Chris “Kirbopher” Niosi, one of the many flash animators who rose to stardom in the 2007-08 Newgrounds age, is an independent animator responsible for the infamous “Brawl Taunts” and “Parody Rangers” series. Today, alongside several big names in independent animation, voice acting, and music, he creates TOME, the Terrain of Magical Expertise, an animated series in which people from all around the globe flock to a virtual landscape built around both combat and social networking.
In the show, we follow five players of the game, Alpha, Kirbopher, Flamegirl, Nylocke, and Gamecrazed, as they both build the bonds of friendship and try to stop a group of hackers from destroying the game they have come to love. Through a glitch in the system, Alpha stumbles upon an item (or entity, rather) known as the “Forbidden Power,” which is exactly what the hackers are trying to find. Through the course of the show, we learn that this “thing,” as Flamegirl put it, has the ability to hurt players in real life. The story takes off from there, recounting the devastation left in the wake of the Forbidden Power.
The canonical plot is interesting enough as it is, but the story of TOME neither begins nor ends there. Listening to the audio commentary of episode one, we discover that TOME is actually a reboot of Niosi’s first flash series from 2004, TvTome Adventures (TTA). One day, several years later, Niosi decided to draw the characters again, and then decided to see how he would redesign them if he were to use them again. After a discussion with Liz “Blizooka” Losey (TOME’s script supervisor), TOME was born.
Each and every episode is well-written and planned. This is to be expected from someone with a reputation like Niosi’s. However, the amount of deliberation and work put into each is stunning. In the episode seven commentary, Niosi and Losey mention that they essentially reworked the episode at least six or seven times, “painstakingly going through every single scene, every single line, every intention and thing that happened.”
Going through a script once or twice seems adequate enough, and, more often than not, scripts are not revised or reworked in any way (much like the first couple of episodes of TOME), but to revise and edit an entire script line by line six times shows a dedication that few content creators have to their work. Niosi truly cares for both the work and audience, wanting to provide the best thing he possibly can. And it shows.
While Niosi is the main author of the show, the way he handles background characters and extras make it almost seem as though everyone is an author to an extent. Starting as a cameo opportunity (webcomics tend to do this, as well), background characters provided by viewers could be added into the show. However, as time went it on, it became much more than to simply show up in an episode; when Niosi launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund season two of TOME, the audience was able to make their mark by both adding to the richness of the world and funding the creation and development of it at the same time. It’s as if they’ve actually created an account in the virtual world of TOME and have forged a community much like the one portrayed in the show.
Niosi stated numerous times that he originally wanted to make TOME an actual game, but since programming wasn’t “his thing,” as he put it in one episode commentary, he stuck with a show. However, when looking at the community surrounding (and within) the Terrain of Magical Expertise, I believe that Niosi has accomplished his original vision of a virtual landscape of both combat and social networking. Fans agree, disagree, and create a vast array of fan fiction and fan art, all tied neatly in the bow that is called TOME.
Looking at my own work, I’ve begun to do a similar thing with creating opportunities for background cameos from other works. Currently, characters from ten different webcomics have appeared in my own work, and my own characters have appeared in at least two others. It may not be much now, but building a community takes time, and a small but tight-knit group is more meaningful and immersive than a sea of faceless masses who ignore each other for the most part.
I’ve been creating comics for eight years, and it has never been as satisfying and fun as when others are involved and we create a dialogue between our works, canonically relating them as blood relatives. In fact, one fellow comic creator and I have formed a cross-dimensional romantic relationship within our now-connected storyworlds that is both hilarious and oddly fitting. My audience, as well as others, such as TOME’s audience, have become creators, and, at least in my eyes, they are just as much authors of the creation as the “creator” themself.