Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Brief History of Cold Iron Badge, Part 3

So Patrick was in a "super" mood -- eager to work on a story with superheroic or supernatural elements.

I can get behind a good superhero story, but I wasn't in the mood to write one.

(An idea that Patrick and I had talked about working on a couple of years previously had been a superhero story -- it got as far as being outlined, having the script for the first issue written and all the key characters designed. Then, between our schedules at the time, and someone else independently coming up with another version of the same idea, it fell by the wayside. I may talk more about this project another time, as I still have a great deal of affection for it.)

That left the supernatural.

As you've probably already inferred from some of our previous posts, though -- as well as the comic that we eventually cooked up -- we were both of a mind to create an action-adventurey kind of supernatural tale, rather than one that focused on, say, horror.

(Actually, I pitched Patrick a teenagers-getting-disembowelled story that I had on the shelf, in the form of a mostly-finished screenplay. It wouldn't have been difficult to turn into a comics script, but it wasn't Patrick's cup of tea.)

So we were looking at at least some of our protagonists being tough and competent.

But despite that, "Bunny Mayhem" was the first character to be imported into Cold Iron Badge.


Yes. A lot our our characters existed in some capacity previously to Cold Iron Badge. Not precisely, of course... not in the final forms they appear in now. But Patrick and I -- entirely separately -- had character concepts or sometimes just names, from years of ideas that were waiting for the right venue.

Patrick had been looking for a story to use Christine McCall in for years. Ray Donovan was a character name I'd made up as a teenager meshed with a character concept that was much more recent. And Delric... well, Delric's origins are dorkily embarrassing.

But Bunny was the first. Bunny was one of mine, but I think Patrick suggested using her. And because she was the first, Bunny ended up defining a great deal of what came afterwards.

Because of her name, you see.

Because in the time between me coming up with the name "Bunny Mayhem", there was another supernatural action-adventure story that achieved some degree of success, featuring a title character with an ever-so-slightly similar name.



Bunny. Buffy.

Buffy. Bunny.

You see the problem?

I felt, very strongly, that I needed to deal with this similarity -- which really was a coincidence -- by crafting a story that would not otherwise invite comparison with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But was still a supernatural action-adventure story.

Well, this happened to dovetail with some other things I'd been thinking about. I tend to enjoy genre mashups, and I like procedurals a lot -- they provide story hooks that are immediately understandable to the reader and don't require a lot of complicated backstory to understand: The heroes are involved in the story because it's their job. This balances nicely with the need for fantastical stories to establish and explore a world that is clearly different from our own. So fantasy and procedural seemed like a good fit.

But what sort of procedural?

As I suggested in an earlier post ('Does Fantasy Have To Be Anti-Democratic?'), inspired by both the fiction and the criticism of Ursula K. LeGuin, I think a lot about ethics and fantasy. Much fantasy seems to be seriously at odds with contemporary ethics, and one ethical issue that bothers me a lot in many supernatural action-adventure stories is secrecy, a distrust of the public, and a lack of accountability.

The illustrious Vampire Slayer, for instance, operates in secrecy, aided by a few friends. An attempt by the U. S. military to get involved in battling the supernatural was a major plot point in one season, and interestingly, was treated as being at best horribly misguided, at worst an immoral conspiracy that became a tool of the forces of evil.

The irony of this wasn't lost on me, and neither was the opportunity to resolve my own ethical issues with some of the elements of my chosen genre while also clearly differentating my story from Joss Whedon's.

My heroes wouldn't be secretive vigilantes, but cops, protecting a public that was fully aware of both their existence and that of the supernatural menace...

Um, which was going to be what, exactly?

More on how we solved that problem next time.

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