Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The City

A single thought has been crouching around in my brain of late and I suspect it is beginning to take form.

Every great superhero story, to my mind, starts with a city.

Gotham City and Metropolis are the best examples of this, and then there are the real world ones like New York and Seattle.  For those who are wondering, that's where a lot of the Elementals comics took place.  Man I miss that book so much.

Back to my point though, many fans often ask which is preferred in comics, the real world outside your window of Marvel, or the DC more made-up world.  For me, the older I get the more I realize I prefer the DC approach as it gives so much more freedom and allows you to present a different world.  A world that you can tailor more to your own tastes and goals.

Yes this ties into the Dieselpunk thing I was going on about last month.  Hush now and listen.

The thing is that almost every great story of a superhero starts with the city that they are in, usually it is in disrepair, a shade of its former glory and, to misquote the Maxx, run on a system of corruption, graft and violence.

This is a world that is crying out for a hero, but at first hates any that arrives.

This is one of the secrets of the success of Batman I think.  His origin story is so compelling that it has grown in the telling from being a page or so when he first appeared and now has been done as an entire mini-series, such as Batman: Year One.

Currently there is an excellent new Noir comic called the Black Beetle from Dark Horse Comics, that is set in the fictional Colt City and is thus far quite an interesting read.  I am fascinated by it, but must confess I was a bigger fan of Spider-Man Noir.

So what does all this mean really?  What am I going on about with the City and such?

Well I think I have to get a Golden Age tale out of my head soon.  Something set in a fictional City (probably Centropolis) and something that encompasses the elements of Noir and Dieselpunk that are kicking at the brain stem.

I have no idea if this will be successful or a fool's errand, either is fully possible.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Why I Love The D6 System

It's no secret, there have been games I have LOVED over the years and ran almost exclusively for periods of years.

The first and probably most famous one was Marvel Superheroes Roleplaying from TSR. Called FASERIP by the fans, due to the letters of it's attributes (Fighting, Agility, Strength, Endurance, Reason, Intuition and Psyche) the entire Zenith Universe was born out of endless campaigns starting back in the mid 1980s. To this day I can still run the book with only a colour chart and 2d10, though having a PDF of the rules is easy and more importantly we house ruled the hell out of it. Sure I later tried other super hero games and even today co-own the rights to one (SUPERS! for those who don't know), Marvel Super Heroes will always have a place in my gamer heart.

The other was Cyberpunk by R. Talsorian. I remember the day I walked into the Captain Quebec store on Ste. Catherine street and saw this black box sitting there. I had no idea what it or Cyberpunk was.  I picked it up, read the back and paid my $15 for it (which is what I remember it costing) and then went on to run a campaign in Night City that lasted for years. Cyberpunk was the game that taught me it is okay to go on a murderous rampage vs. your players. In every other game I run, I run it for my players, but Cyberpunk I run for me. Don't get attached to your characters, that's all I am saying. Even when they made the move to the 2020 rules, which I wasn't as much of a fan of, I still ran game after game. Good times.

Despite playing the hell out of those two games, there was a third game that I really liked, loved in fact, but didn't get to run as much as I liked. Star Wars by West End Games was that game. I really liked how the system worked and was enough of a fan of Star Wars that I enjoyed myself when I did get to run it. Which wasn't nearly often enough. It wasn't for lack of desire, but you have to understand Star Wars fans have a weird reaction to you messing with their perceptions of what the Star Wars Universe is, and given this was really just when the Expanded Universe was starting to get traction, my views on Star Wars were not always in line with the players, which could lead to them really not enjoying it. Some really did, in fact there is one player (Hi John!) that still talks about my Celestine Station game. That was a lot of fun.

Then they came out with the Revised & Expanded rules and I was blown away by the full colour rule book. I think I paid $40 for that, in like 1996 when it came out, which according to inflation was like the same as $60 today, which was the MOST I had ever paid for a game book. But I didn't care! It was awesome! Some gamers to this day dislike this edition, though for me I have always treasured it and am actually heart broken at how much it costs to buy a copy these days ($75 for a Near Mint copy), but someday soon I will snatch up a copy for myself, just for nostalgia reasons. But I digress.

So what is this all about you ask. Why am I waxing poetic about an out of print game? Well let me tell you why, and I think you might enjoy it.

In 1993 I walked into a gaming store and was shown a pseudo-Star Trek roleplaying game called Prime Directive by Task Force Games. Now I had played enough FASA-Trek to have a soft spot for Trek roleplaying, so I picked it up (Trivia: I got into both roleplaying and Star Trek through FASA-Trek, not D&D or being a Trekkie). There were a lot of things to like about this game. The system was unique and innovative. The setting, while way more militaristic than normal Star Trek, called back to the original series days more so than the Next Generation that I despised. It was a fun game that I could use a random adventure generator with and have a blast every time. I ran two or three campaigns using it and eventually moved on. Then in 1998 something happened that defined gaming for me moving forward.

I had just moved back to Montreal from Vancouver for the 2nd time, and the old group got together and wanted to play Prime Directive. I had long since lost my original book and recently had gotten my hands on the D6 System: The Customizable Roleplaying Game, essentially the Star Wars D6 game, with the Star Wars ripped out and literally encouraging house rulings! I quickly made rules for Prime Directive in D6 and was good to go! That campaign was legendary! I mean it was a campaign where a player pitched to be an Andorian/Vulcan half-breed and I was unsure but approved it and he turned out to be the scene stealer of the campaign. Nothing we did in that campaign could be wrong, it just was that damn good!

Sadly, after that I never went back to the D6 system for a really long time. Other games, mostly superheroes, ate up my attention and frankly I was good with that. Then a couple of years ago I needed to take a break from campaigning, so I ran a series of one-offs for my group, using D6 as the base and changing up the setting every time. It was a blast! It also lead me to find the Mini-Six rules by AntiPaladin Games. It seemed that after going bankrupt or something, West End Games had decided to do an OGL style thing with the D6 system and the lads at AntiPaladin saw a chance to make a fast-play, rules-lite version of the D6 system and it worked wonders! I really liked it and regret I wasn't able to get one of their hard-copies at the time and now await when they eventually do another print run.

This is why I like the D6 system or say Savage Worlds or the Unisystem, or pretty much any other generic system out there. It isn't perfect, not by a long shot, but is has a LOT less fiddly bits (unless you want to add them) and it can do ANY genre and do it well. Why, cause it is all based around a very solid core-mechanic. Grab a bunch of d6s, roll them, add them up and compare to a target number. End of story. Nothing more complicated than that.

Some say that the one genre it doesn't do well is superheroes, due in fact to the horrible DC Universe game they put out in the late 90's. I will admit it was an incoherent mess and desperately needed a second edition (though apparently they fixed a lot of it with subsequent books) that it would never get due to the fact that WEG went tit's-up not longer after they released it.

There is a product called D6 Powers that everyone raves about being the ultimate fix for the D6 superhero option. It's not bad, I guess, but the one thing it does that I think DC Universe did better is how you buy and rate powers. In D6 Powers everything is a point buy and there are ranks for powers. Whereas, DC Universe maintained the idea of a D6 pool all the way through, so you bought your powers with dice and they were rated in dice. A minor quibble, I know, but that's how my mind works. I want everything to be consistent and my OCD will compel me to obsess over these things until my mind pops. As such I just can't get into D6 Powers, even though I know it is a quality product.

The reason for this post is that recently I went on a quest to find a fantasy game system that gives me everything I want from a fantasy game, and you know what? I realized that D6 is exactly that! No I don't mean the D6 Fantasy rules that are available for free on rpgnow.com. No I mean taking the old D6 System core book from the 90s, taking Mini-Six, then grabbing every other D6 product you can for inspiration, and then hammering them all into a set of house rules that do what I want!

I want there to be multiple types of spell casting in my world. Spellbinders who learn spells and reproduce them like recipes  Sorcerers who draw on the very energy of magic to so what they want on a whim (think like the Will & the Word from the Belgariad) and Channellers who must bargain with powerful beings to gain their magic?

I can do all that in D6 without having to reinvent the wheel!

I don't like classes, but a player does? Easy, either build your character from scratch or take a template.

Simple, fast, easy.

Everything I could ever want is in that one simple book, because it tells me to make it the way I want it, provides some guidelines and examples, and lets the rest up to me.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and if just one of you gives D6 a chance and is a convert like I am, then it was all worth it.

Cheers!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

What'up Mersh?

For those who recognise that quote in the title, excellent.  For those who don't, well now you have a pointless mystery to solve.

That said, this is a what's up with me post, ready?

First up I lost my job in the beginning of the month.  To quote Bobcat Goldtwaite, I didn't lose it, I know where it is, just when I go there someone else is doing it.

Essentially a rather impressive round of layoffs and cut back in hours hit my work place and I was graciously shown the door.  Now I await my ROE (Record of Employment) so I can apply for benefits while seeking out a new job.  Yay?

That aside this gives me plenty of time to write and do my DDPYOGA, so there's the  silver lining.

Already I have been engaged by Fainting Goat Games to do something for them.  Can't say what it is, but I am looking forward to getting it out there.

I also have decided to continue the HEROIC scripts, including an 8th draft of issue 1 with the Epilogue finally included, then on to issue 2.

RPG projects on the plate are the Revised Edition of Supers!, which I am project director on.  Two fantasy worlds I am working on, planning both for BareBones Fantasy and Savage Worlds for now and lat but by no means least, possibly some more material for Zenith Universe in an RPG format (Who wants to see SKULL and ASGARD?)

So, setback of no work aside, I am looking for to 2013 and what I can achieve in it.

Cheers!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Heroic Update!

So I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to read the 7th draft of HEROIC issue 1.

Your feedback and just the fact that you have read it, means a lot to me.

Because of all of you I am working on an 8th and final draft of the script, with the missing epilogue finally added in and then I will begin work on issues 2.

Thank you all and know that I appreciate every kind word, typo caught or criticism, they all help to make this greater.

Cheers and stay tuned!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Dieselpunk, Retro-Futurism and the Superhero! - Part III

Welcome back for a third instalment of this series on... well on what I think about the topic I guess.

No that's not right.  It's more like my creative process being shown, for all to see.  One of the hardest parts of my creativity is that I have a sort of ADD when it comes to these things.  I get an idea and as I begin to think about it, research it, etc... I start to have other ideas that fight for attention in my brain and soon I am so far away from where I started that it just undermines the whole process.

For example, in researching this idea I came to a couple of conclusions.  The first is that I am not a fan of the existing retro-futurism stories and alternate histories I have encountered.  They all leave me feeling, I don't know exactly, but feeling a bit disconnected from the world they present.

The other thing I learned is that WW2 and the Holocaust are such huge events of the 20th Century that I just can't justify ignoring them or even glazing them over.  I mean these events were so defining of the remainder of the century and carry over even into today.  How can one just ignore them?

I remember when I was reading the back story of the roleplaying game "Brave New World", I was stopped dead in my tracks when they used a concentration camp as the origin of the most powerful hero ever who stopped the war dead.  I had to put it down cause to felt just so wrong to me.

There other thing is that when you start playing around with alternate histories you start looking at ways that either the Nazis could have won the war or points where the war could have been stopped cold and a sort of  Cold War with Germany could have developed.

Very quickly one finds themselves looking at how fascism would have spread, as well as communism and then before you know it you are so far down the rabbit hole that you just can't tell a story about superheroes any more, but now are creating an alternate world history.

Or at least that's how my brain works.

Then what about the Pacific theatre?  It gets all too complicated rather quickly there and I came to write superhero stories.

When you look at the Golden Age of comics the war is such an important part of the development of things. Captain America would not exist without the coming war in Europe.

So what to do, what to do?

Well for me the choice is simple.  Keep history real.  The fact that there are superheroes is maybe just alt-history enough to make the difference.

How can superheroes exist without effecting the war?  Why weren't they there lending their support on D-Day?  Why didn't the greatest hero fly to Berlin and Tokyo and end the war in an afternoon?

DC used the idea of the Spear of Destiny that stole the powers of the Allied heroes if they entered Nazi controlled parts of Europe (or gave Hitler control over them) and then Japan had the Holy Grail with which they instantly took control of the supers if they entered Japanese territory.  Sadly both of these ideas are a bit forced and having BOTH of them do it was lazy writing.

To neutralize the heroes of the Zenith Universe, I would have them constantly being used to stop the Axis supers, even so far as having their own objectives on D-Day to engage their enemy counterparts to prevent them from stopping the invasion of Normandy.

Just as hackneyed and lazy?  Maybe, but I feel more organic and less meta, as well as not requiring a whole fabricated mysticism that has large holes in it.  Why could the Spear of Destiny/Holy Grail only affect superheroes?  What about the ones without powers?  Why couldn't they use it to control the populace of any area they controlled?  Etc...  This also feels more in line with what the Marvel comics did for WW2.  The Invaders where never really on the same power level as the JSA, but they had their hands full fighting the crazy Axis villains, magicians and other strange stuff.

But what about the retro-futurism?

Well not for me in the end.  The closest it will come is in the presentation of the big city of Centropolis, which will have more of that 1930's "City of the Future" vibe to it (I am also planning to revive my east-coast metropolis of Capitol City, yes it is spelled with a "o" for a reason, and eventually will look into a west-coast city as well).

As for the Dieselpunk, well that will just be the brush I will paint the Golden Age with, but not so omnipresent as to change the world.  It is, I have learned through this all, a spice, not a sauce.

Thanks for taking the time to read this series and travelling through my creative process with me.

Cheers!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Heroic: What Happened and What's Happening?

So as you saw two posts back I have put the unpublished script for HEROIC #1 up for all to read.  I certainly didn't mean to be cryptic about it all but I supposed a bit more of an explanation is in order.

The script (the 7th draft) wound up being an amalgamation of 3 different ideas I had that worked together, and for the first issue would all be self contained.  As the series goes one though, they would come together and help build an over arcing story that would define their universe.

When we started the project I had an artist involved who was generously giving his effort to the comic for a piece of the profits (actually 50% of) but he later left the project to pursue his own interests.  Can't blame the guy, he wasn't making money off of us for sure and he had opportunities to make actual money as an artist that left him no time for the freebies.  Sad to see him go, but okay.

Then we were put in touch with another artist (who I wont' name here) who was amazing!  Unlike our first artist though, this would cost us money, so we figured get the prologue done, which was about all we could afford to up-front for, and then go to a Kickstarter to get the art for the rest.

Then his health took a turn for the worse and he has been in and out of hospitals and pretty much vanished from the face of the Earth.  No one can reach him.  No contacts any of us have, even those of the people who recommended or vouched for him, work anymore.

Needless to say that started to make me feel like this comic was cursed.  Almost $2000 later we have nothing to show, other than my script.

It is heartbreaking and defeating to say the least.

So I decided to put it up and move on.  Figuring someone out there might as well read the story.

Then a friend on Facebook messaged me to tell me how much he liked the story and was looking forward to seeing it in print.  When I told him it was very unlikely to see print, he replied as follows;

"Don't give up! I realize that it might take a while but it's the kind of story I'd live to follow (even if only in script form)! Maybe if you put out a few more scripts you could build enough of a following for a Crowd Funding program like Indiegogo or Kickstarter..."

I gave some thought to what he said and I wonder, is this something folks would be interested in?

Let me know in the comments down below and I am very open to this possibility.

Cheers!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Dieselpunk, Retro-Futurism and the Superhero! - Part II

So after getting some feedback from various sources on the Part 1 of this series (?) of article(s), I find myself on a snowy Sunday afternoon with a bit of headache and a desire to be creative.

So in the previous article I sighted a bit of the woes Zenith Comics has been going through, as well as the different inspirations I had Dieselpunk and Retro-Futurism.  I also promised to put up the unpublished script for issue #1 of what was to be (and may be again, I don't know) our flagship title, Heroic,  Well that is now up for your reading pleasure and all feedback is welcome.

So before I delve further into the alt-history aspects of what I am thinking to do, or at least fumbling around with like a garter in the dark, I want to talk about superheroes.

Now, while I had previously stated I loved the Golden Age of Superheroes, let me further amend that to I love the Golden Age of Superheroes as seen through a Bronze Age lens.  Believe it or not, those two ages have more in common than one would think at first glance.  Both are darker and more of a morality tale in their stories and their heroes are far more proactive and fight social ills as well as monsters, supervillains and what not.  The big difference though is that the Bronze Age superhero is a lot more human or foilable, less perfect.  Well unless they are Batman, but I won't go into that here.

A quick note on the Ages of Superheroes is that I do include in mine the Iron (or Dark) Age of Superheroes, which comes between the Bronze Age and the Modern Age.  Some have called it the "Extreme Age" due to the obsession with extreme comics (spearheaded by Image Comics) and characters with slightly misspelled names and a metric-shit-ton of pouches on their costumes.  Now it should also be noted that some call the Iron Age everything from about 1985 to present,. which I do not for it firstly is far too large an Age compared to the previous ones and secondly it does not acknowledge the very different types of comics between the 90s and even the early 2000s.

So to sum up, for me it is as follows;

The Golden Age - 1938 - 1950 (12 years)
The Silver Age - 1956 - 1970 (14 years)
The Bronze Age - 1970 - 1985 (15 years)
The Iron Age - 1985 - 1997 (12 years)
The Modern Age - 1997 - Present (15 years and counting)

Now I have chosen these dates for myself, you can see those as wrong, right or not even in the ballpark, but for me they define the ages rather clearly.  So let's not fight about it and just allow each of us to believe what we believe.  Cool.

So again my preference  based on above is Bronze Age, Modern Age and then the Golden Age, but as it was seen by writers in those aforementioned ages.  Writers like Roy Thomas, James Robinson, Geoff Johns and Darwyn Cook (his Before Watchmen: Minutemen series is outstanding in my opinion) but to name a few.

Why I like their views on the Golden Age more so than the Golden Age itself is that they treat it very seriously and respectfully, whereas the writers at the time (in the 30s and 40s) were exploring and developing the medium and far too many couldn't care less and were just there for a pay cheque and therefore treated the characters with almost a childish attitude.  Sure the morality was simple black and white, but so too were the personalities and depth of the heroes and their tales.  Not all, but most.

Seeing the same characters, or their ilk, being handled with a more serious hand was amazing stuff for me.  It made me excited and cheer.  At the same time I was reading the best run of the X-Men ever, the best run of the Teen Titans ever and then I got to read Crisis on Infinite Earths!  The latter leaving me feeling rather unhappy as my beloved Earth Two was gone and seemingly forgotten as fast as possible by DC comics.  Looking back from today it was a great read and a fun event, just still hate losing that JSA world I loved so much.

So after all this blather and whatnot, what is a superhero to me?

Well that is a question I will attempt to answer here.  Wish me luck. ;)

A superhero to me is the guy who does what is necessary to protect those who can't protect themselves, without hesitation or consideration for his own life.  In every-way possible Spider-Man is the best definition of a superhero I can ever see, specifically the Ultimate Spider-Man series.

Funny no?  I couldn't hate the Silver Age more if it stole my dog, my girl and my truck, but it's greatest creation is what I see as the best definition of a hero there is?  How is that possible?  Well primarily because in the 70s we saw some of the greatest trials of Spidey's career laid out before him.  The death of Gwen Stacy?  1973.  The origins of the dreaded Clone Saga?  1975.  Falling for Mary Jane Watson?  Right on the heels of Gwen's death.

So much like Superman, Spidey becomes a character designed in one Age, but flowering in another.

Also both are examples of heroes, that when in the hands of writers who really understand them, they flourish and show us what a hero really is.  When in the hands of hacks, well we get Clone Sagas and One More Days as storylines.  Wait did I just call JMS a hack?  Yup, in comics anyways.  Other than his Supreme Power run, I have yet to enjoy the lion's share of his comic work.

As for the Ultimate Spider-Man series mentioned above, it works for three primary reasons for me.  First it retold a lot of the classic Spidey stories, but with room to change and revise.  Some worked better, some about the same and some missed the mark. Secondly they changed just enough things up that I really enjoyed reading each issue and seeing what was going to come next.  Third and lastly, they had the balls to kill him as a hero and have that resonate through the Ultimate Universe in a way that I did not imagine they would do.  It was quickly not a gimmick and an actual moving and thoughtful story, thanks to the man who has written Ultimate Spidey since day one, Brian Michael Bendis, who otherwise I am not a fan of.

As a fast note, the new Ultimate Spider-Man, Miles Morales, I am LOVING!  It feels different enough yet close enough to what came before that it feels like a legitimate continuation of the original tale.

So I think that covers my views on superheroes, oh and that I love team books more than single heroes as a general rule.

Next part of this series I will probably deal with my issues with setting up an alt-history, World War II and all the baggage that brings and look at some other alt-histories/universes from superhero comics over the years.

As always feel free to comment and more so Follow this blog, when I see more names on the side it makes me feel all warm and loved.

Cheers!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

HEROIC #1 - Unpublished Script

So as I promised on New Year's day, I am sharing the script I had written for the first issue of Heroic.

Please feel free to let me know your feelings about the script in the comments here. Note that there was meant to be a 6 page Epilogue that would have introduced three very important concepts to the Zenith Universe being presented;

1] Centropolis: A Virtual Reality/Matrix that is used for the storage of prisoners/undesirables whom the Watch have deemed a threat to their actions. This "city" would be very Golden Age in its presentation.

2] Doctor Walter Van Jove: A psychologist who is brought in to provide very important services and who would eventually become a very important character in the ongoing story.

3] The Brain Child/The Brain: This is why Dr. Van Jove is needed. A exceptionally powerful psychic discovered by the Nazis and liberated to America, he now exists as a brain in a jar as as a child avatar in Centropolis. His power level is nigh Godlike and with the creation of our protagonist from the story, has had enough and is about to enact his own schemes. Since I have got around to getting that written (far too many setbacks and delays) I share that with you now.

So there it is, take a read and let me know what you think of it.

You can find the script (sans Epilogue) here!

Cheers and thanks for your support!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Dieselpunk, Retro-Futurism and the Superhero!

Happy New Year!

Okay that's out of the way.

Thinking about it, I suppose I should have adjusted the title to include "Part 1", but like the movies, I'll just add Roman Numerals as the sequels pour out.

So what am I on about now?

Well the comic publishing plans of Zenith Comics (a division of my Earth Alpha Studio) have been derailed by unforeseen circumstance.  So much so that I will be publishing the Heroic Issue 1 script for free and for all to read when they would like.

"Why?" I hear you ask.  "Why give it away before it is done?"

Well the simple answer is that it might get "done" somewhere in the future, but I have, like many a writer with many a manuscript over the years, left it behind and moved on.  It was becoming an albatross to my creativity and my writing.  It just refused to take form and when you beat your head against a wall like that the only thing that gets damaged is your head.

So does this mean Zenith Comics is done?  Gasp!  Shudder!

No.  Perish the thought actually.  Zenith Comics is my baby and my project and she will never be done so long as I am alive.  Instead I have allowed my creativity to move into something that haunts my dreams.

If you have ever read The Gernsback Continuum by William Gibson, then you have a bit of an idea of what I will be talking about.  If you haven't read it, run don't walk to your local friendly bookstore (or Amazon) and grab a copy of Burning Chrome and read it!  You won't regret it, trust me.

Funny, now that I think of it, that was the only story that stuck with me over the years from that anthology.  Heh... I guess the seeds were planted early.

Anyway, what I am talking about is that the Cyberpunk master brought me to Dieselpunk, which in turn brought me to Retro-Futurism.

Now those who have know me for a long time have known that I have always had a soft spot for the 30's and 40's.  The aesthetic, the music, the fashion and the whole drama of that time.  Nazis make the best bad guys and superheroes were born in this time.

That's another part of it, those who know me also know that Earth-Two, the JSA, the All-Star Squadron, the Invaders and the Golden Age (the Elseworlds story, not specifically the period) are my favourite comics ever!  I can't explain it.  I mean Spider-Man and Silver Age Superman were probably the first heroes I ever was exposed to, but once I discovered the aforementioned ones, I was hooked.

So too am I fan of what could be termed Dieselpunk films; Streets of Fire, Blade Runner, Dark City, Sky Captain, the Rocketeer and many many others, all play on elements or aspects of that aesthetic for me.  I could go on (did I mention the Hudsucker Proxy?) but the point is there is something about that time, that style and that world that just resonates in me.

So I sat down to design the Zenith Universe for consumption, for much like the Transformers or G.I. Joe, it had to be cobbled together from many different campaigns and ideas that had been kicking around since 1985 (hell earlier if you count the stuff me and my friends used to play and create back in middle-school).  There was no singular clear narrative path, it was all building upon previous ideas, with new angles and thoughts.

Then came the problem of presenting a superhero universe that progressed from the 1930's to the modern day without it being a massive info-dump on a potential reader?  Sure you can do that as a game handout for 5 or 6 players are your table, but as a marketable concept?  Seemed like rather poor business sense to me.

So that lead to me thinking, start at the modern day, and like Astro City, tell the story in flashbacks, one shots and what have you.  Filling in the back story on the go as it were.  That didn't suit me or my writing style at all to be perfectly honest.

Then I thought, start at the beginning and start telling the story from day 1.  I don't think I need to tell you what a lead Zeppelin Golden Age stories are in comic book sales.  Even when there is a tremendous writer at the helm, it really does limit your potential audience, and aside from writing for writing's sake, this is a commercial venture.

So I decided to scrap all those years of history and just start telling a new tale.  The first draft of the script I mentioned above.  Then I did 6 more rewrites, eventually bringing back a lot of the history, in the prologue and the as yet (and probably never to be) written epilogue.  You can judge that one for yourself when I release it, but it wasn't making me happy.  I had toyed around with doing it as Dieselpunk at one point, but abandoned it as the setting was over shadowing the story.

So with a pretty straightforward superhero story I was on my way to riches and fame.  Then the first artist dropped out.  Then the second artist took sick and was in and out of hospital for more than a month.  Deadlines zoomed past.  Failure was in the cards.

This, it would now seem, was all a blessing.

In the past month those Gernsback Continuum day dreams have been hunting me.  I see it everywhere.  All around me.  This lead me to read 3 of the most Dieselpunk comic series I could find; Terminal City (volumes 1 and 2), Electropolis (I have yet to read Dean Motter's other Dieselpunk/Retro-Futurism comic Mister X) and Ignition City (by Warren Ellis).

Interesting stuff and certainly a fun read all around.

I started looking at how to do a Dieselpunk superhero setting, with lots of Nazis and Tesla Tech and of course lots of super heroes.  The thing is though, I wanted this to be an alt-history, not a strict adherence to the actual real-world timeline of that period.  That's hard to do.  World War II is such a huge event and within it are so many other huge events (the Holocaust for one) and it ends with perhaps the biggest event of the 20th Century, the beginning of the Atomic Age.  Where do you draw lines?  How do you create that world without making a HUGE mess out of things?

That's where two ideas came into play.  The afore mention Retro-Futurism and the Found Footage genre of the film industry.  Instead of trying to tell the story of a different WW2 from 2012's perspective, why not instead create a future (I decided on 1950) as created by the viewpoint of a writer in 1938?

Now my brain was on fire.  Much like the Freedom City book pretended to be based on actual comic books created by a fictional publisher (I loved how they even had a black and white photo of him in the first edition), I would create a fictional writer who wrote a single issue of a comic called "Zenith Comics" in 1938 after seeing Action Comics No. 1 and being swept away.

As I wrote notes about him and his background, a very interesting character began to emerge, one who reminded me not a little of H.P. Lovecraft (I even worked in a minor correspondence with Nikola Tesla in his youth, echoing Lovecraft's own with Robert E. Howard).  Shortly the imaginary writer took on a life of his own, with a mother, a father, an aunt and a life unlived; but what also took on a quick life was his supposed creation, Captain Lightning (more on him in a later post perhaps).

As all this was mulling around in my head, I watched Trek Nation, a fantastic documentary about Gene Roddenberry made by his estranged son Eugene Rodenberry and I had an epiphany.  This was brought on by all the comments and speeches by Gene and others about how Star Trek was his way of talking about the social ills of his time without standing on a soap box and shouting at people.

That was something I could relate to.  Someone once asked me what my story was about, and I gave some answer about it being a story of "discovery", evasively full of all my Joseph Campbell pretensions.  That was obviously a dodge, since I didn't know.

Now I know.

Of late I have lamented the coming Superman film and this generation's complete inability to like a hero if they aren't grim-dark.  It is as if being a good and noble person is a weakness in our society.  Every TV show the people around me watch are about anti-heroes, who sometimes have a heart of gold, but most times don't.

THAT is what I want to write about!

I want to write about a dark-retro-futurist-dieselpunk-1950 that needs a noble hero to show them how to be noble.  I need to exercise my demons.  I need to discuss the woes of our modern society, of greed, of corporate fascism, or media abuse, etc...  I need to vent and that is how the wonderful world of science fiction (which I consider superheroes to be part of) works best.  It becomes the soap box you get to shout from, often with folks not realising that you are shouting at all.

Well that turned out to be longer than I expected (with a hell of a lot of links) and I realize I haven't even gotten into "why superheroes" or a bunch of other things.  So looks like there will be a part 2 after all.

In the meantime, please feel free to leave feedback below and also "follow" this blog.  I would love more followers.  Makes me feel like I matter.

Cheers!