In the first blog, I already alluded to some inspirations that lead to the creation of Swift Spark and the Defense Five, but I wanted to write a short blog to go a little more in-depth – because ultimately, there’s much more that inspired me than what I previously mentioned, but it was too much to really fit into one paragraph into an unrelated blog.
My journey in animation began in late 2011, when I was first allowed to freely peruse the internet as a kid. I was kind of sheltered that way, because we didn’t get internet until my brother needed it for his homework (circa 2007). My parents thought you could get viruses by watching YouTube videos.
Of course YouTube would quickly become one of my favourite websites to visit. Viruses? No, videos! By sheer coincidence, I don’t really remember what I was watching or doing at the time, I came across a video in the recommended section.
I recognised the characters in the title, ‘Phineas and Ferb’ – a cartoon that had been airing on Jetix since 2008, which had become Disney XD the year before. Jetix and Nickelodeon were the two channels I frequented the most to watch cartoons.
And Phineas and Ferb happened to be one of them.
This video was a fan video featuring Phineas and Ferb fanart, set to a cover of ‘Just A Dream’ by Christina Grimmie and Sam Tsui. The fanart in turn was based on a fanfiction, and suggested it was some kind of fantasy take on a teenage version of Phineas and Ferb.
From one thing came another, and this is how I ended up finding DeviantART. It would be several months of browsing before – May 2012 – I asked my mother if I could create an account on the site.
I was then introduced to a brand new community of friends, learned what fandoms were, and for the first time, was inspired to create something of my own. A few years before, in third grade, I’d been given a document by my teacher titled ‘A Hero’s Journey’ – I still have it, and even found it online. It is in Dutch, but this is what it comes down to: a little lesson booklet that teaches kids about the concept of the ‘hero’s journey’ often depicted in novels and movies.
What did eight-year-old me do with that? Write three chapter’s worth of a girl version of a certain wizard series. Yeah…
It was clearly meant to be that I would dive into fanfiction.
I spent several years writing Phineas and Ferb fanfiction, and eventually write some for Gravity Falls, Star Wars, and Miraculous Ladybug. Writing fanfiction gives you a world to base your stories off of – it’s an ideal way for a young writer to find their voice without getting lost in the daunting task of worldbuilding.
Why am I mentioning all of this? The first fanfiction I wrote was a 100K+ fantasy adventure featuring Phineas and Ferb as teenagers. It was heavily inspired by the fanfiction that first introduced me to DeviantART, and I will not lie that the original concept was almost a straight rip-off.
But this fanfiction, after years and extensive rewriting and re-building, became ‘The Guardian Trilogy’, the first story (well, second) I introduced James and his friends in.
Even better – my best friend for ten years and I ended up meeting over a ‘meme’, albeit in the ancient black box format, which uh… 11-year-old me didn’t quite grasp the concept of yet.
This was mine, as you can see ‘a little confused, but he got the spirit’-style with broken English:
And this was theirs (actually done properly), uploaded three days before:
We found each other over the fact that we were linked to each other’s memes by others. We found it hilarious. And we have been friends ever since.
So, all in all, Phineas and Ferb, as well as this wonderful fan artist who would later grow to become an official character designer for the show as well as a storyboard artist on ‘Milo Murphy’s Law’, were the catalyst for this entire series to come to be.
If there’s any cartoon I would have to say ‘I own my career to this’ about in the future, it’s Phineas and Ferb.
So I definitely think Phineas and Ferb are at the core of Swift Spark and the ‘Around the Corner’-verse as a whole. I am surprised that no one has ever compared James to Phineas – at least, not publicly.
The comparison with The Swift Spark has always been ‘the flash’ – a comic I’ve never read, and a show I’ve never watched.
Phineas’s optimism and can-do-kind of attitude was definitely an inspiration for James, and a certain level of naivety it something the two boys definitely have in common.
They both desire to protect and help their friends no matter what. But James isn’t an inventor. Far from it, actually. James and I have something in common – math is our mortal enemy.
And Bella’s name was definitely inspired by Isabella’s. I just find it a wonderful name. But she’s by no means a girl scout. Both girls are resourceful and clever, but Bella does – in fact – not know how to fight a bear. Though I wouldn’t put it past her to try and do so anyway.
So sure, I see the comparisons, I am aware of them, and they are intentional. And in my opinion, drawing inspiration from properties and media that mean a lot to you is not a bad thing. As long as you make this inspiration your own thing – don’t just copy-and-paste.
I wrote the first two books in the Guardian Trilogy with the new cast, and as I mentioned before, in 2022 I decided to go back to the first one and rewrite it. I am currently (as of writing this blog post) done with the outline, and intend to keep working on this on the side.
In 2016, I began developing Swift Spark and the Defense Five, and certain themes and stories definitely impacted the development.
As I mentioned before, Spider-Man has always been my favourite superhero. The teenage webhead with the snarky attitude definitely helped shape James’s personality. I am now a much better writer than I was at the start of my journey with these characters, and I’ve found myself writing them differently than I did in 2012 during the rewrite process of ‘Guardian’.
Another superhero that affected Swift Spark was Danny Phantom. This was one of the first animated superhero series I ever watched. Especially the final animation style has some elements lifted from the Phantom – square-ish hands and a thick, black outline. The suit for James was also inspired by Danny’s – simple, sleek, two colours, and a symbol on the chest.
But I suppose that goes for more heroes than just Danny. I’m just recalling whom specifically I thought of during the design process.
I do see where the comparisons with the Flash come from. Red and gold, super speed, lightning bolts. I’ll just cut the conversation short and admit that I got the colour scheme and bolt-theme from Lightning McQueen. Yes. And no, I am not proud of this fact. Let’s move on.
I actually wanted to address this in the video I made on James’s inspiration, but I ended up cutting it because it sounded ridiculous. But I suppose it’s a fact I cannot change and should rather embrace the silliness of it all.
I initially wanted blue and yellow in the design, like the X-men, and because of Bloom from Winx Club, I think. But with the orange in his hair at the time, I didn’t think it looked good.
When I began actively developing the plot for the series, I quickly figured time travel would be how James would hide his secret identity – being in class and at the battle at the same time.
Unfortunately this inspiration came from a plotline in a fantasy novel and book series I once cherished, but now look back on very broken-heartedly. I think if I say that I am a transgender man, I’ve said enough. One of the students attended more classes than she could realistically take by using a time travel device.
I struggled with figuring out how I was going to make it work, though. In the fantasy series, it initially made sense – only for a later sequel – or over glorified fanfiction, as it was none of the original author’s work – to completely change and effectively ruin how the system worked.
The original system created a loop. But whilst appropriate and perfectly crafted for this one, single plotline in this fantasy book series, this system would not work for the majority of the plot of Swift Spark.
I wanted something a little different… and that’s when Miraculous Ladybug came to the rescue.
In this show, the superheroes’ powers only last for a short period of time before they transform back.
So, rather than closing the loop at a later moment in time, James’s watch “resets” him to right after the moment he left after the battle is over.
Whilst one version of him leaves for the battle, the other comes right back, and after the battle, the double closes the loop.
So my inspiration for Swift Spark comes from various media that I’ve loved over the years. And as the series develops, I’m sure more inspiration will follow.
And who knows? Perhaps one day I’ll be told that someone else got inspired by Swift Spark to make something of their own.
That’s why I’m trying to get this pilot made – if you haven’t already, follow the Kickstarter page. We launch August 2nd.
Follow on Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/pan-tastique/swift-spark-the-animated-series