they fight), add spikes in tension, and help suggest why these eight were chosen.  I also have a sneaking suspicion that this comic would be the hardest sell to my brother; he’s been pushing for action, and this comic could easily (and maybe beneficially) do without.

Bad Knuckle
In a nutshell: There’s a guy that punches baddies;  awesomeness ensues

In detail: Tyson Frazier is a down-to-earth yet world-weary construction worker, who’s barely gotten over of a nasty divorce and a dozen rough jobs.  But as much as he’d enjoy the chance to kick back in his favorite chair and watch the big game, he’s called to action once more -- the mayor is being held captive by evil kung fu wizards, and the only one who can stop them is Frazier…the master of a thousand punches.  And so begins his journey to protect his home, beat down the bad guys, and save the day.  Unfortunately, there’s a lot more heading his way day after day.  Fortunately, he’s VERY good at punching.

Why it might work: This is where “over the top” is the absolute driving force behind the comic.  If you’ve ever played God Hand, imagine that, fuse it with Adventure Time, add in a smidgeon of Metal Gear Rising, and you’ve got a pretty strong image of what the comic would be like.  High-spectacle combat would be the order of the day, thanks in no part to Frazier’s absurd repertoire of punches: explosive flame punches, Gatling gun lightning punches, sonic boom haymakers, punches that make flowers bloom, punches that summon sandwiches, and punches whose echoes create something quite akin to guitar solos.  Among other things.

There’s a level of absurdity that’s part and parcel of the story, and you could expect plenty of insane enemies -- but part of the humor comes from Frazier’s completely deadpan reaction to everything that comes his way.  He doesn’t bat an eye at anything; that’s not to say he’s emotionless, but there is something to be had from someone so delightfully poker-faced about punching a punk with an evil mohawk that grows into a giant flaming mohawk-firing mohawk.       
Why it might stumble: It’s the same problem that all the other potential webcomics could present, only magnified tenfold: I have no clue as to how the layout of this thing will work.  I know that there’s a huge difference between writing a story for a chapter and writing a story for a comic, but right now I have no idea how that’s supposed to work out.  Admittedly this is something that my brother and I could figure out as time passes, but there are going to be layout issues, art issues, and other unforeseen constraints that could drag the production (the early chapters, especially) down.  There’s also the problem of coming up with OTT action sequences on a regular basis, and enemies that’d ratchet up the madness.  And even beyond that, I wonder how much satisfaction there is to be gained from a story like this; a part of me is worried that unless I come up with/insert some thematic or emotional oomph, there’s a chance people will start looking elsewhere for entertainment.  This being the internet, that’s an easy enough task.

And that’s pretty much all I’ve got right now. 

Again, I’m not ready to commit to either an idea or the project in general, but I figure it’d be to my advantage (and your entertainment) to put something up and gather my thoughts.  So with that said, here’s your chance to chime in.  Tell me which idea you think is coolest; give me whatever feedback you can think of, and let me know if there’s any resources I can start looking into.  If the two of us go through with this little project someday, it’d be good to know we’ve got a strong foundation instead of jumping in blind.

I just couldn't leave without putting up this picture.  Man, I love me some Penny Arcade.  And Tycho, to a similar extent.


  1. I like these ideas. They all seem like nice beginnings for potential stories. But, at least as far as my limited exposure to the medium has shown me, it takes a certain kind of story to make a good web comic.

    You've already mentioned the fact that internet viewers can always look into other forms of entertainment, and that's certainly a factor to be considered. But I'd like to add that web comics, at least the story-driven variety, shouldn't necessarily have a definable end to their stories. The characters may not have a particular goal or path in mind at first, or maybe their intended goal leaves a good amount of ambiguity as to how to get there or what will happen. It's kinda like how Sluggy Freelance and 8-Bit Theatre starts off with a couple of dudes aimlessly messing around, gradually easing into story arcs and such. Megatokyo does sorta the same thing in the beginning, and when the goal of "getting back home" comes into play, it's often swept under the rug in favor of other, more immediate problems that form the basis of other story arcs.

    Out of the four, I'd say Revolver and Bad Knuckle would make for the best web comics. The world-hopping premise for Revolver makes for clearly definable episodes and story arcs, while at the same time shrouding a greater antagonistic force behind smaller, more immediate problems that could, with their resolution, unravel the former bit by tantalizing bit. Bad Knuckle could play it like Fist of the North Star, with a deviously evasive main antagonist, or one that is actually controlled by another, bigger, and perhaps hammier antagonist that, of course, wouldn't be even remotely hinted at until the defeat of the current bad guy. Perhaps Tyson could also have a equally manly rival who hinders him at times, with an impressive array of kicks, or grapples, or the ability to block any punch thrown at him, no matter how ridiculous. Your fourth idea in particular, I feel, has a lot of potential to it as far as a web comic goes. You could make a story arc out of essentially anything, given the madcap insanity. Heck, I'd say you could even make a story arc out of the setting intended for "Four Dudes Go to Hell," with Tyson inexplicably traversing through the Inferno, slugging his way through Hell's gates to rescue the Mayor from the Prince of Darkness himself, and then making an equally fist-filled march back to the mortal realm. Why? More like why not? It'd be attention-grabbing, I'm quite sure.

  2. *is tempted to bring up the Shonen Jump competition*

  3. ...Most intriguing. Most intriguing, indeed.

  4. I seriously need to get into some more webcomics. There's been an 8-Bit Theatre-sized hole in my heart for ages, and it's high time I filled it back up. (Though to be fair, I find Spinnerette more than a little satisfying.)

    In any case, I guess if my brother and I are going to start anywhere, it should be with some very rough pages to see what'll work and what won't. I can spin a story no matter what we go with, but I'll have to do so while mindful of his art sense, style, and setup. So in that regard, I'm assuming that Bad Knuckle's going to be the easiest sell for him -- and that'll offer a bit of freedom on my end, I'm guessing. It'll all just come down to experimenting, I suppose. Start simple, and build up from there.

    It'll be interesting to see what happens next, if nothing else.

  5. Peronally, I find all those ideas agreeable, but I don't honeslty think they would all work well in a comic book narrative: Bad Knuckle, 4Dudes and Resolver sound like the best fit for webcomics, perfectly fitting the zaniness that most people look for when they go Google Seraching for comic books.

    On the other Hand, Seife House is somethoing that's better fitted to work as a series of loosely-connected personal stories. They needn't focus too hard on the MYSTERY aspect, they could in fact all be character-driven tales that slowly culminate into cracking the secret of the Seife house and it might just make for an interesting read.

    Now, for the 'what could prove problematic' part of my argument: you've presented some perfectly valid reasons why each story would stumble, but you need to keep in mind that none of those story ideas need to turn into decade-spanning sagas. They can each enjoy short, fresh runs that will pack a pretty potent punch, actually. Now, down to the problematic aspect of each idea...

    RESOLVER requires a ton of setting up ahead and will prove quite daunting to manage as a webcomic. It assumes that you will somehow be able to present, laconically and without too much embellishement, the metric TONNAGE of lore that will support this universe (trans-dimensional mechanics notwithstanding). This means that you will either need to provide lots of informational expositions that will wear out readers and challenge their attention spans, or you will have to into article-long rants to resolve any (and all) narrative conflicts that will come up.

    Perhaps resolve might work best not as a single, cohesive narrative, but as a sereis of short, stand-alone stories (like Warren Ellis' Global Frequency perhaps). But, once again, it is a very daring attempt and will require more devotion and attention that you might possibly be willing to invest. Not that it isn't worth it.

    I'd propose you checked out ryan Talbot's Adventures of Luther Arkwright, which will give you a pretty damn good idea how to handle multiversal agents and continua-spanning pots.

    4DUDES is the one thing I'd love to read the most, but like Resolver, it's not exactly going to turn into a saga either, for the reasons you outlined. Making Hell funny and interesting (and above all, engaging) is a pretty daunting task. I'd personally propose that you looked into some short stories that deal with hell and that you checked the lore on it, specifically through Crowley's Demonology, which outlines Hell, its royalty and denizens pretty damn well.

    I think that 4 dudes needs to be heavily focused on its characters and setting, rather than its story. As a matter of fact, I think this needs to be more of a bricoleur kind of story: the kind of story that is not really about anything. There's no antagonist, driving force or metaplot. It's just 4 dudes and they're in Hell and that's all there is or needs to be to it.

    BAD KNUCKLE, while I adore the idea, is also a pretty big risk. How wacky are you willing to go? Making something like GodHand sounds awesome, but how far will yout ake it? Can you risk making a story aboput zany shit going on without any reference to pop culture?

    I think this story is PERFECT for a webcomic, with a ton of possibilities, but will test your mettle in ways you can't even BEGIN to imagine. If you're looking for a long-term investment, this is the one idea you should run for and be prepared to give up at a moment's notice.

    All of the ideas above are pretty damned cool though, man. I wish I could see them all realized.

  6. Ah, good, I was hoping you'd spot this post somewhere down the line. And I'm thankful you did; points like these are just what I've been looking for.

    I think that, since making this post and reading the comments that have popped up, I'm starting to lean more toward 4Dudes and Bad Knuckle. The other two have potential, sure, but in this case I think a bit of simplicity would be best. Plus I know my brother, and he's got his comedic chops as well; it'll be an easier sell as well as a chance to have him contribute some good ideas. His art can be pretty stylistic -- and absurd -- at times, so those might be a good fit. One of these days I need to ask him where he posts his art...assuming he still does so.

    But I digress. I suppose if I ever give it a shot, I'll have to start experimenting -- you know, get a little groundwork, get ideas from my bro, test our communication skills, etc. Honestly, I don't know EXACTLY how wacky I can get, so I'd assume that getting some kind of testing done will go a long way.

    So yeah, thanks for this. Aaaaaaaaand now I have a sudden desire to start looking into demonology...

  7. Without wanting to overflow my pretention-cup, here are some storeis that might help:

    Stephen King's That Feeling, You can only say what it is in French (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/That_Feeling,_You_Can_Only_Say_What_It_Is_in_French) is a pretty awesome story about Hell and how it works and you can find it online with relative ease.

    Also, Milton's Paradiase Lost gives you a quick tour and, in the interest of avoiding too much self-promotion, I got something that might fit what you're looking for. Mail me for details.

  8. Oh yeah, Paradise Lost. That's a good one; I wonder if I've got that lying around somewhere.

    And I just might have to take you up on that offer one of these days. But don't worry about self-promotion; if you've got an idea, let me hear it. This is Cross-Up, where the points don't matter and everyone can show off their wares.

  9. Check your mail.