Boulder and Fleet Deleted Scene!
Now that the storyline with the hippos has wrapped we can look at some of the original thumbnails for this scene. As I've said elsewhere, the original intent behind introducing these guys was to simply map out some spacial relationships between the broken cliff face and the battle in the gorge. Of course you can't leave it at just that--the scene should have its own reason to be in the story, whether it's a meditation on the theme or a simple break in the action. One doesn't want to stop the flow just to point something out.

So without much thought I started scratching out this idea of two close friends having a picnic. I knew they'd be celebrating something--maybe an anniversary, I wasn't sure yet. Back when I was thumbing this scene I remember expressing the less-than-fun aspect of writing:

Sometimes I hate this part. The pressure to be interesting or funny. 

The first pass was certainly cute, but I didn't feel like it was amounting to anything entertaining. After sketching the panel where Kesuke produces the lattice-crust pie I  thought about how baking elaborate things can be such a symbol of affection. I recently took a class on making croissants as a present for my wife, and it was certainly challenging to roll the butter so thinly in the dough without breaking it up! The effort is part of the gift, right? So the scene would be about Kesuke staying up late to bake a pie for his dear friend, only to lose the pie when the cliff breaks.

But the cuteness and sweetness of this scene felt out of place. The previous scene, where Fleet is knocked unconscious, is meant to be full of pathos. the following scene, where Boulder has his final confrontation with Sapph-Fire, is meant to be an energetic release through awesome action. My gut said that the scene with the hippos needed to be funnier than what I had. We need a laugh between intense action scenes.

Eating competitions fascinate me. I'm pretty sure we're the only animal on the block who have devised a competition wherein the alpha animal's status depends on how much he or she eats. I know in many cases the alpha animal gets to eat the most, but that's a by-product of its position in the pack, not the reason for being there. In other words, some humans show their superiority by eating unreal amounts of food. That's pretty funny! I thought again about the challenge of baking elaborate things, and wondered about a baking/eating competition where the goal is to cook and bake elaborate meals that one has to quickly devour.

The scene finally took shape once I had the characters' names. You'll see in the linked JPGs that they weren't always Kesuke and Dan--names that began merely as a oblique reference to The Karate Kid, but soon informed some of the moments in the scene, especially the martial arts training.

That's a long way of saying that this writing comics stuff often is a series of guesses informed by the previous guesses!