Kong, King of the Apes

I know it’s been a while, Action Force. I’ve been busy, and it’s not as if this site gets a ton of traffic. Still, I know for some of you, my wit and wisdom is a highlight of your day (or so I assume), so I’m back.

By the way, this weekend I’ll be at OASIS in Orlando, Florida as Author Guest of Honor. I probably should’ve mentioned that earlier, but I’m very bad at this promotional stuff. So, hey, if you happen to be in the area, drop on in. You’ll be glad you did.

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There’s a practical reason, from a storytelling perspective, why neither Batman nor Superman kill people.
What’s important here is that this is not a REALISTIC reason. Realistically, Batman and Superman would probably have to kill people if they were going to fight crime. It’s just going to happen now and then, even if they went out of their way to avoid it. But realism is always a sticky wicket when telling stories about invulnerable flying aliens and bat-themed vigilantes.
Also, though it’s usually a weak excuse to site story necessity as why something happens, every story has those elements that exist simply because they help the story be more interesting. From its most basic perspective, story necessity is why Batman doesn’t have a heart attack while sitting on the toilet or the Joker isn’t shot in the back by a no-name police officer. It is certainly realistic, but it isn’t satisfying.
There are some solid in-story justifications for why Batman and Superman don’t kill people, but there’s also a very strong pragmatic storytelling reason.
For Superman, his desire to limit the damage to the world and to protect as much life as possible places an extra obstacle toward his success. A Superman who is willing to kill, who views casualties as a necessary evil, is basically unstoppable. He might feel bad about killing his enemies or that innocent people are hurt, but he still wins. He’ll always win. A Superman who sees even the loss of a single life as a failure might be able to beat the bad guy, but he’ll have failed in his goals. And given his incredible powers, it would indeed be a failure.
For Batman, it’s even simpler. A Batman who kills would have no rogue’s gallery. People love Batman’s villains, but in order to justify the continued existence of those characters, you can’t have a Batman who is willing to kill criminals. This is a pretty central problem I have with BvS. A Batman willing to kill Superman on the off chance Superman might one day turn evil has no reason not to kill the Joker, who is undeniably evil.
Note that the Tim Burton version of Batman is fine with killing people, and he’s more than content to kill his villains, which he does.
If the new DC movieverse includes the new Suicide Squad movie, there’s absolutely no reason the Joker should still exist. Most people won’t care about this, of course, but these characters all live in the same universe. A Batman willing to employ lethal force would make short work of his famous rogue’s gallery.
There are problems with either depiction of Batman or Superman. Some people argue, convincingly, that by refusing to kill the Joker, Batman has enabled him to terrorize Gotham over and over again. In the amazing Justice League: The Animated Series, an alternate reality where Lex Luthor confronted Superman with this possibility created a universe where Superman went too far in his quest to protect the world.
But there are also scary connotations toward heroes that casually take life.
The answer isn’t black and white, which is why I tend to like the Marvel movies more. There’s no question that Iron Man, Captain America, and some others do kill during their adventures. Yet they tend to employ deadly force with reluctance, tend to seek to minimize damage, which is probably about as realistic as you can be in a cinematic media translation.
None of this will actually matter to most anyone. People who love the idea of a violent Batman will, ironically, be a fan of ultraviolent Joker. The contradiction this creates won’t matter. And it probably shouldn’t.
I think about this stuff from a writer’s perspective. And that perspective says you can’t have angry, violent Batman and angry, violent Joker sharing the same space.
And a Superman who is so carelessly destructive that he causes cities to crumble isn’t one who will be loved. Which would be fine if BvS didn’t seem to want him to be both feared and loved simultaneously.
Yeah, none of this matters, but it matters to me. It’s why I don’t mind a violent Batman or Superman, but I do mind a universe where the true aspects of those characters are not explored beyond the most shallow manner.
Posted in Blog, Comic Books, Writing | 2 Comments

The Plan (short fiction)

So far, everything had gone as Hilda planned.
She drove out to the woods, to an out of the way place that nobody ever went, where she’d already dug the hole. It was dusk, but she turned off her headlights. Better safe than sorry. She zipped up her jacket and put on her gloves. It was cold tonight. She hated the cold, but she sucked in a deep breath and jumped out of the warm car. An icy wind cut through her, and she swore as she opened the trunk.
Irving’s corpse lay wrapped in plastic. It’d been a devil of a time getting him in there, but she’d had time to rest on the drive up here, so she wrestled with the body. The cold spurred her onward. The sooner this was done, the sooner she could be back home with a warm cocoa and Bob sitting on her lap. The orange cat would purr like a motorboat, and Hilda would get back to reading. She’d read all night, listening to Patsy Cline and Hank Williams as loud as she wanted, which honestly wasn’t that loud. But Irving was always complaining about her music.
He was always complaining about something.
She laughed, thinking about how she’d never have to hear him whine again. Not a peep about his bad back. Not a word about politics. Not a passing negative thought about kids these days or how all her TV shows were stupid or how the world was going to hell.
“You first, Irving,” she said with a giddy chuckle.
She was bothered that this didn’t bother her more. She wondered if she was a psychopath. Or a sociopath. She wasn’t certain of the difference. She should Google that when she got home. She probably had mental health issues. Then again, Irving had been asking for it for a while. Maybe killing him had been the only logical course of action. Divorce was out of the question. Irving had been a devout Catholic, and it wouldn’t have been fair to him to have to live with the stigma. It was better this way.
Maybe she’d go see a doctor. Was she allowed to tell the doctor about what she did tonight? Was that part of doctor / patient confidentiality? If it wasn’t, there wouldn’t be much point in going. Therapy required the patient be open, and if she couldn’t trust the doctor, she’d be wasting her time and the doctor’s.
So she wouldn’t Google it. It wasn’t like this was going to become a habit. She couldn’t kill everyone who annoyed her. People would start figuring it out. It was hard enough to kill your own husband and get away with it. But she would. She’d deal with the police and the suspicions, and she’d act the part of the mournful wife. She’d say her life would never be the same, and she wouldn’t be lying.
She dragged Irving to the hole and rolled him into it. She grabbed her shovel and started burying him. She’d been at it for a few minutes when a bright light poured down from the sky. Her first thought was a police helicopter. She’d been found out. Too bad. She dropped the shovel and sighed.
The helicopter didn’t make a sound, and instead, a figure floated down from the light. It landed before her. The light snapped off, and she rubbed her eyes. A tall, thin creature stood before her. The alien blinked, and its huge hypnotic blue eyes appraised her.
“Greetings, human,” said the alien. “I am an emissary of the Greater Galactic Civilization, dispatched via teleporter ray across uncountable light years to bring you much joyful news.”
Hilda said nothing. She had always believed in aliens. Irving had always made fun of her for it.
“It is my honor to deliver to your world science and technological innovation that will revolutionize how you view your universe and your place in it. I offer an end to war, to hate, to petty squabbles. You shall learn wonders you can scarcely imagine and–” The creature noticed Irving in the hole. “–is this human dead?”
Hilda pulled out her gun and shot the alien twice in the head. He twitched a little. Irving hadn’t twitched at all, but this was an alien. It probably had strange biology. She shot it several more times in the chest in various places until it stopped moving. Then she shot it a few more times. Just to be safe.
She threw the light gray body into the hole and hurriedly buried them on the off chance someone might have heard the shots. As she patted the dirt flat, she smiled at the notion of Irving sharing his grave with a man from outer space. It would offend his sensibilities, but it served him right.
It was only after she’d driven half-an-hour from the grave that she wondered if she should’ve searched the alien. Maybe all that cool galactic harmony stuff had been stored somewhere in his suit, a pocket with some super advanced thumb drive. Maybe flying cars and cold fusion were buried there now. It was probably the responsible thing to go back and check.
She wasn’t doing that. Only idiots returned to the scene of the crime.
She wondered if a doctor would believe her when she told him about the alien. Probably not. Too bad. Just another reason not to visit one, but she really didn’t need one. She’d only killed one person. Aliens didn’t count as people. And Irving barely qualified.
She turned on the radio, and Loretta Lynn belted out the soulful ballad of Coal Miner’s Daughter. Hilda sang along as all her problems melted away with each passing mile.
Posted in Short Fiction | 1 Comment

Your P.O.V. is Bad, and You Should Feel Bad

When one first embarks on a career as a professional novelologist, there’s plenty of advice to wade through. Most of it’s basic stuff and worth listening to, but even when barely starting out, a writer must consider what so many of these ideas really mean. One of the most oft-repeated is the DREADED P.O.V.!

If you aren’t familiar with point of view, it’s a simple idea that most scenes should be written from the perspective of one character. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but it’s a good way to approach a scene when you’re first starting out. And it is one that most people don’t really understand.

Posted in Blog, Writing | 2 Comments
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