Saturday, June 25, 2022

Army Ants: The Untold Story (Part 3 of 3)

More ideas I never got to...

Return to Dinosaur Island

No idea how or why this would have happened, but the ants go back to Dinosaur Island one more time. Issue seven was probably my personal favorite of all the original run, and I had plans to go back one day and send the ants on a mission there. It seems that recovering a rare plant that can cure diseases would have been cool. It makes sense to layer this into the next story (the Plague below), and that is probably where it would have fit. It makes the most sense to send the ants on a daring raid to recover a jungle plant as part of establishing a cure for the plague. That would justify this mission. I had an idea that in the interim some other insects had created a secret base here, but not sure how that would have worked.

The Plague

Recently, I started (and again never finished) a story set some time later (probably ending up as issues 44 to 50) - the ants have relative peace, but a sickness breaks out that has been bioengineered by insane termites. The sickness creates a kind of zombie plague. While several ants become infected, they all are ultimately saved, the termites are defeated, and peace is restored. I never got too far in the planning stages of this one, but that is the broad strokes of it. Issue fifty would therefore have been a big assault on the termite mound. I wasn’t all that interested in this one ultimately because a lot of the same beats (fighting against a big enemy army - huge battle) had already been done better elsewhere. This was going to face a challenge not to tread ground I had already done (probably better) previously. I suppose that this storyline would have opened up possibilities of exploring some of the mysticism and religion of the ants, since there is this whole thing with Fate and the termites that I have already alluded to… this would have been the opportunity to maybe lock down some of those pieces in greater detail. It ran the risk of going all midichlorians, but I think it would have kept back from the precipice well enough.

Iron Ant

This one never got past the basic idea stage, but I wanted to have a prototype suit that Phil wears where he goes on a mission to test it, and he ends up doing battle with a bat. I had a few sketches for this, and not much else. Iron ant could have been a one-off, or a short story at the back of another issue that ran short. I did this a few times in the early issues (issue seven had both Dinosaur Island and Ladybug’s Picnic stories - more reasons it’s my favorite), so Iron Ant would have worked as an 8-page short to plug in somewhere else.

What To Do With This?

I’m a little tempted to create an archive that merges real and unfinished comics into one big thing - I could release this like I did the Doc Stalwart archive, or put together a ‘book’ (PDF) that I could put up on DriveThruComics just to have it there as an established ‘bible’ of the first fifty issues of the Army Ants (since that’s how I think of this whole storyline - I published 24 comics, had pages for another 3 issues or so published on the now-defunct mtdaa website, and had random pages done for a few others). I could draw covers for the graphic novels and put these in with more detailed plot summaries than those above. It would take a week or two to put together, but that’s not a bad way to pull this whole thing together and ‘finish’ work I spent several years on a few decades ago.

Ultimately, this included all of the stories I wanted to tell with these particular characters. I think they would have run their course at that point, and if the series continued after issue fifty, it would have to include a significant change in time or place for it to work. I love the idea of a series of Batman and Robin type stories with Zak and Malichi, but there’s no real reason to do them. I don’t have a meaningful story to tell with them, I just want to spend time with these characters again. That’s not a great reason to spend a few hours on each page.

By the way, it is strangely cathartic to finally ‘reveal’ things that only I have known for 20+ years. I assume nobody cares, but I still like it that the full story is ‘out there’ in some form now.

Going Forward

Man, this ended up as a long set of posts. I’ve got a set of notes (done in the last few days) for the next phase of the story, but it’s set a generation later, with an entirely different sort of vibe. One of the things that always interested me about the ants (but I never really explored in a meaningful way) is this inherent tension between the ideal and reality. It’s the same tension in America. The ants are, at their core, a tyrannical military state that presents as a noble kingdom that embraces individuality. It’s kind of like the US that way… we value individuality and peace while outspending the rest of the world by many times over to build the biggest military. Some of our loudest voices of individual rights are also openly supporting fascism. It’s the same conflict the ants face. I want to explore this idea more deeply, and I think I’ve found a way to do it. Basically, the next phase of the ants, if it happens, would be tonally and thematically far removed from what I’ve done before, but it would still logically follow the previous storylines. We all think we’re the good guys. Maybe the ants never really were…


  1. I'm bad at checking your site regularly, but I always enjoy your posts. I think it's great that you're still thinking up ideas for Army Ants. It's some of my favorite stuff of yours.


    1. Thanks, Chris. I don't blame you for only checking in once in a while - I only post once in a while! (unless I get a creative burst - and then it's like 3 posts a day for weeks at a time). The goal is fun - I haven't had time for the last three days to think about much (I've been installing laminate flooring in my house), but I plan to do some army ant thinking in the days ahead...