Important: The Subject 218 series are considered explicit and is not suitable for readers below the age of 18.
Development of Subject 218
"I’m going to be blunt with you here, even if you’re some smart-*** with a degree or major or whatever those things are ******* called now; I have no manners. I say whatever the **** I want, when I want!" - Tim, Operation: Hunt Down
The origins of Subject 218
Dating back to 2004, Tim Adrien Argan started out as a random doodle Thomas use to draw on all of his school notebooks, often brandishing a knife or a sword. He was drawn in the style of Jhonen Vasquez in his early days, back when Thomas began experimenting with different drawing styles to see which felt comfortable; it could be said that Tim's first concept may have been that of a Fan Character because of this. However, outside of the style and the occasional mashup with Invader Zim characters, Tim was never actively drawn in fan-art of the series outside of being in the background to fill up space.
It would be in 2006 when Tim gained his own story and shift in his design; taking some of the traits of his original concept to keep him looking familiar, he began to be fleshed out and no longer resembled a typical Fan Character. His story also was developing by this point, with a basic concept of him being experimented on by the military against his will, gaining superpowers as a result, which he used to commit various acts of crime. This story remained stagnant and did not develop further for many long years. The first book, titled Operation: Hunt Down, was the original story concept for Tim, minus a vast portion of the cast it now has, and lacking any real structure. This story was not written as a book, but was roughly drawn out in panels for a comic. The only characters from this concept who remain to this day are Tim, James and Helena (albeit her role and personality was split between her and Freija in the final version).
The process started as early as 2008, however the first draft was never completed, as Thomas saw potential for Tim's usage in "The Jinimaru Chronicles" in 2010, after the concept of militarised creature experimentation on humans became the main plot-line for that book. A complete re-write of the story was made, but once again this draft was never finished. Thomas became frustrated at his lack of progress, a result of constantly changing the story foundation repeatedly, so in 2013 Hunt Down was dragged back to life, however many pages had become damaged or lost during several moves across the country. The story was full of holes! As for the re-write Thomas started, it still exists but may never see the light of day.
Thomas decided to stop trying to make the comic directly, as he would constantly change core plot points every time he started it, and failed to start the comic right from the beginning (opting to start from scenes he liked the most). This process was the main source for the delays, rewrites and entire scrapping of several stories, not just Tim's. By 2015 Thomas decided it would be best to write out a novel first, which would only allow him to make slight changes to the comic in order to avoid canonical confusion. By 2018 the first two volumes to the novel were finally finished, and in 2019 he started writing and drawing up the comic adaptation.
Whilst the story itself has changed drastically from the original concept from 2004, it still retains many traits from the original, including the title of the first volume.
- The novel requires no knowledge at all of Jinimaru since it does not feature them heavily, and when they do become present the basic information is provided.
- The language and themes of all volumes in Subject 218 are explicit.
- All volumes are written in first-person.
- Not all volumes are written by the same character.
- Comics are the canonical "true story", whilst the novels could be viewed as characters telling "half truths".
Development of the Comic
(Work in progress, this section is subject to change.)
Thomas worked on the Subject 218 Comic while he was away in Japan, starting with sketches and rough speech bubbles, before inking them in professional Manga pens. He started the first issue in January 2019 and finished inking the pages a month later.
When Thomas returned to England he had also just moved house, and his old scanner lay battered and bruised. He decided to replace it with a new one, and after several weeks setting up his room into a suitable work-space he was ready to get to work on colouring the comic.
He did, however, encounter problems with the scanner to start with; the device scanned in paper texture which would make the cleaning and editing stages of the process longer and more difficult than it needed to be. His scanner, being on a low budget, did not come with an instruction manual for the features he wanted to use.
After many weeks of searching online for a way to get the paper-negation feature to work, only to find videos of people trying to help sell the scanner, Thomas decided to just hammer buttons and tweak the settings of the scanner like a madman, until it finally did what he wanted; lines became bolder and the paper texture was no longer visible.
This was the stage Thomas needed each scan to look like before he could even think about colouring, so he spent countless hours scanning in each page having to make slight tweaks to the settings for different pages, and by the end of March the first Issue was fully scanned in and ready for editing.
Each page had its white painstakingly removed to make the line-work bolder, which allowed the colouring stage to be done without losing quality in the line-work. Removing the white from a page consisting of 3/4 panels can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on the level of detail. Using the same panel as an example, this individual frame took roughly 15 minutes to clear of white, before the black was then able to be enhanced, cleaned of stray dots and any major gaps in the line-work closed up.
With the line-work finished, the colouring stage begins. Thomas makes two copies of the line-work, locks the top layer, and then uses the bottom layer for colouring via the paint-bucket tool. This method is faster and helps identify any smaller breaks in the line-work he may have failed to close. This stage can take less than 10 minutes, but can take longer if the image has a lot of line-work details.
Thomas decided half-way through his colouring of the first Issue to make his own handwriting the font for the comic, but instead of writing it all out by hand and scanning each thought bubble in, he made the font online instead by scanning in each letter of the alphabet he had written on a scrap piece of paper. The tool he used did not support numbers in the free version, and is called Calligraphr.
The comic is still a Work In Progress, and as such some development of the comic are not yet available to write/share! Come back in a few weeks time to see more about how this project came to life.
Did you know?
- Like many of Thomas' major creations, Tim is considered a part of his psyche given physical form. After a year studying psychology, Thomas established that Tim is his Id personified as he acts impulsively on instinctual desires, without thinking of morality or consequences.
- James (AKA Jimmy) was introduced into Tim's story at it's earliest point in development, serving as an antagonist who constantly fought with Tim for leadership of their gang. After some reflection, Thomas realised this was borderline a carbon-copy of the relationship shared between the Transformers characters Megatron and Starscream. Thomas changed James personality slightly, making him still complain about Tim's behaviour but less interested in stripping him of his authority, and removed him as an antagonist.
- Originally Helena was like Freija, having known Tim since school, and served as his romantic interest. However, as Thomas wanted Tim to grow later in the story and needed someone older than him to help this happen, her role was changed. This left a gap in the cast for another female role to do all the old jobs Helena use to do in the story, this role would later be filled by Freija.
- Thomas originally intended the story for Tim to end after Hunt Down, with Bloodhound being based on Kyle, Freija and James plotting to expose what had happened to the public. This was less exciting, and so Thomas changed the sequel.
- While the Comics will have 3 alternate endings drawn out at some point, these are just 3 of 12 endings Thomas drafted up for the story.