Monday, September 21, 2009

Possible Futures of Thunderstruck

Understandably, a lot of people who have followed the story of Thunderstruck want to see it continue. So would I (as I hope you know). Here are some of the suggestions that I’ve seen, and my answer to how likely they actually are.

1) Publish an Outline.
Or a bulleted list of what I planned to happen. The answer on that one is no. This would be a cheap and hugely unsatisfying way to end a story. Picture for a moment your favorite series — Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, what have you. Now think of a bulleted outline of the last book. How does that experience compare to reading the actual book? The answer is that it sucks. The experience is so bad that it would be better not to have read the outline at all.

That is not the only consideration. The fact is that I do not write with a rigid outline. Thunderstruck has on several occasions jumped the tracks and gone in a way that my outlined version did not predict. Which is fine, because every time it’s done that, I’ve liked the outcome. So even an outline would only give you one vague possibility for how things might have gone, and not a very accurate one at that.

Besides, if I publish an outline, that kind of kills the suspense if I ever do come back to the story, doesn’t it?

2) Go to a Reduced Schedule (1-2 times a week)
I seriously considered that possibility. Ultimately, what it boiled down to was a question of whether I devote myself to writing or keep trying to be an artist/writer. And I choose the former. I love drawing, but for various reasons, I don’t think it’s my career path. Writing is.

3) Publish the Existing Comic as a Graphic Novel
I appreciate the encouragement from people who say they’d buy Thunderstruck in a traditional print format, and I am not immune to the appeal of this vision. There are some technical problems with this. For one, I have not drawn with a print format in mind. Go back and look at the physical dimensions of the comic throughout its history. They’re all over the place. Notice the font size, and how it will vary wildly from one strip to another. These things aren’t too bothersome in the fast-and-loose world of online comics, but in a print format they will stand out and look shoddy. This could probably be handled, but it would be time-consuming.

Another practical issue is that I have shamelessly mined the Internet for photography to use in backgrounds. I haven’t kept track of who owns the copyright to these photos or what the usage agreements for each might be. Since Thunderstruck has been a virtually profit-less enterprise (a hobby, in short), there’s really not much legal concern. If I were to physically publish the comic, I would have to scour through each of these and most likely re-do the backgrounds. Not impossible, but again, time-consuming.

But the ultimate decider on this is that I would want to go back and re-write a lot of the story. Not just to bring the older art up to snuff (though that is a temptation). It’s because the writing itself would need an overhaul. More detail on that in just a second.

4) Publish a Prose Version of Thunderstruck
This is the most likely thing to happen. I have a lot of work in Thunderstruck. It’s a world that is rich in detail and compelling to me, and I’ve got a lot left in the story I still want to tell. There is a lot of potential for prose-novel version of Thunderstruck.

Don’t expect it to be identical, though.

The thing I liked least about writing a webcomic was this: you’re stuck with your first draft. Oh, there’s no physical barrier to making rewrites, but readers don’t really dig being dragged back and forth through a rewrite process. The very act of drawing the comic also makes rewrites incredibly tedious — I can change dialogue without too much difficulty, but the effort that goes into drawing is so great that the prospect of re-drawing completed pages is enough to send me screaming for the nearest balcony.

First drafts are messy, and there’s a reason that rewrites are so important. It shows in the end result. The pacing in Thunderstruck is inconsistent. Characters change as I get to know them, and their later incarnations don’t mesh with their first appearance (Grogan was the most striking example of this). I ended up hitting the reader with great walls of exposition, clumsily delivered. Elements of the plot shifted around like sand. And so forth. I’ve had many readers say wonderful things about how well-executed and written Thunderstruck was, and I am very grateful of it (and fairly proud as well), but I know it could be a lot better.

I was thinking at one point of picking up the story from the last strip, and carrying forth in prose. But I think if (hopefully when) I return to this universe and these characters, it will be with a fresh page in front of me, a stronger idea of how I want to shape and pace the story, and a better, tighter approach. Back to the start, in other words.

Ah, but I will miss some of the things you can do in comics. Like the bit where Sharon and Gail first communicate through their respective bathroom mirrors — that came out quite nicely, and it would be hard to capture it the same way in prose. Comics also give you the option to subtly drop visual clues in a way that isn’t the same in prose, like Jude’s necklace.

So, will Thunderstruck return someday in a new incarnation? I think the chances are good. What I am really ending right now is my hobby as a webcomic writer/artist, in favor of devoting myself to a professional career as a writer. But there’s no reason to believe story of Thunderstruck can only exist as a webcomic. It is a world close to my heart. And it would be a fine, fine thing to go back someday and share more adventures with Sharon and Gail.


Anonymous said...

Hey Grayson,

While I wish you all the best in your future career, I am fairly crushed at losing a chance to finish the story of Sharon and Gail. Thunderstruck was one of my favourite webcomics and I always felt it never really got enough recognition.

Have you considered finding a partner to work with? If you had an artist to draw the pages for you, while you continued to write them, that might be a way forward.

Anyway, no matter what happens, thanks for the great story.

Paul said...

Like all the readers, I'm going to miss the webcomic... but the idea of a published Thunderstruck novel is just too good to pass up. You've got a great story and cast here, and I think Thunderstruck would make the jump to book nicely. If you decide to go that route, I'll definitely buy a copy.

Thanks for the ride!

James said...

The shout box at Thunderstruck won't post the rest of my message, so I'll place it here. As much as I'll miss the comic, I'm grateful for you making something good enough for me to miss it so. I hope to see your name on the bookstore shelves in the next few years, bringing your craft to a much wider audience. Some of the people posting have chastised you - I don't feel that we have any right to try and stop you from following an opportunity to make your hobby into a career, however sad we may be at losing something we love. This is a great chance for you, and I wish you luck with it. I do wholeheartedly hope to someday hear the rest of this story - I'm invested in it now. But that's your call. Thanks for five excellent years.

Henry said...

Hey Grayson,

I just wanted you to know that I've been a reader of Thunderstruck since Chapter 1. The moment I read it I haven't stopped, it is one of my favorite webcomics and the loss of this one has been a shock to me. I really do hope you achieve all that you desire in your writing career, but I would also hope that one day you continue this great comic. If you do continue this story in one shape or another I will purchase and read it. I understand however that you have made your decisions and that you're not going to change it on the basis of one fan who loves your work, so I won't pester, you are a terrific writer, and a skilled artist, and I hope all the best in your future devours.

Rahel said...

Also a long-time reader here. I will miss the comic terribly, and I thank you for making it that good.

Have you considered re-writing Thunderstruck for a comic format and working with another artist to publish it? kind of like what Bobby Crosby does.

Anonymous said...

While my reaction to this news is, I'm sure shared by all the readers, I still can't quite believe that's seriously it. It stops right in the middle of the second act? right as all the interesting stuff is going on? I really did not see that coming.

This is extremely saddening - an abrupt end to one of my favourite comics. I mean it's your decision, and I have no right to force anything else but honestly if you're leaving this in favour of something else, could we at least get a better summary of it, so we know it's a worthy successor? I think that would've helped, or maybe some warning, maybe a strip or two in advance.

Oh well, I'm happy for you going pro, and Imma let you do that, but Thunderstruck was one of the best comics of all time. OF ALL TIME.

zagan said...

I have to say, I'm really sad.
Because as much as you say that you will perhaps continue some day we all know that if you manage to become professional we will never heard of Thunderstruck again. I've know, I've seen it a number of time already.
Second you say that you're not happy with the quality of your earlier work, perhaps it's true compare to now but it was still excellent quality.
And finnaly, I really would have like a bullet list of the rest of the story. Yes, it's less interesting than reading the story develloping but it's way better than being left in suspense for an hypothetical update or new format or something else.
So yeah I respect your wish to become a writter and I wish you succes but I hope you understand why I'm sad and angry to see a story of this quality just disappear.

Good bye.

Artanis said...

When you truly get back to Thunderstruck, in any form--except maybe that outline thing, icky idea that is--I'll be waiting.

As you can see, I'm also watching this new endeavor. I liken this to the end of the Comedity web-comic (,) which was sacrificed for the future of the author's new idea Finder's Keepers (,) which has turned out gloriously thus far.

So ignore all the unhappy people and take this as far as you can.

Dixie Girl said...

Like everyone else, I'm disappointed. Good luck with your writing endeavors. I'm sure it will be a great success.

I do wish you had ended the story in some fashion. This is kind of like reading a book only to find the last chapter is torn out. It has been a fun story and I've come to love the characters. We visited weekly on my breaks.

Again, good luck.

Stefan said...


Oh boy! One of my favorite webcomics ends, abruptly, in the middle of a chapter! It´s so sad, that I have to delete this bookmark now, I wanna cry!
On the other hand I won´t even consider to interfere with your career as writer. I would love to read a book written by you! So please make it a bestseller, so that it´s translated into german some day, else I wouldn´t buy it (you have to set priorities somewhere :-) ) !
Ever thought of a kind of online novel, like ? Perhaps you would be able to continue the Thunderstruck-story by this way...

Good luck!
Stefan P. , Germany

Artanis said...

Oh, hey, new continuation idea:

Blog posts! Give each character a blog and have them blog about their adventures. Kind of like a diary-form novel.

Ok, it sucks.

But it was better than my Twitter idea (same, but replace blog with twitter account.)

Daniel said...

It was an amazing ride and I'm sad to see it end. Thunderstruck landed in my already overloaded daily comics load and I was always waiting for the next comic.

As an amateur author I understand how difficult it is to write anything and exactly how difficult it is to get published. In truth I have never attempted publication - because I've never finished anything longer than about 10k words and because I have never felt that anything I've written is good enough for publication.

You show real talent and skill. I will be waiting to see your novels in print and you can rest assured that, like a lot of the other fans of Thunderstruck, I will purchase copies.

Jasper said...

Just thought of something - you could put "Thunderstruck" on DVD.
It might contain all the original strips, plus your bonus artwork?

I'd buy a copy.

Elyandarin said...

A bit disappointing, yes.
Still, good luck.

A fifth alternative would be to post the comic SCRIPTS for Thunderstruck, and let fans draw the comics, putting them up as they come in, maybe letting readers vote when there are several versions of one strip.
Then you could focus on the writer side of the comic, which presumably takes less time.
Of course, this depends on you having sufficiently devoted/talented fans.

Jasper said...

I suppose if Thunderstruck were said to have a purpose, it proved you have an audience for your work (something mentionable to publishers) and it increased your ability as an artist.

I'm still bummed about it ending, but as you've said it may return in another format - I can wait for the rewrite.

Thank you again for the samples of your talent.

EdorFaus said...

There's another option (that I doubt will happen, but figured I might as well mention), though essentially a variant of (2).

Basically: drop any sort of schedule for Thunderstruck, only work on it when you need a break from everything else or otherwise have a bit of time you don't know what else to do with.

In short, treat it as a minor hobby, only doing anything with it when you feel like it and don't have anything else you'd rather do.

That way you might still have a new strip once or twice a year - would take literal ages to get anywhere, but still... could be possible.

(Personally, I think the time would be better spent on option (4); it would let things get somewhere much faster, and if published might pay for itself.)

Michael said...

Well, nasty surprise. The one webcomic that I always read even when I had no time or were not in the mood to go through the rest of list is dead by the time I get back from vacation.

So, yes, here is another sad and disappointed reader who would have liked to follow Thunderstruck through the next years. As I usually do not follow blogs and other new-fangled stuff, I wish you the best of luck.

The Reporter said...

What about hiring or finding a volunteer artist, possibly to even redraw the story from the beginning for publication purposes? Although I'd honestly be fine with sporadic updates.