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
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
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.
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.
to worry, though. A piece of true fanart was not long in
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,
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….
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
This was really starting to get nifty. Finally,
Esa got a good bead on his appearance when he drew a big ol' portrait
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
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:
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. ^_^
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.