Short 'n Curlies #48 by Si Spurrier

Short 'n Curlies #48 by Si Spurrier

The Keyboard Is My FuckMonkey:

Steroidal Science-Powered Archetype of Teenage America's Wishful-Vision-Of-Perfect-Adulthood seeks new role, new challenges, new costume.  No cape-work, no call centres, no Nazis.  Action and excitement a MUST!!!


That's pretty much how my brain runs when I get the opportunity to write Superhero Fiction, these days.

It's the same for a lot of other writers I know: a quiet awkwardness — or at least a quiet nervousness — at the simple "Go Fight Crime!" motivation shared by some of the most popular Spandex-Jockeys out there.  It's just a little too earnest, a little too altruistic, and doesn't quite ring true in a world which also contains (say) beer commercials, Sarah Palin, American Idol and Papal Edicts.  It feels out of place.

I've said this before, but let's flap it out onto the table again so there's no misunderstandings up here at the top-end:  I love superheroes.  I just struggle to believe some of them.

I know: this column is already starting to whiff of the 90's.  That taste for Deconstructivist, Super-Dark, Cruel-Minded, SCEPTICAL SPANDEX — remember that? — with added rape, neurosis, rape, child-abuse and rape.  Right now, culturally speaking, Big-2 comics are entering an exquisitely cultivated period of "Kicking-Back Against The Kickback," in which Heroes are back to being Heroes for the sake of being Heroes, and everything's Nice! And Colourful! And Clean!  It's the New Dawn of a Better, More Hopeful Future, and so on and so forth.

Which is… y'know.  Fine.   And makes me look like a grubby little throwback to a less aspirational, more hateful zeitgeist.

Still…  Among my coterie of fellow writers, pubside pals and sinister cultural demagogues — each born in a haze of cheap red wine, communal Dry-Roasted Peanuts and mentholated Marlborough Lights — there's an unspoken sense that a person who behaves so fucking Good all the time must be flawed.  A suspicion that, if your immediate response to gaining Amazing Nuclear Powers is to don lycra and tackle muggers, you're probably not entirely 100% Normal.

Like, maybe you're only in it for the fame, or you're trying to recant a Dark And Terrible Sin From Your Past, or you're being paid, or you're protecting your sub-species, or you're a massive nutcase, or your chronically chirpy uncle died as a result of your adolescent exploits and hissed-out a cruel and evolutionarily counterintuitive manifesto in the midst of his death rattle and you're now doomed to spend the rest of eternity attempting to live up to that golden standard.

All of which we've seen before, yes?  Yes.  And that's fine, because they all work.

In a way the art of creating new superheroes isn't about thinking-up incredible new powers, or awesometastic costumes, but of finding rational ways to set ostensibly normal people on the path to a pretty rarefied Thought-Stream.  Namely:

Make Costume, Wear Costume, Fight Crime.

If a writer can't succeed in that — if the character's motivating factor is too weak to justify his or her Robber-Tackling Mission Statement — then the world is stuck with a beefcake in a silly outfit who's characterised by with the sort of preening attitude we're more accustomed to seeing in the form of the Good Christian.

You know this guy.  He's the one who gives money to Charities then tells everyone about it.  He's the one who goes on a mission to help Poor Starving Brown People in Poor Starving Brown Places — just as long as they purchase their malaria tablets with conditional promises to accept God's Unconditional Love — then bores all his neighbours with a slideshow-retrospective and says things like "…I really felt that Jesus was watching over me."  He's the one who makes passive-aggressive comments about That Tee-Shirt You're Wearing, and whose opening-gambit when complaining about someone else's behaviour is to loudly declare that he Forgives Them.

If there existed Super Powers in the real world, and if certain people chose to use them to Fight Crime And Protect The Innocent, then you can just fucking bet that's what most of them would be like.  Insufferable wanknuggets earning Brownie Points from the Divine Sky-Daddy, whose costumed Identities are 300% More Meek than their Meek Alter-Egos, and who don't just kick the crap out of the baddies but visit them in jail with a wad of pamphlets titled Pray Your Way Off Skag and Jesus Hates The Shiv But Loves The Shivver.  They'd have names like The Cheekturner and Doktor Forgiveness, and instead of a Fortress Of Solitude they'd have The Vicar's Front Room, where they'd gather for a cup of tea, a nice sing-song, and a tactical discussion regarding The Sinful Fashions Of Modern Pop Musicians.

(Actually, I might write that idea up.  HANDS OFF.)

Anyway, you can see what I'm getting at.  To a cynical bastard like… well… like most of us here right now, there's the suspicion that if crime-fighting super heroes were real — Bible-Bashing or otherwise — they'd be the most obnoxiously smug people in the world.

And that in turn has created a brand new trend among writers, to find lateral ideas and convention-fucking twists which permit us to use all the tasty stuff we all like — hi-octane action, glorious visuals, incredible sci-fi stuff occurring in recognisable contemporary worlds, characters behaving in uplifting and poignant ways — but without some of the more challenging (ie: bollocks) Square-Jawed Boyscoutism into the mix.

In other words: how do you get to play in the Super-hero sandpit if you don't believe in Moral Perfection, and don't want to slink back into the mire of the Grim, Rapey, Turgid Nineties?

Simmer on that one, my darlings.  Answers Next Week.

This Week I Have Been Mostly Hating:

I've been dying to say this somewhere.

Four years ago I started writing a novel. It eventually turned into a book called "Lucid", which I submitted as the second manuscript of my two-novel deal with Hodder Headline, to follow in the wake of the surprisingly successful Contract. I've ranted at great length elsewhere about the hows and whys of what happened next, but the short version is that the publishers didn't think they could market it under the aegis of their crime department (it being a slab of solid mindfuckery, pseudoscience and experimental syntax) and I was instructed to Go Write Something More Sellable.

Annoying, but them's the breaks.

Lucid was about a community of people who had found an (actually quite plausible) way to unify their Dreams, and had dropped out of society into the world's best — and weirdest — Commune.

One of them is murdered while inside the dream. A detective is sent-in to find out whodunnit, howdunnit, and whydunnit.  With added sex.

So, y'know… a) it's not exactly the same setup as Inception, and b) it was never published so I have absolutely no right to complain about "That Was My Idea!", but, uh… even so…

That was MY fucking idea, Leonardo.

Find Me @:

Twitter: @SiSpurrier


Send wurdz, thoughts, stories, Hatings, and Overpossessive Arseholes Who Won't Leave Their Poor Suffering Girlfriends Alone, And OH MY GOD The Sound You Make When You Kiss Her Makes Me Want To Press The "END WORLD NOW" Button, to the Only Checked Occasionally And I Might Not Bother Replying At All Ha Ha Ha email address:

Or the It Might Not Get To Me At All But If It Does I Promise To Recycle It snailmail address:

C/O William Christensen,

Avatar Press
515 N. Century Blvd.
Rantoul, IL 61866

(Disclaimer: Secretly, I'm nice.)

Enjoyed this? Please share on social media!

Stay up-to-date and support the site by following Bleeding Cool on Google News today!

Mark SeifertAbout Mark Seifert

Co-founder and Creative director of Bleeding Cool parent company Avatar Press. Bleeding Cool Managing Editor, tech and data wrangler. Machine Learning hobbyist. Vintage paper addict.
Comments will load 20 seconds after page. Click here to load them now.