Father Benedict Michael de Monte was not originally one character, but two. And he wasn't in the world of Tall Tales. And he wasn't named Benedict.
The original comic idea that became this project was the joint work of me and Alex, who has been mentioned before. Alex was working on another comic at the time, about a demon hunter who had managed to enslave one demon who was very desperate to not be cast into the Abyss and had agreed to turn on his own kind to save his own hide. The hunter was named Orion, and I know surprisingly little about the plans Alex had for him. I asked, a bit, but it seemed like it was still pretty rough in his mind at the time and he didn't feel the need to ask for my help with it, so it was left at that.
But there was one story arc I had decided to do that would take place at the Devil's Church. This setting will be explained in a one-shot lore story on the narrator blog here after "Land of Goshen" ends, because I plan to still use the setting for something. Anyway, I had decided that demons would be an issue in that arc, but Matteson was reluctant to deal with demons. He wasn't afraid of them, per se, at least not more so than anything else. But he was written at the time with the view that they were far more hassle than they were worth and tended to be vengeful. So Alex suggested a crossover, in which Matteson would call a guy he knew named Orion and Orion would 'lend' him his demon to help with the case. There was hope that both comics would be known by that point in the story and this would be an exciting thing for readers of both comics. To my knowledge, neither comic has ever actually existed in a public form.
It isn't necessary to go into the whole thing here, but Mephitz Omega was basically a prequel to the apocalypse in which the big reveal at the end was that the boy they were protecting was destined to become the Antichrist. Alex did concept art for this story, but we never got far enough with it for him to do much else. It relied on some of the same theology as stories like Left Behind, though I no longer held those views myself. Unlike those stories, it also included werewolves, vampires, and pretty active angels and demons. Father Raphael Centuri was a secondary character in that story, a priest who was actively hunting a specific powerful vampire and would occasionally cross paths with the main cast. He was also a half-demon, the son of a nun and the demon Balthazar as part of a bet that Balthazar won. Raphael had a subplot running in which he was attempting to find the means to kill his demon father in order to help this friend of his, but that's getting pretty well off track. Balthazar had been designed by another friend, Josh Flynn, but I gather he stole a lot of the design from Buffy the Vampire Slayer or one of the other similar shows he was watching at the time. To be fair, Raphael himself showed a fair bit of influence from Nicholas D. Wolfwood, the priest(ish) character in Trigun.
I, uh...I abandoned this story for a number of reasons, guys.
I decided to drop Balthazar, and some of the more anime aspects of the priest (like a literal set of ephemeral armor styled after the armor analogy in Ephesians 6:10-18), and his kind of ridiculous name, and a number of other things. I took what was left, and rebuilt it as Benedict. As you can probably tell from the story, there's still something inhuman about Benedict, but that will be explained in time. He also has a similar job, as an inquisitor, though he tends to deal much less with vampires.
I actually really like Benedict a lot more than I liked Raphael, in the end. I think he works better, he's in a world that I enjoy more, and the stuff I liked about him gets to be explored more. When I set out to make him a recurring character, I found myself developing a whole story he was doing alongside Matteson, and ended up deciding that he needed his own space to really get into that. So he went from one character who would make a cameo appearance and another who would pop in rarely, to one of the core storytellers of this project. And I'm excited to see if you all end up loving him as much as I do.
Bonus: Below the cut are Alex's designs for other characters in Mephitz Omega. I can't imagine another post where these people would come up, as none of this specific lot are being brought over to Tall Tales. If you like Alex's over-decade-old work, you should really check out his current stuff. I'm pretty sure he takes commissions. I got that link from him after we reconnected about a year ago. Note that I did all the coloring here, on my computer (which was a limited affair back then), and that I'm colorblind.
Tall Tales began with a single scene.
I took a vacation to Chicago during the last week of October, 2004, and my flight home was scheduled for election day. I was visiting a friend, named Brandon, who I had met through an IRC tabletop campaign based on the World of Darkness. We had met in person before, and when I was looking for somewhere to go to kill a week he offered to let me stay at his place and invited me to attend the Halloween party he and his roommates were planning.
The events of that week will be addressed on this blog in more detail another time, because there are a number of aspects of my trip that found their way into one story arc of Tall Tales, specifically the Matteson story arc "Born of Water," which will be the first one covered by his blog when it releases...soon. In the meantime, however, I wanted to talk about how this whole thing started, and I mostly only need you to know that that trip happened, weird things happened on that trip, and everything you see here began about a month later while I was thinking about it.
The scene that introduced me to Tall Tales was not a real event that happened during that trip, and it isn't even in the story anymore. But in thinking about other things that did happen, and some conversations that we had, I ended up daydreaming later and imagined a scene with a guy, about my age, helping some druids and witches in a ritual to exorcise the apartment I had been visiting. That was it; a brief snapshot of a single event in the lives of these characters. I liked the scene, though, so I started asking myself who these people were, why they were there, and what they were trying to exorcise.
That guy, I came to understand, was named John Matteson. As I thought more about him, I ended up developing a little story about a certain period of his life, and jotting down notes about the characters for that story and the general idea of what was happening. As soon as I had a rough idea of a beginning, ending, and overarching theme, I went to a friend of mine named Alex Portal and pitched the idea of making a webcomic. This would have been January, maybe February 2005.
I'll talk more about that webcomic in another post, but the reason that scene didn't last was because, ultimately, the story I developed didn't need it. In its original form, as that first webcomic, the story actually took place about twenty years after that scene. The scene itself was preserved as a possible flashback, but we never really decided whether or not we were going to do that. I eventually changed the model of the story to be two parallel periods in Matteson's life, about twenty years apart, and the scene was going to make a comeback until I realized that in order for the overall story to work, that scene had to be changed. By the time those changes were settled, the scene was scrapped entirely.
But I can still imagine it just fine, or at least as well as I mentally view anything; Matteson standing next to the fire, his back to me, smoking a cigarette and listening as his newly-found friends performed their ceremony, only really there because they had asked him to be because he was somehow connected to what they were exorcising. With that single snapshot, a character was created that would haunt my dreams and projects for the next fourteen years, until I finally decided it was time to let everyone else see him.
As I was trying to work out some more details about the story, I came across "The Stable Song" by Gregory Alan Isakov, which I have included in this post. Feel free to take a listen. The song evoked something in me, and I latched onto it immediately. As I learned the lyrics, I found myself imagining situations that would suit the song. I considered the idea of doing a short story called "The Stable Song" and directly translating the story to the world of Tall Tales, if I could secure permission from Isakov. I never actually reached out to him, I don't know how I would have even done that, but as I was thinking through what that would even look like I began to see some ways to fill holes in the plot I had been working on for Joanna.
The story I originally developed based on the lyrics and feel of the song were heavily adapted. Most parts were scrapped entirely. Some were changed so that the general imagery still worked, but it was absolutely not the same details. One detail that remained fairly well intact was the line "ring out those ghosts on the Ohio" which became a silver bell, etched with strange markings, that disturbed a river spirit from its slumber. The end result is a story that doesn't really quite fit with the song, but I think the song's influence can still be felt. They are closely related in my mind, now. I can imagine scenes of Joanna and Aaboukingon when I hear the song, I can hear the song in my head when I'm writing the story. Listen, and read, and see if you can find some of the same connections.
What is this?
Worldbuilding Wednesdays is a real-world blog, written by Tim McLaughlin, that gives a little peek behind the curtain of Tall Tales. That includes the process of creating the story and world, influences, world rules, and even the occasional story.