Monday, March 5, 2012

I, Crimsonstreak Commentary: Appendix I

Appendix I

Chaos Family History

Author’s Notes

  • This appendix covers the history of Crimsonstreak’s family. Now that I think about it, I probably should’ve titled this section “Fairborne Family History” or “Crimsonstreak Family History.” Oh well.

  • Why so many appendices? That’s an interesting question. My interesting answer? I’m not sure. I just started writing newspaper articles one day after the main narrative was complete. By the time I was finished, I had nearly 20,000 words of extra material. I’m the kind of guy who likes the special features on DVDs, so this extra material is along the same lines.

  • I really tried to avoid having a lot of moments in the book in which events are explained. Certain things about characters are implied or referenced without being explained over several paragraphs. The supplemental material gave me a chance to delve deeper into the history of the Crimsonstreak universe.

  • One of the limitations of the first person narrative is that you’re stuck with that singular perspective. Chris only knows what Chris knows; any additional information he has must come from other characters. These newspaper articles and magazine features provide an opportunity to fill in some of the blanks. They’re not essential to the book, so readers who aren’t interested won’t really miss out on anything.

  • A lot of the “reporters” used in the supplemental features are friends of mine. There are a couple glaring omissions, but I couldn’t mention everyone.

  • The first two articles detail a crisis involving Colonel Chaos during his criminal heyday. His most famous plot involved taking over the United Nations Building in New York and threatening to start a nuclear war unless he got billions in ransom money. Miss Lightspeed is the one who ended up thwarting the plot, which made the Bill Fairborne/Karen Fairborne relationship even more unlikely.

  • Richard Nixon remains president in 1970, and the U.S. and Soviets are still embroiled in the Cold War. Even though superheroes exist, many important events still play out as they did in “real” history.

  • At the conclusion of the article in which Miss Lightspeed saves the day, President Nixon says, “it is heartening to know there are men who will stand up and oppose tyranny in its most basic form.” It’s a political jab at Miss Lightspeed, who actually took the initiative to stop Colonel Chaos.

  • Five years after the UN ransom plot, Chaos declares himself “reformed” and goes to the Richmond State Hospital. He is eventually released and marries Miss Lightspeed, who had been responsible for guarding him.

  • The line doesn’t really make sense, but “punch was served” is a long-running joke from my old TV station. Sometimes we’re given stories that have absolutely no information whatsoever. I was once assigned to write a 20-second story about some maritime event in Florida that had great video but no information. I BSed my way through it, but nearly included the line “punch was served” to end the story. I guess you had to be there.

  • In fine newspaper reporter fashion, the writer of the Sinister Santa article sort of screws up the lead. It was, in fact, one of the season’s hottest toys that nearly derailed the holiday season. Sinister Santa planted bombs in Cabbage Patch Dolls, the hot toy of the mid-80s.

  • Santa Claus, Indiana, is a real place. It’s several hours south of Indianapolis in Spencer County. Santa Claus’ claim to fame is a theme park and water park called Holiday World.

  • ShadowSmith’s plot is based on a favorite G.I. Joe episode in which Cobra creates a “pyramid of darkness” that blankets the world. ShadowSmith’s hood is also a nod to Cobra Commander.

  • G.E.N.E.R.A.T.E. is a parody of SPECTRE from the James Bond movies.

  • I studied journalism in college and spent nearly nine years writing/producing TV news at a Fox affiliate. My latent knowledge of AP Style came in handy during the supplemental materials, and I use a modified version of AP Style for the newspaper articles. Hat tip to Professor Jerry Miller for making me study AP Style in college.

  • During the 1995-1996 NFL season, the Indianapolis Colts made an improbable run through the playoffs, culminating in a dramatic game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Colts lost after their Hail Mary pass fell to the turf, but the memory is one of my favorites as a teenager. That team turned me into a Colts fan, and I’ve never stopped loving Jim Harbaugh. The article about the Super Bowl disruption in Tempe, Arizona, is part of my still-in-progress effort to “get over” the Colts’ loss. Kordell Stewart can suck it. The dude stepped out of bounds and nobody saw it.

  • Do the Observers seem familiar? They should to comic fans. Observers = Watchmen. I came up with silly analogues for all the Watchmen characters. Let’s match ‘em up: Splotch/Rorschach; Hombre Azul/Dr. Manhattan; Jokey Jokemaker/The Comedian; Osiris/Ozymandias; Jen Saturn/Sally Jupiter; Midnight Wren/Nite Owl.

  • The Crossworld bank robbery spree article uses one of journalism’s favorite sources: the police report. This article is full of “police speak” and other stupid terms the media loves.

  • The Dawn Magazine (it’s the People or Us Weekly of the Crimsonstreak universe) feature is actually a pretty lengthy piece. It runs about 2,900 words. The goal was to show how close Chris and his parents were. They seem somewhat normal until the son of a villain comes back for revenge. I really like this feature article.

  • The article also allowed me to fill in more the Colonel Chaos/Miss Lightspeed love story. These are two powerful personalities who are drawn to each other, and Miss Lightspeed “saves” Colonel Chaos from his darker ways. The book hinges on their relationship and the powerful attraction between them.

  • When Chris is interviewed, he has a Jim Harbaugh poster on his wall. I told you I never got over the Colts’ loss to the Steelers. Chris wonders if that Manning kid will be any good. I think that turned out okay. Harbaugh, by the way, was traded to the Baltimore Ravens following the 1997 season. The Colts ended up drafting Peyton Manning. He was pretty good.

  • “A cream and crimson streak!” This line came a long, long, long time after I’d already named the hero Crimsonstreak. While writing this feature article, it dawned on me that I could do a little play on words with Crimsonstreak’s name and the Indiana Hoosiers’ colors. In the several first drafts of this article, “a cream and crimson streak” is nowhere to be found and Chris isn’t wearing an IU sweatshirt.

  • The article about Miss Lightspeed’s death is an important piece. We don’t know much about Zeus Caesar’s plot, and this provides a little more insight.

  • “Lightspeed Too Slow” is a subtle nod to Spaceballs.

  • My father-in-law grew up in Iowa, so I decided to use it as a location in the book.

  • Appendix I concludes with the article about Miss Lightspeed’s death, a fitting stopping point. If you think about it, the Fairborne family “ended” when she died, thus it’s an appropriate place to conclude the family history.