Sometimes I have ideas for single, hopefully humorous and witty comics that ought to be entertaining for a short read. Other times, I have thoughts of deep, introspective and tentatively meaningful stories (my first ever proper comic idea was one such case – I’ll get to that someday). And quite often, I have ideas for sweeping epics almost hard to just imagine that I spend a lot of time working on only to get them nowhere because they’re just too big.
But on very rare occasions, I have an idea that is completely, utterly, absurdly insane. This was one such case. Meet Joan.
The story of Joan began, like many other stories, with an idea – but whereas most ideas tend to be sensible and logical, this was just completely out of left field. The idea was originally a simple association: at the very beginning of Half-Life 2, one apparently paranoid citizen tells the player to not drink the water because it makes people “forget”. Most, including me in all but one instance, interpret that as the water being supposedly dangerous, necessary to avoid, yet another crime against humanity committed by “Our Benefactors”, the dreaded Combine.
One time, however, I must’ve been thinking of The Big Lebowski or Weeds or something of the sort, because my perception, for a single moment, changed, and it occurred to me a very simple fact about Humanity: anything that can be harmful to your health will be abused somehow, just for fun. So it stood to reason that, hypothetically, there might be some characters that used this “forgetting water” for recreational purposes, and then it’d become very much like alcohol, if you really think about it.
That’s how it started.
All of a sudden, I had a very original premise: an imagined side of Half-Life 2 where a few citizens are not depressed-oppressed like the rest, they just drink to forget. A lot. And, like booze, that leads to partying and messes and… well, some other incidents. I would say more, but I don’t want to spoil the scene that spawned from that, the very first scene of a very weird comic.
Bear in mind as well that, at the time I made this comic – very late 2012, after Chapter One of The Adventures of Hercule Cubbage was out, but before proper work started on Chapter Two -, I was really into the Scott Pilgrim books and movie, so that ended up influencing it creatively. The editing was a blend of my normal layout style and a crazy idea where the main character’s narration was expressed in a… peculiar, hand-made way.
I have more to say, but I’m first going to let the comic itself do the talking. Because Joan has something to say – click the pages to expand them, it’s totally worth it.
This is all I ended up making of Joan, with the exception of the cover – which I still feel pretty much summarizes what the whole experience was, which is seeing this very familiar universe in the eyes of a particularly strange character:
If you’re wondering, I drew those pink notes with my own hand, on an iPad with some drawing app I’ve unfortunately forgotten about. I did it like this, a very troublesome method, because it felt a lot more personal than using some random font to do it. This way, even though it was my “handwriting” (more like my fingertip-writing), it was essentially Joan herself writing all over the comic. It was a very weird, meta sort of idea, like Deadpool upped to a pinkish, feminine eleven.
In case it’s not clear yet, the comic would be following the main character, Joan, through one single day of her life, split between morning, day and night. That very first scene – random “drunk” girl waking up in a strange bed with an even stranger man watching her – was the very first thing that I thought of for this, and it was never meant to be misogynistic or demeaning to women. Instead, it was just this very silly “party girl” having a problem that could happen to a real person, but in this oppressed, post-apocalyptic universe. The whole thing was obviously from her point of view – to the point that you have no idea what Doctor Breen is saying because she doesn’t give a damn – and it wouldn’t have been insulting, on the contrary, I meant it to be empowering. I like trying to come up with strong, interesting female characters, and Joan, to me, was a quite peculiar, fascinating character.
I ended up not pursuing this further for very simple reasons. First, it was extremely time-consuming, however fun it might be to do this very odd, unique editing; second, I honestly didn’t know where to take it. I knew I wanted a single-day story, but I couldn’t think of anything as interesting to continue the comic. One idea was to have Joan go on a misadventure that ended with her becoming an unwitting rebel; another was to just show a strange supporting cast throughout the issue and end with a “party” in the apartment block, finishing the comic with Joan passing out and just bringing it completely full circle. I just didn’t really have a good idea to develop, so I ended up shelving it for a bit, and then altogether as I forgot it.
Still, it may be just 4 pages and one cover, but I think it’s 4 of the most unique Garry’s Mod comic pages ever made, so I’m glad I remembered it in this phase where I just show off scrapped content. Sorry there’s not much more to see, but at least you got to meet this particular Joan – named after Joan d’Arc, FYI. I like her, you guys didn’t get to know her well but she was a nice kind of ongoing, careless character. She knew how to party in the post-apocalypse, that’s for sure.