Thursday, May 31, 2012

Super Inspiration

Dah-dah-dah-DAHHHH! What’s that? That’s me tooting my own horn. Last week Siren accepted my seventh book, Temptation and Tights. It’s the story of a supervillain falling for the superhero who’s been trying to bring him to justice. One guy has mechanical wings. The other guy turns into a human velociraptor. Think of it as X-Men done as M/M romantic comedy. (Actually, that’s pretty accurate. Back in high school I wrote X-men fanfic; in my version Angel was gay. I always thought he and Sauron should have been together. Well, they finally made it, though I changed Sauron’s species. Pteranodon, velociraptor, what’s the difference when you’re in love?)

The timing couldn’t be better. The Avengers movie is closing out the month with a box office take of over a billion—yes, that’s billion with a B—dollars. Still to come this summer: a new version of Spider-Man and the finale of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. Over in the comic books, Marvel’s gay superhero Northstar is tying the knot with his boyfriend, and DC, which relaunched its line last year, has announced one of its iconic characters will be revealed as gay. (No, it’s not Batman. He’s dating Catwoman. A man need three Y chromosomes just to keep up with her.)

In other words, superheroes are big this summer, and gay superheroes are coming out of their four-color closet. Maybe I’ll actually be ahead of a trend for once.

The reason I preferred Marvel heroes to DC’s in the ‘60s was Marvel’s more realistic characterizations. The personalities of DC’s heroes were bland and interchangeable. Marvel’s were way more fun. They argued with each other. They talked like real people. They had problems kids could relate to. Spider-Man might save New York City on a regular basis, but Peter Parker couldn’t get a date. The Thing looked like a pile of orange rocks. Worst case of acne ever. Tony Stark needed his Iron Man armor to keep his damaged heart beating. At Marvel, great power brought with it great responsibility and a ton of personal drama.

And let’s not forget the big draw to a young and impressionable girl reading comics, the heavy soap opera elements. DC’s heroes had girlfriends (and Wonder Woman had a boyfriend), but they never did anything. Marvel’s heroes had heart-rending, passionate, angsty relationships interrupted by kidnappings, attacks by supervillains, alien invasions and threats to all humanity. The relationships as much as the stories kept me coming back month after month.

Though X-Men was my favorite, for a while The Avengers was top of my must-read list, because of the romance that developed between the Vision and the Scarlet Witch. You think gay marriage is a hot-button topic? The Vision wasn’t human. He was synthetic, an android programmed with the brain patterns of a dead man. Still, he was human enough to have manly urges for Wanda, who was a mutant. They pined for each other and bemoaned a love that could never be for over a dozen issues before a new writer took over and finally brought them together. I’m assuming Vision was anatomically correct and, as Data once put it, “fully functional.” At any rate, Wanda never complained.

With a background like this, is it any wonder that once I started reading and writing romance, I headed straight for paranormal? I’m not quite sure why I veered off into M/M. Maybe it was all those buff guys in tights. Superheroing was still primarily a boys’ club during my formative years, so you had all these guys hanging out together acting all comradely. Maybe that’s what skewed me in that direction.

Though I’ll bet if DC had given Wonder Woman a girlfriend, sales would’ve shot through the roof.

Comics have changed since those simpler days. They’re far more expensive, for one thing. Time was, a dollar would buy you half a dozen comics, a candy bar and a soda, and you’d be good for the afternoon. These days the average monthy comic runs between $2-$4 and can be read in ten minutes. They also went grim and gritty and ultra-realistic during the ‘80s and ‘90s. They lost a lot of their fun and I lost interest. If you want to look into modern comics, I recommend you stop by your local library and check out the “graphic novel” section. These paperbacks collect 4-6 issues of a monthly comic, so you get a complete story. And DC took a page from Marvel’s playbook and gave their heroes personalities, so they’re more fun to read about now. For the record, Batman’s still psychotic. It’s part of his appeal.

On the film front, I recommend Superman: The Movie. It’s a classic combo of action, humor, romance and superheroics, starring the most recognizable hero on the planet. Spider-Man 2 has all the Marvel hallmarks: a problem-laden hero, a tragic villain, one-liners tossed around during fight scenes and a romance with a happy ending. If you want to write a superhero ménage, you can use X-Men 2 as a springboard. Heroine Jean Grey finds herself torn between tragic hero Cyclops and lethal but fascinating bad boy Wolverine. Why not go for both? Because Cyclops shoots force beams out of his eyes, Wolverine shoots claws out of his hands, and they can’t stand each other. Conflict you want, conflict you got.

For examples of superhero movies done right, try Iron Man, The Avengers and The Dark Knight. No romance, but plenty of humor (in the first two) and character development and examples of how to handle characters with paranormal abilities. When it comes to presenting their characters, for some reason DC is better in animation, while Marvel rules live action. No idea why that is.

And, in my opinion, the only actor ever to look totally realistic in a colorful skintight costume was Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman. DC needs to put out a Wonder Woman movie. Give Princess Diana a girlfriend and watch the box office soar …


Savanna Kougar said...

Fascinating, Pat. Thanks for all the history and info. My brother learned to read by reading comic books.

I always adored watching Wonder Woman, and now I can't think of it, but was it American Hero? And, of course the original Superman TV show, I loved it as a kid, oh, and there was The Hulk with Bill Bixby, I enjoyed that show...but I didn't really get into the comic books. Then, of course, Christopher Reeve as Superman... and hell, I've never been the same. Also, the first three Batman movies were incredible, the cinematic art amazing. Oh! And the campy TV Batman, that was the best ever!!!

Course, my four superheroes, the Dark Brothers, have their fire-creating superheroine... gosh, gee, if I only had time, I'd write their next Chrontropolis story... but... and there's my super wolf, White Fang, who is waiting in the WIP wings with his story half done.

HELP!!! I need time, more time I tell you.

Pat C. said...

How many times do I have to say this? Stop doing housework and you'll have plenty of time.

I'll bet you're thinking of the Greatest American Hero, the show where they had to change the character's name after John Hinkley shot Reagan. I think they went back to Hinkley after a while.

Bill Bixby ... sigh.

Savanna Kougar said...

Yep, the Greatest American Hero, that's right.

You know The Hulk had a lot going for it, imo. There was actually logic and intelligence in the plotlines, and a look at raw emotion.