You probably know by now that the third chapter of The Adventures of Hercule Cubbage has been released. I figure now’s the perfect time to talk a bit more about the comic, particularly the “guest star” of the chapter and where we go from here.
Alyx Vance had a very big role in this particular chapter, as she was teased to back in the final page of Chapter Two, but it wasn’t always certain she’d actually appear. The plans for Hercule Cubbage go back to 2011 or earlier and, for the most part of that year, were in constant flux until I could settle on the plot I wanted to go with, so not everything was set in stone – including Alyx appearing in the comic. Frankly, I didn’t want to put her in just for the sake of having her in, because the worst kind of fan-fiction is the one that picks upon the main characters of the original story and runs them into the ground; however, plot-wise, she always made sense in the context of the story.
The title of the chapter, Paternal Bonds, may seem somewhat insignificant, but it does shed light on why Alyx appears – she’s a foil for Hercule’s relationship with Odessa. Alyx and her father Eli are almost equals, the latter treating her with the utmost respect while she does everything in her power to help him, and there’s clearly a very loving bond between them; Hercule and Odessa, on the other hand, have already been shown to be pretty much dysfunctional, and I did my best to shed more light into that in this chapter. Hercule does suffer from some severe daddy issues at this point in the story and it remains to be seen how I treat those in the future; Alyx being there helps me illustrate by comparison. It’s also fitting that, at this point in the Half-Life 2 story, Alyx is actively trying to rescue her father, pretty much the same thing as our misguided Hercule is doing, so even they connect through that – but Alyx soon makes it clear that Hercule might be on a fool’s errand. Which is, in fact, another reason Alyx is in it.
So far, I’ve played the “One Free Man” bit from the first chapter – where Dr. Breen’s message regarding Doctor Freeman is confused by Hercule as referring to Odessa – for laughs, but it was never meant to be the “No, Frohman” gag of the story. It was always planned that, during the course of chapter 3, Hercule would realize that his father may not have been entirely truthful with him during his entire life, and who better than Alyx, a familiar face from the games and the daughter of the actual leader of the Resistance, to tell him that? We know, from the games, that Alyx knows Odessa Cubbage, so it makes sense that she wouldn’t have a very high opinion of him – I mean, have you met Odessa? -, and so she’s the perfect character to throw the truth into Hercule’s little imaginary world.
Last and pretty much least, it was actually Alyx herself that inspired the creation of Hercule Cubbage. Her humorous exchange in Episode One regarding Odessa – “Hey, you’re Kleiner’s daughter, right? “No, my father’s Odessa Cubbage.” – gave me the idea to go with a story where Odessa actually had a son, and I built Hercule from there. So it feels poetic to me that Alyx might have an appearance in the comic, however brief.
I’ve actually discovered that some people treat her appearance here as setting The Adventures of Hercule Cubbage in an alternate dimension, as if she couldn’t possibly be in the comic during this appearance. Well, while the comic is obviously not officially canon with the games, her presence here does fit into the timeline, and the comic heavily hints at that. During the Black Mesa East chapter of Half-Life 2, you, as Dr. Freeman, hang out with Alyx for a while until the base is attacked, after which you’re forcefully separated from her and take a detour through Ravenholm while she escapes elsewhere. Later on, after you spend the night in Ravenholm, you reach a Resistance base, Shorepoint, and contact Alyx there, where she tells you to go to Nova Prospekt and promises to meet you there. You only get back together with her in person once you’re well into the Depot of Nova Prospekt, finding Alyx apparently having just arrived by train. The comic is set broadly between the end of “We Don’t Go to Ravenholm” and Nova Prospekt, with the radio call to Freeman happening early in the chapter and the rest of the comic illustrating how she caught the train that took her to Nova Prospekt.
I’d actually been building to this for a long time – Lucy wanted to go to Black Mesa East because it was the safest place left after the canal raids and she knew of an underground passage to the place that passed through an unused safehouse; Alyx, in turn, managed to escape Black Mesa East with a handful of survivors and took the opposite route to that very safehouse, where our characters meet. I did my best to make it work into the continuity of the games – and Alyx’s last line even hints at her later joke regarding being Odessa’s daughter in Episode One!
I think you should know, however, that the comic won’t be crowded with guest appearances from major Half-Life 2 characters from now on – except maybe Colonel Odessa Cubbage, who’s obviously integral to the story, but I hardly count him as a “major” character. Alyx’s appearance helped the story, but it was pretty much an one-off deal. Whether anyone else present in this chapter will have a bigger role later on is another thing, though… let’s just say an unknown character that will have a bigger role later on makes an early cameo appearance in Paternal Bonds. I do plan ahead, you guys!
Oh, also, don’t bother looking for the G-Man hiding behind some wooden crates or in a magical hoverboard, because he’s not in the comic and he’s not likely to ever be. It’s a big cliché of Half-Life 2 stories that the G-Man must be watching the protagonist, as a way of tying them into the larger mythology and making them appear more important. Frankly, I don’t think our friendly neighborhood intergalactic bureaucrat would be much concerned with Hercule Cubbage, even if he had dealings with his father. He’s got better thingssss to do with his… time.
As for what’s coming next, I feel like I should give you a heads-up, even if it’s not much my M.O.: the next chapter is almost entirely a flashback, as I want to further explore Hercule’s past. It’s called Memory Lane. As for when it will arrive… well, I took nearly one year to finish Chapter One, six months to get Chapter Two done, five to finally complete Chapter Three… at this rate, you should revisit the saga of Hercule Cubbage, son of Colonel Cubbage, about four months from now. I may have already started work.
I guess this has gotten too wordy really fast, but I wanted to clarify the timeline and shed some light on the story behind all the comedy and explosions (I’ve been told this is my Michael Bay comic, and I can definitely see where that’s coming from). Again, I owe the existence of this chapter to my good friend ErikKiller, who slaved his ass off to get that big freight station map operational, particularly after my very ambiguous guidelines. He did the heavy work this time around, it wouldn’t exist like this if it weren’t for him!
I’m thinking of putting a poll up later asking which chapter you’ve preferred so far – I really am curious as to what you guys like the most. Chapter One was a more straightforward action-adventure with plenty of humor, Chapter Two went into a more action-oriented, horror tone and Chapter Three, besides the Michael Bayism of the “bombastic” action setpiece (“*Sigh* Really, Mythos?“), tried to develop the characters a bit from the very broad strokes they had before. I wonder what will sit best with the crowd – Chapter Four will probably be more akin to Chapter Three, only with less explosions.
Anyhow, I hope to keep you updated with further news and content soon! See ya later and enjoy the comic!