Monday, July 14, 2014

MOON JELLY MONDAYS #3 - That One Webcomic I Did 10 Years Ago.

(WARNING: You will see a lot of terrible art from when I was 16 in this post.)

Let's be honest: I don't think many artists like to think/talk about their earlier work. 

Hell, it's been 4 years since I started the Dissect My Brain comic, and I don't really like talking about the earlier stuff. I don't even like talking about its last run in print for the Union Weekly, and that ended just about 2 years ago.

So how much more when it comes to talking about a comic I did 10 years ago when I was 16?

Normally, I would disregard this as a work of irrelevance, but if we're talking about comics I did for the public's eye (albeit, a small public), this would be the grandma to everything I have ever done since.

Being as I don't feel comfortable sharing all of it, I won't name the comic in question here. (However, if you REALLY would like to see the original comic, it still lays dormant on the interwebs. Just shoot me a message/comment/e-mail, and I will link it to you. However, be forewarned: it's as embarrassing as I'm about to describe in detail in this blog.)

So, to give you guys some context: I'm a sophomore in high school. The internet isn't quite as blown out of proportion as it was today, and I didn't know many people in real life who shared the same interest in anime and manga as I do. As such, I used to frequent a message board dedicated to the genre.
One day, I had the brilliant idea to say on the message board: “Hey. We're all into comics here. Why don't we all start our own comic?”

The premise was simple: everyone on the message board contributes a character (typically, we would go off of our screen names), and it would be up to me as the “editor in chief” to tie in the universe together. I would take suggestions on the plot, but overall, I was in charge to come up with everything.

Armed with MS Paint and PowerPoint: the comic was put into production.

Needless to say, from 2004 – 2006, a crude mess of a comic was born. I mean this in both a good way and a bad way, but it was the “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” of webcomics.

The main story was a simple, run-of-the-mill, “terrorist causes a national disaster-anarchy consumes the land-various factions fight over being the next ruler of the universe” sort of deal. Everyone has their motives. Morality is kept on the shades of grey, so who you chose to root for was entire up to you. (Trust me, there's not as much depth as I'm making it sound here.)

As with a lot of my works, the story wasn't really the focus. In fact, a lot of it was parody, so it was always “tongue-in-cheek” and derivative of anime tropes. The focus of the comic was the dialogue, characters, and their relationships.

And with this came the creation of May and Arisa.

First, I will start off with the character I created: May Sixteen

Get ready. Here comes the crackheaded, obviously derivative story that only a 16 year mind can come up with. (I want to preface it here that I was writing a comedy, so don't take any of this stuff TOO seriously.)

May Sixteen (named after the Lagwagon song of Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 fame, and not the Guilty Gear character or Queen's James May, mind you) is the sixteenth genetically enhanced, artificially engineered human created in Schwarzwald Labs, Germany. May is androgynous, but at the start of the comic, is widely accepted as male. As part of a lab experiment in tampering human's abilities, he was granted the ability of super-speed. In times of high emotional stress, May also unwillingly transform into his alter-ego of Amy, who is far superior in strength and abilities. (Amy would later on be revealed to be similar to the girl that May was originally cloned from.)

In the world of the comic, May is introduced as an amnesiac who tries to make an honest living day to day as a traveling musician. However, since this never seems to work out, May resorts to transforming into his alter-ego, Amy, and partakes in local heists, robbing banks, museums, and liquor stores.

One of the main characters looking to become ruler of the world mistakes May as a female, and captures him, thinking he would make a suitable queen. While held captive by this character, May is mistaken as part of the group, and is now hunted alongside her captors by rival factions.

The conception of May was simple: Ranma ½ meets D.N. Angel. My username on the message board was “May 16,” and because people weren't able to figure out that it was a song reference, I was frequently mistaken for a girl on the message board. When it came time to transpose this into a character for the comic, I figured: why not make May androgynous? It wasn't this bold, profound statement on gender roles; it was just a tongue-in-cheek reference to a poorly chosen user name. The initial design for May was based off of Hyde of the band, L'Arc~en~Ciel. One of my friends at the time was really into them, and we were watching the “Blurry Eyes” video together with his sister, and the whole time she could not figure out if Hyde was a man or a woman.

As for writing May, he was always written to be an unassuming doofus. You would think the part about May being a washed-up rock star was a fun jab at myself, but no. Back in 2004 when I was writing May, I had just started playing guitar and was not quite the jaded veteran of local music scene as I am now.

May's relationships in the comic vary from character to character (most of them find him downright annoying), but her one friend in side-story comics was going to be Arisa.

Credit: Machan
Arisa was created by a poster by the name of Machan. (I would later get to know her as “Emily”) She did a series of 3 side-story comics that established Arisa's character. Her likes include Final Fantasy X's Tidus, bells, and dancing. Her dislikes include (ironically) singing and peanuts. The character was very similar to May's; she's was another washed up musician in the comic universe who was only there for comic relief. The only difference was that Arisa was a pop idol-type of singer.

So naturally, with Machan's blessing, I decided to pair the two into a very shitty band called: “T is for Tidus.”

A lot of promotional work for the comic paired them together, but alas, in 2006, I decided to leave the comic. It was popular on the message board (mostly for its novelty, I'm sure), and I probably left at its peak.

I was a “Jim Shooter” type of editor. I was constantly making sure that there was continuity and an overarching storyline to the whole thing. Some people liked this creative choice, while others didn't care for it. I tried taking a break from it at first. When I came back, the comic had turned into more of a continuity-less "gag a week" strip on Internet fads. There were more posters with more ideas, so I took it upon myself to start a new comic in the same universe to meet the demand of people wanting more of a storyline to the webcomic.

It was fun while it lasted, but I was creatively spent by the end of it. (I remember somebody pitching a rape-revenge sort of story, and I didn't feel comfortable drawing that.) I was also very immature at the time, and couldn't work well with some of the other cooks I let into the kitchen, so I just gave it to them. By then, I had picked up skills messing around with the comic, and was just starting college.

I officially left on the 27th strip of the main story (it was appropriately titled "New Beginnings), and did 10 side story chapters before I was out. (As of writing, Dissect My Brain has been about roughly 40 strips.) The comic ended on its 42nd strip in 2006.

From there, I started drawing autobiographical comics (most notably, one about “Fat Joe” and another one slightly more popular called “Clockwork.”), and I would never return to the realm of sci-fi ever again.

And for the time being, I still won't.

However, at times, I do miss writing the actual characters of May/Amy and Arisa. In fact, I had a lot with them that I feel I could say.

Still, I do fully acknowledge that the past is the past, and what's done is done.

This is Arisa and May as cosplaying the Ultimate Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch for laughs, btw.
I don't think I'll ever write them EXACTLY again, but spiritual successors, however?

That's not entirely out of the question.


SPECIAL THANKS to Emily ("Machan") for giving me the opportunity to mess with her creation many years ago.

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