GIANTOPOLIS is a bustling metropolis of millions. Just the sort of place that a young man like York (John F) would come to make his fortune. Yes, he's decided to quit his day job in order to pursue his true passion: supervillainy. If only his ingenious inventions would stop blowing up in his face at inopportune times...
His luck changes when he teams up with childhood friend and mad scientist Xander (John L). Going by the oh-so-generic pseudonyms of John and John, the duo find that their wacky gadgets and plots of mind control are working much better than they'd bargained for. Suddenly, they're targets for every up-and-coming villain and hero in Giantopolis, meeting a cast of characters so strange that they could have crawled out of the songs of.... some other band.
A story inspired by repeated watchings of Birdhouse and a healthy love for cheesy action/scifi tropes.
Xander (code name: John X)
Mad scientist with a flair for the dramatic. Classically trained in the sciences, he dropped out of college, invented his own school of mathematics, and crafted strange but patently useless machines in his basement lab until York found him. The only downside to working on the bleeding edge of the scientific method is that his devices are wildly unpredictable, and when they go wrong, even he doesn't know why. Luckily, what Xander's careful calculations can't fix, York's percussive maintenance usually can.
With a paranoid streak as wide as his curious streak, he prefers to lay low when it comes to public acts of evil. He tries to keep as healthy of a work-life balance as possible for a busy supervillain, and "John" can sometimes be seen reading at a local coffeeshop between long hours of nefarious doings in the lab.
York (code name: John Y)
Gadgeteer genius with an even worse flair for the dramatic. He has a knack for reverse-engineering and hotwiring anything he can get his hands on, and could probably MacGyver his way out of Alcatraz with a toaster, screwdriver, and roll of Scotch tape. He thinks best on his feet, which is a lucky thing: a tendency to not do the math until AFTER he's bolted everything together tends to blow up in his face, literally. With Xander looking over his shoulder to make sure he's "insulated the wires" and "turned it off before he plugs it in" and other small details, his success rate is much higher. Hey, a short sharp shock gives you that hair-on-end inventor look that all the ladies love.
His ambitious rise into the world of villainy has made "John" a minor celebrity of the "people screaming in alarm when you walk down the street" variety, but it's a small price to pay for a job as cool as his. He has BIG plans in store for Giantopolis.... as soon as he works out what they are.
Amateur vigilante with a can-do attitude and homemade wingsuit. She appreciates the guys' DIY approach to word domination, even if her heroic duty is supposed to be to stop them. She's a force to be reckoned with: her wingsuit packs a parachute, several grappling hooks, grippy magnetic gloves and boots, shock absorbers, heelies, and a taser, and it's always getting upgrades. Truly, no job could be more perfect for her theatric sense of style and unwavering moral compass.
The Deranged Millionare
A mad millionaire who will stop at nothing to thwart our villains. They say he legally changed his first name to "Deranged" and his last name to "Millionaire" when he first made it big. His one true love is his money, but he insists that his actions are for the good of Giantopolis. People tend to believe him, perhaps because of his charm and respectable good looks, but perhaps because he usually doesn't punctuate these declarations with evil cackling. What a double standard.
The BoCoBoMo-bile (Boat of Car of Bird of Moth-mobile)
The Johns' primary method of transportation. It was originally a boat, but with every new upgrade, this super-tricked-out literally-all-terrain vehicle gets harder to identify (and the acronym harder to say).
They look a bit like smartwatches, probably because they used to be one before John Y gutted them to retrofit them with holographic projectors, encryption systems, and enough of John X's strange microchips that they can probably talk to aliens now. But as is traditional, they all ring back to a simple rotary phone in the secret lab.
A helpful and (mostly) nonlethal multipurpose weapon for our protagonists. Originally a John Y project, he's refined it with X's help to pack with goo cartridges with a variety of effects: quick-hardening glue, smelly slime, slippery nanocoatings, acid, and strange psychedelic concoctions of John X's creation.
Mind Control Spex
The glasses themselves don't do the mind controlling. They just pipe in commands through tiny speakers and, like blinkers, keep the minions calm in their hypnotic trance. The oversized eyes printed on the front are just for dramatic effect.
Some sketches which correspond to a storyline will be also be listed next to their story.
Click on an image to fit it to fullscreen; click anywhere else to escape.
There be spoilers herein, but spoilers for something that will never be made, so it doesn't actually matter.
1. No One Knows My Plan
York is getting desperate. He's a missed payment away from eviction and his nighttime escapades as minor villain The White Mask are more dangerous than profitable (his inventions keep on blowing up, shorting out, or catching fire in the middle of a dangerous stunt). So he tracks down the secret basement lab of his old childhood friend, Xander, and proposes a partnership.
Xander is impressed that York got past his security systems, and York manages to persuade him to join forces (not with his pretty speech, but with a promise of an endless research budget). They scheme up a heist for a trial run of their team.
Their target is simple: a small yacht out in the bay, ideal for future modification into a boat-of-carmobile. But first—to steal it.
The boat's passengers are amused and confused when a smartly-dressed and bespectacled young man pulls up alongside in a rowboat, pulls out a tiny and clearly homemade tazergun, and politely informs them to surrender, as they are being boarded. There's a good deal of laughter... until York invites them to turn around and see that Xander has snuck onboard during their distraction and now holds them at the wrong end of a scary-looking slime-gun.
Once the passengers are loaded at goo-gun-point into the rickety rowboat, our heroes (or should we say our villains?) speed off triumphantly. Back in the rowboat, the yacht's former cap'm swears revenge.
2. I'll Sink Giantopolis
X and Y pick an abandoned (burn-smell) factory as their secret base, but need funds and infamy. So they plant strange devices in the seafloor and York hijacks the airwaves under the name John Y, announcing that if the city doesn't pay up, they, "John and John", will plunge the city beneath the waves.
As floodwaters rise, things begin to go wrong. For one thing, the citizens rich enough to pay the ransom are more than happy to wait it out in their yachts and penthouses. For another, the water is rising faster and faster and they can't control it anymore. While the city desperately tries to scrape up funds in time and John Y desperately tries to maintain a smug public face, they must race against the clock to foil their own plan.
Going down in a submersible, York finds that someone is sabotaging their city-sinking apparatus: a strange underwater woman who has her own silent agenda for wanting the city flooded. As Xander dons scuba gear to assist, York destroys their devices but damages the sub in the process. Xander has to rescue him from the flooded sub and get him to the surface even as the underwater woman attempts to drag both of them to the bottom.
Surfacing, they still must outrun the cops, get to the ransom rendezvous to retrieve it, and announce that the city is saved as smugly and un-exhaustedly as they can. It's a triumph, but a difficult and guilty one for all the damage caused in the process. X and Y conclude that if they're going to continue, they're going to need help.
3. The Bells are Ringing
Late at night, strange music fills the streets of Giantopolis, compelling sleeping figures to rise and follow its source: a lone figure on a bike with a boombox, John X, zipping through town and leading them like the pied piper back to their lair. Yes, X and Y have been working on MIND CONTROL through MUSIC, an old project of York's that Xander has latched onto with enthusiasm.
Outfitted with matching glasses to block out bright lights or familiar faces that could break the mind control, X and Y now have their own army of minions. However, actually *maintaining* healthy and functional henchmen turns out to be quite a chore, and Xander keeps vanishing back into his lab to conduct more unspeakable experiments with synths or saxophones, leaving York to the job of babysitting.
It's a lot of work, and it's running York ragged keeping everyone fed, clothed, and rested, let alone useful to their empire of evil. On top of it all, their demo tapes keep being sent back by prospective distributors who claim their sound is either "too quirky" or "leaves the listener with a sense of existential doom" or some other such nonsense. It takes less than 72 hours for York to break down, hand every minion a tape to share with their friends, and shoo them all out the door, begging them to please go home.
Leaving the lair later, York spots a clump of people hanging around on the factory's front step and asks them why they never went home. As it turns out, their midnight musical raids picked up a good number of homeless people off the streets who have no better place to go. So York invites them into paid employment at X and Y Evil Industries (mind control entirely optional) to help with the work of upkeep on the lair and building secret tunnels.
Of course, the tapes are still out there, and the effects of the mind control are insidious. You never know when you'll be in trouble and it'll be useful to ring a bell and suddenly have a fraction of the crowd obeying your every command...
4. My Evil Twin
Xander's getting paranoid. With their new helpers, so many people are coming in and out of their lair that he's decided to build a massive facial-recognition security system around their base to tranquilize and remove unauthorized tresspassers. More bizzarely, he's creating animatronic doubles of himself who wander around the base on timers, doing incomprehensible tasks and answering questions tersely (so really, much like the original Xander).
York is not a fan. He's turned down the offer to have his own robot duplicates, and keeps losing track of which is the real Xander. He laughs it all off as unnecessary paranoia only to step outside and immediately be knocked unconscious and dragged off by *something*... which then merrily enters the base in his place, looking exactly like him.
Not-York explores the base as discreetly as possible, but worried by how Xander seems to be everywhere at once. After careful observation, he realizes that they're fakes and uncovers the blueprints for the duo's next project: a massive laser. He's about to steal it when Xander walks in flanked by robot doubles and confronts him, suspicious. In the ensuing scuffle for the blueprints, "Xander" is injured. He is neither the original Xander nor a robot double, but a SECOND shapeshifter trying to infiltrate their base... and, as it turns out, the long-lost brother of the shapeshifter who is impersonating York. A tearful reunion ensues.
The ACTUAL York and Xander then arrive, confused and a little worse for the wear, and a grand chaotic battle ensues, every man against himself. When the shapeshifters are injured enough that they can no longer hold their disguise, the security system kicks in and expels the intruders. They swear revenge, but X and Y aren't concerned. They've heard that one plenty of times before.
5. Birdhouse In Your Soul
John Y is pitching their next threat to the city (to mount a massive laser high up and use it to burn every penthouse suite and CEO headquarters in town) from a suitably dramatic perch atop a suspension bridge when he gets a surprise: someone else has climbed up to challenge him. It's The Robin, amateur agent of justice with an impressive homemade wingsuit. They exchange witty repartee, York jumps off the bridge and onto the waiting Boat of Car of Bird-mobile (it can fly now) and tells Xander to floor it, and a chase ensues.
They get away, but this stunt gets Robin recruited by a newly-formed League of Heroes, a loose team financially backed by Giantopolis' disgruntled upper crust. The League includes two familiar shapeshifters, an angry Cap'm, a rogue hotel detective, and even the legendary Particle Man, out of retirement to fight the growing villainous menace of the Johns.
Meanwhile, York is positively smitten with his first heroic "nemesis". Main plot abandoned, he convinces Xander to pull dangerous stunts like attatching fireworks and a giant robot arm to the BoCoBmobile and driving it through the city, only to run off so he can duel The Robin one-on-one when the League arrives. These hero vs. villain battles cause lots of destruction, which of course is blamed on our villains, no matter who perpetrated it.
Robin notices John Y's attention, and hatches a plan to minimize damage: she can talk him into inviting her to the lair, she proposes, disable their laser and steal crucial information. The other League members are disappointed that this solution doesn't involve punching or explosions, but encourage her to try.
It works like a charm. She simply knocks on the front door and John Y welcomes her in like a gentleman. They have a nice date and despite John X watching her like a hawk, manages to get everything she needs by the time she leaves (plus York's number).
The League is delighted. They can't wait to destroy the Johns once and for all, to restore peace to the city. But Robin is having second thoughts. Though the Johns are the "bad guys", she argues, they're not BAD guys. They're a lot like the superheroes, really: melodramatic, overpowered, and trying to change the world. When she draws this comparison, things get ugly. She decides not to give the League the information and instead flees, calling John Y for backup.
X and Y find Robin just as the League does, starting a fight that leaves John Y and Robin trapped under a failing forcefield beneath a collapsing building. Robin calls for help from the League and York calls for help from Xander, and Robin apologizes for taking advantage of him. It's Xander who actually saves them. The arm on the BoCoBmobile finally comes in handy to get them out in the nick of time.
Disillusioned with the League of Superheroes for being willing to leave her and York to die if it meant a victory against "evil", she accepts X and Y's offer of a room at the Lair. With that, The Robin becomes part of their team.
When John X vanishes into his lab and comes out a week later announcing he's almost unlocked the secret to time travel, York doesn't take it too seriously. He's got more urgent problems: Robin has been noticing signs of mysterious intruders, impossible-to-catch saboteurs who seem to know the base inside and out and keep vanishing into thin air. But then a disastrous test of Xander's time-machine prototype goes horribly wrong, sending Robin to who-knows-when.
York is furious. He's even more furious when the mysterious intruders attempt to destroy the erratic time machine, and when caught, reveal themselves to be York and Xander from the FUTURE... the horrible, dystopic future. They warn York that the time machine, if completed, will have horrible consequences, and that even though he searches for the rest of his life, he never finds Robin again.
York refuses to listen. Desperate, he uses their future-selves' working time device to go back to an hour before Robin's disappearance, hoping to smash the prototype before things go wrong. Future-York has to hold him back, explaining that if he uses the time machine to break an earlier version of the time machine, the resulting paradox will split the timeline, trapping him in the worse version. Heartbroken but refusing to give up, York tries one last thing: he tosses the working time device into the portal at the moment it swallows Robin.
It works. Stranded in the Cretaceous period with the time device, she figures out how to use it and returns safely to the present. Finally, York and Xander (somewhat sadly, on Xander's part) agree to the destruction of the time machine prototype. Its destruction splits the timeline, freeing them from the threat of the worst-case future. But the story isn't completely over for bad-future-York: now that he knows when in time Robin got lost, he can go back in his own timeline and finally, after all these years, rescue her.
~~ Specific plots for issues 7-10 still in progress and subject to major change and/or reordering ~~
7. Destination Moon
Caught in a wacky technological arms race with the League of Superheroes, Xander insists that the secret weapon that will allow them to prevail is moon dust. But first... to actually obtain some. And yes, they COULD send up an unmanned probe, but neither Xander, York, nor Robin want to pass up this chance of a lifetime while they're at it.
8. The Deranged Millionaire
After the old mayor of Giantopolis quits from frustration at the chaos caused by X and Y, The Deranged Milionaire announces that he will be running for the position. One of the positions of his platform: imprisoning all former brainwashed minions until the last traces of the mind control can be scrubbed from their brains for good, all for the "safety of the city". York is furious, and after a short and disastrous stint in politics, decides he would prefer to battle this out on the field of giant robots rather than the political arena. But this Millionaire isn't "Deranged" for nothing. They'll get their robot fight. And not everyone will walk away in one piece afterwards.
9. The Shadow Government
Presumed dead after their catastrophic battle with the Deranged Millionaire, X and Y are laying low. But as they try to stay a step ahead of the Millionaire's spies, they begin to wonder: who are the strange shadow benefactors who seem to be looking out for them?
10. The Biggest One
The X and Y universe welcomes heroes and side villains from all over TMBGdom to challenge the Johns!
In the streets of Giantopolis, you might also encounter...
Song: Doctor Worm
Worm is a determined but largely ineffectual cartoon villain with a specialization in technology and malware. He doesn't ACTUALLY have a doctorate, which is perhaps why his constant impressive-sounding schemes backfire so often. But there's always the chance that one day he'll figure it out, so every IT person in Giantopolis had better beware.
Song: Birdhouse In Your Soul
Canary is a spunky 11-year-old superhero wannabe and the grandchild of a legendary former villain known only as The Lighthouse. After a childhood of being experimented on to try to replicate their powers (flying, bioluminescence) they decide to run away to become a hero. They decide to thwart X and Y as their first act to prove themselves, but mostly end up endearing themselves to Robin and the bemused Johns.
Song: Kiss Me, Son of God
Sid Sparrow is an illusionist and popular late-night televangelist of his own non-denominational doctrine of brotherly love. Members of "Sparrow's Family", as he calls them, insist that he really is just a gentle, kind man; hardly a cult leader. Besides, the support and companionship the Family offers is so genuine that members barely even mind or notice their bank accounts being bled dry....
Edu (civilian name David Andrews, superpower audiokinesis) and Juno (civilian name Jay Slick, superpower chronokinesis) are heroes in neighboring Nova City, but are sometimes called in as backup by the Giantopolis League. Juno is actually on casual speaking terms with the Johns, having come to them for technological help before.
(If you want to participate but don't know where to start, the "canon" League of Superheroes characters Particle Man, the Hotel Detective, and the Too Tall Girl are all almost entirely undeveloped and I'd welcome your take on them. Or pick a song nobody else has yet and have fun!)
Can you believe that a story that still doesn't exist has fanart already? It does! (If you draw something, I'd love to see it.) Mouseover photos for artist credit.
(By Eddie "AllTimeWhat"; inspired by My Evil Twin issue, audio from Monster Factory)
(by Carmen "planiack-arts", audio from Futurama)
One day I thought "what if everythinsg was the same, but X and Y were women?" and drew it, intending it to just be a margin doodle. UNFORTUNATELY, I loved this so much that I just kept drawing them. It's still just a side idea, and I don't like how much it digresses from the recognizability of the original concept, but I'm just so attatched to them now that I'm tempted to make it work.
Update: I made a short 5-page comic featuring York and Robin as part of this AU, and you can read it here.