Spoilers ahead. Have you read the comic? It’s free!
It’s hard to be a supervillain. Clarice had this brilliant master plan to set herself up as a new god.
But the ghosts who support her decided: Whoa, lady? Worldwide death and destruction? That’s a bit over the top!
Which is me wiggling out on the story I had planned to tell.
I wanted to follow through on Clarice’s master plan. It’d be great! It’d be entirely in keeping with her character, and within the rules of the universe. Essentially, it’s drawing on the premise that fame is a form of energy. Fame is remarkably similar to belief. It’s an investment of thought and attention, and if it is sustained over enough time, its target can draw upon this energy.
But fame is fleeting. Even U.S. presidents fall out of active memory. Benjamin Franklin and George Washington are among the most powerful ghosts in American history because everybody knows who they were, but Calvin Coolidge? The poor guy is relegated to “Worst President” lists and the occasional bad joke. If he’s lucky.
If Clarice spent the rest of her natural life setting herself up as a highly controversial figure who broke the modern world, she’d never be forgotten. (Or at least, not within the span of modern civilization, because Ozymandias, but she’ll take what she can get and then orchestrate her legacy from the grave.) This is what Clarice should have done.
But she couldn’t, because while she’s vicious and amoral and would think nothing of worldwide genocide to further her own ends, she’s also a character in a webcomic that updates twice a week. The medium through which her story is told cannot sustain that type of decades-long plot. It’d take sixty years of machinations to get Clarice to a point where she’d be poised at the brink of winning, and then-spoiler!-our heroes would finally pull their last-minute save out of their collective butts and send her to Hell.
Our very, very old heroes. As drawn by a very tired, and probably as equally old, me.
Couldn’t be done. Just in terms of audience attrition alone, I’d be ending a story followed by maybe sixteen hardcore readers (hi guys!). The characters themselves would have aged significantly, and their traits changed accordingly. It’d be sort of neat to carry a story through the length of their lives, and get into the nuts and bolts of political and religious plotting, the outcome of major plagues and nuclear fallout, the societal and cultural issues raised by coping with a reduced population… Well.
Writers tell similar long-term story arcs all of the time, but they don’t have to draw it out on a per-update basis. I can (and often do) spend three weeks on a brief interaction between two characters. A webcomic is not the right format for this type of story. Judge Dredd might be able to pull it off, but me? Not so much.
I’ve known about this problem for ages, and wrote myself a series of outs, just in case I decided to abandon one storyline and jump to another. There’ve been some hints that the ghosts who allied with Clarice weren’t cool with the whole global chaos/genocide thing. Now, it seems they’ve asked her to tone it down a notch or they’ll pull their support.
So, Clarice isn’t getting her long-running Master Plan. She’s forced to make do with something fast and dirty. Something also in keeping with her character but better suited to a comic format.
I’m sad I don’t get to play with mass murder, but there’ll be other opportunities.