2007. Endling runs his Endzone Original Character tournament and starts a fad across deviantART. I have no idea whether it was the first of its kind, but it was certainly the first I was made aware of via my other half (that being my girlfriend, not my left arm). I loved the idea, but figured that I wasn't cut out for competitive storytelling.
Late in 2007, Steel Nation is advertised in the footer of an Endzone journal post. I held off for about a week entering, because I was just starting the second year of my web design degree and couldn't think of who or what I'd enter.
Then, through some spark of realisation, it dawned on me that I had two mad scientist characters on the back burner I'd wanted to use for a while in something, so why the hell not? One was an atypical mad scientist, the other a parody of the villain in a certain popular long-running platform game series. I'd enter the kind of mechanoid you'd expect to encounter at the end of a level in a 16-bit console game, just for kicks.
Much to my delight, despite the distinct lack of polish in my entries, Dr. Ralph Smiffington III and Dr. Ivanovich Gregori Romani Gyrode hit it off as (and I write this not meaning to blow my own trumpet but as an observation of the response I got and the amount of cameos they received) two of the more popular characters in Steel Nation, partially because of their over-the-top dialogues and partially through their general ineptitude and odd quirks. It was a genuine pleasure to participate in Steel Nation despite it filling pretty much all of my time outside of university.
I was so pleased with the over-arching storyline that I wanted to archive the episodes I'd produced (I consider their appearance in Steel Nation to be canon with whatever else they may pop up within in the future) and intended to put them up on my Detulux Incorporated hosted space (originally on Drunk Duck before I got fed up with them and decided to pursue alternative hosting). I went about the task of getting permission to put up the pages from the various artists whose characters I'd used, and much to my surprise two or three of them went one step further and said I could upload their pages too. I then went back to everyone else and asked if they were happy for me to use theirs, and I'm glad to say that the response was unanimous in saying "yes".
Unfortunately, I cancelled my webcomic hosting with Drunk Duck about a year after uploading the Steel Nation story and thus the pages were no longer available to view in sequence. Say what you like about deviantART, there's no easy way to navigate sequential stories on there. Having acquired my own webspace, the notion to create an archive for the Docs' Steel Nation adventure appealed to me and thus I've written a lot of custom code and put in quite a bit of effort to create the comic navigation and such (that web design degree paid off!). One bonus is that all of the Flash movie files I originally had to recreate as images for Drunk Duck are presented here as they were meant to be, with full interactivity.
I have uploaded other people's work in good faith and on the basis of the original permission I acquired from the artists involved. I have credited and linked to the original uploads where possible, and reassure that no profit will be made from these "borrowed" pages. If you are an artist whose work I have uploaded as part of the Two Doctors storyline and you would like me to retract your work, I have no legal grounds to decline and would be more than happy to remove your pages at request; you can contact me on my deviantART account via private message or general comment. I would say it's a terrible shame if this is the case, however - not only would it cause a hole in the story, but I admire every piece that I have uploaded which is not my own.
I hope you enjoy reading the Rise of the Two Doctors as much as I have creating this space and revisiting a little bit of 2008 magic. As Dr. Gyrode would say, "khorosho provesti vremya!".
Q. What's an original character tournament? And why do you keep capitalising the "O" and the "C"?
A. Original Character Tournaments (or OCs, OC tournaments or OCTs) are a competitive form of storytelling. Usually there's a "host" of sorts, the person who came up with the concept behind the tournament and a panel of judges they've picked. Prizes are usually offered, such as a subscription to deviantART's premium features and free private commissions by other obliging artists.
The tournament itself will have a framework of an overarching background story - picking out some of the ones I can think of:
Within this framework there will be non-player characters (NPCs) who represent the tournament organisers and the judges. There will often be a choice of several pre-defined arenas for combat to take place is, as well as various rules as to what constitutes as a "win".
Artists will be paired up within standard brackets. When each round is announced, a deadline is set and artists are then required to produce a comic telling a version of the round where their characters win over those of their opponent. Presuming both artists make the deadline, the judges decide which entry is the better (subjectively this could mean "better scripted", "better drawn", "most entertaining", etc.) and the winner moves on to the next round. Artists that don't make the deadline are disqualified; bit of a problem if both artists in a "fight" don't produce, in which case it's up to the judges if they want to give one of the previous losers a second chance.
The one artist left at the end wins!
Artists that lose or other artists not competing that want to take part can produce "spectator entries", where their characters are observing what's going on but aren't actively taking part in all the fighting. Saying that, in Steel Nation there seemed to be as much fighting outside of the tournament as there was in the rounds!
Q. How come there aren't any fight pages by you after round 2?
A. Because I lost, smartass! The Docs bowed out to a funnier, more well formed page by DRa90NBoi in round 3, hence all the pages that follow are "spectator entries".
Q. Who the hell is that character there? The one with the [insert defining characteristic here]?
A. That's another problem with OC tournaments - you usually have to be there the first time around to properly appreciate everything. It's easier to pick out characters when you're actively following all entries in the tournament, but when you take just one story it's a slice of the whole, so you miss the big picture. This is why a lot of Degulus' pages have missing bits in-between, because I've just cherry-picked the entries relevant to the Docs.
There's also the fact that when you're part of a tournament, you tend to try and stuff in as many cameos of other characters as you can just as an excuse to draw them, no matter how trivial the appearance!
I've credited various characters to their creators where I could.
Q. Have you no shame, ripping off a classic video game character?
I don't know what you're talking about, Dr. Smiffington's totally original!