“Liberté, Égalité, Anxiété!”

Happy what’s left of Bastille Day, and apologies for the long absence. I’ve been meaning to post, but my energy’s been at a low ebb recently. Could be the heat. Could be a mood thing. Could have something to do with my health overall. I honestly don’t know.

It’s been a strange couple of weeks.

Much of that time has been spent banging my head against the wall, trying to solve certain story and character problems for the new DC project. The cranial abuse was unnecessary, of course. The answers finally came to me in the shower, when I wasn’t thinking about the work at all. But the agonizing seems to have been worth it. Editor Joey Cavalieri was pleased with the material, Dan DiDio has given it the necessary nod, and I now have the go-ahead to start writing scripts.

One aspect of the project proved especially challenging. It involves a character who, at the most basic conceptual level, is completely at odds with my own beliefs about the origin of the universe and who’s been at the controls ever since. This part of the project was more in the nature of an assignment, something Joey came up with, not something I proposed myself. When he suggested it, I hesitated for about two seconds, then agreed to take it on, precisely *because* of the vexation factor.

Here’s a creative principle I believe in strongly: Every writer, at some point, should require himself or herself to write a sympathetic character whose worldview is diametrically opposed to the writer’s own. And when I say “sympathetic,” I don’t just mean “likeable.” I mean, not a caricature, not a vehicle for ironic comment, not a misguided soul whom the hero sets straight. I mean a three-dimensional character whose actions are guided by deeply-felt principles and with whom readers — and, more importantly, the writer — can identify, in spite of the fact that they may wildly disagree.

It’s a difficult exercise, but also a lot of fun. The first time I attempted it was in a Spider-Man annual back in the ’80s. The character was a refugee from the Castro regime who came to the U.S. in 1980 in the Mariel Boatlift. Like the majority of Cuban-Americans, her politics leaned to the right. She was staunchly anti-Communist and, though her party affiliation was never specified in the story, unapologetically Republican. *And* she was a superheroine.


I still can’t tell you what the new project is, but it can’t remain a secret much longer. We’re shooting for an early ’07 publication date.

It’s been a strange time on a personal level, also, but I’ll save that for the next post.

8 Responses to ““Liberté, Égalité, Anxiété!””

  1. Fred Chamberlain Says:

    I speak, both as a professional working in the field of mental health and as someone who has been personally affected by depression in my family, when I say that it can be difficult to pull yourself out of it and even more difficult sometimes to even recognize that it is happening. Add in challenging life events, physical health issues and other factors and you may be surprised at how many people struggle with it. Certainly not always at a diagnosable level, but it is a greatly underdiagnosed mood disorder.

    I am glad that you have worked out your storyline dillema and I continue to look forward to your upcoming project.


  2. Steve Gerber Says:

    Depression and I are old buds. It still gets the better of me occasionally, but, after lo these many years, I’m finally learning how to recognize it and deal with it before it becomes paralyzing.

  3. Richard Bensam Says:

    One hazard that makes some writers shy away from that creative principle is the tendency of some readers to assume that characters are simply mouthpieces for their authors, and that if you depict a character expressing any strong point of view it must reflect your own personal views. That’s not entirely the fault of those readers, because a lot of bad but inexplicably popular writing is based on that approach: something like the Left Behind series gives people a completely false impression of how the writing of fiction is supposed to work.

    Not just bad writing either. I’m a big proponent of Robert Heinlein’s literary merits and think his value as a prose stylist is underrated…but at his most didactic he would set up characters as personal mouthpieces and made damn sure you knew it, while opposing arguments were presented in easily demolished “straw man” form. It’s sadly understandable if some people get the idea that character viewpoints exist solely for the author to preach a sermon through fictional surrogates if they constantly see it being done.

    As a result, I’ve known writers who were pilloried for stories written from the POV of a racist or a child molestor because otherwise intelligent people said “How could he have summoned those arguments if he didn’t sympathize with that view himself?” (The first Hannibal Lecter book, Red Dragon is about a profiler who can put himself totally into the mindset of serial killers, to the disgust and revulsion of everyone he works with. I’ve often thought this was Thomas Harris’ commentary on this very problem: the clueless people who say “How can you think like that?”)

    When it comes to philosophical or religious issues in superhero comics: I’m not the first person to point this out, but…if the Spectre exists in DC comics, and he interacts with the Judeo-Christian God, isn’t any atheist or agnostic character in that milieu clearly “wrong” by implication? And yet by the same token, if you show characters meeting Zeus or Odin, it contradicts the monotheistic view that such deities are not merely lesser but cannot even exist. It seems like this creates a nearly impossible double-standard for any comics writer to negotiate.

  4. Brian Spence Says:

    I’m glad things are moving on for you in your life. The new work seems to be really interesting, and I hope it gets as much popular acclaim as all of your work seems to get in critical acclaim.

    Speaking of Left Behind, there was a lefty article I read today about what these like-minded morons are saying about the Israel-Hezbollah mess and how it’s the rapture time. Read these posts to a rapture message board and be afraid (and laugh, like I did! Oh, and sorry if it makes this post too long.):

    Is it time to get excited? I can’t help the way I feel. For the first time in my Christian walk, I have no doubts that the day of the Lords appearing is upon us. I have never felt this way before, I have a joy that bubbles up every-time I think of him, for I know this is truly the time I have waited for so long. Am I alone in feeling guilty about the human suffering like my joy at his appearing some how fuels the evil I see everywhere. If it were not for the souls that hang in the balance and the horror that stalks man daily on this earth, my joy would be complete. For those of us who await his arrival know, somehow we just know it won’t be long now, the Bridegroom cometh rather man is ready are not.

    it has been quite a day today, if you caught all the news; I’m getting the feeling world tension is gonna be high for a long time with increased terrorism and nations being defiant. I don’t think it will cool down until after the rapture when the peace deal is confirmed.

    Ready, waiting and excited here! Still telling others whenever possible that the rapture could take place at any time because this world is in such a big MESS and evidently it goes through one ear and right out the other

    My brother has witnessed to some of his friends over and over. He finally prayed to God and asked Him to spare their lives when the rapture happens. Dan has told them, “When the rapture happens, go to my house and read everything I have in this folder.” They roll their eyes, but…………I’ll bet they run to find that folder when the rapture happens!

    I too am soooo excited!! I get goose bumps, literally, when I watch what’s going on in the M.E.!! And Watcherboy, you were so right when saying it was quite a day yesterday, in the world news, and I add in local news here in the Boston area!! Tunnel ceiling collapsed on a car and killed a woman of faith, and we had the most terrifying storms I have ever seen here!! But, yes, Ohappyday, like in your screen name , it is most indeed a time to be happy and excited, right there with ya!!

    hey guys…with all that is going on, the excitement is palpable!!! I was (and have been) reflecting lately on what the actual rapture moment will be like (whenever it happens….lol)…..i Know it’s instantaneous but do ya think we’ll have like a second of “realization” like (**horn blast**) and then thinking, “OH IT’S HAPPENING!!! THIS IS IT!!” Or we’ll actually feel ourselves being lifted up and sailing through the air??? OR, do ya think we’ll just like blink and be in the presence of the Lord that quick??? (yea i know i think about crazy stuff sometimes….lol) But sometimes when i consider the times, i almost can feel my spirit ready to leap outta my body (if that makes ANY sense….) oh well……back to the news…..just wondering what u guys thought……lol

    I kind of hope for the flying method. I would love to dop some loops on the way up!!

  5. Stephen Payne Says:

    My friend and I are writing a story as part of a massive group project (lots of writers whose characters interact with each other in a larger shared story universe). Let’s just say that politically, I’m to the left of Hitler and he’s to the right of Stalin, but we haven’t hit each other, if you catch my drift.

    The story is set in the near future and deals with civil right for people mutated by an alien virus, so naturally it has a political charge to it. Naturally, since my chararter is a conservative Republican and his is a liberal Democrat (both victims of the disease), they come to blows with each other over several issues (sometimes taken using arguments taken verbatim from our real life discussions). But… both characters manage to respect each other out of a mutual situation, shared core values and similar goals.

    What my point is, when dealing with characters who differ from you politically, you can still treat them sympathetically by showing that (1) they are human beings (or mutated humans, or talking, anthropomorphic ducks…) (2) they base their views on personal experience and not on mindless brainwashing, (3) if they’re heroes, then their goal is to invoke their values in trying to make the world a better place, not by imposing them on other people or using them to defeat fellow idealists with other views instead of a common enemy who wants to destroy them all.

  6. Scott Says:

    I hope I created a sympathetic character with Emily Ross in _Misused Minds_. Of course, she’s not a main character, but she’s a major character that I wanted to seem sympathetic without particularly agreeing with her. Same with Lori Robinson, who is a more important character. You can let me know by e-mail whether you thought I was succssful. Of course, being a play, it has to be a bit open for the actor to put that spin on it, anyway.

  7. Scott Says:

    Wasn’t Namor a character you pretty much disagreed with totally?

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