Behind the Story: “Viral” (2-Pager)
This is a 2-page concept for a longer, self-contained story of the same name. As a millennial well-versed in Internet culture and aware of the wonders and horrors therein, I wanted to write a story that would examine the darker side of Internet memes.
More often than not, we get a laugh out of memes. They are, after all, a comedic form of self-examination and scrutiny. They are also an idealistic embodiment of viral socialization among humans. The core essence of a meme is the viral potential of an idea or behavior: the more relatable the meme, the more widely it is spread and the more effective it becomes.
This got me thinking about other kinds of viruses, such as a computer virus. This led to half of the core question my story raises: what if memes could be weaponized like computer viruses? I then did some more thinking and armchair research into other kinds of viruses. This brought me to the idea of humanity as a type of virus; we infect the environment around us and reshape it into something that, more often, is convenient for us and detrimental to nature. We even infect each other with ideas, religion, lifestyles, etc. This idea provided me with the second half of the core question my story raises: what if humanity engineered memes to virally infect one another?
I really liked where this concept was taking me and it made me think about the possibilities such technology posed, such as instantaneous travel, body-sharing, a hive-mind existence, and immortality. While my preference is to tell superhero stories, I wanted this story, while fantastic, to be more mundane. Whoever was going to use and abuse this technology to a horrifying degree had to be a character of somewhat ordinary circumstances, not a mad scientist or an evil genius. I wanted this to be a tragedy.
So I had the core question for the story concept. Now, who would be my tragic protagonist? Who could stand to benefit from this fictional, meme-based immortality but ultimately suffer from it? Someone with an incurable, prohibitive condition. Someone whose liberty was at stake and all they needed was a handshake with the devil to obtain it. It didn’t take too long to come up with Sam, our protagonist: a young woman born with a real-world disorder that could kill her at any moment and robbed her of her freedom.
The longer story will include additional elements and characters that will better flesh out the whole narrative as well as the tragedy. The Untold Worlds anthology project from the r/ComicBookCollabs Reddit page provided me with an opportunity to succinctly summarize the high concept of Viral with a 2-page limit. I collaborated with Jin Lim, who provided the sequential art for the story from my script, and Justin Ruis, who provided lettering and graphic design for the title logo. I provided post-production art for Lim’s pages, which included some corrections and panel enhancements. You can view the original art here. You can also review my pitch packet, which contains the pitch, the script, and my thumbnail sketches for the pages, here.