Sydney’s abuse of genre savvy may eventually backfire on her. She could be burning trope karma for all she knows. But this is the beginning of the media circus that will be an important part of all the supers’ lives. Endless invitations to grand openings, clubs, morning news programs, talk shows, cooking programs, whatever. Eventually they’ll be rejecting far more than they’ll be accepting, though most of that will be filtered through Arianna’s staff.
I struggled with Aurelius’s use of the word “demarcation” because I had convinced myself there was a better word to use there. I wanted a word that meant something like demarcation, milestone, achievement or threshold that signifies a quantity which once achieved, tips you into a new category. Those words basically mean what I’m thinking of, but I still feel like there is an actual word that means exactly that, like it’s buzzing around on the tip of my tongue. Demarcation works, but it would be grammatically better if he said “A curious demarcation of wealth.” instead of “for” The word I want to exist would be grammatically better with “of.” It’s weird, even though English is, if not the language with the most words, then certainly a contender, but even in English it’s possible to find these sorts of gaps. I’m not sure if this is one of those times or if I’ve totally blanked on a perfectly cromulent word, but hey, new words get invented all the time.
In Sydney’s mind, the ability to afford an infinity pool means you have crossed from being a fiduciary plebeian into being “rich.” I’m not even sure those are especially expensive (and neither is Sydney) – more so than a regular pool to be certain, but they just feel opulent. That’s probably because while it’s possible to install one in your backyard, they certainly have more impact when attached to a house on a cliff, an ocean front property or a penthouse, so they’re more of an icing on the cake affair.
Sydney grew up in a very middle-to-upper middle class home. Her mom and dad do ok but were generally quite conservative with their money most of the time, to make sure they had enough for an annual summer vacation, to help Sydney with her first car, general planning for the future stuff. Growing up, Sydney was never flush with cash, but had enough to support her hobbies, and now that she’s living on her own she usually has enough to keep up with the usual luxuries but has to scramble whenever a big ticket item comes around like a new console or a trip to ComicCon, but little future proofing. We’ll have to see what having a flush bank account does to her in the coming chapters.
Originally I thought I’d put the PPO in Sydney’s hand since it’s red like the apple in her daydream, but I didn’t want it to look like Sydney was sticking him up or about to accidentally blow a hole in him and the building so I had to change it to the wad of paper.
I hope the advice Aurelius is giving Sydney is remotely sound. In terms of “making a living off your webcomic” I’m doing extraordinarily well (with a big thanks for all the continued support over at Patreon and from the Amazon and Paypal links) but that’s still a far cry from financial adviser territory. (There’s probably fewer than 10 webcomics that meet that bar) But I had him give some at least common sense sounding advice. I’m sure among my readers there are a few people who actually know what they’re doing when it comes to investing.
Normally I like putting (cramming) a bit more content on each page, but I knew the week I was working on this page had a camping trip planned for that weekend. I knew I wouldn’t get any work done for the 3 days on the trip and it happened to work out that I could do this page with Sydney slowly zoning out while Aurelius talked about money, which was slightly less work than usual.
If Sydney considers this well handled, it’s possible she’s had some sort of significant episode in the past. Really the only thing I could imagine giving her a worse fit would be something like getting stuck in an elevator with some significant sci-fi/fantasy/superhero icon like Shatner, Nimoy, really any of the main cast of some of the Star Treks or Wars, Stan Lee, Gary Gygax, Pratchett, you know the type. I’m not sure if it would cause some sort of fangasm, or catatonia followed by delayed onset fangasm. It’s safe to assume there’s at least one nerd luminary with a restraining order out against her. Maybe she just considers it a success simply because no one was harmed and she didn’t accidentally light the check on fire.
Lots of funny and amazing names shared on the prior page. It seems the easiest way to avoid some terrible name for your kid is to give Richard a rest for a few decades. Really, just sound out whatever name you’re planning a few times, consider all the nicknames, and if you have a cool last name, give the kid a cool first name, but then maybe something normal for a middle name so they have that to fall back on and they don’t resent you.
I wanted to show Sydney’s immediate reaction once she got past the foaming stage, but the way the dialog flowed we’ll have to wait to the next page to see that. (I am amused by the idea that she has a foaming stage that she regularly exhibits.) Obviously Sydney is easily distracted, but that’s not news to anyone by now.
Shrapnell is a real last name, as is Slaughter, Vetura, Blitzer, Ironside, Savage, Hazard, Fightmaster (not a joke, that’s a real last name) and a host of others that make you think the person missed their calling as a professional wrestler, or if they’re a character in a movie, you just want to roll your eyes. I’ve ranted about super heroes and villains with names that serendipitously match their powers, Telford Porter being just about the worst offender, but obviously Sydney feels differently about it. In fact she’s obviously downright offended when the stars don’t align on the naming front. Even living in a world with actual super powers, the vast majority of people with cool names aren’t going to have powers, so she’d better get used to it.
I encourage people to share the coolest or craziest names you’ve come across, including people who you’d marry just for their last name and then name your kid something rad. (Or lawsuit inducingly awful.) My wife’s last name, for instance, was Warr. If she’d had a daughter she should have named her Cybil.
That’s recruit pay Sydney. Wait till you make Corporal.
Most stories are about ordinary people in extraordinary situations, but at this point you guys know I prefer writing about extraordinary people in ordinary situations. I don’t think making Sydney well off will hamper my story telling at all. Besides, as has been said many times in the comments (and I think at least few in the comic itself) that having super powers usually means you can make a seriously good living totally within the law. Why rob a bank when you can make more money by telekinetically unloading freighters in 20 minutes each, or lay transcontinental cable in a fraction of the normal time with your water breathing and super strength combo? That makes getting someone to potentially get shot at with bullets, lasers and lightning is a tougher sell unless you make it worth their while. Of course there are thrill seekers who want the adrenaline of either breaking the law or stopping that type, or they’re sold on nationalism or responsibility or whatever ideology motivates them, still, a healthy paycheck helps keep them around and provides stability to the team composition.
It was challenging to write so many pages of the comic without the topic of pay coming up. I don’t think I’ll say what the exact dollar amount is, but it’s something in the order of “you can have one jet, or ten supers per year” Admittedly that’s a huge range depending on what jet you’re talking about (and whether you include the R&D costs, maintenance staff and infrastructure, etc.) One Heatwave is not worth one jet in terms of crime fighting power, (not that people do a lot of crime fighting in jets, but you get what I mean) Ten Heatwaves… arguably worth one jet, or at least ten Heatwave level supers. One Maxima is worth an entire battle group, so mileage varies, but at least supers don’t require nearly the same support staff. Their insurance is rather a bit higher though.
The prior page ended kind of vaguely, which wasn’t ideal, but that’s because I wanted to save Sydney’s entire reaction for this page. I realize now that I’ve drawn it, her reaction is actually quite similar to Fry’s, if somewhat more terse. (She doesn’t faint, but we’ll get to that.) I thought it was more heavily inspired by Ren and Stimpy where Stimpy gives up $47 million to be back living with Ren, but looking it up on youtube, Ren’s reaction is just to get angry and smack Stimpy around. This is one of those pages that’s been floating around in my head for so long it probably has several influences.
It’s probably obvious what the knowing glances are about, but I won’t spell it out here since it comes up on the next page. Also I reserve the right to change the title of this page, but I sat around for well over an hour trying to think of something clever and my brain was like “nope.”
I don’t know why the locker room has that many lockers. Arc-SWAT doesn’t have that many women in it… well I guess including the non SWAT Archon personnel there are plenty of both gender at the base. I’m not sure how often the Arc-Light personnel use the showers though. They don’t have the same rigorous physical routine as the SWAT folks. The SWAT branch is generally assumed to be on call most of the time unless they’re doing a press event somewhere, and they have rooms on the upper level, like we saw part of Peggy’s a while back. In truth a lot of the personnel from all the branches spend most of their time at the base, it’s just the nature of the job.
How sweet does Harem have it? Being able to stand behind herself to fix up her own hair? The only other way to do that is with a portal gun. Looking at the way Harem is dressed, she’s less Goth and more Harley Quinn fan club today. That’s fine by me, it’s a lot easier to draw than gothic lolita with all the lace and ruffles. How that became a popular thing I don’t quite understand. Not that the style doesn’t have a certain appeal, but there are genuinely few things more tedious to draw than ruffles and lace. Fortunately “goth” in the context of fashion is vague enough that it really means whatever you want. Gothic lolita, evil clown, vampire assassin, or just lots of black clothes and a large eyeliner budget. Also looking at her here it’s obvious I need to make her freckles bigger. They all but disappear when I shrink the page down to web size.
Well that’s probably the last time I draw a mirror in the comic. Twice the work for only twice the effort!
I’d be curious to hear Sydney’s answer to Peggy’s question. Why Sydney’ suddenly conviced that topiary is needed to fit in. What Peggy doesn’t get is that the question and answer has already run through Sydney’s mind, and instead of giving her conclusion a sanity litmus test, her ADHD brain has already moved on to solutions.
It’s weird that characters in shows almost never laugh at things that are supposed to be funny. Chandler says something funny and at best everyone smirks at him, or Tracy Jordan says some Ridikolus thing then falls over a railing on to Jenna, and Liz just rolls her eyes. I think characters laughing at funny stuff is omitted a lot of the time because then you’re betting the audience finds it as funny as the characters. If they don’t then it comes off like you think too much of your humor or your writing, so it’s safer to have all the other characters just shake their head. Sydney does a lot of funny stuff, and usually everyone just goes, “That Sydney” but this time I thought it’d be ok that it strikes Harem as totally bonkers – especially for the reason Sydney thought of it, and it’s always fun to throw Harem’s reactions to another one of her.
Thinking about it seriously, I image at some point in the world someone has made a Merkin bald cap, I can’t be the first person to have ever come up with something so superfluous. Probably for a movie, or glue one on then paint over it for art or exhibitionism, but Merkins are such a weird thing to have ever existed in the first place. I know trimming the hedge or even a little topiary hasn’t always been the norm, just check out anything with naked people in it prior to the 90’s, but the idea that someone ever thought to supplement pubic hair is absolutely bizarre to me.
When I write female characters, I do try and imagine their perspective on the world, and come at it from their view. Sometimes that has a larger impact on their personality than others. I’ve written about this before, but Maxima, Harem/Dabbler, and Sydney have personality traits that are the result of me wondering what I would be like if I had been born female. Harem for instance, loves being a woman. (Or a women?) Maxima doesn’t hate being a woman, but she obviously takes umbrage with certain societal expectations. Even little things, like how the guy is supposed to lead when dancing really grinds her gears. For some of them, their gender isn’t a huge factor, like Sydney. She likes boys but beyond that her life isn’t especially influenced by being female. All the other characters are mixtures of similar traits. So I feel I do an okay job at writing the female perspective. At least the tomboyish female perspective, admittedly. I don’t think I have any especially girly girls in the comic. The one thing I have probably missed the mark on, especially judging by some of the comments from the previous page, is that some women obviously do like body hair on guys.
I’m obviously not a fan, I think that comes from a few sources. One, I grew up on Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, (and Stallone, Van Damme, Jackie Chan, etc.) and none of them have body hair. At least certainly not on screen. The lesson being the good guy has no body hair. Less hair = more good. I also grew up on comic books. No one has any body hair in comics because it’s a pain in the ass to draw, (find nearly any picture of Cyclops, Supes, or Captain America with their shirt off) unless they /do/ have body hair, like wolverine, in which case they have a comical amount. The other factor is that in nearly any movie or sit-com, body hair is played for laughs. Women not having shaved their legs, any mention of back hair, etc. Very rarely is there any mention from a woman like “Ooh, he’s got a hairy chest, I could get lost in that.” or something. On an intellectual level, I understand that is hugely the result of decades of white male perspective being sold to us as the norm, but it’s something that’s informed my psyche since birth. Essentially, I assumed that a lot of women generally tolerate it but secretly would be ok with less rather than more.
This page colored by Keith.
And now we know Dabbler’s true mission, to slowly pervert Earth’s mightiest heroes! Ok, that’s not what she’s doing here. I mean… she is doing it, but it’s not why she’s here. It is one of her many hobbies though. She has an easy crowd there, Harem’s open to new experiences and Sydney, well, she didn’t have to be sold on anything.
If I was a girl, I assume I would do very little in the way of body hair maintenance unless I thought it might come up, like going on a date or whatever. Sure, if it’s summer and shorts and tank tops and bathing suits are in order then I would put forth the requisite effort, but I highly suspect during the fall and winter I would be in Wookie Mode. (This is assuming no boyfriend or job at Hooters.) I asked my wife about this and she said all women do this and the ones who say they don’t are lying liars who lie.
I haven’t decided if guys supers can grow beards. I don’t think I’ve put any supers with facial hair in the comic yet so it’s still up in the air. I’m leaning toward no, but that sort of creates a problem if there’s ever a live action version of Grrl Power. There are just some guys who look like they have a 5 o’clock shadow as soon as they’re finished shaving which could create some casting issues, and there probably aren’t a lot of actors who would be willing to have their face waxed.
This page colored by Keith.
I’ve been quite bad about keeping up with messages and things on DeviantArt, so when I finally checked in, I found some fan art pieces waiting, so in no particular order, here they are for those interested:
If there isn’t a comic about Evil Dead called the Necronomicomic, there should be. It’s a horribly missed opportunity otherwise. There should also be a convention for the Necronomicomic, called, of course, the Necronomicomicon.
Peggy usually has a sense of humor about her leg, cause the alternative is to be bummed out about it all the time. Her personal favorite is making a joke that would have been inappropriate coming out of someone else’s mouth, just to get that moment of tense silence while everyone figures out if it’s ok to laugh. There are limits though. Her reaction to Heatwave might have been a little cold – she might have been more sympathetic if Heatwave could no longer drive stick.
I designed all of Peggy’s tattoos myself (there’s not much to them really, mostly lots of stars, stripes and eagles) but her back tattoo is pretty ok, if still a work in progress. If you want a better look at it, check it out on the DA page.
After loosening up a little, Sydney suffers a bit of a backslide, but she’ll adjust. There’s little chance she’ll ever be prancing around like Dabbler though.
Sydney grew up on superhero comics of course, and also stuff like Red Sonja, She-Ra, Xena, etc, so the idea of the strong woman is not surprising to her. If there’s a body type she’s legitimately biased against, it’s the heroin chic beanpole supermodel look. It’s not the obvious unhealthy standard so much, or the fact that she feels it’s totally unattainable look for her – it’s just as unlikely she’ll ever look like Xena either. She just prefers the look of a woman that can one hand a bastard sword or punch out a horse. Not that she has anything against horses in particular. It’s just just her standard unit of toughness is 1 horse ka-power. I’ll be here all week folks, tip your waitress.
I know that last word balloon is a little gratuitous, and I prefer covering things in a more natural looking manner, but from Sydney’s point of view, they’re just… right there. For those of you having to quickly scroll the comic off the page then read it while furtively glancing over your shoulder, there’s only one more page actually in the showers. Of course then there’s the locker room, but things will be gradually returning to fully SFW status shortly.
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