October 16th, 2007

The Zombie

"I didn't see it coming!"

 
October 15 -  "Forbidden" WOMP Character of The Day - Commander Alien!  So, here's what happened.  I was in the Seventh Grade, and I had a teacher, Mr. Bollig, who gave me extra credit for any comic books that I drew.  How cool is that?  So, I was drawing comics and imagining characters pretty much all day (not much has changed since then, I guess).  During this period, even though I was a kid, most of the back-story behind Monkey was invented as I really tried to push his character past my own expectations.  What had started as stories of a joke-telling little monkey became pretty much what he is today; the superhero sock-monkey President of the Earth.  Most of the character's growth came purely from the impetus to top myself and to impress my teacher.  My standard method of creating a comic back then was to have a basic concept, fold some over-sized paper into 8.5 x 11 inch "tabloids," then start drawing the cover, working my way from front to back without any real game plan.  That was fun, as it felt a bit like I was experiencing the story as it happened, but it's not the best way to work (especially funny to me now are the hyperbolic covers which generally had very little to do with the subsequent story).  Commander Alien, a helmeted cyclops with an oddly shaped metallic body, came into being for one of these extra credit comics.  With two large pieces of paper folded into a blank eight-page comic, I started with a cover showing a gigantic rip-off of a Star Wars Stormtrooper who was toppling skyscrapers while comparatively tiny heroes tried, in vain, to stop him.  The starburst caption read "THE WORLD IS BEING DESTROYED AND NO ONE CAN STOP IT!!"  Inside, I set up the story thusly (keep in mind that I then referred to my pantheon of characters as "The Little People," a term which, itself, is now also "forbidden") -

Panel One - Scene - various superheroes, including Monkey, and other colorful characters are gathered informally

TEXT
ONE DAY THE LITTLE PEOPLE MEETED...

Panel Two - Scene - close-ups of concerned characters turning toward large public address system

TEXT
WHEN OVER THE LOUDSPEAKER...

LOUDSPEAKER
RED ALERT, RED ALERT!  ALIEN INVADERS, ALIEN INVADERS!

Panel Three - Scene - spaceships depositing large, alien, mechanical components on an open field

TEXT
MEANWHILE.

COMMANDER ALIEN (concealed in one of the spaceships)
THIS IS A GOOD SPOT TO BUILD IT!

Panel Four - Scene - determined heroes rushing off together

MONKEY (from off panel)
THIS IS MONKEY; TO ARMS, MEN!

Panel Five - Scene - using projection beams, spaceships begin assembling an 80-foot-tall figure from components

COMMANDER ALIEN (concealed in one of the spaceships)
JUST A FEW MORE PANELS AND WE'LL BE FINISHED WITH IT!

Panel Six - Scene - Monkey flying forcefully toward the reader, energy burst pattern behind him

MONKEY
AND IT'S JUST AN AWFUL SHAME YOU'LL NEVER FINISH (TSK-TSK-TSK).

From there, I went on to draw three and a half pages of superheroes fighting spaceships and the Pseudotrooper.  It was a crazy melee, a free-for-all!  Quite proud of myself, I informed Mr. Bollig that another masterpiece was near completion.  He surprised me by saying "I tell you what.  If you can complete it by class tomorrow, I'll guarantee you an 'A' on your next English test!"  Now, I assume that he was pretty confident that I'd either 1) get an "A" on that test anyway (English was always my best subject), or 2) never finish the comic in time, but, no matter how crazy his challenge may seem to me today, back then it became my very first deadline!  When I got home from school that day, I immediately grabbed the comic, ready to wrap up the battle, only to discover that my Mom had thrown away the center pages!  AACK!  Although the cover, first page, and remaining two blank pages were still in my desk, the nearly finished center section, which was the bulk of my work, had been foolishly left on the breakfast counter.  Mom was tired of me leaving my stuff all over, and had often threatened to throw away anything that I left where it didn't belong, especially in the kitchen.  I was beside myself with shock, rage, and panic (typical "deadline crunch" emotions).  How was I going to redraw all of that action?  It had taken me days to do before...but...hmm.  Maybe...maybe I could somehow abbreviate the story, completing it on the remaining two pages!  I needed a plan.  The remaining story had Monkey flying toward the aliens as he spouted a thinly-veiled threat.  How could I develop the subsequent fight, resolve it, and wrap up everything in just two pages?  Well, what if the aliens could not fight back, or the Stupidtrooper wasn't completed?  Or, what if the aliens didn't really want to fight in the first place?  Ah-ha!  So, over the course of the evening (my first deadline all-nighter) I completed the story of Alien Commander's attempt to give to the people of Earth, as a gesture of friendship, a large stormtrooperesque statue with the word "Peace" across its chest.  The next day, I wearily handed in the completed comic.  Mr. Bollig loved it!  "You really tricked me with that ending.  I didn't see it coming!"  So, even though I had teased that "THE WORLD IS BEING DESTROYED AND NO ONE CAN STOP IT," it turned out to be a case of mistaken motives...and of discovering the joy of giving a story an unexpected twist!  Since that day, Commander Alien has been off-limits, due mostly to the "one-off" nature of his original appearance.