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Nuke 'Em 'Till They Glow!! - The  Early Years

More Character Evolutions
Written by Benjamin A. Oliver
Art by Esa Karjalainen (2002-2004),
Liz Imp (1998),
Tim Servat (1998),
and Evan Lindsey (1999)
September 20, 2004

NETTG: The Knight Mutations

Yet again, it's been a great big old long while since I've done an article. It's been months since the last comic, etcetera… But only a few days since the last forum post. So, it can't be all bad.

I can't help but feel that the entire thing—the comic, the GDM game and everything else has been somewhat premature. If I knew back then what I know now….

On the other hand, I've loved working on this stuff and have picked up on a great deal of what-not-to-do and what to-do for a volunteer / fun / loopy project such as this. Don't micromanage your artist is one good thing I've learned out of this. Another is definitely do continue writing and work on the activities that attracted one's following in the first place.

Just because somebody's drawing stuff for me now doesn't mean that I can stop writing prose and expect to get away with it, or without consequences. Oh sure, directing and masterminding the comic does take time, as does graduate-level coursework… but if I started using those as excuses, there'd be no end of it.

The writing slowdown feels like it began in the spring of 2003, the really evil first semester in the business college cohort where I had to drop everything and focus intensely on schoolwork. But that was also when the comic officially began. The biggest slowdowns involved time spent on the MMORPG Star Wars Galaxies, and I think the two other articles I wrote on that subject speak volumes on how engaging it was and how difficult to tear away from. It wasn't time wasted, per se, but I didn't get as much NETTG written as I would have liked.

Here's where I change the subject. If I were writing an essay and getting graded on it, I'd start with the main point, proceed from general to specific to my main point, and then provide supporting evidence for it.

But here's where I separate fun-writing from academic writing: if I started worrying about using that kind of structure, it'd take me a week from the time I started writing to finish this article, and that's if I pushed myself. No, it's far better if I just say what I want to say and let it come out natural. Actually, it's that natural flow that makes for poor standardized academic writing, but at the same time makes things a bit more fun to read. Or, at least that's the impression I get from Esa when he talks about stuff I've written. Instead of angsting about how terrible I am for not releasing stuff very often for public consumption, I take comfort in the fact that others do have faith in the method to my madness.

It's that madness of which I want to write now. By the fall of 1997, I had gotten to reading Ranma, Sailor Moon, and other fan fiction available online at the time. I'd also gotten to watching a couple of anime series here and there. After a few failed attempts at writing fanfics (two silly SIs that I never posted and I think are gone forever), I sat down to write what would have been my most serious work to date. I started writing, decided to veto the introductory sequence with Sailor Pluto talking with Star Trek:TNG's Q, and started thinking of the name for the main character of this future magnum opus of mine.

I had read Rachel Herndon's "Sailors, Knights, and Masks" some time earlier and was awestruck by the sheer brilliance of the simple direct satire. My character, thought I, had to be someone like that. I wrote down, "The Moonlight Atom Boy was bored." Then I went back and stared at it. No, that wasn't right. Neither was Starlight Atom Boy, Starlight Atom Knight, or Starlight Atomic Knight.

The final name revision… had a certain magic to it. Indeed, that story, Nuke 'Em 'Till They Glow!! became the tale of…

Now that's a perfectly proper name for an off-beat hero if I've ever seen one. Yes, it's a name that doesn't let anybody give it any guff; it's a name that kicks down doors, clomps around wearing scuffed army boots, and stuffs grenades down monsters' throats. This guy, whoever he was, didn't take orders from anyone; he mosh-pitted to the indecipherable beat of his own electric guitar. Guns and grenades were his native language; explosions his mother tongue.

This character… spoke to me. This guy was someone whom I really wanted to write about.

The kickoff to the story went rather well. I got enough positive feedback that made me want to keep it up. To make an epic unnecessarily short, I'm still writing about 'em seven years later. The influence has been that good. ASK has long been my flagship character, and is nowhere near ready to be supplanted. So, let's get going on how his appearance developed over the years.

ASKAs I mentioned before in some articles, I craved art soon after I got the story underway. My best online friend at the time, Jason Hanks, asked one of his friends to draw a picture of ASK for me. I gave the description in as much detail as I could think of, and this was the result:

Something seemed rather off to me at the time. The artist, who had never read any of my material, had somehow not managed to capture the sheer majesty and destructive force I had envisioned. She was not, unfortunately, a psionic master artist and could not read my mind to give me exactly what I wanted. Alas and alack! Or something to that effect.

Not to worry, though. A piece of true fanart was not long in coming:

This one was sort of a bribe given to me by a fan to encourage me to continue writing. It captured much better the feel I had for the character. Tim Servat had done his homework well. And I continued writing, but heard no more from this artist.


Next up was my favorite pre-Mexico era artist, Evan Lindsey.

He had not only done his homework, but he was a reasonably experienced artist as well. We came up with plans for an impromanga, and had things worked out, how we'd handle it.

I recently came back into contact with Evan, if only for a short email. It was good to hear from him. Apparently, he took ill soon after I left the country. He was in really bad condition for years, and is only recently recovering to any measurable extent. I hope I managed to convey to him how much of a help he was, even back then by just a couple of character design sketches. It was good to hear from him, one last time….


ASKThe next art comes years later, when Esa contacted me. There was a quick piece done to test the waters, to see how I would respond to a bit of art.

I loved it! Oh, sure, ASK wasn't quite right, but Terra was looking good. I'd just taken a class on appreciating art, and boy oh boy, did I ever appreciate it. And by appreciating it, I got more. Mostly Terra, but some more ASK designs. As it turned out, his was an appearance rather difficult to nail down.


Some of the designs came close, but not quite there. Another important milestone sketch surfaced:


This version of ASK was about the right age, had the right armor, and wore the right expression for the off-beat hero I had in my mind. I even got a full color image of his de-transformed self, 'Tim.


This was really starting to get nifty. Finally, Esa got a good bead on his appearance when he drew a big ol' portrait of him.


That was him! That's the guy I envisioned. Focused enough to keep his cool, and he loved his job. He just happened to enjoy blowing things up as his chosen line of work. Now that we got his appearance nailed down, we could try some other things. For example, there were the attempts at drawing his upgraded form from the latest NETTG chapter, the thusly-named "Black ASK."


These attempts were somewhat less successful. When the need truly comes, a few more tests will probably give us the results we want. Apart from that, there were a couple of sillier drawings made; a Chibi-ASK and one that kind of follows the Megaman / Rockman disproportionate style:


ASKThis leads us to the latest evolutions of this main character. We've gotten to know him quite well as time and experiments have gone on. Who knows, really, what all of the versions will end up being like?

There's one casual image that looks like him with his armor off. I'm not sure if it's him or not, but the hair is right and the weapons are appropriate.

With a name like the Atomic Starlight Knight, he's obviously going to have a sturdy muscle structure. Besides, in the fanfic we have Serena / Usagi fawning over him, so we might as well make that believable. ^_^

ASKThat about wraps it up here. ASK's design has taken quite a while to nail out, and while we haven't gotten all the details quite right, we will be just that much further along the way when the time comes that we have to perfect them.


You know, work on this comic has been rather slow. I suppose that's unavoidable when both the artist and the writer are trying to get Masters degrees. We've spent every inspired moment we can spare on it, and yet it's not enough to manage a regular update schedule. Given our circumstances, we really have done all we can…

…and that's all right. This is mostly for fun and the excitement of doing something nifty. There is viable resume material to be had here if we keep pushing along, and there will always be the odd fan about as long as we choose not to disappear entirely like a few other webcomics. We do hope to become more efficient so we can post on a more regular basis. That would make everyone just a bit happier.

The madness of the situation continues… and I find it oddly comforting.

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June 15, 2004: NETTG: The Terra Evolutions


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