Thursday, April 28, 2011

If DC had given me the job to re-imagine The Mighty Crusaders...

My obsession with proposing four-hero teams that aren’t the Fantastic Four is well documented within this blog. In a previous post, I reported on the revival of The Mighty Crusaders as a four-strong force for justice consisting of The Shield, Hangman, Inferno, and The Web.

Sadly, they are no longer with us, but that just gives me an excuse to re-imagine another team...

Anyhow, if I had gotten the gig, the first order of business would be to read every origin story of every incarnation of the original 15 heroes. There were versions from the Pep Comics, Zip Comics, Radio Comics and Impact Comics imprints. The reason for going back to the well is inspiration and sometimes for a laugh and sometimes both as is illustrated by...

The origin story of Captain Flag

Like The Shield, Captain Flag was another flag-draped, patriotic hero. When a nazi kills Tom Townsend’s father and attempts to do the same to junior, Tom is saved by a huge eagle carrying off to the safety of a mountain where he sees the American flag. That’s when he’s inspired to become Captain Flag! Seriously, I’m not joking here.

The misleading nature of Firefly

When I first heard mention of this hero, I thought I had him all figured out. Not so. Firefly was really scientist Harley Hudson who was obsessed with insects and in particular how they managed to lift several times their bodyweight. In time, Harley figured it out how he could do the same. Of course, he could also fly, right? No. What would make you think that? Of course, he had fire or illumination powers, right? Well, no. So, lacking those powers, Hudson logically chose the name Firefly. Btw, Firefly is now in the public domain if anybody’s interested in writing a few Firefly stories.

Okay, enough with the laughs at the expense of those two upstanding heroes. Let’s get back to how I would’ve revamped The Mighty Crusaders as a four-hero team (including an old proposal of mine for one of the characters).

My team would be:

Hangman (Yes, keep him)

I would dump the immortality bit and go back to the avenging the death of his superhero brother, The Comet (who was Cyclops before there was a Cyclops). Hangman was also the original ‘the only good criminal is a dead criminal’ vigilante (long before Marvel’s The Punisher and 2000AD’s Judge Dredd). Also, Hangman often got the bad guys to off themselves by scaring the heck out of them – Batman’s got nothing on Hangman when it comes to scare tactics and psychological warfare.

The Web (Yes, keep him too)

I love the new redesigned costume, but I’ll dump the new billionaire playboy persona. A return to the Criminology Professor (and consulting authority) by day / Vigilante by night dichotomy is needed in my pinion. A hero needs a reason to fight crime/evil and The Web (a.k.a Professor John Raymond) had a pretty good one that also explained his career choice: It was all inspired by his brother’s lifelong criminal behaviour. How come I turned out so awesome while my bro is a career criminal? From a motivational perspective, The Web was good enough to substantiate my Great Spider-Hawk Paradox. During the 1990’s Impact Comics, The Web referred to a group of spies connected by an information network. My version would make use of a back-up network of peeps who would occasionally stand-in for The Web – even wearing the costume when required.

The current Web has a website called ‘Summon the Web’ that peeps can use to call him for help. I would slightly tweak that, so that The Web uses some sort of web crawler and pattern recognizer for internet sourced cases.

Now here’s where my proposal gets a little weird as I infuse it with an idea for The Web I came up with in the 90s. I’ve noticed a trend in my proposals for new characters: I like to create ‘slightly powered heroes’ (heroes who are essentially non-powered in having to have fighting skills like Bats but have one power that won’t directly help them in any fight). In that tradition, my addition to The Web is such a power. Basically, my version of The Web is able to mentally access something a hybrid of what Jung called the ‘Collective Unconscious’ (that repository of shared memory traces of humanity’s ancestral past) and ‘Gaia Theory’ (you know, every living thing on earth is part of one giant organism). The problem is that this access to what John Raymond pictures as a web comes and goes.

The Fox

No, I'm not Terry "Batman Beyond" McGinnis!

Okay, in a previous post I mentioned that both of the Shield’s earliest incarnation predated the highly similar Cap America and Iron Man. However, I’m going to replace The Shield with the original newspaper photographer moonlighting as a non-powered superhero, The Fox! The Fox’ insignia hid a small automatic camera with which he snapped some pics to sell. Wow, who else did something similar later on in the 60s? Starts with ‘Sp’ and ends with ‘idey.’ In terms of his look, I wouldn’t change a thing about his costume. It’s black and thus cool. I include the Fox, because Fox is the most socially conscious hero created by MLJ (although, a little less outspoken than say the early Green Arrow) and he would make a great foil for the absolutist Hangman.

the preferred Impact Comics costume


the 'not-so-preferred' older costume...with skirt or really short shorts or tunic or ? Please don't bend over to pick up something, Mister. Please.

I would replace Inferno with Fireball, who can start fire via touch, melt bullets, absorb flames, all without going “flame on!” Aesthetically, his Impact Comics costume has potential to be slightly updated. He’s a bit more interesting than the angry cueball-looking, flame-surrounded Inferno. Of course, I’d have to think about his origin, one of which involves a swamp, magic and strange balls of fire. That particular origin story screams “ball lightning” (a natural phenomenon used to explain sightings of UFOs around swamps and other bodies of water) without actually mentioning “ball lightning.” With some tweaks here and there, all the elements are there for an interesting origin story and a “story engine”

Anyway, that’s my four-hero version of the team. However, DC could compromise and test the waters by creating two teams: Ten heroes calling themselves The Crusaders and a smaller 4-hero team calling themselves C.R.U. (Covert Reaction Unit or whatever), divided along worldview (e.g. follow Hangman or follow The Shield or follow The Web).

Honestly, I can come up with three or four versions of this four-hero Crusaders team. I mean, I haven't even touched on the 3 versions of The Comet or Black Hood or The Jaguar or my favourte version of The Shield. That's the major draw for me: There are multiple versions of each hero. So, as a writer you can cherry-pick elements you like (granted you have editorial approval, of course).

Speaking of The Comet, check last year's re-design of The Comet over here.

DC, you know where to reach me...Are these characters even still licensed to you? If not, forward this link to the lucky parties.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Call for Superhero Romance submissions - no, the word "submissions" doesn't mean this is Bondage-related...well, actually, it could be...I think...Not that I'm writing a bondage story...

I am totally submitting to this. I'll have to combine several stories and germs of story ideas rattling around my head though.

But hey, this is superhero stuff and I don't have a shortage of ideas for stories or heroes.

Okay, it's romance and it's  novellas...So, that's new for me, but I think I'll give it a shot. I think Samhain is flexible with regard to amount of romance and other elements such as action.

Anyway, check it out.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

If DC ever created their own FF - The Mash-up with a Singular Purpose Edition

To see my three previous proposals for DC’s own Fantastic Four, click here, here and here.

This post was inspired by this post over at MGK. The crux of MGK’s post was that Firestorm is too powerful and too stupid (when Ronnie Raymond is in charge) and has too any lame villains to be great.

Of course, because of this post the fact that I like Firestorm is well known. Also, let me make it crystal clear to everyone that I like Firestorm the way he is (except for the puffy sleeves), but this is just a proposal…

Anyhoo, I didn’t agree with the Firestorm is “too powerful and too stupid” bit and as creative person, I thought to myself: “Self, Firestorm is not too powerful and is not too dumb, but what if…”

So, here’s the team. The first pick is…you guessed it…

1] Firestorm

However, this isn’t the normal Firestorm familiar to fans. This is one is slightly different – a third at most. After teaming up with the JSA to fight Dr. Alchemy and a JSA big evil, ol’ flamehead is accidently (?) merged with Michael Holt a.k.a. Mr. Terrific. This new Firestorm now also possesses Terrific’s power of being invisible to technology as well as having Terrific’s intelligence (when he’s in the driver’s seat which is pretty often). Unbeknownst to the new Firestorm, the merger (and combined power set) has some dangerous consequences by putting him in the crosshairs of a new enemy that may be unstoppable): A Superior Artificial Intelligence (SAI) from a far-future possible post-technological-singularity timeline.

Okay, what’s a SAI? Well, nobody knows for sure, there are a gazillion different interpretations/definitions and the truth is I haven’t kept up with these debates in some years. Anyway, this is comic book writing and not Hard Science Fiction writing. In other words we can make a lot of crap up as we go along.

· SAI will be more intelligent than any human being (think of it as an unfathomable mass of computing power or intelligence);
· SAI will be extremely unpredictable (to us, because we’re only human);
· SAI might be able to upload every human consciousness and if “friendly” it might invite us to this big upload – like being friended or poked on Facebook;
· SAI might be able to improve our intelligence after uploaded (if it so chose);
· SAI will be able to self-replicate (specifically build a better version of itself to replace itself);
· SAI might be able manipulate physical space on a large (e.g. terraform the earth on a molecular level)
· SAI will be uncontainable once it is “born.”

There is one big requirement (at least in my funny book story), the technological singularity must first occur. This is the point where our technological development reaches the point where a SAI can be created or simply develops from the critical mass of technological advancement.

So what is it about the NEW Firestorm that has this uber-powerful intelligence / techno-god so spooked? Is the SAI more scared of Firestorm with Terrific’s IQ or of Firestorm with Terrific’s power or all of the above? There may be some solid theoretical clues earlier in this post…Anyway, the SAI sends a probe (or portion of itself) to the present to go after Firestorm and 3 other heroes.

Funny thing about probes sent by SAIs, if they re-unite in future they might be speaking totally different languages, because they would develop exponentially in different ways…

The other members of the team:

2] Blue Beetle (Jaime Reyes)

I solidly believe that the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle would be best served on a four member team. I’m still a Ted Kord fan, but Jaime really fits this story since The Reach’s objective will prevent the post-singularity SAI from occurring (being born / created). Yeah, this story is kind of a reverse Terminator story in a way…

3] Hawk

Maybe it’s the fact that Hawk represents Chaos or it maybe it’s the Extant time-travelling stuff, but for some reason the SAI really hates Hawk. Maybe it just finds Hawk obnoxious...

4] Green Lantern Raker Qarrigat

Ha! You thought I was going to say Dove, right? Where Hawk goes, Dove cannot be far behind or vice versa. Well, Dove is part of this story but NOT part of the team, because Dove represents Order and the SAI has identified Dove as a potential collaborator (say what?!).

Anyhoo...Raker Qarrigat – Green Lantern of Apokalips – is also another target of the SAI. Remember, the SAI can cut through many foggy logic swamps to come to the most elegant of conclusions.

The biggest threat to any earth-based SAI developing is the prior development of an alien SAI. The assumption is that another SAI would be hostile toward other SAIs or On-the-verge-of-SAI civilizations. Surveying the universe (and other dimensions), Apokalips is a prime candidate for the development of a rival SAI but for one little impediment: Darkseid and the gang. While Darkseid is in power an Apokaliptian SAI will not be allowed to develop for the simple reason that heads cannot bow when part of a SAI and there can be no Great Darkseid when SAI of Apokalips encompasses everything and everyone. There will be no hunger dogs.

The SAI has identified Raker Qarrigat as the biggest threat to Darkseid’s rule. So, it follows remove Raker, remove the possibility of a rival (probably more advanced) SAI that could come along to destroy Earth’s SAI.

The name game:

So, what do I call this team? Any Ideas?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Write what you know: A short primer for comic book writers writing long-existing characters or screen writers developing works based on comic books featuring long-existing characters

Write what you know. This is advice that’s almost as old as writing itself. By writing, I’m referring to writing for yourself AND others, but we’ll get back to this point later.

There are generally two main interpretations of Write What You Know (or WWYK, an initialism that should not be confused with World Wide Year One Thousand, DC Comics’ upcoming 1000-issue mega event crossover event where the first 499 issues will be written by Geoff Johns minus any editorial oversight and the last 499 issues by Grant Morrisson minus any editorial oversight with the middle 2 issues co-written by Geoff and Grant after they learn what happens in each other’s 499 issues). SPOILER ALERT: Maxwell Lord gets into the Barber Shop business. Solomon Grundy and Bizarro are the narrators for all 1000 issues. Batman reveals his final contingency plan (you know, the one he would use if and when all of contingency plans were needed at the same time).

Sorry, I was rambling…Back to the two interpretations of Write What You Know…

1] Superficial Interpretation

Write What You Know means write from your own perspective and/or life and/or frame of reference. There is nothing wrong with this and it is in some respects easier. The problem comes in when Write What You Know means ONLY write from your own perspective and/or life and/or frame of reference. The result: A boatload of stories with settings similar or identical to your home town or place of employment, characters similar or identical to yourself or friends, opinions and life philosophies limited to your own…You get the picture.

2] Deeper Interpretation

Write What You Know means doing research before you write anything outside your field of knowledge / frame of reference while applying creativity to avoid thesis-like stories. The deeper interpretation is crucial in writing existing superheroes.

Steps for comic book writers writing long-existing characters or screen writers developing works based on comic books featuring long-existing characters:

1] Read the character bibles (these typically contain character bios, what a character is about [his/her motivation] and the most important events in his life). Of course, some comics companies sometimes misplace these… Black Adam J'onn the whole 52 someone out there have a lozenge or something?

2] Read the different writer’s runs with special emphasis of character portrayal. Let’s say, you’re planning on writing Green Arrow. Green Arrow has been written as the “Liberal Socially Conscious hero”, but during another period he was written a “Night Hunter” type vigilante. Another reason for reading these runs is the smaller story threads that were forgotten about or cut short due to a Mega Crossover Event.

3] Decide which portrayal to use. This could be one specific portrayal or a hybrid (Can you marry the “hyper-prepared Batman” with “the one who is regularly flummoxed by the on-again-off-again residents of Arkham"? Okay, bad example. The big rule here is to figure out which version can help you write the best story you can while not alienating all of that character's fandom. You are going to alienate some - there's no avoiding that. Back to Bats: "Batman: The brave and the bold" version of Bats is great, because it mixes many versions of Bats (e.g. “hyper-prepared Batman” meets "fat-headed, self-satisfied looking silver age Bats" meets "Bats who just loves punching people" meets "Grumpy Bats" meets...)

4] Be CONSISTENT in characterization. We can't blame evil Maxwell Lord or red kryptonite for every out-of-character moment. Inconsistent characterization is jarring to readers. Being consistent also helps you with plot in a "What would Batman do?" kind of way. So, charaterization is sort of mildly uber-important...I think.

So ends the sermon.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mary Pickford - the hero remix...

I while back I came across this weirdly listenable song called Mary Pickford. It's about United Artists...You guys do watch movies, right?

Anyway, here are some of the lyrics:

Mary Pickford used to eat roses
Thought that they'd make her beautiful and they did,
One supposes.

Douglas Fairbanks, he was so handsome,
He wore a moustache,
Must-a had much cash, too,
Worth a king's ransom,

Charlie Chaplin, he was invited,
When these artists became united.
When these artists became united.

David Griffith worked as an extra,
Then as a stagehand,
Until they let him be
A director

Dave was brave, a mover and shaker,
A true pioneer,
He seemed to show no fear,
A real film maker

Just like Chaplin, he was invited,
When these artists became united.
When these artists became united.

They tied the knot together,
Groom and bride couldn't hide their pleasure.
They tried to pick fair weather,
But love died, didn't last forever.

I don't know about you out there, but I immediately thought about doing a JLI remix. Enjoy (and try singing it). Better yet, try to compose something better.

Martian Manhunter used to eat Oreos
Thought that they contained no lard but they did,
One supposes.

Michael Jon Carter, came from the Future
He wore a gold suit,
Must-a won much loot, too,
Worth a jackpot,

Ice Maiden, she was invited,
When these heroes became united.
When these heroes became united.
Theodore Kord worked as an sidekick,
Then as a hero,
Until they let him be
A martyr

Ted was brave,  inventor and acrobat,
A true pioneer,
He seemed to show no fear,
Swordless musketeer

Just like Tora, he was invited,
When these heroes became united.
When these heroes became united.

They banded together,
Heroes and teammates couldn't hide their pleasure.
They tried to pick fair weather,
But they were disbanded, didn't last forever.

Yes, please compose better lyrics...sigh

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Deadline for submissions: 31 January 2011...

Hi to everybody in 1truegl-space!

Ive come across the Beta City anthology, which is looking for superhero short stories set within their own continuity but still allowing your own superheroes to feature. In fact, original heroes are encouraged.

By the way, it's the follow-up to POW!ERFUL TALES (An anthology that was featured way back when 1truegl was all spritely and not so jaded...over here).

I've got an idea for a submission already. Its funny that playing in an existing universe such as the Beta City one is NOT as restrictive to the writer in me as one would assume. No More Heroes  and its existing universe had the same effect. Strange.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Missing Link: Why there's so much superhero prose stuff on this blog...

So, why is there so much superhero prose stuff on my blog?

Well, I could go into a lengthy essay-type answer, but this missing link (from my speculative fiction blogosphere reading days) covers a big chunk of the answer and, well, I haven't done a  "missing link" post in a LOOOOOOONG while.

Remember, the missing link posts also serve to prompt you to go out and rediscover some forgotten little joys of your life. I'm all sunshine and rainbows today.