Christmas comes in three days and the year 2016 will soon be behind us. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. ‘What, no new books??’
Obviously we will not be putting out any new Ascension Epoch titles in the waning days of this year. Shell and I actually have six in progress, plus a comic, but not one of them is ready to go to the printers. I take full responsibility for all of that. We were just too busy focusing on other stuff, including going to more than 15 conventions, planning a rather large three day convention at the end of this year, two job changes, plus some family stuff.
But we didn’t forget our fans. We still brought you presents. We’re going to give you a brand new East End Irregulars short story for Christmas, plus a holiday pin-up that’s sure to warm your heart, featuring the cutest vigilante in Pittsburgh.
But right now, I want to take you back to a Christmas long ago, when the Ascension Epoch was only a glimmer in our eyes (even though we didn’t’ know it then).
The year is 2010. Shell and I weren’t even married yet, but we were engaged, and already writing together regularly. Superhero and adventure stories, naturally. We were deeply invested in a play-by-post superhero RPG that I started called Less Than Gods, or LTG for short. The LTG setting was a mashup of characters from many different media franchises with an alternate history. If that sounds familiar, well, you’re right. It was in many ways the dress rehearsal for Ascension Epoch, and many of our original characters, like Torrent and the Promethean, got their start there.
But LTG was different in a lot of ways, too. The most obvious difference was that instead of basing it on public domain material, we mixed together various comic book universes (Marvel, DC, and Valiant especially) with movies (Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones, Predator, The Running Man, Godzilla…), toy lines (GI Joe, Transformers, Captain Power…), and even video games (X-COM, Tomb Raider…). If that sounds like a big mess to you, all I can say is that we put a lot of effort into merging all of those disparate sources together into something coherent and reasonably realistic. Like I said, a bit of a dress rehearsal for what we were going to do with Ascension Epoch.
The other big difference was that LTG’s alternate history began as so many did, in World War Two, during which some of the earliest superheroes first appeared. The Germans were able to invade the UK with the aid of giant Atlantean submarines, Baron Zemo took over the Third Reich, and a very interesting sixty years followed.
LTG was the biggest, craziest, fan-fiction you can imagine, and it was a hell of a lot of fun. We (and by that I don’t just mean Shell and I, but the half-dozen or so committed players we had with us) started doing so much work on it, and were actually cranking out novels worth of stories, that it finally dawned on Shell this was all very silly. We should be telling our own original stories so that we could actually publish them and maybe even turn a hobby into a career. It took her a few months to convince me of that, but she did, and the result of that is Ascension Epoch.
But anyway, back to 2010. LTG had been going on for more than three years at that point, and it was winding down. But one last, glorious hurrah was about to come from it. While out on a date one night, Shell said that she wanted to draw a comic for Christmas and that she wanted me to write it. She decided it should star The Question, one of our favorite characters* and one of the characters that I played in the game. Of course, I agreed.
(*So much so he and Huntress ended up on our wedding cake. –Shell)
I could have played it straight, but I decided to set it in the LTG universe because — why not? That’s where I’d been doing all of our writing. So I whipped up a script in a night and, a few weeks later, Shell turned that script into sequential art through the use of her artistic alchemy. We had an actual comic!
That comic, entitled ‘A Very Question Christmas‘, is the ghost of Christmas past that is coming to visit you tonight. The comic was drawn entirely with micron pens. As I alluded to already, you’ll find some characters from other comic universes in there. ‘Cold Miser’ is a renamed Marvel’s Blizzard, only in LTG he’s a mutant and a former Eggbreaker who used to work for Toyo Harada. Harada, although the main villain of Valiant’s Harbinger series, is to the Question merely a great businessman and therefore worthy of respect. The worst that old Q can say about him is that he’s an altruist. And if that last part didn’t clue you in, this Question is very much in the original Steve Ditko Objectivist fashion. The other thing you might find weird is that the story takes place in St. Louis. In LTG, we used real cities where possible. As crime-ridden East St. Louis was the model for later depictions of the Question’s hometown of Hub City, we decided to put Q on the other side of the river.
Without further ado, I present to you the very first comic that Shell and I ever worked on. I hope you like it.