Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Exercise in Egotism: My Dream Project

I have a confession to make. Like every fan out there, I'd bet, I have the (not so) secret dream of one day writing superhero comics. And of course, I have the opinion that I'd be good at it! Your mileage may very of course.

Naturally, like all comic book fans, I have my "dream comic", the one that I would probably give my right eye (hell, it doesn't work right anyway. :-p) for the opportunity to write. And because I can't think of anything to blog about today, I figured I'd share it!

Okay, my dream comic opportunity would be the chance to write an issue or two of JSA Classified in which I would get to write a post-Crisis/New Earth version of "Creature in the Velvet Cage".

I'd like to clarify that this is not at all because I dislike the original version. I think Len Wein did a great job in penning a fun, breezy action crossover action story that's very enjoyable to read. Wes Dodds's long unseen sidekick was turned into a sand-monster, he escapes, goes on a rampage, and a combined force of JLA and JSA characters are needed to stop him. In the end, it's discovered that Sandy was actually saving the city, is sane, and he and Wes go off into the sunset to find a cure. it's a fun story.

But it doesn't really work as an origin story anymore.

This is probably because it was never really meant to BE an origin story. Wein's "Creature..." is an entirely different kettle of fish. It's a "Whatever happened to..." sort of story, a one-shot revisiting of a dead concept. It's designed to be a fun read, not to really examine the effects the events would have on the primary characters. It ends with Wesley Dodds and his sand-monster sidekick going off into the sunset, where it would be years yet, before the loose ends are ever tied up in yet another "Whatever happened to..." story appropriately called "Whatever happened to Sandy the Golden Boy?"

This is understandable really. Aside from showing up occasionally in All-Star Squadron or Young All-Stars, and popping up for the Crisis and Armageddon storyarcs, the character was clearly not intended to be a long-term, active hero again.

But now he is. Sanderson Hawkins is a founding member of the current JSA, a core member, with fairly pivotal storylines. He's also damn good in fight scenes. So he really deserves an origin story that actually works!

Okay, so, if I were going to write this story as my not-so-secret dream entails, the first thing to do is take the original story and figure out what I'd keep and what I'd rework.

I would naturally keep the general premise as clearly some portion of it is still in continuity and referenced in the Robinson/Goyer/Johns JSA. Wes Dodds had a sidekick. This sidekick was involved in a laboratory accident involving a silicoid gun project and was transformed into a monster, which is then anasthesized and placed into a sort of stasis until it escapes, wreaks havoc, before being revealed to be sane and self-aware.

I would discard things like the crossover element (unneeded, as New Earth already has members of both the JSA and the JLA), Superman sewing a faultline shut with Wonder Woman's lasso (fun, but not really suited to Earth 2), that sort of thing.

The biggest change I would make is to shift the focus of the story. In the original story, the audience viewpoint is the same as the heroes'. We know that Sandy is the monster, we know he's wreaking havoc, we know he needs to be stopped. The shock is of course at the end, when Sandy is subdued and we learn the truth.

But we current readers of JSA already know that Sandy's sane and not a mindless monster. We know how the story is going to turn out, so there's no need for the surprise. So why not have the audience perspective of the story rest with the character that's most interesting to explore in this situation: the monster!

There's our protagonist. A kid who spent decades in a drugged state of dim awareness, vaguely aware of time passing, but unable to think clearly, move, or communicate. An impending disaster, a quake that'll make the New Madrid look like Power Girl's fit of pique, jolts him to full consciousness. He's groggy, confused, and in a New York City that might as well be an alien world. And he's the only one who knows what's coming.

He won't understand why people are running away from him, if he even notices. Besides, he can't really spare the time or energy to reassure or explain. There are people in costumes, with powers, trying to stop him. So there are still villains in this world. Some of them may even look a little familiar, but there's no time to stop for a closer look, he's got a city to save.

The story would rely very heavily on the talent of the artists of course. There would be no real dialogue until the end, when he is face to face with Wes. When he can stop. I'd want there to be word balloons coming from the "villains'" mouths, but with jagged edges and no words inside. There would be as little narration as I could get away with. Everything would look surreal.

Wein used the perfect line-up for the story that I want to tell: Superman, Batman, Hal's Green Lantern. They're all iconic characters, instantly recognizeable. They're walking symbols of the League. The readers would recognize them immediately. The monster wouldn't. He would recognize Wonder Woman's costume, but not, perhaps, the woman wearing it. Jay would likely be moving too quickly to see clearly, while Wes would be in back waiting for his chance, certain that if he can just talk to him, the monster won't hurt him.

The themes of the story would revolve around identity and memory. The creatures' vague recollections contrasted with the reality: human hands vs the stone fists of a monster, the New York of 1945 to the New York of "seven years ago".

The Sandman would be the turning point of the story. Until this point, the quake is the only thing holding the monster together, absorbing all concentration and effort. There is nothing beyond the need to stop it. But the Sandman, but "Wesley Dodds" is different. It doesn't matter that the man behind the gasmask is stooped and old, he's still Wes. And Wes brings words. He brings clarity and identity. The monster knows who he is now, knows what happened, and knows where he is. And there's still an earthquake to stop.

This story would be my dream story, the one I'd want to write more than any other. (And believe me, as a comic fan, of COURSE there are others.). I think it'd be really really interesting to try to write if I ever got a chance.

And what the heck, it at least gave me a blog-post for today. :-)


  • At May 22, 2007 3:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Actually sounds promising...maybe

  • At May 22, 2007 3:29 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    To be honest, I don't think I could write it as a prose story. The lack of words/narration is kind of important to the overall theme. The idea really relies on the imagery to drive it forward.

    But thanks for the compliment!

  • At May 22, 2007 11:51 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Boy howdy, I'd pay to read that. I think that you are right, it would have to be very visual, the jagged, empty word balloons sound very evocative.

    Is this the story where Hal keeps attacking and keeps gettting his head handed to him? (Not that that is particularly unnusual!)

  • At May 22, 2007 1:31 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Boy howdy, I'd pay to read that.

    Hee, nicest compliment ever!

    And to be more precise, it's the one where Hal keeps getting his head handed to him by Sandy yes.

    Never stops amusing me. :-p

  • At May 28, 2007 6:18 PM, Blogger Kai Jansson said…

    I really like your idea for the rewrite of that story. Why not write that script and find a decent artist to draw it?


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