Saturday, October 17, 2009

Why I Should Write SEVEN SOLDIERS #5: Bulleteer

Generally speaking, I dislike overthinking superheroes. Maybe that sounds odd coming from a guy who writes Superhero Theory posts (used to anyway), but there’s a very specific kind of overthinking I find insidious in large enough doses. Why doesn’t everybody figure out Superman is Clark Kent? Why can’t Reed Richards cure cancer, and really, what’s the great benefit to society of exploring weird alternate dimensions anyway if it seems to have no practical application in the everyday Marvel Universe? If the Hulk causes such massive property destruction when he rampages through town, shouldn’t he be causing thousands of deaths? And really, shouldn’t Batman just kill the Joker and save all his potential future victims?

The truth of the matter is, mainstream superhero comics don’t hold up to such logical scrutiny because they were never designed to. They’re not about that, which is why it’s not important (on a story level, anyway) why the dark Jedis have red lightsabers, and why Rebel ships have red lasers when Imperial ships have green ones. The original trilogy has more important things to talk about (and the reason the prequel trilogy suffers is because it doesn’t have anything more important to discuss and so engages with that sort of menial business).

Generally speaking, I find a conversation about superheroes’ sex lives in a Justice League comic just unpleasant.

But the function of Bulleteer is that she’s not a “mainstream” superhero. She’s on the fringes, and so that frees her comic to deal with the fringes of the superhero set. If you point out in a Superman comic that glasses and playacting are a crummy disguise, you cheapen Superman, or at the very least you poke the concept so full of holes it can’t stay above water. But you can play with superhero tropes using these marginal figures. Morrison made Mind-Grabber Man a straight man pretending to be gay for the attention, and used Bulleteer herself to examine the superhero as fetish object.

If Superman and the Justice League can be likened to A-list Hollywood stars, Alix Harrower and her ilk are the David Faustinos of the DC Universe. The seedy underbelly of the superhero world.

Here’s a book where you could deal with what happens when a superscientist thinks he’s discovered the end to all disease, but drug companies try to keep it under wraps. The great agony of what it would really be like to have Daredevil's heightened senses, where all the world's a garbage can, rain is hell, and you're eating nothing but plain noodles night after night because you can't handle anything with a stronger flavor to it. How the Rook, Tomahawk City’s moral paragon protector, deals with the fact that his bloodthirsty vigilante rival Simple Simon is actually getting more tangible results than he is. Another city rejects its longtime superhero when it’s discovered she actually hails from another dimension and is thus technically an illegal alien.

Again, not something I’d want to see in Daredevil or Superman's books, but this is a place you could grow and cultivate these ideas while still keeping them safely quarantined in their own little corner of the DC Universe.

Right, but I haven’t established the status quo. In Seven Soldiers #1, it’s revealed that she’s the descendant of Aurakles, the first superhero, and that her ultimate destiny was to kill Queen Gloriana. In that issue, a policeman tells her after questioning, “You’re free,” to which Alix replies, “Am I?” As the series begins, she’s still asking that question. You know how in the Bill Bixby Incredible Hulk show, David Banner is always extremely coincidentally in the right place at the right time to make a difference? The same thing happens to the Bulleteer, only she recognizes it, and interprets it to mean that she isn’t free, that she’s being controlled by fate -- or, in the interest in imagistic unity, that fate is the gun, and she is its bullet.

So she has a tendency to just let things happen. She rarely pursues hero-for-hire gigs, they just seem to fall in her lap. Her accountant and financial manager Morgan Chapel, a regular supporting cast member, is just a guy she picked out of the phone book at random, and though he has no experience in superhuman affairs, he proves himself a natural at it. After getting fed up with commercial air travel (it's a pain to get past the metal detector when you are in fact made of metal), she happens to save the life of the Machine Queen, a 52-year-old mechanic who specializes in esoteric vehicles and builds Alix an inexpensive Bulletcar (complete with ejector-seat “launcher”) out of an old Dodge Dart, and she becomes another supporting cast member.

This drifting attitude has a number of unintended consequences. Remember Crazyface from Morrison’s Shining Knight? Alix is tricked into recovering his super-enhanced cybernetic eyeballs for his brother, who gets them implanted and becomes the Reverse Crazyface to avenge his death. (This will eventually lead into a crossover involving Bulleteer, Manhattan Guardian, and Zatanna, but I’ll get to that later.) She can also sometimes seem cold and distant, but ultimately her compassion wins out (she did, after all, try to take Sally Sonic, the woman who ruined her marriage and indirectly led to Alix’s husband’s death and her “condition,” to the hospital after their fight).

This I see as the overarching conflict in the series: Originally her trying to fight fate was jeopardizing the world, but now having completely surrendered to it isn’t proving any healthier.

The format: I’d like these to be largely self-contained stories, to be told, for no real reason other than it seems right to me, in a sort of action movie/new wave/neo noir mashup style; Cowboy Bebop is my stylistic guide here.

And there will be time for subplots. For example, the Machine Queen has long been building a working, full-scale Batmobile replica as a hobby, but when it’s stolen, Alix has to track down The Man Who Would Be Batman. As for Alix herself, her husband’s secret superhero fetish has put her off romantic entanglements to some extent. She finds nebbish, timid Morgan Chapel nonthreatening, but is that a good foundation to a relationship? (Note: It is not.) And is Morgan even interested? It turns out an ageless, perfect physical specimen encased in shining indestructible metal is not to everyone’s taste. Frankly, I’d like to see a relationship in a superhero book that’s weird and awkward and has serious foundational problems and maybe just doesn’t work instead of the usual storybook whirlwind romance.

After all, this is the book to do it in.

Monday, October 12, 2009

NEW sketchblog!!

I know I know.... Josh is an asshole. He never posts here anymore and its not even about wyatt earp when he does. Well Justin has been holding his weight around here much better than Josh has but to be honest Justin can't just post scripts and the like. He has to post non earp content because Josh hasn't touched an earp page in something like 6 months. As with everything else stuff happens. Life happens. Day jobs, houses, friends, family, life, death, fuzzy puppies. These are all parts of life and get in the way of things like wyatt earp comics. The truth is that I find it difficult to sit down and draw on my own time for more than 20 minutes. If I'm drawing these days its because I get paid. Spending 10 hours a day drawing followed by more drawing when I get home is a little difficult. However, inspired by many of the other artists I follow I've decided to start a sketchbog. The idea is for it to be updated daily and so far its been going pretty well. I started it a few weeks ago but haven't wanted to share it or go public until it got on a roll. It should only be sketches, or concept pieces. Never finished work and hopefully not often paid work. Take a minute, stop by, tell me what you think. Even if it is just one word: "asshole"

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Follow along with your very own copy of Glamour which I know you are secretly hiding

For my triumphant return to being allowed to write on, I have contributed a riveting piece regarding a free copy of Glamour I recently came to find in my possession. No, I don't know why I wrote it, either.

Also, it may interest you to know (though it probably will not) that I am on Twitter. A bit, anyway. I must admit, I'd never planned on having an account, and I'm still a little fuzzy on how to read those damn "@UserName" tweets. I've only signed up because my office uses it as a sort of internal communication device, and to be honest, I have no idea what I am going to do with it outside of work stuff. But I might think of something. Following that riveting sales pitch, you will no doubt be falling over yourself to follow me at jduck1.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

You will not be rid of me that easily

Good afternoon.

I have regained the ability to write to you near-instantaneously over a great distance via the "internetwork." I will type out a few things in this space, and when I hit "Publish Post," my words will be transmitted and available for everyone to see, despite the fact that there are no visible wires or cables connecting my typing-device to any other thing.

Truly, it is a strange and marvelous time to be alive.

I have taken a few minutes away from moving, and organizing in anticipation of more moving, to write this. The big move is going thoroughly all right. The new place is just a half-hour by freeway from the old place, so we are doing it in small chunks, after work and on the weekend. I will spare you the expected blog post reflecting on how many comics I own, and how they are difficult to move, and how it makes me wonder whether it is healthy to devote so much time and money to a hobby that leads me to accumulate so much stuff, and how one might consider it strange to be hoarding and lugging about boxes of thin periodicals originally intended to be disposable. Frankly, I am fine with all of that. My lower back is aching not because I have too many comics, but because I am weak and unused to such prolonged heavy lifting.

There are still more things to be hauled, new pieces of furniture to be purchased (microwave stands: I am not sure such a piece of furniture exists, but my wife seems to think it does), and more important people and agencies to inform of my relocation (VISA Cardmember Service, your call is forthcoming). After all of this is taken care of, there are two things I intend to do.

1.) Get a kitten (grey, tabby).
2.) Resume posting regularly.

That means more MGKontent is in the works, and Why I Should Write Bulleteer is also in the hopper.

Thank you for not leaving forever.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Telegram For You