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.
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.
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.
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.
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. . . )
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?”.
I’m currently on a binge of superhero comic books. So expect a series of posts with comic book related topics. Here is a preview of some of the topics I’m planning on tackling.
Supervillain Ideologies featuring Sinestro, the Court of Owls, Zeke Stane, and any others interesting ideologies I come across during my binge.
Teen Titans vs. Young Avengers
And any other interesting topics I come across.
Do not read The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. Despite all of the gushing press it has received, it sucks.
But, thankfully, this is not a review about a horrible book. Rather, this is an exploration of my personal taste.
I straddle two worlds. On one side, I’m a science fiction,fantasy, and comic book geek. On the other side, I’m passionate about literary literature. Understandably, this split wreaks havoc with my enjoyment.
I’m not one of those sf fans who can inhale most works in the genre and enjoy them with gusto. I tried The Bone Season and The Witches of Karres based off of reviews provided by Black Gate Magazine. I tried them and hated them. One of the books comes off immediately as your standard young adult fare, only remarketed as an adult starter. The other book is so boringly cliche, I barely made it past three pages. Ugh.
Is it wrong for me to not be able to immerse myself with as much enthusiasm as other (mostly) science fiction and fantasy fans? Am I really not a fan because I won’t stick out with what I feel to be poorly written crap?
I really want to challenge that notion. I want science fiction and fantasy to be as well written as the best literary fiction. Even if it goes unrecognized.
The more I think about influence, the more I wonder if a near exclusive diet of fantasy and science fiction is really the best way to go.
Or am I letting my culture vulture side gain too much influence?
I love More Than This by Patrick Ness. I will buy this book, and make a point of hunting for Ness’s other work, at the first chance I get.
Seth Wearing wakes up after drowning in the ocean. Instead of the home he has spent his teenage years in, he wakes up near his childhood home. How? What is going on? These questions, and more, plague Seth as he struggles to survive the ruined world he has awaken to.
And trust me, the answers are surprising.
First of all, Seth is an amazing character. His presence is so well realized, it is amazing. He just comes off the page, alive.
Don’t get me wrong, some of his story is, honestly, eye roll inducing. But it is a testament to Ness’s mastery of characterization that I didn’t just put the book down and never come back to it.
The supporting characters, unfortunately, don’t come nearly so close to the realization that Seth achieves, but their characters are still very well done. Especially Regine and Tomasz.
Furthermore, kudos are to be given to Ness for creating, perhaps, one of the best representations of a gay teenager I’ve ever read. Ness gets it so right. While Seth’s homosexuality is an important plot point, it does not define him. He’s gay, so what? The handling is just matter of fact.
I did mention that I had an eye roll. And this novel does induce quite a few of them. Again, a testament to the great writing and characterization that I didn’t put the book down.
My biggest issue with the book, and one that is seemingly endemic to young adult literature, is that some of the story is needlessly grimdark. Does Seth’s life have to be that screwed up? And, even though this is a stupid question, why did the family move to Washington and give up NHS? (Unless, spoilers, the NHS doesn’t exist anymore when the story takes place).
Needless to say, the circumstances of Seth’s death are not shocking.
The shock, I think, comes from the genre mashup revelations. The novel is a mix of the hero’s journey, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and The Matrix. While the influences to the two previous works are obvious, More Than This is not derivative. In fact, the direction Ness takes the narrative is very interesting.
Overall, I really love this novel. I want to buy it now.
What makes a hero?
I ask this question because I’m interested in how heroes become, well, heroic. How does background affect character? How does character affect plot?
Now, not all heroes are the same. Some heroes are the ultimate boy scout (Superman). Some heroes are tortured by the death of loved ones (Batman and Spiderman). Some heroes want recognition (Naruto). Some heroes fight for a dream (X-Men). Some heroes fight for greed (Conan).
There is the traditional hero. There is the antihero. There is the modern hero.
I’ve written about about heroism in fiction before. I’ve criticized Harry Potter for how the titular hero shrugs off the abuse he’s suffered. I’ve ranted (several times) about Naruto’s unsatisfactory handling of Naruto’s repressed resentment.
Thinking about my criticisms (mostly aimed at Naruto), I wonder if in some cases interesting heroes are shoehorned into a traditional (or would stereotypical be a better word?) mold. I’m not sure if contorting heroes into expectations is really all that wise.
I want to see a resentful hero struggle with saving the community that scorned him. I want to see a hero who troubles the world, not restores it to a status quo. I want to see a hero fight with himself to overcome his faults. I want to see a hero fall to his flaws. I want to see a hero who dances on the edge of light and dark. I want to see a hero plunge into the abyss. Etc.
But more than reading or watching stories that feature the above scenarios (which I, personally, intend to explore), I want to explore and (eventually) understand why these heroes act the way they do. What motivates them? What drives them?
In the end, what I want to see is more complexity in the hero.
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki is a postmodern novel that explores the tragedy of the human condition. Yasutani Nao, a Japanese school girl who has spent most of her life in America, writes a diary detailing her life and her decision to, perhaps, commit suicide. Her diary comes into the possession of Ruth, a middle aged writer, when it washes up on the beach of the Canadian island she lives on. Together, the two narratives intertwine to interrogate the various tragedies that befall both women. And it is that entanglement, separated by several years, that ultimately saves both women.
I honestly love this novel. The various voices are distinct and extremely well done.
And it forces me to think about how people interact, even separated by time and place.
There are some things about the novel that bug me to no end, though.
For one thing, Nao undergoes tribulations that would make any grimdark fantasy writer proud. She is the subject of intense bullying at her school. So intense and extreme that I, personally, have to wonder, within the world of the text, why no one seemed to notice what was going on. The abuse is so obvious and organized that the school administrators should have been aware of it. (Her parents do become aware of it, but due to both of their failings, they are largely powerless to stop it until it is almost too late).
I understand that one of the themes of the novel is triumphing over the most crushing adversity. But the bullying is, honestly, just too much.
In many reviews I’ve read, Nao’s story has been much preferred over that of Ruth’s, but I actually find Ruth the more interesting character. Nao’s problems are obvious. They pound the reader over the head with their excess. Ruth, on the other hand, faces subtler, and no less frightening, problems.
As much as I love this novel, there is a bit of being cheated.
Nao’s diary purports to be telling the reader (Ruth) the story of her great grandmother, Yasutani Jiko. But, in fact, the story told is that of Nao herself and, later, her great uncle Yasutani Haruki. While Jiko comes off as an amazing cipher and mentor, whether or not her story is actually told is irrelevant to the text as a whole. Rather, it is Nao’s development of her “superpower” and the conscience of the two Harukis that form the core of the diary.
The other bit of being cheated comes from an award that this novel is up for. The Kistchies are a set of awards that are aimed at speculative fiction.
Is A Tale for the Time Being speculative? I, personally, would say no. There is a scene, the denouement, where Ruth’s dreams may be temporal projections, which alters the history of the text. But while this occurrence might be magical realism, or even Canadian gothic, I would not call it speculative. Nor is any of the literary quantum theory engaged within the text exactly speculative. Rather, this is what modernist and postmodernist literature is. The whole point is to explore the nature of fiction and reality.
That A Tale for the Time Being engages in the same dialogue should not be surprising. I can see the argument for calling this novel speculative. It does “speculate” about the nature of reading and reality. And the time traveling dreams are a speculative trope. But, again, I do not think this novel is exactly speculative. What sf elements are present are not essential to the text.
Despite that, I do love the mixture of genres present. And I do love the novel.
Even if I will never look at Japan the same way again.