Week 1: Senior Thesis Ideas

Charles Ta

Maelle Doliveux, Robert Sikoryak

Senior Thesis 1

August 2019


  • A graphic novel or comic called “Son of Sin”, which chronicles the tragic journey of one man who sought to save the world from sin through the use of a mysterious but dangerous artifact (that he is warned about), which allows him to remove the darkness/sin from inside people en masse. The artifact houses a genie/djinn like spirit that guides him on his quest to save the world, but at a terrible, terrible price. Sin doesn’t go away just because you removed it from others and drawn it into yourself. As he absorbs more and more of the essence of people’s sins, which become his own, he is corrupted by the very darkness he tried to vanquish, and becomes a monster by proxy. At some point, he becomes sin incarnate and emanates so much pure evil his body begins to deteriorate and people begin to ostracize him. He becomes an unrecognizable demonic creature that terrifies the locals— a Devil of sorts, and so does the spirit guiding him, who was merely using the protagonist as a source of power (through sin). The comic will be drawn with pencil, then colored and spruced up in Photoshop. It is primarily a moral and philosophical tale tinged with pessimism (because it is cyclical and tragic), and starts with a quote by Nietzsche (“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster”) — the central issue the story addresses. The genesis for this idea for my comic came about when I was thinking about my Catholic background, and the imagery of Jesus bearing his cross, full of the sins of humanity. Then I thought about myths from Arabic folklore involving good and evil djinns, as a fan of the Arabian Nights. The rest is history.
  • A graphic novel called “Project Cloud 9” taking place in a dystopian USA maniacally obsessed with happiness and pleasure. It is plagued by an extreme version of American optimism, and the people who live in said society have zero self-control and zero patience— a satirical mirror of today’s instant gratification society. Millions of people here have been infantilized by this society, to the point that the word “death” has been erased from the dictionary, and replaced with “naptime”, and the word “jail” with “Time Out”/ “Grounding”. In contrast to the news in today’s society, this America of the future ONLY publishes good/positive news, and the government has made it illegal to express negativity or pessimism. The childish President, Mr. Smiley, is a pathetic caricature of a human being, who is high on drugs half the time, and has turned the White House into a brothel (historically, crazy emperors and leaders in Rome actually turned their palaces into brothels, so this idea is not far-fetched). He recently signed into law a bill that would allow the Statue of Liberty to be renovated into the risque Libertine Statue, almost completely naked, and replaced the stars on the US flag with one big soulless smiley face. He also divided the country up into 9 provinces or turfs (Cloud Nine ring a bell?) just because. He’s also has an extended lifespan thanks to life extension tech, because he is terrified of death, and had surgery/gene therapy done on himself that removed from him the ability to feel pain. He’s only ever happy, and when something doesn’t go his way, Mr. Smiley immediately declares a national emergency, calling in the Grounders (armed police) to take “mean people” away. Needless to say, I made Mr. Smiley the most deranged person I could think of, completely living in denial of his own mortality and his inability to tolerate pain. The story is told from the perspective of a  German man in Europe. Europe and the rest of the world have cut off contact from the US because how batshit insane it has gotten. In fact, most industrialized nations are getting ready to evacuate humanity off-world in anticipation of a vague cataclysm that is set to destroy the world within a few decades. This German guy is a pessimist to the core and is trying to convince the people in America that they have to evacuate Earth or else they will be destroyed, because no one in the country got the memo that there’s going to be a catastrophe (since ONLY good news is allowed to be shown everywhere). Unsurprisingly, the German is arrested for his pessimism, despite the truth of what he says, and is branded a terrorist from Europe. He is eventually brought to the attention of President Smiley, who mentions to him the “Cloud 9” Project, and its goal of creating a utopian society of infinite bliss and happiness. President Smiley KNEW the world was going to end soon, so he decided he’d do the US a favor and make them at least enjoy themselves to the maximum before the end times. He made himself forget that the world was ending and deluded himself with manic fantasies, becoming the person he is now. Because of his own delusions, Smiley is unable to grasp the concept of mortality, and the German narrowly escapes from the US when a European spacecraft arrives to pick him up. The American media is eventually hacked by foreign nations and presents Smiley and the country a breaking news report from several decades prior of the cataclysm approaching Earth, and that it is unstoppable. This sends the entire nation into a mental breakdown, and Smiley impulsively tries to send hundreds of nuclear warheads towards this cataclysm, but to absolutely no avail. When that fails, he claims the broadcast of the end was fake, and a lie, but by the time he does so, it is far, far too late. Within days, humanity leaves the Solar System, just before the cataclysm engulfs Earth, and kills everyone in Smiley’s USA. This graphic narrative will be drawn in pencil, and modified in Photoshop, but might also include propaganda posters created on Illustrator used in Smiley’s deranged USA, as well as a minimalist book cover. This story’s central idea is that blind optimism leads to ignorance and delusion, and it was derived in reaction to Trump’s schizoid America. 
  • A graphic novel that satirizes the superhero genre in more ways than one— partially inspired by Alan Moore’s Watchmen, but also inspired in part by Mark Fisher’s critiques of late-stage capitalism (informed by Lacanian psychoanalysis, and the philosophical ideas of Frederic Jameson, and Deleuze and Guattari). This graphic novel is called “The Fall of Captain Capital”, which is centered around the rise and fall of a superhero called Captain Capital, who is a human representation of capitalism. The Captain has the powerful ability to “generate wealth” or mineral resources wherever he goes, basically controlling all metals and minerals at his will. His other powers include artificially increasing the mass and matter of objects and fossilizing living organisms before crushing them under intense pressure/heat (this latter process creates fossil fuels, specifically petroleum). The Captain once defeated Fuhrer von Brawn (a representation of Nazism), Eternal Caesar (basically Mussolini and Italian Fascism), and the Iron Samurai (Imperial Japan) alongside the Red Menace (Soviet Russia), and Dr. Cipher (a representation of British Empire, based on Alan Turing and the cryptography that went on in WWII). Red Menace eventually grew resentful of Captain Capital due to the attention and fame he was getting, began to hate his inequality, and turned into the Captain’s archnemesis, fighting a Cold War with the Captain (who grew extremely paranoid the whole time, always thinking he saw the Red Menace wherever he went). The Red Menace finally declared defeat in 1991, coinciding with the collapse of the USSR, and died in the Captain’s arms. Following this traumatic event, the Captain was scarred for life, and went bipolar and schizophrenic due to having no real villains left to fight after Red Menace—  no true purpose. Even amidst his approaching senility and old age, he continued to gain new powers, such as mastery over the atom (nuclear warfare, radiation, etc), and endless replication (creating multiple copies). He became so popular over the years that companies started using him for advertising and free publicity, turning him into a commodity for use. Somewhere along the line, the Captain began feeling hollow emptiness behind his label of the “greatest hero in the world”, even as, needing fossil fuels to survive, he began destroying the world just so he could selfishly keep himself alive. His multiple copies eventually developed their own personalities, becoming villains and supervillain alter egos/dissociative identities with the face of the insane Captain— alternate personalities each afflicted with a certain aberrant psychological condition or representative of some of the darker aspects of late-stage capitalism. A supervillain called Trademark, for example, can claim ownership of a person or location for 10 minutes with a temporary tattoo he imprints on the individual or on the ground. He tried to instigate a nuclear war between Pakistan and India during the Kargil Crisis of 1999, and again in 2026. The chaos that ensues around the world from the new wave of supervillains prompts a revival in heroism among some youthful people, who have come to see the Captain as a psychotic, sociopathic tyrant that has become stale in the minds of the citizens that once adored him, and whose glory days have long gone. Three of these heroes are Deadseed, Street Shaman, and the Master (H2Om? Master Shui). Deadseed was once a tribal boy in the shrinking Amazon rainforest given powers over Mother Nature to avenge her destruction by capitalism. Street Shaman was once a Basquiat-like street artist given the power to bring his artistic creations to life— literally. Finally, “the Master” was a Daoist monk who managed to achieve enlightenment and was given the power of assuming the yielding properties of water, and karma by the Buddha. The three heroes unite and form the crime fighting group known as the Mavericks, fighting both Captain Capital and his alter egos across the world. I plan on drawing this comic with pencil, and coloring it either with watercolor pencils or using the paint tool on Photoshop, and creating designs and posters on Illustrator that showcase the “Golden Age” of Superheroes (lasting from the 1930s to the 1950s), and ending with the emergence of the Red Menace as a supervillain, alongside other eras of superhero crime-fighting. The posters will be interspersed amidst the pages of the novel.
  • Alternatively, I am thinking of doing something less ambitious with the “Captain Capital” graphic novel idea, and focusing on Trademark as a villain given his immense potential, and pitting him against Street Shaman, who is essentially his polar opposite (and is able to nullify Trademark’s tattoos with his graffitti). This mini-comic might comment on the constant tension that exists between an artist and his work, and institutions or companies that may attempt to take control of his/her creations in order to turn them into commercial franchises, ruining the artist’s vision. I could also just focus on other specific heroes and villains and create mini-comics showcasing their interactions, if I change my mind (e.g Dr. Cipher’s powers in an age of social media). 

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