“I Am I”

Here are the 14 pages we did for Intruder! The prior post, Intruder alert, told you about the very beginning of this collaboration between me and Scott LeMien, and this one is about the very end. After this, I’ll show you the guts about how it was done.

Before you start scrolling, stop a minute and consider how awesome Scott’s art is. Especially since I insisted on staying with that (his) Ditko inspiration with a dense, underground-style, totally unacceptable, ranty, infographic, non-representational design, as well as saying, over and over, “the readers who deserve to get it will, and fuck all the other people sideways.” Stuck as he was with a deranged anti-comics-is-storytelling maniac, he brought it hard.

(Here is my mean Kubert-Kubrick stare) So look hard.

That’s what I considered finished in terms of what Scott and I agreed to do at the outset. However, there’s more! Here’s the link to the 20-page physical version ($2.17 print; free PDF) that Scott put together afterwards, including a cover, a new frontispiece (so 15 total pages of comics), and 5 text pages at the end, all of these collaborative with me. I suppose you could properly call this the actual publication; in case you’re interested, the money goes to Scott. If you want to pay me to do more comics, please consider my Patreon.

The next posts are about our process, which is similar to how I worked on the previous comics attempts. I’ll show you what went in, what happened to it, how certain things are reserved for later steps, and how it gets finished. Get ready to defy certain things “everyone knows” about correct page and panel design, or the repeated notion of writer as little-muscles scripter and artist as the big-muscles animator.

 

About Ron Edwards

Game author and publisher via Adept Press / Biology author and former professor

Posted on February 28, 2020, in Adept Comics, Supers role-playing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. I just wanted to include a link to my favorite panel that never made it to the comic (it was a part of a likeness/consistency pass, I believe). I even liked my own hand lettering better and the eye is, I guess, one of my generic mean eyes I’ve been drawing since I was 13 or so:

    http://imgur.com/a/gp81cCl

    Thanks for posting these, Ron!

    Like

  2. oberon the fool

    Holy shit, good stuff you guys! I love the AI’s phantasmal appearance, and the Tolkien names for the corporations or whatever. Poor sidekicks, though =\

    Like

    • Scott knocked it out of the park on the AI. It’s even a great nod to the classic stretchy character design (Plastic Man, et cetera) without making a big deal of it.

      It so happens that all those companies and names are real, exactly as depicted. Peter Thiel has a thing for Tolkien.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Total non-comics side track … “Palantir” was the name of a tech company back in the mid/late-80’s, that became Calera which was then bought by Caere. A good friend worked there for years – they did early OCR (optical character recognition). For whatever reason, it pisses me off that the name is now attached to a Big Data company. And apparently I needed to say so.

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  4. There is a ton of stuff to love here, I’m not sure where to begin. Why not the the moment I can relate to most personally? Page 9, panel 5. Raxxus Xxan has just discovered what it is like to play an RPG with Scott LeMien. She is my soul-sister and shall be avenged.

    More seriously, this stuff is great. I love, for example, Jay’s pose at 3.1, especially the insane wrist angle. Absolute pure Ditko. The cutaway diagrams at 2.1 and 4.1 are also pretty dope; it’s a device I miss a lot. Page 11.4 is lovely, not simply as comics art (that pose!), not simply as as a “yes this is a super villain about to do villainy” moment, but as a “This is exactly how my two friends Scott and Ron would savor a super villainy moment.”

    But the real holy shit moment is combining Gibson-ish cyberspace with Ditko’s “Dr. Strange dimensions” with his political cartooning. That’s one of those associations that I would never think of, and yet in hindsight it’s obvious–which is what makes it so wonderful.

    It so happens that I’m on board for this particular political commentary, but one point where I completely misinterpreted something was 12.3–I had no idea what “those two” meant in that particular panel – I thought the “two” Jay was referring to … slavery? lies? After reading a subsequent blog post in this series I understood the scene better, and the relevance of the two super heroes.

    This is easily a 22 page story crammed into 12 pages, and the fact that it works as well as it does is really a testament to y’all’s storytelling abilities. Giving it a bit more room to breathe would help the climax land a bit better. As written, I don’t see how what happens to Sharon and Ali is Jay’s fault. While he’s looking the other way, the AI chows down on the support staff. I’m not even sure the AI would have gone against orders, but for being destabilized by the alien gizmo. If this is meant as a moral event horizon, or even a potential one, I think one or two panels would do it.

    Taking as it exists, though, sets up a fantastic cliffhanger: the Intruder depends on the AI not only to accomplish his goals, but to live–and then it went and ate the two friends who kept him sane. What happens next? Does he renounce his methods? No, because the comic ends. But how can he possibly rationalize it, how does the conflict shake out? What happens when Sharon’s friends come to check up on her? There’s a lot of fertile ground here, and I’d be genuinely interested in seeing where this goes.

    This is really groovy stuff and I love the use of black throughout.

    Liked by 1 person

    • But the real holy shit moment is combining Gibson-ish cyberspace with Ditko’s “Dr. Strange dimensions” with his political cartooning. That’s one of those associations that I would never think of, and yet in hindsight it’s obvious–which is what makes it so wonderful.

      That page is deliberately the most insane and demanding part, in terms of comics technique and expectations on the reader.

      This is easily a 22 page story crammed into 12 pages, and the fact that it works as well as it does is really a testament to y’all’s storytelling abilities. Giving it a bit more room to breathe would help the climax land a bit better.

      I’m gonna ask you to refrain from editor-James. Please: no suggestions, “hey this was a little unclear here,” et cetera.

      Here’s a little rant in which you are the good guy. Bluntly, no one paid either of us to do this, and no one will ever pay us to do it or a longer version, or if we did a big graphic novel thing ourselves (easily a year of almost full-time work with no pay), no one would buy it. As I anticipated, and as Scott has found repeatedly, this is the kind of work that makes comics pros or would-be pros instantly lash back with can’t, won’t, doesn’t work, shouldn’t, why did you, isn’t, and no. So basically, although I appreciate that one person says they’d like it to be longer or would like to see more, and this person is you, you are one speck in a sea of those responses.

      All that said, the following paragraphs are for you – pretty much only you, as far as I can tell.

      Regarding its length, yes, 22 pages would be perfect. I keenly feel the missing 11 months of “the team” kicking ass, showing some of their pasts, and expanding into their daily lives in Bellport. I wouldn’t mind briefly examining Crusader, Amanda, and Raxxus Xxan ahead of their fall – I very much welcome the challenge to avoid the standard, fashionable Millar + Ennis contempt for the referenced characters, while maintaining my point that they’re not as “good” as they think they are. I miss the chance to show that Jay can walk around like normal and people perceive his disfigurement only vaguely, “that poor man,” without really processing its nature or extent. And you can bet there’d be a very nasty info-diagram at some point outlining U.S. money and bank law at least back to the 1970s, possibly with a sketchier part back to the 1890s.

      Now for the interesting moral questions.

      If this is meant as a moral event horizon, or even a potential one, I think one or two panels would do it.

      I’m breakin’ this bit out to bop editor-James on the nose. Nyet! Nein! No suggestions!

      But I do like your reader’s (not editor’s) question about the morality.

      As written, I don’t see how what happens to Sharon and Ali is Jay’s fault. While he’s looking the other way, the AI chows down on the support staff. I’m not even sure the AI would have gone against orders, but for being destabilized by the alien gizmo.

      My take here is that it’s a matter of “putting them in harm’s way.” As you said, and as the AI said (it doesn’t lie), it would not have infected them gratuitously. It had to judge whether Jay wanted the op to succeed or not, and in a demonic way, you can’t fault it simply for deciding which of his orders it had to disobey. But it’s also true, if you back up to the bigger picture, that Jay put all of them at horrible risk, period – and in so doing, one may legitimately question whether his attention to their well-being was already compromised, or self-blinded.

      Ultimately, whether it’s truly wrong at that level is related to the reader’s judgment about the rightness or wrongness, and necessity or lack of necessity, of the operation.

      Taking as it exists … sets up a fantastic cliffhanger: the Intruder depends on the AI not only to accomplish his goals, but to live–and then it went and ate the two friends who kept him sane. What happens next? Does he renounce his methods? No, because the comic ends. But how can he possibly rationalize it, how does the conflict shake out? What happens when Sharon’s friends come to check up on her? There’s a lot of fertile ground here, and I’d be genuinely interested in seeing where this goes.

      Me too! That would definitely be part of the story, going forward. It’s all about whether his “goodbyes” are real and permanent. If they are, then Intruder is less human than he was before, and that itself is a matter of “for better or for worse, we’ll have to see.” I maintain that this would not be a stupid moral event horizon, as we discussed in Kicking the dog, but the kind that makes you admire Doom for some things, but really, really not want to be him, or necessarily for him to get his way. Your phrasings here are exactly what I wanted to convey.

      In entirely hypothetical later work, Scott and I would have to decide whether Sharon and Ali are Uncle Ben – i.e., that’s it for them, lesson learned – or not. I hate actually to see them (effectively) die, but rescuing them or having them recover can’t be cheap and easy, as it would obviate this story.

      I do have a handle on his former family, however. If I continued the story, it would develop Shelley into at least as powerful a dramatic figure as he is, and clarify his shifts into and out of college libertarianism, especially since his early life was painful and low-income. The “scheme” that ultimately invented him as Intruder is certainly full of characters and decisions, and since he is now directed toward confronting it, the past’s present activities would become his new antagonist and his new personal challenge.

      Writing this would allow a little more open panel storytelling style, less infographic, more Lee-ish/Ditko naturalistic interactions. I’d love to lay out a sold story using some of that kind of design while maintaining “the right” to go full bull goose loony Ditko at will, and Scott and I have the content to do it.

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  5. Oh! Okay, a favorite moment OTHER than Scott looting the bodies of his friends, something directed toward content:

    “Control isn’t my priority. I’d just prefer people just agree”

    absolutely slayyyyyed me. I must have read that line about 5 times, howling.

    Maybe all super villain stories are tragedies? No matter how cool, powerful, or sympathetic they may be, there’s some aspect of the human condition they don’t actually comprehend, which sets them up for trouble.

    Intruder is just soooooo set up for tragedy. It’s like that thing in the cartoons where Wile E. Coyote lights a match while standing on top of a big pile of dynamite.

    Like

    • Said in agreement, not in challenge: one might say the same for many of the best heroes.

      I’m quite interested in “the bad” of a given bad guy. For Intruder, the damage he does is not a trolley problem, but a matter of unavoidable but also unpredictable hassles and quick decisions along the way. It’s like parenting: you have to do it, you want to do it well, it’s full of situations which cannot be assessed for how important they will be in the long run, other people’s needs or problems are always flaring up, institutions provide unavoidable and arbitrary framing for everything, and it’s full of stress which limits one’s options in the moment.

      People seem willing to accept these as justifications for, for instance, the heinous things done by certain persons of designated power (“the president,” e.g., meaning some complex intersection of persons) in whom they’re personally invested. Even when “invested” is best understood as their response to marketing..

      Also, although it’s not couth to say, a great deal of morality (as a judgment of others) does indeed depend on results. What if Intruder succeeds in improving billions of people’s lives, not by achieving anarchist utopia, but by scuttling at least some of the worst institutions, or cabal-like subornments of them, which are currently institutionally on full blast?

      Let’s say, for argument only, that he does that, and the damage done really was “couldn’t possibly have avoided it” and was not a trolley. There’s some weight in pragmatic, historical terms for calling Intruder a force for good, and probably with a lot more justification than for a lot of historical figures who are this day lauded as very, very good.

      Does the weight shift if those benefited are not billions, but merely millions?

      Not millions, but merely hundreds of thousands?

      (etc)

      Not dozens, but merely a dozen or so? Merely just one person?

      And again, for the third time, this is not that stupid trolley. This is the same thing that applies to helping anyone – you cannot tell what you might have to do along the way, or what any number of consequences may be.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m not the best person to discuss ethics with. The legal field lobotomized my moral intuition.

        What I meant by my comment was, “Intruder is lying to himself about who he is as a person. He probably doesn’t know that, and the realization will be very painful, probably as a result of bloodshed and heartbreak.”

        For all the energy we spend discussing ethics, I suspect it may just be a genre of storytelling. One designed to soothe our social-animal anxieties about casuing or suffering harm from other members of the tribe.

        Like

        • We are in more agreement, about the ethics issue. You probably knew that from all the evolution blog talk.

          As it happens, you are right on track in terms of the necessary next conflicts. If we were ever to do more Intruder stories, the next one concerns him “probably” knowing exactly what you’re describing, at least in terms of seeking insight in the course of a telepathic confrontation. Now I’m biting my tongue not to kill my process by enthusing over possible details of a work-in-progress, which is hard when it could be done but there is no practical justification for the progress.

          I suffer from writers’ unblock: no problem with the ideas, no problem with the execution, severe compulsion to do it, and no imaginable support for it or to be gained from it.

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