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.