Some Background On… Strange Days

First, let me say: ‘Derp’. I forgot to tag the Wednesday update as a ‘Story’, so it didn’t appear on the first page. Should be fixed now. Also, I ran out of time to post this, so I’m putting in links later after its posted.

So I’m sure many of you who have been following this site are pretty excited about the pending release of Soul Battery: Children of Agmar, the first in the sequel series to Rune Breaker.

But I actually have a second book coming out this week: Descendants Basic Collection #5 – Strange Days.

That would be the first half of Volume 3 for those keeping score. It also just happens to have some very important moments in the DU, from the start of the Liedecker Institute arc, to the first identification of the 4 books.

This week, in honor of the new release, I’m going to go through the seven issues this book contains and give some background info on what went into them and my thought processes were on them. Sound like fun? Okay, but I’m still going to do it.

Warning, here thar be spoilers.

Descendants #25 – Summer Session

Ever since taking out the Academy in Volume 1, I knew I wanted to have Our Heroes start their own school. In fact, that was the entire point of having the evil Academy in th first place.

You have to remember that in addition to my backlash against the Marvel Civil War, The Descendants was born largely of my love of the Academy X books and my dislike of what was done to the cast when a new writing team took over after the Decimation event. I always wanted to have a super-school story, but felt the need to set it up.

There were a LOT of incarnations of the super-school thing. For a while, The Descendants was going to become Liedecker Institute at the end of Volume 4 as we moved over to focus on those students with Our Heroes as mentors/teachers. There were also other versions, which I recycled into the Brunswick School and Mr. Voice’s Academy/Half-way house.

I’m not sure, but I think this was the first time France’s… less than fluffy treatment of descendants… cropped up in story. Much like how Arizona, France’s bad behavior in the DU is a mirror to bad behavior in the modern day. At the time, the news was buzzing with awful stuff out of France against Muslims and other minorities over apparently no integrating into ‘French culture’ enough.

I know it might come as a shock, but I’m not a fan of heavy nationalism or monocultures, especially when they actively hurt people, so I wasnt’ feeling very sympathetic and… well Stephan was always meant to be French, so France got the business end of the bigotry stick\. They’re not the worst in the DU, but they’re probably the worst we’ve spent time in.

There are places that imprison and kill descendants upon manifestation. Some are in Europe. A lot of it isn’t even so much bigotry as fear of Arjun Ravi. Which, I mean they’re just inviting with all te murder. It’s highly unlikely that we’ll be spending tons of time in more brutal places of the DU like Russia or India (unsurprisingly, seeing as the Incident happened on their soil), so France is going to have to live with beng The Worst for a while. Sorry, France. Maybe if you start being more tolerant.

The I’m in love with here was expanding Vorpal’s ‘supporting cast’ without really telling more about her. That she has a ‘bg sister’ relationship with Annette/Tantrum was one of my first big character moments for her. And I still want to retell Vorpal and Voice’s early days of knowing each other.

Descendants #26 – Ace Agenda

I had a lot of high hopes of Leo, the Ace’s robot, but got sidetracked by a lot of other stories I wanted to tell. I still have a ton of stories to tell with him, especially now that Adamantine exists.

Robotic characters intrigue me, especially those who don’t really have free will like Leo. The idea that he has a personality, but is still a slave to his program sounds like something to explore.

Beyond that, this story exists because I wanted to bring Lisa closer to the team and give Kay a little of the ol’ Jimmy Olsen treatment.

It all hangs off of a very different skeleton though. Everything going on here is tied to the mystery of bio-mapping and why Tome was experimenting with it. The idea that Become More was the product of corporate espionage seemed a perfect fit to tying Freaque’s plight to Project Tome.

Originally, I had a plan for Wright to seduce Liz to his side with an improved Become More treatment. I actually have no idea why I scrapped that. Hmm… might have to bring that back and see if Liz learned her lesson.

I have a bit of a confession to make: I feel like I’ve failed in every Ace story except Adamantine’s first appearance. Wright Is supposed to be a deal guy like Kingmaker from Hellions, but he never shows that. He has a plan, but it doesn’t lead back to his chain of deals thing. I need to fix that…

Descendants #27 – Beyond Good and Medieval

I love Ren Faires. Love the hell out of them. The style, the demonstrations, the pageantry—they’re my idea of a good time. So I have the idea of setting a story at one in the cards for a very, very long time.

One of the earliest ideas was that the faire would be a front for some kind of shady operation and Warrick would fight a bunch of knights and clean the floor with them. There was also a Cyn as a jester thing I had in mind. We might come back to one of these places later.

Just like the faire, the Seven Daughters of Duvall were planned as early as volume 2. At one point, they were all identical septuplets with a different type of mentalist power. Needless to say, I dropped that like a hot iron. I think the conception of Joy changed the Duvall arc over to being a Liedecker Institute thing instead of the main book. She was just so sweet and cute and Charity was so protective of her, I saw more to the family than just St John’s brainwashed poppets.

I was pretty disappointed that White Shadow didn’t get as big a reception as I expected. I like him as a villain. Dervish… I have no excuse. Dervish was a dumb idea not unlike Codpiece. I now realize everyone is going to stampede to his defense, but I hope this is the last we ever see of him.

Descendants #28 – The Beach Episode

Yeah, I straight up called this issue ‘The Beach Episode’ and I have no regrets. Sometimes that title can just tell the unabashed truth. I actually had an idea in my head at the time to do something like this in every volume. It didn’t work out quite that way, but I still like writing these slice of life deals.

Contrary to popular belief, Dawson Bay was NOT a reference of Dawson’s Creek. It wasn’t a reference to anything, I just picked the name out of the phone book. I’m going to be honest here and admit I’ve never seen Dawson’s Creek. Though I am excited for Dachshund Creek.

There are references in it though; in articular, a callback to the series’s roots in Academy X and the X-men game Warrick was created to be part of where he dreams about Tink being covered in liquid metal like the X-woman Mercury.

The George connection here came largely from the fact that back in my college days, before you could even have an account on Google, the searches always sent anyone that used the same search terms to the same site. There was a comment somewhere that I read where some turn-of-the-century works used this trope and it was already out-dated. I decided to pretend that’s what was going on only for it to turn out to be the mysterious George manipulating things instead.

Descendants #29 – Little Girl Lost

When I started the miniature ‘world tour’ of finding students for the Institute, I had to gen up a bunch of powered kids. They all started you as a blurb n my notes. Arkose, for example, was ‘Female Rockslide‘, again referencing Academy X because the new writers were gleefully burning the whole thing down by then.

The plot really spawned from the idea that the team is rushing to save… a kid who is more or less indestructable. That sounds ridiculous until you realize she’s still a teenager on the inside with all the capacity for trauma even if her body isn’t. I loved the idea that she ran away in an attempt to help her parents.

Once I had the basic plot and something that actually could threaten her (I heart giant scorpions), the location in Arizona suddenly made me think of how I’d already placed Zero Pont and Majestrix there in my head. And thus, a team-up was born!

Probably my favorite part in all of this is that at the time of the writing, no one batted an eye at Juniper not joining the mission, but after The Juniper Chronicles, several people pointed to this issue as a big clue.

Until this issue, I also didn’t have a real clear idea about how Majestrix’s robot worked. I feel going with the ‘real robot’ model where is doesn’t magically move in conjunction with her and such just ended up feeling right. I don’t like the term gritty because it’s been ruined for me, but the kind of down and dirty realism of the Queen’s Gambit just being a walking tank was so at odds with her personality that I fell in love with it.

For those wondering, the fighting style and banter between ZP and Majestrix was heavily influenced by Ron and Kim from Kim Possible. That all came from Zero Point’s initials being ZP. I… have no idea how I made that leap.

Descendants #30 & 31 – 4 Parts 1 & 2

Pull up a chair, guys. So much stuff happened in this arc I can scarcely believe I wrote all of it in such a small space.

First of all, the 4 Books were set up all the way back in Volume 1 and solidified around the time I was thinking up the Game of Kings concept. Up until now, there had been nothing but coy hints about what was going on with those books and their importance. Here, I finally got to spell it out.

This was also the end of Kareem’s character arc as an astral-only entity. I had this idea early on that he’d fight astral monsters a lot more, but I decided that if astral creatures were that densely populated, there would be problems, so they only come out for special occasions.

I wish I could tell you I had an epic arc in store of Auggie, but… no. He is the Reluctant Wizard Man and he absolutely refuses the call to heroism. This was kind of important for Game of Kings too and might be again.

Tammy’s inclusion here was purely to establish her powers as part of the ‘World Tour’ arc so she could slot into the Liedecker Institute easily.

And finally, there is Warpstar.

Warpstar is my answer to my desire to do power theft in a new way. I love the idea that he’s copying some bullshit magic ‘thing’ from people rather than something biological. His intent to steal Auggie’s ‘worthiness’ was there to show that he wasn’t just another power stealing baddie; he could take things far more interesting.

Even for people who have read the whole series, we have not yet begun to peel the Warpstar onion. All those other Yellow World stones in him do things too, for example. And he has a history that will become important as we go along.

Anyway, still in the spirit of behind the scenes, I’m throwing open the comments to any questions you might have about things I might not have talked about for these issues. I’ll try to remember it all and maybe even drop hints at future plots.

Oh, and hey: why not got pick up Strange Days and of course, Soul Battery: Children of Agmar for some quality reading this weekend?

About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter. You can also purchase his books from all major platforms from the bookstore
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  1. “Probably my favorite part in all of this is that at the time of the writing, no one batted an eye at Juniper not joining the mission, but after The Juniper Chronicles, several people pointed to this issue as a big clue.”
    …I was going to say something about Juniper and clues and all that stuff (I mean, what kind of young girl knows how to throw knives and suture a wound? Also the glowing blue part. The glowing blue was a BIG hint.) but I just got crazily distracted by the fact that Juniper Chronicles is only Issue #46 out of 82. In my head, it’s definitely a LATER issue. I can remember the impression I had that it took a long time for the reveal to happen. Middle-of-the-pack doesn’t seem like where it should be. …Also, wow, that means Ian and Alexis got engaged forever ago. Also, what? George predicted getting invited to the wedding!?

    • That’s the thing with long-runners; reveals eventually become something that’s always been around.

      Think of it this way: Juniper Chronicles was more than 1.5 millions words in. That’s about two dozen novels!

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