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The Never-Ending Comic

Welcome to the Never-Ending Comic! First created in 1999, this 50-page comic is now available for the first time ever on Pretzel Lectern! Read the Project List for more details on its origin. This page, while containing all the existing "episodes" of N.E.C., also contains the author's (my) commentary below each page. Lastly, I'm sorry for the limitations of my blog, but you'll have to shift-click each page and zoom in to read them clearly. Blogger has a function for scrolling through all the comics in a slideshow form, which is nice if you want to read the story straight through. Enjoy!
NOTE: Try to look at this comic through the eyes of a fifth-grade boy, and admire the artistic talents I had when I was 10 years old. I recognize that it's very cheesy and embarassing, but it was good enough at the time to inspire me now to continue to draw comics.
The Never-Ending Comic
by Austin Ballard, age 10
 Episode 1
Episode 1
  Well! Off to a quick start! Discovered and accepted a quest 1/4 of the way down the first page. I apologize for the poor quality of this first page. The top of the page is frayed and that brown spot is... food. Or something. I guess they occurred because of the nature of the first page of a stack being, well, on top.
To clarify what the "wise man" says on panels B6 and B7 (numbers across and letters down) because it's important to the rest of the story, he says "This is no pebble, this is a fai!" / "A fai! It can summon Brai and destroy evil!" I'm not sure where I came up with the idea for the fai (Your call on pronunciation), but it made the good parts of the story what they were for sure.
"Brai" is pronounced "bry," not "bray."
Episode 2
And thus the second "Elemental Guardian" is introduced, Rocky. Rocky is heavily based on an earth elemental my brother drew for a game we were writing. When I read this comic over, I realized that all the monsters pretty much have the same personality. They all react to situations in the same way, which was probably a big mistake. E6 - "AUSTIN: That's how I got this far."
Zabo makes a minor appearance later, which possibly explains why Rocky calls him "Zabo," rather than "a zabo," as if he's a minor monster like the Devil's Bat.
And the "evolution" is basically a "digivolution" on Digimon, the fai being the "digivice" that activates it. Lots of those later on.
Also, I like Telwo's line "That's my name, don't wear it out," and the fact that she has zippers on her cloak and hat.
Episode 3
 A2 - "AUSTIN: That's right, Telwo. Nothing can kill a fai."
In Episode 1, Wise Man says the only thing that can destroy a fai is a mirror. I personally think it's funny that Telwo is totally holding a mirror on J6 on the last Episode, but apparently I decided it was too fast of a victory for Telwo and made it some kind of energy beam out of a... staff? Either way, apparently she was just toying with Austin and playing dumb, because out comes the mirror, and next thing he knows, he apparently died and respawned where the story began.
And what do you know, Brai can talk now! As shown with Gur later, apparently they have to be awake for a page or so before they remember they can talk and announce their attacks as they use them.
Evidently, the skull key on panel G4 had some later significance, because I singled it out. But it is never seen again.
I imagined this new fai as being orange, and the first one being dark red. Only so much can be done with a pencil, though, so your imagination is as good as mine.
Episode 4
Hopefully I won't have to clarify anymore. The deeper sheets are a lot more solid and easier to scan.
I find it hilarious that, more than once in this story, a character will say something like "That could've killed a moluk!" and then two lines down a monster attacks them and they cry "Oh no! It's a moluk!"
I never seemed to realize how weak I appear to have shown Brai to be here. Even in his evolved form, he didn't seem to even scratch the moluk and went down to his lowest form after one hit. I guess it established a form of hierarchy of attacks. The moluk was obviously weak to Gur's wind attack. The whole "egg form" thing by the way? Totally straight from Digimon.
Gur seems to be, at first, the wisest and most majestic of the creatures (just look at panel J2!), but I don't believe this personality lasts long. I do like his "spiral winds" attack though.
Episode 5
 C1 - "AUSTIN: Who's he?" / "ROCKY: A mato." / "AUSTIN: Oh."
Gur's new attack, "Gur Cannon," highly resembles an attack from Monster Rancher by a character named Mochi. It's also just so obvious that the way monsters die in... whatever this world is called... is by exploding. Of course they would. Exploding death is cool.
I think it's sad that the first time Austin attacks there's a drawing error. No arrow shaft with his bow drawn. I like his blind arrow attack though, and I wish I would have left him as an archer (stay tuned).
In other observations of attacks, Panel J1 establishes the running gag of Brai's Thunderlick attack always hitting the opponent in the nose. Lastly, Rocky's horrified face on the last frame is just priceless.
Episode 6
I hope you're not getting annoyed with the constant "random battles," because they basically never stop.
That hydrom is nuts with its Rainbow Ball attack. Instant egg form for Gur after one hit? What I think is really cool though is that the battles are most of the time never easy. They have to try a variety of attacks to finally either blow the enemy into oblivion, or into space, and that makes for a much more interesting story.
Episode 7
 I'm embarassed to say that Panel B2 is a carbon copy of a Calvin & Hobbes joke. There will most likely be more of them.
I think it's cool that Brai can randomly fly sometimes. Most of the time when he does his Whip Flipper attack. Just one of those laws of Anime coolness physics.
And here we meet Fenton! Not sure why only Brai and Gur get the cool made-up names, but oh well! I've always liked his fireballs, which seem to be balls of thin glass with fire inside.
The weird-looking character on H7 is Rocky, in case his horrified expression made him hard to recognize. This "gnasher" who attacks them looks suspiciously like the first character Brai attacks (and kills in one hit) on Episode 1. Why Austin seems to stop using the fai to remove the curses from enemies from now on is a mystery. I guess it's because he has an arsenal of elemental creatures to beat the snot out of them instead. Or, I dunno, maybe the fai has limited power, as is seen on Episode 2.
Episode 8
I really enjoy frames E7-F3. I like how each one has a connection to the previous frame. For example, Rocky is seen with Austin to the side of him, then Gur flying above Rocky, then Brai crawling with Gur in the sky in the background. This was an element of comic book art I seemed to grasp on my own as a kid, and I'm proud of it.
Don't ask me why Brai has to evolve into Zeal just to carry Austin over the moat. He carried him all night long to Rocky in Episode 1, and Gur has been carrying them even farther since he arrived. The moat doesn't even appear to be that wide in the first place.
Episode 9
I like when an enemy's death explosion is so huge that Brai has to put it out with his water breath. And here's another instance of him flying as he hands out "healeaves." Well, more like "swimming" through the air. But still, how does he do it?
As I consider possible reasons for why Fenton shrunk, I share my confusion with him as he asks "What happened?" Because it is never explained. Perhaps Telwo did it.
And is that a cheap attack or what?! Turning Fenton into an oog skull that can instantly turn anything else into oog skulls? Good think Flap comes into play. I saved Gur's evolution for last as an homage to Digimon, when Patamon doesn't evolve into Angemon until the final battle with Devimon. Although, it is a little weird that Telwo says something about a "prophecy" about Flap. Your guess is as good as mine.
And J5? Classic.
Episode 10
Hurray! Nine episodes in and the boss is defeated. What's going to happen on the remaining 43? I'm sure 10-year-old Austin will think of something.
First off, we have the introduction of Cair Snax, which, interestingly enough, can convert evil to magic. A cool concept, although I regret turning Austin into a wizard because he meets a wizard later. The party could have used an archer. Especially since he only used his Blind Arrows twice! At least the gang gets cool defense spells though, which are used later quite a bit.
I like the slot that Austin has to put the fai in, but... what exactly does it do? A "cair" appears to be a small pillared gazebo, not a locked building. But the fai "opens" it somehow.
The way you pronounce "xyz" is "zize," not "ex-why-zee."
Episode 11
Whoa! I forgot Austin gets one more blind arrow in, and when he's in his wizard robe, nonetheless! Wow.
Okay, a few notes here: I regret adding "mana" to the system. I think it's stupid, and I don't see what Rocky means when he says the xyz would have killed them if it had more mana. The thing got wasted by everyone's most powerful attacks!
Also, "patrude"... I think I meant "protrude," but "release" would have been a better term. Either way, I love the double play that the xyz's tornado attack ended up helping out with. I managed to define the "mush"'s strong spot as its cap with the "rapidbiter" (some of these names are just ridiculous), which allowed the tornado to expose its weak underbelly.
Episode 12
I call these "Episodes" because I did a pretty good job (without trying) to add a cliffhanger, punchline, or an "everybody laughs moment" on the last panel of each page.
The lines about food here are from Digimon. Especially the "You're lucky! You get to eat this every day!" It kind of breaks out of the whole "fantasy" setting to have pizza and pretzels and stuff. And what's worse, the food is never mentioned again.
Fenton seems to be the most streetwise of the bunch. He knows his enemies, and he knows where to find them. But, just in case his explanation of Transmog's abilities are confusing (Austin somehow understood it completely), Transmog can switch his body with that of his target. As you will soon see demonstrated.
Episode 13
I hate frame A2. Why couldn't I have just flipped it horizontally?
I like Transmog's true form. His cape makes for some fun-to-draw moments later in the story. Yeah. This first encounter with him turned out lame for him, because his "Ponuma" (don't ask) attack has one flaw: it literally switches bodies with his targets, which allows them to dish it right back if they're not as dumb as rocks.
This is also an awkward moment with Austin and Brai that I don't really get... I guess I was trying to promote bro-friendship, but it ended up being sappy and gay.
And lastly, enter the second party member, Nathan! (My best friend at the time, obviously) He is a warrior type who plays his role well.
The appearance of his first monster, Geo, is heavily based on the Pokémon Snubbull (go ahead, image search it). I find it interesting that the recurring theme of "being based on an element but having different attacks" returns spiratically in Geo's "Tornado attack" to join Brai (water/lightning) and Rocky (earth/energy).
Episode 14
In this episode I inadvertently showed a humorous comparison between Pokémon battles and Digimon battles. Pokémon battles are master-driven ("Sicam, sap attack!") whereas Digimon protect their masters on their own, and this seems to irritate Nathan considerably.
And yes, "Sicam" is from the word "Sycamore." "How about some gratitude?" is a line from Digimon, and
the Twisting Nether comes directly from WarCraft.
I like how Dustin (my other best friend) and Nathan are introduced. Both have encountered Telwo on unlucky occasions, and  are suffering from the effects. The fai is able to save them from both conditions and, as it seems, is the answer to all of the Never-Ending Comic's problems.
If you look close on H2, you can see Dustin's monster's eyes glowing in the snow...
Episode 15
Ah yes, "Rep." Short for "reptile," no doubt. He's one of my favorites though.
Argon is based on Wargreymon from Digimon. At least, his arms are, and perhaps his attack. I like how Nathan's fai floats in the air glowing while he's evolved. It's as if it's channeling his transformation, and I'm not sure whether this is often seen in the comic.
I like this battle with the nergo. Flap knocks its teeth out, Zeal spits a poison bubble down its throat, and the last two finish it off. A pretty epic four-way fai-evolution battle.
And, somewhere in the course of these events, our friends' magical regalia vanishes!
Episode 16
Nathan in A6 looks an awful lot like Calvin in an early Calvin & Hobbes book.
This is where the plot of the story starts to get stupid. The gang obviously has no idea what to do now, even though they have a new nemesis, Transmog, to track down and defeat. Instead the stench of vomit makes them decide to go looking for oog skulls to add to their already incredible power. Come on, seven monsters and three humans who have attacks of their own? And soon to be eight...
Also, F3 is easily the most embarassingly stupid dialog I have ever written.
Episode 17
You know, looking at B2, I don't get why health on the fai is measured in percentage. If a creature wasn't wounded, then there'd be no point in looking at it; on the other hand, if it were wounded, it'd be because you were fighting it with no time to look at the fai anyway. I have no idea why Poko has 60% health.
And yeah! It creates a fai. I'm not sure if that's how all fais are created, but Dustin clearly needed one so his monsters' evolved forms could be revealed.
Check out that Tars' defense. Blowing a snot bubble that deflected Brai's Thunderlick. Yup. Kinda messed up. And apparently Sicam, or rather, Plorm, was not at all good against fighting type monsters, since he got his butt whooped. I don't think that was fair of my 10-year-old self to introduce a cool new evolved monster and let it get wasted. Whatever, kid.
Episode 18
Brai's little grappling... tentacle... is an interesting aspect of him. Not sure where I came up with it.
And here is Manto! The bard monster who is bound to make up some pretty stupid rhymes in the near future.
And the whole 'element' system that takes up most of this episode... I'm not a fan. It added a computer game-like element of weaknesses and strengths to the story that didn't need to be there. I preferred when they didn't know the enemy's "mana" or element and just gave it their all to try and win. Again, it's just like Pokémon, and I think it ruined the fun of N.E.C.
 Episode 19
 The "chaun" in the N.E.C. is based on the crests in Digimon, allowing them to evolve further. I like the visual mechanic I used, which is later.
And not sure how these gigantic monsters keep sneaking up on the gang. It's a wonder how they "appear" at all. Not much else to say about this episode, except that I just barely noticed that Transmog had a beard in the first frame he was introduced, which was never seen afterward.
Episode 20
"Toyblock"? Really? This massive creature who ends up needing a third-form evolved creature to attack him fires out toy blocks? I guess I just started pulling attacks out of a hat or something. And "Psychic" was straight from Pokémon Stadium, from his body movement to the effect.
Okay, so when Zeal evolves further, I really like the fact that the "chaun" was a prism. The rainbow effect obviously signified a different type of evolution. Which we will see in the next episode!
Episode 21
This is the point that the N.E.C. begins to jump the shark, and I'll tell you why. Look at the number of rows. A mere six, as opposed to the first episode, which had ten. And these frames have substantially less content than any of the original ones! In short, it's obvious that by this point I was getting lazy and (perhaps) just wanting to draw as many pages as possible. That also might explain why Zeal has to evolve all the way just to use one kill move and it's over. What happened to the intense battles? It's like when you come upon a boss that's too hard, you just use a cheat code to kill it, and move on.
Episode 22
So Brai gets Magic Breath, which has the power to basically summon anything he wants. Kind of lame, but it adds some funny parts through the remainder of the story. And another food part appears. I think it's funny that Brai summons hamburgers and pizza as his choice, since Austin introduced them to him in Episode 12.
Episode 23
I guess Gur wasn't just using that saying as a simple hyperbole. And wow—Skonk dies, its remains bubble, bubble pops, resulting droplet is corrosive enough to open a gaping chasm.
Episode 24
I think it's cool that I gave a unique appearance to each human character's evolution sequences. Austin holds his out, Dustin tosses his forward, and Nathan holds his in a first person point of view. B1 and B2 are of course unnecessary, but oh well. Probably another Digimon reference.
Episode 25
Enter the latest addition to the group, the adorable Thornhare, who is based on—you guessed it—Garfield! I think that makes nine in all. Ugh. Way too many. And let's give me a hand for my onomatopeia in C1 for how elephants really sound. I actually like this... "Trunckostill" ... and its metal trunk. And its "Paralyzing Waters" attack is not very well-named..
Episode 26
This episode is my attempt to add an emotional side to the N.E.C.. It's your call if it worked or not. I'm not sure why I didn't let Thornhare become more a member of the group before I killed him off. I'm also getting frequently annoyed at all the other monsters just hanging out off-screen all the time. They could have all teamed up to kill that monster in a second, but who knows where they all are right now, not saying a word or anything? I don't think we've even seen Nathan in nine episodes. I guess this is why Pokémon has Pokéballs. Sheer convenience in keeping all the characters on screen at once.
Episode 27
I've always loved Gur's expression on B4.
Another bad rhyme from Manto, and the episode's basically over. And no, Brai is not bringing the Thornhare doll to life. He summoned a rope for it so he can carry it around. In case you were wondering.
Episode 28
Zabo was first seen in Episode 2, and I'm not sure why I decided to include him now. I guess it was to show that he was good now because Austin took away his curse with the fai. B5 doesn't make much sense, but at any rate, he's here to help Brai now. I really like how the Thornhare doll came in handy like that. I'm always looking for ways in my current story attempts to introduce something that comes in handy in a completely unexpected way later. Also, F1 is a touching frame.
Episode 29
I think this is, sadly, the last decent fight there is in the entire series. I like Zabo's style of fighting, as well as their teamwork. But... "Lighting Harpoon"? No idea.
And the last time I read this, I thought Brai did something after being cooled off, but there wasn't really a purpose to it. But heck, it was funny.
Episode 30
 This is perhaps the second-most nonsensical episode in the series. I made it up as I went along, frame by frame. "Dwells" just happened to rhyme with "bells" so I made up a mechanic with them. Even though "Jib" is explained (almost painfully), I still don't know how or why they got there.
Episode 31
The weird storyline of the previous episode doesn't taint the sheer humor and great art of this episode. I love frames C3, F1, G1, and G5. And I just realized, is Manto's instrument that he plays a giant... ear of corn?
Episode 32
While Brai and Dustin were both confused with their strange happenstances, Nathan just decides to rustle up some grub with his evolved monsters. Although they are inexplicably wasteful (E3), this part of the story is well structured and very humorous.
Episode 33
I have no idea what "Urub Attack" is, what it was supposed to do, or where I got the name. 
Episode 34
Aren't fais just useful? Fenton introduces another way of using one—as a map!
Episode 35
The weirdest attack ever, "Osscip," which is of course almost "Picasso" backwards. Guess I just wanted to try a new art style for a few frames. I gotta admit, Gur on H2 makes me laugh.
Episode 36
"Sands of Assembly" seems like an attack Argon is never going to use again.
Episode 37
All I have to say about this one is there are some pretty funny facial expressions here.
Episode 38
The C row made me realize that when I drew these comics I hadn't yet understood the importance of eyebrows.
Episode 39
Way to go, Gur. Because of you, the comic enters the strangest episode ever. I don't get what I understood "Ego" to mean. Apparently, "one's body without the soul" was my definition. And in case you can't figure out the odd dialog between Brai and his evil conscience, I assume what I meant is that because Brai is pure good, he is not influenced by his evil conscience at all. And after Brai magically heals his wounds after what appears to be a 20-second coma, frame F5 makes the most unrealistic statement ever.
Oh, and Austin looks like he has glasses in F4.
Episode 40
A5 - the bottle reads "Tear Acid."
So, all qualms between Brai and Gur mysteriously aside, they head off to the Land of the Dead. C1-3 are almost directly from Kings Quest VI, when you ride a flying Nightmare horse to the Land of the Dead, its mane hair billowing in the wind as the horizon darkens. E4 is one of my favorite pictures of the four elemental guardians. Their absolute horror is pretty funny.
This is the first and last showing of Austin's other archer attack, "Beamerang," which I thought was pretty cool. I still don't know why he couldn't've stayed in his own uniform instead of his wizard robe. Also, I think it's funny how ducklike Gur is becoming lately.
Episode 41
The concept of finding the enemies they killed in reverse order in Hell is a concept I've always wanted to put into a game, most likely Final Quest. It'd be a good chance for the hero to fight them a second time after getting stronger.
I laughed aloud when I saw Brai's solution to the invisible barrier. And while this is a touching reunion, I think it'd be better if Brai and Thornhare had been friends longer than a single battle.
Episode 42
I like how I broke with the tradition of having undead henchmen running the underworld and instead had an orclike character doing it. Brai does a Yoshi face on C4. And hold up... are those clouds and the moon on frames F6 and G1?! I guess the layout of the Land of the Dead is more vague than I thought.
And how bout Thornhare becoming alive? It's as if he has an "anti-soul" that's ripped from his body and destroyed. How does that work?
Episode 43
B2 was another big step towards making the comic dumber and dumber. Besides the stupid health "percentage," the meaningless "mana" stat, and the fact that the name is displayed in its own frame in the first place, now it has a handy little Pokédex entry about the monster. > < The evolution sequence becomes steadily more Digimon-like as well, giving Inferno the chance to show off his abilities for a frame or so before he announces his new form.
Episode 44
Ladies and gentlemen, get ready for the double-length episode "The Feast," the most boring part of the story and blatant example of my agelong obsession with food. And I can't believe that it takes place in the Land of the Dead! The problem with whiteness as the background is that I kept forgetting where my characters were. Manto and Dustin go back to find those same mushrooms that are who knows how many miles back, and there are trees and rivers here.
And yes, apparently Rocky can hock up rocks instead of loogies. And don't even get me started on the names of those fruits.
Episode 45
 Brai's gut in E1 is kind of adorable. And does F4 frighten anyone else? It's like the entire horde of monsters stampeding towards the camera. Anyway. And "Sweet Ice"? I already broke the fourth wall of fantasy with pizza and chips on episode 12. Why didn't I just go with ice cream? I don't know.
I do like how Gur/Transmog gets beaten up at the end. They're starting to understand how Ponuma works, I guess. As for how long Gur's been switcheroo'd like that, I have no idea.
Episode 46
A4 is a close-up of a bat's face, in case you were wondering. Not sure why three of the monsters had to evolve just to fight them, but oh well. It's just a comic. I do like Drako's strategy though. Like I said, Ponuma is getting a bit predictable.
Episode 47
Another weird sequence. Apparently swallowing lightning can let monsters burp out a cloud that draws an arrow pointing toward... evil? And D5 - What? Zabo's still here?!
Episode 48
Nathan gets the next chaun, as is expected. Most unfortunate that he never gets to use it. -_-
There are quite a few weird things in this episode. Kenos are "multi-formed creatures" (???), and we discover another of Dustin's attacks, " 'Seaming' (perhaps I meant "searing"?) Cap," and the Keno's "Super Cross" attack turns enemies into toys. Classic. Or not.
 Episode 49
We now join Fenton and Brai in freefall. It's anyone's guess how he evolved into Zeal without a fai. It's interesting that this keeps happening. That is, that the characters keep getting separated with different members of the group. I think that overall this was a smart move on my 10-year-old part, because it allowed them to develop relationships with each other in different ways and fight together.
Episode 50
I like Nathan's adrenaline capsules. His character was completely based on strength, so it fits. Electric Whip is pretty cool as well.
The prome is...interesting looking... in its first frame, but I like how it looks in G7 and H3. These are also never seen again, but then, we are nearing the .... for lack of a better word, "end" of the comic soon, so most new things aren't.
Episode 51
The prome grew new nostril-horns! A funny end to the episode with Nathan and Geo, but this last joke is the beginning of the worst ending ever. This joke at the end is taken directly from an episode of the Earthworm Jim animated series, and therefore seems misplaced. Not to mention the fact that they're being downright boring again, just sitting around! I guess they've realized that they can never just sit around for too long before something just randomly attacks them. Rocky's face in the last frame echoes my own as we near the end of this comic.
Episode 52: The Grand "Finale"
THE END
A1 - GUR: What's this?
A2: ROCKY: Is that an oorg? 
Sad, isn't it? It's disappointing that I was able to start getting better and better at drawing the facial expressions of my characters, but worse and worse at developing the storyline. Eventually it fizzled out into the last episode you see here.
Diffevolution. I don't like it. It's stupid that Austin somehow knows it exists and "initializes" it. It's stupid that they need to use it to kill an oorg, which is allegedly a common monster. And it's incredibly stupid that the last thing they realize is that an oorg is the key to Diffevolution. How? We will never know. And Diffevolution is just stupid in and of itself. If he wanted a more powerful monster, he could have used his chaun. It would have followed the sequence perfectly. First was Brai, whom Austin met first; this was Rocky's chance, but it was lost forever.
But it is kind of funny that cash and spare change are vacuumed out of the oorg's pockets.

Thank you for reading!
Despite my using this page to mostly bag on my own work, I treasure it. It was as far as I remember immensely fun to draw and write with my friends, it was an excellent expression of my interests at that time in my life, and it was a great accomplishment overall.
As I uploaded this comic over the past month or so, several ideas came to me as to how the N.E.C. could have ended, and maybe, just maybe, someday I'll write the "Lost Chapters" or something. They involve Transmog using his Ponuma attack in a more cunning way, as well as an ancient buried artifact that helps them defeat him...
We'll just have to see. In the meantime, thanks for showing interest in my projects! So long for now!
-Austin

1 comment:

  1. This was so fun to look at! I read all the commentary parts, and it was great remembering the things you used to be into, like Digimon, Calvin and Hobbes, Earthworm Jim, Garfield... You were so dang imaginative! My favorite thing you said was "the most boring part of the story and blatant example of my agelong obsession with food." It really has been a while huh? It just amazes me that you were just a year or two older than Brigham and doing this kind of stuff.

    You're awesome.

    ReplyDelete

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