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What do you think of this premise?:

I'm working on a webcomic, probably going to be called Remus. Here's the premise:

It's the aftermath of a second American civil war. What started as a fight between right and left wing extremists engulfed the country and forced the government to step in. The government succeeded in quelling the violence but had to shred the constitution to do it. 17 years after the end of the war, the government still hasn't given up the power it took during the conflict. The USA is now a police state. Resistance movements have sprung up across the country, and have been quite successful in launching attacks against the government. A CIA task force led by a sadistic nutcase is charged with hunting them down. Eventually, the CIA kidnaps an arms dealer who is about to start running guns to the resistance. He escapes and joins up with the movement full time. The comic continues to cover what happens afterwards. I don't want to reveal much, but the plot is planned out.

And now for a bit more detail:

Characters, translated into troper-ese:

Heroes:

Ryan Davidson:

Jason Baxter:

Nicole Baxter:

Bill:

Janice:

Villains:

Seth Williams:

Marcus Laurent:
  • It's Personal (Dead wife and daughter, ostensibly collatteral from a bombing by the Resistance
  • Friendly Sniper
  • Punch Clock Villain: Kind of, see above. He's apathetic at best about the bulk of the actions taken by his superiors; he just wants revenge
  • Dirty Business: Is less than pleased about some of what Seth puts him through, but given that he works for the guy he doesn't have much of a choice
  • Cool Old Guy (Pushing 60)

Gus:
  • New Meat
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: This is a bit of a pet peeve trope, and averting it is the entire reason that this character exists.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Combines with a heavy dose of propaganda to place him firmly on the "Security" side of the liberty-vs.-security debate that forms the core of the story

Thoughts?

edited 9th Mar '11 10:02:11 PM by FrustratedRocka

 
 2 Enthryn, Thu, 10th Mar '11 12:04:54 AM from Earth Relationship Status: Having tea with Cthulhu
The basic premise of a second civil war strikes me as implausible without something further to justify it. Sure, there are political tensions now, and right-wing extremism is on the rise, but it's nothing even close to what's necessary to produce an outright civil war. It'd be interesting to see what pushes things to that point.

Also, you said that it's a "fight between right and left wing extremists". However, this would require a significant political shift to the left beforehand; at the present time, the left is not in any position of power (since the two major political parties in the USA are far-right and center-right), and left-wing extremists are a tiny minority of negligible political significance.

Another thing to consider is who is in control of the government when the war first breaks out. It's quite unusual for two extreme factions to cause a civil war when neither is in power; usually, one of the factions in a civil war supports the current establishment. Since you described the government as turning the country into a police state and disregarding the Constitution, it would make more sense to have the government be part of the far-right faction.

As for how right wing extremists could get into power in the first place, it would probably require a combination of a perceived foreign threat (such as another major terrorist attack) and economic problems. This would move the country toward extreme nationalism and allow a far-right government to take power. An extreme example of this would be Germany after World War I.

It's also important to consider what the present government is like. How intrusive is the dictatorship in people's everyday lives? Who leads the government? (Some possibilities: military leaders, populist politicians, etc.) How are the resistance movements perceived by the general public? Do the societal divisions that led to the civil war in the first place still persist? How does this differ by region of the country (i.e. was it a regional conflict like the first Civil War)? What parts of the old democracy remain intact?

Anyway, it looks like an interesting idea. I don't have any comments on the characters at the moment. Just one question about the plot: Will it be focused on the politics of the setting, or is that more of a backdrop for a action- or character-driven story?

edited 10th Mar '11 12:13:15 AM by Enthryn

Prendre le bien, le mal et sans trier, accepter
Sans couvrir tes yeux, tout regarder.
 3 JHM, Thu, 10th Mar '11 1:34:42 AM from Neither Here Nor There Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
On a related note: By left-wing and right-wing, would you happen to mean socially or economically? If you mean socially, then the hard right ultimately wins without "winning"; if it's economic, however... It would probably work a lot better, as most fascist regimes, while to the far-right on matters of social and political freedom, were often very middle-of-the-road on economic policy. Hence, you could have the battle between the socially moderate but violent radicals of the left (communists, social anarchists) and right (agorists, extreme neoliberals) ultimately crushed by the most conservative elements of the "centre."

Symmetry, ho.

But yeah, being part of what serves as the "far-left" in America, I can tell you that our numbers are pretty slim, and have been since the late '60s at least, if not the '40s (when the Socialists and Progressives split) or even the '20s (when Eugene Victor Debs died).

edited 10th Mar '11 1:51:00 AM by JHM

 4 Sand Josieph, Thu, 10th Mar '11 1:51:33 AM from Grand Galloping Galaday
Bigonkers! is Magic
Sounds terrible, start over. Actually, it seems like a fairly solid premise, though I probably wouldn't be able get into it very easily.
♥♥II'GSJQGDvhhMKOmXunSrogZliLHGKVMhGVmNhBzGUPiXLYki'GRQhBITqQrrOIJKNWiXKO♥♥
 5 Loni Jay, Thu, 10th Mar '11 1:56:22 AM from Australia Relationship Status: Pining for the fjords
You might want to give your characters as a brief backstory and small description, rather than a list of tropes. People find them easier to critique/discuss that way.
Be not afraid...
Regarding the start of the war: A right winger blows up the White House. A liberal fringe group retaliates by taking out a couple of Republican senators. The right wingers respond by bombing the funeral of the President. Both sides grow in numbers, and eventually the government has to step in. The result is a full blown 3 way conflict. Because of the nature of the fringe groups, the government (which is controlled by a Republican president) passes a Constitutional amendment that allows the President to suspend certain sections of the Constitution during times of domestic insurrection. The first amendment gets thrown out immediately, the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 10th soon follow it, as does Article III (the courts). This allows the government to label anyone speaking out against them as a terrorist and a traitor, up to and including sitting congressmen. This has the net effect of eliminating all opposition while maintaining the appearance of democracy: Everyone votes for the incumbent or the candidate supported by an outgoing incumbent, congressmen and judges are too scared to challenge the Executive Branch for fear of being arrested or otherwise done away with. Most of this will be covered in about 3 pages, tops, because the plot happens 17 years later and I don't want to get bogged down in the prologue.

The point of setting up the 3-way civil war the way I did is to avoid falling into "This is what the country will look like if people who disagree with me have their way" Author Tract and to allow myself to focus on what things would look like when the dust settled. On the one hand, it's still TECHNICALLY a democracy - votes are being counted accurately, but they don't matter since all the candidates are essentially forced to agree on most things unless they want to be taken out by the Knight Templar factions within each branch. Even as these factions are growing smaller, pretty much everyone has decided to not put themselves on the line just in case, so the uniformity becomes self-enforcing. The threat of being killed or arrested if you run for office with different beliefs from the norm has been replaced by not being able to get more than 5 votes if you do, on account of the people being too scared to vote for you. Social and economic issues aren't really going to be discussed unless I decide to change something, but given that the President when the thing kicks off will be a Republican the policies will lean conservative.

Even that is largely irrelevant: the plot follows members of a Resistance movement trying to overthrow the system entirely. I just tried to come up with the most plausible way of putting La Résistance in America and turning America into a dystopia bad enough that we can cheer for the criminals. I also plan on turning this into a bit of a Deconstructor Fleet.

Character backstories are still being written, but here's what I've got:

Ryan: Was 24 and serving in the military when the war started. Ended up deserting when he realized that the government had become as extreme as either of the two opposing militias. He's been making his living as an arms dealer ever since then. Due to the fact that the government officially thinks he's dead and unoficially is trying very hard to make him that way, he can't get a regular job. He keeps up the arms dealer job after joining the resistance, but modifies his policies a bit.

Jason: Grew up with Nicole (little sister) in New York and was 11 when the war started. He watched as his parents were executed by the government for sympathizing with the liberal set of extremists (i.e. they were doctors who unknowingly treated one of the liberal command) and he was left to take care of Nicole. They had to go on the run, and their experiences eventually led them to join up with the Resistance in its formative years. Jason's tactical skill and care for the lives of his men allowed him to rocket to a position of command, and he was assigned to DC 6 years before the events of the plot. For obvious reasons, he hates the government's attitude that national security has to trump individual liberty, although he does attempt to make the distinction between those who support the government simply because they're either apathetic or dislike the extremists even more and those who are in full agreement with the government's ideology. This is also the source of his flat refusal to participate in or initiate any operation with a high probability of causing civilian casualties (e.g. anything involving bombs.) His day job is working at the bakery that is both a front for the DC branch and the main source of their funding.

Nicole: Unquestioningly loyal to Jason due to their childhood. Is still a bit too immature and clouded by anger to make the same distinctions between Lawful Neutral and Lawful Evil that Jason does. Despite this, she's extremely warm towards her teammates. Her day job is working at the bakery.

Janice: Her parents are very much alive, and she has always had a good relationship with them - dressing like she raided Lisbeth Salander's and Joan Jett's wardrobes is a pure fashion choice. Her family is fairly well off. She was largely unaffected by the war on account of being away from the fighting (boarding school). Graduated medical school and joined up with the Resistance 4 years before the events of the plot. Her computer skill comes from her own interest in the subject driving her to learn more about it. She works in a hospital when she isn't finding creative ways to access top secret files or making sure that everyone's communication works properly. Her salary covers a large percentage of the funding the DC, Maryland, and Virginia branches. Janice has a tendency to be attracted to considerably older men, which Bill needles her about at every opportunity.

Bill: Bill's backstory is still being decided on. The only things I've figured out are these: He's big, he's the nicest out of the Resistance members, he can kill you with his bare hands, and he's gay. His boyfriend was the resistance's inside man until Seth caught on, resulting in some torture and some killing. Regularly needles Janice about her preferences. Works at the bakery.

Seth: Served in the military during the war. He's utterly ruthless and is more than willing to kill anyone who interferes with his goals. Personally recruited into the CIA at age 25 by the Director, Seth is about as power hungry as they come and is more than willing to get his hands dirty to get it. He's taken out entire branches of the Resistance using just a few knives.

Marcus: Marcus served as a cop before the war, and joined the CIA during it. He is largely neutral on the liberty vs. security debate. His one goal in life is to take out the resistance due to the fact that his wife and daughter were killed by a bomb that they set off (At least, he thinks they set it off - whether or not they actually did has not been decided yet.) He's around 60 and is more than old enough to remember the old constitution and the freedom it provided. His main response is that he doesn't see things as having changed all that much since the Bill of Rights was abolished.

Gus: The rookie. He's around 20 and entered the CIA out of high school. He has no special skills aside from being a good driver. Despite this, he somehow ends up assigned as Marcus's driver. He's a young idealist who hates seeing people get hurt and doesn't remember a time when the government wasn't equating freedom with danger. Because of this, he sides with the government on the issue of liberty vs. security.

edited 10th Mar '11 5:55:41 PM by FrustratedRocka

 
So, thoughts on the characterization so far?
 
 8 JHM, Mon, 14th Mar '11 8:19:20 AM from Neither Here Nor There Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
[up][up] (Just an aside: It is highly inaccurate to call a far-left fringe group "liberal"; in the parlance of Trotskyites and anarchists  *, "liberal" tends to be shorthand for either "wishy-washy social moderates" or, following on "classical liberal" as it was originally used, "right-wing jerks." It is perhaps better form to just call them "radical leftists, " which is what they are.)

(Otherwise, solid, though I'd start to really focus on characterisation at this point...)

edited 14th Mar '11 8:25:37 AM by JHM

OK, I'm currently working on that. The designs are (mostly) up on my website, so if you want to compare them to what I've written here and give me some feedback that would be great. http://remuscomic.co.cc

 
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