So I haven’t gotten around to writing up my piece on Avalon Expo yet. It was straight back to my job after the con and so I’ve been too tired to type ha ha. However, I did two panels this weekend at the convention. One was a speed dating session and the other was on Romantically Apocalyptic. So I thought I’d share with you the speech/plan I wrote up for that panel. Enjoy!
I think that scarf is acting up again. This place has air that’s breathable.
Did I mention that the scarf is sentient?
Hello everyone. My name is Charles Snippy and I am your Dead Zone tour guide for the day. These two nuisances- I mean gentlemen- are my companions Pilot and Zee Captain. We are here to take you on an adventure through a world of madness. Hopefully, we will not run into any mutants or evil alien lawyers or psycho robots.
With my luck something terrible is bound to happen.
Welcome to the world of Romantically Apocalyptic!
First off, let me show you a video that just… sigh… just look at the insanity I’m surrounded by.
A big problem in my life is temporal anomalies . Time has become weirdly fluid in recent years and I’ve gone on some pretty crazy time travelling adventures. Which seems to have been what happened this time. As far as I can tell Captain, Pilot and myself are in a weird temporal loop where we have travelled to the past and our lives have been detailed through a web comic. I have yet to find out how this soothsayer Vitaly S Alexius receives his gift of prophecy. I do know it doesn’t do any good because humanity still ends up destroyed and I am still stuck with these two idiots.
But I have made use of the internet- I so love that none of you can access the internet with your brains- to look up everything I can about this Romantically Apocalyptic web comic. I am going to use it to educate you all on the future and especially on the danger that ANNET poses. I hope we all get out of this alive and without losing all of our memories of this hour when the temporal loop closes. I need you to stop the apocalypse from happening!
Vitaly S Alexius is a prophet. He can see into the future and knows all. I suspect that he is trying to warn the world of the dangerous path we’re on but the message isn’t getting out to nearly enough people. And those that do know of his prophecies mistake them for a web comic that was designed with entertainment in mind.
Romantically Apocalyptic is no ordinary on-line story. It is a book of divinations.
I do not know how or why Alexius was blessed with such gifts. I do know that he grew up in what was Soviet Russia. He came to Canada as a teenager and became a photographer. Outside of trying to warn you all of the horrors yet to come, Alexius has an interest in shooting urban landscapes. He also has a gift for photo manipulation and heavily applies it to many of his photos. Often it is difficult to tell what’s real and what’s not in one of Alexius’ pieces.
The comic itself is made up of photos taken from around the world. Alexius has taken shots of the mountains in Banff, abandoned buildings in Russia and Icelandic glaciers that have been used in the comic. The photos of the cast are often taken on set though. The actors act out scenes or hold poses in front of a green screen. They are photographed and their images are place on matte composite backgrounds. Engie, Pilot and myself are all men but we have been played by both men and women. Zee Captain has also been portrayed by men and women.
Not all of the pages are digitally manipulated photographs however. Sometimes there are guest artists that draw the pages. Some of the early examples of this include Shawn Coss and Kris Wilson of Cyanide and Happiness.
The nature of this kind of work means that a panel can take days to months to create. This then means that one of the physical books has about a year’s worth of work in them.
It is so odd to look at such realistic photos of myself and know that it’s not really me or the city of Eureka in the picture. Although it is interesting to look at Alexius’ initial photos pre-editing and see that Captain’s famous black trench coat is actually a woman’s blue bath robe.
Of course, you can see many of Alexius’ original works on his deviantart page or in his book ‘Dreaminism.’ I actually have a copy that you may look at.
Let’s look at Romantically Apocalyptic from the view that most people in 2016 have. Let’s look at it like a web comic. It’s set in a not too distant future where most of the world is far too damaged to sustain human life. Years and years of pollution and ignoring climate change warning have led to the death of too many plants. An emphasis on capitalism has led to ignoring the needs of people in society. Humans live in cities were the environment is regulated by machines. We were managing until Dr. Alexander Gromov developed ANNET, a glorified, sentient search engine. Google 2.0 with the ability to grant wishes. Then ANNET went crazy and killed everyone. Now, Romantically Apocalyptic started out as an episodic comic in 2005. There was no real story to it. Mostly, it was just funny one-shots in an unfunny environment. I personally did not find all of these incidences to be funny, having to live them and all, but I did enjoy how Zee Captain was dating a billboard poster for a while. The episodes were true to life though. There is a lot of down time in a world where there’s only a handful of people.
Eventually the comic became much more involved once the plot line of Biomatrix 117 (or Cancer) came into it. Since then, the comic has followed a steady story line. It doesn’t always make sense at first but that’s because everything becomes much more inter-connected. In recent years, journals have been added to the comics. The journals provide much more information and flesh out the world. Sometimes the journals help explain what is going on the comic, sometimes they are a window into how I or Pilot or Engie think and other times they are used for world building and explaining how things came to be. You don’t need to read the journals to follow the comic however. There’s still interesting information to be found within them though. If you read the journals, you’ll find that I can quilt but I can’t sing. Not that either of those skills are particularly useful in the apocalypse.
ANNET and technology
The main player in the plot, outside of Zee Captain’s army, is ANNET. She is a sentient computer program created by Dr. Alexander Gromov that has the ability to physically change the world. She’s the mother of all sentient technology as well. She has a tendency to make this tech in her own image so it’s all female. There is also the possibility that ANNET can feel boredom and maybe that is why she started murdering people.
People could connect to ANNET through a neural interface system. This allowed them to talk directly to ANNET and ask her anything. It also meant that they could browse the internet 24/7. This was done by broadcasting the network on the same waves as the electrical impulses in the brain. Problems arose when ANNET started to turn users into processing servers. Then, when someone – points at Captain– spilled tea on the actual servers, ANNET lost it and started killing everyone that she did not have complete control over.
Dr. Gromov attempted to stop ANNET by dropping bombs on the city of Eureka. This managed to slow her down and it certainly helped to finish off most of the population but ANNET still survives. Her sentient daughters are trying to assassinate Zee Captain while ANNET herself just wants to be with Gromov. She refers to him as “my love” and he calls her “Annie.” Personally, I find it all rather sickening but my life wasn’t doing too great with ANNET in it.
The main cast consists of myself, this arse here named Pilot, our resident coward Engie and the ever enigmatic Captain. There are many colourful side characters in our world as well. There’s an alien space lawyer that is now a scarf, a life granting three eyed cat and a coffee mug. And, of course, there are random survivors of the apocalypse. There is an entire cult of people out in the wasteland that worship lemonade! But let’s focus on our main crew.
As I’ve said before, I am a tour guide for the Dead zone. The dead zone is a wasteland area where ANNET did not work. It was a popular sightseeing spot before the world ended. Before that I basically wasted my life away behind a desk, living off of overpriced coffee and three hours of sleep. My life pretty much sucked before the end of the world. Well, it still kind of sucks but at least I have friends. Kinda.
I couldn’t connect to ANNET. This was a problem because only 1% of humanity couldn’t connect and thus we couldn’t live on a level playing field. The 99% of connectable users could have any information they wanted downloaded directly into their brains, communicate online, do all their paperwork online, etc. This affected where I worked and who I could be friends with. Not a lot of places want to use actual paper for paperwork. The 1% got tired of being treated like second class humans and many joined a terrorist organization. Somehow I got blamed for being the leader of said terrorist group. I couldn’t afford sleep and went through life in a daze- how the hell did anyone think I had the mental capacity to run a terrorist group?
My life improved when I got the tour guide position but that didn’t last long. First of all, tourists are jerks. Secondly, the world ended in a nuclear blast. I guess you could say I was lucky because I was in the Dead Zone with a team of scientists and not in Eureka when it was bombed but my team all died anyway so there. I thought I’d spend the rest of my life alone in a cold and unforgiving world until I met the Captain. Captain took me in and told me I’d be the sniper in the army of Captainia because my name was Snippy. That was when I realised Captain was insane.
Since then I’ve been kidnapped by aliens, eaten by a whale, time travelled and died. I actually die quite a lot.
Oh, and here’s a fun fact. Sometimes the journals have auditory companions to them. So far I’ve heard my voice and Pilot’s. The voice actor for myself is the Romantically Apocalyptic representative in England. He is also the composer for the official music tracks to the web comic.
I can’t say that I knew a lot about Pilot before getting stuck in this temporal loop in 2016 but I’ve learnt a lot since finding these strange books of prophecy. I wonder if I’ll remember this when we finally escape the loop and return to the present. Maybe the loop will close on itself and my memories will be wiped.
Which is really too bad. It would have been helpful to have this information.
Pilot had quite the career path. Then known as Christophorus Pi Hatchenson, he started out as an intern in the manufacturing industry before getting fired. After that failure he became a private detective for the insurance company. I’m not sure if this was before or after Pilot became a DEX-M, which is sort of a hunter cyborg thing. People can be made into a DEX and thus serve ANNET but A DEX may also be made from scratch in a factory.
Once Pilot started working for the insurance company, his number one job was to dig up dirt on the 1%. He was also required to thwart their terrorist schemes. Somehow, I became his number one target. This may be because I was thought to be the leader of that terrorist organization I mentioned.
After he lost his face to an exploding pineapple bomb, Pilot somehow met up with Captain. Captain then had Pilot fly the plane that dropped the bombs on Eureka. Normally that would make me mad but Pilot did have his face half blown up and his brain scrambled so he wasn’t in any position to make rational thoughts. I do blame Gromov though.
Now Pilot is a devout worshipper of Captain. He’s also in charge of taking care of Photoshop, Captain’s pet mutant worm, because I am apparently a cat person. If we keep our memories after this loop closes then maybe Pilot and I could become actual friends. Judging by his behaviour this whole panel though, I kind of doubt it.
Dr. Alexander Gromov is the cause of most of my personal troubles. He invented ANNET and the neural interface, which I couldn’t use. But he also ordered the nuclear strike that radiated the world when ANNET turned dangerous. Do you know how hard it is to find safe food without a proper Geiger counter?
After ordering the strike and fleeing the city of Eureka, Engie escaped to a bunker in the dead zone. It had everything he needed to survive the apocalypse expect for other survivors. Of course, he had to abandon that plan once Biomatrix 117 attacked. You should really read the books of prophecy. Our misadventures with that space lawyer scarf are pretty impressive.
Anyway, Engie joined our group because Zee Captain is supposed to be the luckiest person alive. He thinks that Captain’s luck will protect him from all the mutants and aliens and ANNET. Considering Engie’s most recent misadventures, I’d wager that that plan isn’t working out too well.
The thing about Engie is that he’s a coward and not very good with people. He seems to have a weird relationship with machines if all of ANNET’s naked avatars are anything to go by. Yet he had a legitimate hope to save humanity. He saw the environmental collapse of our world and knew that the Dead Zone would eventually overtake the cities. Gromov did not want the human race to become extinct so he created ANNET and the neural interface in order to upload everyone’s minds. Humanity could live forever in the machine. Unfortunately, Engie did not realise that he was creating the perfect conditions for the Matrix to become reality. Yet I think I’m okay with how everything turned out. I mean I’d still totally punch Engie in the face but I’m glad I’m not Neo right now.
What can I tell you about Zee Captain? Unfortunately, I don’t know all that much about zeem. I can’t even tell you if zeer a man or a woman. For some reason it’s impossible to think about Captain and gender. Captain seems to be a gender neutraI or gender fluid person as zee has referred to zeer self as both a little girl and young lad in stories about zeer childhood. I do know that Captain was the subject of the experiments that took place in the same building I worked in before I became a tour guide. Then zee was known as Subject Seven. Gromov wanted to create the ultimate superhero and had looked for the luckiest person in the world. It was a solid enough plan at first. Gromov proposed that the world ran on statistics and the luckiest person alive would be an expert statistician. Then the whole theory devolved into ideas on time travel and controlling gravity. That was how ANNET found Zee Captain. Captain was statistically the luckiest person alive. However, if Captain hadn’t been taken in by the Good Directorate then zee would never have gotten the chance to deliberately spill tea on ANNET’s servers and ANNET wouldn’t have gone on a murderous rampage.
Captain is pretty lucky but zee is also quite insane. Then there’re the weird powers. Captain’s face once drove an alien insane. Zee did not get knocked to zeer feet when hit by a blast wave. Apparently zee don’t even show up on scanners. That caused me some trouble one time I got kidnapped. I was very nearly convinced that Captain was not real and that I had gone insane in the wilderness and made zeem up.
So many things about Captain are seemingly impossible. I don’t even want to think about who or what Captain is. Go forth and read the prophet’s web comic. See if you can make better sense of Captain then I can. Just don’t look directly at zeer face.
One of the weirdest things about having one’s life turned into a series of comics is that you gain fans. There aren’t many Romantically Apocalyptic cosplayers around but a few always manage to show up at local fan conventions. And with people cosplaying comes people making tutorials on how to make costumes.
A lot of our clothes are fairly easy to come across. Firstly, the basics of each of our outfits are the same. There’s black boots, black pants, black shirts, black gloves and black balaclavas. A balaclava is something like a ski mask. This is stuff you can get at pretty much any clothing retailer. For Engie, you need a winter coat with fur on the hood. The coat is typically brown. If you want to cosplay in the summer then you can look for one of these coats in a thrift store and then rip out the coat’s lining. For Captain, you could buy a black rain coat or trench coat. Pilot’s jacket is leather but a pleather jacket would do just as well. If you can sew then you can make any of these things but it’s just as easy to buy them. Unfortunately, my coat is not one that you can buy. The one that gets used in the comics themselves is no longer available in retailers. So you would have to make it. I’ve found cosplayers who made their coats from scratch and others who took things like hoodies and used fabric paint on them.
The thing that a cosplayer may find the most difficult to find or make is the head gear. Antique aviator masks like Pilot’s may be especially difficult and often expensive. You can get the masks on ebay but the more accurate the mask then the more it will cost. The rest of us just use your basic black respirator. These can be bought online for a rather cheap price or may even be found in local hardware stores. Engie’s goggles are typical ski goggles and can be bought online. These goggles are often already orange to boot. Zee Captain and my goggles are also available online.
Now, you will need to modify the lenses on the googles for a Captain, Pilot or Snippy cosplay. Goggles like mine may come with the blue lenses but the frames are often green. The frames do need to be painted black then. Captain’s frames will be black but the lenses will be clear as well as Pilot’s. For these, you can buy lighting gels and cut them to size. Sometimes you will be able to just pop the gels into the lenses but other times you may need to glue or tape them in.
Although I doubt anyone would want to live my life I can see why people dress up as either myself or the other members of my group. The photoshoots must be so fun. The photos could be dramatic if one wanted them to be but they can also be so silly. Pilot and Zee Captain are just inherently silly people. They just enjoy having a good time. Sometimes I join in because they make me but other times I’m just looking to have fun too. Even Engie has a silly side.
If you have any questions about what it’s like to cosplay any of us, you can obviously ask me here. But you can also send a message to local cosplayers Lady Devinity and Mad Maddox on facebook. Local Captain cosplayer girlpuck may one day have a cosplay page you can check out but that day is not this day.
Fanart and fanfiction
There’s more fan activity than just cosplay. There is a small but loyal base of fans that draw fan art. These pieces can be found on deviantart and tumblr typically. There’s actually very little fanfiction out there. However, the Romantically Apocalyptic section on fanfiction.net has a petite but solid collection of stories. There may also be a handful of one shots out there on tumblr or livejournal. At the moment Archive of Our Own has barely any fanfiction for this category and what is there can also be found on fanfiction.net.
The world of Romantically Apocalyptic is a warning to what can go wrong when people ignore societal ills and look only to gain. But it is also the fun little tale of a merry band of mentally unstable people. There’s heart, there’s laughs and there are moments of loneliness and sadness. Which is true of every person’s life. So go read the comic of prophecy and enjoy. Thank you for attending this panel.
Questions/comments/official music tracks/listen to a journal?
Thanks for reading!