Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Why Batman Is Awesome #2: "I wanted to taste the flavor of death. I wanted to know that I had finally experienced every eventuality."

Batman is awesome.

Batman prepares himself for every eventuality, and if he can't-- well, that's impossible, he's Batman.

Bruce Wayne took a year out from being Batman to become better. To get away from his grim and gritty demons and emerge a more effective crime fighter. That involved travelling the world, having his fears cut away from him by-- well, I'll show you later maybe. But what he did was, he confronted death. Death. And then he was bad-ass-er.

So obviously, after the "Thogal" ritual, Bruce had some questions. Leading to a conversation with a monk who had some very sinister overtones going for him.

Holy shit! Batman's been poisoned! What's the Caped Crusader to do?!

Oh, wait.

Batman is so awesome that, as force of habit, whenever he dines with someone he switches cups because he's that damn effective. Even off-guard he's not meaning he's the greatest crime fighter ever. That's the point of this. Even when he's not Batman, he's Batman, and you can never trap him.

Right, so, the point: You can never stop Batman. You can leave the country (as in The Dark Knight) and he'll kidnap you right out of your own office tower. You can send him hurtling into the past and he'll fight and punch and think his way to the present, because he's the World's Greatest Detective (more on that later). Batman is awesome.


Monday, 29 March 2010

Why Batman Is Awesome #1: "Radion. Toxic to your kind. I sealed the bullet that killed Orion in my belt for inspection. DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR?"

Batman is awesome.

No matter what. No matter you throw at him, he's awesome. Break his back and he returns a year later and beats you and yours to shit. Break his sanity and he reveals that he was expecting it and created a back-up personality capable of kicking your ass straight back to Arkham. Bury him alive... and, well, I'll show you later.

Batman, Bruce Wayne I mean, is currently lost in the past, due to the Forth World dark god Darkseid's Omega Sanction, a sort of teleportation effect that makes the target live through progressively worse lives until their souls are ground to dust.

What Batman did was, he let go of all his baggage about guns, about his agonisingly difficult past, and to save the world he shot the dark god of evil in the shoulder-- he shot to wound-- with a bullet forged from radioactive isotope known as Radion, the one thing that can kill a "New God". He shot a god in the shoulder and saved the universe from the dread shadow that loomed over humanity.

Batman never uses guns. But in this moment, because he knew that he had no other choice, he loaded a god-killing bullet into a god-killing gun and he shot a god. He shot a god.

A point to make: Darkseid was the one who made the bullet. He made the bullet to kill his son, Orion, the dog of war, because of prophecies that announced that the son shall kill the father, and the only way to take him down was to build a bullet-- and shoot it backwards through time. The same bullet that killed Orion helped to kill Darkseid.

And Darkseid, because he's a savvy fucker, sent Batman through all kinds of Hell with his Omega Sanction. He sent Batman into a place where there was no escape. No way to get help. Except he's Batman, mother fucker, and there's always a way when Bruce Wayne is involved.

Regardless, Batman's last word before this went down?


So this is how Batman ended up.


Except! Except that's not him and it's actually an evil clone created by Darkseid's minions but more on that later when Dick Grayson, the current Batman, attempts to resurrect his fallen mentor in a Lazarus Pit but discovers Darkseid's evil machinations!

No, this is where Batman ended up.

He's in your past. And he's painting on your walls-- message to the future, mother fuckers!

And where's Bruce Wayne, the Batman, now?

He's in Caveman times, mother fucker, and he's about to beat y'all to shit.


"I am a reputation. I am a grainy photograph of a man with dark bullet holes instead of eyes."

Why is it so hard to complete things?

There's always that bump that staggers you-- I've found-- that slows your work down to a crawl. I've got so many plates spinning and getting to each and every one of them is starting to cause ultimate woe.

So yeah, got a load of short stories you'll never see being worked through, and that bastard novel, and of course, Zenith! dragging me down. But Zenith! is going to start moving forward soon enough, so we can but hope.

If I put more and more pressure on myself, yes, things'll be difficult for a while, but when I actually complete this stuff I'm pressuring myself with, then it'll be worth it, yes?

"Who am I? I am a reputation. I am a grainy photograph of a man with dark bullet holes instead of eyes. I am a severed penis stuffed into a dying mouth. I am a person you come to if you want someone dead. I am the person you know will find their target." - Emerald (Human Target Vol. 1 #1)

Sunday, 28 March 2010

"The Chain" - Countdown

I started writing my novel in, I think, June of last year. I started strong, wrote like a sonofabitch, and then burnt out even faster. I stop/started, on-and-off, until this point, where I'm a few months away from it being 365 days of having it hanging over me, and knowing what I've got to do. I didn't write linear, that was a problem, so I've written a lot of the fun stuff, the stuff I wanted to write since I had the idea, and now I've got a lot of filler to write-- the thick stuff that needs doing but is always a drag to do. Exposition. Fighting. Dialogue I can handle, dialogue I love, but right now... I need to finish this thing. A year should be plenty of time, shouldn't it?

But not only that, but my novel has to be just that, it has to be a novel. If the word count isn't up, then it's nothing but a glorified short story, or even worse-- a novella. Some pseudo-Italian term that means "you're not good enough to hit our special high word count". I need to get this done. I need to write harder than I have been. But I'm in the place right now where doing it would be artificial and stodgy, and who wants that?

I want to be in Venice. I want to be back in Venice, sitting in front of that cafe; my ears open, my eyes on the street and my fingers on the keyboard. I want to write, and I want to get it done.

So, June, right?

Wish me luck.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Fans Just Do It Better #1: Human Target

I adore Joss Whedon's Dollhouse. This may sound like an unnecessary fact to state at the beginning of an article on Fox's new action packed series The Human Target, but it's important. Pocket that tidbit, and we'll move forward.

I'll do the history lesson first. Familiarise you with the concept, get your brain juices moist and moving.

DC Comics' Human Target is a multimedia property that's hard to pin down, and that's exactly how it should be. For those of you not in the know, The Human Target started out as a back-up feature in Action Comics, playing second fiddle in the back pages to the Superman feature up at the front. Created by comic legends Len Wein (again, for those of you not knowledged-up, the guy that co-created Wolverine back when he was a one-note villain in the pages of Incredible Hulk) and Carmine Infantino (OK, let's just say that both these guys have comic book ink in their veins and that their contribution to the landscape of comic books is comparable to none), the title character, 'Christopher Chance', was the ultimate bodyguard-- he would assume the life of the client he was protecting and draw out the threat to their safety-- effectively become a human target (see what they did there?) that would take down the interloper before damage could be done. A master of disguise, close-quarters-combat, firearms and more, this was a character that would stand the test of time, and whose story is continuing even now in a new television series from Fox.

But that's where things get problematic.

Jonathan E. Steinberg, the show-runner for Fox's Human Target, has stripped away all the cool, intelligent, involving subtextual meat of the property, and has made it generic. Christopher Chance was the ultimate human chameleon, a man that would assume your life to protect you from the forces that would want you dead. Now then, Steinberg, and therefore Fox, have it wrong. Human Target is generic to the action genre, with it's witty one-liners, mysterious helpers, hardened mentor figure... it should be such much more than a distillation of every Steven Segal and Jean Claude Van Damme film you watch on a Thursday night when there's nothing else to watch on television. Don't get me wrong, I really do like the show, but this isn't my Human Target. Mark Valley isn't my Christopher Chance. My Chance is a lithe, educated, scary-as-fuck borderline disassociate personality suffering, master of disguise. Mark Valley is all-American Captain America.

Generic is not a bad thing. Generic embodies all the tropes and covers an umbrella of archetypes that are consistent with whatever we're talking about. But Human Target has been twisted into something it shouldn't be. It's like Jonathan E. Steinberg had an idea for a show, and saw the name and applied it to the property, without caring for the established audience-- however small that was.


Let's role-play for a moment:

"Hey, Charlie, it's Fox, we've heard about your massive ego and your wanting to write for us. Have Human Target. Tell us what you want to do? Please?"

"Oh, sure, here's how it would go...

Human Target is the anti-Dollhouse. It's the alpha to it's omega (see what I did there?). Instead of one actor playing two or more characters as Eliza Dushku did when playing the Doll Echo, imagine two actors playing one character, as our Christopher Chance, a broken man who needs the constant appeasement of someone else's personality imposed over his own, uses high-tech make up and full-body prosthetics to replace his clients and become a Human Target-- fully capable of inserting himself into the highest echelons or the lowest depths of any situation and defuse a hostile event with his smooth talking or gun-slinging prowess!

But the problem is, every identity he immerses himself in leaves gaps in his own character, meaning his own personal tics are slowly leaving him as he adopts the stammers and processes of the people he has become. When does Christopher Chance end and the Human Target begin? Not even Chance himself knows.

Episodes alternate between darker and lighter fare. Sometimes Chance is a gritty bastard, dangerous to mess with and someone you don't want to meet in a dark alley. Something is wrong with this man. Other times, he's doing what he loves and he's doing it with a smile on his face. You can always tell if Chance is behind the face of your favourite stalked celebrity or a friend who's had it rough recently, because there's a hint of a smile just lingering between their lips.

There's a reason for this. Christopher Chance's arch-enemy is himself. Himself... but not. This sounds crazy, right?

Peter Milligan introduced the concept of Tom McFadden to the Human Target mythos. Chance had a mission go sour, his face was blown clean off, and because of this he had his assistant, Tom, impersonate him and draw out his assassin so that the threat to his life would be over. The Human Target became the latest client of the Human Target. At the end of it all, after Chance's face was rebuilt by the best surgeons money could buy-- and Chance has plenty of that to splash around-- McFadden has established himself to be a premier Human Target, perhaps even better than Chance ever was.

So what's the problem?

Chance is single. Childless. No single thing to tie him down. McFadden on the other hand is a family man, the life of a Human Target is not built for someone like him-- but he's good at it. Better than perhaps Chance himself. Christopher returns to the game, convinces Tom to return to his own life, but it doesn't stick...
Align Centre

...Now we have two Christopher Chances running around, and they're headed on a collision course, as the real one-- "which one is that this week?"-- realises that he's gaining enemies because he's done terrible deeds, or, to be more precise, someone with his face has committed those terrible acts. The second Christopher Chance-- actually Tom McFadden-- begins to fracture and break further and further away from reality, and wants to stop his doppelgänger.

So many subplots emerge now. I see Tom McFadden distracting Christopher Chance, drawing him out of his comfort zone, just as he did in the final arc of the Vertigo series-- framing Chance for murder, perhaps, and then simply slipping into his life and into his job whilst the real Chance is hounded...? McFadden infuriates gangsters in the guise of Chance, steals their money, sleeps with their women, their wives-- sure, it's a Chance thing to do, but it's a Chance thing to do for Chance!

Not only are we embedded in the lives of the Human Targets, but what about those who have been touched by them? Tom's family misses him. His wife blames Christopher-- and Christopher is the cause of this, in more ways than one. We have your story-of-the-week format, but on top of that the mystery grows. Who is Tom? Where is Tom? Who is watching Christopher? Everyone is against our hero, even himself, and by the first season finale, our two Chances will collide, leaving one man irrevocably broken, and the other... dead...?"

"Sounds a bit too smart for us, Charlie."

"Then give Jonathan E. Steinberg a call, you bastards!"

That's how it would roll. This series could be brilliant if it wasn't for the fact that it's not what it sets itself up to be. This isn't the Human Target. I wish it was. Then maybe I could tell more people about it. Instead, I think I'll just complain. When acquiring properties like this, the show-runner should use the whole landscape of the idea, rather than just focus in on a name, and spin that off into whatever suits their purpose. We're being robbed of what could have been one of the best television shows out there, just because they're refusing to think inside the box.

But I guess that's just as good in this day and age, right?

(Art by Tim Bradstreet and Cliff Chiang, all rights theirs and in no way mine. But God, aren't they great?)

Saturday, 20 March 2010

I Believe

What follows is a chunk of text taken from Neil Gaiman's American Gods, the novel that got me through Venice and air-travel. Not to say that Venice wasn't brilliant, but during the quiet times, the alone times, the wandering through the streets in abject wonder times, this was the novel that I came back to. So read it. And love it as much as I did. I also have this printed on a t-shirt. So yeah.

"I can believe things that are true and I can believe things that aren't true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they're true or not. I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and Marilyn Monroe and the Beatles and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen–I believe that people are perfectible, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones who look like wrinkledy lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women. I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone's ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline of good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state. I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste. I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we'll all be wiped out by the common cold like the Martians in War of The Worlds. I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman. I believe that mankind's destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it's aerodynamically impossible for a bumblebee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there's a cat in a box somewhere who's alive and dead at the same time (although if they don't ever open the box to feed it it'll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself. I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn't even know that I'm alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck. I believe that anyone who says that sex is overrated just hasn't done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what's going on will lie about the little things too. I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies too. I believe in a woman's right to choose, a baby's right to live, that while all human life is sacred there's nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system. I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you're alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it."

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Track #15: Weezer - Buddy Holly (+An Early Morning Ramble)

I am very rarely awake before 6am. Mainly because I finally turn in, what, around 3am? So, waking up this morning at 530am and finding myself all alert and what not, I know this day is going to bring inevitable bad times. SURE I had the earliest night I've had in years (8pm, whaaaat?), and SURE I've got work in three hours now, so that should keep me all occupied and what not, but THEN what? Then what's going to happen? It's St. Patrick's Day. When was the last time I celebrated that? God knows. Never? I was either working or under-age. Mostly under-age.

So yeah. Long day ahead. Was only supposed to be working for four hours. Now I'm doing nine and a half... at least I get a break.

And for the sake of continuity...

Oh crap, now I'm stuck thinking that THIS is my St. Patrick's Day post? That's it? That's all I'm going to do? Ah, to Hell with it, I can live with that...

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Thinking About Zenith! Magazine

It's very hard to create something. Characters, properties, ideas that you can sell on to the highest bidder... it's very difficult. So when wanting to create a magazine, a sort of catchment for all the brilliance that you experience from your friends on a daily basis, that should be the hardest thing of them all. It's not yours, not completely. You're at the mercy of people. Deadlines. Busy schedules. Writer's Block (not that it truly exists).

People make promises that they don't deliver on. Some people deliver on their promises beyond what you were originally expecting, and that's a wonderful experience, I've discovered. It happens around the beginning of the scouring period for content:

"I'll try and get something to you, but I don't know what."
"Awesome, whatever you do, I look forward to it." An hour before the deadline: "Check your inbox." After checking said inbox and opening an elaborately titled file: "Wow."

That's the moment I live for now, when I'm in my Zenith! headspace. Sure, I'd like that moment to come regularly, and I'd love for it to come maybe, I don't know, a month before the deadline, but it's that punch-the-air-in-gratitude moment that is currently the connective membrane of what I'm living.

I want this to succeed. Truly. Issues might be late. That's the way of the world. Heck, I live a life too, and it doesn't always revolve around Zenith!. I want to create characters, properties, ideas that can sustain me. I want to finish my novel. I want to be able to show off about things. But Zenith!... Right now, Zenith! is what I want to show off about. I want to see it made real. I want to hold it in my hands. I want you all to be able to hold it in your hands. So, of course, when it's ready for ordering you'll know it. I won't shut up about it. This is off our own backs. Other people have sponsorship. Advertisements fill their pages. I can't help but feel that things like that might compromise their content. That it can't help, even if it's not the case, feel as if all the stuff inside is mandated. I've collected free, ad-driven magazines (heck, I've paid for some of them) from across the country. Wherever I've gone and whenever I find them, I pick them up and I read them. And I'm always left wanting more from it. Not that it inspires wanting through content, but because it's so lacking.

So, right, Zenith!. Zenith! is full of stuff. Zenith! isn't a niche magazine because, right now, we're finding out legs, building our foundation. We're looking for anything to fill its pages. And #1 is being built. Constructed. Developed. And soon, we'll have something to show for it. Something that's made from sweat and tears and blood and wanting. That's what this is all about.

The end game. The end product. Are you as excited as me?

On a different note, Warren Ellis said this on Writer's Block. And I can't help but feel it's true, even if I do sometimes say I'm struggling. But that's the thing, I struggle, and I write, and I write shit sometimes but I don't suddenly find myself without abiltiy to put word onto paper or finger to key. Anyway, I'll let him do the talking. It's easier that way: "Writer’s block? I’ve heard of this. This is when a writer cannot write? Then that person isn’t a writer anymore. The job is getting up in the morning and fucking writing. If you get up in the morning and you cannot write, you’re something else, aren’t you?"