Stephen’s Wacky Maze was a concept I had at the age of ten that practically jump started everything I’ve ever done. I had no idea that this silly little drawing would be the catalyst that created an entire universe of stories. The original piece was drawn in the notebook of My Book of Drawings on page 13 which was noted on the cover. As I began to create additions to the series, I eventually decided to remove the original piece from the notebook and place it in a new binder along with the new additions.
When I think back on it, I’m not entirely sure what the inspiration was behind Stephen’s Wacky Maze. Obvious influences like video games are apparent with the use of warps and treasures. But why a maze? I would also assume video games to be somewhat of an influence there as well because they were a big part of my life at the time, and plenty of drawings I did at the time suggest as much.
The name itself I also a bit of a mystery. At that age, I’m sure I thought I was being clever. Over the years, I became embarrassed by it only to turn around and embrace and even defend it. This is where it began and there’s no shame in that. In part 3, I added a panel at the end of the game that showed a character that was meant to represent me. He had overcome the maze and its subsequent boss and was looking forward to a bright new day. Stephen was not meant to be me necessarily, but a character I wished I could be. I never found it to be a vanity project but escapism, to envision myself in a more interesting world with fascinating people taking part in amazing adventures.
It wasn’t only myself that I inserted into these adventures. By the sixth entry, I had introduced Jamin who was my best friend at the time. His introduction came after the character of Stephen was captured. How he knew to come after Stephen is unknown. Other friends made cameos as did my own family. It was part of the wish fulfillment to be this kid.
After adding a boss fight and a comic panel, the ideas began to grow. Certain boss designs would become staples. Each subsequent entry I did had minor story panels to lead into the next entry. By entry 7, you could see the series slowly evolving into a comic. By entry 11, an opening prologue was added to give some gravity to the story at hand. The boss featured at the end was intended to be the Big Boss and was named as such. He was a powerful demon who had been creating the mazes, the monsters… everything.
At the end of 11, entry 12 kicked things off with a monster known as a Tasdevil (I know, not very original) breeding an army of Tasdevil variants. By the end, all were obliterated but one. This infant monster was imbued with magic that it used to revive something yet to be revealed.
Entry 13 saw the infant morphed into some bastardized version of the Big Boss, only to reveal it had revived the Big Boss but in a grotesque zombie form. Stephen attempted to put a lid on him for good. Little did he know other forces were at work.
In entry 14 and 15, we are introduced to two characters who are essentially the Grim Reaper and the Devil. It seems they were pulling the strings. Why? Because for a ten-year-old kid, they personified evil, and I needed the evilest characters EVER! While I don’t think it was specifically started, Stephen was meant to be the “chosen one.” You know that old trope. Again, for a kid, it sounded good at the time. By the end of 15, I wasn’t sure if I would do another. Where do you go after defeating the worst evil? Make an even worse evil.
Entry 16 is where things got deep. I have always been fascinated with dark versions of good characters. I understand the concept is contrived, but in my opinion when it’s done well it can be fascinating. Since ideas from Zelda II were constantly sources of inspiration, Shadow was conceived to be the next big threat. While his origins were simple and uninspiring, I wanted to make him feel like a true threat. So much so that I had Stephen get beaten to near death by Shadow. Luckily Jamin was able to help Stephen from being killed and eventually the day was won.
This entry also wound up being the longest of the series. It was at this point I was starting to get a desire to tell stories. The concept went beyond anything I had considered before and upon finishing it, I wasn’t sure where to go from here. Eventually, the idea to end the series came about since there were only so many ways to draw a maze and I really didn’t know where to go from here. So, entry 17 was hastily put together to end it all. While I don’t hate 17, I wish I had stopped at 16 since it felt like a proper finale.
After I decided to end Stephen’s Wacky Maze, I still wanted to utilize Stephen as a character in some way but wasn’t quite sure how. To test the waters of straight storytelling minus the mazes, I chose to write a continuation to Stephen’s Wacky Maze called Stephen’s Weird Adventure that would be narrative driven. The story tries to explain how this evil kept coming back, but it’s ridiculous and not one of my favorite works. But it was a first.
After this story, Stephen’s story followed up with the Battles at Fort Destruction which was more wish fulfillment. There was a spot near my home in a creek that I dubbed Fort Destruction. It was my hideaway. The idea of bad guys trying to infiltrate the area for a nefarious purpose was the basis. That reason was buried treasure. Not the most original idea but effective enough.
The series was written like a diary mixed with a comic book which was an idea I found to be an interesting narrative device. I only wrote six episodes of it since there wasn’t much I could do with the concept. That said, it did introduce several characters and ideas that would be utilized later. In fact, it was here that I first considered the idea of a crossover. Another character I had been developing at the time was called Robo Rabbit. He and Stephen did not exist in the same world, but what if they could meet? It blew my mind at the time and I made it happen.
That crossover eventually opened the door to Stephen’s next series, the Destructors. However, a year after that series, I thought it might be fun to revisit Stephen’s Wacky Maze with Stephen now being a full-fledged superhero. Remembering the hero of legend, the people of this land sent a beacon to summon him back to fight back the returning evil. He followed the call and went to rescue this world. The story did nothing more than return the character to his roots. Although I wish I had done more with the idea than what I did.
That story pretty much closed the door on that chapter of Stephen’s life. The character, not me. From there, the focus remained on him operating a team of heroes in Los Angeles. Why L.A.? Because no other heroes seemed to be out that way. Some time after that story, I had thought about the story through another lens and envisioned it as a film. I wrote and drew two “films” based on the original ideas and even incorporated new ones. The idea for a third existed but I never completed it.
After introducing Stephen’s son and great-grandson, I began wondering about his grandson. Somehow, he got lost in the shuffle, so I began thinking about what adventures he could have. Seeing how the other two were adjacent to the Destructors, I thought it could be fun to develop a story where Stephen’s grandson gets caught up in a new adventure in Wackyland. New enemies, new allies, new hero. While I drew numerous designs and promo pieces for Stephen’s Wacky Maze series II, I never developed it fully. At some point, I even reconsidering writing it as a graphic novel. I still think the idea would have been fun.
Over time, all the plans I had for these characters and this universe I built fell by the wayside. I had no time to do the things I wanted to do with them. Some years back, I began looking back on these characters and the stories I wrote for them. These were stories written by a kid who didn’t quite have the right skills to do right by these creations. So, I began thinking about a reboot. Based on the ideas I had, how could I tell the best possible version of that story now? I drew several sketches trying to redesign the characters into something more interesting. I wrote a 12-episode outline that fleshed out the villains, added some new characters and even some twists into the mix. Unfortunately, the outline is as far as I’ve gotten.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to produce a proper adaptation of these ideas the way I’d like to. A movie would be cool, but a series would be ideal, live-action or animated. Hell, I’d take a comic book series at this point. I am at least happy that I was able to utilize Stephen’s original design as the basis for my Super Mega Crash avatar. It’s a fun little Easter egg. Until then, the remnants of this concept will be here in this museum of sorts to be alive in some form.
THE CLASSIC ISSUES
The “Classic Issues” series was a selection of stories that I chose to recreate after some time had passed. My art style had improved somewhat so I thought it would not only be fun to redraw some of my older work, but also to add to or even rewrite some of the stories to their benefit.
Stephen’s Wacky Maze is probably the one series that benefitted from this idea the most because it was the oldest series I had and it didn’t have a narrative initially. Presented below are the “Classic Issues” of the complete Stephen’s Wacky Maze saga with newer art and some added material. Any commentary provided will be on the newer aspects, not anything I’ve previously covered.