The End of 'Multiplex' and The Future

After twelve years and 1221 comic strips, the webcomic Multiplex has ended. A comedic tale of life, love, and, most importantly, movies, the comic followed the staff of a multiplex theatre in the suburbs of Chicago. It is a funny and at times sweet comic to read, and has more than a few moments of horrific reality for anyone who has worked in a cinema, or just a retail job in general.

However creator Gordon McAlpin isn’t ready to leave behind the Multiplex world just yet. He’s now developing an 11-minute animated short based on the comic with the hopes of turning it into a full series.

Entitled Multiplex 10 and acting as prequel and reboot, the short takes the main characters of movie snob Jason, splatter fan Kurt, bookish Becky, and squeeful Melissa, along with others, and puts them back in the roles of general movie theatre minions. Unfortunately like most things in life, the project requires money, and McAlpin is seeking funding through Kickstarter, much as he has done with funding for the first two print books (with number three on the way) that collect the comic. It's a really exciting possibility, and would mean bringing Multiplex to a whole new audience.

I chatted with Gordon a little about the end of the comic and the plans for the future.

What made you decide to end Multiplex when you did?

The short answer is, I got to the ending!

The strip was always set in present day, and around year three or so, I got to a point where I needed to decide whether the characters would get older — or, you know, not. I'm in love with coming of age stories, and I liked the idea that I could tell a story about an asshole (Jason) growing older and wiser and becoming... slightly less of an asshole. So I decided to do that, and just thought through, like, what does that suggest for the ending, and what are the major story beats that I need to go through to get there. And that just happened to map out to about eight years worth of story.

Some details changed along the way, of course, but the ending is more or less the same as I planned out on my first outline eight or so years ago.

You had the idea for the animated short before the comic was even a reality, why did you come back to it now?

Comics aren't my full-time job. I've only ever been lucky enough to do them full-time when I've been doing the Kickstarter projects for the print books. Usually, I pay the bills with design or production, illustration, retouching, web design, and… well, all kinds of stuff, really. I enjoy doing all kinds of things.

In the last few years, I've been doing more and more storyboarding and animation, which I really enjoy it from a technical perspective — but the videos that I've done are kind of... well, dry. I can have a little fun with them here and there, but they're food safety videos, explainer videos, and things like that.

Since Multiplex was ending, I resurrected the idea of doing it as an animated short because it was a way to do more animation work, but on much more interesting subject matter.

Was there a temptation to try something completely different?

Oh sure, and I am also working on a non-fiction comic I want to propose to book publishers, but I need to do a bunch of research before I can do even just the proposal.

But, again from a technical perspective, doing an animated short is different enough from doing a comic for me that it's enough of a change of pace. And I really do love the characters, so I don't really want to say goodbye completely yet. Doing this short also lets me reset the characters to a sort of "iconic" state, with Kurt and Jason and the rest in red vests.

In a way, it lets me go back to that "age them or don't" decision and take them the other direction. I want to do a lot more with these characters — just… in a format other than web comics. There's this short, obviously, but I'd love to play with them in games, longer comics stories (like a comic book as opposed to a comic strip), and so on.

Do you have any plans of what you will do if you exceed the Kickstarter goal?

Of course! Mostly, it will just go toward making the animation smoother and better. $15,000 for an eleven-minute short is ridiculously cheap. The only reason that's possible is that I'm doing all the animation myself. So if we raise enough money, I can farm out some shots to other animators and make the whole thing look a little more fluid. I could possibly hire a visual development person or two to help with the look of the short, too.

We have an official stretch goal at $20,000, where we'll do the animation in 4K instead of 1080p and add a 5.1 surround sound mix. We'll be able to make a Digital Cinema Package and screen the short at a few movie theatres, including a theatrical premiere at the Somerville Theatre near me. And we'll be able to look at better distribution options and submitting to film festivals at that amount. The better distribution we get, the better chance we have of being able to make more than one episode.

If, by some miracle, we raised over $25,000, then we can do additional animated mini-episodes and other things.

What would be your one sentence pitch for the animated short to potential new fans?

Hmmmm. “In Multiplex 10, a schlock-loving movie theatre usher named Kurt and a film snob named Jason come to realize they have just a little common ground in their mutual — but very, very different — love of film.”

Sounds pretty good to me, and I can't wait to see the finished product.

The Kickstarter for Multiplex 10 runs until the end of the week and can be found HERE, to read Multiplex from the beginning, check it out on the main website HERE

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