Swift Spark Blog Post #1: It Started Somewhere

A while back I expressed my interest in writing a diary-like series of blogs, going through my thoughts and feelings from my years developing Swift Spark.

The journey started in early 2016, though for a little context, maybe we should start back in 2013, when I first came up with the characters that would end up becoming part of Swift Spark and the Defense Five.

Back then, the idea to create an animated series was already brewing. Though the idea at the time was far simpler – a group of five preteen friends, from immigrant backgrounds, going on slice-of-life adventures together. It was called “Friends Around The Corner”, as in, both around the corner of the street and corners of the world. Corny, I know.

Quite the tonal shift from where things ended up – though that slice-of-life universe does still exist. You may consider the following paragraph to contain minor spoilers for the end of Swift Spark, though it has 0 bearing on the ending of the story itself.

Swift Spark and the Defense Five is one of several “AUs”, or alternate universes I came up with for the “Around The Corner”-verse. The bad titling continued as I split the main universe up into timelines, of the kids’ parents (some major plot points from this “section” of the timeline were reworked into Swift Spark), the kids in their preteen years, their teen years, and their adult years (focusing more on their kids). 

But where do the AUs come in? If you were a DeviantART or Tumblr kid (or perhaps both) in the early to mid-2010s, you know AUs were all the rage back then. You take characters from your favourite show, and put them in a new setting, altering certain characteristics and dynamics to match. “College AU”, “monster AU”, even “different movie/show” AU. Sometimes an AU that takes place in the “canon” universe, but changes the ending or progression of a story. Kind of what people call “multiverse” today, I guess. Whilst developing Swift Spark, I wrote a Miraculous Ladybug AU inspired by Cinderella, called “The Lady And the Prince”. I wrote an alternative ending AU for Phineas and Ferb’s first movie, too.

My other fanfictions for Miraculous and Gravity Falls could be considered “What If” AUs, too, but they were based on theories in regards to future episodes.

And this is where it circles back to Swift Spark – and here comes the “spoiler”. James becomes an illustrator, and a bit if a jack-of-all-trades in the “canon” universe. Swift Spark is canonically speaking James’s own creation, based on a group costume he and his friends wore for a Halloween party at school.

That’s where the AU comes in here – James wrote a superhero AU based on his own life. Meta? Corny? You decide.

It was the AU out of a list of several (pirates, angels, monsters) that I ended up developing into… well, it started as a short webcomic, turning into something a lot bigger very quickly. I’m still surprised that I finished the comic in the same timeframe as I originally planned.

Maybe because I ended up shortening it, cutting out most of the plot in the 2nd half of the story. But I’m planning on repurposing it for Season Three of our soon-to-be animated series. If we ever get that far, that is.

The plot did start off a little different – a single A4 with plot points was all I had to go on for the first few months. More spoilers up ahead – including the actual ending.

Daniel was originally supposed to have superpowers. Burn scars covered most of his body, like Darth Vader, except it was due to several failed experiments to get another working version of the SERVE serum after the Red Spark destroyed all remaining vials of the stuff before his disappearance.

This caused Daniel, aside from his injuries, to have a weird amalgamation of powers – none of which he could control.

Samira also wasn’t as involved with LIGHTNING as she is in the final story. None of the kids knew of Angelo’s connection to either organization, and was supposed to be the one incognito at VIPER. The Red Spark did make a return, but not until after his son was kidnapped – prompting him out of hiding. In the original notes, I hadn’t written a reason as to where he’d gone, and thus felt a rewrite of that part was due.

James was never supposed to lose his powers initially, but I ended up choosing this as the consequence for his rash actions; “If you’re nothing without the suit, you shouldn’t have it”.

Each iteration of Spider-man has had some influence on this story. That one line from Homecoming inspired the ending change; the Ben Parker plot from Amazing Spider-Man inspired the missing father with mysterious connections to the villain. The “OG” inspired my interest in superheroes in the first place.

Other inspirations include Miraculous Ladybug, Danny Phantom, and, in a way, Phineas and Ferb, although that’s more to do with personal motivations for the creation of the story than anything else. I don’t see the harm in taking elements of what has inspired you to create something new.

The story changed mere weeks into writing it, actually – at first, James was supposed to be completely unaware he had powers until VIPER made the first move, rather than introducing him to his powers “on accident” like he does at the beginning of the comic.

I do see these details changing again as the animated series gets underway, as by now my writing skills have strengthened and I have a better grasp on writing effective plot points. But that’s the joy of creating – you never stop improving.

What did stay the same, however, was the time-skip mid-story. I initially intended to start off with a short-ish comic to lay out the beginning & end, then move to a ‘monster-of-the-week’-type comic that would last a few years.

The webcomic’s story ballooned, however, so much so that I had to cut it back down to finish it in time, and by then, the idea of making an animated series had crept back into my mind.

The videos, concepts, and website I made for Around the Corner’s “animated series” are lost to time – only the stuff I posted to DeviantART remains. I’m glad I became much better at documenting and keeping my work in safe places as I got older. Sure, there’s still hundreds of pieces up online, but I threw away a lot of sketches and old art over the years, too. I’d just accumulated too much of it to keep around. Now I kind of wish I had.

Things have gone incredibly fast since 2016, all things considered. Three years ago, I never would’ve imagined I would have animated an entire pilot episode by myself. I still have a long way to go in my career, but even the prospects of it getting picked up this fall are making me giddy like the kid I was when I started this journey. But that’s for a different blog post!

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