I had another one of my unexpected brainstorms yesterday that led me to consider a massive shake-up to Forever 16. The so-called "gimmick" of the strip is spelled out right there in the title - it's a floating timeline, so no matter what year I set a story in, the main characters are always the same age. Doesn't matter if it's 1990 or 2013, they stay 16 forever.
But see, here's the thing - my characters stay the same age, and I keep getting older. In light of my 26th birthday last month, and all the unpleasant emotional grapples that come from being 20-something, single, and underemployed, I find myself having a harder and harder time identifying with high school characters. I still want to write for Joel and Michelle and Aaron, but I feel like I've burned myself out on story ideas for teenagers.
So I got the idea to pull a timeskip. I thought of aging everybody up five years to see how they handle early adulthood. I redesigned everyone ever-so-slightly to make them look like young adults - a little bit taller, slightly smaller facial features to make them look less childish, and so on. Obviously, with their high school years behind them, everyone has to find some source of gainful employment or higher education, so here's what I've come up with:
- Joel (age 21) hosts his own video-based movie review website, in the vein of That Guy With the Glasses or the Agony Booth. He doesn't make quite enough money to strike out on his own, though, so he's still living with his parents.
- Michelle (21) is still dating Joel, as well as plugging away at earning her degree in Computer Science at the University of Minnesota. She designed Joel's website, and to earn extra money, she works in the Walmart electronics department on weekends.
- Aaron (21) is attempting to rocket Westworld to superstardom, despite the fact that the band still isn't very well-known outside the Twin City area. He works at a record store and plugs the band every chance he gets. He's also still chronically dateless, though he does get lucky every once in a while.
- Steve (21) works at a comic book shop, where he sells his indie Hammerhead comics from the counter. He also contributes to Joel's website.
- Jocelyn (21) is an apprentice at a tattoo parlor. She and Steve are living together in an apartment in St. Paul.
- Kendra (21) is taking art classes at the College of Visual Arts in St. Paul and supports herself through DeviantArt commissions.
- Lindsay (22) is still mooching off her wealthy parents, having never worked a day in her life and trying to get famous by auditioning for reality shows.
- Abby (18) received a scholarship at National American University in Minnetonka, going for a Bachelor of Science degree, and she's much more social and self-confident than she was in high school.
Other characters, like Katy, Ashleigh, Vince, etc., I'm still figuring out what they'd be up to. I'd also be dropping a few characters - Principal Mulroney, obviously, would no longer be Steve's primary motivation for mischief. Frieda would be gone as well, probably having gone to another college elsewhere in the country. And as much as I'm sure it pains some people, I don't know if I'd be bringing back Derek and Shawn either. (I've had an astonishingly low amount of ideas for them.) And of course, the name of the strip can't be "Forever 16" if they're not 16 anymore. I was thinking of calling it "Underemployed", but I'm not terribly gung-ho on that yet. (As I've said before, titles are hard.)
So clearly, this is a big change. But ultimately, the spirit of the strip would remain more or less the same - snarky jabs at pop culture and current events. It just tackles these things through the eyes of characters that are a little more grown up. Before I invest a lot of time and effort into reworking my comic, I'd like to get people's opinion. What would you think of seeing Joel and friends as up-and-coming young adults?
EDIT: To clarify, this isn't a replacement for Forever 16. It's more like a spinoff. I still have tons of ideas for Forever 16 that I've had in mind for three or four years and haven't put down on paper yet, but coming up with new ones was proving to be difficult.