MARTHA THOMASES: Superpowers Not Superheroes
So, along with everything else, I’m trying to write an original graphic novel. It’s taking forever because I have no deadline and I have a ton of other stuff to do. However, it’s on my mind all the time.
Which is fine, because I like my characters, and I like having them in my head. I like them even better since I spent the day with Mary Wilshire, the artist I hope to persuade to draw the thing. Her insights into why people act the way they do and what they look like doing it make everyone more interesting.
The problem with liking my characters is that I want to keep them out of harm’s way, which might be simple human kindness but makes for a dull story. The bad guys have to behave badly, the good guys have to behave well, and the main character must overcome obstacles to find her true self and her purpose in the world.
A writer is supposed to write about what she knows, and what I know about is avoiding conflict to the best of my ability. That’s always my first reaction, even if it’s not always the best reaction. I have to get out of my comfort zone to do the right thing, in my life and, especially, in this story.
The story is about families, about finding out who you are and what you want to be even though you might have been raised to be someone else. It’s about balancing what you need with what you want. It’s about accepting those you love because that’s what love is about, not because they behave the way they should.
So, yeah, it’s kind of a chick book.
Also, a few of the characters have superpowers. I like superhero comics, and I think, in this case, superpowers are excellent metaphors for what we bring to our roles within our families. A character with superpowers is more visually dynamic, more suitable to the graphic story format, for the purposes of this particular story.
So, yeah, maybe it’s not so much a chick book.
The conventional wisdom is that women don’t like superhero comics, that they are turned off by adolescent power fantasies. Since I enjoy superhero comics, I don’t agree with this theory. However, I do think that many women are turned off by puerile male adolescent power fantasies. They might enjoy adolescent power fantasies created by other women.
We don’t know this yet, because no one is publishing original material aimed at this market. In prose, the Charlaine Harris Sookie Stackhouse books are bestsellers. Dark Horse does really well with the Buffy-verse books, based on the phenomenally successful television series. Would characters that didn’t have success in other media do as well?
I hope so. Because that’s the kind of thing that might kick me out of my writer’s block.
SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman
A thought to share. Having a character who wants to avoid conflict is fine as a starting place. You then place them in a situation where they CAN’T avoid conflict. They would still try because that’s what they do but they can’t. In story, the characters reveal themselves because of crisis. We find out who we are as opposed to who we think we are in a crisis — good, bad, indifferent. Does that help or am I telling you what you already know? (I’m really good at that!)
Love the column, Martha, and I’m muy simpatico!!! The graphic novel sounds absolutely wonderful!!!!!!!
Since you mentioned BUFFY (and you know I’m a huge BUFFY geek!), you might want to take a page from Whedon’s book re: conflict. The beauty of BUFFY is that so many of the conflicts weren’t about vampires and demons and monsters–a lot of the conflicts were everyday, real-world conflicts, like Buffy hiding the secret of being a Slayer from her Mom, or Buffy’s conflicting feelings about having a younger sister (Dawn) when the character was introduced. Or Willow having to choose between Tara and Oz–for that matter, Willow having to accept that she is gay.
Hope that helps. But it sounds like you’ve got it together, girlfriend!