I’m gonna post a roster of people (and possibly places) that I plan to develop. Then people can clamor for me to workshop a particular character or location. I’ll link to post archives where I have them.
I’ll repost this roster every so often so I can keep track of my work. The roster is likely to change, anyway, so I’ll try to keep it updated. Some characters will come, some will go over the course of the development.
From the Top – People
Caliph Osoron – The Ruler of Aremshah
Naxan/Lord Naskos – The Caliph’s agent and loyal friend
Meabh – A spy and infiltrator
Mevar – A man hiding from his past in the Caliph’s palace
Chancellor Halam – The Caliph’s most dedicated servant
Lord Ice – An old ruler from a distant land
Feng – The charming, handsome son of Lord Ice
Mei – The sorcerer-daughter of Lord Ice
Others as I remember them
From the Top – Places
The Shining City of Aremshah
The Caliph’s Palace (name forthcoming)
From the Bottom – People
Drachmir – A bestial exile
Lilac – A lovely dancer
Icicle and Glacier – Mysterious twins
Irlix – A cunning fence
Nox – A killer-for-hire
Athtar – A crimelord and sorcerer
Siraj – A sky pirate
Refat – Siraj’s right-hand-man
From the Bottom – Places
The Glowing Gem
The lower regions of Aremshah
Patrick Sanders – Telepath, orphan, summoner
Rory “Skyhawk” Campbell – Adrenaline junkie, air control, biomedical engineer
Going to address the comments I need to reply to in this post!
How many kids did Patrick save from the fire?
More than 5, less than 10. I haven’t put down a number exactly.
Is he just taking care of those kids or is he collecting random street urchins that he finds as life goes on?
He’s only taking care of kids he rescued from the Brick House. He sometimes helps out other kids, but he doesn’t adopt them like the others.
What percentage of them get powers? What percentage of people in the world get powers?
All of Pat’s kids have powers. In the world at large, less than 1% of people have powers, probably. Probably fewer since that’s still 1 in 100 people and I think the percentage should be fewer. Maybe 1 in 10,000 or 1 in 100,000.
What happened to his parents and does he care considering they put him in the Brick House?
Parents are a plot hook I am leaving undiscussed here!
At what age did he get placed in there?
Somewhere between 3-5. He was very young.
Do you realize that because of the orphanage name Brick House, every time I read it my mind sings “Shes a Brick….Hoooouuuse! Shes mighty mighty, lettin it all hang out.”
Are any of Patrick’s “kids” or former “kids” slated to join his superhero team?
Poooossibly. I may even have one on the main team as his sidekick. We’ll see once I finish working on some of the other characters.
If they dropped bad guys off at a police station and ran wouldn’t the people get away right away unless there’s evidence enough to go against them thus making all the work pointless since a note that says “I’m bad!” wouldn’t really help?
The locations where Patrick runs are full of thugs and crooks. I imagine the superhero team goes after people that are on wanted lists or who are obvious threats that the police can’t quite handle, but the main superhero team doesn’t have time to go after. Otherwise, I imagine they leave some way to link the crooks to the crimes.
I’m assuming the Avatars are conjured up by extreme emotions, thus, if hes very afraid, poop, there goes his Avatar of Fear. Or if hes angry, poop, Avatar of Anger, but what about happy ones? If the poor kid goes to get his groove thing on one day, does he poop out an Avatar of Love or Lust subconsciously because that might disterb a lot of people.
“Poop” really isn’t the right word for this :P
I imagine it could happen. Though it hasn’t happened in those situations yet.
These could make some good ideas for omni-avatars as Patrick gets more powerful.
I can see Patrick’s idol as either being one of the higher-ups in the drug testing or perhaps a company he owns is being used by someone (government, secret criminal enterprise, cult) to develop the drugs to test on kids. The philanthropist idol could be completely clueless about it and being used or could be a pawn and thinking he’s actually performing treatments on sick children to better their lives, only he’s actually testing potent new drugs. I don’t know if you’ve watched “No Ordinary Family” on TV, but I think you could mine some ideas from it.
Hmm, that makes an interesting twist. Someone directly involved with the goings on at the Brick House without really knowing it.
So the question is then whether the powers are a desired result of the drugs or if they just trigger latent mutant powers like in Cloak and Dagger. Then you have to ask whether some group is wanting to create the powers or if they are an undesired result. They could be trying to create an army of supers or they could be looking for a chosen one if it’s a cult. The chosen one could either be an incarnation they need to trigger some event or they could be looking for a specific set of powers and use the kids as sacrificial lambs.
I think the drugs triggered or cultivated latent powers. I came up with this idea since reading your comment:
A certain small percentage of people in this world have some kind of marker in their biological makeup. This marker signifies the potential to develop superpowers. My thought is the Brick House people were trying to force certain powers to develop.
Whether it was the drugs or just the marker activating that caused Patrick and the others to develop powers? Who can say.
Maybe the experimenters arranged it so that children with that marker were placed in the Brick House.
If I seem stuck on cults, I have a thing for Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft. Also, zealots who truly believe what they’re doing is for the benefit of mankind make for a deeper villain who may believe what they’re doing is for the greater good. Villains only in it for the power are good and a tradition in comics, but they can also be too one dimensional. You’d also be missing a chance to emphasize with a character who may not truly be bad but who believes that the means justify the ends. I don’t know how deep or conspiracy-laced the story you want to tell is.
Villains like Ra’s al Ghul and Magneto have a reason for doing what they do. Ra’s is trying to save the world from man by killing off large portions of the population. His goals are noble but his methods are abhorrent. Magneto wants to save his people from normal humans by any means necessary.
Compare them to Lex Luthor and Doctor Doom who are after power for powers sake at any cost. Both are classic villains.
I haven’t delved too much into what villains I’m dealing with yet. I am trying to work with ideas still. I have a few ideas in mind that run the gamut from “power-crazed madman” in the vein of Apocalypse to more rationalizing villains like Magneto. I also have some plot ideas that don’t involve villains, per se, but involve problems that the protagonists need to resolve.
At the moment, I am trying to develop the heroes so I know who my villains will be facing. I think some villains may even arise from my work. None of these heroes have real “professional” experience as superheroes and for some, this may even be their first time standing up to real thugs/criminals. For example, Patrick’s mostly dealt with petty crime and street thugs. Moving up to full-fledged super-villains is a BIG step.
That being said, the official team will have a number of persistent thorns in their sides that I need to address. Some of the characters may change or be filled out more as the world gets fleshed out.
I probably just made things worse, but such is my way.
Not at all :D Love the feedback!
I’ll wrap this post up with a concept sketch of Patrick!
I’ve got some comments to address from last week’s posts and I’ll get to those soon. However, a chat with KiwiValkyrie the other night brought a great concept for character development to mind.
What is your character’s voicemail message?
When people call your character and your character doesn’t pick up, what does the caller hear? Or what would they hear if your character had voicemail? That last is for all the characters that live in worlds without phones.
Patrick’s would say, “Hey, it’s Pat. I can’t answer right now, but leave a message. I’ll call you back.”
Osoron has clerks or secretaries to answer his phone, but his personal cell would probably go something like this: “This is Osoron. I’m really busy, but if you leave a message, I’ll call you back as soon as I have a moment to breathe.”
Something fun to think about. What do your characters’ voicemail messages say?
It’s a tried, but true concept in superhero fiction. The Brick House, the orphanage where Patrick was raised, was administering drugs to the children. The drugs eventually caused the development of superpowers. Patrick was the only child lucky (or unlucky) enough to become a telepath, which is a rarity in this superhero world.
The other children will make appearances since Patrick still cares for most of them. I’ve been rolling random powersets using a variety of different lists so I can have a number of concepts to work with. I have a nice list of interesting concepts that I can pull from to design some of the kids. I figure Patrick looks out for about 5-7 children still, all in varying stages of super-development.
The destruction of the Brick House destroyed most of the records. Most of the staff and all the children were inside when the building burned. Not all the bodies were accounted for, but authorities declared all inhabitants dead.
As a result, Patrick is legally dead. That’s why he’s working under the table.
I figure he never tried to reclaim his identity because he knows that on some level what happened to him at the Brick House was bad, and he’d rather not be located by any of the orphanage’s sponsors. He was twelve when the orphanage burned, so he was old enough to remember much of his situation.
The reasons for the drug testing could be anything. Maybe the sponsors were trying to create a breed of super-soldiers (like Fringe, Cloak and Dagger, or Weapon X). Or maybe they were just an unethical pharmaceuticals group that used orphaned children as their test subjects. Whatever the case, Patrick knows several children developed powers before him, and several of those went mad or died.
So, Patrick’s got a lot of potential story arcs going for him. Brick House sponsors could resurface and learn who Patrick is. His kids, either at home or moved on, could get into trouble. Some might end up on the wrong side of the hero/villain scale. Patrick’s parents can emerge. They claimed financial inability to support a child and voluntarily gave up parental rights, then severed contact.
He also has a personal hero-figure. This character can be toyed with for story purposes. Once Patrick takes on a more real super-hero lifestyle, he may even get to meet his idol.
Also, when his avatar is summoned, his other telepathic powers are locked out. Moreover, when he reaches extreme emotional states, the avatars can spontaneously manifest and act on their own. Their actions are dictated by Patrick’s own instincts. It’s hard for me to explain. Essentially the avatar is still linked to Patrick’s mind, but it acts independently based on the emotion that it represents. Patrick has to track it down and re-absorb it into his psyche. This makes for a good short story arc.
Well, there’s not much more to add right now. My next plan is to draft a few rough sketches of Patrick. I need to do a few roughs of Osoron, too. So I’ll try to do that over the next week or so.
I’ll also make a few quick lists of other concepts that I’ll be working with later on in this development process.
I also need to archive the comic and make this blog information more prominent.
Let’s take a gear change and work on the first main character for my superhero comic!
Meet Patrick Sanders!
Patrick is a rarity in my superhero universe. He’s a telepath. Like all telepaths, he’s gifted with the power to read thoughts, communicate to other minds, and shield his mind against telepathic intrusion.
Also like all telepaths, he has a unique telepathic skill that no other telepaths have.
Patrick has phenomenal emotional control. He can’t control someone else’s emotions but he has control over his own. His control allows him to project his own emotions into a physical manifestation, an avatar. The avatars are psionic constructs that he can command. As an extension of his own mind, the avatars obey his telepathic commands.
He also has some subconscious control over luck. It isn’t to where he can win the lottery, but his luck is enough to make the difference between a broken arm and a broken neck. Sometimes he’ll win a couple hundred dollars off a scratch card. Those of you that play Mage: The Awakening, he can produce effects like the Winds of Chance spell (Fate 1, I think).
Patrick’s an orphan who grew up fending for himself in the underside of the city. His parents were poor and surrendered him to an orphanage called the Brick House. When he was about twelve years old, the Brick House burned down. Patrick’s powers manifested for the first time. An avatar sprang forth and saved him and several of his fellow orphans from the burning wreck.
The children turned to Patrick, the oldest survivor, for leadership and Patrick accepted the mantle. In the beginning, they lived off whatever they could find and survived winter by squatting in abandoned buildings. Other children began to develop powers of their own, but most of them kept quiet to avoid being noticed by the system.
Once Patrick was old enough, he got a job with people willing to pay cash under the table. The job was enough to help him give the kids a roof and a little bit of food. Life wasn’t easy, but it gradually grew better.
Now Patrick’s in his early 20s and still does work. A few of the kids grew old enough to make their own ways. Some moved on from Patrick’s care to seek their own ways. Others are not quite old enough or confident enough to make that jump.
Patrick has something of an everyman personality. He’s a natural leader sort, augmented by his telepathic powers. His emotion-based powers make him pretty even-tempered and level-headed and his luck-based powers have nurtured an optimistic personality. He is much more “half-full,” but hardened by the rigors of his lifestyle.
In other words, he’s not a bouncy, cheerful type. He’s more of a calm, collected fellow who follows his instincts because things usually work out.
He has two major complications right now. First, he has pyrophobia. Open flames larger than a gas stove burner cause anxiety at best and outright terror at worst. Even gas stove flames and candles make him nervous.
Second, he has a responsibility toward “his” kids. He thinks of them more as younger brothers and sisters than sons and daughters but he’s hugely protective of them. Even though all the children have powers, many aren’t well-developed and the children are still vulnerable to many super-villains out there.
Powers & Abilities
Touched on this above, but to recap:
Telepathy: Patrick can communicate telepathically with living creatures. He can also sense surface thoughts and shield his own mind against telepathic intrusion. He can probe deeper than surface thoughts, but it is much harder for him than an average telepath.
Psychic Constructs: Patrick can project his emotion in the form of a psychic construct, which he calls an avatar. Each avatar is a reflection of his mind’s image of that emotion. His avatar of fear, for example, usually manifests as a creature of fire because of his pyrophobia. If Patrick experiences extreme emotion, an avatar can spontaneously manifest. If this happens, it might break free of Patrick’s control. This locks out Patrick’s ability to summon other avatars until he can absorb the loose avatar back into his mind.
Luck Manipulation: Patrick’s control over luck is more subconscious than conscious, but it affects his life in small ways. Good things tend to happen to him — or at least, he tends to escape with scrapes and bruises instead of broken bones. He considers himself very fortunate. His control is a little more conscious, but it’s tenuous at best.
Brawler: Patrick’s not a high-class physical combatant but he’s been through his share of scrapes, brawls, and tussles. He lives in a poorer district of the city, so even with his luck and his powers, life is not always safe. So he’s picked up a few brawling, dirty-fighting, and improvised-weapon skills. You never know when some thug’s going to try and kick your ass.
Motivation for fighting: In recent years, Patrick’s taken to some vigilante work on the streets. He’ll stop muggers, protect the innocent, try and keep bystanders out of harm’s way. He wants to make the city safer for his kids.
He also has a hero figure. It’s someone he’s never met, but is an important figure in the city. This figure doesn’t need to be a superhero. It could be a politician or philanthropist. Whoever this person is, his works have made a profound impact on Patrick’s life.
Leadership Role: Right now, Patrick is slated to be the leader for my underground superhero team. My aim is to have an existing, mainstream team in the background. That team is the “main” hero group, sort of the Justice League or Avengers of the setting. Patrick and his folks are more like the Runaways, Young Avengers, or maybe even the Thunderbolts. In the bigger scheme, they’re seen more as a potent vigilante group than champions of justice. Patrick, with his natural talent, his telepathy, and his background raising a bunch of orphans make him a good choice for leadership.
Avatar Designs: Patrick’s power is pretty flexible, but I think I’m going to stick with a few specific designs. Patrick uses some avatars more than others. I think a smaller portfolio of well-developed avatar designs will be better than a wider range of less-developed ideas.
Power Origin: I am debating if it’s better to reveal the origin of his powers now or if it’d be best to wait. It’s not a big secret and something I think can be revealed (especially canny people probably caught onto it already). I will consider since there will be a few other posts on Patrick
Anything else? Any questions, comments, concerns, issues, editorials?
I really need to sit down one day soon and mess with a few visual design options. Maybe in the next couple days I’ll make a post that is just posting costume references so we have a nice library of designs to look at for inspiration.
Anyway, got a few ideas to mull over from the comments on yesterday’s post. Here are the points I’d like to look at more.
Osoron spends most of his time away from the central palace, but still serves a useful purpose. Anything from being a royal surveyor to being assigned to govern a backwater province that has little importance in the kingdom. The assignment should have Osoron be active in the realm, maybe in the whole world. His experiences should be a benefit and a hindrance. On the one hand, he has practical, worldly experience. On the other, he’s not very politically savvy. This assignment is for one of two (or both) reasons:
The caliph wants to get his half-blood son away from the palace. Osoron’s heritage makes him a source of embarrassment and controversy in the court proper.
The caliph’s heir-apparent is a conniving jerk and the caliph sent Osoron away to protect him from the crown prince’s machinations.
I am going to keep the throne hereditary. This keeps the system simple and easily relatable. Among the things I need to consider are how to fit information into the comic. Cultural elements need to be seamlessly inserted and explaining a new system might be cumbersome. Using an unusual system is a great idea and something I may revisit later. Right now, Osy’s claim to rulership is by blood and his older siblings are dead.
Need to come up with the background for Osoron’s questionable heritage. Some ideas:
The son of the Caliph and a lower-class woman.
The son of the Caliph and a looked-down-on race or people.
The son of the Caliph and a member of a rival race or people.
The woman may have infiltrated (shapeshifting), may have come as a gesture of peace, may have tried to get a son with the caliph so her people would have a line to the throne.
The woman may have turned her back on her people because of love for the Caliph.
The son of the Caliph’s second wife
Here are some things I’ll need to consider about Aremshah life based on Osoron’s background. More development on this will come in a future post.
The significance of sorcerers in Aremshah culture.
I have it right now that Osoron being a sorcerer AND caliph is a big deal and I’ll need to identify why.
Maybe sorcerers are a controlled class in Aremshah
Maybe sorcerers hope that by having one on the throne, the status of the sorcerer class will change.
Maybe they’re just that rare in Aremshah.
Maybe sorcerers are a certain type of elite that’s in direct service to the Caliph, but none have ever held the throne before.
Most races are descended from the now-extinct djinn. Thus, most races have some low-level innate magical ability. Many people are able to display a minor magical talent.
Of the races that have magic heritage, a small percentage have the ability to cultivate their power and train to become full-fledged sorcerers. This seems to follow mostly hereditary lines (there is at least one magocracy culture on this world), but not always, and sometimes it doesn’t make sense. The spark may skip a generation, or skip several generations, and then suddenly gift an entire large family.
Each culture/race/nation has different was of dealing with sorcerers.
Persecution is probably rare, except among non-magical races.
By persecution, I mean anything from the way mages are handled in the Dragon Age setting to the burning of “witches” archetype.
The identity of at least one rival race or nation that Osoron’s mother is potentially from. Or, failing that, some kind of cultural aspect that makes his birth a minor taboo. Even if it’s not related to Osoron’s heritage, a good antagonist country makes for good story.
A little about court processes, politics, etc. Things like how heirs are chosen, what sorts of ministers aid in running the country, perhaps a little history on the caliph’s line, how far back it stretches, and how power is and has been distributed
I think that’s a good outline for future discussion. And gives some options to mull over for fleshing out Osoron and his world.
Here are some design and development updates that I discussed off-site with a couple friends that I want to chronicle here for future reference. Hopefully, this will encourage some more discussion and brainstorming this week as Osoron continues to get developed. Here’s what I’ve got!
I talked with a few people about this. To my surprise, many of them said they don’t think using “runaway princess” will be so bad as long as it’s not a constant presence. They said if Osoron is not a “runaway princess” now, it should be fine. It was suggested it can be used to highlight how much being away from his father’s palace has really changed him and his outlook on life. I can use flashbacks or memories where Osoron says, “Man, I was such a spoiled brat back then” to enhance the character.
What do you think? At first I was worried the “runaway princess” bit would be annoying but if it’s background, it could make for a deeper character. The more I think about it, the more I consider how well it could work. It makes a more well-rounded character who has experiences to draw on (a goal I want to achieve) and a past to show it.
A Prince Away from Home
The talk sparked another question.
If Osoron is the heir-apparent, why the hell didn’t they find him sooner?
The easy solution is that Osoron wasn’t the heir-apparent.
If Osoron is from questionable stock and is not the visible heir to the throne, then the royal family will not be as intent on keeping him at home. He’d still be a person of interest, but princes and princesses have traditionally found many reasons to leave home. Some become military leaders, some have become explorers, and so forth.
This also answers another question. Why does Osoron, the new caliph, not have the training to become caliph? Well, because nobody ever expected him to become caliph. He was one of the younger children (maybe the youngest?) and of unpleasant heritage.
Many of you may wonder how the story leads to Osoron becoming the ruler since he wasn’t heir-apparent.
The story opens with a coup attempt on the royal household. Osoron’s father and siblings are killed. Osoron is lucky and survived only because he wasn’t at home when the coup happened. Now, the adventurer-son has to come home and assume a throne he’s not prepared to take.
Why would I want to do this? A few reasons.
Osoron is politically untrained for his position, but he’s being thrust into a politically unstable environment. Suddenly there’s a power vacuum. While the throne is filled, ambitious politicians and nobles suspect their new lord is weak. The coup’s perpetrators are still at large. Osoron has to struggle to learn how to be politically savvy, keep his throne intact, and keep himself from becoming a puppet ruler controlled by more powerful nobles.
How Long’s He Been Gone?
Originally, Osoron ran away and never came back until he was made to come back. Now, I think he spends most of his time away from home, but comes back once every couple years or so for important occasions or just to touch base.
Would that be better? He’d left on bad terms before, but he also had a reason to stick around. Now he has less reason to stay and may even prefer being away from the capital.
What do you think? Good? Bad? Should I run with these ideas? Do the ideas evoke any questions or further lines that need to be pursued?
Time for me to launch the public development effort! Please jump in and let’s discuss and see where we can go with this.
The first character I’m going to work with right now is Osoron. Here’s an old picture of him.
In prior incarnations, Osoron had a lot of issues. He followed the “runaway princess” model. Had a fight with his dad (who was the caliph and an old djinni) ran away from home, never came back. Then his father died, the caliph’s loyal followers found him and dragged him back home to become the new caliph. Once installed, the new caliph faced a number of challenges. He never anticipated becoming caliph after leaving, and he’d undergone several lifestyle changes over the years. So there was a very difficult adjustment period as Osoron attempted to deal with the conflicts between his old life and his new one.
Not only that, Osoron was suddenly beset from intrigue on all sides. A number of djinni bristled at the fact that a half-blood was their new ruler. And insidious enemies of the caliph’s court infiltrated the court with intent to overthrow Aremshah from within. All this combined with a hostile army of cloud giants waiting on his border was a lot for a newly-crowned caliph to take in.
In the fantasy story, Osoron will represent the “view from the top” storyline. I plan to address the matters he deals with as a ruler and as a man conflicted between his own desires and yearnings and the needs of his station. There will be intrigue and diplomacy, though his side of the story will also have plenty of action. Many elements will need to be changed. In the actual sessions, Osoron was an air genasi and a druid of the elements who lived on the Plane of Air. Obviously, this will be retooled to fit the world I’m creating. The details of the world will come in a future post, but some elements of the character design help me identify what I need to develop in the world, and vice versa.
Okay! The intro is out of the way, so check behind the cut for the workshop part.
After some serious soul-searching with the comic the past month and especially the past week, I’ve decided to go with option #2 from my previous post. That means I’m officially drawing the curtain on Metamorphosis as a webcomic and I’m going to start actively developing a new webcomic idea
What’s this mean for the site?
Officially, this site will be a webcomics- and gaming-related blog. It will be much more than that, though. I intend to share the majority of my development process here. Character and location designs, written concept development, various musings on my experiences in both comic design and development and writing. This site is not going inactive. Far from it. I plan to make weekly postings at the minimum and can probably do more frequent blogging from time to time.
I invite you all to jump in with me. Leave comments, feedback, thoughts, ideas. A big reason I’m going to do this publicly is to get reader involvement. Bring your friends, let’s make a whole party out of this. Needless to say, not every idea will be used. They may not fit my vision of the project, or they may get used for a while, then dropped in favor of something else, or any number of other things. Please don’t take it personally. The brainstorming really helps get new ideas and considerations on the table, but isn’t meant to be a list of everything that will be included. That being said, the concepts tend to evolve as the rest of the setting develops, so something from an old brainstorming session could come back to relevance later on.
I won’t share everything about the process. If I reveal the whole character or story to you at the beginning, there’s not much reason for me to make a webcomic out of it, is there? ;) But this is an opportunity for you readers to get involved as much or as little as you like.
Metamorphosis will get archived in time, but will still be available. I am still deciding how I want to show the rest of the story. Summaries would be faster but prose fiction might be more enjoyable. I always envisioned that if each story arc was presented in another medium, they’d take up a full hour slot TV show or would be individual books in a larger series. I will tinker and see what works best for me.
The base site address will change (I’ve been wanting to change www.kaitoukage.net for over a year now but haven’t really had a chance or the money) but all of the URLs you might be used to using, like psmetamorphosis.com or metamorphosis-comic.com will be available at least another year.
How’s it gonna work?
Most of this I’ve covered. I’m going to post a concept every week or so and we can run with it. Sometimes the concept will be visual, sometimes written, sometimes a little of both. If discussion continues to be lively on a particular concept, I may postpone putting the next one up until things settle down. Or I’ll keep things going and encourage more discussion on other topics!
After that, I’ll write up a refined version and we can go from there until something sleek and beautiful comes out. Then it’ll get moved to the gallery of finished products. Some ideas might get revisited again down the road.
Concepts are much easier to produce than comic pages since concepts can be loose and unfinished. Pages have to be polished and complete. Therefore, I should be able to keep up with this kind of schedule better. Plus, it’ll motivate me to keep on top of development since I am setting a bigger responsibility for myself than just “get some work done on it.”
What else will be here?
Some test runs.
I am going to develop the fantasy and the superhero projects roughly at the same time. I’ll run a few sample comics here and there. This will enable me to try the characters live in sequential art. It’ll also let you guys see them in action and get feedback from you.
I will also talk about life as a webcomic artist/writer. I want to share some things I learned, both so I remember them and so you can get a glimpse into my thought processes. This’ll include all kinds of valuable lessons for myself, from how I deal with some issues to neat tricks I learned, to introspective ramblings.
And I will continue to support my friends and fellows in the webcomic business. I have been lax on this, but I will start publicizing for my buddies more often. I’ve had a LOT of great support over the past year and a half and I want to keep those connections strong for when I get my next project underway.
That’s what’s going on in a nutshell. I hope that most of you stick around to see what’s coming. I have plans to get at least one concept sketched and posted for you this weekend. Hopefully it’ll be a great step for me and I look forward to hearing from all of you.
Hello, readers! Big, huge thanks to any of you that are still sticking around. I really appreciate the support and the votes and the visits and everything.
I have been running Metamorphosis for a year and a half now and I have loved every single minute. Even when I’ve been up later than I wanted to be, fighting with Illustrator and grumbling because the page was taking way longer than I thought, I loved it. I love that I am able to create a story that people want to read, and I love that you guys keep coming back for more even when I am screwing up or missing updates. I love how much I’ve learned from this comic, how much better my drawing has gotten, how much I’ve learned to step outside my comfort zone more and force myself to develop my skills in all kinds of ways I didn’t anticipate. Ever since I started the comic, I’ve been much more proactive about improving my abilities as an artist and a writer, and I think it’s been paying off.
But there are some issues. I am writing this because I need to address these issues since they directly affect my ability to produce Metamorphosis.
The Real Life Stuff
I’ll start with the good news.
I got hired last week as the full-time web specialist. Now I’m responsible for running a big chunk of a local university’s website. This means I get to really brush up on my web standards, my web marketing, my web programming, etc. Hopefully, a lot of that will spill over into the webcomic-running world and make my project have more oomph.
This means the job hunt is over for a while. I can sit back, relax, and cross that off my list finally. It feels good to have the security. The benefits are great, and I no longer have to worry that I may be unemployed come May.
That sounds like I should be doing much better on free time, huh? Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way.
Right now, I’m living with my parents. I moved back at the start of the year since my employment situation was getting tenuous and I didn’t want to be bound to a lease in case I had to move for work. Fortunately, I’m employed full-time, so my living situation will change (hopefully) in April or May. However, the next few weeks will involve apartment hunting so I can finally have my own place. Of course, many of you that live at home (or that have moved back) know that living with one’s parents sometimes comes with troubles in and of itself. I’m in my late-twenties, but sometimes my mother still treats me like I’m in high school. C’est la vie, I suppose! I’ll be glad to have my very own place again. It will take a lot of stress and pressure off of me.
Also, I have a lot of meetings and orientations and all sorts of other things I need to do for work. This will settle down once I get into a routine but it’s stuff that needs to get taken care of before life smooths out. I expect to be busy much of March just with working on settling with work.
Furthermore, I still have a graduate thesis I need to finish. I’d like to finish this by the end of the year. That would be awesome. Unfortunately, webcomics are a hindrance to thesis work and I haven’t worked on my thesis enough (barely at all since 2011 started). If I really want to finish this at all, I need to get my ass in gear.
As you can see, there’s not a lot of time left in the day for webcomics.
More Troubles in Elysium
There is one more big issue.
I’ve been chomping at the bit about this for a while now, but I’ve kept it mostly to myself. However, I’ve been growing more frustrated with it lately.
Simply put, Metamorphosis is not my own. Not really. I mean, sure, the characters are technically mine and I made all the artwork. But the entire framework for the comic and story really belongs to Wizards of the Coast. I can’t market Metamorphosis. I use far too much of Wizards’ intellectual property to sell print copies. If I removed the copyright references from most of my characters, I could market them individually, but that would require restructuring the entire story since it relies heavily on the Planescape setting.
“But Micah, lots of people sell fanart and make a lot of money from it!”
That’s true, but from what I’ve read about fanart and copyright law, that’s a grey area at best. For example, the famous fantasy author Anne McCaffrey used to explicitly forbid fanfiction and fanart. I don’t know if she ever pursued legal action against fan-artists/writers but I know that her ban loomed large enough that Elfwood refused to allow any fanart derived from McCaffrey’s work. At some point, McCaffrey has changed her approach. She allows fanart and fanfiction but explicitly states it can only be used for non-commercial purposes.
I don’t know what Wizards’ policies are regarding fan-works. I could probably find out if I asked, but I’d bet if it’s not in the OGL, it can’t be produced commercially without Wizards’ explicit consent. As far as I know, the official fansites during the 3.x era (like Planewalker, Athas.org, etc.) had explicit permission to officially develop the settings but were not permitted to release their content commercially — Correct me if I’m wrong. I imagine there are exceptions for commissioned art of a person’s D&D character, but I am doubtful something like Metamorphosis would fly if I suddenly got successful at selling print copies of Metamorphosis. None of the Planescape content is open-license, and Wizards would be well within its rights to tell me to shut Metamorphosis down today, even though I make absolutely no money off of it. I actually have a negative return on it since I have to pay for hosting, domain registration, etc., and I make no revenue from the site except for what small amounts I garner from Project Wonderful ads — most of which goes back into Project Wonderful.
I see a number of other webcomic buddies producing their books, marketing their product, planning to sell to anyone and everyone they can. And they can do that because their content is their own. I doubt any of them make enough money off it to have a comfortable lifestyle, but they are doing it anyway. It is a little frustrating for me because I would like the option to do the same, but I feel constrained. I would rather not risk getting attention from Wizards because I tried to market their IP, especially not with their recent anti-piracy actions (removal of PDF sales, moving the 4e character builder to a web-based app, which is really a thinly-veiled attempt to stop pirates, I don’t care how they spin it with “more accessibility for Mac users, blahblahblah”). I feel I am mildly educated on copyright law, but I am a layperson. To really get the correct information I’d have to hire an attorney, which probably isn’t worth it.
Did I ever expect to make money off Metamorphosis? No, not really. I started the webcomic because I wanted to do a webcomic. I wanted to see if I could get this kind of project started and if I could carry it to fruition. The decision to do a Planescape-based webcomic instead of my own creation was an attempt to capture a certain audience. I did both of these successfully and more. As I mentioned above, my art and storytelling have improved so much since I started in 2009 and I am not going to quit comicking altogether because I know how good it is for my growth as an artist, desginer, developer, and writer. But there’s always the chance, however small, that the comic will take off in popularity and I will have demand for products.
So what’s all this chant mean, berk?
In the short term, it means Metamorphosis will probably still be slow-going while life settles down and I figure out what to do. In the longer-term, I am considering some options.
1.) I could continue Metamorphosis as best I’m able. I have grown attached to my characters and would hate to see them get an ignominious end or have them disappear without a trace. I have also enjoyed having regular readership and having a story to tell. However, these two things I can accomplish with another comic. Moreover, if I continue Metamorphosis, I will have to address the copyright issue sometime and I am not sure that is a matter that can ever be resolved in my favor.
2.) I draw the curtain on Metamorphosis, archive it, and put it in my “hall of fame.” Like I said, it’s been an incredible learning experience for me and I really love doing it. I learned I could build a webcomic if I wanted to and I got so much more fulfillment from it than I expected. Metamorphosis was a test and it passed with flying colors. Maybe it is best for me to take what I learned from it and pursue an independent project that I can tackle more seriously.
3.) Take Metamorphosis and redo it so that it loses all of Wizards’ IP. The setting and story would still be mostly the same, but I would no longer have references to Sigil, the Athar, etc. I’m reluctant to do this because it would take a lot of work revamping the setting and the story. A lot of the plot is interwoven into Planescape so deeply that I can take a lot of matters for granted. For example, the story arc about Pel and the Athar would not have worked for the story as well as it did if the Athar didn’t already exist and have their reasons for hating the gods. It will be difficult to recreate the setting in a way that it’s my own and not just Sigil crossed out and renamed Rune.
At this point I am giving heavy consideration to option 2.
If you close Metamophosis, what then?
A few things. Here’s a point by point list of some plans
Summarize the rest of the story. I had most of the story roughly plotted. Details needed to be filled in, but at least I had the major events planned out. So I will at least fill everyone in so my readers can have closure. This story would’ve taken years to tell otherwise — possibly a full decade at the rate I was updating!
Temporarily turn this site into a blog. I’ve learned a lot, and this will be a good place to share what I’ve learned. It’ll also be a good place for me to brainstorm development ideas for the project I do next. I’ll hash out some character ideas and personalities, artwork, setting design, and just talk about design, development, gaming, etc. I’ll avoid a lot of the personal LiveJournal stuff. With the exception of important posts like this one, I don’t feel it’s appropriate to use this site to share my entire life. I do, however, feel obligated to let my readers know when I may not be able to update and why. I’ve seen a number of comics just stop without a trace.
Corollary to this: I feel some readers may be interested in seeing — and perhaps getting involved in — the development side of a comic project. I personally enjoy reading about design and development. I really like reading ArenaNet’s blog as they reveal more of Guild Wars 2. The development processes, lore, and reasonings are fascinating to me. Their explanation of how they design world events is very engaging to me.
Eventually, as more gets developed, start converting to the site’s new purpose and webcomic and start releasing!
Right now I have two other ideas for comics: Superheroes or Fantasy Adventure, Take 2.
The Superhero Comic
I’ve always been fond of the superhero genre and I have a bunch of character concepts that I’d love to get out there, but are sitting around collecting dust. I’ve also been very discontent with the direction a lot of superhero comics (especially a lot of Marvel stuff) has been going lately. Plus, there are some existing superhero conventions that I just think are nonsense. So this comic would be me doing superheroes “right.” I’d take out all the things that I don’t like about mainstream comics and do superheroes my way. I’ve made a short list so you can see some of my thoughts.
No Time Travel! Aside from Age of Apocalypse, I haven’t seen a single time travel story that I actually liked. There are too many time travel storylines that don’t make sense or are confusing or ridiculous. I don’t like the concept as a general rule. I’ve seen it played very well, but I find few writers can pull it off. I don’t have much confidence I can do it in a way I’d enjoy and since I don’t like it anyway, I am not going to use it.
Few Telepaths! One thing that bugs me about Marvel is everyone and their mother is a telepath. I like the idea of telepathy but I plan to limit it to fewer individuals. If I go with the superhero idea, only two main characters will have telepathic abilities. There will be others in the world but when they’re found, it will be a big deal because of how rare telepathy is. Seriously, who would feel comfortable living in a world like Marvel’s where you know half the people out there can read your mind?
Unique Telepaths! All telepaths will get to read surface thoughts and communicate telepathically. Beyond that, each telepath character has a certain flavor and ability that no other known telepath on Earth has.
Lower Power Level! A lot of modern comic characters can fight powerful cosmic entities, throw force fields around the entire planet, and blow up the sun all in a day’s work. While I enjoy a good alien-fighting storyline as much as anyone, I am pretty fed up with how many super-powered people out there could destroy the planet with a thought if they really wanted. It pushes suspension of disbelief even for me, and I think I’m pretty receptive to story immersion. So I plan to avoid getting my characters to a position where they can singlehandedly change the physical course of Earth with just a thought and a whim.
Not the Main Heroes! I don’t really have a problem with the concept behind groups like the Justice League or the Avengers. Having a dedicated group of mainstream heroes is great! However, I’ve seen some comics written about the guys that aren’t the main heroes, but are vigilantes or would-be top heroes that are trying to clean up what the mainstream heroes don’t get. I’ve enjoyed the Runaways and the Young Avengers lately and I’d like to play with this concept. So while my superhero world will have a mainstream hero team that will be present, the main characters will be the “other” group, the people that don’t have the spotlight.
That’s just a gist so far of my main ideas. I have more thoughts, but I need to decide what I’m going to do before I develop this further.
The fantasy adventure idea is derived from some stories, characters, and ideas I’ve talked about with various friends over the years. Obviously, such an idea would need a lot of refinement before it’s presentable, but I think I could do it well since I have spent most of my drawing life drawing fantasy. I enjoy the fantasy genre and I’ve enjoyed it more and more as I produce more of my own stories. So it would become another project like Metamorphosis, but it would be my intellectual property that I could market. Here are a few highlights I’ve come up with.
Non-standard World: The world I plan to use is roughly analogous to the Plane of Air in Planescape. Lots of open sky and people live on floating rocks scattered across the heavens. Most of the comic would be focused on one major city in this world. There would be some homages to Planescape, but it would be my own creations.
Dual Storytelling: I’ve been toying with this idea and I think it might be neat to try. I don’t know if it qualifies as avant-garde (probably not) but I like to feel snooty and artiste and tell myself it’s at least mildly so. The idea is I tell two people’s (or groups’) stories. One of these people is at the top of the city hierarchy. The other is much nearer the bottom. This would probably take a lot of work but would allow for a little more variance in story type. It would also flesh the city out a little more since readers would get to see more of the setting than they would if I just used one main angle. I’m not sure how I’d do the schedule for this yet but I’d work something out.
Malleable Genre: Though this is currently presented as a fantasy adventure, I might adjust the genre to science fantasy or something down the road. The concept I have in mind would work well for a variety of genres.
Metamorphosis Re-introduction: Some of the Metamorphosis characters will be able to come back into the story, not as main characters, but at least as cameos. Their Planescape roots would be completely cut off, but they’d still contain a lot of what made them who they are. Ianthe, or example, has tons of plot device potential.
Again, just a gist of some thoughts I am hashing out for what I’d do in place of Metamorphosis.
I still have some time to think about this and I’ve written WAY more than I really should have (3007 words at this point). I just wanted to take (more than) a few moments to share what’s going on, why things are going on, and what my plans and thoughts are. If anyone has any thoughts, suggestions, questions, etc., feel free to comment. And once again, thank you for reading and sticking with me throughout Metamorphosis’s lifetime!