Ape Pope, Chocolate Pope, Space Pope, Birthday Pope, Pope Benedict XVI and the Two Tiny Popes sound more like members of a dysfunctional family than the old, religious guys one reads about in history books. That's because they are the main characters in an Emerson-made comic strip called "6 or 7 Popes."
The futuristic online action-adventure comic strip, which debuted in Dec. 2008, follows the journeys of a team of popes after a fatal attack kills all the other popes of the universe. They are left to pick up the pieces raising the remaining few to the status of superhero popes.
The trilogy is produced by You and What Productions, a Boston-based comedy studio comprised of Emerson students Chaz Formichella, Matt Derman, Steve Donovan, Ed Reed IV, John Barrett, Greg Goodness, Charles Pieper, iBeacon/i Managing Editor Gaby Dunn and local artist and illustrator of the comic, Nick McGee.
Formichella, a senior writing, literature and publishing major, devised You and What Productions as the idea for his pitch speech, a mandatory assignment in his fundamentals of speech communication course.
In an e-mail to iThe Beacon/i, Formichella said even though You and What Productions was created through a required freshman class, sometimes opportunities can be found in unexpected places.
"It just goes to show that things that don't matter, can matter," he said. "That's the You and What spirit."
After the creation of You and What Productions, the idea for "6 or 7 Popes" evolved from other works of the company.
Derman, who graduated in 2008 with a degree in writing, literature and publishing, said the idea for the comic was an unexpected occurrence while working on another project.
"Chaz, on a whim, spouted out the names Ape Pope, Chocolate Pope, and Space Pope," he said. "Then we were all 'EUREKA!'"
The whimsical creation of the first three popes inspired the next three or four popes to conclude the alliance of superhero popes. During their adventures, the popes encounter a variety of obstacles. Some situations bring the popes in conflict with extreme danger, such as a brush with the perilous but legal pirates in the "6 or 7 Popes" debut web comic. Other encounters are more mundane, like the comic "Banana Ending," in which one of the Two Tiny Popes strategizes on how to overcome a gallon of milk, while Ape Pope and Pope Benedict XVI go grocery shopping.
Barrett a junior writing, literature and publishing major?' said the ideas for the plot of the web comics are creations from the minds of the You and What Productions team.
"We come up with content by sitting in a room and thinking, 'What do we want the popes to do next.' There are literally no other limits," he said.
Goodness said the creation of each web comic is a process and with numerous minds working on each comic, the final products are a collaboration of ideas and opinions.
"Usually we all get together and pitch terrible ideas," the junior film major said. "Slowly but surely, we each throw in our own two cents until they become not-so-terrible ideas. Then we run with that."
Everything from the production company itself to what they produce has sprouted from virtually nothing. Donovan, a senior cinematography major, said the platform of online media allows the members of You and What Productions to control all aspects of their work.
"We can do it all ourselves online, from concept to publishing," he said. "We don't have to answer to anyone else, and we can put out the content we think is the funniest."
The web allows the production team more options, and also provides helpful tools for the readers.
"Having an online archive or blog allows people to find out about us whenever without having to necessarily miss anything," said Derman. "It also puts us in touch with our readers, or at any rate, allows them to contact us."
All of the current collaborators involved with You and What Productions said they plan on continuing their work with both the production company and "6 or 7 Popes."
"It is the plan for post-graduation," Donovan said. "Matt, Chaz and I are moving to Austin, Texas to continue "6 or 7 Popes" and start production on our next You and What projects."
iA new comic is published weekly at 6or7popes.com. Archives of all the comics produced thus far and a blog can also be found at the above address./i