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.