WAITING TO EXPLODE
Script – Michael Colbert and Josh Finney
Art – Ryan Sergeant
Layouts and colors – Josh Finney
Waiting to Explode has been laying around since the Digital Webbing days; the plan was to have it as a stand-alone story if we went and did the series with DWP. Sadly, or possibly for the best, that route was not to be taken. But when the time came for 01 the story was, in my opinion, the perfect step to take to expand the euniverse. It was a great story with a twist, lots of action, A Die Hard-esque plot (which I’m a sucker for) and most signifigantly: already written. With all the work I had on deck I was grateful for the fact that I had stock piled stories. All I had to do was crank it up, make a tiny revision here and there, let Josh take a quick gander for a dialogue tweak here and there then move on to production… Easy.
Boy was I wrong.
Pn 1 – A slightly different opening. Originally I opened with what’s on PAGE 2; it was a struggle to get the story into 22 pages so I felt what happens on this page is evident on page 2. Doing the story for the GN freed up space so we get a get an in-the-moment killing instead of a remove.
As a side note, I always have sympathy for the poor security guard in movies and TV. Their function in such media is suffering a senseless and horrible death to illustrate how bad/evil/monsterous the antagonist is. Always wrong place, wrong time for these poor saps.
Guilty as charged, but in case you wanted to know; the guard that gets his head blown off was named Reggie. Things had been a bit up and down for Reggie recently; his girlfriend of two and a half years had just left him. (“It’s not you, it’s me.”) But he did recently reconcile with this estranged half-brother because of a cancer scare. Reggie drank a bit too much and couldn’t stop recalling the glory days of high school. Especially when he made that winning touchdown off a beautiful Hail Mary pass that Gibson had thrown to Simmons. Simmons was a dick and always got the girl even when he acted like a complete douchebag. But it wasn’t Simmons who was wide open near the endzone that fateful day in October. It was REGGIE! Gibson tossed that pigskin and it was like the whole world went into slow motion. Reggie could see the spin on the ball as it soared through the air in a beautiful arc right to where he was headed. As the final seconds ticked down on the scoreboard and the HUD in his helmet, Reggie knew this was his moment. But the ball was too high and two defensemen were closing in. Instinct took over and Reggie leapt over the attacking slabs of muscle, violence and football gear and plucked that goddamn ball right outta thin air landing safely in the endzone. Everybody in the bleachers went crazy, even Brittney Walters… especially Brittney Walters… and all was right with the world. That night at a kegger his buddy Scooby (not his real name) was throwing because his parents had gone to the Poconos for the weekend, he scored again, this time with Brittney. Douchebag Simmons, attending the same party, passed out on the back porch and woke up vomit stained with Scooby’s wire hair terrier mix licking the remaining chunks of barf off his lips. Suck it Simmons.
Yes those were the good ‘ole days and the rest of Reggie’s life was a slow, spirit breaking decline from that young highpoint. Brittney went on to become a dental hygienist with four kids out in Wichita near the Holy Texas Empire border. They never hooked up again though they did become Facebook friends a few years ago. Simmons went on to sell used hover cars in Jersey and ranks 20,056 in World of Warcraft’s Fightin’ Cleric brigade (Holydeathmerchant97).
Reggie’s story will never be known beyond the digital ink of these annotations but that doesn’t lessen the tragedy of his passing. In fact the tragedy is amplified; Reggie’s funeral was closed casket and only a smattering of people, including his half-brother and his ex, attended. Unsung and few to remember him; Reggie’s violent death was merely an exclamation point in an otherwise standard sentence. Reggie might never have lived up to his potential as a comic book character, but he had a good credit rating and always tipped at least twenty percent. So, next time you see that poor miserable son of a bitch security guard who gets sanctioned an hour and a half before the Bruce Willis image-licensed hero saves the day in a special effects extravaganza, remember Reggie. ’Cause that poor bastard dying for plot reasons has a rich backstory that only the writer and the extra playing him care about.
But I digress.
Pn 1 – Poor Reggie
Pn 2 – Saul giving last rights.
Pn 3 – Hugo’s body in the shot, of course we don’t know that Hugo is the bomb at this point. This is the opening I originally wrote and it serves multiple ends: We learn of God’s army and their ruthlessness, someone is watching them from survaillaince cameras, that watching someone doesn’t want this to go down, Saul is a righteous ass-hole. Then add in a re-read after the Hugo reveal and the page takes on other levels for the story. Saul is still an ass-hole however you cut it, though. I always loved the bloody wheel tracks; ghastly but effective.
Pn 1 – A cluttered, chaotic, busy night in Megalopolis. This page is a lot of Josh’s doing; the set-up is pretty tight and there is a lot of information (both visual and dialogue driven) packed into these four panels. Once again I love each artist’s interpretation of Megalopolis. I try and veer away from the Blade Runner rainy dystopian punk rock look but I do feel that population nexus’ like Times square are going to be even MORE overloaded with advertisements and information and this panel does capture that.
Pn 2 – Mary’s ring tone is “Spirits in the material world” from the Police. Pretty on the nose especially considering the caller. The other house band for Crazy Mary is Sisters of Mercy BTW.
Pn 3-4 – These two panels achieved the same goal I had done in a page in the original draft. A bit more economical. The holoprojector on panel 4 is saying “No image available.”
Pn 2-5 – Roswell doing what Roswell does best; a little abstract information delivered elegantly. It should be noted that Roswell never tells Mary to do anything, he just gives her information and lets her decide for herself. Of course since he knows Mary he doesn’t really have to; he’s pretty sure what way she’ll go. This irritates Mary to no end. She has free will, arguably, but her reactions can be anticipated. He’s nudging her, immediately quelling the “Bullshit or not?” question of Hugo.
Pn 5 – “Two worlds and in-between” a line from “Lucretia My Reflection” a song from Crazy Mary’s other house band Sisters of Mercy.
Pn 1 – Roswell not messing around anymore.
Pn 2 – Mary’s hostility at her hand being forced. Roswell does look a tad smug.
Pn 3 – Two buildings mentioned here. 1 – Thorndyke building – pretty sure a blade runner reference. 2 – New Rose plaza is assuredly a William Gibson reference. I applaud Josh for this one.
Pn 4 – “Everything will add up.” A foreshadowing line if there ever was one. An overt reference to Hugo’s AI nature.
Pn 1, 2 – Josh added a lot of sweetening to the flying panels. Ryan’s pencils and colors were great but blurring the background and adding VFX to the bike’s propulsion and such just made the panels come alive.
The dead spot is a frequency envelope generator. A natural extention of tech in this world (countermeasures). In an earlier draft Glimmer sneaks into the building and tricks a God’s army into shooting it full of holes. The final version put the generator inside the bomb. That made tactical sense and eliminated some plot cleaning up from previous draft.
Pn 4 – “… ridiculously overpriced spy toys…” Josh’s line. I always liked that line.
Pn 5 – Another example of Josh’s sweetening and an excellent example of Josh’s military/hardware fetish. Sometimes I think Josh is a cyborg sent back from the future to acclimate us all to the singularity or the fact that “Call of Duty” becomes the primary outlet for international conflict.
Pn 1,2 – Another sweetening trick; Josh broke this panel in two and placed the recoil below the muzzle. The result is about a hundred times more dynamic. He did the same trick for Pn 5, 6 achieving the same magnitude of effect.
Pn 5 – “Club Dreah” in the background – Ryan illustrated my friend, Sean Dulaney’s book “Dreah, Queen of thieves”. Ryan was also illustrating my aborted adaptation of Yar’s Revenge back in ’08. I wanted to work with him since seeing Dreah on DWP and this was the opportunity.
Josh “remixed” this page making the action more dynamic. The way I laid out the page had a bit more info and turned out crowded. Intergrating diagonal lines and splitting that one panel into two really amped up the tension. I know enough about graphic design to see when it’s done right but just not enough (at the time) to come up with that idea on my own. This is the benefit of having someone like Josh in your corner.
Pn 1 – A hazy vfx over the panels on this page. Nice aftermath shot.
Pn 5 – Two to the chest… …and one to the head – Josh’s line, lending more credence to the cyborg from the future theory.
Pn 1 – Simon is a ladies man, you can tell.
Pn 2,3 – You had ONE job, Simon…
Pn 5 – Mary doesn’t kill so it is tazer pistols in all their glory. Bet it hurts though.
Pn 4 – Mary really liked that coat too.
Pn 2 – 3 But Hugo has told you where the bomb is Mary. Hugo is struggling, has always been, with telling Mary the truth. I wouldn’t call it a slip-up; Hugo is just being as evasive as he can be while still giving Mary what she wants.
A side note on Hugo’s name: I wasn’t thinking of Hugo Chavez when I named him; Hugo just seems like a name an AI would give itself. Beats Reggie (sniff, poor Reggie).
Pn 1 – The original version of this story focused more on the Die Hard mechanics of the plot. I was determined to get a face to face between Mary and Hugo and as a result I had to thin out God’s Army methodically. It kinda got off track from the heart of the story but it also built up a relationship between Mary and Hugo not un-like the John McClane/Al Powell relationship in Die Hard. When Mary and Hugo do meet face to face there is a level of tenderness in their brief time together. Obviously the situation changed in the re-write and the dynamic between Mary and Hugo changed too.
Pn 1-2 – Josh pointed out to me in the script that Saul’s religious trappings are very catholic. I wasn’t cognizant of that at first but it later helped dictate elements of God’s Army design and agenda as they evolved from faceless baddie/obstacle to more defined antagonists.
Pn 3 – The problem with finding a sufficiently wrathful bible passage wasn’t eeking one out from text but in choosing from the multitude available. Fortunetly I had a substantial list of quotes that I had gathered from researching the supplemental prose story in Titanium Rain and another project titled K.R.A.N.E.
Pn 4 – I named Saul after my least favorite apostle
Pn 1 – I suppose it’s redundant to point out that Saul is modeled after Hans Gruber in all the most superficial ways.
It’s mostly covered by a balloon but you can see Peter’s bandages from his most recent bout of cutting.
Pn 4 – I never specified that God’s Army dress like the support team for Master Chief. I believe that came out of Ryan’s designs.
Judges and Exodus team – Josh’s flourish; a little old testament wrath style. Fitting for God’s Army.
Pn 1 – Wallpaper had made a swing to hypnotic patterns when Thorndyke building was built apparently.
Pn 2 – 3 – You get the feeling Peter isn’t well liked among the members of God’s army? Too weird for a bunch of neo-fascist religious nuts? “The cutting keeps him pure.” This was a Josh idea. It adds a fragile human angle to a least one of these messed up people.
Pn 2-3 – I love the holo-schemes. Pretty much exactly how I wrote them out. Josh sweetened them with a filter of course.
Pn 4 – Still no lack of wrathful smack talk. Thanks bible.
Josh had written some dialogue for this exchange that wasn’t quite what I was aiming for. At first I thought my redux was a bit on the nose but Josh loved it. He felt I was right on target and encouraged me to get in touch with my anger towards religion. That advice informed the later speech from Mary.
“…that’s not piety, that’s myopia!” Ok, Mary DOES hang out at a lot of coffee houses.
Pn 3 – About wheels turning – Glimmer chooses to go in to help Mary. This is the beginning of the architecture of coincidence that saves Mary’s ass.
As stated previously; I had wanted a face to face between Mary and Hugo. This draft made it obvious that was just not possible. Here is a version with the reveal of Hugo as the bomb :
PANEL 5 Low angle. By a desk surrounded by three of the low walls. Phil and Andrew are in a pile like sacks of flour. Mary is standing over them. Hugo’s balloon is back to spiky.
You did good Hugo. How’s part two of the plan?
I have five minutes of recorded hall cam footage.
Start running it. And the radio check-ins?
I can fake it as long as they don’t want to talk sports or something.
Don’t worry. One last thing Hugo…
PANEL 6 Mary is by the door Andrew and Phil were guarding. She is ready to open it. Hugo’s balloon is spiky.
You say if I find the bomb, I find you, right?
Yes, but… I have to tell you something…
Don’t bother, I’ve figured it out already grasshopper…
PANEL 1 A full page. We are inside the room, it’s an office with the desks pushed away to the edges. The lighting is from the overheads. In the middle of the room is the snowman bomb. Mary is in the background standing in the doorway looking at the device and she has a knowing look on her face, like she is bummed that she is right.
You are the bomb.
I felt that their heart to heart, where Mary convinces Hugo to not murder thousands of people need to have that visual connection and intimacy. I noted that Hugo should be shot like another person in the scene and his original design (like a snowman) reflected that. Just not gonna happen with the final draft. I had to sacrifice the intimacy but ultimately this situation made more sense from a logistic standpoint is more thrilling and has a better vibe of danger and desperation.
Pn 1 – Since there was no face to face Hugo got radically redesigned into the (again very Cathloic) ball and cross. It should be noted that it’s only Saul’s sense of the dramatic that informs Hugo’s shape because, really, after the bomb explodes there wouldn’t be anything left. But I had decided very early on that Saul was a melodramatic douche bag.
Pn 2-3 – Mary always knows when she is being directly watched through a camera. Must be that crazy sight of hers.
“Just don’t explode.” A simple solution. But life is never simple like that or, more specifically, we don’t allow it to be that simple. Classic, well-trod argument here: Free will vs. Fate. What if God came down from heaven and said you were put on this earth to kill thousands. It is your destiny to have your name reviled with the likes of Hitler, Stalin, Cheney? Two things 1. You’re not cool with that. 2. God is an asshole. I mean just #1 is enough but essentially #2 is about some prick using you to push his own agenda and selling it as “Destiny”. I think it’s obvious where my sentiments lie. But Hugo’s existential crises is more tactile…
Pn 1 – He was created to blow up, there is no hypothehtical here. What a mind job that would be. Consider that instead of being a psycho like Hitler who cultivates the mass destruction your destiny is that you are patient zero for an epidemic that will kill thousands or maybe millions. You’re not a bad person, you just got the short straw. If you knew that what would you do about it? Especially if you had your creator (the one who also made the virus) telling you your purpose.
Pn 2-3 – “A rudimentary AI, no smarter than a chicken.” Chicken; the one meat all religions can agree on.
Pn 1-2 a little humor to lighten the tone. A female pope; note they aren’t upset that it’s a female pope. Gay porn in the background as Pete cuts himself to fight the urges.
Pn 3 – Behind Saul’s words is the God’s army logo; it’s a mod of a fascist logos from Italy if I recall correctly. A lot of research went into that little detail.
Pn 4 – Ahh, the dangers of expanding your mind, AI or otherwise.
“The data sea” was coined (at least by my knowledge) by David Louis Edelman in his “Jump 225 trilogy” a book series I cannot recommend highly enough. It’s from Pyr books which is run by my friend, and Crazy Mary afterward writer, SF guru Lou Anders.
Pn 2 – The importance of Zero, One, Two and its correspondence to Yes, No, Maybe is revealed later.
Pn 3 – Sometimes I do think Roswell is deliberately obtuse just to make Mary work for it.
Pn 5 – This is Mary’s angle to convince Hugo not to explode.
Pn 2 – Droppin’ a little Nietzsche on ya! Rather fitting for an existential crises.
Pn 3-5 The whole argument condensed into 3 panels. Gun included.
Pn 1 “These Assholes…” Mary feels the same as I do about the subject (no big surprise). I have a real problem with people trying to cram THEIR morality and world view down my throat! I’m very much a “Live and let live” kinda person and this behavior is very much against my personal code. This goes doubly so for religious folks because the idea that they could be mistaken is short circuited by their unwavering faith that it is mandated by God therefore right, regardless of the evidence to the contrary. What’s baffling is the obsessive need to eradicate all contrary points of view and any variant from their accepted world view. It seems like a pointless exercise to me; shit, if you’re so sure you’re right just kick back and enjoy the fact. Of course the point is that deep down they know they’re wrong and externalize that denial by trying to expunge contrary viewpoints. Hence blowing shit and people you find disagreeable up.
Welcome to sentience, it aint ever easy.
Unlike me Mary is a big coffee drinker.
Pn 4 – “By taking a leap of faith” subverting the opposition’s dogma there.
PN 1 – Glimmer’s vehicle is an odd duck sort of an ATV of flying machines. Ryan just winged it (I gave no description of it). One can assume it’s newer, not a conversion like a lot of flyers in Megalopolsis. So I figure Glimmer has some money in the coffers. Some interesting backstory there.
PN 4 – Ouch! See the wheels turning; did Roswell know Glimmer was going to be there at that moment?
PN 1 “Fire and brimstone…” heh.
PN 2 – I love that Hugo switched to the camera watching them. Quick way to make them know who he is.
PN 1 – EXPLODO! Hugo got to have it both ways. I can’t help think of the collateral damage of the Thorndyke going up but it could’ve been worse. Nice epic panel BTW. Thanks Ryan and Josh.
PN 1 – Apollo’s coffee again, I never get tired of that joke. Post-game wrap up over coffee.
PN 2 – Trinary code for AI; Yes, no, maybe… a trinity of “Spirit guides”. A lot of threes hanging around this book. Hmmmm.
PN 1 – Ummm, yeah… Hugo could’ve that. If he did I guess he could watch Mary from a security cam…
PN 2 – Rez-lines indicating the shot is on a SECURITY CAM!?!?!?!?
PN 4 – As I’ve said before; Mary always knows when someone is watching her through a cam.
In the original draft I had a follow-up scene of Hugo wandering free on the data sea essentially in an AI nirvana.
PANEL 5 The kaleidoscopic tube again. In the center, like we are zooming away from it is Mary on the cam monitor.
It feels like a billion fingers or hands reaching out and carrying me…
THIS PAGE IS A FULL PANEL PAGE WITH SEVERAL SMALL PANELS (1-4) INSERTED ON IT MAKE THE INSERT PANELS FLOW LIKE A NATURAL READING PROGRESSION AND CAP IT OFF WITH THE WHOLE PAGE PANEL 5.
PANEL 1 The tube again but we are just about to leave it and enter the Escher cityscape of the web again.
…Crowd surfing on the web…
PANEL 2 We see the full cityscape the racing lights, the windows into our world, code floating in the air… a glowing living thing.
Here I am now one with infospace all the thoughts, dreams, and ideas of the world!
PANEL 3 The same view except that glowing hands come into view from the bottom of the panel. They are human but they have a slight purple glow, like an aura around them.
Humans, artificial intelligence… and more… I can be part of their lives here…
PANEL 4 Same view except the arms are spreading out to the sides of the panel.
I am part of it, the living world. I am one with everything…
PANEL 5 The full panel. We see Hugo he looks like a teenage boy version of the child we saw back on page 18; young, vibrant, glowing and happy. He has his arms stretched wide like he is embracing everything a broad blissful smile on his face. The web city pulses and glows behind him and all around him. He’s truly in his element.
…This must be Heaven!
This end also existed when Mary and Hugo met face to “face” so part of it was archaic to begin with.
We decided to leave it a little open to interpretation. What we did in final draft soft sells the idea and has its own charm too. I think it’s a better ending because the reader is left to draw their own conclusions about a lot of the loose ends.