MINDY NEWELL: The Enemy Within
I stink at writing battles between the superhero and the bad guy.
Oh, I’ve always managed to struggle through – and through the years I’ve learned how to choreograph them pretty well, thanks to watching great action movies, anything from Bullitt to the Die Hard series to the Matrix Trilogy and Kill Bill, Vols. I and II. But I was always happier to write a fight scene “Marvel style,” especially if I was working with an artist I trusted. Full script, though? Talk about pulling teeth!
So why the hell do I love writing comics?
That’s a good question. And here’s the answer.
What has always interested me about the superhero is the what makes them tick?, the what’s going on in their lives?, the how does having special abilities affect a person? Questions. Of course I wasn’t the first comic writer to address these issues. There’s one or two columnists here at ComicMix who have done so and continue to do so – yeah, I’m talking ‘bout you two, John Ostrander and Denny O’Neil. But John and Denny are also able to write great battle scenes. I can’t.
Way-back-when I sat down to try my luck at writing an entry for DC’s New Talent Showcase program, I thought about what was lacking in the super-hero biz. Hmm, I thought. There are superheroes who are men, and superheroes who are women. There are superheroes who date or are married to ordinary women, and there are superhero married couples. But I couldn’t think of any super-hero women who were married to “ordinary” guys. “That could be really interesting,” I thought to myself.
Then something clicked in my brain. “What if,” I said to myself, “these two people are just regular young marrieds, very much in love with each other, expecting their first child, and believing they’ve got the world on a string? And then everything goes wrong. She gains super-powers, but the trade-off is: she loses the baby. And he just can’t deal. What happens to them? What happens to the marriage?”
And that’s the way I’ve always tried to approach the superhero. Treating them like real people, with real personalities and all the positive and negative traits that real people have. Facing real problems with paying the bills and trying to lose weight.
Let’s take Wonder Woman. I don’t remember the issue number, but it was one of the last few issues before the book went on hiatus until George Pérez reintroduced the character. One of my favorite scenes was the one in which Diana tried to make breakfast, only she burned the toast and undercooked the eggs. It was only about two or three panels, but it made sense to me that as an individual who grew up on a magical island on which time had stopped in the Hellenic Age, a toaster and a frying pan would be as strange to her as, well, the appearance of an Amazon princess in the middle of New York City would be to us here on Earth-Prime.
And, although I’m a staunch pro-choicer, I’ve always believed Diana should be a staunch pro-lifer. Why? Well, think about it. An island of immortal women called Themyiscyra, where men are forbidden. For 3,000 years, cut off from the outside world by powerful magiks, babies are unknown…yes, pregnancy, the unborn child, would be ultimate, holy, sacrosanct, untouchable, inviolable object of worship of a woman raised in this environment.
(Of course, when I mentioned this to Karen Berger once, I believe she was intrigued, but what with Jenette Khan, then publisher of DC, being a friend of Gloria Steinem, and Steinem being one of the “ultimate, holy, sacrosanct, untouchable, and inviolable” feminists of the day, along with being editor of Ms. Magazine, she basically told me to “forget it.”)
I’d like to explore the loneliness of the last survivor of an alien civilization. (Superman, J’onn J’onzz.)
What does it do to a person to be able to run “faster than a speeding bullet” and get stuck in traffic? (Flash, Quicksilver).
How do you not go insane when you’re trapped in a body of rock? (Thing, Concrete.)
If you can fly, would you resent having to walk?
If you have x-ray vision, can you resist taking a look the boss’s e-mails? Or your co-worker’s paycheck?
If you can read minds, do you really want to know what people are thinking?
If you have telekinesis, would you ever get up off the couch?
One of my favorite science fiction movies, definitely on my top five list, is Forbidden Planet, in which the monster is a creature risen from the jealousies and fears that lurk within the human mind.
“Creatures from the id.”
The enemy within.
TUESDAY: Michael Davis
I’ve actually been making notes on a story in which Concrete goes insane due to a mineral deficiency.
And the next miniseries gives him a closed-head injury and amnesia.
But you’re talking about being touch-deprived, sense-deprived…almost like Jose Padilla. You’re right, a lot could be done with that.
Really, your whole list here is a great series of pitches!
Damn straight. I’d love to read that Wonder Woman.
I recall an issue of X-Men from, I think, the Eighties, in which Jean Grey, during one of the times she was alive, went into a store in Westchester, and had to deal with the thoughts of everyone in there whenever they involved her. I thought it would have been an interesting theme for an issue, perhaps even a story arc, but they shut it down inside a page.
The title of the article, OTOH, brought to mind a Rush song of the same title. Part of the bridge seems apropos for some reason:
To you, is it movement, or is it action?
Is it contact, or just reaction?
And you – revolution, or just resistance?
Is this living, or just existence?
I sure would have liked to read that Wonder Woman treatment you mention. But then I think you don’t have to be cut off from the outside world for 3.000 years to believe that pregnancy, the unborn child, is ultimate, holy, sacrosanct, untouchable and inviolable. I guess Jenette Kahn and Gloria Steinem could not have had the premier female superhero take any position contrary to theirs. It might make people think.
Having known both, I think they’d different takes on Mindy’s story. I think Gloria would go for it — it raises provocative issues and a discussion of those ideas would be valuable. Jenette, whom I love dearly, I’m not so certain about. She dumped my AIDS story back in 1986. But ultimately, I think Jenette would have backed the story for the same reason I think Gloria would have… unless there was a Wonder Woman teevee show or movie going on at the time. Then the choice might not have been in her hands.
No, Mike, Jenette would have said “no” because it is me proposing it. Remember when I told you that she told Louise Simonson–who told me– that the LOIS LANE mini-series I did was ghost-written?
Paul, how the hell are ya??!!!!!
Really, really, REALLY honored and pleased that you’re reading my columns!
That’s because some jealous asshole told her that. I know it’s hard to believe, but at the hole of the comics community donut shop lurks a rumor mill that powers the neurotics. Somebody didn’t want you to get his job.
But she still either believed it or chose to believe it.
Which begs the unanswerable question “Who was her source?”
Not that it matters, unless you have a compelling need to sell her a screenplay.