Reader Guide

Welcome.  If you’re reading this, it means that I’m dead and that the Russians have discovered who has secretly been forwarding their government those indecent Hello Kitty pictures all these years…

…no, wait, that’s a different thing.

Ahem.  If you’re reading this, then either you’re a new reader to Apple Valley, or at least you’re considering it, and would like to know what in the heck is going on in this comic.  It’s a fair question, and all kidding aside I’m going to try and give you a serious and helpful answer. 

The Amazingly SHORT Version of the History:

Back in 1999, on the eve of Y2K, Arthur Castle’s attempt to heal a dying friend went… a little sideways.  Instead of summoning a magical healing golden apple, he summoned The Apple of Discord,  a fruit-shaped God-powered engine of chaos and destruction, and started the apocalypse.  Now, with multiple worlds collapsing into one another, the laws of space and time giving out at random, and the very real “End of The World” ticking ever closer, it’s up Arthur and his friends to repair the damage and save the world… or something like that. 

The Decidedly Longer but More Detailed History:

In order to really understand Apple Valley and it’s somewhat unique story and structure, you have to know a bit about how it started.  Apple Valley was originally a part of a completely random gag-a-day comic called The Apple of Discord, which over time developed an ongoing story with a regular cast of characters.  Eventually these characters started meeting one another, forming lose social networks inside the comic, and branching stories from these interactions formed.  Plot followed, and the rest was history.

Originally, the difference was not pronounced, as the regular cast continued to participate in the “gag-a-day” style humor comics, but as mythology progressed they drifted further and further away from the  joke-a-day format.  As the split started to become obvious (probably Summer of 09), the single comic tried hard to balance both elements, to grow and nurture the ongoing story while at the same time trying to stay true to the original vision.

It failed horribly.

In the Summer of 2010, faced with an oppresive and increasingly complicated navigation system and serious doubts about either comic’s long-term viability, I decided to mothball Apple Valley, believing it to be the weaker of the two elements.  The random joke-a-day comics were kept in AoD’s archive, while any comics infected with storyline and plot were neatly trimmed from the archive.  After receiving numerous complaints from readers that liked the Apple Valley side (but had been up-to-that-point all too silent) I resurrected the comic’s completed archive, featuring plot-specific gag-a-day comics as well as the plot/storyline comics, on a Drunk Duck site where I fully intended to leave the comic to rot… but instead, for reasons that still mystify me, it flowered.

Maybe it was because the DDers were just so happy to have anything other than another damn sprite comic.  Maybe it was because, just like AoD, Apple Valley was much stronger without anything else shoved sideways into it.  Maybe it was because I was finally giving it the serious attention it needed – but for the first time ever, Apple Valley did well.  So well, in fact, that I started doing new comics.  I completed the arc featuring Leaf and Gabbie’s road trip, the only significant “hanging thread” that had been left open aside from the overarcing plot of the entire comic.  During this resurrected run, AV developed enough interest that I decided to give it my full backing, returning it as a real entirely seperate comic, and giving it it’s own devoted update schedule.

Eventually Drunk Duck’s limitations – like the fact that they were down for a week at a time every other month – caught up to us, and the new site (that you’re currentrly looking at) rolled out in early 2011.

In-Universe History

The story is set mostly in Apple Valley, Ohio (which does not exist) and follows a group of friends, enemies, and every color of the rainbow inbetween dealing with a complicated sort of day-to-day life in a town where the End of the World technically already happened and is just taking a while to kick in.  Most of this is revealed in various flashbacks and through dialog, but here’s what happened before the comic started:

In 1993 (15 years before the start of the comic), a young man named Arthur accidentally put his best friend Steve into a coma through repeated forced viewing of the Super Mario Bros movie.  In the years that followed this, Arthur tried many different things to wake Steve from his coma, but most were met with abject failure.

In late 1999, Steve has now been written off as a vegtable by the doctors, and his parents (bankrupt from his constant medical care and facing the expiration of his insurance with the new year) reluctantly agree to “pull the plug”.  Arthur, in a last ditch attempt to undo the wrongs he did, obtains a book of spells with the hopes that he can summon a magical golden apple – like the ones the Gods used to have in ancient mythology that could heal any wound or make the person eating them temporarily a god.  He performs the ritual, but instead of getting ANY golden apple, he somehow winds up summoning The Apple of Discord (which was not one of the magical cure-all apples, but was made of solid magically-charged gold).

Simultaniously, another event occured – sorry, this hasn’t been told in the story yet, you’ll just have to keep reading to find out what actually happened – which caused the tiny hole that Art created to grow into a huge crack running across the entire city.  For a brief period of time, multiple worlds overlap into Apple Valley, and humans see the world as it is actually supposed to be.  When the tides of reality receed, Arthur winds up not in his home world but in a parallel world ruled by elves and magic that appears to have picked up a considerable amount of Earth’s left-over mythology.

In the Elven World, Arthur learns that the two worlds are actually incomplete parts of one larger world – ages ago, wizards had split the world into smaller pieces to try and slow the growth of the human race, as prophecy had fortold that humans would eventually destroy all the races, including themselves.  The Apple of Discord had been used as part of the locking mechanism holding the worlds apart, and the spell Arthur had been tricked into casting was not a simple summoning spell but instead the first piece of the original spell.  By re-casting it, it removed that portion of the spell energy from the seal and infused it into Arthur, also allowing the Apple to escape in the process.  He also learns that eventually there will be a total of 7 different versions of Earth all trying to occupy the same space, and that if this is not done exactly right the end result will be the destruction of all Earths, not just his own.

Back in the “real” world occupied by Humans, the wall between the Human and Elven worlds has started completely failing, and creatures previously considered “fantasy” (elves, goblins, trolls, ethical politicians) start spilling out from their own world into the real one, mainly because we have television and indoor plumbing and stuff like that.

Significant bits of the story happen here, but again have not been told yet, so stay tuned.

As The Apple of Discord

Year 1 – The Early Days

The comic actually begins in the year 2008, where now after a decade of having an open door, residents in both worlds have become at least marginally accustom to their new dimensional neighbors, and some have even taken advantage of the unique situation.  Arthur is living with his girlfriend, Leaf (an elf), and Steve, who has recently awoken from a coma of 15 years and is still adjusting to modern life.  Other characters introduced during this early period are:

  • Dr Hubris – Former professor at the Apple Valley University, now a not-so-mad scientist with questionable ethical standards, also Doyle’s boss
  • Sir Edwin Vivor – The Last Knight of Redshirtia, brave defender of the fantasy realm
  • Doyle – Arthur’s younger brother.  Was plagued with visions his entire life, leading him to believe he was insane until the other realities started to bleed through, revealing that most of his “visions” were actually taking place, albeit not in his own dimension.  Now has the power to duplicate himself due to an accident at the lab.
  • Horn – Doyle’s criminal (or at least mischevious) roommate.  Not from another dimension, however it is revealed he is Canadian.
  • Jenny – Dr. Hubris’ daughter – also has the powers of a Jenny Everywhere, but does not have the cosmic awareness to help her use the powers correctly.  It is hinted strongly throughout that she is a clone.
  • The Archer of Discord – a magical being with powers similar to Jenny Everywhere who seeks out and kills (though often not permenently) people who he deems are deserving, usually characters of other comics that are being too cliche.

Most of the characters are at least nominally aware they’re in a webcomic, however instead of being “webcomic aware” most of them just treat the knowledge by becoming “webcomic annoyed”.  They treat the comic much like one would treat being on a reality show, which (for them) it essentially is.

The Apple of Chaos

There is no ongoing story through most of this period, however October-November ’08 there was 24 part comic done for 24 Hour Comic Day called “The Apple of Chaos” which featured an alternate form of the Apple of Discord, fueled by the raw destructive power of chaos, as well as a persuasive female Apple of Desire with the power to grant wishes.  This story starred Sir Vivor, Jenny (in her first major appearance), and Dr Hubris, and featured a cameo appearance by Gayzilla.

Year 2 – The Not-So-Early Days

During 2009, a few ongoing stories appeared.  First, Arthur, unhappy that he does not appear to be a main character anymore, quits the comic leaving Steve in charge.  Arthur then went on to appear in several other webcomics while “looking for work” before eventually returning late summer-early fall.

New characters during this period were:

  • Fletcher – The human alter-ego of The Archer of Discord.  A friend of Arthur and Steve’s from their school days, he gained his secret identity due to the merging of the worlds.
  • Mark – Fletcher’s dumbass roommate, who brings ruin down upon their heads by renting out their spare room to derivitive webcomic cliches
  • Gabbie – A goblinette from the fantasy realm who has adapted to the human world very quickly
  • As Apple Valley

    Hubris and The Lotus

    The first really real ongoing Apple Valley arc saw Dr Hubris dealing the ramifications of a device he had helped create years before.  During the course of this event, Doyle died (several times over), Jenny disappeared (presumably having fled this dimension or been eaten), and Hubris Labs were destroyed.

    In the fallout from both these events, Hubris is stripped of his government contract, and now has to work at King Copy, which quickly becomes his new base of operations.  Doyle is revealed to have survived, and he (along with his brother) scam several large companies by blaming them for Doyle’s death, allowing them to quickly get rid of the pile of dead Doyle clones and make several million dollars in the process.  Horn is also lost during this time, however he will eventually be back.

    New characters from this time are:

    • Asimov – Originally from 2nd Shift, Az becomes Hubris’ new lab assistant.
    • Ralph – Originally from Exploitation Now, Ralph officially joins the tertiary cast by virtue of sneaking into one of the “character review” comics, then starts appearing in storylines.
    • General Manowar – Hubris’ military liason.  Currently just a floating head in a jar following Hubris and the Lotus, but likely will eventually get better.

    Girls Gone Moderately Wild / Bolled Over

    Early 2010 we saw the cast split up for a pair of ongoing stories – Gabbie, Leaf, and Bimbo went for a Girl’s Night Out (late 2009) which started with heavy drinking and ended with a little light bondage, kidnapping, and eventually a badass fight between Bimbo and a blue man.  Meanwhile, left to their own devices, Arthur and Steve embarked on their own braincell-killing activities (a marathon of Uwe Boll movies) leaving Art in a movie-induced-coma while Steve and Fletcher struggle to find a cure.

    New Characters introduced in these arcs:

    • Mina – A mysterious woman who appears and disappears throughout the comic
    • Zeb – A moron who painted himself blue because of Avatar and believed himself to be an alien.
    • Bimbo – Originally from Exploitation Now, Bimbo officially joins the tertiary cast during the Girls Gone Moderately Wild arc, only to be forgotten and left behind by the cast.

    Band Aide / Hair of the Dog

    While the rest of the cast was busy having adventures, Doyle, Horn, and Hubris (oh, and Fletcher) formed a band as a Scott Pilgrim tribute.  Horn takes the tribute too far, Doyle starts dating Gabbie, and Hubris has inexplicably grown his lab back due to shady (even for him) deals he has made with unknown forces.

    As the rest of the cast slowly assemble, Hubris transforms into a panda (against his will) and an invading army of furries… sorry, “The Fuh’rai”, an agressive clan of ex-humans transformed into beasts by ancient magic invade Apple Valley intent on using it as a beach-head to conquer the multiverse.

    • Erik – After appearing randomly since the beginning of the comic, Erik is finally given some attention and acknowledgement.  Granted, he’s a time-traveling ghost of a viking warlord inhabiting the body of the current Anti-Pope, but still…
    • Terra – A mysterious woman with links to the past who may or may not be dating Horn
    • The Fuh’rai – Once humans, their ancestors made a deal with Loki to become something other than human in order to preven them from being sealed on the Human Earth.  Instead, he made them beast-men, resulting in them being sealed on their own special seperate Earth.  They are the first major group other than the elves/goblins to be explicitly featured as from another Earth.

    A Quantum Leap To The Left

    In the middle of battle, Arthur, Mina, and Erik are teleported to the year 1999 in the days right before the spell is cast that breaks the seal and starts the worlds merging into one another.  With no clue on how they got there and with time running short, they use (read: abuse) their knowledge of the future to try and find a way back… but is all as it appears to be?

    Also featured along witht he current comics are comics depicting the events of the original timeline (never before seen in the comic), done in a retro-noir black-and-white style along the bottom.