So my friend Jake pitched me a superhero comic recently. The work on the Eyes of the Forest comic has unfortunately come to a halt (hat's fine, the book is still in progress) so I had something of an opening. Just one problem: I don't like superhero media!
This isn't to say I won't sit down for a movie with a couple of my friends. Yes, I coincidentally had dust in my eyes from the moment Yondu told Quill "He might 'ave been your father, but he wasn't your daddy" to the moment we watched him die in the airless void.
Fuck you, James Gunn.
Just in general though, breaking me out of my hovel or obsessive work cycle to watch a superhero movie demands something like a king's ransom and the universal approval of my friends, because how dare I spend 2 hours on anything I can't justify the productive value of.
Like playing video games.
In all seriousness, I just can't get down with superhero media. It freaks me out, I see a lot of tropey and "we're trying too hard to not be tropey" stuff and my suspension of disbelief is primed fail the second I see a cape. Shame, really.
There was one instance of superhero media that I not only enjoyed, but connected with on a really deep level. Alphas, on Sci-fi. It only ran for 2 seasons (and included who would later be one of my favorite voice actors), but it bypassed my normal skepticism. It was realistic; not the grim dark "everything is sex drug use and murder" completely un-relatable realism of DC, these were people living normal lives around what was (to them) a disability. Disabilities that could be used to great advantage if someone took the time and effort to coach them through it. I would not be particularly shocked if I was the only one that sort of narrative could connect with.
So when my friend Jake pitched this comic to me, I told him exactly what I wanted to do with it. I described my personal feelings on the subject, and used Alphas as an example of what I thinks often missing in storytelling in general. To my surprise he accepted! I'm not a tyrant of course, and neither is he. So naturally, we've had a few disagreements on certain plot elements. I want to share to these disagreements here.
I'm comfortable sharing all the details of this one thing is though I think I convinced Jake to scrap it. He wanted to introduce a reality bending device; something that would in his words explain why superpowers started cropping up. It was an alien artifact, Ancient, and every single superpower in the world would depend on it. Moreover, it would be located on earth! Oh, and it can be turned off. Lovely. I spent I think over a week discussing with Jake, Zach our other writer, and a mutual friend whether this was just a McGuffin had no real place in story.
I think what finally managed to convince him was the fact that our audience was coming to us specifically because they wanted a superhero story. Storytelling in general has an over explanation problem to begin with, but explaining to the audience why they are allowed to suspend disbelief is taking it to a whole new level. Jake's response was that it was cool, and there were a lot of story opportunities with it. All of the stories that he proposed intersecting with this device more high escalation everything screwed if we don't win fights. I hate those! I hate them with a passion, and superhero media is absolutely full of them. Everything is screwed if we don't win is almost universally on relatable. I stuck to my guns, and Jake relented. I'm not dictating things, I just have a standard that I measure everything against.
The second was a character pitch. This really did not progress far. I opened up discord to see a message from Jake reading what if Hercules was a real person and had superpowers and survived into the modern age? Here I really got to work. My first question was why on earth but we take a character from mythology? Next, why Hercules? Literally everyone does the Greeks next to the Norse pantheon! The usual "but it's interesting" objection came out. In addition, the other writers felt that just because other people had done it didn't mean we couldn't. In principle, I agree!
There is absolutely nothing in this instance that would convince me otherwise. I had two core objections. First, you take a character from mythology explicitly so you do not have to be original. Unless you're doing a full reimagining that actually fits within the setting of your world, you are taking from the lore so that you do not have to do the writing on your own. The more commonly retold the myth, the more your take is likely something that everyone has heard before. I'm not saying you can't enjoy that by the way, but it's popcorn. It's not deep, and something I really prefer to avoid. Next, I felt the choice of mythological figure was telling. Who is Hercules? He's a big strong guy. Not only is he a big strong guy, he's the big strong guy. It's not exactly the most complex core characterization you could pick. On top of that, we go back to the fact that everyone does the Greeks! There are other figures to choose from when it comes to absurdly tough and good at killing things. I suggested Samson or Beowulf. The fact he chose Hercules told me it was not coming from a place of originality or inspiration, but more of a first thing to come to mind. It's a lazy choice, and I wanted to keep that from diminishing some of the excellent plots we've drawn up so far.
I always try to keep the same standard when it comes to things; if you're going to pitch something, I have two questions. Can we plausibly keep the peace we desire when it comes to escalating conflicts if we introduce this thing? What purpose does it have within the central narrative? It's easy to get swept away by the cool factor. I often go back to earlier chapters in my book make sure I haven't been so caught up in the idea of something that I didn't pay attention to the execution of it. When it comes to comics this is especially important; I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that the plot is central to the success of the comic!