Alfred Pennyworth + Smart Aleck = Mortimer Willoughby
- 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.
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