So, when I sat down to make Everyone’s Felt Like This Once I pulled together a selection of about thirty old Wake Up Screaming strips and evaluated their potential to be in such a collection. As can be seen in the finished product, the majority were four-panel gag comics that were largely self contained. What that meant was I had to pass on a load of favourites that were made in a much more free-form style. Often there were quite random panel arrangements, and I’m blaming Kyle Baker‘s Why I Hate Saturn for the fact that I sometimes put the dialogue outside the panel. It was a way to break up big conversations by having a close-up of the character speaking next to a huge chunk of dialogue that would have drowned a panel, or had to be chopped up over an excessive number of them.
The bigger issue was that many of the comics contained callbacks to traits that were established in older strips. In some cases, there were things taken as read from the original version of Wake Up Screaming, which featured character models from 2001. Those are half the size of the current ones, which I’ve used since 2003. Upon said evaluation, it became clear that certain aspects of the characters weren’t clear from the collected material. Rebus in particular has some of the most obvious omissions. Although he appeared in several strips, as it was he came across more weary than angry. There were no strips that depicted his violent side, which made up the bulk of the material about him. Ask the seven people who read the original comics about him and he’d be “the bitter one who wallops people with a claw hammer”. He seemed quite mellow going by the bits in the collection. The brunt of jokes by Grant and Brodie, rather than giving much worse than he ever got. Yeah, I was planning to add a character page, but that felt like cheating to cover the cracks. I had to make a whole new strip to show that side of his character.
There was also a knock-on effect from the selection which saw an entire character ejected from the cast. There had been a fourth male member of the cast, a former IT student called Ferris. A graduate now working as a programmer, Ferris was in full time employment, annoying Rebus. Though, sometimes he acted as Rebus ally, as his work ethic rubbed Grant and Brodie’s slacker ethos up the wrong way. The last batch of produced material from 2007 had him being evicted from the flat as I’d ran out of any ideas on what to do with his character, and decided that things would be more interesting if I brought in a new roommate who was much more antagonistic to Grant and Brodie. I never actually finished that storyline. And forgotten the replacement’s name…
Ferris was only slated to appear in one comic on my collection shortlist, and he wasn’t doing anything that showed how he interacted with the rest of the cast. He was just an additional face and it felt like an acceptable move to replace him with another member of the cast.
Compare and contrast this with the sample page here.
My other choices led to some jigging around of the material. At first glance of the old strips, it doesn’t take long to see that most of the girls were built from one character model, with the hairstyle being the biggest change. I reworked them to make it less obvious, which meant that there was some major alterations to the parts where they appeared, in addition to clearing up the mess of the various fonts I’d used in the past. Since that was the case, I made some decisions regarding some of the comics and elected to ditch Grant and Brodie from a few, replacing them with various combinations of the rest of the cast. Where character appropriate, of course.
I made one additional new strip to mix things up and try have as much of the cast interact with each other. Not sure I balanced it all out right, but I think it’s better for the changes made, rather than twenty-two pages of Grant and Brodie.
The last aspect that never made it into the book is probably the one that’ll seem the most oddest to someone not familiar with the older material. The college attended by the cast was usually referred to as The College of Doom. That wasn’t a euphemism. The college was meant to be an actual living nightmare, staffed by reanimated heads and be-robed undead monk type things.
The chief antagonist was known as Peter The Bastard, a wink to a gag in The Young Ones, as my elevator pitch for Wake Up Screaming was “it’s The Young Ones meets Daria“. There was even a sort of running gag where Grant and Brodie usually managed to kill Peter at the end of term. hoping that it might stick and mean they’d never have to deal with him again.
These omissions have put me in something of a bind. I’m still planning to work on Points On A Graph, the collection advertised in the back of Everyone’ Felt Like This Once, but there’s a notion in my head of doing a second Wake Up Screaming collection. That would necessitate all new material, as I don’t think anything in the archives would work in a similar collection. So, having established a tone free of demonic lecturers, do I continue on in that fashion, or revive the classic concepts? If I decide to put a fourth male cast member back in, do I revive the missing member or try the new concept?
It’s a quandary…