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Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
"Fight Or Flight" is coming along nicely. I always predicted it would be the worst single issue of Gilda and Meek and I still think that. But it is much more in my wheelhouse than "Warlocks: Beyond Reality" and therefore more fun for me to complete. Having a bit of a hard time to find the time to do it, but that's just because last week has been crazy. I'll get more done this week.

I enjoy the fact that I can draw a story I think is bad, and still enjoy drawing it more than a story I think is good. It's weird how stuff like that works with me.
 

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
20. Gilda And Meek "Fight Or Flight" (Un-Iverse #32)

Nervous about this one. Buckle up.

Rating: PG. Mild violence, mild language, mild sexual situations, adult themes.


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Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
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Linear Notes for Gilda And Meek "Fight Or Flight" (Abridged, Spoiler-Light)

Frankly, I am deeply disappointed in this issue. Nothing important happens during it, as fast paced as I pretend it is. Not enough forward momentum considering what happened last issue, and what will happen next issue. And there is so much action going on, that it's not even like it's a respite, or a calm before the storm for the characters. It is just me having to run in place a bit to make "The Apple" work perfectly. And "The Apple" is my finest standalone issue of all time, so it did do THAT. But that didn't stop THIS issue from sucking. I almost wanted to introduce Mitch an issue earlier to have SOMETHING exciting going on, but I knew I couldn't. Gilda's desperation must be absolute. She must be willing to take a bite from Mitch's apple, and she wouldn't unless she had no other choice. Things had to get bad and fast and stay that way. For awhile. Without ANY other options.

I think the suspense to this one sucks, and that sort of thing has always been a weak spot with me. Unless the drama involves characters brushing up against each other like "Release The Gilda", I suck at it. Because it bores me. Gilda hiding out from and escaping the Werewolves tells us nothing about the character the way her fight with the Five Phantoms does. It's ostensibly cool she avoids getting caught by the skin of her teeth, but even if I LIKE the movie "The Fugitive", it doesn't mean I can make a good version of it.

This may not actually be the worst Un-Iverse issue ever, but I still think this the worst issue of Gilda and Meek.

There are exactly two things I like about the issue, both involving the Narrator.

1. The last scene of Bernadette in Church, of course, where the Narrator helpfully hints that this moment will be made a thousand times worse in the next issue. And he's not exaggerating, so even if "The Apple" is NOT a life and death drama, I think I fulfilled his promise. Just not in the way you were thinking.

2. During Meek's "ER" scene, I truly love the Narrator stating "And we pause for dramatic effect", just because it lets us know exactly what is going on. My Narrator is probably the most honest storyteller alive, (or at LEAST since the Grandfather in "The Princess Bride"), and he's not going to ******** you with the idea that Meek is truly going to die in that moment. It's not that the Narrator thinks none of the characters will ever die. He just knows that THAT is not a moment where it would make even REMOTE sense for it to happen, and he's not going to insult your intelligence by pretending otherwise. "Release The Gilda" is a story with believable life or death stakes, where the Narrator refuses to be a skeptic. But this issue totally isn't, and he knows that. If the Narrator isn't actually allowed to subvert the "pausing for a few uncomfortable beats before the character coughs himself alive" moment, he's at least going to be courteous enough to point the trope out and make fun of it.

The question at the end of the issue isn't "Is Meek going to die?" Of course he isn't! The question is "What trick will Gilda use to save him?". And the Narrator isn't going to lie about that.

I actually redid the "And we pause for dramatic effect" page to make sure it landed properly. I think it now does.

To be honest, I HAVE felt this disappointed in a "Wheels Spinning" Gilda And Meek outline before. I also was super unhappy with the outline to "The Code", and that I would have to do an entire unplanned issue to introduce and explain Superterrans to give a better feel for the upcoming Lace Doilies. It didn't tie into Gilda And Meek very well, even though the Piranha was on the team.

Except, I totally fixed that story. It's not perfect, but I really like it now. I added the beat of Gilda and Meek clubbing, Gilda's b.s. detector passing Augatha during her negotiations for peace, and Bernadette's betrayal double-bluff. And then it's almost amazing. And I was able to get all of that interesting shit just because I planned for Gilda and Meek to actually get captured for once. And suddenly the issue is good for some crazy reason.

I had hoped beyond hope I would come up with even a SINGLE extra hook for this issue (I was not crazy enough to hope for THREE like I got with "The Code") and the closest thing I got to a great premise is the disillusionment of Angela Feline and the failing of white male liberal ideals for women. But that's not anything that effects Gilda and Meek, or even the larger mythology the way Gilda relating to Meek, Augatha, and Bernadette does. And since that IS the only other Gilda and Meek issue I consider a "Spinning Wheels" issue, it makes the fact that it's pretty good make me think even less of this issue than I already did. And I always thought it was crap. The fact that "The Code" is good just makes it worse.

Bernadette calling Gilda privileged works on a couple of levels. First off, Gilda has NOT suffered the losses Bernadette has. That's a fact. Even though we don't say it in the story, Bernadette HAS lost her parents, and Gilda does not know what that is like. The second reason it works is because I always try to hint that Meek and his family had been struggling moneywise before Dr. Raggleworth hired him, and it's still a issue. Gilda's parents are a Senator and Judge. One guess at what kind of pampered lifestyle she led growing up. I love that The Un-Iverse's resident conservative grew up poor and the resident liberal grew up rich. That is probably why Gilda and Bernadette are so unlike every other liberal and conservative in The Un-Iverse.

Eddie Cat tells Agent Ryan that "Interesting is the first step towards chaos," in a later issue. It seems only fitting that he declares Vic's subdued and frightened behavior here exactly that. Also be aware that Gilda uses this descriptor for Bernadette here too (as a genuine compliment). There is a distinct possibility Gilda and Eddie are more alike than Gilda would ever admit.

Listen to Bernadette, kids. Don't sleep in the nude. You'll ruin your sheets. I had her and Gilda high five after that moment to be very explicit as to why Bernadette made that joke. It wasn't to humiliate Gilda. It was to gross out Dr. Raggleworth who was being a creep. Gilda and Bernadette are sharing a moment of female empowerment just then and both are aware that is what is happening.

Gilda prays to Cod. Yes, Cats consider fish holy. That line proves it.

Here's something that's badly written but kinda good. Bernadette should REALLY be putting up more of a fight over Gabrielle leaving than she does. It's the most unfair thing in the world, and she a ten year old girl. She should be throwing a fit over that. That's kind of bad writing on my part. I'm making Bernadette far cooler in that scenario than any real-world person would be.

But see, that's the point. That's why I did it. I always show how awesome Gilda is, but the truth is Bernadette is MUCH better in a crisis. And this is one of the worst crises ever. But Bernadette keeps a level head at all times, beyond all reason. Gilda does not have that skill. Bernadette assesses every single factor in a bad situation, and is able to recognize that it is better for the world if they immediately separate from Gabrielle. It's not realistic in the slightest. Bernadette should be throwing a tantrum, both based on her age and strong-willed personality. But whenever a situation is REALLY dire, Bernadette steps up and takes things seriously. If Bernadette threw a tantrum like Dr. Raggleworth did, she might not have been fully grasping exactly how bad things were. And it's because she did that I gave her the cool head, including comforting a man she could barely stand at that point.

And yes, she's b.s.-ing Julius that she'll be there for him. She won't be. She's furious at him for the rest of the issue, and shows him no sympathy whatsoever, and treats him with open contempt for being turned on by Gilda's nude sleeping admission. And I'm okay with that. She doesn't have to be sincere when she tells Dr. Raggleworth she'll be there for him. It's just something she says to keep him moving out of the room. As she notes, she IS a b.s. artist, after all.

I was very VERY tempted during that scene to have Bernadette say "This cannot be happening," as the Lab is being destroyed. It's ALWAYS a great line in genre in the rare occasions the good guy's lair is destroyed. And Bernadette is a kid who has never faced anything like this before. So I was really tempted to give her this.

But I decided against it simply because as awesome and devastating as that line usually winds up being, not saying it means Bernadette understands the gravity of the situation perfectly. And since I say she's the best one of them in a crisis, there is no part of her in denial when things get that dire.

Ironically I could have given that line to the Piranha, but you'd hate him for it, and spend the rest of the story rooting against the group. That line doesn't ALWAYS work. When it is said by the Mary Sue, things get wrecked REAL quick. It's cool to have a sage like Felicity Smoak say it. You hear that from Dawn Summers and you just you wanna smack her.

MUCH later in the saga, you will notice that Gilda and Meek possess an unnatural physical intimacy during "The Terran Wars". They are far more intimately close than two people who aren't sleeping with each other, or are related to each other should be. And there will be questions raised about what happened in the ten years between "Gilda And Meek" and "The Terran Wars" about what did that. Without answering that question, I would like to point out that as this issue shows, it has ALWAYS been a part of their subtext whether it was in your face or not. Gilda delicately untying Meek's bow-tie and opening his shirt collar so gently, is something a mother or a lover would do. And that is true even at this early point in their friendship.

Admittedly, an EMT would also remove the tie and collar to prevent breathing constriction. But they would do so in a straightforward and clinical fashion. Gilda's delicate gestures are far more loving and intimate than the situation calls for.

I really like that they have to remove Meek's bow-tie to make him comfortable as he is dying. Like the Eleventh Doctor on Doctor Who, the bow-tie is the first piece of fashion you notice on Meek. His entire personality is stated with it. And just like in Matt Smith's last episode, once you take it off, you realize it's over. Things have gotten serious fast without it.

I do not draw attention to Bernadette's ultimate mindset during the scene, but I did make sure to draw her face as visibly unhappy during it. It is not just the fact that Meek is dying which is why Bernadette feels so intensely uncomfortable in that moment. She is not happy with Gilda doing that. At all. For multiple reasons, that it's best I do not get into right this second.

Well, okay, I'll give a TINY hint. She's jealous. Of both of them. For completely different and opposite reasons. But that's all I'll say about that.

Do you know what's interesting? As annoyed as this makes Bernadette, she cannot hate Gilda for it. Gilda explicitly tells Meek, "We're both here for you." She puts Bernadette in the middle of that intimacy, which is something she actually DOES wish she was a part of. And Gilda is insightful enough to realize that, and then MAKES her a part of it. You can't really hate Gilda and Meek's maddening intimacy (which will drive disappointed 'shippers nuts) as long as she is always doing stuff like that.

I swear to God, you will not BELIEVE where I got that amazing "My grandmother sold it to me on her deathbed" joke. You will not BELIEVE it. When I was a little kid, I heard that joke spoken by one of the villains of the Teddy Ruxpin cartoon. I thought it was an absolutely brilliant joke, and the writers of that cartoon really MUST have come up with it themselves, because if they hadn't, I would have heard it elsewhere since then. But no, they did, and pop culture missed it entirely. If Gilda and Meek happens, we'll have another crack at it, but right here and now I want to give "The Adventures Of Teddy Ruxpin" its due. I watched otherwise crappy 80's cartoons so you don't have to.

Vic rolling onto Morrison as he propositions her is not done to show that Vic is a rapist and a predator (even though he is both of those things). He instantly backs off when Morrison isn't into it (and insults her for good measure). I did that to show that Vic is delusional. He is preparing for coitus because he actually believed she'd say "Yes". This is his version of being romantic, and he's honestly a bit surprised it doesn't work. Which should either tell you something about the kind of women Vic dates, or the fact that he offers the woman a chance to say "No" so rarely that he sucks at it. There is no part of this monster that doesn't make my skin crawl.

Frankly, him rolling onto her is something I should NOT have done. For myriad reasons that I won't get into. But I said "Screw it," and just did it anyways. Whatever your politics are, you will be disgusted with me for that. But, see, that's kind of the reaction I'm going for here. I don't think I should ever be sanitizing how much Vic sucks. And I'll take my lumps for him when I have to. After this, I've earned them.

I briefly thought about having Vic spread her legs as he rolls on her, but I decided against it pretty quickly. Not because it's vulgar. There is still stuff coming up MUCH more vulgar than that. Not because it's sexually degrading. (Ditto). But because I still want Morrison to have a shred of dignity after this scene. I might have done it if Morrison was a one-shot character, but she is going to be a pretty big recurring player. So I want to treat her with a modicum of respect, even if as the story goes along the reader will like her less and less. Considering that last point, it again made a lot of sense for me to have Vic do this to her in her first scene, because you automatically and immediately sympathize with a character you are probably going to wind up hating as the saga goes on. I wanted to throw that mislead about my intentions with her right off the bat.

In hindsight, Vic's demeanor in that scene is interesting. It's abject boredom and dullwittedness. And I kind of state over and over that Vic is the most psychopathically crazy person in the saga. And it weird to me that Vic's default mood is always that of the bored dimwit. And it goes back to me realizing that none of my characters possess any degree of intensity whatsoever. If this were animated, the cartoon voice actors would be sorely disappointed. There is literally not a single role in the entire franchise a great actor could chew the scenery with. And I bet a lot of people will see that as a failing, but I personally see the entire cast being reasonably chill at all times as a selling point. Like most of the things many people would hate The Un-Iverse for, I like the fact that every character's default mode is basically low-key. Sue me. I'm not dialed up to 11 on everything, so neither are my characters.

The more I reread the scene, the more I think it is outright badly written. And it is. "Wanna screw?" is me taking a shot at the classlessness of the Republicans of the Trump era, but I imagine these pus-oozing fools would be able to come up with better line than THAT. And even if they couldn't, as a writer, I should have. I do not recognize any 46 year old male I know coming on to a woman using those specific words, much less believing for a second they'd actually work. So the scene is a bit shittily written because of that.

But you know what? That's cool. I'm fine with that specific scene sucking. It reminds me of Joss Whedon's audio commentary for the Buffy episode "Innocence". He woefully says that he came up with the viciously cruel things Angelus says to Buffy upon taking her virginity and turning evil the morning after off of the top of his head. And he's all, "Woe is me, I felt so guilty at how easy that was, and I thought I must be a terrible person deep down." But do you know what? He is. He's right that he's a terrible person for that. He is not off the hook just because he is willing to recognize that fact. I could NEVER have written that specific scene as well written, credible, and realistic-sounding as it is after weeks of trying, much less come up with it instantly on the spot. He wants my sympathy for channeling the abusive mindset so perfectly, but he did it so convincingly, he instead earns my scorn. The fact that he was able to write that amazing scene with no trouble at all actually DOES mean he is not the feminist hero he pretends he is. And I'm not going to cut him any slack for it.

Add that to the fact that the default response to any sexuality shown by Buffy was usually degradation and shame, and I'm not willing to see Joss on any Ms. covers. Ever.

"Wanna screw?" sounds completely implausible, unrealistic, and as if I'm trying to get the reader to show scorn for Vic doing something that no real-world person would actually ever do. It's stupid and badly written. But do you know what? I'll accept that the scene is not all it could be if it also means that I am not the kind of person who can remotely fathom how scumbag men come on to and abuse women. That is not an area of personal growth for my writing skills that I feel the particular need to improve upon. For personal reasons, and so I could look myself in the mirror, I'd rather the scene was badly written than well-written. Because if it WAS well-written, that would say something about me too.

Have I ever mentioned the Buffyverse sucks in hindsight? Because it totally does.

Why do I gotta make The Un-Iverse so political anyways? Aren't I driving off potential fans?

Definitely. But it is my understanding that if you are doing a fictional story exploring the differences between good and evil, it's going to wind up political at some point. It happened to Star Wars, it happened to Harry Potter, and it's been a staple of DC and Marvel comics since at least the 60's. I'm just not going to pretend the political opinions in the comic are anything but political opinions. I'm betting some Potterverse fans would have loved to have known ahead of time Harry Potter was going to turn so liberal before they had already gotten hooked.

And maybe J.K. Rowling had the right idea all along about that. By not structuring the story as a political one at first, conservatives who had been with it since the beginning heard some opinions they didn't tend to often be open to. Maybe I should have done the same thing for The Un-Iverse instead of giving conservatives such easy fire so early on to dismiss it as a "liberal story". But I don't wanna do that. I want the people who actually stick through The Un-Iverse to actually ENJOY The Un-Iverse. If that means someone of a certain kind of politics is going to duck out early, I'll understand. I think it would be far less annoying for a conservative to feel this story isn't for them early on, instead of later realizing it when they've invested so much time and effort in it, and sort of have no choice but to see it through. Conservatives will hate me pretty early on. But I'd rather that than having to make them suffer through a story they didn't expect liberal politics to come up in at all. Nobody who has read The Un-Iverse up to this point will have been hooked yet. The actual good stuff is still in the future. I'd rather let conservatives call be a libtard now than down the road, when it feels like I've betrayed their trust. That's the difference between me and Rowling. She's probably right to do it her way, especially considering her main target audience is children. But I did it my way for a specific reason too.

Angela is right to be concerned that she is trading her principles simply to be a good role model to little Cat girls. The messed up thing about this is that if it were anybody but Vic Puff, she would be right in thinking the interview was okay. It is not a black and white issue to me, and Angela is not necessarily a sell-out for doing the interview. Because the reasons she did it weren't entirely selfish.

I personally think Augatha firebombing the Lab (and later the motel) raises a TON of questions. It almost seems like a plothole, but the fact that we don't get answers to the questions the idea raises is kind of cool. But let me just point out right now why that scenario is so unlikely, and why it is almost COOL that it's unlikely.

Raggleworth Labs is not in a crowded neighborhood, but it's not in a sparse one either. Are we to believe Augatha takes a portal to the U.S., and blows up a huge building downtown, and nobody calls the police? And if they did, are we supposed to believe Augatha got away with it? Nobody saw her or her small army of Werewolves?

It sounds like I'm a bad writer, but I like those questions, and if people have to nitpick the franchise, I hope it's for stuff like that. But there are a ton of potential explanations for what we see happen. The fact that I don't explain it in the story itself, doesn't mean it CAN'T be explained.

I like to think that the police WERE called, and the FBI called them off in a huge pissing contest over who took jurisdiction over such a terrorist act. The FBI and the CIA probably tried REALLY hard to cover it up and pretend it WASN'T a terrorist attack (maybe a gas explosion), but maybe there are a bunch of fringe conspiracy websites out there with grainy photos of a small squadron of Werewolves standing outside around the wreckage. The truth is, The Mistress Augatha Arc doesn't last TOO far chronologically beyond a few months after this story. But maybe the conspiracy theorists were onto Augatha's secret plans months ahead of time, solely due to how sloppy Augatha's plan actually seems in hindsight.

And it IS sloppy. We outright say Augatha makes it in a fit of rage because she's pissed, and in the next issue she's back to normal and calculating again. I think Augatha is VERY fortunate this did not blow up in her face at all, because as we've previously established, whenever Augatha makes a rash, unplanned decision is when she gets her ass kicked the most. And that did NOT happen this time. Her impulsiveness actually led to an unambiguous win against the good guys. It is to Augatha's credit, that she still is reluctant to take risks beyond this point, even though this one paid off. She is still super careful, and probably considers herself uncommonly lucky for getting away with it this one time. One desperate risk per millennia is enough in Augatha's mind.

But maybe it's not so much that Augatha has enough clout to get away with it. Maybe she ultimately didn't, and at that point in time, nobody was actually buying what the government was selling. You'll notice there are no national news reports about this bombing in the hotel room as Bernadette and Gilda watch TV. Which is why I think if ANYONE uncovered what Augatha was really up to ahead of time, and how complicit the U.S. was in it, it was probably the blogs, and like a lot of stuff the blogs cover now, it didn't actually get covered on the news at all, even if was true. That's my non-canon explanation for this mess.

A lot of times when you see a plothole like that, be aware that I know it exists. But I often don't answer it in the story itself because nitpicking and debating stuff like this is what fandom is all about. I dot more i's and cross more t's than most franchises do. But I don't want to take all of the fun of debating these ideas if I can help it.

I love that Gilda does the fist-bump behind her and without looking. She trusts Bernadette will NOT leave her hanging on the dap, and she's right. I also love her expression of abject boredom. Julius isn't even WORTH displaying contempt for in that moment. Gilda doesn't hate Julius at all, but recent events have also made her disgusted and unhappy with him, and she isn't going to pretend she doesn't feel that way to spare his feelings. What is ironic about this is that in the next issue, her and Julius' positions are entirely reversed, and she practically seems to be begging Dr. Raggleworth and Bernadette for forgiveness. I don't much like Julius this issue (for obvious reasons) but I find it interesting that he is much less desperate for Gilda's approval, than she ultimately turns out to be for his and Bernadette's. VERY interesting.

Augatha's "NOT CHOSEN ENOUGH! NOT CHOSEN ENOUGH!" are the ravings of a madwoman. I am quite a bit relieved that the next issue reveals that that insanity was partly a calculated performance. Because that is scary-crazy.

The media in this iteration of The Un-Iverse has MUCH different subtext than the previous versions. In earlier versions, the media was tabloid, and in your face, and comprised of yellow journalism. Even though that's Fox News now, I didn't feel that was right for this version of The Un-Iverse, and kept things more grounded instead. But usually when I look back over earlier versions of The Un-Iverse, I cringe in embarrassment at some of the foolish choices I made with the story. Making the media tabloid in the earlier version, even if it no longer makes sense now, wasn't one of them. The last major crack I took at this before calling it quits was during the era when Princess Diana was literally hounded to death by paparazzi trying to take her picture. It made sense to make the media extra ghoulish and unethical back then.

I kind of feel that as I've grown older, my perspective on the media has changed. I still think they suck, but now the reasons they suck are completely different. If the media had been as gung-ho at reporting Bush's transgressions in the run-up to the 2004 election as they were in snapping a candid of Diana dying, we might have been spared a second Bush term. Trump would be a non-entity too if the media treated him as the dumpster fire he was instead of a breaking news story worthy of attention. I used to believe the media sucked when it did its job too well. My new perspective is that it sucks when it DOESN'T do its job. This is another one of the reasons Ned Apple sort of faded into the background in this version. Because of Angela's specific Tracy Flick personality, it's especially soul-crushing for her character when she fails at her job when the nation needs her the most. This interview is the reason she becomes an alcoholic, and is barely able to look herself in the mirror and function. She wanted to the next Diane Sawyer or Barbara Walters in breaking barriers for Cat women and little girls. Instead, she feels she is no different than Mary Hart on Entertainment Tonight. If Fox News existed in The Un-Iverse, Angela might recognize herself in one of the myriad, nameless blonde anchorwomen. As it stands, her reputation basically boils down to a camera shining light on her great legs beneath the ET desk, and nothing more. And that's the last thing Angela ever wanted. And Angela is a much more multifaceted character because of that fact. The fact that the media is much more subdued didn't actually close plot threads for me. It created tragedy and pathos for the characters at the center of this mess. And I find that fascinating.

Gilda seems 100% certain that if she kissed Meek on the lips, he'd instantly wake up. She's right, but the reasons that is so are not something we are really going to explore all that much, since Gilda is not about the 'ship. What I will say is the specific reason Gilda knows that it will work will be revealed in "The Terran Wars".

It seems kind of stupid that she refuses to kiss him if she knows it will work. I mean, friends should be able to handle a simple kiss without getting weird. There is a specific reason Gilda knows this is not true for her and Meek, and again, we'll reveal what it is in "The Terran Wars".

That whole scene of Gilda baring her soul to Meek while he's unconscious strikes me as something that would be very controversial if Gilda and Meek broke out and got itself a fandom. And I'll take any lumps that are due me for it. But the truth is, the scene is a majorly late addition. Gilda and Meek were NEVER supposed to talk about this stuff in the original 90 issues of The Un-Iverse. Partly to drive any shippers of those two nuts. But I relented here, and without much second thought.

The sequel to The Un-Iverse (The Supplements) will explore Gilda and Meek's friendship in a way the original 90 issues of The Un-Iverse never did. It sort of came about because as I was writing the saga, I kept realizing more and more that if you want to get technical, Gilda and Meek would make the perfect couple. On paper. They are literal soulmates. And that's why people will misguidedly ship the characters. And it's true. But they are never going to get together and that's that. The reason the idea began to fascinate me is because in many TV shows, genre or otherwise, the "Will They Or Won't They" couple are not always at each other's throats like on Moonlighting and Cheers. Sometimes the friends WOULD make a good couple. Sometimes the potential couple resist the ship because they believe it will ruin the friendship. It would complicate things, and they don't want to risk losing each other, because they value the friendship so much. They wrung several seasons of Jim and Pam on The Office with this idea. And I figured that since Gilda and Meek is a definitive "They won't" relationship, maybe the opposite would be true for them. Maybe they are secret soulmates and them getting together would solve all of the problems in their friendship. Instead of sex complicating things, it would simplify everything. And they just stubbornly refuse to go there, even if it would be best for everybody, (even them).

There are two reasons they will never get together. The first reason is that they are completely sexually unattracted to each other for totally superficial reasons. Sometimes you believe the plain looking friend can win the dream girl if she sees what a great guy he is deep down, but the hot chick from Average Joe still picked the hot guy rather than the fat guy. That's the way people work. And just because Gilda and Meek are amazing, doesn't mean they don't have those particular hang-ups with each other. Gilda prefers strong men and Meek is a wimp, so Meek is not for her. And Meek cannot be attracted to a woman who sometimes smells as badly as Gilda does. The situation is what it is.

The second reason is I think the actual deal-breaker. Gilda and Meek both strike me as the kinds of characters who believe in grand epic gestures for each other, which might lead one of them to get together with the other if the attraction was one-sided. Simply because they love each other so much and would do anything for the other. But because they are both such drama queens, and each unattracted to the other, that makes them dig in their heels even more than real people would. The biggest reason Gilda and Meek will never have sex is because they both believe it will devalue their epic friendship. It would turn their one of a kind amazing friendship 100% ordinary, and they would suddenly be every close male-female friend ever. They'd be a cliche instead of funky and cool. And I think they are right about that. And I know Bernadette would agree.

This complicated aspect of their friendship was originally going to only be explored in the sequel, and that's it. But it's such a fascinating thing, and it makes their friendship WAY more interesting than if it didn't exist. It strikes me as Narrative malpractice for me to wait another 60-70 issues to even broach the subject. People will wonder why Gilda and Meek never hook up. Let's explore why that is this far ahead of time.

Initially the actual reason Gilda and Meek never hooked up was "Because I said so." That's it. That's the only reason. And that has been the only rationale going back decades. But the more I explored the dynamics with these characters, and the more reality I put into their relationships, the more is seemed like that's no longer a good enough answer. If they DON'T hook up when they should, that means there have to be actual reasons why they don't. "Because it would be bad for the story" is not a real-world explanation for something like that, so I figured I'd better explore legitimate reasons why they will never go there. And that will be explored more in The Supplements too, and is set up early on here for the first time.

I don't want to get TOO spoilery for the sequel, (but it's getting a little late for that.) What I will say is that I disagree with Gilda 100% that she has been a bad friend to Meek, and taken him for granted. If anything, it's the other way around. Tragedy is going to befall Gilda and Meek in the sequel for this reason, but one of the interesting things about Gilda to me is that even if she knew the specific horrorshow that was going to happen in a few years, I don't think she'd change her opinion about that here. The sole reason I think it's crap that Gilda believes she is a bad friend who has been taking Meek for granted, is because I know what she will ultimately forgive him for. And it's the fact that that forgiveness is absolute and unconditional which is what means she is the better friend and always has been.

Gabrielle is wearing a coat, pants, and scarf when she arrives by broomstick. It's November and COLD, and these clothes are more appropriate than the toga, sandals, and flower in her hair she usually wears. Plus it sort of lets us know the situation is actually serious.

Navigating when the coats came on and off the characters was a bit of a pain, to be honest.

I also redid the "dap" panel. Julius and the Piranha used to be in the left hand side of the panel like the previous few panels on the Motel patio. But I felt they pulled too much focus from Gilda and Bernadette's solidarity, so I laid over a second panel of just them in close-up. Here is an Un-Iverse shocker: Even though the artwork isn't that great, I DO care about it. I want the good moments to land as well as possible.

Believe it or not, I sort of second guessed the Ruth Bader Ginsberg thing. One of the defining things about The Un-Iverse is that it does not share the same current politicians are Our Universe does. There are a couple of people who are the same like George H.W. Bush and Chris Christie, but the people in Washington in The Un-Iverse are different than the people in Washington in Our Universe. While it is 100% true that Al Gore exists in The Un-Iverse, he is not a politician, and Gilda fangirls him for other unknown reasons. So maybe she shouldn't be talking about Ginsberg.

But I thought a Supreme Court Justice is a little bit different than a President, Governor, or Senator. The Notorious R.B.G. is such a badass in Our Universe, that I think it would be entirely appropriate that Gilda looks up to her and says something silly like that she's her spirit animal. I did not like much from Bill Clinton's presidency, but R.B.G. was easily the best thing he ever did. Because she is on the Supreme Court I don't think that sexually harassing huckster's Presidency was entirely without merit. She is awesome.

I don't know why I had the patient in room 108 that Gilda helps be a little girl cancer patient. I think it's probably that the new Bloom County is really getting to me. Seriously. Track that down. Frank is amazing and will make you cry.

Gilda getting undressed in the car in front of a little boy is another hint at her terrible boundaries. She sucks at them. It's probably one of the most obnoxious things she does in the entire story. If she was a man, she'd (rightly) be arrested for that. What surprises me about it is that even though Gilda has terrible boundaries with people, there is still usually a classiness and elegance to her. This issue and the next sort of of demolish that idea, as a lot of Gilda's behavior in these stories is outright trashy. But you also have to keep in mind that this is the point of the saga where Gilda is no longer The Sage, and hasn't been since she beat up Vic, and possibly not even since she made Gabrielle cry. These two issues are me doing the legwork to get Gilda back to the place where she is The Sage again. But that means Gilda is going to be more of a mess now than she ever was, or ever will be again. But she's annoying as hell when she is.

This kind of behavior shows why the character sucks, and why nobody feels like cutting her a break in the next issue. Yeah, her mission was life and death, and time sensitive. But if it was her goal to not draw attention to herself, she pretty much failed the entire thing.

It is very interesting to me that Eddie talks about killing Morrison and Vic's families as if he is discussing the weather, and they both just take it stride. This suggests to me that as outraged as Morrison is, and as clueless as Vic is, on some level they both knew what they were getting into, and always did. So I feel far less bad for them than I probably should.

Bernadette telling Dr. Raggleworth that he sucks, always has sucked, and that she cares about him is typical Bernadette.

I am a little amused that the both the Narrator AND the Piranha are shocked at Julius telling the Piranha that he can leave the Lab, but that he won't be coming with him. The Narrator describes it as the most shockingly appalling thing Doc has ever said to him, and the Piranha is gobsmacked and devastated. But it is an incredibly mild slight by real-world standards, which should inform you how rarely those characters ever squabble, if THAT'S the worst they've been through. And I actually like that because it means I don't have to dial everything up to a screaming match to show the characters upset and on poor terms with each other. The fact that blow-ups are so rare in The Un-Iverse not only makes them more impactful than if they happened all the time, but I never have to really go overboard when I do it either. The defining thing about the "most shockingly appalling thing Dr. Raggleworth has ever said to the Piranha" is that the reader will not hate him for it. At all. A lot of times, because genre take personal fights as far as possible, you can wind up hating a character after a cruel rant. And once you hate the character, you'll never like them again. No matter how hurt the Piranha is, the reader will not hate Julius for this. It wouldn't even occur to them to. They'll find it annoying, but all of the characters are annoying at various points. This isn't something unforgivable for the reader themselves, even if the Piranha is really hurt by it.

I love that Brooks refers to the dress Angela is forced to wear as a napkin. But as sympathetic to her as he sounds for that joke, Angela is right to be pissed at him, and the fact that leftwing idealism always seems to fail women when they need it the most. That used to be the province of conservative Democrats who would throw women under the bus to pass important legislation (see the Stupak Amendment to Obamacare). But the last couple of years has proven it's not just conservative white males who do that. It's ALL white males.

When I hear Bernie Sanders, probably the leftiest guy around, talking about how the Democrats need to stop talking about "cultural issues" and talk to Trump voters about their "economic anxieties" my reaction is, it doesn't matter how far left or right white male liberals are on the political spectrum. They seem to all be sacks of shit when it comes to sticking up for women and minorities. I used to deride conservative Democrats for chasing after people who would never vote for them, while ignoring their key constituencies that actually win them elections. But it's not just Bart Stupak. It's Bernie Freaking Sanders. And I think the Democratic Party has a serious problem. And it's not that we are talking too much about cultural issues. It's that we are willing to abandon talking about them to try and get people who want to see us all dead vote for us when they never will. I used to think this craziness of throwing women and minorities under the bus was exclusively the province of Red State white male Democrats. But it's pretty much all white male Democrats.

I'm guessing even me. I must have a blind spot somewhere. I am probably really insensitive and jerkish about a women's issue without even realizing it. And if it IS every white male liberal (as I suspect it is), that's a real problem going forward.

I very deliberately had Angela accepting wearing the dress using the term "consent". Brooks is pretty much every "nice guy" everywhere who browbeats a chick into having sex with him when she just isn't into it. But what's the problem? She "consented", right? Angela using that specific word to chastise Brooks is her telling him it's NOT all right. Because it isn't. "Not being legally rape" should not be the freaking bar for how men treat women. But for a lot of them like Aziz Ansari, it is. The legality of the terrible behavior is the only thing that concerns people like that. Which infuriates me about my gender.

Brooks is warm, caring, supportive, sympathetic, and 100% useless. He is every white, male liberal I have ever hated. **** him.

This is pretty much Angela Feline's biggest role so far. She's always only previously appeared briefly in the news broadcasts and interviews. But the truth is, she will not be entirely non-present during the rest of the saga. This issue might wind up as her most screentime ever. But it won't be the only issue where she has significant screentime.

We don't see too much of Angela off the set, but she is scary insightful. It is my opinion that she is a person who passes Gilda's b.s. detector with flying colors. After that "leftwing idealism" and "consent" thing, how could she NOT be? Yeah, she fails her ideals. But Lord, Did She Try. Gilda would appreciate that as much as any woman would.

"Route 66". I pretty much had to.

Augatha's Werewolves are driving black sedans because that's what the Low Men in Stephen King books drive. At least I think they are black sedans. I never quite got what the Buick 8 actually was.

Gilda's idea of Fuzzy and Scuzzy as hostages interests me, because I don't think she is thinking that through. Can Fuzzy and Scuzzy even be hurt? Or does Augatha know they are completely Immortal and indestructible? The reason I ask is because Augatha sends missiles after the group. And the fact is she DOES care about and love Fuzzy and Scuzzy. Which suggests she wouldn't be doing that if she had any worries that her babies were actually in any danger. The next issue sort of hints that Augatha's intentions to kill the group here are overstated. But she seems genuinely angry to me here, so I'm guessing that's just standard Xanatos level "I meant to do that" villain bluster in the next issue. But even if the idea that she doesn't believe she can kill the Chosen Five does not track with her behavior here, the idea that she knows Fuzzy and Scuzzy themselves are in no danger totally does. And it's a bit frustrating that Gilda never actually figures that out.

Angela's camera crew being people she worked with for years is weird to me, because you'd figure she'd have an entirely new and different crew on a national network broadcast. I had the crew be people Angela knew for years, because it works for how jarring it is for Angela to see the mistrust in their eyes after all that time, but it is not real-world credible scenario. Luckily, Gilda And Meek takes place in an entirely different Universe than ours, with probably entirely different Union rules, and TV news hiring practices. Basically, what I'm saying is "A Wizard Did It."
 

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Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
I can't even PRETEND that Gabrielle apparating a warning note in the Motel room is anything but an homage to Harry Potter. Or if you are being less charitable, a total rip-off.

The TV in the Motel 6 is not only low-def, but it has knobs on it, rabbit ears, and no remote. Since the Motel 6's in OUR Universe are obviously not that bad, it's clear A Wizard Did It. Why did I make the TV old-school? Those kinds of TV's actually look much cooler and more interesting on the page than High Def TVs do. I sadly do not feel I do enough with The Un-Iverse in service of interesting artwork. That little bit is me trying for once.

The villains being terrible shots thing is from Family Guy. But it's not like it isn't 100% obvious and true, so I don't think of it as stealing the joke. I see it more as stating a now recognizable pop-culture truth. It's not even funny anymore. It's just a fact.

There is a major hole in the story. I don't mean it to be and I knew going in it would be a hole, but I didn't fix it because there IS an explanation for it. But the Starfield the Ragglemobile travels across to get to and from the Whahuma Plain seems entirely different from The Multiverse Void. How does Meek even know this completely different route to the Whahuma Plain? As soon as I saw this hole upon completing the script, part of me thought I should just make the Starfield the Multiverse Void, and have everyone be amazed at the different Gildas and Meeks. I declined for two reasons.

1. Only Meek gets to enjoy the Multiverse right now. Years from now, I'll grant Gilda and Bernadette an adventure there, but only Meek currently has that pleasure to laugh at the idea of him and Gilda kissing in an alternate Universe. This is solely Meek's treat. For now.

2. I like the idea that perhaps Meek is SO good as traveling between dimensions and worlds now, he intuits shortcuts and ways around the Universe even the Warlocks' Council could not imagine. He feels them and can not only travel across Universes, but he can sense them all too. Bob seemed a little frightened of his gift by the end of the last story. Maybe he was right to be, because even at completely diminished capacity, Meek plays the Multiverse like a fiddle, even when he's barely aware he is doing that. So that's why there's a Starfield instead of Multiverse windows. And can I just point out how dumb I am for coming up with this cool idea and never finding a place to put it in the actual story? I like telling The Un-Iverse. But there is so much more to it than I am actually ALLOWED to tell in the actual story.

About Gilda and Bernadette's first hug: Gilda actually hugged Bernadette while drunk in "The Woman In Sunglasses" upon believing Eddie Cat may have hurt her, but Bernadette seemed to trying to get away from it and is annoyed with how clumsy and awkward it is. This is the first hug that she has ever reciprocated. In fact, there is a strong case to be made that Bernadette might have actually initiated it. So that's why I consider it their first hug.

The Puzzle Nurse doing her crossword puzzles in ink is to show she is a total badass, and that there is a good reason Gilda instantly likes her. Somehow this does NOT strike me as a chick who needs help with the word "Chump", and she was probably merely trying to start up a conversation. I don't blame her. Gilda is a badass and fellow traveler in fearlessness.

Gilda has a red VW bug because that is my favorite kind of car in my favorite color. That's pretty much the only reason I needed to do it.

One of the small moments I like is the Piranha handing Dr. Raggleworth the first aid kit without him having to ask. It makes sense, because even if he's not a Lab Employee like Meek or Bernadette, he's been around the Lab long enough to know what to do in that specific situation. But I like it because it is another demonstration of how in synch he and Julius are, and how well they usually get along with each other. Which makes Julius' outburst later on even MORE confusing for the Piranha.

I love that the Piranha tells Gilda that he loves her upon her insulting Gabrielle's future-seeing skills. That is the Piranha saying what he actually thinks about Gabrielle in three simple words.

There might be people wondering why Gilda is as devastated by Meek's suffering as she is. Yeah, Meek's her best friend, but her explanation a few issues ago that she loves him because he's unpredictable is not a reason to set off this level of despair. The idea behind Gilda and Meek's friendship is that Meek is the only person she sees somewhat as an equal. Gilda does not believe any single character she meets in the story is an equal to her (with the possible exception of Diner Owner Mike Jones in The Terran Wars). Meek is the closest thing she has to that, and she doesn't want to lose it. It's weird that Gilda thinks of Meek that way, considering he is NOT an equal, and is less of an equal to Gilda than Bernadette is. But Meek is the only other person besides herself that she 100% trusts and relates to. We kind of think of Gilda as being a bit protective and nurturing of Meek. The fact that she tearfully pleads for him to wake up because she can't do this without him suggests otherwise. This relationship built on trust and solidarity is not one-sided after all. And it never was.

We never learn what Fuzzy and Scuzzy were fighting about in the closet, but I did that to show that oftentimes during a crisis, people don't show solidarity the way Gilda and Bernadette did here. They blow up at each other and have a meltdown. And that's the bunny slippers. I don't say why they are upset, but they are handling this crisis much worse than everybody else. What's cool is that it isn't explicit and is only in the background. Which is sort of how the bunny slippers should always fit into the story. I sometimes accidentally make their roles TOO big, and their part in the mythology TOO pronounced, but the saga is best when I pull back on doing that stuff.

There is a moment during Angela's interview that disturbs me the more I go over it. It's Powder giving Vic the encouraging thumbs-up. It makes me cringe. Yeah, Powder thinks he's helping, and doesn't realize that Vic is threatening Angela in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways. But it's the fact that he's clueless which is why he sucks. He should REALLY be a bit more selective in the direction he aims his positive reinforcement to his psychopathic father. In an upcoming issue, the Narrator will declare himself unimpressed with Powder's intelligence, and ability to correctly read sinister people. He is noble, and good, and wants what is best for everybody. But he's dumb as a brick.

Powder is what would happen to Otterman if I didn't plot a redemption arc for him. Only worse, because Otterman's misjudgments involves trust, not love. Even if Otterman trusts Vic at this stage of the game (when he shouldn't), he most certainly doesn't LIKE him, much less LOVE him. Which is why I feel comfortable redeeming somebody as gullible as Otterman in the first place. He is much less complicit in things, if he goes along with the villains he does reluctantly, instead of foolishly believing in their crap causes. It's the fact that Otterman is always giving Rex and Vic Puff reproachful stares and recriminating glances, which is why I think he's an interesting character in the first place. It's The Side-Eye that is the precise thing that redeems Otterman. Powder does not have that strength or insight.

The first thing I decided upon sitting down and drawing the issue was that the cover needed to be big. The cover needed to be dire. The cover needed to worry the reader. I'm concerned that the fact that there is so much going on in the cover will set unrealistic expectations for the story actually being good, but it definitely captures the frantic tone I am going for. I'm not sure I am the best artist to draw an exploding building, and having the reader recognize that is what it is. But the color helps.

Bernadette calling Gilda a ghoul when she messed up Meek's healing is a bit extreme, but that's kind of why I like it. Neither of them are at their best in this issue.

The thing I love about the Darkwing Duck reference is that it's unexplained. If you don't get it, you don't get it.

Whenever I draw Gilda topless (which is admittedly not very often), I don't tend to show her belly-button. Simply because she has a body like Bugs Bunny. I showed the belly-button here simply to make it read better that she is inappropriate for getting undressed in her car while a kid is watching.

Brooks has a short scruffy beard, because I notice most sensitive liberal white men tend to have short scruffy beards. He feeds into that specific cliche.

I love that Angela outright calls Vic an insane dirtbag. I would like to think that in a newsroom and off-camera, various newscasters and reporters talk that way unfiltered about politicians when no-one else can hear them. Just the few "hot mic" moments our Universe has gotten recently, tells me it probably happens all the time.

I probably should have had Vic say his favorite book about a conservative utopia is The Handmaid's Tale, but I couldn't bring myself to do that. It's not just that I think it's inappropriate and not something to make fun of. It wouldn't actually be funny. Plus, he burned the book in a previous issue (because I knew I'd be using 1984 here) so it was too late for me to change my mind about the book anyways. The books Vic chose to burn in the Narf-Narf and Chirp story were chosen for a specific reason. And even if Vic doesn't understand the moral of 1984, I think it's the fact that he DOES actually understand the moral to The Handmaid's Tale which is why he burns it in the first place.

The brief one-panel flashback showing Mitch and Ryan slamming Vic Puff to the floor and jamming a gun to his temple, as written, was not designed to be an homage to anything. But as I drew it, I saw the parallels to Chief Wiggum laying the smackdown on Krusty the Clown in "Krusty Gets Busted" from The Simpsons immediately. And I kind of played them up.

The first season of The Simpsons will never get as much pop-culture credit as it deserves. It does not have many memorable non-Bart related catch-phrases, but almost every single one of this first 13 episodes had a visual or a scene in it that seared into my brain because I had never seen anything like it before. And that scene qualified. People do not remember 1990, and what a revolutionary show The Simpsons was in its first season. Most Simpsons fans look down on it for the choppy animation and inconsistent characterization, but I think it is one of the very best seasons, and my personal favorite after the 8th. If you were of a certain age in 1990 (I was 14) The Simpsons was like nothing else you had EVER seen on television, and the little jokes like that became a permanent part of my psyche.

The Man In Charge is all capital letters, even though the "The" starts in a middle of a sentence. I do that for emphasis a lot, and it always tends to hint which phrases, characters, and concepts are actually important to The Un-Iverse's mythology.

Eddie stating that the people of his country are not bigoted hateful morons is him having more faith in his country than I have in mine. Also him saying the word "Savvy?" as a question to whether or not Vic or Morrison understand him is one of my all-time favorite douchebag phrases, so he says it.

Bernadette's bloodcurdling laughter upon Dr. Raggleworth telling Meek that his sister would never let him live it down if he died, is a very realistic moment on my end. People react to that kind of thing differently, and it makes sense that Bernadette is the kind of person who would make a horrified laugh upon that "joke".

It strikes me that perhaps when Dr. Raggleworth has to have Gilda get an IV drip for him, he probably shouldn't already have an IV stand back at the lab. But that's another one of those plotholes that I hope people don't notice as it is happening.

I also find it a bit odd that apparently after Meek is stabilized for the first time, someone seems to have retied his bow tie. I kind of get why though. As the Narrator states, he looks almost naked without it.

Gilda putting on a headscarf to go outside and see Gabrielle without a coat is less easier to justify, but I wanted a good excuse for Gabby to make the baldness joke she does.

When Gabrielle says her warning for Gilda and Bernadette to run and never look back she says she is saying it with all sincerity. And do you know what? Despite being a b.s. artist, I have to believe that is true.

I like the idea that Gilda and Bernadette are impressed with the briefcase with $100,000 for two reasons.

1. This means Dr. Raggleworth has a really interesting backstory he never shared with the group, or at least he had one sometime before he met them.

2. Dr. Raggleworth is almost certainly secretly rich and doesn't flaunt it. And he is not the only character who is so. While Augatha definitely indulges in luxuries due to her wealth and old money, Gabrielle is probably equally as rich as her sister, and lives as if on a hippie commune anyways. And the less said about Gilda trying to distance herself from her family's wealth, the better. Rich heroes not wanting people to know they are rich is a common thing in The Un-Iverse. It will not be the last time we see it.

Also, as much of a hindrance as Julius was in the lab escape, I'll give him this: He was the only one clever enough in the group to plan ahead for a rainy day like this just in case. As I said, Gilda is also secretly rich but it didn't occur to her to have a large amount of cash hidden somewhere for emergencies. The fact that Julius did says he's cleverer than she thought.

Why doesn't Gilda think to do that?

It's because she thinks she's untouchable. She believes that because her skills are always going to keep her surviving assassination attempts that things will never get this dire, and this is the first issue where she realized how dire things could get. She's right and wrong about being untouchable. She's right that she isn't going to get randomly killed by a lucky punk on a bad day. But even untouchable people need Plan Bs and escape routes. It's how people who are untouchable become so in the first place. Gilda thinks she's untouchable only because she believes it. There is ego involved and it's not rationality. Because if it were she'd be thinking of this kind of stuff before this issue too.

I will say this. Her witnessing that briefcase probably effected Gilda for the better. Now she herself will plan to do that in future. Gilda is egotistical, but not so much so that she is unwilling to learn from her mistakes. And she can recognize a good idea when she sees it too.

Another reason I think Gilda probably didn't think to do this is because hiding a large cache of money for a quick escape is something a smart VILLAIN does, and Gilda doesn't think like that. She's a hero, and doesn't want to budge out of that mindset, even if it might be in her best interest to do so. But since Gilda USED to be a villain (see the next issue for details) it's probably something she should have thought of before anyways.

The number 313 returns again, this time as the Motel 6 room number. It is Donald Duck's license plate number.

I think the picture of the Piranha playing with the toy from the cereal box are very cute. The Piranha is supposed to be a very cute character, but outside of the first and second issues, I don't think I'm had him do enough cute stuff in the background, like I should have been. This fixes that for a few panels.

Dr. Raggleworth's look of lust at the nude sleeping admission is good too. I like that the irises in his eyes are shaped like hearts. His neck is also sticking out more like a buzzard's (to indicate a predator mindset) and drool is dripping off his tongue that is sticking out. I don't blame Bernadette wanting to shut this down as soon as possible.

I love the moment where Augatha screams Meek's name in rage upon the group's escape. This is normally the part where she curses out Gilda for defeating her, but I like that she (admittedly correctly) chalks this victory up to Meek. Which might blow the rest of the group's minds to realize that Augatha now considers Meek every bit the cunning threat she does Gilda and Bernadette. It's not like Gilda or Bernadette ever really learn or talk about Augatha's newfound respect for Meek as a worth adversary, but it's definitely there.

I am not comfortable defending much about this issue, but there is something in it that I think I may get crap for if The Un-Iverse hits that I WILL defend. The whole scene of Bernadette not owning a ton of possessions to remain mysterious to her friends and family is gonna get me some shit. No doubt. Basically, I have Bernadette's personality resemble a wilderness survivalist, instead of a little girl. Her wants and motivations are needlessly and ridiculously psychologically complex for a 10 year old girl. And I will get shit for that, especially from people who hate all kids in genre, especially the capable ones who are as smart as adults. I could even actually reasonably come up with a plausible explanation for it if I wanted to. Say that Dogs are an entirely different species than humans after all, and may value different things...

But do you know what? No. It's Just A Cartoon. Get Over It. Usually I hate that excuse when pulled by comedy cartoons to excuse offensive jokes, or action cartoons to excuse badly written plots. But that's the answer here, and the only one I'll ever need. The truth is, children with complex and adult psychologies have been a well worn cartoon and comics trope since Peanuts, and more recently Calvin And Hobbes. It's not something I'd ever feel the need to apologize for. It's Just A Cartoon. Get Over It.

Gilda calling Bernadette interesting IS a decent moment. But it's not a great one as I'd hoped it would be. Simply because Gilda sounds condescending as hell when she says it. She thinks she's being clever, but it's actually kind of lame. But I kept it for a mythology reason: To show that her and Eddie Cat both equally value that word, but for entirely different reasons. She says it to say she's closer to Eddie's mindset than she would ever admit, or even ever realize. But unfortunately Gilda is much more insufferable than I wanted when she said it. If it were a bigger and more unusual insight she wouldn't sound like such a prat. But it's fortune cookie stuff, and Gilda thinks she is being deeper than she is. If Bernadette weren't so distracted in the moment, she might have busted her chops for it, instead of agreeing with her because they were in such a time crunch.

To be honest, and fair to the issue, I am surprised how much I love the small lower right hand corner panel of the Werewolf launching a missile at the Lab and it exploding. Honestly? That should have been the full or half page splash panel (which I saved for the next page). But the missile launch should have been huge too. It's literally Raggleworth Labs blowing up, and the fact that it's both small and badly drawn is almost unforgivable. But there is something about it I really like, that I don't always get with my actions scenes because I am lousy artist. But it lasts a single panel and you can actually tell what is going on. The drawing is simple but it totally reads, which most of my explosions and such do not (the missiles exploding around the car are a good example of this). The fact that my art often doesn't read well is the specific reason I use the Narrator as often as I do. If I were a great artist, he'd still be present, but would only offer opinions about the story, rather than also dictating it. And while I think part of the reason the issue sucks is BECAUSE such a huge moment of the bomb hitting the lab is in a panel so small it also totally plays. It works and does NOT work at the exact same time.

Another way I'm getting better at the art stuff (on the same page even) is the moment after Bernadette tells Gilda to make up her mind about whether or not she should be superficial. And at the top of the page is a single panel of Gilda giving Bernadette a frustrated look with no dialogue or even Narration. I let the silence of the moment play out. And even a year ago I would have had the Narrator say "She gives her a hard look" at the top of the panel. But the fact that the moment read without it is another thing I'm proud of.

It's a little weird how easily the artwork to this issue came together. It's above average in my book. I knew before I scripted the issue it would be the worst one. I knew AFTER I scripted it it would be the worst one. And yet, I still had a LOT more fun drawing it than I did Warlocks: Beyond Reality. It's a sucky issue, but the things that happen to it, and the locations I have to draw, are back in my wheelhouse after five issues of either being set in a pink desert, various spatial voids, or inside Augatha's palace. I enjoyed completing the issue more than I had any right to considering how bad it is. But it is definitely covering well-worn ground for me, and is me back in my comfort zone. So while the story sucks, the artwork is better than average. Mainly because I enjoyed doing it.

Plotwise, the timing of the events of the issue makes little sense. And that's usually the kind of minutia I am actually good at keeping straight. But the story starts at 8:30PM on election night, at least from Gilda and Meek's perspective. But once we go to Angela and then Vic is when I start losing control of the timeline. Why is Angela in her office reading over a news report for an upcoming broadcast late at night? Shouldn't she actually still be on the air delivering election coverage? And why is Vic having a meeting with Eddie the very night he's elected? Wouldn't his absence from the campaign celebration raise red flags for his supporters, especially if Eddie is keeping him waiting? And why is Morrison there at all? I get that she is due for this briefing, but how did she know Vic was going to win the election? Was she going to be sitting in the same room with the Female Democrat had she won? I have events that should have taken several days to happen run concurrently with a plotline that lasts a single night. It's once the group gets to the motel room and settles down for a few hours, which is when the pacing gets back on track, but I am usually MUCH more careful about stuff like that.

Speaking of which, let's assume Gilda finishes her mission at the hospital at 9:30PM (to be generous to me). Is there a specific reason there is a little boy in the hospital parking lot watching Gilda undress in her car besides making Gilda look crass? Because in reality, there is no better time to change clothes in your car than when it's night and dark out, and there are fewer people around. And I dislike that I wanted to keep that beat while not having a good reason for the beat to actually exist. And little touches like that are why I think the issue sucks.

Angela wearing "Eff-Me Pumps" on television was not in the script. But it totally fit the scenario.

I like the art and expressions in general in the scene. I am very proud of how uncomfortable and salacious the moment she tugs on her dress is. Vic was not leering at her in that moment in the script but it really makes it land how and why Angela feels so trapped with a predator on the stage. This is how many women interviewers feel around Trump. And the moment where Vic refuses to apologize for the book-burning, no matter how unpopular or abhorrent it was received is another Trump allegory too.

Angela's worried expression as Vic is threatening her is quite good too. She looks quite beautiful and vulnerable, which is what I was going for. She does not deserve this.

Do you know why I like Angela? She goes on with the interview. She is brave enough to ask about the bookburning after he threatens her. There is definitely some Amazon Warrior blood in Angela Feline.

One of the biggest challenges about the Linear Notes for this issue is that I am basically giving the store away. I sincerely doubt anyone who reads this issue will think it is particularly bad, and since the saga DOES get better as it goes along, maybe they'll even think it's better than the earlier issues. But even if that's true, the way it fails the franchise is something only I know or get, because I'm the only one who knows how it's gonna shake out. And these Linear Notes, as fun as they are to explore the way I think when I write, are probably damaging the issue more than I ever could. And that makes me second-guess ever making them public or easily accessible. The thing that convinces me it's all right to share is because The Un-Iverse is a one-man operation as it currently exists. If I'm bashing a bad issue, I'm not insulting hundreds of production crew members or artists or producers or editors or anyone else but me. I have probably been far freer with my opinions in these notes than I ever should be, but the only reason I am is because I don't answer to anyone else as I tell the story. As I stop posting these online after the next issue, I will be taking a longer view of things, but as of now the Linear Notes are allowed to show my warts, because mine is the only hand responsible as of now. If that ever changed, and I got a professional artist to clean things up, you can better believe I'm be a lot less chatty.

There are not enough pews in the Church. Bugs me a little.

There's another plothole in the issue that doesn't bug me so much. But maybe Gabby should be using her magic to instantly transport the group far away. And yeah, that would be a good plan. But Gilda thinking ahead about hiding the Dark Idol where even THEY couldn't find it sort of put the idea in my head that that was worth the group having to escape themselves. Maybe Gabrielle could have and should have done both. But as long as she has the secondary mission at ALL which is why I didn't change it.

It's interesting that I do not put a value judgment over the fact that Gilda is stealing from a hospital. I am usually much more careful with her ethics, but even Bernadette doesn't object because the situation is so dire. But nobody ever talks about paying the hospital back when this is all settled. Mostly because they aren't going to, and I didn't want to make Gilda the type of person to make false promises to make herself feel better. So instead, nobody mentions that the theft is actually wrong.

Interesting that Dr. Raggleworth is so upset at leaving ALL of his inventions. Because half of them are crap.

Yeah, the Make-Your-Own-Videogame Player is cool, as is the Alien Matter transporter, and the Invention Fixer has its uses (if not to anybody but him). But he seems equally upset over losing the Really Inappropriate Computer, and the Automatic Toepicker. What is actually wrong with him?

Is this really the first issue to outright say Gilda didn't always have her b.s. detector, and that she gained it as a child for some unexplained reason that even SHE doesn't know? Because it really shouldn't have been if it is. That was always a major intended facet to the character.

I have always loved the phrase "Knock 'em dead." It's weird I gave it to Brooks, considering how much I personally detest him.

I cannot overstate how disappointed I am in this story. And I think the thing for me that sort of made me throw up my hands in the air, and declare it a lost cause is Gilda's hide and go seek game in the hospital. I hate that scene. I think it is terrible and one of the worst scenes I've ever written, if solely because that is literally the best I could do in that scenario. But it sucks.

A lot of the things The Un-Iverse will get crap for (an annoying Narrator, more dialogue than artwork) are things I am comfortable defending. I think the idea that The Un-Iverse looks and acts like no other comic book ever is not a failing. It's a selling point. Yeah, it's not a great fit for a visual medium. But it reads like an illustrated novel told in real time. Which is awesome, not a drawback. A lot of the reasons people will declare this the worst comic book of all time are the reasons I think it is cool and funky and unlike any comic ever.*

And you might expect me to stick up for that scene for subverting the expectations it does. As far as we know, Gilda is in no actual danger. But we are never made aware of that for sure, and Gilda is frightened out of her mind because she doesn't know either. If I were a totally dishonest person I could say that's another selling point. It makes the scene ambiguous and a cool unsolved mystery. Right?

But that's ********. The truth is, had I introduced actual Werewolves or cops chasing Gilda in the hospital, the scene would become overlong, and overly complicated, and partly made some of the rest of the issue feel like a retread from that. But if all of that is true, that means I never should have attempted this scene in the first place. But it made more sense to me to try and make the scene interesting than to simply have Gilda run off and bring back supplies. And the scene is interesting enough. I'll give it that. But it is badly written.

I cannot seem to make up my mind on whether or not Gilda's mission is going to plan, or if she's screwing it up. The Narrator is no help either, and his various insights on her current mindset strike me as contradictory in places. Worse, I don't actually know how to treat Meek's various injuries, so the supplies I had her take from the supply closet were random, and generic, and not something I could research, because extra-dimensional wounds are not an actual thing. So I have to pretend Dr. Raggleworth can stabilize Meek without actually explicitly stating how Dr. Raggleworth does that. I was able to b.s. myself as reasonably knowledgrable in many previous Un-Iverse scenes I've tackled using unfamiliar subject matter. This? I don't know jack shit, and I'm not going to pretend differently. It's because this is so outside both my writing skills, and the reality of any given situation, that actual research would do me no good whatsoever. You can't look up factual nonsense. At least not without hitting a rightwing blog.

The third thing about the scene that makes zero sense is that if Gilda IS so concerned Augatha is following her, she and the group should have abandoned the Lab immediately upon returning. Gilda doesn't want Augatha to know where she is? Well, Augatha actually has her home address, so she seems to be fighting the into wind with that one.

And in real life, the Puzzle Nurse would not let Gilda into the nurse's station. It doesn't matter if she's wearing scrubs, if the nurse didn't recognize somebody, they'd make a fuss, and at least try to figure out when they started working there. I sort of made the Puzzle Nurse a bit apathetic on purpose. But no nurse is actually THAT apathetic.

And isn't Raggleworth Labs an actual lab? Shouldn't Julius have these supplies already? But the actual problem is that if he does, the issue loses about half of its length. Did I mention I hate this scene? Probably most of all because it wound up necessary. Which is a tragedy to me.

I was initially going to have the hospital scene be from the first Motel Room. I probably should have done that because it actually might have made a tiny bit of sense there. It would explain why Gilda is going after supplies if they've left the Lab in a hurry, and would explain why she's worried about being followed by Werewolves. But I could not leave Meek in that dire of straights for THAT long of a period of time. It's actually already unacceptable that Julius has to wait until Gilda gets back to fix him. Waiting to put the scene in the Motel Room would make that to the Nth degree.

The only things I like about the hospital scene is "108" and the Puzzle Nurse. Because the relaunch of Bloom County has been GETTING to me, man. I do it all for Frank.

As for the Puzzle Nurse, I love her scene with Gilda. Unfortunately, it also sucks all of the current tension out of the story, which is another reason the issue sucks. The issue is so bad that even writing a good scene ruins it.

But everything else about the scene and the structure of the rest of the issue sucks. And the reason I hate it so much is because it's the best I can do. Which deeply shames me. This is my least favorite issue of Gilda and Meek ever. To be fair, I knew going in that it likely would be, but usually if I have a ****** outline, I wind up shocking myself at how decent I wind up making things. That is my exact relationship to Howler and Stella Stickyfingers' entire canons. But I knew this was going to suck, hoped for the best, and sadly turned out to be completely right. And the fact that it's the FIRST ****** outline I've written that is still 100% ****** which is why this is my least favorite issue ever.

There will be people questioning why if I hate the story so much, that I didn't try harder to improve it. I don't know if this will sound insane or not, but kind I think The Un-Iverse needs an issue or two to absolutely suck. I'm not saying it's otherwise nonstop great. I'm not saying that by a long-shot. But a lot of these Linear Notes seem to be me being self-congratulatory about me fixing a trope that a pop culture show I am obsessed with screwed up. I should not ever be thinking I'm a better storyteller than Joss Whedon. Whether it is true or not, (and most people who have read what they have of this franchise so far will definitely think that it's not) it is not a healthy opinion for me to have about myself. So maybe it's okay if this story is me admitting I messed up big time. Maybe it's better if I can't defend everything about the franchise. The Narrator likes taking me down a few pegs. But the ultimate reason I declined to do eight different drafts is because at this point, I need to check myself. I need to remind myself of my failings, and why the saga sucked for as long as it did. But at least it took until Un-Iverse #32 to finally have an Un-Iverse story I am completely unhappy with. I'm amazed that didn't happen sooner. Maybe nobody else will wind up hating the issue as much as I do. But the reason it isn't better is because I am trying to remind myself of my limitations.

Either that, or I'm super lazy. Pick one.

For the record, I have stated before that The Un-Iverse is a form of therapy for me. Those previous 14 paragraphs are exactly why.

*Not to get too entirely off topic in the Linear Notes (but it may be a little late for that) but I truly believe that the fact that there are more words than pictures in The Un-Iverse is one of the best things about it, if not THE best thing. I cannot draw great artwork, and even if I could, I like the idea that the reader has to put in a little of the work. What is neat about that is that Gilda And Meek is not a comic that takes five minutes to read, sacks you with a cliffhanger, and you have to wait another month for another five minute experience. You actually sit down and READ The Un-Iverse. You absorb the story a bit and maybe reread it a couple of times. The Un-Iverse is kind of an eyesore to look at. But I cannot capture my imagination accurately, so maybe the reader should simply use their own. There are definitely more scenes of telling what happened, than showing something happening. But I actually think that is one of the great things about it.

For the record, it is no coincidence that one of my favorite comic book writers / artists is Don Rosa. His artwork isn't always that great, and there is always a ton of dialogue and narration boxes. Have you ever read The Life And Times Of Scrooge McDuck? It is literally the only Disney comic I consider heavy reading, but part of the reason I love it so much if because there are so many words on the page for me to savor. I'm not saying that The Un-Iverse is as good as Don Rosa. I'm just saying that the idea of a comic that is extremely wordy has worked to a large extent before I attempted it. This is far wordier than Rosa, but I think that it is similar in being a comic you sit down and read, instead of sitting down and reading through. That is the selling point.

The Un-Iverse seems to be specifically designed for people who don't like or appreciate comic books. Which is both a frightening risk, and sort of appalling on every level a comic fan can think of. It lacks all of the things that make great comic books great. And I will understand that complaint. But the reason I'm telling the story is BECAUSE nobody else is messing with the medium and formula in this specific fashion. And this is a fashion I think it SHOULD be messed with. It's a comic book the way I would LOVE a normal comic book to be like on a regular basis. And the entire reason I got back to Gilda and Meek was me realizing if nobody else was going to do the specific kinds of characters and tropes I already created back in grade-school, I needed to put up or shut up and do it myself. I fully expect a ton of comic book fans to think the entire franchise is self-indulgent, badly drawn garbage. But the things purists will hate it for, are the reasons I love the story, and think it needs to be told. Time will tell if this is just me.

Un-Iverse Fun Fact:


Naming the Church St. Mitchell, a place of Sanctuary, was quite deliberate.
 

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
21. Gilda and Meek "The Apple" (Un-Iverse #33)

This is it. The last Un-Iverse issue I will be posting on Anime Superhero. From this point forward, the rest of the saga is going to be a secret that I will shop around to publishers after I finish all 92 issues. What is unusual about this idea is that I could technically shop the idea around just with the 33 issues I've shown and the promise of a cool continuation. Except I do not think a publisher will like or accept this specific story until they get to the very end, and realize the wonderful reason I made the seemingly off-putting story choices I did. The end of The Un-Iverse is going to be absolutely mindblowing and amazing. And until I have a rough version penciled down, there's no reason to shop the saga around. Because the saga is actually ABOUT the ending. Basically I felt comfortable posting 33 issues for free on Toon Zone because the first 33 are all set-up to everything else. And some of them are good issues. But me posting them is not spoiling any good stuff. It's merely whetting the appetite for future good stuff (that IS coming).

That being said, I think the following issue is amazing and is the best one so far. I am reasonably certain not everybody will feel that way or understand why I love it so much, but I do. I had initially planned to also post the next issue (UnComix Tales: Howler "Borns") on Anime Superhero too, because it's the last issue in Book 6, But I stopped here instead, because this is a better stopping point for me posting it online. The next issue is all right, but the way things end here are a much better and satisfying stopping point.

So here we go.

Rating: PG-13: Violence and gore, brief (but graphic) nudity, mild language, adult themes, and disturbing themes and images. I'm making it sound like the most horrific thing ever. Trust me it's not. I really hope you'll like this one. The sensibility is milder than the ratings warning would indicate.

After the issue (but before the Linear Notes I will address one of the disturbing Spoiler Quotes from the last issue that we will not get to on Anime Superhero. Normally, I shouldn't be releasing the specific kind of tension I'm about to, but I want to leave things here "nice". Is that too much to ask from genre? I really don't think so.

Here we go:

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Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
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A brief refresher on Spoiler Quotes:

WHAT ARE SPOILER QUOTES?

At the beginning of each of the 14 Books of The Un-Iverse, I will put a smattering of out of context quotes from some of the characters. Because they are out of context, some of them should worry the reader. Usually, they are the most memorable quotes from each book.

We are currently in the middle of Book Six: Gilda And Meek: Fight Or Flight. Here are this Book's spoilers quotes, including one we didn't get to.

BOOK SIX SPOILER QUOTES:

"If the government feels the need to prop up Augatha against the five of us, that tells me we CAN beat her. Which begs the questions: should we?"

--Meek Anderson.

"Remember this, Thurman. That would have went down a LOT worse if my friends hadn't pulled me off you. THAT is the value they hold. You need me to protect Earth. And you need them to protect you from me. Don't forget that."

--Bernadette Anderson.

"And we pause for dramatic effect."

--The Narrator.

Bernadette's quote is majorly alarming, and even if it might not be AS much so after this issue, I am going to confirm that it IS Mitch Thurman she is threatening. We had no idea Mitch was even a Thurman when I shared that spoiler quote last issue from the next on Anime Superhero. Spoiler quotes are worrying because they always happen and always go down as described. A character ALWAYS says the spoiler quote in the book it is quoted from, and it's never a fake-out dream sequence or anything of the sort. But they can also be misleading. Since we aren't getting to it at ALL on Anime Superhero, I'll just assure you the Thurman whose ass Bernadette is gonna kick is Mitch's. Her relationship to Gilda is repaired at this stage of the saga, and will stay so from this point forth. But since I decided not to post the next issue after all, I'm going to reveal the big thing that was making me regret that I wasn't going to. I feel better now.

Besides, Bernadette would never referred to Gilda as "Thurman" in such a disrespectful manner, which is why the quote was both tricky and alarming in the first place.

Now for this issue's Linear Notes. Most of the longer ones have been done in two parts. This one was so long, I had to split it up into three.

Linear Notes for Gilda And Meek "The Apple" (Abridged, Spoiler-Light)

The best single issue of Gilda and Meek ever and if it were a TV show it would be considered a bottle episode!

I just can't believe I actually finished it! Ever since I returned to the series a couple of years ago, this was the issue I was most looking forward to completing (at least until The Terran Wars). Considering all of my other Un-Iverse attempts were prematurely aborted, I half expected to never get to it at all! My next goal is the end of Timeline Trilogy, then the end of Gilda and Meek, and then The Terran Wars. Doing all of the work involved to finally get to The Apple tells me I'll probably hit those other marks too.

Drama, pathos, and bringing da big hurt! What I love about Gilda and Bernadette's relationship is that as the saga starts we are sort of saying that Bernadette is a bratty kid for always pushing up against Gilda, but as the saga builds to this issue, we see that many of her gripes against Gilda are legitimate! She keeps Gilda honest, which is something we didn't expect when the franchise started.

This issue also contains a canon first, and is in fact something that NEVER happened again: This is the angriest I have ever seen Meek get at Gilda. He was plenty ticked off when he heard about all of the crappy things Gilda had done once he hobbled out of his hospital bed, but once he learns Gilda told Bernadette that nobody liked her? He's about ready to have kittens! I like that because it is one of the few times we see Meek being protective of his younger sister, and the fact that it was Gilda who said something that abusive to her behind his back REALLY galls him. Even worse is that Gilda presumes to speak for him and the rest of the group when she had no right to do that. His fury is righteous. But it is one of those moments that passes so fast due to Bernadette's excellent response to the situation. I like to think that if Bernadette hadn't been so put together in that scene, that Meek would have REALLY laid into Gilda for that. And, like all of her responses to her friends in that scene, she would have let him. Because she would have known she deserved it. Meek is kind of a wimp, and doesn't get angry enough when he SHOULD get angry. I like that this crossed the line for him.

When I first wrote the scene of Meek telling Gilda that he's a grown man and can take care of himself, I realized his constant deference to Gilda is starting to take a toll on his masculinity. This was an eye-opening moment for me, because until I wrote that sentence, I wasn't aware he possessed any. But it is the right thing for him to say in that moment, so I won't argue with the story or the characters about that.

I wanted this story to be a turning point. All throughout the first part of the saga I had been taking Augatha down a few pegs issue by issue. People may think I'm crazy for trying to say right off the bat that there is no question the heroes can beat her, and that she isn't ACTUALLY the Ultimate Evil she thinks she is, and is no hot stuff. This is the issue I wanted the question to stop being "Can the heroes take down Mistress Augatha?" The answer is clearly "Yes." The question I wanted to ask for the REST of the story is "Should they?" Even by the end of The Terran Wars, I show there was no easy answer for that.

It is not lost on me that these flashbacks are one of the only three times we ever see Gilda purposefully take a life (The other times are in "All Blood Things..." and "Release The Gilda"). My first thought was "What if that isn't the worst thing she does here?" I thought that maybe, just MAYBE, we can see Gilda using her b.s. detector to help Mitch torture the captured Werewolf. Every time he lies to them she says "Lie" (casually I might add) and Mitch punches the wolf every time she does. I (and hopefully the reader) have always considered Gilda's b.s. detector to be somewhat indicative that Gilda is a virtuous, moral person. Like a supernatural gift from God to help people, bestowed upon her for the righteousness in her soul. And here we see her using it in the past as a weapon to hurt people. I am FASCINATED by that idea. I don't think it compromises the character at all, which was the biggest thing I was concerned about. Because I wanted this story to not only be the story of Gilda's past with the C.I.A., but also show the turning point where Gilda became a good person and on the side of morality and ethics. It is her witnessing Eddie Cat's atrocity that changes her entire outlook on how people should be treated, and what the right thing to do is. I think it is perfectly fine to show that Gilda, shockingly, didn't always have that, and that that was something she had to learn the hard way. The idea of her using such a beautiful thing as being able to read people's honesty to physically hurt another person, should be as gross a notion as Jesus using his powers to bed bimbos. Gilda is NOT Jesus. But I think her gift is spiritual is nature. And to see her abuse it like that (especially so seemingly casually) should break our heart. And I think will inform us a bit of the kind of character Gilda wants to be now and what she's trying to atone for.

I actually went further in the torture flashback than I was originally going to. But Gilda is a torturing monster at this stage of her life. I don't really think I should be trying to make the reader sympathize with where that is coming from. So that means that Gilda is not only a torturer, but an outright bitter racist towards Werewolves. She doesn't even care if this guy's family is being threatened to keep him in line. Gilda as we know her has progressive values about equality and the decent way to treat people. These added negative facets to her personality in this scene are done to show that Gilda didn't start out that way, and that it was a process. And unlike her beating up of Vic Puff, it didn't come from a righteous place. Gilda is a monster in this scene, unable to recognize what being a true monster actually entails. It's only upon seeing Eddie commit his atrocity that Gilda starts to realize her current values are completely warped, and she would be better served starting over from scratch. And I think that's a perfectly okay story choice. But I truly believe Gilda is an evil person at this stage of her life.

There is a scene at the end between Gilda and Mitch that is REALLY thought-provoking to me, because it states two diametrically opposing things about her, that are both true: Gilda is an amazingly awesome person and a pathologically despicable person at the exact same time. And both things are equally true. When Gilda tells Mitch that she isn't on a quest for redemption, or trying to even the score with her evil actions, and is there because she WANTS to be there, at first glance it sounds like Gilda is emotionally healthy. And as Gilda IS the most emotionally healthy character in the saga, it can certainly be read that way.

But NOBODY should be THAT emotionally healthy. Do you know who else doesn't really care about their past actions that have hurt other people? Sociopaths. Bernadette says as much in the next issue. Gilda is NOT one, but the fact that she is able to compartmentalize those two parts of her life so completely is not simply a sign that she is a good person. It's also a sign that she's a bad one.

Why does she think like that if she IS a good person? Gilda's thought processes are that Evil Gilda may have been evil and sucked, but she was a NECESSARY evil. As she states in the story "Training", Evil Gilda did some damage here and there, but never enough to truly trouble Good Gilda years later. Maybe she should be troubled anyways. But she thinks that Evil Gilda got Gilda to a place in her life where Good Gilda became more powerful and unstoppable than she could ever be if Evil Gilda did not exist. Otterman feels guilty because he thinks he can never make up for his evil actions. Gilda thinks she already has and by a thousand-fold, and that none of that would have happened if Evil Gilda didn't exist. She's RIGHT, so that's why I think she is emotionally healthy. But just because she can rationalize it, that doesn't mean she shouldn't have more concern for her former victims. It is true that her pretending she can make things up to THEM is b.s.. But she should still feel bad anyways. And the fact that she doesn't is a definite character flaw.

There is an additional reason I decided to make Gilda extra racist and cold-hearted during the flashback. And her telling Mitch that she can take care of herself, and doesn't need him to protect her, is an essential part of that. But the worse I made Gilda in the flashback, the more interesting a character Mitch becomes, and he was already pretty interesting.

I suspect part of the reason Gilda hates being around Mitch isn't simply because she can't read him using her b.s. detector. That's the excuse, but it cannot be true, or at least the whole truth. She can't read Ted either, and seems perfectly friendly and comfortable around him. No, it's not simply that Gilda cannot read Mitch which is why she hates being around him. She's afraid she actually someday COULD read him.

And that's terrifying to her. Mitch is the one person in the story who has obviously witnessed Gilda commit her evil at her worst. He knows what kind of person she can be if she feeds into her darkest impulses. And he's probably the ONLY person who knows that. So the fact that she can't read whether or not Mitch actually thinks she's a good person deep down terrifies her. Because he's the one person she believes may know the accurate truth, and that it might not be pretty. And that's partly why he freaks her out so much.

Gilda claims that she isn't ashamed of her past. But I kind of think she's more ashamed of what Mitch knows than she'd ever admit to anyone else.

This issue pretty clearly proves to me that if we had started our story even five years earlier, Gilda would be the villain.

Originally, Gilda was going to put her gun upon the Tortured Werewolf's temple upon discovering him. I like that she puts the barrel in his mouth instead, because not only is it more horrific, feels like a violation, and has a sexual assault subtext behind it, but we pretty much just established that Gilda is REALLY cautious against the Werewolf virus. Which shows her b.s. detector told her she was in complete control when doing that and so she's fearless just then. Even when Gilda is the most evil person in the story, she cannot help being amazing on some level.

What is interesting to me about Gilda and her brothers being triplets is that she is the only fictional twin or triplet that exists where that fact is pretty much irrelevent to the story. Usually brothers and sisters born at once are defined by that characteristic. And even if a character winds up having an unknown identical twin out there, there is often mistaken identity and stuff like that involved in the story. The fact that Gilda and her brothers are not only not defined by being triplets, and are fraternal is very unusual, especially since Gilda isn't usually shown to talk about or worry about her brothers at all. She is the main character and the fact that she's a triplet is both irrelevant to both her and me. Any other franchise would make it a gimmick.

I also really like the scene where Dr. Raggleworth tells Gilda off for looking down on him. I like this idea because it shows that Dr. Raggleworth is a sensible adult. He's always sort of been like the irresponsible mad scientist / inventor who comes up with goofy problems that the group have to solve. I want to say it is more nuanced than that. Maybe Doc has been smoothing thing over with people behind the scenes, and doing damage control for Gilda. As he said, the fact that she's his lawyer is an irony not lost on him.

I especially like that Doc reveals that he's never forgotten that Gilda immediately called him a dope and mentally disabled upon meeting him. It's played as a joke in "Groundwork", and a no big deal joke at that, but it REALLY hurt Julius more than we suspected, and definitely more than Gilda intended to. And it's one of those things that gives The Un-Iverse added layers upon rereading it.

"I never asked you to do those things for me. And if I had known you were doing them at the time, I would have tried to stop you." This is easily the greatest Meek line in the entire saga. Technically, his "Now and Forever" monologue in "Timeline Trilogy" is more moving, but that is precisely because it is exactly unlike the Meek we know. These two sentences in "The Apple" are the essence of Meek and his conscience. And the fact that Gilda occasionally fails to live up to his ideals.

Honestly, that line is good enough to be a Spoiler Quote. But I didn't want the reader to know it was coming. It's worth the wait and the surprise.

I personally think the fact that Meek says that line to of all people to Gilda Freaking Thurman makes it the absolute bravest thing he's ever said to anyone in the entire saga.

There's a subtext that perhaps he thinks Gilda would hurt or kill him if he tried to stop her, but that he'd try to stop her anyways. I don't know if Meek would truly have the guts to not back down under that scenario, but just the fact that he posited it speaks volumes to me.

Speaking of Spoiler Quotes, part of why I gave Meek the line about asking Gilda if they SHOULD beat Augatha, is because I wanted to make it a spoiler quote. I also wanted to make another line from Bernadette a spoiler quote too and I never have two spoiler quotes from the same person in the same book. So I changed it from Bernadette asking the question to Meek.

Frankly, I like Bernadette asking the question better because she IS the group's moral center, so the fact that she is asking makes us understand the stakes. But Meek is the second lead of the book, and him asking it means more on some level both because Gilda trusts him more, and because he always defers to her. I compromised both ideas by having Bernadette TRY to ask the question, being unable to say it out loud, and Meek finishing it for her. It's unnecessary dialogue in a scene with otherwise tight dialogue, but I thought both the Spoiler Quote and the subtext of the contrary opinion being voiced by Gilda's sidekick was worth it.

This proves some interesting about the Spoiler Quotes. Once in a while, they will guide the actual story. Not usually, but they often are an equal part of the narrative experience for the reader. At least I hope they are thought of that way.

"Nobody knows exactly what or how much they would be willing to sacrifice to save someone they love's life." This line for Meek is not as memorable as the other one, but it is one of the most significant lines in the story.

Also, do not forget the flashback where Gilda wakes up in the hospital bed next to a flipped out Mitch. That is one of the most significant scenes in the entire canon, and definitely the most significant scene (and clue) of The Mistress Augatha Arc. Remember it.

If Mitch's reactions seem a bit emotionally off in that scene, remember that fact. It WILL come up again.

Gilda having no trauma left over from the Healing Spell is also another significant clue. I can't really get into this stuff more without ruining it, but all of these things are things you should remember for later.

This is issue shows something about the Piranha I meant to bring up much earlier, but I knew that The Scene was coming, so I didn't work too hard to do it: But the Piranha is freaking wise. He's technically a youth, but in my head, because Piranhas have such long life-spans, he's chronologically 50 years old. He's older than all of the other characters besides Julius and Gabrielle. And as such, he has a bit of surprising old-world wisdom attached to him. Maybe the reader will roll their eyes and think it came out of nowhere, but it was always an intended facet of the character.

The Piranha telling Gilda he waited to intervene in the dispute because all of that stuff needed to be said is another demonstration of that. He may be a child as far as his species is concerned, but just based on experiences and years he's lived, he's already an old soul.

The flashbacks are great too (particularly the last one). And we even get to see Augatha being smart for the first time ever. I am really happy with this one.

The thing I am proudest about it, and why I think it is probably the best single issue of Gilda and Meek, is how I handled the group blow-up with Gilda. Part of my mandate in writing this continuity, is subverting tired fictional tropes, and nothing bothers me more than the "group blows up, everybody leaves in a huff with nothing resolved, and only finds 'resolution' over bonding over an unrelated event" trope. That frickin' infuriates me, and instead of having the gang go on an adventure, and realize Gilda isn't so bad after all, they actually talk out the issue at hand at the very moment they are having it. It lasts exactly one scene. A LONG scene to be sure, but I run the gamut of emotions without ever jerking the reader around about whether or not the group will ultimately break up. We find out immediately. They won't. Because they talked the problem out like adults would. Which is more realistic than you'd think. It's a bit sad to see TV offering us all of these brilliant sci-fi heroes kicking butt against aliens, but when it comes to their personal relationships, they all act like sullen teenagers. Smart heroes should be better than that. And there isn't actually an adventure this issue. And yet, I still think it is riveting and the best standalone issue period. The fact that the problem itself is addressed, satisfies me in a way it wouldn't have been if Gilda had simply saved their lives, and they considered the matter worth dropping. Because it wouldn't be. It never is. The problem would not actually be resolved, and it would still be true. And yet that is what TV shows expect us to swallow every dang week. And I'm proud that I took an entire issue to show that you don't have to do that. The fact that it's good too is icing on the cake.

You'd expect, with Bernadette being both the contrarian and the moral center of the group, that she'd side with Gilda, who I believe had good reasons for not telling the group about the conspiracy, but she's frankly had enough. She is not going to waste any of her ethics capital on Gilda, when Gilda has not being giving her the slightest bit of consideration from day one. I love Gilda more than any of the other characters, but her brutal honesty about character assessment should not just be let go by the people she's offended, just because Gilda happens to be awesome. Just because I, as the Author, can justify her behavior (knowing what I do about the situation) does not mean the group should, since they don't share that knowledge. There is ONE unexpected part of Bernadette's reaction: she takes no joy or satisfaction from her disgust with her. I didn't want to make it sound like Bernadette is piling on once the group starts ganging up on Gilda. She is no happier than anybody else about this situation. This is one of the few instances of her not trying to purposefully create drama. She actually finds THIS bit of it kind of distasteful. Because it's real and everybody means it. This is the only rant she does in the entire saga that she isn't having fun with. She actually hates having to say it.

Still, Bernadette telling Gilda that she is a liar and a monster is pretty much the most horrible thing she's ever said to her, and unlike every other Bernadette insult we've heard so far. Because she absolutely means it and believes it 100%. For once she is not trafficking in b.s. when trying to hurt another person. She's being honest, which makes this worse than anything else she's ever said to Gilda. We forgive Bernadette for what she usually says because she doesn't really mean it. The fact that she does here makes this unlike every other Bernadette / Gilda confrontation.

The person in the group who stands up for Gilda is the Piranha. The Piranha has never really taken sides in group squabbles before. He's just as content to be adored by everyone, as he is easily the most loved member of the group. The reason I wanted it to be the Piranha is simple. He learned the same fact about the government being behind propping up Augatha, and didn't say anything for the same reasons as Gilda did. The Piranha says that anyone who knows something that huge and potentially devastating, can be forgiven for being afraid to tell other people the truth right away. And the group realizes that if even the Piranha feels this way, then they can probably forgive Gilda for it. It's at this point Gilda promises never to lie to the group again. The matter is only be settled once the Piranha weighs in.

And these complaints about Gilda are completely one-sided. Gilda uses her debate skills to try to justify her behavior a little, but unlike Bernadette, Meek, or the Doc, she doesn't attack the other members of the group personally to build herself up. Remember, Gilda is a GREAT judge of character. Despite her lame justifications, she is just insightful enough about herself to know that she has this coming, and probably deserves it on some level. She isn't Buffy from that show's Seventh Season. There will be no "I've been carrying you guys," speech from Gilda. This is Gilda's low point in the entire saga and she knows it.

Even still, I would like to commend Gilda for something about that scene. She probably could have dug herself out of that hole herself if she had been completely honest about the reasons she had been acting so crazy. Part of why Gilda ranted at Gabrielle and made her cry wasn't just because she was being protective of the Piranha. She was being protective of Julius too, as she had recently learned Gabrielle cheated on him when they were engaged, and beat up his sister. Gilda is definitely going to tell Julius this now privately, but she could have brought this up here and now, and Julius would have forgiven her. But he also would have been completely humiliated to learn that for the first time in front of his friends.

Similarly, Gilda and the baseball bat issue could have been settled had Gilda immediately said that she thinks that Vic Puff is a pedophile, and has the hots for Meek's ten-year-old sister. But like the reasons she lost control with Gabby, she knows that is NOT something they want to know. They will be miserable and frightened to learn that, even if they would almost then certainly agree with Gilda for beating him up. The secrets Gilda are keeping are partly being kept because Gilda knows these are things the group is better off not knowing, and that they wouldn't want to know anyways. Gilda would rather take her friends' abuse, than destroy their lives just to build herself up in their esteem. And I think that is quite admirable.

I especially like the idea that Gilda actually forgot all about Gabby's transgressions against Julius in that moment, and realized she'd have to tell him at the end of the story. I like that because it shows that even if she could have used that to dig herself out of the hole with Julius, it never even occurs to her to bring it up then. Gilda is a somewhat manipulative person at times. But the fact that it doesn't even occur to her to try and play on her friends' sympathies in this scene shows that she is an awesome friend.

One of the interesting things about Bernadette's anger is that unlike Dr. Raggleworth, she doesn't suspect Gilda is secretly evil, and kept this information because she's working against them. She's just freaking had enough. And I totally get that, and feel her pain because of that. Unlike Julius, Bernadette doesn't mistake the situation for something it isn't. But she is also well aware that the situation is horrible enough in its own right.

I love the moment where Bernadette says her only friends are in this room, and then Gilda tousles her hair. Because that somehow makes what happens next a thousand times worse. And it was already REALLY bad. This is me twisting the knife. Because in hindsight, that's Gilda overstepping her bounds. In that moment, she believes she and Bernadette and the group's position with each other is on a lot firmer ground than they are, which makes what happens almost immediately after she tousles the hair so tragic.

To be fair to Gilda and her boundaries, if this was the ONLY thing, nobody would actually be pissed. They'd just chalk it up the "Classic Gilda", roll their eyes, and move on. As it stands, this is the last straw. She had no right to do that to them. Not while she was already on such thin ice with them.

That's why I love the blow-up. It's not just one thing, it's EVERYTHING. It needed to said, and happened all at once. Which is why it's one of my favorite scenes.

Also to be fair to Gilda, if the group REALLY had such a problem with Gilda's other actions before this, they should have said something sooner. Bernadette always has been honest about this shit, but she is the lone voice crying into the wind. Meek and Dr. Raggleworth constantly refuse to call Gilda out on her crap, and express surprise she walks all over them because of it. This isn't just a long time coming for Gilda. It's a long time coming for Dr. Raggleworth and Meek too. I admire them finally getting some backbone about this precise subject. It's about freaking time.

The Werewolf sneaking Gilda's gun and shooting her with it in the flashback shows something essential about Evil Gilda that I love. She's kind of green, isn't she? Something like that would NEVER happen to the Gilda we know, and I love the fact that one of the clearest ways to show that Good Gilda is superior to Evil Gilda, is to show that she isn't as clumsy or careless, and never would be. I like the idea that part of the reason Good Gilda doesn't regret Evil Gilda is because Evil Gilda is ineffective and sucks at her job. And I can see the argument that learning the lessons from that are what make Good Gilda so great. I get that. Even if the rationalizations sound phony otherwise.

Angel was always portrayed as lesser than Angelus on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, which is one of the reasons Angel thinks he'll never make up for his actions. He can't. He is not as effective at good as Angelus was at evil. Gilda is the exact opposite, and that's probably why she doesn't sweat things as much as she probably should. Gilda actually is somewhat incompetent at evil, and her Crowning Moments of Awesome when she is good are constant. That fact probably lessens her guilt. Although it probably shouldn't.

I think it is very interesting that the Werewolf refuses to bite Mitch, even as he's punching him in the eye. He doesn't consider his Werewolfism a disease per se, but he is definitely a Born just based upon that. Borns don't try to infect other people, and it's interesting that that is even true of the rare Born who works for Augatha. You may ultimately hate the Tortured Werewolf for shooting Gilda, and using her cold-blooded quip against her, but it's the fact that Mitch isn't currently a Werewolf which is why I think that particular Werewolf is probably a good person deep down.

One of the things that I love about the fact that Gilda doesn't trust Mitch, is that just based on the flashback, she is the worse of the two, and was the "Alpha", and instigator of any sins they committed. Maybe it's bizarre that Gilda doesn't trust Mitch. Because just based on what we've seen Gilda do here, he has probably far less reason to trust HER, and always did.

I assume that there will be people who will never forgive Gilda for laughing during the torture or thinking it is fun. She sounds like a sociopath who enjoys inflicting pain. It can be read that way. But that isn't what is going on.

Gilda is being a bully and an idiot. She does not fully understand the ramifications of her actions or how serious they are. This C.I.A. stuff is a game to her. Imagine being handed the power of a b.s. detector, which automatically turns you into the most awesome person in the world. Now imagine how a person who had no wiser person to guide them might abuse that power. There is no Uncle Ben for Gilda. The fact that she turned into an amazing person from that is actually more impressive because there isn't. Gilda learned the correct lessons about what good and evil entails on her own.

But Gilda laughing during the torture isn't because she's evil. Just the same as Spider-Man doesn't let the wrestling match thief go because he's evil either. He and Gilda simply do not comprehend the magnitude of the kind of responsibilities they now have. And it's a process for both of them.

I noticed how cold-blooded Gilda seemed upon not caring that the Tortured Werewolf's family was being held hostage by Augatha, and that she'd kill him if he didn't work for her. But as I reread the scene, it can be read both ways. It can be read that Gilda honestly does not give two ***** about Augatha killing his wife and kids. And it can also be read as that Gilda knows he's lying, and that he doesn't even have a family, and therefore everything he says from that point forward is suspect. I liked the scene when I was showing what a cold-blooded monster Gilda is. But I LOVE the scene once I realized that is not the only interpretation there is. If you hate Gilda she does it because she's an *******. If you love her, it's because she doesn't take b.s.. And I love that not only do I leave this entirely up to the perspective of the reader, but that I'm not entirely sure myself anymore.

As the torture scene makes abundantly clear, just because Gilda has a b.s. detector that can tell if she can trust a person, that doesn't mean the person the detector passes can automatically trust Gilda. That is one of the most essential themes, if not THE essential theme of the issue.

Is Gilda only joking when she asks Mitch to tell Ted he's an embarrassment if she dies? She's actually not, but I don't think Mitch actually appreciates or understands that particular request. If Ted learns that Gilda spent her last bit of energy to have Mitch tell him Gilda was disappointed in him, Ted is the kind of person who would find that funny, and actually appreciate the fact that Gilda left the world punching him in the face one final time, just as she did when he was alive. And Mitch doesn't quite get this for some reason. "He'll know what it means," is a literal statement on Gilda's end. Ted is a doof and this kind of joke would really tickle him.

It's weird that Mitch doesn't get that joke, because he has the same problem relationship with Ted that Gilda does. But the truth is Mitch has always been much more of a stickler than Gilda, and never had her comedic sensibilities (while Ted does). Even if Gilda used to be more evil than Mitch, she was always more funny than him too. It's for this reason that it IS believable the Thurman triplets are related. Simply because if you get right down to it, Gilda's personality is a mixture of both Mitch's AND Ted's. Which suggests the triplets are actually closer than they believe they are.

Gilda's frazzled hair in the last flashback is done to show that she is already losing it upon witnessing Eddie's atrocity. In six months time, she will be completely bald.

One of the cool things about "The Apple" to me is that it feels like the first Gilda and Meek story ever that pays things off from earlier in the saga. There is a satisfaction built into everyone learning the information they ultimately do here. There was some some actual pay-off in The Pontue Legacy's last issue too, but that was much smaller scale than this, and partly unrelated. The big fight answers questions not only about the story, but the ultimate mindset and motives of the main characters. Outside of Mitch's true motives and the Piranha's name we get more definitive answers not only about the mythology of the story, but Gilda's past and actual motivations too. This issue is the first issue of Gilda and Meek that feels like a culmination of all of the previous issues. This is definitely NOT the last issue that feels that way, but it IS the first, and that makes it special to me.

There is an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, (done during The New Batman Adventures era) called "Old Wounds". Batman and Robin in that episode are kind of how I think of Gilda in the flashback, and Gilda as we currently know her. In the episode, Batman roughs up and threatens a skel in front of his family, including his small kid. His wife and boy are frightened out of their wits, and Robin is rightly disgusted with Batman. He walks out of the apartment in outrage. Flashback Gilda is Batman. Flashback Gilda would torture a Werewolf in front of his small children with no hesitation or remorse. She's probably even WORSE than Batman and would have no problem killing him in front of them either. Current Gilda is Robin. Current Gilda would find that idea absolutely abhorrent. And it is interesting to me that it is the same person who thinks so differently about things years later, which shows that the events of the flashback entirely altered her personality and outlook on life, for the better. But Old Gilda is a Batman (but worse). New Gilda is Robin (but better). And yeah, I think Robin could have done better in that scenario than simply walking out. If New Gilda witnessed a person rough up a skel in front of his family, she wouldn't leave in a huff. She'd knock the "hero's" freaking lights out. And then befriend the skel to get him to talk for good measure. Which is kind of a shame that Robin is not at the point where he is willing to do that yet. Batman would have earned it.

Gilda's b.s. detector being useless against politicians seems to be a random quirk, but it will become very significant later on. I love introducing significant concepts in a small-scale way without saying they are significant at the time. Although, maybe I just did.

Fear not, Gilda and Meekers. The fight scene in this issue is literally the worst fight the hero characters will ever get into. You don't have to worry about things getting worse. Gilda and Meek themselves have another fight NEARLY this big at the end of The Supplements, but despite the reasons for that fight being worse, the fight itself really isn't. My characters are not going to always be at each other's throats.
 

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
Gilda's complicated relationship to her family is unlike any other complicated family relationship I've ever seen from any other hero. Because Gilda herself is the complication. Gilda did not actually have a bad home life, no matter what she thinks. But the b.s. detector and the fact that it didn't work for half of her family, meant that everybody else did. Gilda's family trauma is due entirely to Gilda herself, and there is very little wiggle room for me to believe otherwise. As untrustworthy as Mitch seems to Gilda, (and us) the hoops Gilda is making her own brother jump through to prove his loyalty to her are outright ridiculous, whether Mitch is ultimately evil or not. Even if he IS evil, he's her brother. Gilda should be cutting him a LOT more slack than she actually does.

I love the fact that Bernadette is disgusted by Gilda's gun. Which also show why those two's relationship is so unique. Forget just women characters. It's unlike any other hero and mentor relationship entirely. Usually the mentor has to teach the wannabe hero how to fight and train, and how to properly handle guns and the like, but Bernadette just finds the entire thing disgusting. Whatever kind of hero she is going to be as an adult, it's not going to be that. And Gilda doesn't even think she should try to MAKE her that, which is the first instinct of every other guru to toughen up their charges. Bernadette is fine the way she is. The best Gilda can do is set a moral example. Because Bernadette doesn't even like using the bathroom after her.

I used to describe Bernadette to people as a cross between Eric Cartman and Lisa Simpson. But that doesn't really fit. Because Cartman is an actual bad guy who does terrible things. Bernadette is me asking "What if he weren't?" What if his various rages and spewing of bile were on some level justified? What if Eric Cartman was actually right about everything all along? That's partly why I suggest Bernadette is a conservative. Because if she's right about everything deep down, as her creator, that fact makes me deeply uncomfortable. And it may be true. And Bernadette does not traffic in any hypocrisy when living by conservative ideals. She walks the walk. I think it might be a bit unfair for conservatives to potentially rag on this franchise as much as they might, considering I handed them a character so complimentary to the movement, and suggested she was right about everything deep down.

Another thing that conservatives should keep in mind is that NONE of the 7 main characters (Gilda, Meek, The Piranha, Dr. Raggleworth, Bernadette, Otterman, and Lance Lockjaw) are ever portrayed as having sex outside of marriage, smoking, or doing drugs. The only time Gilda drank she was punished for it, and she's the only one of those seven we've ever seen imbibe. It's hinted that Gabrielle is a social drinker and occasional pot smoker, but even she is never in a sex scene with someone she isn't married to, or it's ever suggested that she's done that outside of marriage. The Un-Iverse will get a shitton of (deserved) crap from offended Republicans. But the truth is, the franchise is VERY mild and conservative compared to other similar franchises, which is one of the most subversive things about it. You never, EVER see a superhero show where the characters aren't falling in and out of bed with each other. The fact that the one genre franchise that is actually PG-rated in that regard has a liberal political message is something I love about The Un-Iverse. My political leanings can be described as "politically liberal, and personally conservative". So that's what The Un-Iverse is too. And Bernadette is just the best example of that.

What's especially subversive to me about Bernadette's conservatism and Gilda's liberalism is that Bernadette can argue her positions logically on the merits. Whereas Gilda considers calling all Republicans evil and stupid as her idea of winning a debate. It is very weird Gilda hates Family Guy as much as she does. She seems to share Seth MacFarlane's exact same political philosophy. It's irresistible to me that Bernadette's conservatism comes from a place of reason, while Gilda's liberalism comes entirely from a place of passion. Which is again why Gilda and Bernadette are unlike any other fictional liberal and conservative I can think of.

One of the essential things about both of those two characters' politics to me is definitely best exemplified in this issue. Gilda seemed to be a bit granola in college. And went from that to a killer and torturer. Which is an essential difference between her and Bernadette. Bernadette is a True Conservative in the proper sense of the word. But Gilda betrays and ignores her liberal values all the time, whether it's because she's angry, or because it suits what she is trying to accomplish. But Bernadette is pretty much the moral Republican and Gilda is the hypocritical liberal. And that has always been the difference between the characters for me. I am actually share a lot of my personal values with what conservatives claim to value, and simply refuse to identify myself as such because conservatives no longer value those same things. I would probably be a New England Republican 30 or 40 years ago. But here we are.

I don't think Gilda was a hippie. That is not her subtext with the gross clothing and liberal agenda. She is what was known back in the 1960's as a freak. Those specific kinds of freaks don't really exist anymore, but they share a lot of the hippie values with one crucial difference. If you punch a hippie in the back of the head, they will whine in protest, "Hey, man! That's totally unecessary!" You do the same thing to a freak? They will rip your effing arm off and start beating you over the head with it. Gilda has all of the high-minded liberal values, with the exception of the fact that she probably has an entire closet filled with other people's arms. She was a revolutionary in college. And since freaks aren't actually a thing anymore, I don't know how or if the reader will understand that Gilda is one, and not a hippie in this moment.

As the Weather Underground noted, "Freaks are revolutionaries and revolutionaries are freaks." That sums up Gilda in college. Totally.

This also perhaps suggests Gilda was sexually adventurous in college, but that's just me having fun and totally not canon.

You may wonder where Gilda's cleanliness OCD is during this scene, but unlike many women, Gilda did not develop the disorder as a teenager. It was exactly after she witnessed Eddie Cat commit his atrocity which is when her mind decided the world around her was completely filthy, and in need of a good scrubbing. But she is a slob in this scene, because she hadn't developed OCD yet.

Can you imagine how bad she smells WITHOUT the OCD and ADL hang-ups? Sheesh. I would not like to go to that college.

The fact that Gilda would be considered a freak in the late 60's/early 70's makes her calling the Tortured Werewolf that extra ironic.

I love the fact that Gilda sometimes cries. I don't do that because she's a woman, and I am trying to show she is weaker than male heroes. It's because I don't think crying is a weakness. It is a healthy outlet for negative emotions, and as Gilda is the most emotionally healthy person in the saga, she is going to do it when she needs to. Interestingly, of the times I HAVE shown her crying, the specific thing that always seems to trigger it is her believing she has greatly failed someone. Most of her tears come from shame, rather than grief. And honestly? I think most of the things she winds up crying about (such as in this issue) are things she SHOULD be ashamed about, which is another thing to show that I don't think it's a weakness at all, and is in fact a healthy, proper release. For the record, all of the main Chosen Five (Gilda, Meek, The Piranha, Dr. Raggleworth, and Bernadette) have burst into genuine tears at some point. This is not just something that is either Gilda-centric, or something that only effects the female characters. Even Otterman will wind up in tears at some point.

I think the Narrator pointing out Gilda's "furry armpit" in the flashback is beyond unfair to Gilda. ALL female Terran Cats and Dogs have furry armpits, including present day Gilda and Bernadette. He is trying to gross us out by using Our Universe's beauty standards to judge Gilda harshly for something completely normal in The Un-Iverse. It's gross enough that Gilda is publicly scratching and smelling herself. The Narrator is trying to make her sound grosser than she actually is. It's not cool or necessary.

You may wonder why in the next panel I don't show Gilda's armpit being hairy as she raises her arm over the head. It's to deliberately say the Narrator is being unfair. None of the body hair on the Cat, Dogs, and Mutated Animals is distinguishable enough to be read in my specific drawing style. So like the fur on her face, you can't actually see it. Which is the reason the Narrator is full of shit.

Something unexpected about the issue was that it is much funnier than I planned. The Un-Iverse usually works the other way around, and winds up darker than I expected. This was the opposite.

For the record, it's not a spoiler alert for the Narrator to reveal that Gilda eventually dies. Everyone does at some point. He doesn't reveal how or why Gilda reflects upon her life, whether she's on her deathbed, or simply flashed back to this moment during a sudden death. He doesn't even hint what age she is. But I am not going to pretend the characters are going to live forever. And I don't think I need to.

The whole scene where everyone is pissed at Gilda for not telling them about the U.S. Government conspiracy interests me after the last issue. Because Eddie says there that ALL of the World Governments are in on it. Which suggests that even Gilda is unaware of the scope of how deep this goes.

If Mitch is wearing the trenchcoat, sunglasses, and fedora to blend in and look less conspicuous, he sucks at his job. That particular outfit is the FIRST thing someone on the lam would be on the lookout for. I am less surprised Gilda clocked him, and more surprised he didn't see it coming. Yes, Gilda does not know who it is. But now she knows she's being followed.

For the record, Gilda should have suspected it was Mitch immediately. And that is a plothole I cannot explain away. It just exists. But since she can't read Mitch with the b.s. detector, and he's one of the only two people on Earth that is true for, that should have immediately narrowed the guy in the trenchcoat's identity to exactly two people. It's a hole and one I cannot plug. This is my mea culpa about that.

The Healing Spell scroll referred to in the flashback is for the common Hangnar Healing Spell, not the complicated Nth Degree Healing Spell. Gilda doesn't actually need the scroll to do the spell (she has it memorized even at this point), but she keeps it in case Mitch does.

I realize a few months after I wrote the script that I had Gilda do a completely assholish thing, without even realizing it. But when Leon dismissively says whoever patched up Meek medically did a lousy job, Gilda really should have defended Dr. Raggleworth's honor. I declined to rewrite the scene and have her do that because this particular bit of assholish fed into the story better than if it didn't exist. But part of me would have loved Gilda laying into Leon that Meek wouldn't even still be ALIVE to treat were it not for Julius. I would have love to see Gilda shellack that doctor and stick up for her friend.

But if Gilda had done that, Julius would probably be treating her with kid gloves for the secret and actually defending her. And we cannot have that. And even if I decided to make it that Julius is pissed anyways, and that doesn't make up for it, there is no part of Gilda that should be holding the high ground in that particular scene. And Gilda speaking up would not only add extra lines and padding to a crucial piece of drama, and I am not sure it would play the same, but it might change the entire message and dynamic of the issue. The reader might wind up feeling sorrier for Gilda than they should, and think Julius is being unreasonable. He's not. Gilda has this coming and always did. And if I had changed the dialogue even slightly to make Gilda a little nicer to Julius, it could have altered the issue more than I planned.

I like to think there is a canon explanation as to why Gilda does not defend Julius. I think she is probably super pissed at him for his actions from the last issue and is not willing to give him anything. What I love about that is because Gilda has NO clue the bottom is about to drop out with her friends when it did, and since I said Julius probably would have defended her had she stuck up for him first, she really should have been building up her alliances much sturdier than they were if something like that was ever going to happen. And it's weird Gilda doesn't see it coming, because that's a secret that Mitch knows, and she never thought to tell him to keep it to himself. Gilda is a master tactician when it comes to defeating her enemies. When sorting out her personal relationships, she is just as dumb as the rest of us. Even with the b.s. detector. In fact you could argue even moreso because of it. Because the b.s. detector seems to have her take more things for granted than she should. And that has always been Gilda's problem with it. The b.s. detector is not a superpower. Not really. But I like to show that like a superpower, there are drawbacks to Gilda having it. Gilda being the most insightful person on Earth about other people means she is also the least insightful person too at the same time. It means she doesn't quite understand what normal, non-insightful people value, and what actually matters to every single other person on Earth. The b.s. detector is never wrong. But all it can do is read a person's trustworthiness, and MAYBE on good days, their basic personality. Gilda seems to think the detector gives her a lot more power with the other people in her life than it actually does. She's a little shocked that no-one recognizes her genius about this one thing. It's because nobody else on Earth can relate to this particular gift, so nobody thinks it's as big of a deal as she does. Which is another drawback to the detector. Gilda is always right, but she's sometimes Cassandra with her warnings that people should probably take more notice of.

I love the Narrator's joke about Augatha potentially liking Our Universe's Wisconsin. That is a great joke. It's a political joke, but it's not a mean one, which is rare, and something I think I should have done more of.

Unfortunately for me (and fortunately for Wisconsin) Scott Walker lost his 2018 reelection bid as I was finishing the art on the issue. People will still get it though.

Do you know what else I love? That Augatha considers her Werewolf Army a "supervillain organization". Augatha's believes her actions and goals are righteous, and for the greater good in the long run. But she also doesn't mistake her lot in life for something it isn't. As far as petty tyrants go, she is shockingly self-aware about how others will perceive her role in history. Even if she DOES wind up beating the Crisinians, nobody's gonna love her for it, considering what else she is gonna be responsible for to get to that point. And I like that Augatha does not need to be loved. That is an unreasonable expectation of the world she is hoping to someday rule.

And she's STILL Union! How great is that?

The Piranha says each word in the phrase "She Had Her Reasons" in capital letters. I tend to do that for obvious dialogue or something that fits into a specific trope. If it wasn't the 100% most correct (and cliched) thing for the Piranha to say in that moment, I wouldn't have capitalized it.

Speaking of the Piranha, I think his and Gilda's discussion after The Scene about why he didn't speak up sooner is somehow my least favorite thing in the issue. I like it, which means this is a great issue. But I like it less than everything else. It's a little too maudlin and cloying and doesn't end on a strong line. But that's totally the Piranha and Gilda's entire relationship, so I pretty unapologetically embraced the cheese for that moment. It's not like The Scene itself isn't super sappy in places, and won't get crap for being too heartwarming. The Piranha and Gilda making up is NOT the only cloying and cutesy scene in the franchise. It's not even the only cloying and cutesy thing in the issue either.

Mitch smashing the mirror in the flashback is one of the most ambiguous scenes in The Un-Iverse. But after the saga ends, it will totally hold up in hindsight. Will it ever.

Is it a Twin Peaks homage? Since it is a comic book, and suddenness and surprise can not be adequately portrayed on the page, I think not. But if this were animated, That's What I'd Be Going For.

People might think Eddie is dumb for not realizing the subtext of Mitch saying he'd do anything and work with anyone to stop the Crisinians. A smarter villain would immediately recognize that as a veiled threat, and as Mitch saying he's only there because there are no better options, but if that changes, watch out. Man, Eddie sure is dumb for simply saying, "That's what I like to hear."

Here's the fun thing about Eddie. He definitely heard that subtext. And he doesn't care! His entire goal in that scene is to screw with Mitch. That's it. He doesn't actually care if Mitch is lying to him. He probably guesses he is and lied about having to kill him for it. It makes no difference to him. His entire motivation for positing that scenario to Mitch when he did, using the exact threatening words he did, was simply to upset him. So, points.

There are always a half dozen things in any given Eddie Cat scenario that you can sort dismiss as not the most effective poker move ever. Except Eddie isn't playing poker. He's playing 52 Pick-Up, and he's the dealer, and that's all he ever plays. His entire goal is screwing with people. His ultimate Xanatos Gambits that he's set up for later mean little to him compared to that. He just wants the person to smash the mirror, and that's all he's ever wanted.

I love the teddy bear moment. I love stuffed animals, so the look of wonder on Meek's face is mine, but it is VERY easy to see why Gilda so unapologetically loves this man, and why she is so upset that she believed she has failed him. It is one of my favorite moments in an issue filled to the brim with moments that I love.

If I were being an honest storyteller, Meek would probably flip out over the Teddy Bear, and have Whahuma Bear related traumatic flashbacks. But the moment is SO sweet as is, that I couldn't bring myself to do that. I love Meek. So I let him enjoy the moment instead.

Do you know what I especially love about that moment? It's kind of stupid if you think about it. It suggests that the hospital in the secret military base that will become The Second Lab has a gift shop. I love that notion, because it should be true of ALL Government Black Ops sites with a hospital. People need to be able to buy teddy bears for sick people somewhere, and even if you wouldn't imagine most CIA agents would be into stuffed animals, as Meek proved, it's not only agents they treat. It's dumb to think of a Men In Black gift shop that sells teddy bears with Band-Aids on them. But I'd argue ALL hospitals need them.

The Narrator says he is very glad Meek isn't there to volunteer Donna Demented to work at the Lab. But he's missing the forest for the trees for being glad about that. If Donna accepted the invitation to work there, she and Gilda would actually meet, and everything would be out in the open, and she'd be instantly found out and caught. The only reason Donna Demented is still free to kill anyone she likes is because she and Gilda Thurman have never been in the same room while Gilda was sober. That's the only reason.

I laugh that we see Gilda's "starfish" as she does the cartwheel from the back in the hospital in the flashback. Which is another thing to show that I pretty much show everything in The Un-Iverse.

The starfish moment was not originally intended to be a half page spread. But once I decided upon that specific detail I wanted to make sure it was large enough to actually read that we are getting a close-up of her anus. It's a truly funny drawing because it's larger than normal.

I got the idea from this weird Hello Kitty Calendar I owned last year from Japan. There is a random naked yellow animal in it, and on the pages he's turned around, there's a little asterisk where his sphincter is. I don't what WHY that's an acceptable visual for a kids calendar from Japan, but I think it somehow is. Most people don't believe me when I tell them I own a Hello Kitty Calendar with visible buttholes in it. But I do.

Critics will accuse me of sexualizing Gilda with that specific moment of nudity. Except I don't think there is anything remotely sexy about it. It's super gross, especially because Mitch is her brother. So, yeah, if Furverts actually get something from that they are the ones who are messed up. Who am I kidding? Furverts are ALREADY messed up beyond belief. Oh well.

Agent Barracuda is one of those people who refers to Gilda as the irksome "Miss Thurman" rather than by her preferred "Ms. Thurman". That's done simply to show how much he annoys Gilda. Even without meaning to.

One of the things I love about Gilda's racism in this issue is that we might not have even considered it racism, or even morally indefensible, if it had occurred earlier in the franchise's run. One of the worst things about The Un-Iverse to me is how user-unfriendly is. But stuff like this flashback is why it is told the way it is, in the order it is. The structure of the early part of The Un-Iverse seems almost meandering at the time, and unrelated to everything else. But truly, would you have given any thought to Gilda's "diseased freak" insults if we hadn't spent any time with Juan and Audrey Howler, and Infinitesimal Microbe, and witnessed what they were struggling with, not only with the Werewolf virus, but society's stigma about that? 6 issues of The Pontue Legacy, after only 8 issues of Gilda And Meek, followed by 5 One-Shots, doesn't seem very smart for a storytelling perspective. Especially for a writer trying to get people hooked on Gilda And Meek. But I tell the stories I do in the order I do for specific reasons. One of those major reasons was to make Gilda's appalling behavior here land properly with the reader. And it does now, and that's one of the reasons why The Un-Iverse is structured the way it is. You might have hated The One-Shots as you were reading them. But after reading all 90 issues, you WILL appreciate them in hindsight. "The Apple" flashback is the first pay-off. There are a LOT more coming. I swear.

Gilda is a slob in this issue, which is something I did to show that she isn't one now. Because I don't know if anyone really understands that yet. So I put in some contrast. But present day Gilda is impeccably groomed and obsessive about her activities of daily living. She washes constantly and changes into clean clothes way more often than most people do. But the fact that I always make jokes about her smelling bad might confuse the reader that she's a slob. But that's not why I have Gilda smell bad. I specifically want to reiterate in the story over and over again that Gilda is obsessively clean and it helps nothing. Because the smelling bad thing is because I wanted to give Gilda a weakness that she has no power over, that Bernadette can hassle her for, and is something she is going to have to learn to live with. And she kind of has. But Gilda hates and is embarrassed by how bad she sometimes smells. In The Supplements, Gilda and Bernadette will have an intimate conversation about how Gilda can be so impeccably groomed and clean and still smell so bad. And Gilda's response is "I think it's the Universe's way to point out that I don't control it." And I have her say that, because that's exactly what it is. Gilda can save the world and her friends many times over, as often as she likes. But she cannot change the thing about herself that embarrasses her the most. The bad smelling thing isn't done to show that Gilda is gross or a slob. It's done to give Gilda some humility.

And unless I really nail home the differences between when Gilda actually WAS a slob, and how she acts now, I fear some readers might not make or understand that specific distinction. I did not make Gilda have body odor so I can make gross jokes at her expense. It's to show that Gilda does not get everything she wants, and never did.

The OCD is interesting, because in canon, it was triggered by the events of this issue. Most women with OCD develop it as teenagers, but Gilda is 30 in the C.I.A flashback to this issue. She was still a slob at this point in her life, and her apartment was piled high with garbage and infested with roaches (which is something we didn't actually witness in this story, thank God) . But once she witnessed Eddie commit his atrocity here, after all the terrible things she did for him, she wants to scrub that dirty part of her life away from herself completely. And the body odor thing is me not allowing her to do that. That's a reminder that Gilda will never feel as clean as she wants to after the horrible things she was a part of earlier in her life. The B.O. is her having to live with and accept her guilt and always having to be reminded of it. Gilda seems to compartmentalize and rationalize away the bad parts of her past. The B.O. is me making sure that even if she can do that verbally, she can't do it internally. She has to live with it and always did. She seems to not be punished for her "crimes" in any real way. And I think that's actually fine, because all of the torturing and killing she did was under the authority of the U.S. government, and was perfectly legal, and in fact, her job. But that doesn't mean she should be allowed to get away with it scot-free. And her having to live with the smell is the biggest punishment for it I gave her. I'm not sure if Gilda is self-aware enough to put two and two together about that. Because while Gilda is the most insightful person on Earth about other people, I don't think she understands herself all that well. And as she's unlike every other person on Earth, it would be weird if she did.

One of the things that sets apart Gilda from all other heroes to me is that she does not have a tragic past. Yeah, her current family life is strained, but that's most people. Her entire family is alive and well, as are her friends and everybody she's ever cared about. She also grew up rich, with powerful parents, and clearly still has some of that Old Money on her. Her hero's journey is startlingly different than say, Spider-Man, or even Batman (although Batman grew up rich too, and FAR richer than Gilda).

Her defining moment did not occur during childhood, even though that's when she got the b.s. detector. No, the thing that put Gilda on the hero's path happened when she was 30. Watching Eddie Cat commit an atrocity was the actual push she needed. And it's not like she suffered the atrocity herself, she just witnessed it. But it changed her entirely. And maybe you'll call foul on Gilda turning into the amazing hero that she now is after only five years past her defining moment.

The reason it works is because although Gilda becoming a hero is a relatively recent development, her being amazing was not. She's had the b.s. detector since childhood, and has always been smart, and skilled, and a tough fighter. And she had a TON of C.I.A. and magic training before this too. It strikes me less of a cop-out that Gilda's turning point happened so relatively late in life, with no personal damage attached to her besides losing her hair, and more as freaking long overdue. What was the Universe waiting for in getting Gilda to stop being a narcissitic idiot who believe this life and death stuff was merely a fun game? The reason Gilda's hero journey is so relatively easy compared to every other hero is because she already put in the big work BEFORE her turning point, instead of after it. That's the big difference and the precise reason why I can make Gilda the specific type of amazing, sage, noble, badass she is without saddling her with a tragic past. And I don't know of too many heroes who were created that specific way before this.

Here is something else unusual about Gilda's defining hero origin moment. We not only do not witness it. But the Narrator steadfastly refuses to even say what it is she just saw. I put in all of the pieces for Gilda's hero journey. Without ever letting the reader know what they are. There have been a TON of hints what the atrocity is that Gilda saw, and you'll probably piece it together yourself when all is said and done. But the story doesn't dwell on ANY part of Gilda's past. Including the thing that changed her entire outlook on Terranity for the better. And I think it's fascinating that that will always be sort of up for debate, and an unresolved mystery in the story itself.

There is a certain segment of fan who hates watching the heroes get into such devastating personal fights and thinks it ruins the comic / show. And I'm usually that fan. But I love every inch of this fight. It's rational, it explores every part of the problem, nobody is 100% right or wrong, and everybody is willing to listen to everybody else. ******* it, if ALL fights were actually like this, I'd actually want to see more fights!

I love the moment where Bernadette looks to Gilda for what she just said about Hank being a good influence for her, and Gilda gives her a silent thumbs up. A lesser person than Gilda would have considered that moment Bernadette trash-talking them. Instead, Gilda thinks Bernadette is right, and is giving her the thumbs up to show she did NOT just offend her by opining that the movement should not be fully in her hands because she has questionable morals. Gilda thinks she's RIGHT about that and gives her positive reinforcement instead for recognizing that truth. The complainer is always right. I love that moment and I love these characters.

I am very much aware that Gilda spends this issue and the previous two fussing over and ultimately rescuing Meek. And I think that's important for her to do to state their dynamic. Do you know what wouldn't? If Meek was kidnapped and had to be rescued by Gilda. I never seem to use that specific scenario simply because I think Gilda is awesome and responsible enough to not actually lose the guy in that manner. Meek has been taken hostage and kidnapped before. But both of those times Gilda was right beside him, and in the same boat. She never left his side in those moments. And I like that I have Gilda rescue Meek from things that the reader will understand Gilda is pretty blameless for. I don't mind making Meek the damsel in distress. But I don't want to make Gilda seem bad at her job of protecting him when he is.

This issue does a TON of mythology and world building in the background that you may not have noticed. I keep specifics about Europe very vague at all times, because in my mind, Augatha has already conquered half of it, even before the secret pact was made. The U.K. seems to be safe (for now) but one of the interesting things about The Un-Iverse is that it is a rare franchise that does mythology, world building, and separate races / species with different characters and quirks, set in the present. And almost every other project that does that is set in the far past, or the far future. DC and Marvel Comics, as well as The Buffyverse and The X-Files, have their own versions of mythology and world-building. Except until the Capes and Mutants first started appearing, the history was almost exactly the same as ours. I like that I can say something like that Europe was conquered, or that Israel had a different story for its founding, or that Adolf Hitler never existed. But The Un-Iverse proves it is totally okay to come up with an entirely different parallel history, but keep things JUST familiar enough that you can set it in the present and make current pop-culture jokes. I imagine Tolkien and Martin put way more thought into their Universes than I did. But I like mine because you can do jokes about Adam Sandler sucking, and nobody can be THAT mad. And it's the only franchise I am totally familiar with that is simply set in an alternate Universe, completely unconnected to ours barring some coincidental similarities, and set in the present. Everything else (that I'm familiar with at least) is either elves or spaceships, or a world that was exactly like ours before the supernatural stuff showed up. I have a lot more freedom and leeway in not having to explain the people in this Universe's weird, seemingly calm demeanor towards supernatural and sci-fi occurances than I would have to do if I set the story in a Universe that none of that stuff previously existed. There is no Scully in The Un-Iverse. I love Scully, and she is a needed character for The X-Files. But a Scully-like character is completely unneeded for this version of The Un-Iverse.

I (VERY) briefly considered doing an Easter Egg of Gilda wearing a wedding ring during the Prague flashback. It would be totally in character for Gilda to have been married before and never have told anyone. The X-Files once did the same joke with Mulder in a flashback, and that raised the proper level of eyebrows.

But I ultimately decided against it. The No Shipping For Gilda rule, is along with the b.s. detector always working, and no mind control, one of the few ironclad rules of The Un-Iverse that I refuse to violate for any reason. Or at least in this straightforward a manner. I don't mind if I hint that Gilda is a good kisser or has pondered reasons why she is not in a relationship with Meek. But when it starts getting to the point where I'm involving other imaginary romantic interests for Gilda, even if we don't know who they are, that's too much. It breaks the No Shipping rule, even if only eagle-eyed readers would get it in the first place. It's SUCH a small detail, all things considered, but it broke the rule enough for me to not include it. And I am not afraid to sometimes brush up against the No Shipping rule and do speculation, or even shipping in a different Multiverse as seen in Warlocks: Beyond Reality. But the reason the No Shipping rule is as amazing and unusual to me as it is is that even if I would come up with something extra juicy that a fan would go nuts over, I always back down before I actually break it. There is no point in having the rule if I refuse to follow it. And that's why there is never any "real" shipping for Gilda in This Universe, or why Gilda's b.s. detector never fails her during her entire lifetime, and why we never see mind control effect any character we know or care about (and as seen in "Don't Logic Santa" it DOES clearly exist). The entire value of the ironclad rules I set up is that I DON'T violate them, even if the story would be better, or even EASIER to tell. The characters, and ESPECIALLY the character of Gilda, come first before anything else.

The cover is unusual in that there isn't a single scene in this issue where what occurs on it happens. But it's an allegory for what happens. I have told people that if I ever make a Christ parallel with Gilda that they have my permission to kick me in the nuts. Well, I never said anything about Adam and Eve.

Another reason I like it is that despite how simple it is, it is very detailed and colorful, which many of my covers are not. It is definitely the first Un-Iverse cover to so heavily rely on the color green.

I love the look of ecstasy on Gilda's face in the flashback as she smells her finger. It makes me laugh.

Her long haired design is one I've had for years. And the reason I never changed it is because I think it's dynamite. It looks cute, appealing, and 100% wrong at the exact same time.

Do you know what I love about Gilda in college? She's kind of a ditz. She's not just a hot blonde, she feeds into the airhead stereotype completely. To be fair, Britta on Community wasn't always the campus airhead either. But she turned into that the longer she stayed at Greendale. Gilda is probably even daffier because she has been in college for nine years.

It's because of this fact that Mitch seems to tread extremely lightly when he recruits her for the CIA. But if Gilda were smarter at this stage of her life, she'd be harder to manipulate.

I love that she calls her own brother a narc and a pig. She really WAS just the worst. Another parallel with Britta.

One of the biggest things to me that says 5 years ago Gilda was a total monster was that she has Mitch torture the Werewolf for lying to them for simply stating Werewolfism isn't a disease. Evil Gilda sucks.

Mitch sucks for asking about the clarification about that opinion AFTER he's already jammed his finger into the Werewolf's wound.

There is something in the torture scene that is totally inconsistent, but it was a mistake I made quite deliberately for the reader's sake. But in the past, whenever a Werewolf is hurt or upset, they howl. That is the way they express physical and emotional distress. I had the tortured Werewolf yell "Aauugh!" instead. If I had him howling, you'd be drawn to the gimmick of the Werewolf, and think that Gilda is hurting a supernatural being. But if he screams normally, Gilda is actually hurting a real person. So as inconsistent as it is with previous and future Werewolves, the Tortured Werewolf yells like a normal person.

I colored Gilda's blonde hair in the flashbacks so you could compare and contrast the before and after she witnesses Eddie commit an atrocity. It's bright yellow before she witnesses the atrocity, but a faded yellow streaked with white after the fact.

Mitch's mustache in the Prague flashbacks looks absolutely terrible. You can barely register his expressions with it. And let me say that was quite deliberate.

I love that Gilda says in the flashbacks that she's really good at extracting confessions. Because that's exactly right. Torture is NOT used to get to the truth. It's used to hear what you want to hear. The fact that the person with the b.s. detector was too clueless to realize this sad fact at this stage in her life makes me think a lot less of her.

Gilda referring to the Werewolf as an "it" is done to show how dehumanizing racism makes both the victim and the bigot. Gilda has never seemed more of a monster than in this scene.
 

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
One of the things I love about Dr. Raggleworth saying that Gilda thinks she's better than him, is that until that very scene, the reader probably believed it too. And this goes back to the fact that "The Apple" was one of my most anticipated issues ever. And that's because the scene of Gilda calling Dr. Raggleworth mentally disabled in "Groundwork" was ALWAYS gonna lead to it, and just based on the first issue, there is no clue it is. One of the things I love best about the first issue "Groundwork" being so deliberately unremarkable in every respect, is that that specific insult will brush by the reader. They'll just think it's a Married...With Children style burn and assume the franchise routinely traffics in it. And the interesting thing is it doesn't. That specific kind of insult is abnormal for any other character besides Bernadette. And I always planned to have Dr. Raggleworth shellack Gilda for it all the way in this issue. That's how far ahead this crap is planned out. What the reader might mistake as a joke at the expense of Julius' intelligence is actually a critique on the fact that Gilda needs to buy herself a freaking filter. Especially because Julius is NOT an idiot, or at least not an idiot in the way she claims. That was actually one of Gilda's low points in the entire saga, and we just didn't realize it because nobody raised too much of a fuss at the time. She thinks her b.s. detector can size up his intelligence right then, but that's NEVER been something the b.s. detector has previously been able to help her with, so she's kidding herself. And you don't get that from the first issue. At all. And it's amazing it's been brewing this entire time. But the truth is I wrote out the fight scene in the issue verbatim before I actually scripted and (badly) drew "Groundwork". This issue is one of the big pay-offs of that issue, and one of the reasons I love Groundwork is that you have no clue while it is happening the amount of pay-off I will eventually do with it. But yeah, that specific thing for Julius to be angry at Gilda over was ALWAYS the plan, even before I wrote the first issue down and drew it. It was always coming.

I think I the thing I really like about Bernadette yelling at Leon and Parley is that until she does, we don't know she should be doing that. Introducing the wacky scientists / tech guys is a standard trope in genre, and until Bernadette points out it's annoying, you don't realize it actually is. The story is not actually about Leon and Parley and their homoerotic relationship. I'm not going to bother giving these two bit characters a memorable opening scene and dynamic characterization to pretend that it is.

I like Parley's design a lot, and haven't changed it much over the years, but I am a little surprised at how lukewarm I am over Leon's design. Generally speaking, the more complicated a character is for me to draw, the better they tend to look on the page. Mainly became a simple design is hard to get right every single time, but a complex one gives me a steady baseline of where everything should go. But Leon is one of my few complicated designs that doesn't speak to me. I like the mane but not much else. What's weird is that Leon doesn't look anything like my other characters, particularly in the eyes, ears, and mouth, and that's the most I can ever want from my designs. But it still isn't quite clicking for me.

Bernadette recognizing Parley's name is his first name doesn't actually make sense. I once heard of a person with the first name Parley, and I thought it was great, so I named my giraffe that. But searching Google tells me there isn't anybody else with that specific first name. I had assumed when I created the character the name was more common than it was. But if a guy can be named Meek in this Universe and have everyone know THAT'S a first name, Parley isn't out of the question either.

You might have actually forgotten Gilda works for Dr. Raggleworth until he fires her.

I made the Piranha's expression a little bit guilty as Gilda describes why she yelled at Gabrielle. He was not blameless in that affair and knows it.

This is the issue where Meek's hair goes back to being combed. That hasn't been true since at least "Halloween Adventure".

There are a lot of different subtleties in the drawings in The Scene. When the Piranha and Dr. Raggleworth hear Bernadette say that Gilda said nobody liked her I made their expressions shocked and sympathetic to empathize with how much Bernadette is hurting. Similarly the Piranha looks a bit angry in the next panel, but it's simply that he's working up enough courage to stick up for Gilda. I also made the look on Gilda's face be dread upon him speaking up. If Meek being angry at her destroyed her emotionally, the Piranha being so would make Gilda lose it completely.

To be honest, I had been both excited to draw The Scene, and on a very real level dreading it. I knew (correctly) that it was going to be one of the easiest scenes I've ever drawn, as well as one of the most difficult. It would be both at the same time. And part of me was worried about that since I am NOT a great artist. But I'm pretty good at expressions, and The Scene is me doing things completely right.

The first decision I made early on in drawing the issue, was that each panel in The Scene would spread across the entire page, usually in thirds, occasionally in halves. I did something I never do: I drew all of the characters in the scene in every single panel. And it was the best decision I ever made. Not only was there now enough room for all of the massive dialogue balloons due to the bigger panels, but showing every single character's expressions at the same time improved it in ways I hadn't even considered. I am not going to say the scene is the same as it was in my head. A lot of it is quite different. But it's just as good as I could have hoped, and better in some respects. I had never even considered what Julius and the Piranha's expressions should be upon Bernadette saying Gilda said nobody liked her and suddenly there is added pathos in the scene I never scripted or planned.

The reason it was so hard was because it was so easy. It was one of the simplest boarded scenes in the entire franchise, and what made it hard is that it was simultaneously one of the most important scenes ever. And if I messed up the expressions, it wouldn't play. And I held my own, I think.

I also did several Zen things as I was drawing The Scene. I said to myself a few times, "You are drawing one of your most anticipated scenes in the entire franchise. Enjoy it." I had literally been waiting 33 issues to get to this precise scene, and I kind of slowed down and appreciated the moment. It is not going to be the last crucial scene I draw, and in fact from this point forward they will become more frequent. But I kind of think it's the first one. It's the first scene I had been building everything up to and looking forward to. And I have never once in a single previous version of The Un-Iverse made it to one of those specific kinds of scenes that were always planned out "down the road" in my head. It was a huge deal for me to reach, so I sort of savored it a bit. Ironically, maybe the reader won't quite understand WHY I'm so nuts for it, but the reason is because it is unlike every other comic book scene I've ever read. And I don't have to worry about page counts or editor restrictions as long as I am doing this on my own in my spare time, so I can tell the entire scene the way it SHOULD be told. It is one of the Gilda and Meekiest scenes of all time, and definitely the Gilda and Meekiest scene I've managed to finish. And while it was going I told myself to enjoy it. And when it was over, I told myself this was only the FIRST scene I drew that I felt that way about. There are a lot more coming, and a bunch even better and MORE meaningful to me. So yeah, the reader may not be bowled over with this simply because it does not live up to any sort of reasonable expectations for a comic book. Which is why I love the scene and the issue. It's because it shouldn't be told in this format which is why I'm glad I did it, and that I'm happy it plays as well as it does. The Un-Iverse abuses the comic book format. But as long as it's good, I think that's a very good thing. And I think The Scene is good. Maybe I'm alone. But if I'm essentially writing the story for myself (and I am) that's pretty much the only thing that matters.

The upcoming meaningful scenes to me are frightening to me because they aren't just conversations like this one. There is legit action and drama in them. I thought THIS was tough? Holy cow. I will be crapping myself by the time The Terran Wars and Release The Gilda roll along.

The "No more secrets" thing is something I struggled with, and I hope I can make you understand what the subtext is there. But I don't agree that loved ones should never keep secrets from each other. I have some shameful and embarrassing moments from my past I will never share with another person, no matter how close to them I could ever get. And that's fine. Just because a person loves you, doesn't mean they are automatically entitled to those secrets either. And this is where I differ from pop-culture shows like Friends and Seinfeld which seem to dictate the proper etiquette that friends are supposed share everything with each other. And it bothers me that is a universal pop-culture "truth". But the "No more secrets" thing is quite different for both me as a writer, and Gilda and her friends.

Her friends aren't expecting her to give her a detailed list of her sexual history, or every crime she committed as youth. She is allowed to keep those things to herself. The big stuff? The stuff that effects everybody else? There is now an expectation that they are all equals in needing to know the important information. And again, while the characters are using the word "No more secrets", what they actually MEAN is "No more secrets that compromise us." And it's to this issue's detriment that I never really spelled that out. But if I did, I'm adding extra stuff to one of my scenes that was SO good that I have literally not changed a thing in it (besides the spoiler quote) in years. And I'm one of those writers who believes that adding extra words to an amazing scene can weaken it, especially exposition. It is a long-ass scene, but the dialogue is economical anyways. I was not going to fuss with one of my most perfect scenes just to address a pop culture trope that annoys me. Maybe later on Gilda will take a knock at those specific kinds of shows, but for now I can only use the words I do, and hope the reader understands that if Gilda keeps a secret in the future, she's not automatically betraying anybody in the group, and nobody thinks she is. So I'll just state that here.

This is not the first time the Crisinians are mentioned. But this is the first time ever we actually say what they are. And from this point forward, whenever I mention them, there will not be the mystery attached to them that the previous references had.

The Piranha doesn't actually say much in the issue, but because of The Scene, this is the most amount of screentime he's had in a LONG time. At LEAST since "The Bug Aliens." Him and Julius were set aside for Warlocks: Beyond Reality, because I had nothing interesting to do with them, and just figured it would be easier to keep them at the base rather than coming up with a relevant subplot. Dr. Raggleworth is much more present in "Fight Or Flight" but the Piranha's role is still small and doesn't do much except react to Doc's stubborn behavior. This is the first issue in awhile where the Piranha actually is present and has his own agency as a character. I'm glad about that.

More subtle expressions in The Scene I like are the fact that Meek and Bernadette are actually in tears when Gilda tells them she loves them. I also did something cool with Dr. Raggleworth in that panel. He looks visibly embarrassed. Not in the "Oh, Jeez!" fashion, but in the "Aw, shucks!" fashion. It's not much, but it's the closest he comes to reciprocating love from the group, (except for the Piranha) at any point in the saga.

Do you know what I like? That the group still doesn't completely trust Gilda by the end of the scene. As Julius notes, trust is something that takes time to rebuild when you've lost it, and I want to show that even if the group forgives Gilda, that doesn't mean they see her the same way before this happened. Which is frankly how it should be. As Gilda says her biggest secret is that she isn't perfect. And nobody can unlearn that.

Early on, I just decided to stop drawing the lines on the inside of Mitch's CIA Man In Black suit and simply made it an inkblot type deal I previously used for Renald The Hunchback's cloak. The entire outfit is pitch black. No-one would actually see any of the trim if I drew it. So I took the easy way out.

I love that Gilda calls Eddie Cat "That little 'munch" which was shortened from Beavis and Butthead's "buttmunch". I specifically love that she calls Eddie that because it means she's always hated him, even when she herself was evil. Just because she ignored the b.s. detector about him doesn't mean it didn't work.

When Gilda enters Eddie's office, there are two glowing red eyes that you can briefly see in the darkness. To hint at what kind of party she just walked in on.

I did a lot more erasing and redrawing of pages in this issue than I usually do. Not because I screwed up more than usual. I just felt like this was a story where I should try to get as much of the artwork right as possible. I'm not sure why I felt that way, as if there is ANY issue that will not live or die by the artwork, it's this one. But I did for some reason. I suppose because the dialogue is so easy to read, I wanted the pictures to be appealing to look at in the background of it. So there are more erasure lines and redone pages than normal. And not just because I accidentally switched Mitch's past and present day designs in a few panels. It's just I wanted the issue to look nicer than average.

I like the fact that even though Bernadette DOES hate Hank, she recognizes he is morally virtuous, and probably more morally virtuous than either herself or Gilda. We will later learn that along with Meek, Hank was one of the fastest passes ever for Gilda's b.s. detector. She didn't remark that at the time because it's a bit weird and off-putting to state that about someone just coming over to visit a friend, like he was Meek in "The Otterman Cometh". That's also why in the first page of The Pontue Legacy Prologue, I used Hank's picture as the representative of Humans, while I used Gilda and Bernadette for Cats and Dogs. It's because Hank was always intended to be the best representative of Humans in the saga. He's not particularly intelligent. But there is a wisdom attached to him, and he's just sweet as all hell. And the reason I like that Bernadette recognizes that about her arch-nemesis is because she hates him for completely irrational reasons. And I think maybe the reader will forgive that irrationality a bit so long as she is self-aware enough to be able to recognize and admit his good points. Bernadette hates Hank explicitly because he is nice. So it makes sense she DOES recognize he's nice in the first place.

Truth time: I am not well versed enough in cosmetology or hair care to actually know if it's possible for hair to be simultaneously hard, brittle, and frizzy. I'm not sure, but whenever my own hair is frizzy, it's because of moisture, and it's usually soft. But the truth is her hair is frizzy as well as hard and brittle, because the frizzy design is the best visual to show that she's losing it. As far as I know, frizzines makes hair softer, rather than harder and more brittle, but it being able to read on the page settled that bit of Un-Iverse science for me instead.

The last flashback almost seems to be the epic origin story of Gilda's iconic original lawyer outfit. I thought people would get a kick out of seeing it again (and for the first time chronologically).

"By any means necessary." Fun Fact: Malcolm X definitely existed at some point in The Un-Iverse's history (or possibly even STILL exists since he was never assassinated on this Earth) and Gilda is definitely a fan. It's the revolutionary freak in her. It's almost amazing she wound up working in the CIA of all places. She is SUCH a sell-out.

I love when she says she done abusing her gift. I was like "Thank God!" Because that is what she was doing, and I'm glad she now sees that for what it was. I think having the person in the saga who is supposed to be the most insightful of anybody else not realizing that about themselves ever, would be narrative malpractice. So I'm glad she now gets it. Or if she ALWAYS got it, I'm glad she finally cares. 'Bout time.

I hope the reader asks a few questions about Mitch saying he'd sacrifice anyone and anything to stop the Crisinians. I am less interested in the reader being alarmed that he'd sacrifice Gilda, than have them question what is so horrific about them that he could potentially see that as a fair trade. The irony about Mitch saying something like that, is that whether or not he's lying to Eddie and secretly on Gilda's side, or playing Gilda for a chump instead, just based on everything the Crisinians are gonna do in "The Terran Wars", I half agree with Mitch putting it like that. And if the sacrifice of Gilda MIGHT be worth that (and it might) you should start questioning at this point in the saga exactly how horrible they are gonna be, and how much worse than Augatha they actually are. And they are gonna suck. They are an entire species of Vic Puffs and Donna Dementeds. So don't just worry about Gilda by Mitch saying that. Worry about the potential future suffering of Earth in general more.

Augatha actually has a few redeeming qualities. As far as evil, genocidal tyrants go, she is reasonably fair, all things considered. She has a sense of honor and fair play, and would be Lawful Evil were she a D&D character. She is like Gilda in that she actually believes there are definite moral rules to warfare. And she even passes Gilda's b.s. detector. Mitch preferring her to the pure debased evil the Crisinians represent DOES say something significant about them. They are gonna suck hard.

I like the notion that Eddie feels he has to apologize to Mitch for having to potentially kill him.

I love that Gilda is the type of person who will nudge a sick person in a hospital bed awake just to talk. Meek can recover on his own time, not hers.

Meek said very something interesting in the very first issue of the saga. He said that people with Asperger's tend to be overly honest, often to their own detriment, and that leads to them being taken advantage of. Case in point: Meek believing he owed Gilda an apology at all for simply saying the words "I'm fine," when asked. He legitimately feels guilty over that, which is nonsense, and even though I have Asperger's too, I know it's nonsense. What I love about Gilda is that she refuses to accept the apology because she is not entitled to it. In fact, she rejects the very notion that it is owed at all. Most people, when given that apology for that specific reason, would simply accept it, as a way to shirk responsibility for their own actions, and make it seem like both parties were at fault. What I love about Gilda is she refuses to do that, and puts the blame rightly solely on herself. And that's the interesting thing about Gilda. She will not b.s. you even to make herself look and feel SLIGHTLY better in the eyes of her friends, in scenarios almost every other person on Earth would simply accept the apology and buy into the bothsiderism. And that's specifically why I love the character of Gilda, and feel she fills a very large hole in popular culture. On TV EVERYONE apologizes at the end of every episode, even the blameless person. The last five minutes of every TV show are pretty much everyone handing out "Everybody gets an apology" trophies. And I like that Gilda absolutely refuses to be that specific kind of person who will even accept the NOTION of the apology, much less the apology itself. It's why Gilda is such a refreshing character to me.

I love the little red heart that pops up when Gilda kisses Meek's cheek at the end. Very cartoony.

For the record, it strikes me as ill-advised that Gilda immediately promises to keep the Piranha's secret with no further questions, before even knowing what it's about. But the truth is Gilda promised that so quickly because her b.s. detector immediately read how significant and meaningful this secret is to the Piranha and what it meant for him to share it. And I love that the Piranha shares his name and why he hides it with Gilda before he does Dr. Raggleworth. Dr. Raggleworth is the person he loves most in the world. But Gilda is the person he TRUSTS most. And for many people, the Love Most and Trust Most people are actually different. And after everything that just happened, and with Gilda currently on such thin ice with everyone else, the Piranha is sending a clear message to Gilda by telling her what he does. He trusts her, no matter what. And that's the precise thing Gilda needed after everything else. And that's one of the reasons I love their relationship.

To be quite honest, in earlier iterations of The Un-Iverse, Gilda and the Piranha weren't actually all that close. She thought he was cute, and yeah, she loved him, but that's as far as it went. And after I developed "The Apple" everything between them changed completely, and Groundwork and the earlier issues are quite different than how every other previous iteration portrayed Gilda and his relationship. And it's because of this script which is why I redid every previous scene between them in the earlier issues, and made it clear that the Piranha is a grounding influence for Gilda. Partly because Cats see fish as deities, and partly because he's the kind of person who always gives her strength when she truly needs it. This version of The Un-Iverse completely changed the dynamic between Gilda and Bernadette too in making their disagreements about how to fight evil be the central conflict. But this version's Gilda and Piranha's relationship is also utterly different and deeper than it was before. She has just as strong a bond with him as she does Meek and Bernadette. And what I love about all three unbreakable bonds is that they are for different reasons and involve completely different dynamics between all four characters. And this issue was the thing that did that for Gilda and the Piranha. It is one of the issues I was most looking forward to for that reason.

When you eventually DO learn the Piranha's real name and why he doesn't use it, you'll understand exactly what a big moment and level of trust this is. But it is a huge deal, even if the name ultimately turns out to be a bit underwhelming and unimportant. Him telling her when he does is still one of the most significant moments between them in the saga.

I think one of the reasons this issue matters so much to me is because I think it is probably the only single issue story in the entire saga that is narratively satisfying. The ending almost seems like a cliffhanger, but it's not. All of the other single issues ended on the notion of setting stuff up in the future. The Piranha's name itself is ultimately irrelevant (to put it mildly) and the rest of the story is satisfying on its own. Gilda and Meek has VERY little (if any) filler stories. And part of me regrets that. There are no "monster of the week" Gilda and Meek stories the reader can shut their brain off and just enjoy, and not worry about the next issue. The fact that Gilda and Meek has no filler will excite certain people, but it's actually a failing on my end. I was unable (and still am unable) to create a wholly unrelated Gilda and Meek story that is good enough to stand entirely on its own merits. "Skeletons" is the closest I've gotten to that, which is bad, because it's not an actual Gilda and Meek story. But when it comes to single issues that I want the reader to just finish and say "That was a damn good read", "The Apple" is the only one that I think totally fits that bill. There are multi-parters coming up that are better than this (at least I think so). But part of the satisfaction of the multi-parters is sticking through them to wonder how they can possibly get out of the cliffhangers. I can write that kind of thing, especially since I tend to write the endings to my stories first. Which is why I'm good at it. But I'm no good at starting stories from nowhere and winding up back where we started. I cannot do it. Which means that Gilda and Meek will not be as satisfying as I want it to be. It will be rewarding, and the second time reading the entire franchise will rock in a way the first time does not. But I regret the first time reading the franchise does not rock at this point. And that's entirely on me and my uncomfortability writing "safe" throwaway Gilda and Meek stories just to pad things out. Gilda and Meek loses a great deal of enjoyment because everything matters in the end. I cannot do as much farting around as I should with these characters and this specific premise. It also means that reading Gilda and Meek will be a far shorter experience for most readers than the average evergreen comic book. Gilda and Meek could be bigger and longer if I had the notion to make it that way. Since I do not, there are a lack of good standalone issues.

But even if this issue is basically paying everything up to this point off, it's STILL a good standalone issue. It is still good drama in its own right. And it's one of the only single issue stories that is. Which is one of the things I love about it.

Do you want to know something ironic? I wrote a couple of really great standalone Stella Stickyfingers stories in the One-Shots. But she literally seems to be the only character that I can do that with. I probably should have used her more.

But seriously, don't worry about that "cliffhanger". It doesn't even come up in the next issue (or any of the next ten issues). I'm not leaving the reader hanging on that scene for a resolution in the next issue. For now, the name is simply a secret that is shared between the Piranha and Gilda alone. We aren't entitled to it yet. So like it or lump it.

Another great thing about The Scene is that all five main characters express their points of view. Usually in group conflicts the main friction is between Gilda and Bernadette and the matter is usually settled by either Meek, Dr. Raggleworth, or (more rarely) The Piranha speaking up. But the other two characters usually hang in the background. Here everybody has a moment and puts in their two cents. That's cool.

My personal favorite of the original Gilda and Meek comics. I love that the best issue immediately followed the worst.

However... after completing this, I realized something sad. I imagine I might be the only person who finds it amazing. Even people who read every single one of the earlier issues might not care about it as much as I do. And thinking more about this, it sort of says that The Un-Iverse is unpublishable and unmarketable. What comic book company would ever want to tell this story?

One of the first rules of writing fiction is that you are ultimately writing it for yourself. But when you do that, there is a thin line between creativity and narcissism. That was basically the downfall of Ren and Stimpy. It became too much about John Kricfalusi's not insignificant psychological hang-ups, instead of actually about Ren and Stimpy. And there will be people who think The Un-Iverse, with its outwardly obnoxious Narrator, and more dialogue than pictures, will think I directed it TOO much at myself. That I'd be the only one who'd want to read it.

And damn it, that's probably true! But I truly believe that if I hired an artist to clean everything up, a reader who read all 90 issues in order, understood every single pop culture reference I made, understood why I destroyed the tropes I did, and agreed with me for destroying them, would probably think it's the best comic book ever made. But if it were published, that would probably be down to a half dozen people at most, if that. I not only created a comic book that only I would love, but I made it completely inaccessible and unpalatable to most people even entering into the project with an open mind. The Un-Iverse exists the way it does because I hate comic books. Therefore it will appeal to people who hate comic books. But not only do those people not actually READ comic books, but The Un-Iverse is structured in a manner that only a person FAMILIAR with comic books would remotely understand. It's basically a comic designed for people who hate comic books, but understand everything about the medium anyways. Which is true for practically nobody except me. Did I mention this thing will never get published?

I take small solice in the fact that the 92 issues that make up the story really hold well together in hindsight, and will be amazing through the second read-through. I think it's ultimately a great story that needs to be told. I have stated more than once that it's possible the fact that this story is completely insular and user unfriendly means that there is nobody who would be willing to publish it. But it's the fact that it's insular and user unfriendly which is the reason it is special. Basically, in order to make the story acceptable for an average publisher, I'd have to consciously make it worse, at least in my eyes. The Un-Iverse will not determine whether or not I can put food on the table. Strictly speaking, this is still just a hobby for me. If it cannot be published in its current form, even if I hired a decent artist to clean it up, I'll live with that. I'd rather the story was published. But I'm not making it worse just so it can be. That's counterintuitive to what any sane writer should want, which is another reason I'm probably really bad at my profession, or in my likely case, perpetual hobby.

Also, I will proudly admit, that as user-unfriendly as The Un-Iverse is, it's surprisingly straightforward. The format I use for the story and narrative choices are a bit of a mess (and the poor artwork doesn't help) but the truth is The Un-Iverse doesn't go off on too many unrelated tangents. Every single story (with the very notable exception of Meek's Chiller Theater) has something to do with the mythology of the story, and how it will all ultimately shake down. It's a tough ask to ask the reader to read ALL of the One-Shots, but if you read all 90 issues in the proper order, it's surprisingly easy to follow. The user unfriendly part is that you DO have to read all of the issues in the right order. But there are not a ton of loose threads left dangling by the end of the story, especially after the sequel The Supplements. It's not only a limited canon that a reader has to follow, but it doesn't get too unwieldy or further reaching than what we will actually witness. The format is a total *****. That's surprisingly easy to read if you've read everything and in the right order.

One of the early notes I got from a critic who reads a lot of genre was that the Narrator is annoying. The story is about supposed to be about Gilda and Meek not some unheard-of Narrator. That was the note I got after that person read one issue. And it was a bogus note as far as I'm concerned. Ultimately, to me at least, The Un-Iverse isn't actually about Gilda and Meek, and it never was. It's not actually about the Narrator either, but if somebody wants to think the story is actually about an omnipotent entity describing a story who is kind of a dick, that's an equally valid interpretation than The Un-Iverse being about the exploration of the lives of Gilda Thurman and Meek Anderson. The specific reason I didn't take that note seriously is that nobody has any business telling me what the story is and isn't about after reading one lousy issue. Especially since the first issue was almost designed on purpose to be the worst. But yeah, there will be people who think The Un-Iverse sucks. But I will never be one of them.

What IS The Un-Iverse ultimately about? To me at least, it's about the Multiverse. Which we've barely touched on. But that and the Universe is actually what I designed the story to be about. It's about how evil is uncool and mundane and that if you are a good person and treat other people with decency and kindness the Universe will look out for you, even if it doesn't seem to be doing that at the time. Gilda and Meek are a big part of that design and how it goes down (as is the Narrator) but The Un-Iverse is ultimately about a lucky Universe and how it operates. And the fact that the story has barely gotten to that aspect yet is why I think that just because that's how I designed it, that doesn't mean that's how anybody else will see it. The Un-Iverse may not be about the Narrator or Gilda and Meek. But it's not actually about any one thing, especially at this stage of the game. It's about everything. Seinfeld was a show about nothing. The Un-Iverse is a comic about everything.

It's a tough ask to have a reader read every single issue and in order, especially in a franchise that goes off in so many tangents that seem unrelated at the time, but you don't only read the Stu and Frannie chapters of The Stand and consider that a book well read. Yeah, Gilda and Meek are the most interesting part of the story. But you have to read everything else too to actually understand and appreciate the story. It's not just a comic book. It's a novel and each issue is a chapter. And when you read a novel you have to read every chapter and in order, or you aren't actually reading it, and I acknowledge that that is a tough ask in a novel with 90 chapters, and probably 5000 pages. But that's the way the story works, and always has.

Un-Iverse Fun Fact

We've already met a Crisinian: Mr. X is one of the members of the Crisinian subspecies eXens. Although as we can see, he's gone a bit off book with his mission. If the other Crisinians knew what he was doing with Redmond, they probably wouldn't approve of it due to the inherent personal messiness of it. Crisinians, as a rule, are not a species that likes complications. And like most of my major examples of representatives for the species in The Un-Iverse, Mr. X is a very poor representation of that specific thing.
 
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Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
And that's it on Anime Superhero! It's been quite a ride and as I have previously noted, I will be posting these same issues again, slightly polished up, in a new, easier to manage thread, and I will surely put the occasional sketch here, and possibly even some out of context pages from future issues that don't actually spoil anything. But this is pretty much the last big thing in this specific thread. I hope anybody who has stuck through it for this long enjoyed it. I hope the saga gets published someday so I can someday share the rest of it with everyone. As of now, I want to thank The Drawing Board for having me.
 

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
So I'm looking ahead to a few years in the future. I have decided a couple of things about The Terran Wars. I am gonna use a ruler so that all of the lines (including panels) are straight. It's going to be inked and in full color. And I'm going to buy myself a decent drawing table so I can have the proper space to draw. Here is one of my first drawings of how Gilda will look. It's definitely a work in progress but I want to practice and perfect it now so that it is effortless when I start drawing that part of the saga. As of now, this was really tough. And I still don't think it looks all that great.

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