Last Weekend: Brushes with Celebrity pt 2

Last Sunday, Bekah and I went to the House of Blues in Boston to see Rancid.RANCIDRancid is my favorite band. They have been forever. I have actually lost track of how many times I have seen them. Lots. A few years ago, when I was working in the first version of Rapid City and Bekah was coming out to visit me from Ashby, I hung around outside what was then called The Avalon hoping to talk to Rancid before they played that night. There were a few other people hanging around out there. Tim Armstrong came out to talk to us and sign stuff. I gave him an ashcan preview and told him that my comic was largely inspired by his music. He thought that was cool and put my name on "the list" to come and see the show that night. I had already seen them the night before with Bekah. That was the only time I saw them two nights in a row.

Anyway, back to last weekend. Bekah and I loved the show. I wasn't just talking when I said that my comics are inspired by their music. Every time I see them play I get a billion ideas crashing through my head. We waited near their bus in hopes of catching them after the show. I brought copies of Rapid City 1-4 to give to them. It was pretty exciting. There wee a few other people also waiting around while different crew members and stuff loaded out. We waited. A long time. Bekah said

"All I know it's 1 o'clock, and they ain't never showed up and... I watched a dozen people go home form work."

So, we went home. I had the next day, Monday, off of work. I went back down there. The show started around 6:30, so I got there around 5. And I stood there. In the sun, and the rain, and even in the hail. And I waited. I knew the buses. I knew the doors. I knew the time. So I waited and I watched.

I never saw Matt come or go either day. But I met him and shook his hand last year.

I saw Lars go by, but did not recognize him until he was already gone by.

I saw Tim go past once. Too quick. Again, back to the bus this time. A young girl called out to him and he very sincerely told her "Not now. After. After."

I knew that I couldn't wait until after. And the show had already started inside. Tim's band The Transplants would be taking the stage soon. Running out of time.

I positioned myself for the most best eye-lines between the bus and the stage door.

A few minutes later, Tim came off the bus and i called out to him. "Hey, Tim."

He stepped right over and I told him about how I had met him before and about the earlier comics. Then I showed him the books. He saw the comics, and that it was rainy, and he pulled us all (me, him, and his small entourage) under an awning so that they would not get wet. I showed him Kav and Micah's cover to issue 2 and said "That's Maxwell Murder!" I think he was impressed with that. He told someone else who was standing there, like he was proud of it...

That's Maxwell Murder!

I gave him the books and he said "I love comics."

And that was it. I gave the comics I made to the musician who inspired me to write them.

Maybe he read them. Maybe he didn't. Maybe they are being passed around the tour bus right now. Maybe not. Either way, I felt pretty cool.

Bad Guys

Right now I am in three different stages of production with Rapid City.The finished pages of issue 1 are in the process of being lettered and prepared for print. Issue #6 is currently being illustrated. And I am putting the last few touches on the script for issue #34.

The story running through issue #6 is about a psychotic killer, Maxwell Murder, stalking a young woman who he believes he has already killed.

Issue #34 is building toward the climax of a story about betrayal, revenge, and redemption in the villain community of Rapid City.

In both of these stories, I work hard to humanize the bad guys, while still keeping them very bad guys. These kinds of characters fascinate me. Not just because they are id-driven wish fulfillers, but because they turn internal flaws and damage into actions. We all walk around with pettiness, jealousy, rage, mistrust, and a buffet of other flaws. For the most part, though, we struggle with our flaws. Bad guys don't. They embody their flaws, and thus they embody our flaws.

We watch because they give in to the impulses that we struggle against. Bad guys are a thrill to watch precisely because we try so hard to not become them. These characters are initially interesting because some deep-down part of us wants to be like that, or at least wonders what it would be like to give in. But then the better parts of our humanity step in and remind us that struggling to resist those impulses is what makes us human. When we accept and understand that this is true, these bad guys take on the fascinating allure of forbidden fruit. That allure only exists in a civilized human because we have struggled against, and risen above, those base impulses.

Some individuals, though, never mature beyond lusting after the bad guy's id-driven life style. They don't understand. They don't get it. They don't get that fictional struggles between good and evil, even the ones where evil wins, exist to remind us that evil is a thing to be struggled against. They don't get that even the coolest of bad guys are cautionary tales, not role models. They don't get that bad guys are a reminder of why we struggle against our dark sides, not a validation of giving in to them.

In fiction, bad guys are fascinating.

In real life, though, bad guys are just pathetic assholes.



Damaged Children vs Robot Zombies

I needed more bad guys for Rapid City. I am currently working on a story set in the scummy under-belly of the city. One villain ascends to power while another seeks revenge against him. Each of them are going to need to chew through a lot of bad guys. Funny. Writing that I just noticed something. When I wrote about good guys, they mostly fought other god guys. And now that I am writing about bad guys, they are mostly fighting other bad guys.

Anyway, I asked A. Kaviraj (my talented Rapid City artist) if he had any ideas for bad guys. He did. He sent me a whole list of great ideas for bad guys. Many of them were situational threats of the sort that are very often found in comics. Things like alien worms that eat brains (or other human parts) or a robotic "zombie" that rebuilds itself be cannibalizes whatever technology it can find.

(These ideas are not the actual ones he suggested, just my short hand for a TYPE of threat that often appears in comics.)

See, the worm is only a threat because it is not on its home planet where it is part of a happily functional eco-system. And the robo-zombie is only a threat because it needs parts. If you supplied those parts, he would just be a robot.

I looked my own cast of villains and wondered why it lacked this kind of threat.

I looked at what my characters had in common. And then it hit me.

My day job. I work in the educational unit of a facility for locked-up teenaged boys. The nature of my unit is such that none of my students are in for the first time. They are 16 and 17 year olds who have already committed a significant portion of their lives to crime and incarceration. Having been there for a few years, I know a lot of these kids pretty well. I have a good idea how a lot of them get there.

What did my bad guys have in common?

They were all severely damaged children who had grown into maladjusted and violent adults.... and they also happen to have powers.

They say write what you know.

In the cards.

A fairly common thing for comic books to do at anniversaries or big jumping-on points is the status issue.It can be a re-cap or a simple one-off story that is very emblematic of how the comic works. Something to tell new readers, this is what is going on, and this is what you can expect from here on out.

That is also a good chance to have many artists jump on and do a page or a pin-up.

I wanted to do something like that for the 24th issue of Rapid City. And I wanted to keep with my pledge to do a different story style or technique every issue this year. Somehow I got the idea to give the character and the book a tarot card reading, and let the cards dictate the course of the book.

That will work perfectly as a status issue, as it will symbolically tell about what defines the character's current situation as well as where he will be heading (I'll tell ya right now, it isn't going to be nice). But, everything has to be different in Rapid City.

A normal tarot deck simply would not do.

Looking back to Rapid City's musical roots, the answer was clear. I spent the weekend re-reading all 23 scripts up to this point. With those clear in my head I am going hit "random". The next ten songs that play will symbolize and characterize the past, present, and future of characters, the book, and the project that all make up Rapid City.