Cobra Command

Cobra Command. I’ve been meaning to interlibrary loan this crossover from IDW’s G.I. Joe family of comics. I finally took the plunge and am extremely thrilled with the results. Cobra Command is freaking awesome. This is what G.I. Joe needs to be. 

So, what is Cobra Command? With the death of Cobra Commander, a competition was held among the High Command of Cobra to determine who would become the new Commander. The competition, to kill and damage the Joes, is won by Krake. Cobra Command is Krake’s first move as Commander. He’s taking Cobra out of the shadows and into the light. He accomplishes this goal by targeting the nation of Nanzhao (an expy of Myanmar) for conquest. But that is not the only operation he’s running. He also plans to ensure his authority and remove dissident voices from Cobra.

And, in the end, Cobra wins. Nanzhao is, for all intents and purposes, destroyed. Krake is in full command of Cobra. And all of his opposition within the organization has been removed. 

I freaking love this. The problem with G.I. Joe has always been the fact that Cobra has been depicted as a joke. While this is not really true of the comics, it is hard to escape the far more famous cartoon series. But with this version of Cobra? The Joes are on the defensive. 

Despite my enthusiasm for the crossover, I do have some quibbles. 

The biggest problem is Snake Eyes. He kills a tank company. By himself. Seriously. He is that over powered. And it kills the story. I get that Snake Eyes (and Storm Shadow) is the Wolverine of the Joes, but the problem is that he kills the dramatic tension of the story. The Joes should be on the defensive. They should be losing. Not have Snake Eyes go all lone ranger on the mooks. And Storm Shadow is just as bad. 

Another issue I have is that while several Joes are killed during the operation, their actual deaths are never shown. Their deaths are only revealed in an epilogue. Those deaths should have been shown. 

Besides that, I really enjoyed this story. greatly. Now I want to discover what happens next. And maybe tackle World War III, the last G.I. Joe story from Devil’s Due.

Fun Writing Exercise: Remaking Babylon 5

The first thing I’d do if I were to remake Babylon 5 is to remove the First Ones from actively affecting the plot. No Vorlons, no Shadows, no Lorien, or any of the others. They existed. Some of their ruins and artifacts still exist, but they have gone away. 

With this change comes two others: There are no telepaths (baring the Minbari) and the Centauri never get their brief resurgence of glory. (For those worried about the telepath characters, don’t worry, I have plans for them).

Another change I would make is to combine the Earth-Minbari War with the Shadow War. This conflict would form the centerpiece of the third through fifth seasons. (I’m doing this because I love the order vs. chaos motif, but I feel the Vorlons and the Shadows lessen the motif. The two add an epic fantasy quality that doesn’t allow for a fuller exploration of the positives and negatives of the two philosophies. Also, I hate the causus belli of the Earth-Minbari War).

The Dilgar War will get more attention due to it taking place fifteen years before Babylon 5 goes online. The after effects of that terrible war will still be felt almost two decades later as Jha’Dur and remnants of the Dilgar race return to seek revenge for their defeat and destruction. 

And finally, I’d do away with the League of Non-Aligned Worlds. The races that make up the League would be the races who have diplomatic and trading relations with the Earth Alliance. I’d also try to give each of the major League races more attention.

So, a rough sketch of the main plots of the series. The first two seasons deal with the Narn-Centauri peace process, the renewed Dilgar threat, the Raiders, and building up to first contact with the Minbari. The final three seasons deal with the Earth-Minbari War and Earth’s desperate struggle to stave off extermination. (If I had a weekend, I’d make a more in depth outline).

What about the Minbari? They are getting the short end of the stick, after all. Well, I’m going to be combining them with the Vorlons. Whether they look like the Minbari of the series or if they are transcendent cephalopods remains to be seen. (I have an idea for Delenn and Lennier that probably would require the Minbari to be an ascendant species).

What about the Narn-Centauri conflict? I’m going to let them achieve peace before I pull out the rug from under the Earth Alliance. But I also want to do more with both species. How do the Narn feel about becoming more like the hated Centauri? And how do the Centauri overcome their history of imperial conquest? 

I’ll wrap up this post with some thoughts on how I’d change the characters.

Jeffrey Sinclair will remain the CO of Babylon 5. He’s a veteran of the Dilgar War and a very humane man.

Laurel Takashima is the head of Earth’s diplomatic mission. She handles the diplomacy while Sinclair runs the station. Lyta Alexander is her aide.

Talia Winters is a xenobiologist who works with Dr. Stephen Franklin and has a romantic relationship with Susan Ivanova.

Delenn and Lennier are spies for the Minbari who act as ambassadors when the time comes. 

G’Kar remains largely unchanged. But Londo will be a huge departure. I may even make him a woman. 

John Sheridan will be a replacement for either Sinclair or Takashima as the need arises. Anna Sheridan is still a xenoarchaeologist who will be a recurring character. Likely to lead the hunt for new alien tech during the Earth-Minbari War. 

Alfred Bester and Morden will be in Earth Intelligence. 

The Rangers are a division of Earth Force (like the Rangers in the U.S. Army).

I’ll end this exercise here. Any questions or comments, please let me know.

(This has been a fun little exercise. I can’t wait to tackle Highlander).

 

A Fun Writing Exercise: The Reimagination Series

I’m in the mood for some fun writing exercises. What could be more fun than reimagining my favorite television series. Yeah, rebooting, remaking, and reimagining are all the rage right now. But why should we let that spoil the fun?

To challenge myself, I’m limiting myself to only ten posts. These ten will be franchises that I am passionate about that will, hopefully, provide a significant challenge to my imagination.

Here is the list:

1. Babylon 5

2. Highlander

3. Firefly

4. Sliders

5. Jonny Quest

6. My So-Called Life

7. Freaks and Geeks

8. Hercules the Legendary Series and Xena: Warrior Princess

9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer franchise

10. Carmen Sandiego

I’m looking forward to this. And if this series is a success, I’ll write up a second series.

Expect to see my take on Babylon 5 tomorrow.

Building Worlds

Talking to myself while I pace is my favorite method of brainstorming. I get a lot of exercise and ideas out of it, what’s not to love? Anyway, I’ve been brainstorming a lot lately. With the brainstorming comes a reassessment of my creative plans. 

My creative instincts pivot towards writing lone novels with little to no relationship between them. Baring, of course, the fact that I wrote them with the resultant similarities of style. I like this approach. It allows me to avoid the pitfalls of writing series ( I can’t abide the bloating that kills many long running series, be they novels, television, or manga). It also allows me to dabble in multiple genres and, perhaps, forms (rather than limiting myself to just writing one form my entire career).

This is how it would have looked in practice: My first novel would be occult fiction. My second novel would be epic fantasy. My third novel would be realist fantasy. So on and so forth. 

But there is a huge problem embedded in this approach. World building is a hard and stressful operation. How much more stressful would world building a project every year or two be (whether that world is a version of Earth or a secondary world)? 

Looking back over many  various projects, I realized something. Many of my projects are either set on Earth or could just as easily be reworked to be set on Earth. What if I create a single, alternate, Earth for my common setting? 

In the days I’ve had to think, I’ve fallen in love with this idea. I can keep my projects largely separate, but I won’t have to kill myself creating new worlds every few years. I’ve mentioned that I’m wanting to write some form of superhero fantasy, and I think having a common setting will allow me a larger canvas for depth and history while not becoming bloated. 

But why Earth? Why not a secondary world?

Assume, for a moment, that I could only write one fantasy. That one fantasy could only be inspired by a single time period. What period would I choose?

Easy. The modern world. 

Yes, the modern world is where my passions truly lie despite the fact that I’m a history nerd with a wide array of interests. 

Would a secondary world inspired by the 1920s, 1960s, or 2010s have a shot? There is an undeniable desire for fantasy to be inspired by periods not medieval Europe. But would such a fantasy world drawing inspiration so close to our own time really fill that need? Maybe. I can always hope. 

There is another problem, though. Our world today is far more complicated than other historical periods because there is so much information to sift through. We have hundreds of countries and polities, an equal number of languages, and dozens of religions. How can that diversity be reflected in a secondary world? Maybe I could hew closely to Earth and use real languages for various places. Maybe I can limit the setting to an expy of the United States that stuck with the Articles of Confederation (or just remained independent states) with a few references to other countries. Maybe that could work. 

Or maybe I could just recreate Earth as a very weird and fantastical world. A world where anything could be possible. 

Either way, I’m looking forward to the journey. 

 

 

 

Review Time for Thor: The Dark World

Thor: The Dark World (2013 dir. Alan Taylor) is a good, if unspectacular, follow up to Thor. On the whole, I really liked the movie. But, unfortunately, there are certain elements of the film that just do not work.

After two years apart, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) are reunited when the Nine Worlds start to converge and Jane’s life is threatened by a lost artifact of terrible destructive power. Taken to Asgard by Thor, Jane becomes targeted by the Dark Elves, who seek the artifact inhabiting her body so that they can, you guessed it, destroy the universe. 

Sounds good. And, in execution the ‘A’ plot works really well. The cinematography and digital world building are exquisite. Asgard looks amazing. And so does the Dark World (I’m not going to try and spell it out). 

The acting in the ‘A’ plot is superb with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki again stealing the show (really, Loki needs his own movie) and Renee Russo and Anthony Hopkins delivering strong performances. 

So far, I’ve only written about the ‘A’ plot. That’s because the ‘B’ plot is terrible. 

I don’t quite get why the Thor films are structured this way. In both films, I feel that one arc is far better than the other. In the first Thor, the ‘B’ plot featuring Loki’s tragic fall is by leaps and bounds the more interesting story. In this film, it is the main plot that is most interesting while the ‘B’ plot is just horrendous.

The ‘B’ plot features Jane’s intern Darcy (Kat Dennings) trying to find the missing Jane and Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) while gradually falling in love with her intern (I don’t get it either). 

The primary function of this plot, I suspect, is to inject some humor into a more serious film. But the humor falls flat and creates a disjointed whole. The slapstick brings down the entire movie. 

Another problem that the ‘B’ plot presents to the main plot is in the realm of romance. The evolution of Darcy and Ian’s (her intern) relationship is organic and works wonderfully. This is, perhaps, the only good thing I can say about the ‘B’ plot. 

Unfortunately, that relationship reinforces the fact that Thor and Jane Foster’s relationship doesn’t work. I just don’t buy that Thor is madly in love with Jane. Nor do I buy that Jane is in love with Thor. Personally, I think Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) is a much better romantic pairing for Thor. Certainly Alexander’s performance is more effective at conveying romantic feelings than Portman’s. 

In the end, I’m torn about this movie. I love the main plot. But the secondary plot is just cringe worthy. 

The only solution is to watch scenes set on Asgard and the Dark World and fast forward all scenes set on Earth baring the final fight. 

 

News from Central Casting

Tyler Spang wants to be a superhero. Okay. Given the congealing of his characterization over the past few weeks, I agree that he works better as a superhero. I can make this work. 

The problem is that while the definition of superhero is broader and deeper than the costumed adventurers who grace Marvel and DC, I still don’t think Bright Light, Deep Shadow (the work that originally featured Tyler as protagonist) works well with a superhero in the leading role. 

Bright Light, Deep Shadow is a portal quest fantasy that will feature protagonists from Earth crossing over into a fantastical realm. Given this core idea, I think a coming of age story compliments the direction I want to go with this project. 

Yes, I know that John Carter, the protagonist of the Barsoom series, is a superhero. But I just don’t think that works well with what I want to do. I want explore how an ensemble cast adapts to the challenges imposed by a (possibly) hostile magical realm. And I want to challenge the perception that heroes have to be a certain way. 

In the end, Bright Light, Deep Shadow will be a young adult portal quest fantasy with an ensemble cast. 

Now back to the still troublesome Tyler Spang. 

He will be the protagonist of the eponymous Red Wind. The Earth setting will be the usual science fiction and fantasy kitchen sink that makes so many superhero universes great. And I’m already working on making a richer alternate history for the setting. 

I’m incredibly excited to be creating my own superhero universe. But I can’t also help but be wary. 

Superhero fiction, especially in comic books, have explored every possible avenue of story and trope countless times. Creating something new and my own will be a challenge. But it will be a fun one.

I’m also leery of writing superheroes because the genre is so big right now. Or is it? Yes, superhero movies are huge right now and comic books are seeing a resurgence of interest, but is the same true of prose fiction? I don’t think so. 

In the end I need to write what appeals to me. And, honestly, superhero fiction appeals to me. I want to write it, despite the challenges. 

 

 

Teen Titans (New 52) Vs. Young Avengers (Marvel Now)

This post indicates either A) I’m a complete DC fanboy or B) many comic book reviewers are morons. 

The Teen Titans are a group of young superheroes who have come together to protect themselves and other young metahumans from a nefarious (and mysterious) organization. The Young Avengers are a group of (mostly legacy) young superheroes who have reunited to defeat an interdimensional parasite with a mother complex. Both works are the latest iteration of popular franchises. Both works have seen controversy. And both works have (or will) end(ed) recently. I have read both series. I have read all of the Teen Titans available at my local library (Our Right to Fight and The Culling, plus I’ve read Rise of the Ravagers). I have also read the first volume of Young Avengers (Style > Substance). All that considered, I have to say that I actually like Teen Titans more than the Young Avengers.

What?

I will not deny that Scott Lobdell’s writing leaves a lot to be desired. Especially when it comes to Teen Titans. The plotting is haphazard at best and the dialogue is (at times) reminiscent of really bad teen dramas. But the core plot driving the series is a good on. A strong one, actually. In contrast Kieron Gillen’s writing is stronger with more coherence and better dialogue. But the core plot driving the series is, in my opinion, a stupid one. 

I just don’t like it. Seriously does Wiccan making a mistake have to be the cause of every Young Avengers series going forward? Wasn’t that what caused the last series? 

Wiccan is my favorite character from Young Avengers and I hate how he is characterized in the first issue and in subsequent issues. And the more I think about it, the less interested I become in the series as a whole. 

I’m talking about the confrontation between Billy and Teddy after Teddy’s down low superheroics. Teddy’s dialogue makes no sense. And it makes less sense the more times I read it. How does Teddy not having his adoptive mother (while Billy has his foster parents and the Scarlet Witch) excuse his breaking his promise to his boyfriend? It comes off, in text, as nothing more than a deliberate guilt trip. And to serve the plot as a means to get Billy to perform his, increasingly requisite, misuse of his powers to generate the plot. 

Clearly, I loathe this scene and how it initiates the story.

Now before I get accused of giving Teen Titans a pass, I’m not particularly fond of Red Robin’s character in the New 52. He is certainly a downgrade from the Tim Drake pre New 52. And don’t get me started on N.O.W.H.E.R.E. Could there be another nebulously nefarious organization with as convoluted a history? And, to be honest, Harvest should have been more of a salesman. He should have been more of a tempter. 

In the end, though, I find Teen Titans, though not as artistically original, to be the better read. Young Avengers, though artistically original, doesn’t really achieve its promise. I want to read more Teen Titans. I’m not looking forward to Young Avengers.

Young Avengers ended with issue 15 of Gillen’s run. It is a shame that there doesn’t seem to be any moves for a third creative team (so far). 

Joining Young Avengers in cancellation is Teen Titans with next months issue. I wonder what the next Teen Titans series looks like. 

Hopefully it isn’t a rehash of previous runs. Same goes for Young Avengers.

I just hope Bunker and Solstice don’t end up forgotten in limbo. 

 

 

Sometimes Central Casting is Idiotic

And by central casting, I mean me.

I’ve written before that I have a roster of characters who haunt me. These characters are, to a degree, unintended actors looking for the one, right, role. And I’m the casting director struggling to create that right role.

In trying to create the right story for the right character, I’ve often tweaked both story and character.

Take Honor Gale. She’s been with me for years, looking for the right story. I’d played with having her be the protagonist of two ideas which I’ve largely abandoned. It wasn’t until I’d decided to approach The Goetic High as a single novel that I found the perfect role for her.

The problem with that realization, however, is that I had demote Webster Cypress, who I’d originally intended to be the protagonist of the project (had it been a series) to a supporting protagonist role. Why? It just felt right to have Honor be the protagonist. And my subsequent work on The Goetic High has supported my decision.

The next project after The Goetic High is the one making me feel somewhat idiotic.

Originally, Tyler Spang, the protagonist of Bright Light, Deep Shadow, was  intended to “star” in a more realistic work. As I struggled with his request to be a gay action star, I tweaked his character.

That was absolutely a  mistake. I don’t know how many brainstorming hours I wasted when the answer was starring at me the whole darn time.

Why was I twisting into creative knots? The tyranny of history.

But I realized that I’m not writing historical fantasy. I’m writing the magical land I want to create. And I don’t need to adhere slavishly to what happened in our Earth’s past. History is inspiration not mandate.

So, Tyler is back to being his college freshman self. And I couldn’t be more excited.

The Dangers of Binge Reading Comics Edition

I hoard library books. I binge read whatever genres strike my immediate fancy. And by the time I get around to reading them, I really don’t want to. I try to soldier through the slog, but it is so hard to keep interested. Especially if there are a lot on my reading plate.

Right now, I’m experiencing this feeling with all of the comic books I’ve checked out. I have about twenty either already read or waiting to be read. By the time I’m done, I’ll probably not want to read comics again for a while. Especially in a binge. (I say that now. . . )

 

Supervillain Ideologies: Sinestro and the Sinestro Corps

The best way to describe the Sinestro Corps is: a Vorlon leading an army of Shadows. For those not familiar with Bablyon 5, what I mean is that Sinestro is an order obsessed authoritarian who leads an army of chaos breeding psychopaths.

By itself, this situation cannot stand because Sinestro is leading an army of beings he, himself, despises the most. Unless, of course, Sinestro is either using his Corps for purposes hidden from his troops or he is a hypocrite.

The truth, for those who have read The Sinestro Corps War and Sinestro’s subsequent actions since, is clear. Sinestro, though banished from the Green Lantern Corps, is still loyal to the ideals of that organization taken to a radical and militaristic extreme. For Sinestro, the Corps should not just preserve order but impose it, harshly. This is typified by Sinestro’s totalitarian regime on his homeworld. He wants to spread this ideal to the entire universe.

So, why use a force composed of, largely, chaos producers to achieve his goals? Simple.

To defeat the Sinestro Corps, the Guardians allow their Green Lanterns to kill. This action is the start of an increasing militarization of the Guardians of the Universe to the point that they, themselves, begin to impose order on the universe. Thus, Sinestro manipulates the Guardians into embracing his ideology.

Therefore, it is obvious that Sinestro is merely using his Corps to force the Green Lanterns to become more like him in ideological outlook.

But why do the Sinestro Corps follow a leader who will  likely dispose of them once he has achieved his goal? Because (duh) they are a bunch of psychopaths who don’t think much further ahead than “when do I next get to commit mass slaughter?”.

 

 

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