Artwork by Fraylim and Splutt
Hey, everyone! Well, I really hope you enjoyed the story. It's been a labor of love! So I've got one last little behind-the-scenes feature to leave you with, but before we start, an important note of warning if you haven't read the rest of the story: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS. Consider yourself warned!
* * * * * EASTER EGGS AND INSIDE JOKES * * * * *
Easter Eggs - TG Heroines
I always like to include little Easter eggs and in-jokes in my stories, but this time I went a little crazy! First, I included a lot of subtle little references to several other TG comic book heroines:
- Mantra: The classic "Oh. My. GOD!" line when Chris shows up in a dress. Additionally, Eden and her daughter Evie made a little cameo since Chris's little cousin had a play date with a girl named Evie and at one point Evie's mom comes to pick her up.
- Sir Tristan from Camelot 3000: Harridan's look and personality were loosely based on Sir Tristan.
- Sasquatch: Her name was used as one of Prodigy's taunts ("blow me, Sasquatch")
- Courier: One of Chris's classmates was named after her (Jackie Gavin)
- Babewatch: At one point, Caleb is said to be babe-watching superheroines
- Shade "the Changing Woman": Some wordplay when Chris was buying bras and a woman in the changing room "threw some shade" her way
- Promethea: Promethan's female clone that he mentioned had this name
- She-Zow: One of the chapter titles "Here to Save the World, Dressed Like a Girl" is a lyric from the theme song. Also, some of Caleb's musings about alternate-dimension versions of PG sound a lot like Dude-Pow.
- Jimmy Olsen: Chris's grandmother (who's enthusiastically into Chris's dressing as a girl) has a last name of Olsen
- Guy "Gal" Gardner: Wordplay during the big fight in the Sanctuary about fighting the "gals in the garden"
- Roger from the Five Swell Guys: One of Chris's classmates is named Roger and Chris comments that he's a "swell guy"
- Electro Lass from HERO: PG fought her briefly in the big fight in the Sanctuary (PG commented that she "looked like she was dressed like a stripper")
- Ultimate Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew): Wordplay when Chris's little niece poked her mother ("...ultimately, Jessica Drew the line at being prodded...")
- Lusiphur "Lucy" from Poison Elves: The first little girl that PG saves was named Lucy and had an "elfin smile"
Easter Eggs - City of Heroes
Players of the old City of Heroes game probably noticed some references, too. I intentionally didn't set the story in Paragon City but I couldn't resist including some in-jokes:
- The whole excruciating hero registration process of trying to find an available name (and the fact that villains have a registration system, too!)
- While I gave the artists flexibility to change the looks of the characters, the initial character designs were all done in the CoH costume creator, so you'll definitely see little CoH elements in their looks
- Demetria's plot is essentially to create a literal "city of heroes"
- The original name of Marty's business was "Paragon Technologies" before it was destroyed and rebuilt, a nod to Paragon City
- Blamestorm makes a comment that heroes and villains should color-code "blue side and red side"
- Throughout the story and especially at the end, PG taunts like a tank in order to keep their foes focused on her (ironically one of the few character classes that I never really got into...)
- Demetria's "reconditioning" is a bit like the CoH alignment system, where villains can become heroes
- The notion that people are "camping" on good names for the registration system
- With his shapeshifting power, Chris kind of has two costume "slots," one for his civilian identity and one for PG
- The way they access the Sanctuary base is a bit like a base portal
- When the young heroes beat up Killbane and Killdozer, Harridan swoops in and takes credit—she was essentially kill-stealing!
- The statue of Starbrite is in the same pose and similar costume to one of the statues in Atlas Park
- Trixie has a magical aura that she wants to get removed that's "cool for about five minutes and then it's annoying"
- The first thing PG and Trixie do as new heroes is to street sweep for muggers. A few minutes later, Trixie comments that the little girl they saved was probably already getting mugged again.
What's in a Name?
The story has a fair bit of symbolism and foreshadowing but I'd rather not go into that too much since I can't think of a way to go into that without sounding totally pretentious and snooty. (And I also don't want to give away my entire playbook!) However, one sly little nod I included was that the meaning of almost all of the main characters is evocative of their role in the story:
- Chris - Named after Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travelers since he's on a journey of discovery
- Caleb - Whose name means "dog," is steadfast and loyal
- Prodigy - His real name is Marty Maddox and Martin means "warlike," foreshadowing his connection as PG's abrasive mentor
- Demetria - The mother figure, named after the goddess Demeter who was preoccupied with loss and grief over her lost daughter
- Enchantrix - Whose real name is Renata, which means "born again"
- Quasarblaze - Whose real name is Ashton, foreshadowing that even though he gets what he wants it's a hollow victory made of ashes
- Bhramari - Her hero name is named after the Hindu goddess of bees (which makes sense), but also foreshadows her unexpected turn as a badass warrior :)
Character Voice (Are You F—ing Kidding Me?)
When writing it's often an interesting challenge to lock down the characters' speech patterns, but this story was especially tricky since Chris has three voices: a teenage guy, Prodigious Girl, and the "future Chris" who narrates the story. I tried to make the three voices a little different (and sometimes the voices would evolve, for instance to subtly show Chris becoming more comfortable as Christie) but I also wanted to make sure they all sounded like the same character.
However, swearing actually had a funny role in the story. One little idiosyncrasy I incorporated was that Chris starts to swear more the longer he hangs out with the hilariously profane Prodigy, and the "future Chris" narrator even more, suggesting that Chris has picked up on some of Prodigy's bad habits. (Amusingly, the one character who seems to swear more than Prodigy is Bhramari, but since she uses sign language it isn't always as evident.)
* * * * * CHARACTER WRITEUPS * * * * *
When I started working with the artists I put together a booklet that provided descriptions of all the main characters. I gave Fraylim and Splutt a good bit of latitude to interpret things as they liked, but I used the old City of Heroes costume creator to mock up some ideas so they'd have something to work with. Here you can see my character writeups along with some notes about how they evolved, production sketches, and unused artwork!
PRODIGIOUS GIRLSecret Identity: Christopher "Chris" Patterson
Appearance as Prodigious GirlHair: Black
As Prodigious Girl, Chris shapeshifts into a female form and is for all intents and purposes, a teenage girl. She has long black hair and wears a mask. Her costume uses the same color palette as Prodigy, consisting of dark blues or purples with silver highlights and has a short cape and miniskirt, rather like the classic Supergirl cheerleader-style miniskirt. She wears thigh-high boots that have a wedge heel and has a utility belt.
As her name suggests, Prodigious Girl is busty, rather like Power Girl in the comics...big and noticeable, but not cartoonishly so. She's still a teenager, but her physique leads many people to think she's older. Like Power Girl, she has a "boob window" in her costume that shows off her cleavage. I don't specify the shape of that window, but doing it in a diamond shape might differentiate her a bit from Power Girl.
Design Notes: PG changed the most from my original design. As you can see I'd originally imagined her as a bit more tactical-looking heroine with a functional utility belt in keeping with the tone of these being heroes in the "real world." However, Fraylim's designs gave her a more Silver Age look, which I realized fit well with the character's more optimistic view, as well as her somewhat naive view of heroes at the beginning of the story.
Oh, and a few times in the story we're treated to some "alternate" versions of PG, such as PG's initial costume design (as designed by Caleb at the CosFab facility), "Voluptua," and "Magically Endowed Prodigious Power Princess." None of those were in the original story—Fraylim actually made those on his own just for fun, to which my response was, "Oh, these are absolutely gonna go in the story somewhere." I then tweaked the story to incorporate the three pieces, which amusingly were all attributed to Caleb's overactive imagination.
Appearance as Chris Patterson
Chris is a fairly average sixteen-year-old guy, self-described as a "late bloomer." He's geeky and probably slight of frame, not puny but certainly not athletic.
Design Notes: My original design called for Chris to have brown hair to differentiate his look from both PG as a brunette and Carly as a blonde, but Fraylim suggested that Chris instead have black hair like PG, which I thought made a fun parallel between the two. That proved to be a bit ironic since you very seldom see Chris as a guy in the story artwork!
Appearance as "Carly"
Hair: Blonde (wig)
"Carly" is a pseudonym that Prodigious Girl makes up when Prodigy wants to meet her in her secret identity. Physically she's identical to Prodigious Girl except wears a long blonde wig—the same wig Chris will wear later as "Christie"—and civilian clothes. (Notably as Carly she wears a flowered mini dress that belongs to Caleb's sister which Chris will end up having to wear as "Christie.")
Appearance as "Christie" Patterson
Hair: Blonde (wig)
"Christie" (a name Chris adopts at the end of the story) is Chris when he's crossdressed. Appearance-wise, this is Chris in a dress, wearing the same blonde wig that he wears as Carly. Since his mother discovered his cache of brassieres that were sized to fit Carly (i.e. Prodigious Girl's size), she has insisted that he wear them while dressed and purchased breast forms of that same size. So when he's crossdressed, Chris has the same size chest that he does as Prodigious Girl, though these are falsies instead of real breasts.
Per his parents' stipulation, when dressed as a girl Chris has to wear dresses and skirts, so no pants. (Apart from one notable exception in a scene with his mother when he wears jeans.) The flowered dress he gets from Caleb's sister should be particularly girly, but most of his other outfits can be more age-appropriate.
As Christie, Chris is particularly embarrassed by the size of his chest, and makes efforts to distract from his bosom by wearing girls' jackets or cardigan tops in the story. However, from an art perspective it may be more fun to show them off a bit more. :)
From a visual design perspective it's a question how feminine Chris should look as Christie. In the story, many people don't seem to realize that he's not really a girl, and considering that he's a slight teenager who's fumbling with makeup he may look just like a teenage girl. (Albeit well-endowed for her age.) Given that, it might make sense to signal Chris's real gender to the reader by things like chagrined facial expressions or awkward posture or body language.
Design Notes: As you can see, hitting the right mark for Chris's look en femme was an interesting challenge, but I think both artists did a great job! One design element that Splutt incorporated was that Chris's eyebrows remain the same in both modes, so they're a bit heavy for a girl. (And I couldn't resist having Caleb make that observation in the story.)
Appearance as "Valor"
Chris only wears this costume once early in the story during his ill-fated visit to Superhero Registration, and this initial male hero form isn't described very specifically. Physically it's an idealized form of Chris who's taller and more muscular and with blond hair, but still a teenager. The costume has a cape and it's implied that he's perhaps subconsciously imitating his idol, Promethean, which would suggest a white, red, and gold color scheme.
The costume should be fairly generic to accommodate the fact that Chris gets away with trying lots of different names, but it can be pretty forgettable since we only see it once in the story.
Design Notes: Or not at all, until now. :)
Caleb is never clearly described in the story. The only thing we know about him for sure is that at the very end of the story he impersonates Christie, suggesting that he and Chris have must have a passing physical resemblance when viewed from a significant distance. Mentally I kind of had him pegged as a Jay Baruchel type. He's a total geek but fascinated with girls and is quick with a smile.
Design Notes: Working with two artists sometimes presented some interesting challenges since sometimes one would get to a character before the other and establish the visual design first. In this case, Splutt got there first so in the color pics here you can see a slightly different design that Fraylim had in mind for Caleb. I thought it was a nice touch that Caleb's feminine impersonation at the end of the story isn't as polished as Chris's, but Splutt's version had was closer to the tone that I was going for. (I also thought also made it a little easier to believe that Blaze could mistake Caleb for Chris en femme!)
Funny coincidences did happen, though. When outlining the "PG flies with Caleb in a dress" pic I'm pretty sure I mentioned to both artists that having Caleb hold on to his wig might allow them to let the male Caleb peek through, but amusingly both artists independently came up with the idea of one of his high heels dangling off his foot! Too funny!
Secret ID: Marty Maddox
Age: 52 (appears late 60s or older as Prodigy)
We meet Prodigy both in hero mode and his secret identity, though this isn't revealed until the very end of the story. He's intentionally made the two identities very different from each other, both in looks and personality. It's left as an exercise for the reader to wonder which is closer to his "real" personality, though it's implied that he's probably closer to Prodigy in temperament, but maybe a closet idealist—though you'd never get him to admit it!
Appearance as Prodigy
Hair: White (toupee)
Prodigy appears 15+ years older than he actually is, using special effects type makeup to appear to be a man in his late 60s (or older)...think of an aging action hero like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Harrison Ford. He has short white hair (later revealed to be a toupee) and is very pragmatic in his costume design. It's described as tactical body armor, and since he uses gadgets he probably has a utility belt, bandolier, and other places to store them. The costume favors dark colors like midnight blues or purples with silver highlights, a color scheme that Prodigious Girl has designed her costume to match.
Personality-wise, Prodigy is a complete dick and is highly derisive of Prodigious Girl. He always seems to have a disapproving look or scowl on his face.
Design Notes: Sometimes I mentally cast actors to play these parts since it helps to give them a unique voice but I don't often share my casting choices since I want readers to invent the characters in their own minds. However, after reading the story one of my friends said that she imagined Prodigy as a gruff Michael Keaton, like in Birdman. I thought that was terrific!
Appearance as Marty Maddox
Hair: Balding; maybe a comb-over
As Marty, he looks and acts completely different from Prodigy. He's a public figure having first been a superhero "mascot" of sorts when he was a teenager (like a Snapper Carr or Rick Jones), and is now the owner of AGON Technologies. He's balding or with a comb-over, and wears padding and makeup to suggest a dumpy, overweight middle-aged man who's given up exercising. He's a nebbishy type with an easy smile that lures people in and keeps them off their guard. He's not directly involved with heroes anymore, although his company aids them in an unspecified way, perhaps with new technology. He portrays himself as a nerdy herophile, for instance joking that to become a hero he'd have to lose a few pounds to get his gut into a girdle of power armor.
Design Notes: I went back and forth about including artwork with Marty—one of my friends said she'd love to see the picture of Marty and PG having lunch on the rooftop while she bitches about Prodigy—but I finally decided that doing so would draw too much attention to him and I wanted to try and keep his true identity a surprise for the ending. However, one little hint I dropped was that every time PG meets with Marty he subtly tries to convince her to quit being a hero, which of course was also the big unveil behind Prodigy's motivations. So in both identities he's trying to rescue young heroes by convincing them to quit before they get themselves killed.
Appearance as "Candy Scrapper"
To sneak into the Sanctuary, Prodigy uses Harridan's magical Morphex crystal pendant to temporarily change himself into a cute blonde heroine with the moniker Candy Scrapper. As such, he appears to be a perky and diminutive blonde teenage heroine dressed in a pink leather jumpsuit and utility belt with baby blue highlights. (Prodigy complains that he looks like "Tactical Barbie.") While so transformed, he's short (shorter than PG or Trixie) and cute, resembling in many ways a perky teen girl dressed up for Halloween as her favorite superhero than an actual heroine to be taken seriously.
Design Notes: For a silly one-off joke, Candy Scrapper went through a lot of design iterations! My original design was mostly black in order to more closely resemble Harridan's design, because it was her disguise and I'd initially toyed with the idea of having "Candy Scrapper" make a small little cameo or casually appear in the background in the Sanctuary before she was revealed to be Harridan in disguise. But once it became clear that the design's only purpose was to humiliate Prodigy, I abandoned all pretense and went for the pink and baby blue design. As you can see, Fraylim did some initial artwork for my design but then he also came up with the "wouldn't it be fun" skanky clubwear version. But as soon as I saw that, I knew we had a winner and I changed the story to reflect the new design!
Secret ID: Renata "Ren" Blackwood
Hair: Platinum blonde
Trixie is described as wearing a silky black tunic top covered with sparkly magic runes over dark red tights and wears a cape. Unusually for a hero she doesn't wear a mask, which is a bit of a fakeout because she actually harbors one of the biggest secrets in the story.
Trixie has a playful sense of humor and enjoys teasing her friends, but she also a fairly quick temper that suggests a bit of a dark side. Her colors should probably be dark to foreshadow this a bit.
Design Notes: One of my big regrets is that we never really get a good look at Trixie in the artwork, but I couldn't bring myself to hold up publication any longer for the extra art. My rough concept for her was something like tights and a fancy cape to give her a bit of a teenage Doctor Strange vibe, befitting her role as a sorceress.
Another one of the teenage heroes, Bhramari as her name suggests is of Indian descent, and has dark skin and dark hair. Deaf and mute since birth she has the ability to control and communicate with insects, and is almost never seen without a few around her since she can she can perceive what they see and hear, which allows her to hear after a fashion. She normally "speaks" through sign language, in which Enchantrix seems fluent and Prodigious Girl knows enough to get by.
Her costume isn't described in the story, but since she's named herself after an Indian goddess who controls insects, I'm thinking a bit of an Indian flair would be appropriate, maybe with a robe or sash. Her colors might be black and yellow to suggest a subtle honeybee design.
Design Notes: I really loved the idea of having a hero who was amazing at surveillance but not traditionally useful when the shooting started, but who still constantly looks for ways to help out her teammates with distractions even if she didn't land the big punch. I knew Blaze would be highly dismissive of such a hero which is why I wanted Mari to get her crowning moment of awesome at the end of the story when she's the one to take him down.
Demetria is of Greek descent with coal-black hair and is the mother figure of this story. I envision her rather like Wonder Woman's mother Hippolyta...a woman who was probably a stunning beauty in her time, but now with age while still attractive has seen her beauty replaced with some knowing wisdom. Demetria is graceful and confident but with a relaxed style and wry sense of humor. Being an empath she's very attuned to others' emotional states and may reflect them herself.
Design Notes: I specifically wanted to avoid artwork for Demetria since I describe her at some length in the story but more by her natural charisma than her physical appearance, and I wanted the readers to fill in the rest for themselves.
Oddly for an antagonist, she only appears once fairly early on (in Chapter 4) before being revealed in Chapter 8 as the bad guy, so I knew I had to make a huge and very positive impression to divert attention from her. But the nice thing was that Demetria was being very genuine in that earlier encounter, which I think helped sell it. However, in very subtle ways, I dropped hints that she was consciously or unconsciously affecting the emotions of people around her. For instance, that first argument Chris and Caleb have (after Demetria gives PG the thumb drive) Chris gets into a snippy little tiff with Caleb. That argument serves a few narrative purposes in the story but it was also a very subtle hint that Chris got emotionally worked up and argued to defend Demetria—a woman he barely knew—to Caleb, immediately after having come from seeing her, a woman who is able to control emotions! Whether she used her powers to instill that loyalty in PG intentionally (or at all) I left as an open question, but I put that in as a sneaky little hint that she maybe wasn't all she appeared.
Harridan is Demetria's main enforcer. A highly dangerous fighter, she's a trained warrior and as lethal as she is cocky. In the story it's unclear if she has any metahuman powers (though she takes a punch extremely well), but she uses technology as her main edge in combat. In the story she's described as having short brown hair with black polykinetic body armor with a red utility belt and pistol. Her primary weapon is her quantum blade, a razor-sharp sword that has red energy that licks along the edge and allows it to cut through seemingly anything. On her wrist she has a device that allows her to project a 2 1/2 foot shield of red energy, and on her belt is a device that allows her to open up rifts through which she can teleport.
Her appearance is a bit of an in-joke since I've made lots of subtle references to various transgender heroines all throughout the story. Harridan is my nod to Sir Tristan, the transgender knight from Camelot 3000. Her appearance doesn't have to be spot-on for Tristan, but the short styled brown hair is a must.
Design Notes: I was sorry we didn't get to see Harridan in the story art, but she was a fun character to write, sort of the antithesis of Demetria's more Earth Mother role. I was also a little sorry we didn't get to see a proper stand-up fight with Harridan but PG and Trixie's sneak attack was a lot of fun. (However, a friend and I are drafting a spinoff story with mostly new characters, and I've suggested that it would make sense for Harridan to show up. So we might get that stand-up fight yet!)
HEATHER PATTERSON (Chris's Mom)
Hair: Dark Brown
Heather is Chris's mother. She isn't described in the story, although I think making her a brunette will contrast well with Chris since he'll be wearing a blonde wig as Christie. I envision her as an Angie Harmon type, more of a classic beauty with long dark brown hair. Later for the scene in Chris's bedroom she may have it pulled back in a ponytail. Style-wise she'd tend towards the causal side of fashionable, favoring blouses and slacks over dresses and skirts.
KILLBANE / BLAMESTORM
Secret ID: Derek Morrow
Killbane isn't described in detail in the story apart from noting his "hellfire blasts" which he can not only project but also use to engulf his entire body. The flames apparently change color as they get hotter, which may suggest they can change according to his mood.
His costumes as Killbane and Blamestorm are apparently different, but never really described except to say that they have masks and his Blamestorm costume is in "black and dark reds." It's unlikely that either costume has a cape.
In his secret identity, Derek apparently goes to school with Chris and his jet-black hair is worn in a loose, rebellious style, and he has a silver stud earring in one ear that has a little nick taken out of it.
KILLDOZER / VIRIDIAN
Secret ID: Dominic "Dom" Morrow
Killdozer is described in even less detail than his son Killbane, except to note that he's a big guy and very heavily muscled. He has powers of strength and invulnerability that are demonstrably greater than Prodigious Girl's.
We know his costumes as Killdozer and Viridian are different, but without specifics, although both seem to show off his muscular physique. His costume as Viridian is blue-green and has a cowl. As with his son, it's unlikely that either costume has a cape.
Design Notes: Sometimes the art changed the story. Originally Killdozer and Killbane were brothers, but when Fraylim provided this and the other picture of Killdozer, it was obvious he was an adult. I decided that could actually work better for the story as then Killdozer would actually be the father, fated to kill his wife and son when he went mad, which was even more chilling and fit better with the theme of the story regarding PG's issues with her mentors.
Secret Identity: Clayton Kingsley
Nymphobrainiac is a character who appeared in her earlier eponymous companion story to Identity Crisis. She appears to wear a skimpy techno "battle bikini," a patently ridiculous bit of armor where the bubble design does more to accentuate her boobs and butt than it does to provide her any protection. On her head she was wears a clear visor with an antenna on one side that does nothing to hide her pretty and heavily made-up face. (We would later learn this "bubble armor" is a ruse and her entire female "body" is actually biotech armor, so even the parts of her that appear unprotected are in fact part of her armor.)
In the story we see she's also carrying some kind of energy weapon to supplement her powers of strength and invulnerability that she derives from the armor.
Nymphobrainiac is always accompanied by her poodle, Tiara. Tiara is a large standard poodle (not one of the little toy poodles) who like her name suggests wears a sparkling tiara on her head. She also wears a little pink cape that is attached to the collar that has her name on it.
Design Notes: Fraylim did a great job of skanking up Nymphy's costume, and it was fun to get a chance to use her from the earlier short story. I intentionally wrote that story to be in the same universe, but I thought it would just be a throwaway until I realized I needed a villain for a scene and figured a cameo appearance was in order. (It also makes the scene where she and PG are wrestling on the ground funnier when you realize that both characters are male and pretending to be female.) Fraylim made a few changes to the designs, most notably to give extra room in Tiara's poodle legs to potentially hide an adult male because he wasn't quite as cruel as I was...
Promethean is the like the Superman of this story, with many of the same powers—flight, strength, invulnerability, heat vision, and telescopic vision that we know of. By all outward appearances he's the bright, shining hero, although Prodigious Girl quickly learns that looks can be deceiving.
Appearance-wise he should be the exact opposite of Prodigy. Promethean is a stunning physical specimen, tall and muscular in the prime of his life with long styled blond hair, and a color palette in white, red, and gold (in sharp contrast to Prodigy's darker colors). Since Chris idolizes Promethean, his first attempt at a (male) superhero costume is probably very evocative of Promethean's look, which is a bit of foreshadowing.
Unlike the other supers who often use body armor in their costumes, Promethean should be more a traditional spandex-like costume, silent testimony to his overconfidence and arrogance. However, there may be little high-tech touches on his costume like on his gloves, wristbands, or belt to suggest the advanced technology he has access to.
Design Notes: The artists really ran with this. One of my favorite accidental bonuses from the art was in the piece that Splutt did where PG sees Promethean and goes totally fangirl over him. I'd described the scene to Splutt in some detail but I'd just assumed Promethean would be standing there so it caught me off guard when the initial sketches had him flying. However, as soon as I saw it, I realized it was so much better since it was a subtle nod to his arrogance that he was quite literally looking down on her!
With Fraylim, over there on the right you can see his alternate rough design for the romance cover concept. Like the one I used in the story, I thought it was completely awesome but I went back and forth whether it was appropriate to include it seeing as how Promethean attempts to force himself on PG in the story. The assault occurred in Chapter 7 (the darkest of the chapters thematically) so I knew that would be a pretty tasteless place to put it. So instead I worked it in at the beginning of Chapter 6 where she first meets him and where it would be funny at the time and rather unsettling in retrospect...
PROMETHEAN'S COSTUME DESIGN FOR PRODIGIOUS GIRL
Design Notes: For that ungodly slutty costume that Promethean designs for PG, I scoured the Internet for the most inappropriate superhero costumes I could find to inspire the artists, which I'd just as soon not share here. (Moondragon, I'm looking at you.) My direction to the artists was that it had to be so horrifically inappropriate that there would be absolutely no question that PG would ever actually wear it. Splutt did a great job running with a rough concept I worked out, but here you can see one of Fraylim's earlier attempts. It's good, but I rejected it because I could imagine her maybe wearing it (it has a bit of a Phantom Lady vibe, I think), so while it was inappropriate, it wasn't inappropriate enough. :)
Splutt did the final artwork in the story and he was the one to suggest using a holographic image instead of the high-tech mannequin that I'd originally suggested in the story. I thought that was a terrific idea since it reinforced the idea that Promethean's little getaway had really high-tech gizmos, but I didn't make the connection at the time that the hologram would of course look like PG actually wearing the costume! My first thought when I saw it was, "Yikes, this makes me feel kind of uncomfortable. It's perfect."
Secret ID: Ashton "Ash" Raleigh
Appearance as Quasarblaze
Quasarblaze is Prodigious Girl's opposite number and cautionary tale in the story, essentially the kind of hero Chris might have become: flashy, image-obsessed, and obnoxiously male. I suggest that his super power has something to do with an affinity for technology, so he wears powered armor as kind of Iron Man lite. Early in the story he wears a protective armored costume that has a techno helmet that has a visor so we get to see the lower part of his face, which is useful for seeing some facial reactions.
I don't think I ever specify his color scheme in the story but since PG follows Prodigy's design of dark blues and purples with a silver highlight, it might make sense for Blaze to be more yellows with red highlights. We'll need to be careful that doesn't draw too many comparisons to Iron Man, but his outfit should be desperately flashy.
Appearance as Ash
Chris encounters Ash a few times in the story. Ash's appearance is never described, but he's a pretty standard bully type, so should be somewhat bigger than Chris. However, Ash usually keeps a couple guys around for muscle, like his buddy Wade (a.k.a. Triggerhappy), so Ash may not himself be a really heavily-muscled guy...just a vicious and ruthless teen with a bad attitude and a huge chip on his shoulder.
In the story I mention the fact that Ash comes from money so if we see him he might wear more stylish clothes than the average teen just to remind everyone that he's better off than the rest of them.
Appearance at end of story
In the climax of the story Quasarblaze wears a more heavily-armed full suit of armor, rather like Iron Man. Unlike his first costume, he should be sealed up tight in his armor with no visible skin.
Secret ID: Danica Valasellis
Age: ~16 (at time of death)
Starbrite doesn't directly appear in the story, having died several years earlier. However, she's included here because a fountain with her life-size statue appears in Demetria's garden, which is the scene for a few key events in the story. Prodigious Girl is said to bear more than just a passing resemblance to Starbrite.
Secret ID: Wade McGrath
Appearance as Triggerhappy
Much like his buddy Quasarblaze, Triggerhappy seems to rely on technology and gadgets to get the job done. It's never made clear if he made the gadgets or acquired them in some way (perhaps constructed or purchased by Blaze), but he seems to be familiar enough with their maintenance and operation.
His costume serves as body armor and protects him from some degree of damage, and he has an apparent small arsenal of weapons and gadgets, including his energy rifle, force bubble grenades, and tangle grenades, which he keeps in various pockets and pouches on his costume.
The costume's color scheme is never specified, but something in greens or camouflage might make sense to reinforce the fact that he serves as Blaze's footsoldier in the story.
Appearance as Wade
Wade appears in the story as himself a couple of times, primarily acting as Ash's wingman as they bully kids in school. His appearance is never clearly specified, but seems to be bigger than Ash and more of the muscle to Ash's brains, maybe like a wrestler or football player.
* * * * * PRODUCTION ART * * * * *
Alternate Views of Scenes
When I was working with Splutt on developing artwork for a scene he would start the process by providing me with two different rough sketches based on the description I sent. I would then choose one and provide feedback as we went. Here you can see some of the alternate versions of the art that ended up in the story. Sometimes I had a lot of trouble choosing!
* * * * * CLOSING THOUGHTS * * * * *
Well, that's everything! I really hope you all really enjoyed the story and this little behind-the-scenes view. But for those who want more, here's a peek into possible coming attractions...
What's coming in the world of Identity Crisis?
- Well, if you haven't already read my "Nymphobrainiac" short story, you can get a little insight into that villainess's origin. I wrote it while I was working on Identity Crisis and someone mentioned Kristen O's classic TG fiction story "The Auto-Closet" and I got inspired. (Though clearly my mind goes to dark places...)
- In the next few days I'll also be posting a very very silly short story that features some characters that were mentioned in Identity Crisis that you're not going to believe. (My mind also goes to very random places...)
Longer term, no promises, but I've got a few ideas brewing...
- I'm working with a friend on a spinoff story set in the same universe with different characters that's shaping up to be a pretty epic tale in its own right that features Rhiannon Blackwood—Trixie's mother—as the heavy.
- I've also got ideas for a couple (much shorter) spinoff short stories. One I've got half-written is more of a street-level horror/suspense story from the view of a Faraday City police detective, and another I'd like to do is a more lighthearted "adventures in babysitting" story featuring Chris's little cousin Lydia.
- And yes, I do have ideas for a couple of sequels to this story, but those are wayyy in the early planning phases, and there are some other stories I'd like to write before I get there. (Like a much-overdue "My Uncle Fifi" sequel!) But I will tease that if I do get around to writing the next book, the story will almost certainly involve time travel.
(Also, the bad news is that I tend to write in spurts during the year when I'm not working on my cosplay. I have too many hobbies!)
Will the new stories have the artwork?
Mmm...maaaaybe? I dearly love the artwork too, but this much art was expensive and took a lot of time. This story included over three dozen pieces of art and I don't think you're likely to see me do anything nearly that ambitious again, because Oh My God. However, a few pieces here and there I would absolutely be willing to do again. So, fingers crossed!
In the meantime, here are a couple pics of the author, first with a custom Prodigious Girl figure my friend Sabrina Pandora made for me—because that is awesome!—and another where I'm modeling one of Chris's fashions from the story. Also, Sabrina is working on a Prodigious Girl costume and I'm planning on making one myself, so hopefully we'll have more prodigious pics to share!
Thanks for reading!
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