Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap of Faith #6


It's not one of the most famous leaps in cinematic history, but I happen to like the image.

Captain America makes a super leap as fires burn around him.


We don't know what happened to Cap for a few tense moments, although we're pretty sure the hero makes it through. A Leap of Faith isn't the easiest thing to do. It's uncertain, heroic, foolish.

I'm taking a Leap of Faith of my own today, leaving my job after nearly nine years.

I have no idea what will happen next.

I, Crimsonstreak Commentary: Chapter 11


Chapter 11

Getting a Boost and a Tale of Two Chrises

Author’s Notes

  • Morty chides Chris about this relationship with Jaci and then proceeds to harangue him for a plan. I love the Chris-Morty-Warren dynamic so much! Those scenes were such a blast to write. In a way, Crimsonstreak has established a warped kind of surrogate family for himself with Morty, Warren, and Jaci.

  • Warren makes a cutting remark about Chris; Chris responds by referencing “Xbox” and calling Warren “kid.” These are the people responsible for saving the world, folks. It doesn’t take long for Morty to launch into both of them.

  • The flashback about Jaci’s time as the editor of the college newspaper echoes a real event in college. I used flashbacks quite a bit in this book. It’s due mostly to the limitations of writing in the first-person perspective. It’s hard to get a sense of a character without interactions. Employing flashbacks allowed me to show Chris’ interactions with important people in his life so readers can draw their own conclusions about what it all means.

  • When I originally wrote I, Crimsonstreak, Chris Fairborne was me. He was a Mary Sue character who reflected a certain idealized version of myself. As the writing process progressed, Chris developed into his own character. He certainly shares some of my personal background, but we’re not the same guy anymore.

  • I am an unabashed fan of Seinfeld. I could have entire conversations in nothing but Seinfeld-isms. I snuck a couple into the book, including “I am speechless. I am without speech.”

  • ”Cogsworth.” Disney’s Beauty and the Beast gets a quick mention here.

  • Jaci initially went along with the NWCW, but she’s been aiding the resistance for a bit now. She knew there was something wrong with Chris Fairborne (the imperator version) because he didn’t recognize her. Even though the Jaci/Chris relationship is strained, she couldn’t live with Chris ever being that cold toward her.

  • Jaci’s probably a little too quick to accept Chris’ story, especially given the tension between the two characters. However, something about the other Chris didn’t quite “click” with her, so she’s going with her gut here.

  • We learn a little bit more about the Kiltech Incursion here, including how Colonel Chaos “allowed” the West Coast to be destroyed. The supplemental materials show us that Chaos had trouble getting everyone to join the NWCW, but a cataclysmic event like that has a way of getting people to change their tune.

  • Chris takes a cruel and unnecessary jab at Warren, even though he doesn’t necessarily realize it. Morty stands up for the kid, reminding our hero that they wouldn’t have escaped New Chaos City without Warren’s help. The kid, Morty points out, did it without superpowers.

  • Chris takes a shower. Again. I think that’s three so far in the book? I almost cut this scene, but I liked the reference to the great Craig “Ironhead” Heyward. Plus, I got to use the word “loofah.” And now I must quote my brother: "Loofah for sissies!"


  • The part where Chris gets boxers thrown in his face is reminiscent of a scene from The Naked Gun.


  • The flashback involving the Grim Gang was fun to write. I like it when I can show that heroes’ powers are complementary. I included this to show that Colonel Chaos and his son kicked butt back in the day.

  • The brief argument about “cream and crimson” and “maize and blue” references college sports. Cream and crimson, of course, represents Indiana University. Maize and blue represents the University of Michigan.

  • Jaci’s brilliant plan to recall Imperator Chris abuses the NWCW’s own bureaucracy. I love making fun of things that make life inexplicably harder, and bureaucracies are absolutely ridiculous. I’m glad she was able to use this to her advantage.

  • I love, love, love “Captain America and the Avengers” for the Sega Genesis. My brother and I used to play the heck out of that game. I was always Cap; he was always Iron Man. We could get through the game without losing a single life.


  • ”My neck tingles, just slightly” clues us in that Crimsonstreak and Imperator Chris have some kind of link. It’s fleeting, but it exists. They’re connected.

  • Crimsonstreak’s encounter with, er, himself gives us another interesting dynamic. Our hero has to interact with a version of himself that sees the world from a completely different perspective.

  • A lot of references are crammed in here. There’s an allusion to Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep, a sci-fi classic. “Holy Lord” comes from the immortal Norm MacDonald classic Dirty Work. “Patrol pattern delta, go now” is from The Empire Strikes Back (in the movie it’s attack pattern delta).

  • The chapter ends with Imperator Chris in custody as Crimsonstreak gets ready to head deep into the heart of Chaopolis to confront his father.

BACK TO CRIMSONSTREAK CENTRAL!

I, Crimsonstreak Commentary: Chapter 10


Chapter 10

Chaopolis South: It’s Like Chaopolis, Only Southier

Author’s Notes

  • Chaopolis South is located a little south of Chaopolis. In real life, it’s Greenwood, Indiana, a suburb of Indianapolis located in Johnson County. I lived in Greenwood for about two years and am still an Indy “southsider.”

  • Going through the Comet Accelerator is a definite out-of-body experience. Several memories flash through Crimsonstreak's consciousness as he travels from New Chaos City to Chaopolis South. A couple memories reference previous adventures with his parents (King Nutcracker, the Observers). Some involve sports (the 1990 Reds sweep of the A’s in the World Series, the Colts winning Super Bowl XLI). Others are events in Crimsonstreak’s life (his mother’s death, high school graduation). One about Franklin College mentions Dr. Cramer, who is a real, living and breathing professor at Franklin College, which is a real liberal arts college.

  • Mortimer and Warren IV have their own memories while going through the Comet Accelerator. Morty starts talking about the Land of Chocolate, a reference to a Simpsons episode. I’d like to say there’s some logic to this reference for Morty (such as watching The Simpsons was part of his Americanization), but I just liked the mental image of Morty taking a bite out of a lamppost. You can see the Simpsons clip here.

  • Warren’s quirky reentry memory is inspired by Toy Story, which remains one of my all-time favorite movies. I figure the series would’ve been popular enough when Warren was growing up for this to make some sense.

  • With the Sanctum Cometus “blown to hell” along with the Enforcers, most of the Comet’s supplies and gadgets in New Chaos City are toast. Morty mentions that the Comet always “has his bases covered,” meaning that there may be more than one Sanctum Cometus. Indeed, there is another, although it doesn’t appear in this book.

  • The “cloud-computing” backup was a late addition to the book. Originally, this little passage included a discussion about Chris’ preference for the Microsoft Zune. Technology changes so quickly that the joke didn’t age well, so I pulled it out. That’s always the danger with attempting to do topical humor; it can get outdated very quickly. In fact, Microsoft recently announced it was killing off the Zune platform.

  • I fudged the geography of Greenwood a little bit here. They probably haven’t been talking and walking long enough to make it from the downtown area to my old apartment building. No biggie.

  • The discussion about “trends” in Indiana was something I noticed in high school. By the time something became a “craze” adopted in the Hoosier state, it seemed like the rest of the country was over it. Hard to say if that’s still true in the Twitter age (you’ll notice nary a mention of social networking in the book because the Twitter/Facebook explosion hadn’t quite caught hold when I was originally writing it).

  • Central Indiana doesn’t have a mass transportation system. At least, not one that’s widely used. Everyone around the state drives. Tech like smartphones/iPads/Kindles didn’t catch on here immediately because most of us don’t ride a train or bus to work. That’s quite a bit different from the New York crowd, for instance. This is all anecdotal, of course, but I read a lot of tweets from people who are reading or tweeting during their morning/evening commute using mass transit systems. I don’t know if the Greater Indianapolis Area will ever have a dedicated mass transit system.

  • Meta-Route 65 is Interstate 65, a north-south interstate that runs right through Indianapolis. It goes nearly all the way to Chicago to the north and to Mobile, Alabama, to the south. Changing the name is just another way Chaos’ presence is felt in the world…and another way for something familiar to seem “wrong” to Chris.

  • Fox Chaopolis News. Fox News Channel takes a lot of heat for its claim of “fair and balanced,” and rightfully so. You can just see how certain issues are presented on the channel to paint stories in a certain light. It was the perfect news service to employ for a skewed perspective on the world. Note the patently wrong claim that “800 unregistered supers died in the blast.” It’s the mouthpiece for the New World Common Wealth, and perhaps something that hits a little too close to home.

  • The news isn’t the only skewed perspective. Our heroes encounter a “report unregistered supers” propaganda piece that blames two little kids for blowing up an entire town.

  • The flashback with Chris’ dad shows us a different Colonel Chaos, one who isn’t trying to take over the world. You see a father-son moment and realize how much the death of Miss Lightspeed has changed the world. The subsequent running flashback also provides us another glimpse of this relationship.

  • By now, Chris is starting to become world-weary. It’s as if his three years in captivity are suddenly catching up to him all at once. His resolve is strong, but he’s both mentally and physically fatigued.

  • Jaci Graves is the bureau chief of Chaopolis South. She’s a former girlfriend of Chris, a girl he’s very fond of but pushed away following his mother’s death. We’re quickly caught up on the characters’ unconventional relationship via a few quick flashbacks.

  • Jaci is a strong character; Chris mentions her strength several times throughout the book. I didn’t want a woman who was simply a damsel in distress; I wanted someone who could keep up with Chris and call him out on his own BS. She’s a great foil for him. Although the main characters in the novel are primarily men, I tried to fill it out with strong female characters. I realize they play mostly supporting roles, but their fingerprints are all over the book. My own life is filled with strong women, including my wife and my mother. These characters reflect that.

  • Franklin College remains an important place in my life. Founded in 1834, FC is located in Franklin, Indiana. It’s south of Greenwood and offers programs ranging from journalism to education, biology, and business. I’m a proud FC grad (class of 2003) and mentioning the college in the book is my way of saying thanks.

  • Yeah, I couldn’t resist a sports reference involving Peyton and Eli Manning.

  • Crimsonstreak muses about an “alternate dimension.” He doesn’t realize it at the time, of course, but he’s just stumbled across a valuable piece of information. Too bad he doesn’t put it together.

BACK TO CRIMSONSTREAK CENTRAL!

I, Crimsonstreak Commentary: Chapter 9


Chapter 9

The Comet Accelerator (Yes, That’s Really What He Calls It)

Author’s Notes

  • The title of Chapter 9 continues to show Crimsonstreak’s bemusement with the Crusading Comet’s naming conventions.

  • Try as he may, Crimsonstreak just isn’t that intimidating. He’s not a night stalker like Batman or Daredevil. So when he tries to look angry, it tends not to work very well. He thinks he looks intimidating, but he doesn’t. Again, he reminds us, “I am Adam West.”

  • In previous commentary, I mentioned that Crimsonstreak is meant to be a Midwestern superhero. His father has no love for either of the coasts, and established the New World Common Wealth’s headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana. The idea that Indiana’s capital city would be the center of anything is an absurdity in and of itself.

  • “Let’s just say it’s a little out of your league,” Warren says. He’s going after Crimsonstreak yet again and is in control of this tech-centric scene.

  • “A few years ago, we couldn’t even get a Super Bowl” is actually anachronistic in this context. The city was awarded Super Bowl XLVI in 2008. The action in the book takes place in 2010, thus Chris would’ve been in prison when Indy was announced as a Super Bowl host. It’s possible he could’ve caught a mention of it on the TV at Clermont. It’s also very likely the Super Bowl announcement was never made thanks to the Kiltech Incursion, the death of the president, and Chaos’ rise to power. I kept the reference because I was proud Indy hosted a Super Bowl in real life. Now that the city survived (and earned raves for its host duties), I’m even prouder. It’s a hat tip to the Circle City.

  • Morty and Warren mention a few things during the discussion about escaping New Chaos City. Energy seems to be scarce. I never directly state it in the book, the truth is that the New World Common Wealth government is using much of the world’s resources for its own purposes, leaving Joe Everyman out in the cold. Despite Chris’ supposition that his father appointed a bunch of tree huggers, the NWCW has no environmentally-conscious motives.

  • In early drafts of the book, the Crusading Comet simply had a Dell. I started the book in 2007, when Dell was at the peak of its power. During final edits, we decided to turn it into Alienware customized by the Comet.

  • The Comet Accelerator is the Comet’s attempt to solve a fundamental problem of non-superpowered heroes. Batman can’t be everywhere at once (not even Superman can), but the Comet wanted a way to quickly transport himself to a crime scene. He planned to build Comet Accelerator locations all around the city, but the power drain and operational logistics made it nearly impossible. The idea, however, speaks to the pragmatism of the hero.

  • Morty and Warren discuss the biggest shortcoming of the Accelerator, which is basically that only one person can go through. Otherwise, the power drain is too much for the system to bear. This is all junk science explained away with a wink-wink, nudge-nudge. It does, however, provide extra tension regarding how the characters will escape when Enforcers come stormtroopering through the Sanctum Cometus.

  • “CARDIAC: Because “workout room” simply isn’t enough.” Another Comet acronym. As I mentioned earlier in the commentary, I had a lot of fun with these.

  • ”There is that shortcut from the lounge to the conservatory” refers to the board game “Clue.” It’s always been a family favorite, so I thought I’d throw in a reference.

  • Warren’s face reminds Crimsonstreak of the kids he saved from Nuclear Ned in the flashback. It’s just a little reminder that Warren still has a sense of youthfulness to him.

  • It’s ironic that Chris, clearly the least technologically inclined of the trio, has the idea to put all three of our heroes through the Comet Accelerator. It’s a risky maneuver, to be sure, but there’s no way a 17-year-old kid, a butler, and a super-speedster can fight their way through several squads of Enforcers. It’s the only way out, and even Morty reluctantly accepts that.

  • Did anyone really expect Morty to simply surrender? Chris should be ashamed of himself for even considering it! Of course the wily old butler has another great escape; he’s the consummate superhero assistant. We also see during the escape that Chris gets a little extra “juice” and manages to push back the Enforcers to buy the heroes enough time to escape.

  • As Chapter 9 concludes, our heroes spiral into the unknown of the Comet Accelerator.

BACK TO CRIMSONSTREAK CENTRAL!

I, Crimsonstreak Commentary: Chapter 8


Chapter 8

Crimsonstreak and Warren Kensington IV in… Road to Central Processing!

Author’s Notes

  • The chapter title is a reference to the old Bob Hope/Bing Crosby Road to… movies. Some readers may associate the title with several Family Guy episodes. I assure you that Hope and Crosby did it well before Stewie and Brian.

  • From the get-go here we can see that Chris and Warren aren’t getting along. Warren doesn’t trust our hero. Morty even (kind of) comes to Crimsonstreak’s defense here. Warren is extremely ticked off by Chris’ insistence on referring to him as a “kid.”

  • The flashback to Chris’ teenage years paints us a picture of a relatively happy and duty-bound family. As a “kid” who hasn’t fully grown into his powers, Chris is banned from going on a mission with his parents. He knows how Warren feels because he’s been there before. That doesn’t mean he’s going to stop calling him “kid.”

  • Metal Gear Solid remains one of my all-time favorite video games. The part where Psycho Mantis “reads” your memory card and takes control of your gamepad is one of the greatest moments in gaming. I spent an entire Christmas vacation playing through Metal Gear Solid on my Playstation.

  • Central Processing is probably the scariest place on Earth. Bureaucracy! Oh, the humanity!

  • As Warren creates the pass cards for Chris, Morty, and himself, we see a quick reversal of roles. When it comes to technology, Warren is king. Thus, he’s in control of this situation while Chris is forced to sit on the sidelines.

  • “I am Adam West” is Chris’ own comment on his jittery nature. It equates him of a superhero on Adam West’s level. You could take it to mean Crimsonstreak always carries around some shark repellant. You’d think a guy who escaped from the Clermont Institution for the Criminally Insane would have a little more backbone, but he hasn’t been on a real mission for a long time. Cut him some slack.

  • I like how Crimsonstreak is wary of how the mission is going according to plan. He mentions that things go exactly according to plan “about five-percent of the time.” The very fact that the plan is going according to plan is, paradoxically, not according to plan.

  • In Indiana, we call our motor vehicle agency the “Bureau of Motor Vehicles” (abbreviated BMV). Other states have the “Department of Motor Vehicles” (abbreviated DMV).

  • In a late draft of the book, instead of strutting around like “he owns the place,” Warren “sweats like there’s no tomorrow.” The latter was a vestigial reference to the nervous and whiny Warren from the early drafts. We’ve established his character with a little swagger, so the change keeps it consistent.

  • Warren’s comment on the power grid of the New World Common Wealth gives us another indication that everything isn’t perfect. The power grid is rather unstable, although it’s entirely possible the Sanctum Cometus has something to do with that.

  • ”But I, Crimsonstreak, am not fast enough.” Title plug!

  • Crimsonstreak processes information quickly and survives thanks to his quick wits, but he’s thrown off-guard when the clerk recognizes him. Also, forgetting to put his helmet back on is a stupid thing to do, even if it’s a natural reaction given the situation. Again, our hero is not infallible. He makes mistakes.

  • The clerk’s enthusiasm to see the “Son of Chaos” speaks to the cult-like awe Colonel Chaos has tried to cultivate. It’s amusing to see Warren forced to be the tagalong “Cal.”

  • “Enemies of the Common Wealth must die” is the rallying cry of the New World Common Wealth. The phrase appears several times throughout the book, much to Chris’ chagrin.

BACK TO CRIMSONSTREAK CENTRAL!

I, Crimsonstreak Commentary: Chapter 7


Chapter 7

Chaos Reigns and the Enforcer’s Porsche

Author’s Notes

  • I’ve never been to New York City, something that will probably be completely obvious to anyone from the area who reads this book. I did a little research here and there to wrap my head around the city’s layout.

  • Now “out and about,” Chris is confronted with a city devoid of people. It’s almost like the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. New York is there, but it’s not New York. The implication here is that people are too scared to walk the streets and are holed up in their homes.

  • “Certainly not Superman, not in these dark times.” Superman continues to be a hero who takes on a more hopeful outlook on America’s possibilities. This is a clue on how Chris sees the world in stark terms of right and wrong. Although he’s been thrown in prison by his own father and watched his mother die on national television, he retains a sense of hopefulness, even if buried.

  • The encounter with the Enforcer here was originally just a run-of-the-mill, milquetoast henchman for the New World Common Wealth. In early drafts, Chris originally encountered Warren IV while hiding inside the Kensington penthouse. After meeting Warren, he was introduced to Morty. It worked, but Warren IV became a “ridealong” character who didn’t have much of a personality. Warren IV’s earliest incarnations suffered from “Whiny Skywalker Syndrome.”

  • The Enforcer’s voice breaks, “Peter Brady-style” provides a hint that our Enforcer here may not be all that comfortable with what he’s doing. It also gives me a chance to reference The Brady Brunch, for better or worse. The reference likely sailed over the heads of younger readers.


  • Oddly, Chapter 6 included “New Chaos City” in the title, but Morty never mentioned that particular change (how…Morty…of him). So when Chris sees the “NCC” badge, he’s not sure what to think. Chapter 7 provides our first mention in the narrative about the name change New York has undergone.

  • Originally, Crimsonstreak said, “Don’t taze me, bro!” when confronted with the particle buster. I thought it was funny, but that reference became very dated. I changed it to a “boomstick” reference from Evil Dead. I thought the latter had the chance for broader appeal.

  • “Wishing again that Crimsonspeed also came along with Crimsonstrength” reminds us again that Chris has his limitations.

  • Crimsonstreak’s decision to kidnap an Enforcer in broad daylight isn’t prudent. It’s brash, borderline stupid. It reminds us that Chris isn’t perfect; he makes a few missteps from time to time.

  • Chris has “kidnapped” Warren Kensington IV. It seems coincidental, but I like to think Warren and Morty were working behind-the-scenes to make this happen. It serves as a “loyalty test” for Crimsonstreak, and Warren is in no danger whatsoever. We don’t realize that until the “interrogation” concludes.

  • Again, it’s worth mentioning that Warren wasn’t the original character kidnapped. It was initially a random Enforcer. Warren IV’s character arc wasn’t all that strong, so I placed him in the Enforcer Corps as an undercover operative. His father was pressed into Crusading Comet duty earlier than expected; Warren IV ends up going that route as well. He was originally a more trusting, “Crimsonstreak, show me the way” type of character. It didn’t work very well, so I redeveloped him to be more assertive. His teenage years have been stolen away by the rise of the NWCW much as Chris’ college years were stolen away after his mother’s death.

  • “Of course his name is Warren Kensington. They’re all named Warren Kensington.” I’ve always gotten a kick out of that line.

  • The dialogue reveals that Warren Kensington IV, a son of privilege and heir to the Crusading Comet mantle, isn’t too thrilled to be where he is. He’s 17 years old in the book, having been born in November 1992. The action in the novel takes place in 2010 if you do the math and cross-reference the ages through the supplemental appendices in the back.

  • I really enjoyed changing Warren IV from a “gee whiz!” teenager to a more grizzled “veteran” pressed into duty. He carries a huge chip on his shoulder and provides a good complement (and parallel) for Chris. Both characters have a tendency to think they “know it all,” only to realize they don’t. The Chris-Warren-Morty dynamic becomes the heart of the book through the conclusion.

  • My family, indeed, had a Buick Skylark. It was the car I drove in high school. A friend of mine once nicknamed it “Skylark One” after I became president of my high school chapter of the National Honor Society.

BACK TO CRIMSONSTREAK CENTRAL!

I, Crimsonstreak Commentary: Chapter 6


Chapter 6

Alfred Pennyworth + Smart Aleck = Mortimer Willoughby

Author’s Notes


  • Mortimer P. Willoughby is so much fun to write. He’s a character who hasn’t changed much from the initial draft of the book. The most obvious comic book references are Batman’s Alfred Pennyworth and Iron Man’s Edwin Jarvis (the chapter title pays homage to Alfred, of course). When imaging Morty (a nickname Chris gives the butler, who loathes it), I think of Michael Gough, who portrayed Alfred in the non-Christopher Nolan Batman movies. The character was also played by Alan Napier (the Adam West TV series) and Michael Caine (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises).

  • My work is usually fairly free of sexual innuendo. I get a kick out of it on occasion, but a lot of people do it a lot better than me so I tend to avoid it. However, our “prim and proper” butler takes a swipe at Chris’ prowess with the ladies, the implication being that he does “everything quickly.” Morty has an obvious disdain for our hero; it sets up a fun Jerry Seinfeld-Newman dynamic.

  • “You have to stop your father. You have to let me go.” This is where the payoff begins for pairing Chris and the Crusading Comet together for their escape. Chris carries around so much guilt from that decision, even though it was one he absolutely had to make. Meeting Morty brings it all back, especially when the butler inquires about his master’s fate.

  • In the original drafts of the book, Morty refers to both Warren Kensington III and Warren Kensington IV as “Master Warren.” This got confusing at times, so “Master Kensington” refers to the elder Warren and “Master Warren” refers to the younger one.

  • Morty doesn’t completely trust Crimsonstreak, but he does concede that the circumstances surrounding his disappearance and return don’t add up. In essence, he’s willing to give Crimsonstreak the benefit of the doubt, even referring to him as “affable.” Morty hits Chris with a series of rapid-fire questions about the president’s death, an alien invasion, and the strange return of Miss Lightspeed. It’s a way to catch both Chris (and the reader) up on what has transpired during his incarceration.

  • The licensing of superheroes is meant to be a comment on our Patriot Act. Comic fans will probably liken it to the Mutant Registration Act from X-Men or the Superpowers Registration Act from the Marvel Civil War event.

  • “There’s one kid who I may not save the next time.” Oooooo…foreshadowing.

  • “Whammy, blammy, wowie, zowie” is another obscure reference in a book full of them. This is from an SNL sketch called “Pranksters” featuring Christopher Walken.



  • Chris gets into a bit of an info dump here regarding the Kiltechs, but it’s relatively painless. The last thing I wanted to do was have Morty there to answer a bunch of questions from Chris. I “fast-forwarded” through that conversation so Chris could provide a recap. Additionally, the “History of the New World Common Wealth” appendix provides more context for the Kiltech Incursion. It’s only mentioned in passing in the book, but I imagine there will be repercussions in the years to come from the invasion attempt.

  • Ah, CLEANER. The Crusading Comet brands everything, which is supposed to be a comment on how comic book characters are overly merchandised these days. I’m not sure if it’s 100% effective, but I do enjoy coming up with the acronyms. The “Sanctum Cometus” is a riff on Dr. Strange’s “Sanctum Sanctorum.”

  • The fact that the Crusading Comet’s uniforms are too large for Chris serves a dual purpose. First, it makes for a humorous exchange between Chris and Morty. Secondly, it gives us a better idea of Chris’ build. He’s muscular, but not your typical muscle-bound superhero. He’s built more like a swimmer or Olympic sprinter.

  • “Must I explain everything? Of course I must” is a little meta comment from Morty. He has several roles in the book: mentor, rival, comedic relief, and expository character.

  • The conclusion of this chapter gives us some further insight into Chris. He’s been a loner ever since his mother’s death. He’s pushed away friends and family members; Morty even mentions that Chris has missed several meetings of the Heroic Legion. Chris earlier voiced his disdain for sidekicks, but now he’s forced to admit he needs help. And “300-year-old” Mortimer P. Willoughby will have to suffice.

BACK TO CRIMSONSTREAK CENTRAL!

I, Crimsonstreak Commentary: Chapter 5


Chapter 5

Take Me Down to New Chaos City, Where the Streets Are Clean and the Butlers Are British…

Author’s Notes

  • I’m not a big Guns ‘n Roses fan, but the chapter title seemed extremely appropriate.

  • When I think of superheroes, I think of bright spandex and capes in all colors of the rainbow. The drab armor of the Enforcers is anathema to this. As Crimsonstreak opines, they’ve pretty much ruined the best part of being a superhero.

  • Scarlet DashBoy. What a sap. It’s not that the guy’s evil, it’s just that he’s unlikeable. He’s that person at the office who always talks too loudly on his/her phone. The guy in the theater who won’t shut up. The woman at the ballgame who’s in and out of her seat all game. Scarlet DashBoy is the pebble in your shoe. The lemon Starburst. You get the point.

  • This is one of the book’s first real flashbacks. I used this technique quite a bit for a few reasons. First, it puts us in the mindset of Chris before his capture and imprisonment at Clermont. These flashbacks give us another glimpse into his thought process and development. Secondly, these flashbacks help flesh out Crimsonstreak’s relationships without having Chris literally tell you about a character. What’s more interesting: having Chris tell you about his relationship with the Crusading Comet or having Chris show you their relationship?

  • I like this flashback because it paints a picture of contrasting heroes. Chris is the super-powered one here, yet the Comet is clearly in control. For a time, I was going to make the Crusading Comet more of a Batman parody (almost like Die Fledermaus from The Tick), but I liked the idea of making him a true “pro.” He has little tolerance for Chris’ good humor and quirks, and is too focused on his mission. He still devolves into self-parody; note the mentions of “Comet time” and “Comet bombs.”

  • The Crusading Comet gets a whole appendix in the book dedicated to his storied history. He’s a reliable superhero with a hint of tragedy to him. Both the original and the second Comets met unfortunate ends in their fight against crime. As a result, the Third Comet was pushed into the business in his teens. He gets maimed during Crimsonstreak’s escape, setting the table for history repeating itself by pressing the Fourth Comet into service. I like the idea of “legacy heroes” who aren’t necessarily a singular person; I always thought was a neat concept from The Phantom. I took that concept and applied it to the Crusading Comet.

  • It’s pretty easy to guess who the mysterious pacifist leader is in the book. The fact that Chris hadn’t processed this yet speaks to his time in captivity and reminds us he isn’t quite as sharp as normal. The Comet even tells him, “you have to stop your father.” Crimsonstreak is in pure survival/escape mode at the time and doesn’t really think about it.

  • Baseball plays an important part in my family. My father was my little league coach for several years and was usually the first base coach. In the flashback, Colonel Chaos is standing on third, but he’s giving the same sign my father used to give from first base when he wanted me to steal second. I like the parallel between the hooded visage of Chaos and the ballcap.

  • You’ll notice the theme of propaganda and media manipulation appears frequently in the book. I studied journalism in college and worked in TV news for nearly nine years. It seems news media are easier and easier to “use” these days, with sycophantic reporters saying whatever it is leaders want them to say. When the watchdogs stop watching, society suffers.

  • Escaping from prison should be improving things for Chris, but the situation’s actually getting inexplicably worse. Not only is he shocked to see his father in control of the world, but his dead mother has come back to life. Even more jarring, there’s another Chris Fairborne out there, a powerful incentive to investigate what in the world is going on.

  • Comet pizza is probably overdoing the whole Comet branding thing. The point being made here is that the Crusading Comet is completely enmeshed in his own world.

  • The flashback here is meant to foreshadow the tension between Morty and Chris. Mortimer doesn’t think too highly of Crimsonstreak, and it’s implied that the third Crusading Comet had his own doubts about the hero as well.

  • Their reunion inside the Kensington penthouse doesn’t exactly put them on great terms. Morty first suggests Crimsonstreak is there to capture him. He then has the audacity to call Chris’ suit a “costume.” Oh yeah…things are gonna get ugly between these two.

BACK TO CRIMSONSTREAK CENTRAL!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Leap of Faith #5


Our next Leap of Faith involves a character forced to make a critical decision to protect his friends. In Lord of the Rings, Gandalf confronts a Balrog...and wins. It looks like everyone is about to make a nice and clean escape, but then Gandalf is dragged down.


He could've pleaded for help. He could've cried out for his friends to come to his aid. Instead, he embraces a plunge into the abyss.

"Fly, you fools!"


Monday, February 27, 2012

Leap of Faith #4


Not every Leap of Faith Works out great at first. Just ask poor Spider-Man as he discovers his powers.


He goes barreling over the side of a building...and then smacks into a wall. Lesson learned.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

I, Crimsonstreak Commentary: Chapter 12


Chapter 12

Chaotic Family Reunion

Author’s Notes

  • The chapter title indicates that we’ll be seeing Chris interact with his father very soon.

  • Lugging Imperator Chris for just a few seconds has left Crimsonstreak fatigued. Again, this presents the idea that they are somehow linked. This may remind some people of Tomax and Xamot, the Crimson Guard Commanders from G.I. Joe, something I realized after the fact.

  • I like how Warren taunts the Imperator about his uniform. Note how he refers to it as a costume. He also takes a not-so-subtle jab at superhero capes, which offends Imperator Chris.

  • One interesting aspect of having Chris and his clone interact is that it gives Chris a chance to see himself in a different light. Could he have been pushed to that extreme under the right circumstances? On the other hand, you have Imperator Chris. Does the core of a person remain intact? Do genetics shape us? Are people inherently good or bad or do outside influences shape our personalities?

  • I have soft spot for the Tom Clancy movie adaptations. Clear and Present Danger has some great action, but the president makes the film.


  • ”Better go double-tight on the leg restraints.” This is a callback to Chris’ time at the Clermont Institution for the Criminally Insane. Had the guards gone “double-tight” on his restraints, he probably wouldn’t have been able to escape, and Chris wants to make sure the Imperator doesn’t get the same benefit.

  • When Warren IV was a whiny, annoying teenager, the tussle between him and the Imperator didn’t pull much weight. In fact, it was suggested that the Imperator had actually tried to attack Warren, who wasn’t the aggressor. As Warren’s character became stronger, this scene needed to be rewritten. Warren’s wailing on the Imperator to avenge his father.

  • Originally, Chris told Warren that this “isn’t Abu Ghraib." Readers would have immediately gotten the reference, but it became clear that I couldn’t use it. While the universe of I, Crimsonstreak mirrors our own history in many respects, some events never took place. The 21st century played out very differently in this world. No 9/11, no War on Iraq. Thus, no Abu Ghraib…which meant Chris wouldn’t have known what it was. Alternate history can get very tricky.

  • I’m not like them. Chris is repulsed by what he sees and hears from his doppelganger. For a few seconds, he considers letting Warren teach Imperator Chris a lesson, but it’s not in his nature to allow that. He has no desire to go down the path that Imperator Chris and Colonel Chaos have traveled.

  • Chris is preparing to go into the heart of the New World Common Wealth to confront his father, much as Luke Skywalker surrendered himself to Imperial forces to meet his father in Return of the Jedi. The parallel was strong enough that I referenced it. For better or worse, sometimes Chris sees the world like he sees movies. Since he’s a geek culture buff, situations often remind him of something from movies or TV.

  • ”Bluetooth for your brain” is a device that allows Chris to learn a little bit more about the world. I could’ve conveyed some of these details through conversation, but I liked the idea of our hero getting information on the go.

  • The bank building Chris refers to is the Chase Tower (formerly the Bank One Tower) in downtown Indianapolis. It’s still there…it’s just…the massive silver spire now dominates the downtown skyline.

  • Lucas Oil Stadium is an absolute monstrosity in downtown Indianapolis. It’s gigantic. Huge. Indy folks often refer to it as “The House that Peyton Built,” a nod to the impact Peyton Manning has had on the city of Indianapolis and the Colts franchise. In real history, the groundbreaking on “Big Oil” took place in September 2005. It didn’t actually open until August 2008. Chris was imprisoned during the latter stages of construction, but he certainly knew the stadium was being built.

  • The silver spire is, in fact, a remnant of the Kiltech Incursion. Colonel Chaos made it his homebase to remind people of the looming Kiltech threat and reinforce that he’s the one who drove them away. The “Roman” interior is a hint for the return of a certain supervillain down the road.

  • SPOILER ALERT! DON’T READ UNLESS YOU’RE 100% YOU WANT TO KNOW!!! HIGHLIGHT TO READ: During the first encounter with Colonel Chaos, Chris believes he’s talking to his real father. The gray/white temples could be from the stress of running (or ruining) the world. Chris finds it hard to believe, however, that his father would ever actually strike him.

  • The flashback with seven-year-old Chris is meant to show he was precocious as a kid. He remains rather precocious as an adult, actually. The brief scene also shows us a more patient Colonel Chaos. Patience doesn’t seem to be one of the High Imperator’s traits, so the scene also demonstrates the dissonance between the two characters.

  • Anyone recognize the last name “Kapowski?” It comes from Saved by the Bell.

  • My mother’s side of the family has a reunion every July. Those reunions, remarkably, are not “soul-sucking” experiences, but I get the idea that’s a fairly uncommon phenomenon.

  • Again, I draw upon some events in my own life to give some extra texture to Chris’ memories as a kid. I rammed into my father’s Shop-Vac. I couldn’t stop my bike in time and ran into some trash cans. I did not, however, kick a soccer ball through the garage window. That was my brother.

  • Breakfast at Denny’s rocks, just in case you didn’t know.

  • Pulsating blue color? Where have we seen that before? Hmm…

  • In the family flashback, Chris is watching an IU game with his Dad. I don’t recall that particular scene with Bob Knight actually playing out, but it’s close enough to reality to work.

  • The flashback also shows that while Chris’ parents were loving, they also had other responsibilities. Miss Lightspeed was dedicated to making the world a better place and often went on diplomatic missions in hopes of settling tension-filled disputes between countries. Deep down, Chris understood and admired his mother for it, but he’s also a kid who needs his mom.

  • For a brief moment, Chris wonders if the NWCW is really all that bad. After all, his mother is back. He hasn’t been able to see his mother in a decade. This would be a shock to anyone’s system. Chris also expresses regret for failing to see his parents enough while he was in college. Sometimes we don’t realize what we have until it’s gone.

  • Something about Miss Lightspeed’s smile leaves Chris unnerved, and the spell of seeing his mother alive again is broken.

  • Chris comments on the stupidly tight outfits worn by female superheroes. Miss Lightspeed didn’t roll like that.

  • As the chapter ends, Chris decides to investigate the strange blue light coming from his father’s room.

BACK TO CRIMSONSTREAK CENTRAL!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

I, Crimsonstreak: Crusading Comet Timeline


August 17, 1921 – Warren Kensington (Warren Sr.) is born in Schenectady, New York.

July 21, 1933 – Mortimer P. Willoughby is born in Leeds, England.

1939-1945 – Warren Sr. joins the Army and serves with distinction in the U.S. effort during World War II. He marries shortly before departing for Europe.

1946 – Warren Sr.’s first and only son, Warren Kensington, Junior (Warren Jr.) is born. The family settles in New York City.

1955 – Warren Sr. develops an interest in chemistry and develops a revolutionary cleaner called Comet-Sparkle.

1956 – Wow Corporation buys rights to Comet-Sparkle, a move that makes Warren Sr. very wealthy. Warren Sr. hires 23-year-old Mortimer P. Willoughby to tutor his son and help run the household.

1958 – Upset by rising street crime, Warren Sr. creates an alternative persona called the Crusading Comet. The Comet makes his first appearance by saving a young lady from a group of thugs. Warren Sr. is 36 years old.

1964 – Warren Jr. marries.

July 1966 – Warren Kensington III (Warren III) is born. Warren Sr. and other heroes form the Heroic Legion.

April 1969 – Warren Sr. dies during a fight with a notorious arms dealer. Warren Jr. takes up the mantle of the Crusading Comet, entrusting the upbringing & education of Warren III to 35-year-old Mortimer P. Willoughby.

June 1969 – Warren Jr. makes first public appearance as the Crusading Comet, unveiling new crime-fighting armor designed to counter firearms.

1969-1986 – Warren Jr. serves with distinction as the second Crusading Comet. He is eventually elected leader of the Heroic Legion.

April 1986 – Warren Jr. killed. Warren III takes up mantle of the Crusading Comet. He is 19 years old.

November 1992 – Warren Kensington IV (Warren IV) born. As is now family tradition, Mortimer P. Willoughby is entrusted with the boy’s education & upbringing. He is 59 years old.

BACK TO CRIMSONSTREAK CENTRAL

I, Crimsonstreak: New World Common Wealth Timeline


April 16, 2000 – Miss Lightspeed dies following an encounter with the supervillain Zeus Caesar.

2001-2005 – Chris Fairborne and Colonel Chaos become increasingly estranged as Chaos experiments with different ways to bring Miss Lightspeed back. Their father-son relationship is permanently damaged when Chaos employs a woman named Mimicry to portray his dead wife. Chaos also makes several attempts to clone Miss Lightspeed. During this time, Chaos sketches out plans for a one-world government called the New World Common Wealth.

April/May 2006 – Unable to cope with the pressure of assuming Miss Lightspeed’s form all the time, Mimicry commits suicide. Colonel Chaos experiments with an interdimensional transporter.

January 2007 – After several failures, Chaos successfully tests the interdimensional device and pulls an alternative Miss Lightspeed (Lightspeed 2) into his dimension. He hides the discovery from the rest of the world and establishes a secret base of operations in the Caribbean.

May 2007 – Alternate-reality Colonel Chaos (Colonel Chaos 2) makes his first attempt to transport himself to a new dimension to save his missing wife. The experiment results in an explosion that destroys the Fairborne family’s hometown. Chris Fairborne arrives to investigate, and Chaos 1 believes his son’s super-speed has grown unstable. To protect the world from his son’s powers, he pins the explosion on Chris and sends him to the Clermont Institution for the Criminally Insane. The estrangement of father and son is complete.

Mid-June 2007 – Colonel Chaos 2 successfully transports himself to the new reality. Chaos 2 and Lightspeed 2 team up on Chaos 1 and subdue him after a protracted fight. Before his defeat and capture, Chaos 1 erases his son’s existence from his computer database. Chris Fairborne’s whereabouts are lost to the world.

Late June 2007 – With Chaos 1 in stasis, Chaos 2 uncovers plans for a one-world government called the New World Common Wealth. He begins consolidating U.S. resources for a full-scale global takeover, but several nations resist.

August 2007 – First contact made with extraterrestrial beings known as the Kiltechs. Alien invaders appear peaceful at first, but eventually reveal their true intentions by slaughtering a group of world leaders during a peace conference. Chaos 2 assembles a provisional council to oversee a united resistance called the New World Common Wealth. Miss Lightspeed returns to public service. The circumstances surrounding her resurrection are murky.

August 2007-September 2008 – Chaos 2 and his forces fight against the Kiltech invaders. The Kiltechs blockade the earth, and overestimate the effectiveness of their occupying force. The miscalculation allows Chaos 2 to rally more countries and superheroes to his cause, but the alliance is shaky.

January 2008 - President Conrad assassinated.

March 2008 - Colonel Chaos welcomes his son Christopher Fairborne back, telling the world his son has been rehabilitated and is ready to serve.

September 2008 – The Kiltechs destroy the West Coast, galvanizing the resistance movement. Chaos 2 calls for a final offensive against the alien invaders. A coalition of superheroes destroys the Kiltech’s main ship, and the remaining alien force retreats. Chaos 2 dissolves the provisional council and the Heroic Legion. With his popularity at an all-time high, he redraws state and international borders as his New World Common Wealth gains power.

2010 – Chris Fairborne escapes from the Clermont Institution for the Criminally Insane.

BACK TO CRIMSONSTREAK CENTRAL

I, Crimsonstreak Commentary: Chapter 2


Chapter 2

Have Jacket, Will Travel

Author's Notes

  • The rogue’s gallery of the I, Crimsonstreak world is chock-full of some real winners. Dark Plague can make people sick, but he can’t cure them. O-Zone can punch holes in the ozone layer, but is incapable of doing anything else. Sylvester Striker is a reformed villain (his bio is actually kind of sad). Just an observation.

  • Chapter 2 contains the first passage that really gives us a hint that Chris is a little too obsessed with popular culture. There are other references beforehand, of course, and tons of references afterward. But his comment mentioning Reading Rainbow, “Dementors,” and “Nazgul” indicates his broad scope of pop culture knowledge. At the same time, the character is fairly well read. He mentions Crime and Punishment and (a little later) makes a good Sherlock Holmes reference. Chris is definitely a little ADHD in his thought process, a conscious decision on my part. He may not have his father’s genius, but he does process things very quickly. So quickly, in fact, that he can afford to go off on “thought tangents” without losing focus on the task at hand.

  • Crimsonstreak doesn’t know what to think about religion. After all, his mother and father are superpowered beings who routinely fight others with god-like powers. This doesn’t mean he doesn’t believe in a higher being or understand the importance of faith. It’s just something that’s hard for him to relate to. That’s where his comments about Sylvester Striker come in to play. He takes a bemused detachment toward Sylvester's faith and isn't mocking it.

  • Crimsonstreak catches a break when the Crusading Comet and Infrared appear. This almost works like the beginning of Return of the Jedi, where Leia turns Chewie over to Jabba the Hutt to gain access to the bad guy’s inner circle. Of course, the two heroes didn't exactly want to get captured and sent to Clermont.

  • A quick aside here – our hero is a major sports fan. His tastes, for better or worse, gave me a chance to get on my Midwest, Big Ten soapbox. Like me, he’s a Colts and Indiana University basketball fan. It seems like so many characters in fiction are Yankees or Cubs or Red Sox fans. I took the chance to give my teams a little love and (occasionally) take a shot at the New England Patriots. I know pure evil when I see it.

  • The Purdue knock was completely unnecessary. I actually like the Boilermakers a lot (I blame my brother-in-law for graduating from Purdue), but made the comment because anyone who’s from Indiana knows that Purdue could win three straight national championships in basketball and everyone in the state would still be talking about how Indiana made the Sweet 16.

  • A few more heroes trickle in, setting up a prison escape for Crimsonstreak and his allies. One of those heroes is a guy named Scarlet DashBoy. He was originally just a character mentioned in passing, but one of my beta readers thought DashBoy was hilarious. I expanded the character just a bit, giving him a couple of flashbacks and a cameo later in the book. For any of you in doubt, DashBoy is an idiot.

BACK TO CRIMSONSTREAK CENTRAL!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Congratulations, R.J.!


For once here's an update that has nothing to do with me (although you'll notice I'm leading with myself).

My writing buddy R.J. Sullivan announced that he's signed a monster four-book deal with Seventh Star Press, a small press publisher operating out of Louisville, Kentucky. R.J. writes horror, science fiction, and fantasy.

I'm really happy for him!

You can find out more about the deal here.

You can also check out R.J.'s website.

Leap of Faith #3


Today's Leap of Faith is one of the all-time greatest.

Luke Skywalker, bruised, battered, and newly armless, is confronted by a terrible truth.

Darth Vader is his father.

Luke finds this mildly upsetting.


The villain then asks Luke to join him so they can destroy the Emperor and rule the galaxy as father and son. Luke thinks about it for like point-zero-three seconds and then takes a leap of faith deep into the bowels of Bespin.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Leap of Faith #2


We're in a Leap Year and Leap Day is just a few days away, and I'm celebrating here on My Kingdom for a Novel by remembering some great movie leaps. Anything for a blog post, right?

One of the all-time great leaps comes courtesy of Doctor Richard Kimble, the Chicago doc convicted of murdering his wife after his story about a "one-armed man" failed to convince anyone. En route to prison, he escapes (in the original The Fugitive TV show, it's described as "redeemed by fate"), and is hunted down by U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard. They have a memorable encounter at a dam.


Kimble is cornered. Gerard has him right where he wants him, but the doctor has a flash of inspiration. He knows he'll go to prison and his wife's true murderer will go free if he lets Gerard take him into custody.

And so he jumps.

Dummy? What dummy?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Leap of Faith #1


Over the next few days, I'm going to be talking about taking a leap of faith. It's perhaps one of the hardest things to do in life. You don't know what to expect. You don't know what's on the other side.

Take Indiana Jones, for example. He knows that "only in the leap from the lion's head will he prove his worth." He sees nothing but a rather long fall to the bottom below.

That nonsense from the Grail diary isn't all that reassuring when you're staring down at the bottom of a chasm of death. Yet, Indy's dad is dying. He wants to save him.


"You must believe, boy. You must believe," Henry Jones Sr. says. Indy knows it...and the man who's cheated death countless times before realizes he can take that leap. He realizes he must believe.

And so he does.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Taking a Leap

Sometimes I like to write about things coming up on the blog, and today is no exception.

February 29th marks Leap Day on this Leap Year. Over the next few days, I'll be looking at some memorable movie "leaps." The posts won't be long. It's just something fun to "celebrate" something that come along once every four years.

I expect we'll see a healthy dose of Star Wars in there, probably a superhero or two. There's also a method behind the madness...and I'll share that when we reach February 29th.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Superhero ABCs: The Finale


This is it. The final entry in my Superhero ABC's. It's been a long journey from the Avengers to X-Men...and for today's final explosive post, I give you the Y and Z to complete the superheroic alphabet.

Y is for Yellow.


Y was the most difficult letter to pin down for this entire "event." My options were very limited, and I considered doing something like "Young Justice," "youthfulness," or "Ymir" (frost giant from the Thor universe).

I didn't like any of those.

I ended up settling on "yellow." Trust me, it's not because I'm in love with Coldplay.

In the early days of Green Lantern (the Hal Jordan version), we learned that the hero had a certain weakness: his power ring would not work on anything yellow. This was a supremely stupid and, it seemed, arbitrary weakness. Okay, that's exactly what it was. It was such a stupid idea, in fact, that years later yellow was changed through the alchemy-like magic of retroactive continuity as being symbolic for fear. Still stupid, yes, but not quite as stupid. Sort of.

For my Superhero ABC's, yellow is the perfect representation of something many heroes have: a weakness. Many of our heroes have an Achilles heel. For Superman, it's Kryptonite (he's also vulnerable to magic). Martian Manhunter has an aversion to fire. Aquaman can't stay on land for too long. Batman's single-minded focus on stopping criminals can work against him (as it did in the "Knightfall" storyline when all of Arkham's inmates escaped; the Batman of the Nolanverse is often bruised and battered...with the character stating that "Batman has no limits"). Familial and personal relationships can also become weaknesses (which is the reason many heroes have secret identities).

And now for the grand finale...

Z is for Zeitgeist.


Superheroes and comic books capture the feel of an era. In the above picture, you see Captain America punching Hitler. Cap was a product of the rah-rah, "Go America!" era of World War II. He was consciously created to be a symbol of a greater, patriotic America.

The hero is a good illustration for this concept of zeitgeist. He began as pro-America propaganda, briefly became a Commie-smasher, abandoned his identity during the Watergate scandal (becoming Nomad, "man without a country"), confronted several prominent social and political themes in the 80s and 90s, and opposed the Superhuman Registration Act (itself a kind of stand in for a Patriot Act-era America).

Cap, of course, isn't the only hero to capture the essence of an era. Golden Age heroes harken back to a simpler, more black and white time. Silver Age heroes represent a goofier, more carefree era, while Bronze Age heroes tend to tackle darker subject matter and more complex sociopolitical themes. These are generalizations, of course, but they reflect the development of American society.

Previous Entries:

Z is for Zeitgeist
Y is for Yellow
X is for the X-Men
W is for Wolverine
V is for Villains
U is for Uniform
T is for The Tick
S is for Spider-Man
R is for Robin
Q is for The Question
P is for The Punisher
O is for Origin Story
N is for Nite Owl
M is for Metropolis
L is for Lois Lane
K is for Kal-El
J is for J'onn J'onzz
I is for Iron Man
H is for the Human Bullet
G is for Green Lantern
F is for the Flash
E is for Events
D is for Dr. Fate
C is for Captain America
B is for Batman
A is for The Avengers

Friday, February 17, 2012

Superhero ABCs: Letter X


X is for X-Men.


Hot off the heels of Wolverine come the X-Men.

The X-Men are quite a bit different from other superteams like the Avengers or the Justice League of America. While the latter exist basically as excuses to throw a bunch of popular heroes together, the X-Men are a group of mutants hand-picked by Professor Xavier to prove to the world that mutants aren't the bad guys. So while the Avengers and JLA assemble to confront whatever evil is conjured for this week's Super Comic Event, the X-Men tend to serve as an allegory for human freedoms.

The parallels are definitely there in terms of race relations, anti-Semitism, and sexual orientation, with the characters' mutant traits standing in for other civil rights causes. Professor X has taken these disaffected members of society and tried to teach them to use their powers for the benefit of humanity. In turn, he hopes the X-Men will prove mutants are a benevolent force that humanity should embrace instead of shun.

The X-Men will certainly stop a random purse snatcher if they encounter one, but their real nemeses are intolerance and fellow mutants who believe mutant-kind is above humanity and should rule it.

Monday: The epic conclusion to my Superhero ABC's!

Previous Entries:

W is for Wolverine
V is for Villains
U is for Uniform
T is for The Tick
S is for Spider-Man
R is for Robin
Q is for The Question
P is for The Punisher
O is for Origin Story
N is for Nite Owl
M is for Metropolis
L is for Lois Lane
K is for Kal-El
J is for J'onn J'onzz
I is for Iron Man
H is for the Human Bullet
G is for Green Lantern
F is for the Flash
E is for Events
D is for Dr. Fate
C is for Captain America
B is for Batman
A is for The Avengers

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Superhero ABCs: Letter W


W is for Wolverine.


It's Wolverine.

What more do you want me to say?

He's one of the most popular characters in all of comic books. Sometimes they throw him in another character's book and slap him on the cover just to make a few extra sales. He's appeared in movies, cartoons, video games, and every conceivable piece of officially-licensed merchandise Marvel has ever created. He's a terrific character weighed down by his own popularity and Marvel's penchant for overexposure.

Still, he's the best there is at what he does...but what he does best isn't very nice.

And he's also worn several different costumes (Crimsonstreak's gonna kill me for that) throughout his storied tenure. Find out more about them here.

Tomorrow: They complement Wolverine, but he doesn't usually compliment them.

Previous Entries:

V is for Villains
U is for Uniform
T is for The Tick
S is for Spider-Man
R is for Robin
Q is for The Question
P is for The Punisher
O is for Origin Story
N is for Nite Owl
M is for Metropolis
L is for Lois Lane
K is for Kal-El
J is for J'onn J'onzz
I is for Iron Man
H is for the Human Bullet
G is for Green Lantern
F is for the Flash
E is for Events
D is for Dr. Fate
C is for Captain America
B is for Batman
A is for The Avengers

Some quick updates

Nothing major to report, but here are a few quick updates on my writing endeavors.

-The Live and Let Undead anthology is complete with my short story "Sparky Save the World" included

-I'm still waiting on a final cover for I, Crimsonstreak -- we're three months away from launch if you can believe it!

-I haven't written anything new in the last couple weeks, but I'm working on fine-tuning my novel The Franchise; I think this one has big-time potential, but it needs several coats of paint

-My Kindle has a cracked screen and is currently unusable; this is a common problem (Google it!), and I expect it to be resolved swiftly

-Currently on my reading list: A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I, Crimsonstreak Commentary: Chapter 16


Chapter 16

A Not-So-Little Caesar and an Epic Battle of Epicness

Author’s Notes

  • So, yeah. Zeus Caesar returns. We’ve seen little hints about this throughout the book, but the chapter title is a dead giveaway. By the way, I love $5 Hot and Ready Pizza from Little Caesar’s.

  • The phrase “Epic Battle of Epicness” comes courtesy of my wife, who used to work at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. One time, a kid described a movie as an “epic battle of epicness.” I loved that story so much that I incorporated that into the title for the penultimate chapter.

  • I, too, washed out of the Cub Scouts. It wasn’t the square knot that got me, however. It was the time commitment.

  • You may wonder how Chris managed to carry both his father and Warren on his back. As Chris has made it apparent throughout the book, he doesn’t have superstrength. However, when called upon in extreme situations of duress, he manages to find a way to get things done (such as when he pushed back a large group of Enforcers in the Sanctum Cometus). This situation certainly qualifies.

  • Chris and his father need all the help they can get, but they’re unwilling to put Warren in danger. The kid protests, sure, but he won’t take it sitting down. It’s something Chris and Colonel Chaos are counting on, at least subconsciously.

  • Colonel Chaos nearly pulls it off, convincing the Enforcers to set the inmates at Clermont free. Thankfully, the High Imperator arrives to make sure that doesn’t happen.

  • The phrase “Not-My-Father” is inspired by the 90s sitcom Dinosaurs. In that show, a baby dinosaur had a bit where he would scream “not the mama!”

  • “What in the worlds were you thinking?” Chaos 2 asks. It’s another reminder of the multiverse that exists in the world of the book.

  • An important moment for Chris is when he realizes how warped he’d allowed his perception of his own father to become. Even though Chaos 2 was a scheming, diabolical madman, Chris thought of him as his father. The realization shakes him to the core.

  • One of my favorite family stories involves a trip to Steak ‘n Shake with my father. I ordered a steakburger and a milkshake; Dad ordered a grilled chicken sandwich and the largest side salad I’ve ever seen. He kept staring at my milkshake, lamenting his decision to eat healthy. Cracks me up every time.

  • Poor Morty. By far, this was the hardest narrative decision I had to make. In early drafts, Morty survived unscathed to continue serving the Kensington family. He was too much fun to write; I couldn’t let him die. However, Warren has his own character arc in here about responsibility and becoming the hero he needs to be; he needed a satisfying end to his own arc. Thus, dear, dear, dear Mortimer P. Willoughby becomes a sacrificial lamb. His death also raises the stakes. If beloved Morty (and I love Morty; I can’t say that enough) can die, anyone can die. His death gives us more reason to hate the High Imperator.

  • Morty meets his fate with dignity, which is what we’d expect. It’s sort of an “Obi-Wan Kenobi, noble sacrifice” moment. Morty wasn’t Warren’s father, but he may as well have been in many regards. “Tell the boy I shall miss him” gets me every time I read it. Seriously.

  • Morty’s originally scripted line was, “tell the boy I love him,” but Morty refused to read it. He insisted on saying, “tell the boy I shall miss him.”

  • I know this was the right decision because my wife sent me a text message when she read the book: “You BASTARD. You killed Morty!!!!!” I’m only saying this because it helps the pain go away.

  • Heeeeeeeeere’s Zeus Caesar!

  • Chris has often fantasized about confronting Zeus Caesar and avenging his mother. Fantasy is one thing; reality is another. Now, he’s clearly going to have to face the villain after watching his clone bite it.

  • Evil Miss Lightspeed commented on Chris’ weakness and disowns him; Evil Colonel Chaos does the same for Imperator Chris. Nice folks.

  • The brief, surreal scene where Imperator Chris “dies” breaks the connection between the two.

  • We end up with multiple battles raging at once. Primarily, we experience Chris’ fight with Zeus Caesar. We also know the Chaoses are going after one another. What’s Warren doing? I’m sure he’s collapsed into an inconsolable heap and has no pretensions of avenging Morty. Yeah, that’s it.

  • Crimsonstreak doesn’t get the satisfaction of killing Caesar; Imperator Chris does it. Some people will probably say I let Chris “off the hook” by failing to make him the tool of Caesar’s demise, but I promise you he would’ve killed Caesar if he needed to.

  • Yep, the spot-the-imposter trope. It’s an immutable law of stories with doppelgangers.

  • The final confrontation pits the reunited Fairborne family against the High Imperator. It looks like Chaos 2 is going to get the upper hand…

  • …but then we realize Warren was actually doing something while the battle was going on. The teenager has grown up fully now, having seen Morty killed at the hands of the Enforcers. Working in concert with Jaci, they freed the inmates at Clermont and turned the tide. The cost of victory is nearly unbearable for the kid.

  • Gotta give Warren credit for pulling a nice little “Chewie” moment from Return of the Jedi. It wasn’t intentional, but it does remind me of that scene a little bit.

  • In the original draft of the book, Morty is the one who swoops in and saves the day. When Imperator Chris, Jaci, Warren, and Crimsonstreak split up, Morty was overseeing the operation. When he lost contact with the teams, he mobilized the superhero resistance and emerged from the Enforcer aircraft.

  • “Once and Future Crusading Comet” is a fitting phrase for Warren. I thought it was important for Chris to “translate” Morty’s final message for the kid.

  • Jaci’s an important character because she calls Chris out on his own BS. She reminds him that she can take care of herself and that Chris needs to give people more credit.

  • The chapter ends as Chris and Jaci look over the ruins of the Clermont site, wondering what in the world will happen next.

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I, Crimsonstreak Commentary: Chapter 13


Chapter 13

Trapped Like a (Lab) Rat

Author’s Notes

  • This is probably one of my less inspired chapter titles. Hit ‘em with a cliché. Brilliant.

  • Goofy labs are an essential part of any good piece of fiction. I’m thinking mostly of Q from the Bond movies and Ted from the Naked Gun movies. The NWCW research division is called Special Projects, abbreviated as SpecPro.

  • The SpecPro Enforcer’s name was originally Jaris. However, with “Jaci” and Enforcer “Jenkins” thrown into the mix, it seemed like I had too many names with the letter “J.” I renamed him “Garris” as a tribute to the Mass Effect character Garrus Vakarian (note the spelling difference).

  • It’s probably not the most likely thing for a super-speedster like Chris to play Division III college baseball. It’s really not fair for the other players, but he does restrict his abilities. The flashback here serves to show us that delicate period following Miss Lightspeed’s death in which Chris and his father are beginning to drift apart.

  • “On most days, a gentle admonishment from my father would follow for wearing them indoors. I’d welcome it” is a line that breaks my heart. His father has started paying so little attention to him that Chris would rather be rebuked than ignored.

  • I didn’t play baseball in college. Just didn’t feel I was good enough to do it. Love baseball, however.

  • The part where Chris gets Garris’ name wrong was originally a “Jarvis” joke (since the character was originally named Jaris). It didn’t quite work with the name change, but I retained the mental slip by Chris.

  • Colonel Chaos’ ultimate plan to defeat superheroes in revolt involves stripping away their powers. Considering the possibility that the Kiltechs could one day return, that doesn’t seem like a very good idea.

  • The flashback gives us an interesting parallel. While Chaos is currently developing the depowering beam as an offensive weapon, it was originally something to contain superpowered threats. The moral: technology itself isn’t good or bad; it’s how you choose to use it.

  • No more Bif! Pow! Whap! refers to the Batman TV series that managed to turn superheroes into punchlines. In some ways, the genre has never recovered. Life wouldn’t be the same without it, though.

  • Is the Imperator costume (note how Chris refers to it as a “costume”) really that hot? Or is it just nerves?

  • A standard particle buster gives off a bluish light. Red is deadly. Basically, if the NWCW Enforcers can’t subdue you, they’ll kill ya.

  • “Special” Enforcer Jenkins is a high-ranking official in the New World Common Wealth. She’s another strong female character, although she’s a bit thin on development in the book. Readers are supposed to dislike her immediately.

  • Colonel Chaos is very effective at running propaganda campaigns, even against his own son. He has no qualms about humiliating his son in front of other members of the NWCW. The wisdom of this strategy is somewhat dubious, but it shows everyone who’s in charge. If Chaos will do that to his son, just imagine what he’d do to you.

  • Chris comments on how he needs to give the bad guys a little more credit. Yes, catching them is a pain in the butt. However, some of them put a lot of work into planning and pulling off a heist. Thieves have his begrudging respect…at least for a minute or two.

  • I don’t think anyone can argue with the assertion that Steve Perry’s voice is a superpower.

  • Chris is starting to suspect that there’s something wrong with his father. Colonel Chaos’ mercurial nature isn’t quite in keeping with the man Chris knows. Yes, the death of Miss Lightspeed has changed Chaos’ worldview, but his actions are alarming.

  • “Clermont Rehabilitation Resort” – a fun place for everyone!

  • So here we go. Chaos wants his son to return to Clermont. We’re catapulting toward the end now.

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I, Crimsonstreak Commentary: Appendix V


Appendix V

Secret Villain Dossiers from the Files of the Heroic Legion

Author’s Notes

  • The following “dossiers” are presented as “ripped from the files of the Heroic Legion.”

  • I often write little personality sketches for characters, even if they’re relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of the book. I took my notes and expanded on them for these short bios.

  • Zeus Caesar was a very powerful individual, although I really don’t know what the difference is among the categories of supers. I guess the “Class V” classification makes Caesar one of the most powerful beings in the Crimsonstreak universe.

  • It’s interesting that Caesar felt Julius Caesar’s leadership triumvirate was responsible for the leader’s downfall, especially given that Caesar ended up following the Chaos-Lightspeed-Imperator Chris triumvirate.

  • Basically, Caesar surrounded himself with a bunch of buff guys. Think 300.

  • Capturing Caesar in a bottle doesn’t really make much sense, but it’s a play on the old phrase “catching lightning in a bottle.”

  • In comics, a person’s background often reflects their power. In Crossworld’s case, that’s definitely the truth. Her teleportation ability is an outgrowth of her family’s tendency to move from place to place.

  • Crossworld and Colonel Chaos hooked up in their younger days. She still carries a flame for the former supervillain, and harbors resentment toward Miss Lightspeed for “ruining” Colonel Chaos.

  • Like Chaos and Lightspeed, Crossworld has aged at a dramatically slower rate than those around her. Chris even comments on her attractiveness while locked away at Clermont.

  • I spent a summer as an intern at a TV station in Baltimore, Maryland. One of my fellow interns was a student at Johns Hopkins. I decided to reference those in Dark Plague’s bio.

  • Dark Plague isn’t your typical supervillain; he has powers he can’t control and it briefly drove him to villainy. He quickly recanted his ways and agreed to go to Clermont voluntarily.

  • The Mimicry character is a very sad one. She wanted to be a movie star, but couldn’t quite make it. Failure drove her insane. She was pushed over the edge when Colonel Chaos forced her to take Miss Lightspeed’s form indefinitely. It’s a darker side of the novel that doesn’t come out very often.

  • I think it’s sad that she was buried with “little fanfare” in her hometown.

  • Red Crush is only mentioned in passing in the book as an inmate at Clermont. He’s a Soviet analogue for Captain America. Instead of a shield, he has “crush gauntlets.”

  • I find Red Crush intriguing because he was so angered by Mikhail Gorbachev that he actually tried to kill him. Thankfully, a few international superheroes were there to save the day: Double Decker, Irish Temper, and Hitler’s More Successful Second Cousin. As for the latter hero, I’m not sure what “more successful” means in this context.

  • A recurring joke in the book is Fourth-Reich Rich and his plan to turn the rest of the world into Nazi Zombies. Oddly enough, the Nazi Zombie scheme isn’t mentioned in his bio.

  • Sylvester Striker’s story is a sad one, too. His powers drove him mad, and he agreed to go to Clermont. Once he made peace with himself, he asked to see his father, only to find out that he had passed away. All he left his son was a copy of the Book of Mormon. We know both the fate of that book and Striker.

  • I almost made Stoner Cheetah’s real name “James Blunt,” but soon realized that I would be tempted to kill that character. The name isn’t very original. I may as well have named him “Joe Marijuana.”

  • The Stoner Cheetah bio was the last thing written for the book. It’s fitting that it appears at the very end.

  • So, yeah. Stoner Cheetah’s from California. I know, I know. Mind-blowingly original.

  • And that’s it. That’s the end of the author’s commentary. Bye.

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