Sunday, September 23, 2012

What Makes Our Heroes Great!

Here's some really early concept art, featuring the first version of
New Roads To Hell Rose Red and two versions of Dreamcatcher...
So here I am in limbo, New Roads To Hell in the hands of Captain Ron of Airship 27, and I'm already working on the next book in the Shadow Legion series, The Shadow Legion Casebook Volume One: Four For Danger.

(I'm also working on The Adventures of Tao Jones, but that's a story for another blog entry...)

What that means is I've got four different files, one for each of our initial heroes, that I've been hopping between. Sometimes all I write is a single sentence in one story, then switch to a second story to write a whole scene, then off to a third to write a paragraph. It's a heady experience doing all these very different stories that are still unified in some way, and I am enjoying it.

And one of the reasons I'm enjoying it so much is that I get to create some new villains.

And let's be honest--our heroes would be nothing without villains just as colorful as they are. Used correctly, Villains help draw the hero into sharper relief--how can we understand the selflessness and dedication to protecting other of Superman if we didn't have the venality and self-interest of Lex Luthor to contrast it with? How can we appreciate the discipline and relentlessness of Batman without the chaotic nature of The Joker to play against it? Villains can be more than just colorful excuses for our heroes to save lives, do the right thing and...well, act heroic.

Now I'm pretty confident that Rose Red is a bad girl on a scale big enough to give the initial quartet that comprise The Shadow Legion fits in New Roads To Hell (and trust me when I tell you she'll be back in future books)....but the idea of the next book is to create four epic short stories showcasing each of my original heroes at different points in the twenty five years between New Roads and the next novel, The Devil's Toybox. The earliest takes place partially concurrent to New Roads and in the weeks immediately after; the latest will take place at the dawn of the 60's, when culturally and intellectually the country expanded its boundaries--sometimes into darker territories.

But the cool thing is I can now create some villains who are specific to our individual Legionaires--and that's proving to be very fun. You see, I can indulge in a little more creativity when it comes to these guys. With Rose Red and the villains you'll meet in The Devil's Toybox, I have to think in broad strokes. My bad guys there have to be huge, massive threats that can occupy all four of my heroes. But because of the nature of the Casebooks (Think of them as the equivalent of those bags of comics that used to be sold at Toys R' Us and Walmat with four random issues of the individual Legionaires whereas the novels are graphic novels collections gathering up a complete story arc), I can now do smaller villains, the type of characters that will provide the same contrast to my heroes as Lex Luthor provides to Superman and The Jokes does for Batman.

And because each of these baddies is only for one hero, I can create a wider variety of villains. Unless things change, I'm going to have a dark mirror of one of my heroes who confronts him with questions on how he will deal with his burgeoning powers; a wild visionary whose idea of Nocturne's future is at odds with another of my heroes; and a otherworldly creature that will help a third discover new abilities. I may even have a peculiar comedic one that will provide a bit of relief from the darkness of the Shadow Legion series as a whole.

I can't wait for you all to meet these characters (and I'll be honest; one of these is proving to be so fun I'm looking for a way to work him into one of the future novels)....but then, I love my bad guys as a whole, no matter how nasty they can be.


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