When we last left off, I had finished writing the massive Part 3. At the end of it, the quarantine wall had been destroyed, and the Immune Child (who is now 18) took off on the team. Naturally, their next step was to relocate him.
The team relocates to a secret, backup base of operations: a mall, which of course is a nod to the influence of DAWN OF THE DEAD. Why do they do this? Well, you don’t blow up a wall that was built by the Federal Government and NOT expect to be declared public enemy #1. They need to go hide out while things get crazy for a little while. Eventually they start heading out in reconnaissance teams of two, with the aim of doing two things: (1) determining how much of a presence the Feds have on the West Coast still, and (2) trying to gather intel as to the Immune Child’s location.
I sent the outline to Clarence (my artistic friend and former coworker). He wrote back and said something to the effect of, “Wow, you have a lot of interesting developments here! After Part 3, I wasn’t sure how you would keep the momentum going, but this is excellent!”
I already knew that, of course, but it was nice to hear him confirm it.
I had my basic summary: the team needed to find the Immune Child. Once again, this meant they would run into random adventures that were not necessarily related to the main mission. Rather than worry about it (like I did when I panicked over how to write Part 3), I let it simmer on the back burner of my mind while I set about typing up Part 3.
I can’t quite remember when or how the inspiration came for this part of the story. I do remember that I was either thinking about or watching the movie APOCALYPSE NOW. After doing some reading about the movie, I found it was a “Vietnamization” of Joseph Conrad’s HEART OF DARKNESS.
I’d already seen APOCALYPSE dozens of times, but I had never read the book. I went on Amazon and bought a used copy. It arrived a week later, and I dove right into it. I kept a notebook by my side while I read, notating what kind of experiences narrator Charles Marlow had on his way north as he looked for mysterious ivory trader Kurtz.
While the story was well-written, I did not find much that I could use as a model for my story. Maybe it was due to the setting or the action, but I decided it was a dead end to try to update the story for REDemption. Then it dawned on me: I should model Part 4 after APOCALYPSE instead.
Now you may wonder: why was it easy for you to adapt APOCALYPSE to REDemption, but not HEART…when HEART was the source material for the movie??? It does seem maddening, doesn’t it? However, I think the explanation is quite simple: in APOCALYPSE NOW, the story is set during the Vietnam War, which of course was a crazy and chaotic time. It was much easier to relate that kind of setting to my comic, since the West Coast in REDemption is a lawless no man’s land where death could come at any moment. Also, not for nothing, but the experiences Willard has often have a bizarre, surreal, dream-like quality to them.
In short, APOCALYPSE NOW fit the mood of REDemption better. Therefore, what I did was pop the movie into my DVD player, sat down in a chair with a notebook again, and notated the various experiences good old Captain Willard had.
Eventually I realized Part 4 would be difficult like Part 3, but in a different way: I would have to keep track of two stories. One would be the team looking for the Immune Child. The other would be a DIFFERENT portion of the team heading East beyond the destroyed quarantine wall to find a lab where they could test the Immune Child’s blood (if they found him alive, of course).
Actually, did I say I had to tell two different stories? No, I wound up having to tell THREE because in the meantime, the Federal Government also becomes aware of long stretches of the country that are decimated by our as-of-yet unseen friend, the Unexpected Enemy. For this part of the story, I introduced an FBI agent named Bill Davidson, who investigates one area of such destruction and tries to figure out what is going on. Then I had to come up with a way to have all these various segments converge on one another.
Thanks to the influence of a horror author named Michael Slade (which is actually the pen name for a writing team whose members have changed over the years), I think I pulled this off quite nicely. For those of you who don’t know his work, I suggest you read pretty much any title by him/them, and you will see what I mean. My recommendation is that you start right at the beginning with the first novel, HEADHUNTER. Every single novel contains multiple plot lines that don’t seem to make any sense together, until you reach the end and Slade unites them in a way that is so smooth, you wonder why you couldn’t see the connections all along.
Once I had an outline for the various adventures the team would get in while looking for the Immune Child, I ripped through Part 4 at my usual speed.
So you may wonder: what happened when you were done with the handwritten version of Part 4?
Well, for that answer…tune in next week!