Once upon a time, two peoples were at war until their leaders met in person and formed a complicated alliance. Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey), the fierce and sometimes seemingly heartless leader of the Grounders, told Clarke Griffin (Eliza Taylor), compassionate leader of the Sky People, that love was a weakness and that by caring for others she was only making a target out of those she loved.
To be a good leader, Clarke had to be strong and make the tough decisions. But Clarke replied that life should be more than just surviving, because they deserved better than that, and that she could never be heartless and cruel. And in truth, Lexa was wrong, because couldn’t stop herself from loving Clarke anymore than Clarke could stop falling in love with Lexa.
These two strong female leaders were standouts on the small screen and garnered a huge fan base, but Clarke and Lexa never got the chance to leave all the war and violence and owe nothing anymore to their people. Instead of walking away together into the sunset holding hands, Lexa was killed by a misfired gun, a gunshot metaphorically heard round the world. Lexa’s death spurred thousands of fans to action, prompting a boycott, petitions, charity drives, innumerable fan fictions, and now, the graphic novel series you didn’t know you’d been waiting for but are definitely going to want to read.
“Lightning Only Strikes Once” (LOSO), which is based on this fanfiction by fiona_249, starts with the plot device that after Lexa’s death, Clarke is magically able to travel back in time, and now she and Lexa (who also has kept her memory of what transpired in the alternate timeline) must fight to make sure that this time they have a different ending. The graphic novel not only promises a happy ending and new adventures for Clarke and Lexa, but also seeks to right some of the perceived character wrongs that happened throughout the show.
LOSO represents the best of Internet fandom synthesis: some Clexa fans came up with the idea of creating a graphic novel that would honor Clexa’s memory, bring closure to the storyline in a positive way, and allow fans to visually see Clexa again. They chose fiona_249’s fanfic, “Lightning Only Strikes Once,” and then, to turn the graphic novel dream into a reality, the organizers harnessed the power of the Clexa fandom through GoFundMe, asking fans to donate money to finance the project and using the proceeds to hire a story director and artist. Clexa fans responded quickly and overwhelmingly. The $20,000 necessary to fund part one of the ten-part series was raised in a mere 19 days starting in September.
LOSO is a genuinely interesting concept: a completely non-profit effort to take two highly popular characters and present an expanded version of the love story that could have been, creatively combatting the Bury Your Gays trope while giving Clexa fans more ways to see their favorite characters again. And it’s professionally done, as well: the production quality on the completed pages so far looks fantastic.
But one of the coolest aspects of the project is its philanthropic angle: of the over $25,000 raised so far for the project, over $6,000 will go to Koh Tao International Primary School, a non-profit school that Taylor and her friend Claire Wyndham started in Thailand in 2015. The goal of the school is to provide as many children as possible a chance to receive an education by charging very low tuition fees. Largely through the power of the Clexa fandom, in the last 9 months the GoFundMe page for the school has received over $133,000, well over its goal of $100,000 in donations.
Y’all, straight up, this is a really cool project. Imagine if, in the 2000s, Xena fans had re-written the ending of “Xena: Warrior Princess” to show Xena and Gabrielle sailing off into the sunset to keep fighting for the greater good rather than Xena dying and Gabrielle talking to Xena’s ghost on the boat. More than just a one-off, LOSO is a model of what fandoms could do at any time and for any characters, should fans choose to try to organize similar projects. Intellectual copyright concerns aside (no, I’m not sure how it’s legal either, but roll with it), what’s to stop the Xena graphic novel from still being written, for example? Or SwanQueen from having its day, or Rizzles?
At the end of the day, the fact that members of the LGBT community want to create a project that both gives back to the fans and gives to charity is a testament to the love we have for LGBT characters and our generosity of spirit. Well done, us.
For anyone interested in LOSO, you can continue to donate to the LOSO GoFundMe page and order copies of this first installment of the graphic novel through 20 March. Digital downloads of the book will be made available on approximately 1 April and hard copies will be mailed around 16 April. On 30 April, the donation to the Koh Tao International Primary will be made. The first 5 pages of the comic can be read HERE.