How do I describe Deathscape? The concept was formed over twenty years ago and has slowly evolved with time. While the core characters have been with me for decades, the dark and dreary atmosphere that you will come to know is a relatively new addition to this saga, which has its roots not in old gods and untold horrors, but a child’s comic and screwball comedy.
I should note that the idea for Deathscape does not have its roots in the traditional “funny animal” or “furry fandom.” Instead, its roots are in a more realistic concept that slowly became darker over time. This is because its primary influence is a hybrid of my two biggest loves as a kid–cheesy, B-movie horror flicks that were so bad that my family didn’t see them as harmful, and a love for writing comedic stories in comic book format. In fact, for a long time I wrote “horror” comics that were rather poorly drawn, but they had little dialog and were done with one “panel” taking up the entire page of a Composition notebook. Admittedly, these comics were usually rather violent and graphic, but this was based on what I saw horror as at the time–cheesy, B-movie shlock with gore and acting so awful that it was funnier than it was scary. Like those horrible movies, the plots were aimless and the scenes weren’t really appropriate for children my age, but no one saw any harm in it because it was so off the wall and, well, funny.
How this didn’t worry my psychiatrists and teachers is beyond me.
I eventually slowed down on this style around 1994, when I began being treated for bipolar disorder. While I am now considered “schizoaffective,” at that point even a mood disorder was rarely diagnosed in children, and thus there weren’t very many effective treatments on the market. As a result I found myself in and out of hospitals and residential treatment facilities. This meant I had long periods of time where I could not see my family, my friends, or my pets. To cope, I began writing a very corny and bad panel comic I titled Batcat, which placed the pets I had at the time–as normal animals–in situations that reminded me of how they really acted.
As I grew older and my hospitalizations became shorter and less frequent, I found myself drawing Batcat instead of my old horror comics. I would eventually take to writing short stories featuring the characters, which were now intelligent and living among people, although still very much four-legged cats. Such stories were a bit more mature, but still comedies, and featured a number of original characters that would slowly be phased out of the plot. Eventually I began writing my first novel featuring the characters. This novel would feature a small portion of Deathscape’s cast, notably Fiona, “Batcat” (who would later be renamed Devon Carter), Roderigo, Yvonne, Princess (which would eventually become her nickname instead), and Pepper. As this novel was written, I would get new pets, which would themselves become characters. By this point, the inspirations for most of the original cast had already passed away.
This novel, which was titled The Submarine, would show a slow transformation into what would become the basis for Deathscape. The first change would be that the characters would wear specially made clothes to avoid “nakedness,” which I felt would stand out in a more mature story. I also felt the need for the characters to be able to interact with the human characters on a more equal level, so I gave them special tools and increased their size so that conversations were less awkward.
At some point during the writing of The Submarine, I dropped the focus on humor. Perhaps this was a reflection on the times, as the writing would overlap with the September 11, 2001 attacks. But part of the reason was that, my love of humor aside, I had always felt the need to write darker, more serious stories, and the slapstick humor that had originally been the focus of The Submarine no longer fit what I had in mind. There was also the fact that I was beginning to work on a second novel alongside it, one that was much darker and meant to be more of a horror story; this novel would be the first major step toward transforming my Batcat stories into what would eventually become Deathscape.
Eventually I gave up on The Submarine entirely, instead choosing only to use the basic outline as part of the saga’s backstory. Originally I tried revising it, but I no longer had the drive to finish the plot, and instead I focused on finishing its sequel. The story I had in mind would undergo major changes, eventually shifting away from Christian-inspired themes to something decidedly more cosmic-horror in nature, and that’s when my writing took off. In this story, several major characters and themes would root themselves, but slowly I began to realize a major problem: with over half my cast based on various pets, the story was shifting away from these characters and instead focusing on its humans. The cats were now a glorified escort mission, and for a while I considered dropping that angle entirely and making them all human, but I couldn’t do it. Instead, I finished the amateurish draft and decided to go to into the market with what I had.
That was a mistake. Through the recommendation of a well-meaning friend, I ended up giving the manuscript to a vanity press, who roped me into a hellish 7 year contract that I could not escape. Faced with the reality that the novel as I had written it would not be going anywhere anytime soon, the idea crossed my mind to reboot it entirely. I began to experiment with giving my feline characters weapons, first based on the technology introduced in The Submarine, and finally I made the concession to give them thumbs. However, I began to feel this wasn’t going far enough, and I eventually placed the story on the back burner, only occasionally returning to it as new ideas came to me.
At some time around 2008, I was browsing an online gaming forum when I came across a poster with an avatar featuring a style I’d never considered. The avatar featured a gray, cartoonish cat oogling over a shady merchant’s inventory. This gave me a remarkable idea for a future story, and soon enough I realized that it also gave me the perfect solution for my novel’s major drawback. Instead of having oversized but mostly normal cat-like characters, I would make them more akin to transhumans, and give them a bipedal stance so that they can fight back on a much more even footing. Thus, the concept of the Hybrid was born.
Over the next seven years, I obsessed over transforming my story into something new. Eventually I got the chance to buy back the rights to the book itself, but by then I was already working on its new concept. The characters with pet-like names were given new, human ones, and the world behind the story was slowly and painstakingly fleshed out. Finally, the transformation was complete–that goofy comic with my pets doing pet antics was now the Dark Fantasy/Cosmic Horror story hybrid known as The Revelation, and the saga as a whole was given a new moniker: Deathscape.