ASH Wednesday: Deep Armageddon

This is part 7 of my weekly series on Dave Van Domelen’s Academy of Super-Heroes universe, a collection of musings, interviews, writerly insights and historical notes about the free super-hero serials (which started on the newsgroup rec.arts.comics.creative back in ’94 and recently released as Omnibus editions.)

Deep Armageddon was the first crossover arc in the Academy of Super-Heroes universe, based on an idea that I had but developed by Dave Van Domelen, with the assistance of Matt Rossi and Marc Singer in their own respective titles.

The seeds of the crossover began with the development of my own series, Conclave of Super-Villains. I saw the need for a true super-villain team in the ASHiverse, and began by examining characters who might be part of one. Derek Radner, as developed by Marc in S.T.R.A.F.E., was a natural choice. As for the character Burnout (I won’t spoil the secret identity here), there I borrowed one of Dave’s minor characters. And heck, I wanted to give the villains an unforgettable debut. That meant bringing in all the other major titles in the series.

But crossovers are a lot of work. Satisfying, but it takes a lot to prepare one. I first pitched the storyline to Dave, talked about changes, and how to bring the huge cast into the storyline. It meant multiple emails to the other writers to see if they were happy with the story, about the fallout and its future impact for their cast, and assigning the issues (and parts of issues) for each author to write.

We didn’t necessarily write the parts where our own characters showed up. One of the hurdles you have to get past in writing a crossover with others is learning to trust the other authors to write your characters the way they see them. I had to write characters I’ve only read about, and infer how they might react, just as everyone else had to figure out how to write my villains based on notes and what’s been written thus far.

For example: the only note I gave Dave was that the Academy of Super-Heroes had to deal with seven bombs that the CSV had hidden around the world. They were all unique, but one had to be a miniature neutron bomb, but otherwise he was welcome to go wild. He did, adding a touch of mad genius to the Rebus and Triton characters.

Why the neutron bomb? Because one of Marc’s characters was supposed to be indestructible, yet feel all the pain. I wanted to test the limits of that by blowing one up in his gut. Marc played along and wrote that spectacular scene.

It was great fun to write, and to this day Deep Armageddon remains my favourite ASH crossover (Capstone coming in second). I may ask Dave to talk more about crossovers and his process for those later on.

Bonus material: I wrote a mini Deep Armageddon module for the DC Adventures/Mutants & Masterminds Third Edition by Green Ronin that I ran for my gaming group. It’s not for public release but if you’d like to see a copy and play through it with your own group, send me an email. (Apologies in advance if I’m unable to get back to you right away.)

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