PLOTTING A SERIAL WEBCOMIC, PART 3 – The Throughlineon September 15th, 2011
So, it’s 2006 and I’ve got story ideas, but they’re not better than gag-a-day stuff because they’re not connected to each other or to any big idea. I didn’t have anything to say, just gags.
And that’s the key to serialization (for me): something to say. An idea like superheroes in a nursing home is inherently funny…but it’s also quite potent. We’re talking about super beings—people who have reached the pinnacle! And now their time has passed and they are not as mighty as they once were. That’s sad. That’s thought-provoking. So what do I, a (at the time) 29-year-old male from California have to say about old age and the loss of power?
Quite a lot, as it turned out. And when I figured out what I wanted to say, that’s when the story began to form in my head.
All of the sudden, I saw how to connect all the ideas and feed them into a theme (a theme which I will not share with you because a) an author should almost never explain the theme and b) it would ruin the ending I’m working towards). A conspiracy began to develop in my mind and I saw how one of the heroes would orchestrate that conspiracy to move along the action from chapter-to-chapter. I saw what drove that hero to such lengths and how the people around him were flawed and how those flaws shaped him and how all their flaws and virtues spoke directly to my theme.
Honestly, when it all came together, it did so quickly.
I wrote as fast as I could, expanding on the story ideas freely and keeping the continuity and journeys of the characters tight. I broke it up by chapters, all the way through to the end of what I imagined at the time would be Chapter 9, but in reality and in the process of time ended up being the current chapter, Chapter 12 – Jackpot!
Let’s take a look at the breakdown for SuperFogeys Volume 1 (and a little of Volume 2) Again—SPOILERS if you’re not caught up with the story:
CHAPTER 1 “Insane Romance From Hell”
Spy Gal comes to Valhalla undercover but then gets stuck. Dr. Rocket kidnaps her to have his way with her, but she wakes up and turns the tables on him. Jerry and CS think that Spy Gal is in love with Dr. Rocket, but when it’s revealed that she isn’t, CS and Spy Gal hook back up. It is then revealed that Jerry is in love with Spy Gal and has been for a long time.
CHAPTER 2 “Bingo Night”
Bingo Night comes to Valhalla. We meet Dr. Klein, head of Valhalla. The Big prize for Bingo Night is a 5-minute session with the Healer and whoever wins will be healed forever. CS wins and is able to walk again. After a confrontation with Dr. Rocket, CS decides that using a wheelchair is just plain easier and opts to return to it. Meanwhile, Jerry grows jealous of CS and Spy Gal.
Start with Shadowy guy talking to Babbletech about rigging CS’s computer. Shadowy guy admits to being behind the Bingo Night. Dr. Klein decides the SuperFogeys need to learn about the latest technology and makes them all get MySpace Profiles. We see many other heroes’ profiles, including the Healer, Money Man, Captain Supermarket, Mega Matt (failed sidekick with a broken arm and insecurity issues), etc. When Captain Spectacular boots up his computer, he finds that it is already set to the MySpace page of Star Woman, the greatest superheroine who ever lived. She’s deranged and working a webcam. And she’s CS’s ex. In flashback, we see how they got together and broke up. Dr. Klein makes a decision to go get her and bring her to Valhalla and it is revealed that Dr. Klein is Shadowy guy and his plan is to make CS miserable (he’s lying–he really wants CS to give up SG and go to SM).
Once there, Star Maiden first comes in as the Fogeys are beginning the second part of the seminar–they learn how to play the Nintendo Wii from Dictator Tot. Dr. Klein goes out of town on business (we think), but not before Third Man gives Dicator Tot a gun and says “You know what to do.” When Star Woman first arrives, she sees Dr. Rocket and CS as their younger selves punching the living daylights out of each other. Turns out, they’re just playing Wii boxing. It then becomes obvious what Star Woman’s problem is–she’s has dementia and thinks everyone, including herself, are still their younger counterparts. That’s how she sees them. Plus, she says outrageous, off the wall things. (A go-to character for the non sequitir) The dementia is the result of alien tampering (or something). This becomes a problem as they’re playing with the Wii and she sees real guns and swords in their hands. The beginnings of a romance blossom as Swifty finds himself quite taken with Star Maiden (Their initial encounter consists of Swifty cussing out the Wii, Star Maiden slapping him and chastising him and telling how young and svelte he is and how much he has going for him. Beat. Swifty hearts Star Maiden.) She’s the only one who sees him as he once was–young, strong and fast. In reality: Dr. Klein, having failed to get rid of Captain Spectacular by curing him, has now brought in another superheroine to distract him from Spy Gal. It doesn’t work as CS is no longer attracted to Star Woman. Jerry now has even more of a reason to hate Swifty. Jerry gets shot in the chest by Dictator Tot over a bad game of Wii Bowling (Jerry goes down. Next strip, CS cradles his unconscious head while DT cackles in the background. CS: SOMEONE GET THAT BRAT OUT OF HERE!) and Dr. Rocket is the only one who can save him because Dr. Klein is out of town and he does so gladly, having slowly turned into a decent human being. He performs the surgery and all is well. The Fogeys wonder what Dr. Klein was thinking bringing DT to Valhalla. (In reality, DK/Jerry arranged the whole thing to make Spy Gal feel sorry for him.)
While he is in recovery Spy Gal tends to Jerry, while CS spends some time getting to know SM again, but CS is no longer attracted to Star Woman. Swifty makes his move and Jerry, once he’s out of recovery, hates him more. While Jerry is still in recovery, Tangerine comes to Valahalla. He’s called Tangerine because that’s how he dispatches villains. He smashes their heads like they’re tiny little tangerines. This gives us a chance to explore the modern antihero vs. the more silver age kind of hero that the Fogeys are. Chapter opens with Tangerine out on a mission with the Society of Heroes. Villain tricks him away from the rest of the other heroes and just when Tangerine is about to strike, villain turns into a little girl, weeping. Tangerine gets put away in Valhalla because he finally came close to crossing the line. Then it’s revealed that Dr. Klein was behind Tangerine’s “incarceration” as part of his deal with the Healer in Chapter 2 (Healer should make a cameo). We see Klein talking to a shadowed man stroking a bunny and thanking him for his help (turns out later it’s the real Dr. Rocket.) When Tangerine finds out that Dr. Rocket is at Valhalla, he attempts to kill him, but the other Fogeys come to Dr. Rocket’s rescue (much to their surprise). Tangerine catches up with Dr. Rocket anyway and kills him. A period of mourning overtakes the SuperFogeys. Death (personified) shows up to tell the SuperFogeys that Dr. Rocket is not on the other side. An autopsy reveals that Dr. Rocket was really a robot double, who had been malfunctioning and turning into a good guy. The Society of Heroes (including Captain Spectacular II) find the real Dr. Rocket (who can walk, wears black gloves, has a pet bunny and has three long, stringy hairs and no friendship with Captain Spectacular) and bring him to Valhalla. Once everything is back to normal, Tangerine takes a whiff of the group and remarks, “Another one of you is not who they appear to be.” Despite Spy Gal’s protests, Tangerine refuses to explain himself.
Now, again, you’ll notice a bunch of things that didn’t make it into the final chapters themselves. In fact, I was overly ambitious with my ideas for Chapter 5 and ended up splitting it into two, with the whole funeral story pushed over to Chapter 6 as a part of Volume 2.
So, my macro story was in place. I knew what my meal looked like. I knew where I was headed and I knew roughly how to get there. Now all my energies could be focused on the individual chapters themselves.
Next: Breaking Down a Chapter