Serial.

For several years now, I have had an idea for a comic book rolling around in my mind. This idea combined my love of colorful, interesting villains with a question that has plagued my mind since childhood:

When one hero has an extensive rogues gallery — like, say, Batman or The Flash — why can’t they just put aside their differences for two seconds, team up, and finish him off?

In my comic book idea, that is exactly what happens. [Note: There’s much more to it than that; the team-up and subsequent elimination of the common hero is just the starting point of the story.] Or, well, that’s what would have happened, anyway. You see, there was a problem:

I can’t draw.

I mean, I can doodle. I used to draw superheroes all the time when I was in elementary school, creating entire teams (usually with the “X” prefix due to my obsession with X-Men at the time) that I would stash away in a black three-ring binder. If it still exists somewhere, I would probably be pretty embarrassed by its contents. I’ll still sketch out ideas here and there when I need to, like the time a couple years ago when I scribbled a couple of airship concepts for my fantasy project. But, in general, I can’t draw. Especially not on the scale I would have to for a project like a comic book. So I looked for help.

I wrote a five-page script for the first sequence and passed it on to a couple of different illustrator friends I knew. Neither one really seemed interested. It was nothing personal; they just didn’t really seem that into the idea. After that, I kind of abandoned it. Well, maybe “abandoned” is a bit too dramatic. Like any good geek with his old toys, I put the idea up on a shelf, knowing that I’d probably want to dust it off and play with it again someday.

Today, it would seem, is that day. This morning, I was thinking about that supervillain team again, and I had a small epiphany:

I write short stories.

Okay, that’s not the epiphany. That’s just a fact. But it relates.

I write short stories. So why couldn’t I turn this idea into a short story serial? A comic book in prose? Serial novels were very common in the 19th century, with Charles Dickens being a leader in the movement. With the influx of media like radio, film, and television, the serial novel has fallen by the wayside. However, what is to stop it from coming back? Books like the Harry Potter series, the Hunger Games trilogy and, yes, even Twilight have rekindled a national interest in reading. Perhaps there is room for short story serials out there in the publishing world.

[Note: Please don’t misunderstand me — I know I am far from the first to have this idea. Many modern authors (including Stephen King and Orson Scott Card) have published novels and short stories in serial form in various publications or through the wondrous world of the Internet. But I have never seen a superhero story told this way, and that’s what I aim to do.]

I have begun working on the first chapter in the story, mostly to get it out of my head so I can focus on other things — like the western/horror/fantasy short story I am working on, the fantasy series I am still figuring out, and the novel I have been toiling on for years. Not to mention that whole higher education thing that seems to be taking up so much of my time. Oh, me and my distractions.

Anyway, my vision for these stories is pretty simple. Each one will focus on one member of the supervillain team (or a pair of members, depending on the situation). An overarching story will be told in (for the most part) chronological order, with points of view shifting from story to story. Each chapter will open with a noir-style voiceover from that particular person, and then jump right into the action.

Here is the noir voice-over that opens the first story:

Criminals, no matter how well we plan our crimes, always get caught. It is a fundamental understanding even among us, those whom you might consider the elite of the lowlife community. Some of us evade capture longer than others, but in the end, we all get caught. It’s just the way it works. It begs the question: why turn to crime in the first place?

Easy. Because it’s so damn fun, that’s why.

So, yeah . . . I got caught. But I’d be damned if I was going to let that stop me from having my fun.

After that, the story shifts into third-person narration. I experimented with writing the entire narrative from the criminal’s point of view, but, in the end, I decided that an outside perspective was best for this one. These are beings with superpowers — they aren’t like you and me. Their mystery and danger is better conveyed when you don’t know exactly what they’re thinking for every second of the story. In a sense, I wanted the reader to be right there with the other non-powered people of the story. I wanted to convey both a sense of awe when it comes to these people, as well as a sense of fear. After all, human beings tend to fear what they do not understand … so I couldn’t make my villains completely accessible right from the beginning. The reader will have to earn that. Ha.

This next part follows the opening. This first chapter begins in medias res, my preferred method of starting a story:

The room, like most rooms of its type, is bare. The walls are concrete brick, the table and its two chairs are some kind of dull, brushed metal, and an old-fashioned tape recorder sits on the table’s surface. One door serves as the only entrance and exit, and a two-way mirror takes up the majority of the longest wall. Inside the room, a man sits at the table in handcuffs. By most accounts, he would probably be described as unassuming — maybe even as handsome, depending who you asked. He wears a leather jacket, a plain white shirt, loose-fitting denim jeans — and a smile. His feet, clad in leather boots, are propped up on the table. His appearance is that of a man without a care in the world — not the typical demeanor of someone who finds himself in a room like this. When the door opens and two dark-suited men walk into the room, his smile stays firmly in place. Smiles can be stubborn in that way — particularly when on the right people.

Who knows? If my supervillain team works out, maybe I could even write a serial that stars my superhero character. It seems like he’s been waiting in the wings for ages, and I can think of all sorts of stories for him.

So what do you think? Is this a good idea? A mediocre one? A horrible one? Should I just stick with traveling to exotic places and then writing whimsical blog posts about how strange and foreign their customs seem to me?

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About [rlh]

Ryan L. Haddock is an aspiring writer, emphasis on the "aspiring." He mostly writes short stories, but that is only because he doesn't seem to have the attention span necessary to write a novel. At least, not yet. He is also a husband and a father . . . yet he is still struggling valiantly against the notion that he has to grow up. View all posts by [rlh]

3 responses to “Serial.

  • sanctionteam

    It’s not a good idea…it’s a great one. The Wild Cards series was all short stories, but yours is tied together a bit more than the original Wild Cards stories. I struggled for awhile with a similar line of thinking – meaning I had a script, but not artist. Finally I hired an artist and the draft pages were phenomenal…but then I need a colorist, letterer, logo, etc. I need either more money or more talented friends.
    So I think the short stories are a great idea. A few years ago, a friend of mine Frank Fradella (now of New Babel Books) launched an e-zine of just this very concept and it worked great! Later, he collected short stories from the zine and published them as short stories in an anthology. You could totally do the same thing.
    Great idea!

    • [rlh]

      Thanks very much, kind sir. I also have to admit, the whole thing is a bit of a control issue as well. Up until now, this story has always been a very visual one, and I’m going to have to rework a few things to adapt it to the new medium, but I think it will be worth it to be the only one in control of the story. As much as I enjoy collaborations, it’s easier to collaborate on an idea when the idea itself comes as a result of the collaboration. If I create the concept, the characters, and the storyline myself, it’s a bit harder for me to let someone else share in telling the story. Ask any of my former bandmates: I could throw out lyric and riff ideas constantly on songs that we were all collaborating on. However, if someone wanted to change anything about a song I wrote myself, I dumped the song from our setlist and refused to play it. I was a bit of a prima donna in my younger days. I’d like to think I’ve mellowed out since then, but I probably haven’t.

  • Shameless Plug. « These Open Pages

    […] I am plugging my own work. I recently started an online serial, one that I wrote about several months ago in this very blog. Well, after months of procrastinating and making excuses, I finally published […]

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