AROW80 Check-In for September 12, 2018

Ok, so, I haven’t been blogging as regularly as I wanted to when I started this back up — but on the other hand? I’m blogging a heck of a lot more than I was before I started back up so, counting that as a win.

Which, oddly enough, seems to be a bit of a theme for me lately. I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday and found out that my A1C hasn’t changed since my last visit — which is good, since it didn’t get worse but which isn’t great, because it means I haven’t done much of anything to lower it. Still, counting it as a win because stalemate means I still have the chance to improve.

And speaking of stalemates! Omegas: Cake Walk has been stalled for a while now because I’m trying to figure out the ending. Or, more accurately, trying to figure out the next steps that will lead to the final confrontation that will lead, ultimately, to the ending.

In the spirit of not burying the lede, I’ve finally gotten a line on what I want/what needs to happen next and I’m pretty happy with it. It ties together things that I’ve already established and ties into my main POV character’s backstory in ways that please me (vague post is vague, I know….) — I’ll come back to this in a bit, here’s my super-secret writer technique for figuring out what should happen next:  I stopped writing.

I could try to make that more complicated than it is but it honestly boils down to the fact that I stopped writing, took a break and worked on other things for a while.  Mainly, I started typing up the notes I’d taken from The Evolution of the Costumed Avenger: The 4,000-Year History of the Superhero by Jess Nevins c. 2017, which led to me deciding to do a bit more digging into the history of superheroes and some more note taking. In fact, I’m still working on that; I’ve recently finished reading through On the Origin of Superheroes: From the Big Bang to Action Comics #1 by Chris Gavaler and I’m currently working my way through Super-History: Comic Book Superheroes and American Society, 1938 to the Present by Jeffery K. Johnson (in this case “the Present” is about 2010).

If you’re looking for books that entertainingly think (and occasionally over think) about comic books and superheroes and how they relate to world and/or American history, I recommend all three of these (plus Gavaler’s Superhero Comics, which I have but haven’t read yet but which touches on some areas of interest to me — including a discussion of the American eugenics movement and superheroes). Oh! And Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero by Larry Tye — which I listened to as an audiobook rather than took notes on but I got some good crunchy brain food from it, oh yes indeedy!  I still want to read or listen to Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman too.  And The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy and the History of Comic Book Heroines by Mike Madrid.  Not to mention the books that look at superhero comics’ Jewish roots (seriously, with the possible exception of the creators of Wonder Woman, nearly every other superhero was created by a Jewish writer and/or artist), like:

Plus there’s also The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How It Changed America by David Hadju — if you want to understand the moral panics against D&D, various flavors of popular music, video games, social media and every other moral panic that’s happened since the early 1950s, read this book. The arguments against all those things got their roots here.

Oh! And the last one I’m going to link to (I swear, otherwise this is all I’m going to be doing for the rest of the day): Superman versus the Ku Klux Klan: The True Story of How the Iconic Superhero Battled the Men of Hate by Richard Bowers — it talks about the 1940s radio shows where Superman did indeed battle a thinly-veiled version of the Klan and about the real-life guy who went undercover within the Klan to funnel information about them out.  It’s a fun piece of history right up there with my two favorite stories about Jack Kirby:

  • Favorite Jack Kirby Story #1: Kirby helped create Captain America — he was the artist, Joe Simon was the writer.  Captain America debuted in December 1940 — a full year before the US would enter World War II.  Like Action Comics #1, this comic is likely better known for its cover than for its contents.  This is the book that has Captain America decking Hitler. It came out at a time when there were Americans who fully supported Hitler and the Nazi movement (shocking, right?) and, as is the way of such folks, they voiced their objections to the cover in an erudite and mature fashion.Nahhhhhh, they threatened Simon and Kirby’s lives. To the point that the mayor of New York, Fiorello LaGuardia offered protection to both of them.  (Apparently, Fiorello was a Captain America fan; he also once read the Sunday funnies to kids over the radio during a newspaper delivery strike, so nobody would miss out on their favorite strips).  But, that’s just background to my favorite bit of the story (Note: Timely is what Marvel Comics was originally called):  Once, while Jack was in the Timely office, a call came from someone in the lobby. When Kirby answered, the caller threatened Jack with bodily harm if he showed his face. Kirby told the caller he would be right down, but by the time Jack reached street level, there was no one to be found. (source: The Kirby Effect: Making it Personal
  • Favorite Kirby Story #2:  Is sadly not true and I’m disappointed that it’s not but I’m glad I found out the truth.  The story I’d heard was that Kirby, who helped create Black Panther, was told to put more white people in the comic — so the next issue he had Black Panther fighting the Klan.  It’s not true. It feels like it could be true, based on the fact Kirby clearly had no problem bringing real-world evil into his comics and the fact there was a storyline where Black Panther went up against the Klan — but Kirby didn’t write it. You can read more about the myth and about the actual comics here: Black Panther and the Myth of Kirby vs. the KKK.
  • Substitute Favorite Kirby Story #2: Kirby served as a scout in Europe during World War II.  He served with a unit that liberated at least one concentration camp (it should probably go without saying, but Kirby was Jewish; it’s theorized that one of the reasons he was drafted as a scout was because he spoke Yiddish).  This and his other wartime experiences helped to shape his future work which included a lot of anti-fascist elements. Source: 8 Ways Comic Book Legend Jack Kirby Fought Fascism. 

Ok, stepping away from the subject for now because, again, I could go on about the history of comics and how we owe so much of our popular culture to creators who existed on the outside of the mainstream — which would naturally segue into the influence that Baroness Orczy and the Scarlet Pimpernel had on the creation of characters like Batman and Superman (via Zorro) and that would, of course, link back to the fact that modern science fiction essentially began with Mary Shelley and how ironic it is that a bunch of gatekeeping wetsocks want to whine about how women have no place in science fiction and comics when those genres were essentially created by women (you’re welcome!) — and THAT leads to me wanting to do a riff on the Maui “You’re Welcome” song from Moana with Mary Shelley as Maui and that way lies madness! And a complete derailing of what I was trying to talk about.

So, wrenching the controls back from, errr, myself and getting back to it:

Part of the reason for dipping back into this research — other than finding a way to feel like I’m working on writing when I’m actually not — is that I’m wanting to create a superhero universe that has some depth and heft to it, like the Marvel or DC universes do. To do that, I decided a while back that I needed to create the heroes that started things off. Toward that end, I wanted a better idea of how these heroes came about in our world — with the difference being that in the universe of Omegas: Cake Walk, the heroes are real, not legends or four-color images of fantasy.

I’ve got a few ideas and eventually, I’ll share them but they need to percolate a bit longer before I do.

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I said earlier that I’d finally gotten a line on what I want/what needs to happen next  in Omegas: Cake Walk and that I’m happy with it, especially since it ties things together in my POV character’s backstory with what’s going on in the book, as well as a few other bits and bops in ways that make me happy.

How’d I do it? I went back and thought about my POV character’s identity and how it shaped their experiences prior to the events of the book.  Since the character’s identity is different from my own (*insert finger-waving of vagueness here!*), I went online to a writing group and asked for help from folks who might share that identity.

I was nervous about doing so, not so much because I was afraid of that the question would offend a person of the identity I was researching but more because I was dreading getting writing ‘advice’ along the lines of ‘don’t worry about that PC crap! Just write what you want! It doesn’t matter!’

I don’t like that kind of thinking. It brings out my inner Credible Hulk and it’s hard to write a long, well-though out rebuttal on a tiny phone keyboard.

Citing Credible Statistics - the Credible Hulk - Feature Image

Source: Are You Sure You’re Citing Credible Statistics in Your Blog Posts? (which has nothing to do with what I’m talking about but is where I found the above image). 

Luckily, it went well — I got a lot of good advice from people and didn’t have to deal with any bigots or anti-PC apologists. And that advice led to me taking a minute to stop and think about the character’s life prior to the book and how their identity might have been shaped by their life experiences, which in turn led to thinking about how that identity might shape their decisions and experiences during the book itself. Doing so gave me the added push I needed to sit down and write a brief outline of how I’m planning on going forward. It’s honestly the most and the best work I’ve done on the book itself in a month, maybe longer.

I also found out that I’m going to need to do a bit of work when I go back over this draft to make sure that this information is included because otherwise, the book’s not going to make a lick of sense. Not even two licks.

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I’m almost at my self-imposed time limit for this library (I could stay longer, but I want to go home and get something to eat — I’m thinking chicken wings). Another time, I will talk more about my thoughts on Writing the Other and the importance of diversity and representation in writing. Until then, hope you guys have a good week and stay safe.

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