ASH: Academy Commentary File

Drew Nilium pwerdna at
Mon May 11 20:26:20 PDT 2020

On 5/7/2020 6:42 PM, Dave Van Domelen wrote:
>                      Commentary on The Academy #0-8
>            Original stories and commentary by Dave Van Domelen

ooooooo interesting.

>       Looking back at 17 years of writing in the Academy of Super-Heroes
> setting, Tony Pi's asked me and some of the other writers to provide
> commentary on the stories as he goes back through the archives and rereads
> everything.  So, who better to lead off than me?

Oh lovely! :D That sounds super fun. I started a re-read last year but got 
distracted, I should get back on that.

>  While writing silly
> superhero parody was fun, I also wanted to write somewhat more serious
> superhero fiction, and in late summer of 1993 I found my setting.
>       The Patrol.

Ahhhh, yes. A really cool concept.

>       Unfortunately, since there was no controlling authority, it ended up
> becoming a sort of majority rules environment.  The other writers wanted to
> introduce elements that I'd been careful to avoid, and when I couldn't
> convince them to back off, I left.


>       I didn't start completely from scratch, of course.  After all, I'd done
> a lot of worldbuilding in other places before, why not raid more old gaming
> stuff? 

:D I've always loved the weird elements that seem to have come out of that.

> I decided to pick up the Academy of Super-Heroes setting again and
> jump it a generation into the future (keeping up with the calendar had been a
> minor problem for me in Patrol, this would solve that problem).

Well, mostly.

> Plus, I'd even had the Modern Knights RPG campaign
> cross over into the LNH, so most of my regular readers had seen bits and
> pieces of the "present day" version of the universe, enhancing the contrast
> with the 2022 start date I'd picked.

Yesssss. <3 That experience really added another layer at the time.

> I came up with the rough idea for the plot: a murder
> mystery at a school for young superheroes, solved by the first generation of
> new heroes to arise since all the supers died in 1998.

That's still an extremely strong concept.

> One of the fourteen
> would have to be the killer, and another would have to die or at least be
> taken out of things completely along the way, to show that no matter how well
> you train superheroes you're going to have casualties.  Given how many lines
> of text this setting has generated, I spent shockingly little time thinking
> about this.

Intuitive plotting! :D

>       Of course, at the time I wasn't really expecting it to run more than a
> year or so.  And my plotting style had always been "take core idea, run with
> it."  Let the characters and situations inform the plot, don't be afraid to
> change directions radically if it looks like the characters wouldn't really
> go the way you'd been planning.  That sort of thing. 

YEAH!!! Love that shit! Not good at it! Need to get better! X3

> Since I knew even the "story"
> part of the first installment would be more of an infodump, I jumped on the
> comics trend at the time of "zero issues", a sort of prologue before the real
> #1.

I've always thought those were useful. :>

>       I was sorting through some old files and found this...I'm not sure I
> ever posted it anywhere, or if it was forgotten in the turmoil of 2011 (not a
> great year for me, I lost a long-term position and went into a series of 1-2
> year gigs).  I decided to not change any of the text I wrote above, and just
> update things here in a postscript.

Oh, fascinating. <3

>       I'll admit, things have been nearly dead from 2011 to 2020.  I spent a
> few years hopping from job to job, with the need to create new curriculum
> every time I got a new job tending to eat up my writing drive.  Matt and Marc
> had largely stopped years before that, and Tony found his time taken up more
> by paid writing gigs.  A shared universe does tend to need a certain critical
> mass to keep going, with writers bouncing ideas off each other and finding
> inspiration.  But the whole thing started small, and it could restart if one
> of the established writers starts turning out more material, or a new writer
> asks to give it a try....

I've written exactly one issue of ASH material. X3; I keep having ideas bouncing 
around for it, tho. My writing engine keeps starting up then winding down 
unexpectedly, but maybe if I really get my momentum going...

Drew "should definitely do that re-read" Nilium

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