Thought I’d do something a little different with Vance’s introduction. At this point in the story it doesn’t really matter what his powers are, so instead Sydney gets to experience the full … well, it’s not hazing, just a little messing with the rook. As Sydney joined the team roughly 24 hours ago, she is indeed the junior most member.
There were several moments while writing and drawing this page that I actually considered making Vance’s powers actually be that he’s a colony of collectively sentient spiders inside some bizarre human suit instead of it be that he’s really just messing with her… though I suppose up until the point I actually put him using his powers into the comic I suppose I could change my mind, so… maybe he isn’t messing with her? Of course, he’d need some other power too. Being a colony of Borg spiders is pretty impressive on its own, but that’s not going to get him a spot in Arc-SWAT. He’d need to be able to hold his own in a fight against other supers.
Some random superhero novel pimpage for you, two new books in two of my favorite series are out, neither of which I’ve had a chance to read yet unfortunately. I really need to finish The Dark Lord’s Handbook: Conquest and get in to my growing queue. Anyway, the new books are Revelation: A Kid Sensation Novel (Kid Sensation #4) and The Betrayal of Renegade X (Renegade X, Book 3) both series I highly recommend.
I don’t know a ton about guns, but I know enough that a standard car door isn’t going to do much to stop a bullet, especially not something coming out of a rife. Now I don’t know if your standard police cruiser has slightly tougher doors – I assume they’re at least a little bit armored. Every movie and TV show ever has cops popping out of their car and taking cover behind the doors. I guess it’s better than nothing even if it isn’t armored as it kind of hides you, but even if they’re armored like battleship plating it seems like a good way to get shot in the feet.
Most cop/detective/etc show have people being moderately intelligent about using cover, but as soon as you stray anywhere near action hero territory, it seems like the good guy never wins because he uses his environment tactically, he wins merely because the bad guys can’t hit squat. How many times have you seen a hero running down a hallway or across a clearing while multiple people fire automatic weapons at him? Can you think of a single scene like that where the guy even tries to zig zag? No, he runs in a straight line, usually in slow motion cause it looks more dramatic. If no one firing at him had ever handled a gun before, ok, then I’d buy that the hero could escape unscathed, but usually he’s up against mercenaries or soldiers of some sort, and presumably they’re familiar with their weapons.
I may need to tweak Peggy’s dialog a little on this page as “Firearms 101″ isn’t the name of an actual course in the military. Also I’m pretty sure “technical manuals and regs” isn’t the right lingo either, but I wasn’t sure how to phrase it. Asking about this stuff on Twitter gets a lot of different answers as it seems every branch does things a little bit differently.
When I started writing this page I may have overestimated the weight of a minigun. I based it off what I remember hearing the prop from Predator weighing, which was something like 160 pounds. Thinking about it now that may have included the belt and the backpack, or heck it may have been someone’s estimation of the total weight including the ammo. I actually timed all the firing time in the movie once cause I’m a big nerd like that. The “Schwarzenegger’s Forest Clearing Service” scene was the bulk of it of course, but all told it was very nearly 60 seconds worth, and depending on the exact model of the minigun that comes out to somewhere between 2,000 and 6,000 rounds, and that adds up.
Turns out the GE M134 Minigun, which I think is what Blaine used, weighs 85 pounds (39 kg). (There’s a lighter variant but clearly this one is not that.) The prop for the movie was modified, for instance it had some kind of rifle grip on the bottom. It actually looked like a pump action shotgun but it was probably just a handhold. Anyway, Sydney could probably lift 85 lbs off the ground if she could get her legs and back into it, but picking it up when it’s already waist high mostly using her biceps would be… well, impossible according to this page. Also I can say the one on the table is modified and weighs whatever I want it to. :) If nothing else, six bayonets and the clamps to hold them on to the spinning barrels would probably add what, 10-ish pounds?
The previous page telegraphs this one a bit, and a few people in the comments called this outcome with comments like “Yeah, if she can lift it” which is why I wanted this page and the previous one to go up as a double page, but there’s only so much time in a week and I was still catching up from the previous double. Well one day I’ll have a bevy of unpaid interns doing backgrounds and making 3D models for me. :)
Sydney recovered pretty quickly from the prior page there, but she’s not one to let trauma get in the way of a callback. It’s not often I throw in a pause panel even though I generally like humor pause beats. A good stare in reaction to someone doing or saying something stupid is usually pretty funny to me, but I tend to cram so much on a page that I never have space for them. In my head, this page and the next were all one scene, but as I started laying it out I realized I had to break it out to two pages which gave me a little extra space. This particular pause is brought to us courtesy of Maxima catching herself and remembering that Dabbler’s alien origins are still classified, and there’s a room full of recruits behind her. I actually almost forgot myself. I’m not sure at what point the people in Arc-SWAT are told. Sydney certainly wasn’t supposed to find out already. Harem knows and she’s only a corporal. Actually the rank of corporal makes some sense. By the time someone hits that rank you’ve mostly sorted out the chaff and the dropouts, and had time to make sure they’re not religiously zealotous or some sort of crazy Earth for humans type. I mean, if they’re on a team with supers they’re obviously ok with a little diversity.
The only thing that doesn’t play right on this page for me is that on the prior one, Sydney was giving this corner of the room a pretty good stare. Though I can tell you as someone with ADD, there have been moments where I’ve looked right past something cause I was concentrating on or expecting to see something else. That may not be ADD, that may just be the way brains work sometimes. Anyway, that’s my excuse. Sydney was looking for some poster or diagram that spelled out why they carry guns and ignored what looks at a glance like an engine block. Oh, and here’s a close up of the stickers on it cause I zoom in too much when I draw:
I’m not sure what those Predatorbusters represent since they obviously haven’t been shooting Predators with that thing. Or have they?
I’ve had this page in my head practically since I started the comic. Its tough to sit on them for that long, but it just made more sense to have it happen on the second day at the earliest. Granted, Sydney had to play along a little. I don’t mean she immediately understands what Maxima’s doing and rolls with it, I mean she specifically had to not get it in order for the gag to work, so I sort of poke fun at that with the “going to keep staring this direction” word bubble.
Normally Maxima doesn’t make a habit of pointing her gun at recruits, and obviously Sydney will be taught never to point a gun at anyone unless there’s a pretty good chance she’ll need to shoot them, but I thought I’d say that Max gets away with it because besides outranking everyone, her finger isn’t on the trigger naturally, and more importantly, her pistol is single shot break action and she doesn’t keep it loaded. With her speed, she can load it faster than most people can cock a hammer. She can even do it one handed, just let go of the gun in mid air and pop a bullet in the chamber before it has a chance to fall more than a centimeter.
There was no way to make this a single page comic. If I really had to I maybe could have cut 3 of the panels and maybe even combined the first two, but it would have lost something and still wouldn’t have fit on a single page, so it had to be a double. Unfortunately it put me two days behind and I’m not caught up yet because of A-kon, though fortunately I didn’t fall any further behind. I still have my buffer but I will probably never actually use up my buffer. That’s for like if I break my hand or something. Not that I have enough of a buffer to ride that out, I just don’t want to use it up if for no other reason than it would take me about 4 weeks to get an extra page ahead again. That’s why I haven’t updated the vote incentive yet this month. I do have two pieces that are half finished I could use but I’d like to have them a little further along before I post them.
I’m mostly pleased with the art on this page, (I could nitpick nearly all of it of course because artists are hyper self critical like that) so maybe it’s dumb, but my favorite panel is the one with the ballistics gel dummy. It just really looks like ballistics gel to me, especially with the old bullets and the spawled trails behind them.
The firing range BTW is in the basement, one level above the garage where the machine shop and the few ground vehicles the team uses are kept. Regular parking is in a proper parking garage next to the building
Surely not the typical method for arming soldiers, but there was a lot of concern about arming Sydney in the first place. Never mind the fact she’s already armed with weapons far more dangerous than a pistol, but this method of making her work for her sidearm was agreed on to see if she had the discipline to put the thing together, and in the meantime drill into her all the training they can.
I’m almost reticent to mention it because there are about as many opinions about guns are there are people, but I finally decided on a FN Five seveN for her for a few reasons. It’s a relatively light pistol with relatively (it’s all relative, everything is) low kick and 20 rounds in the magazine. Also they’re hoping she’ll rarely ever touch the thing outside of training and certifying with it, so a light pistol makes sense for her. People had suggested basically everything else, glocks, M1911’s, HK45’s, M9’s, basically anything used by the military, and I’m sure they’re all perfectly acceptable weapons, but for some reason I fixated on the Five seveN sort of early on. It’s possible I’ll only even draw it outside of her holster a few times, but if I do then that’s the gun I’m planning on drawing.
Also I’ve fixed Peggy’s chevrons, she’s a Lieutenant, not a Captain. I’ll correct the previous pages when I get a chance.
Now for some pimpage:
Superbitch is one of my favorite webcomics, and now she’s got her own Patreon. I’d joke about people diverting funds away from my own Patreon to hers, but honestly I think it’s more of a rising tide situation.
Another project that could use some eyeballs is Stjepan Sejic’s Death Vigil. Apparently it’s struggling along which seems super weird to me since it’s Stjepan’s awesome art in it, and it has a mix of action, humor (mostly bad puns) and sweet looking Cthulhu-esque monsters in it. Anyway he’s posted everything so far for free on his DA page, which I’m linking here, but I’ll also link the Comixology page so you can buy DRM free PDF or CBR versions as well. They’re $2 each except for the current issue, that’s cheaper than most comics these days. (You can also get them on Amazon if physical comics are more to your tune, plus the Amazon link gets me a few cents on the dollar as well.) Anyway I read through them and enjoyed them (then bought them) so I thought I’d re-pimp him here.
Maxima doesn’t have super hearing, but the team has decided that her hearing is pretty good at least.
This page was just the natural progression from the previous one. I rarely have anyone doing anything particularly military in the comic, but I figure if a Lieutenant and a Lt. Colonel walk into a room full of recruits, there should be some reaction. That reaction might be subdued if the Lt. Colonel is in street clothes (which will be explained) but Peggy’s still an officer.
Also while writing this page I learned that “ten hut” is just drill-sergeant-ese for “attention” I didn’t know that. Harem is sort of splitting the difference.
In panel 7, Peggy’s original comment to Sydney was “Stop sticking your chest out like you’re modeling your first training bra”, but my wife convinced me the first date thing was more universal. Though I suppose a lot of that depends on when you started dating, and who you were on a date with.
So A-kon was the usual good times. I didn’t get any commissions unfortunately as I didn’t have the forethought to print out any reference sheets, but I went to some of the webcomic panels and better yet got to talk some webcomic shop with some folks, primarily The Devil’s Panties and the writer of Spinnerette. I think it helped me formulate some plans regarding the book. I may make a separate post about that. Also I got a chance to sit down and have some dinner with some readers. Here’s some photographic evidence taken with my crappy Galaxy S5 camera. I’m in the back in the green shirt, continuing my streak of being chronically bad about not smiling in pictures. I’m not sure what’s up with that, but it was good times. I didn’t spoil much, mostly we recommended animes, talked about other webcomics, the usual nerd stuff.
So yeah, they missed something fairly obvious there, but they didn’t have much time to experiment. And when Sydney was saying “no whammy” she was hoping that Varia didn’t get feces-kinesis powers from her, projectile mucus, super miasma, or something else awful. Feces-kinesis would be a pretty awful power to have to fight against though. I’m pretty sure I’d surrender right away instead of facing some sort of poopocalypse.
Varia obviously answered some but not all questions about how her powers work, notably whether or not it’s always on when she’s touching someone and if it lasts after she breaks contact, but like I’ve said before, I’d like to get out of the habit of making sure everything gets explained right as it’s introduced. It’s fine to leave stuff for later, and that includes Vance’s introduction for the moment, what with the team leader popping in.
My original draft of panel 3 had Varia just saying “you’re adopted” and the girl with a surprised look on her face, but Xochitl isn’t a dick like that, so I changed it so she’s saying it to a kid who obviously already knows. That said, using her powers to tell if a child is related to their parents is trickier than telling if a brother and sister really are brother and sister since they would have fairly similar DNA, whereas their parents (hopefully) don’t. (Insert joke about the American deep south here. Or European royalty I guess.)
I’ll be at A-kon starting in the late morning. There’s not much going on Thursday, but I work with guest relations and help bus guests in from the airport and all that sort of stuff. The plans for a meetup this year besides trying to bump into each other at one of the webcomic panels is 8pm Friday in front of Media, which is a bar and grill in Atrium II (the main… well, atrium.) Follow me on Twitter if you aren’t already as it’s the easiest way to keep up while I’m at the con, assuming T-Mobile gets reception there. Sprint was mostly no bueno but I’ve switched now. I think I’m going to actually wear my battle pie chart shirt on Friday as the one Grrl Power shirt I have isn’t in good shape. I usually think about getting a new one made when it’s only 3 days to the next event when I’d want to wear it.
Naturally Sydney has questions. Some of them will be answered on the very next page! I want to discuss her abilities here but it would be premature before the next page. Also I would make a Who’s Who for Vance since he spoke and was named, but all it would say is “blond and pretty” which… I guess is about as helpful as the one Ren got.
Telford Porter is actually a real Marvel villain. Guess what his power is? People with powers that match their given name is… it’s one of those things that seems cool when you’re making up your own heroes when you’re 10, but it really requires some strained logic when you try and carry those characters through into other work. The easiest way to explain it is that super powers are at least partially psychic/psionic/etc in nature and a person’s identity can shape them. Dr. Doom is fine. His powers have nothing to do with his name, and his villain moniker is literally just his name plus his level of education. Doctor Octopus slash Otto Octavious is a little more of a stretch. I’ll admit Maxima is arguably skirting the edge as she can “max out” her powers. I’ve mentioned it before, but in her original incarnation she was named Ultima, but I changed her name to Maxima because of her her powers work – also it immediately helped start to form her personality. It would be pretty inexcusable if her name was Max Powers, but come on, Telford Porter? That has to take the cake.
I realize after I drew it that Xochitl’s power key flowchart looks a bit like Sydney’s Orb Grid, that’s not intentional. I probably should have gone with something that looked more like a DNA strand, but too late now.
Holy crap you guys, A-kon is this weekend! It totally snuck up on me this year. As such I wasn’t able to sign up to do a panel, but I’ll be attending several of the webcomic ones myself. This year, instead of just saying “hey let’s try and get together” and hoping it all works out, I’m going to propose a time and a place right now. There’s a bar and grill in the Atrium II (the big main one) called Media, if you’re there and interested, we can meet up there at 8pm Friday. It might be too busy to actually eat there, but it’s easy to find, so we can at least coordinate from there. The easiest way to keep track of and communicate with me during the con will be via Twitter. I may try and wear my one Grrl Power t-shirt I have for easy identification, beyond that, my headshot is on the Patreon page.
Here’s some Maxima fan art for you. Max is kind of… I’m not sure if cute is the right word, but it’s close. It’s by the creator of Magical Girl Neil. I’ve only read a little of it, but the premise is a guy gets magic girl powers a la Sailor Moon. The transformation sequence includes magical gender reassignment, and the requisite hilarity ensues.
Today’s page colored by Keith.
Come on Sydney, you skate on one kinda racist thing, and your next sentence is “Since you’re not white…” She sort of has a point though. In my experience, white people’s name generally don’t mean anything. My name is David, and if you look up David on baby naming sites, they’ll tell you David means king or beloved, but it doesn’t really. There was just a David of note who happened to be a king. No one speaking English stands on the bow of a ship and yells “I’m the David of the world!” In Japanese, Hana means flower. It’s also a common girls name, that or Hanako, which means Flower Child. Aki means Autumn. It’s also a woman’s name, as is Akiko. (Autumn Child) “Ko” means child if you weren’t picking up on that. Akira is a boy’s name that also means “A seminal work that anyone into anime should see if for no other reason as to round out their literacy of the genre. Also it has an amazing soundtrack, and a space scene that has no sound at all cause it’s space and that’s awesome.”
That’s not to say there aren’t any white people with names that actually mean something, (Summer, May, June, Sky(e), etc) but generally they just mean that their parents like that name. Maybe other cultures are the same way, but I get the impression that outside of white American culture, names tend to have a bit more meaning, unless of course your is also that of a famous person from a religious text or literature. That may just be my own Amero-centric perspective. It’s certainly Sydney’s anyway.
Edit: I meant to add this along with the post but I forgot. I gave Xochitl a side cut on a whim because I’ve recently decided it’s basically my favorite hairstyle on a gal. I tend to go for that Suicide Girl look anyway for some reason. It was only after I drew her that it occurred to me that it makes her look a bit Mohican (or at least the Hollywood representation thereof) so at the last minute I decided to add the mini comic to address it. Really, the flexible Uniform Dress Code going on around Arc-SWAT pretty much deserves it’s own full page, so I may yet do that, but in the meantime I didn’t want people to think Xochitl’s appearance was based on my idea of what Aztecs are supposed to look like.
If you’re not familiar with the Boston area accent, Xochitl sounds a lot like Nancy from 30 Rock.
I’m a fan of 4th wall humor, as long as it’s not abused. I think the last time Sydney did it was way back on page 54, so I’m comfortable I’m not overdoing it. I recently started watching Magnum P.I. on Netflix (along with this rewatch podcast) Every episode someone mugs to the camera. Then again, Abed from Community is basically 4th wall incarnate, and I dig that show, so I guess I’m down as long as it’s handled with care.
Today’s page again colored by Keith.
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