Παρασκευή, 1 Φεβρουαρίου 2013

What I Think About Stuff-Things I'll do when I grow up: Rise and fall (an introduction)

Hug a tiger. Hope to God it gets the joke.

What I Think About Stuff-Things I’m Gonna Do When I Grow Up: Rise and Fall

The idea of one day writing for comic books had always been a dream for me, but it mostly consisted of lots of awards that I’d receive for stuff I hadn’t even thought off (or written down) yet. I had no plan, no outline, no goddamn clue, but I knew one thing for certain:

When I grew up, I was gonna write superhero comics.

Superheroes, as I explained before, were well-known but obscure in Greece. Sure, you could watch the X-Men Saturday morning cartoon, but you had to quit that shit the time you became 13. You were a man, see, and your only interests should revolve around beer, knives, tits and soccer.

Then the Avengers came along and now everybody wants to play at being a fucking nerd. Well you know what, Panos? Fuck you, you hypocritical piece of dogshit. You wanna play at being a nerd so you can perhaps pick up nerdy chicks? You wanna be all edgy by watching tentacle porn and making Game Of Thrones-inspired incest jokes? Feel free, dickwad!

But you’ll always know, in your heart of hearts, that you suck at it.
The idea of actually sitting my ass down and forming a coherent comic book idea happened only a few years ago, during my service in the Army. I had only recently re-met Lio in the barracks (even though I hadn’t seen him for over 2 years by that time) and I had been pleased as punch to meet a fellow nerd.

Apparently, the sergeant on duty noticed how well we were getting along together and decided we should immediately head to the guard post, to sit like jackasses and wave our guns around at the surrounding countryside.

Pictured: danger, lurking at every corner.

It was at that moment, as soon as the duty sergeant left, that Lio turned to me and said:

“We should make a comic book”


We got stuck on guard duty for nearly 5 hours, on account of the post being on the ass-end of the unit and the fact that near half our squad was on shore leave. It was during those 5 hours that we began tossing around ideas. Lio wanted to make a WW2 comic book. I said why not WW3. Lio said he wanted to make it gorey as fuck. I said why not add a super-powered hulk of a man in there? Lio said he always wanted to draw superheroes. I told him I always wanted to write superheroes.

5 hours and half an army tour later, I began writing down the first draft of Rise and Fall. 

Churning out page after page after page of setting details, character designs and concepts...

Then I looked upon my work real closely, weighed it in the folds of my mind and thought:
“Oh wow, that’s a load of fucking horseshit!”

The majority of the notes were subsequently trashed. Of the original concept, only 10% remained and even that 10% was reworked to invoke a semblance of reason and some (if any) narrative reasoning.
I’ve reworked the story, time and time again in the last 3 years and right now, I’m feeling absolutely comfortable with presenting a super-idealized version of it to the internet, in the vain hope that someone other than me and Lio might give half a tug of a dead dog’s cock about it.

So put on your spandex and make whoosh noses with your mouth because this is…

o sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
So what the hell is Rise And Fall, anyway?

Rise and Fall is a dream superhero comic book project of mine, presented as a 6-issue comic book miniseries. It’s also essentially a tour guide to a fictional universe, a brief historical outline of that Universe and a cynical look into the Overman.

 “Duuurrr…dis sounds like dat Watchmen comic book…” Why thank you, you clueless fucking asshole that’s so quick to pass judgement…

Rise and Fall started off as the idea of presenting the adventures of a C-list superhero team as they found themselves caught in situations that were way above their heads and finally managed to save the world. But that would make this comic book a direct rip-off of Doom Patrol and I wasn’t going to do that.

But the idea of C-List superheroes fascinated me endlessly and I always considered it to be the mortar from which every great superhero springs. Remember, kids: people wouldn’t have liked Superman all that much if it hadn’t been for Booster Gold and the Blue Beetle there to act the helpless asshole. Also, Batman would probably not have been as intriguing a character for all those years had he not been surrounded by a roster of side-characters.

A minor, unimportant character who deals in smaller threats is much more limited in scope, thus requiring a much more interesting mythos. Sure, Superman knows Kryptonian kung-fu

A made-up bullshit martial art made by a desperate writer in the 60’s can go a looong way…

But he’s also the strongest, fastest and toughest motherfucker in the known universe. But what about the guy who only knows kung fu, or the man who can talk to machines? Has anyone ever stopped to consider the intricacies of, perhaps a character who’s a tough (but not Hulk-tough) zombie?

The short answer is no. The long answer is: no, because it’s way too hard to create a mythos that will maintain a reader’s interest.

Now, for the sake of convenience, I am going to break this article into a series, which will updated whenever I feel like it. But it’s here that I will detail the mythos that backs Rise And Fall, which will then allow me to delve in detail into the characters and their intricacies.

So without further ado, I give you…

The world of Rise and Fall:

 All this and more, in 180 pages or less!

My first concern when I was trying to turn the setting of Rise and Fall into a coherent whole was: how far do I want to stray from actual history? Lots of people toss this idea around, of what would happen if the Nazis won? What if China had risen to world domination in the 15th century? What if Alexander the Great had lived to a ripe old age? 

What if Ifs and Buts was candies and nuts?

Make no mistake: Alternate History, despite its glamour and popularity, is balls-hard. Sure, everybody can just nod their heads and go “Yeah, a story about Nazis having won the war sounds pretty cool!” but there are a couple of things most people do not take into consideration.

First, Nazis winning the war would have meant we would all have been fucked up the ass and then gassed since birth, you stupid shits.

Secondly, Germany could never have won the war, because it was a land-locked country, fighting a war of attrition against everybody everywhere. The defeat of the Third Reich was a given and a matter of time, from the moment the Allied Forces began to actually give half a shit.

Altering real-world history means that you need to account for the myriad intricacies that come up during the alteration. It also means that you need to account for changes in economics, diplomacy and culture. 

Slapping swastikas on the White House front can only take you so far…
In short, do not alter history unless you’re some history super-nerd and know what you are doing. But the very presence of superhumanity should alter history in many ways, just not overt ones.

Back in my MiracleMan review, I explained how the OverMan needs to be responsible toward his fellow men and make the world a better place. However, what must be taken into consideration is that the OverMan cannot just make everything happen with a snap of his fingers.

The X-Men writers have done the trope of ‘mankind fears change’ to death, but it is the only sound and realistic trope in superhero fiction. People will, at least at first, be deathly afraid of those flying invincible bastards that just crash into their houses and plain old offer them ‘unlimited free energy’.

And they probably won’t vote monomaniacal superintelligent mass murderers for President either.
So how have Rise and Fall’s OverMen changed the world? How has the world grown used to them?
The answer is: they’ve grown side by side.

Rise and Fall’s cosmology was made with the assumption that mankind and superhumanity have always existed across history. A small number of mythical superhumans in prehistory, with their numbers growing along with mankind’s across history.

It’s during the first decade of the 20th century, when superhuman population experiences a significant boom, brought about not by some cosmic conspiracy, but more out of human meddling.

Allow me to explain: Rise and Fall assumes that superhuman powers are genetic. Yes, this is a tired old trope that has been abused way past the point where it’s keeled over and died but let me ask you something. 

Has anyone ever taken it literally?

 i.e. actually considered it as an honest-to-God mutation, occurring in the womb?

The idea of genetic mutation=superpowers in Rise and Fall assumes that there are more superhumans in racial groups that are more numerous. In other words, no, not every superhuman ever is a US citizen. In fact, most of them (and in fact the most powerful among them) are Chinese.

Super-powered communists? In my comicbook?

I’m afraid so. The idea behind Rise and Fall is that mankind has always lived side by side with superhumanity but also in mortal fear of them. They have been hunted, persecuted and finally, assimilated in the general population. Superhumanity in this series is a one in ten million possibility and is therefore considered amazing, but otherwise accepted.

No superhuman has ever of course been elected in office, but they are still movers and shakers in human civilization. They’ve allowed the world to progress further than our own. The setting assumes that we also have lots of cool stuff and near-indestructible architectural polymers, but mankind isn’t yet walking around in silvery form-fitting shoots and shooting with lame-ass laser guns at each other.

Here’s looking at you, Star Trek.

But you didn’t come here for demographics and tech levels, did you? You came here to find out…

What’s wrong with the setting, bub?

Move along, biped. Nothing to see here

Well, the main premise behind Rise and Fall is that the world, that has known and grown used to superhumanity’s struggles and the clashes of heroes and villains alike, no longer has any need for them. Regular human beings have long since developed ways and means to incapacitate and imprison michievious superhumans and they have created contingencies allowing them to deal with most superhuman-related problems.

The world is ticking away like a well-oiled grandfather clock and well…nobody really gives a damn about flying weirdos in spandex anymore. 

But it’s been nearly two decades since the last Cosmic Conjencture.

Imagine, if you will, a world that is plagued by order. Imagine shining cities, protected by invisible barriers made out of meshes of energy, protecting them from threats. Imagine armies of men, equipped with weapons of such ferocity that they can withstand any form of alien assault. Imagine a ring of satellites, orbiting Earth, controlling the weather to suit their creators’ needs. 

A shining orb, powered by the near-limitless energy of its own core.

Now think of impossible fortresses in the Antarctic, long since abandoned. Think of giant robots with positronic brains, gathering dust in a secret hangar. Think of a penthouse at the top of the world, manned by a single man who watches the city below him live and breathe in peace, without any need of his services. Think of a shining silver sea that exists sideways from our reality, where a single sentinel waits for threats that may never come.

Think of Ouija boards, their lettering long since faded.

Think of crowns made out of unworldly materials, buried at the bottom of old toy-chests.
The world of Rise and Fall is a world that has outgrown its superhumans. It’s a world that’s wondrous without any need for monthly feats of strength, no longer awed by alien visitors or half-mad billionaire playboys.

Now think of a small number of superhumans that have decided to turn this whimper into a bang.

But more of that in part 2.

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