Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Character Design

The digital art I did that inspired the following story

"Which one is next?" says the voice in the darkness.

The man (that's what he thinks he is at least) in the glass, gel-filled tube listens. And somehow, he understands.

"This one, Lord," says the voice's shining assistant. "Subject #419."

The conveyor belt whirs beneath the man in the tube and jolts him sideways. He stops directly in front of the voice, and suddenly becomes acutely aware of his own mortality.

A mechanical arm drops down in front of the man in the tube. It has an orb at the end which emits a beam of red light. The soulless eye peers through the man, seeing his every atom, yet not seeing him at all.

"And what makes this one so special?" the voice in the darkness asks.

"Nothing, father," answers the assistant. "He's utterly unremarkable."

The soulless eye returns to whence it came, leaving the man in the tube alone once more.

"As they all are. It's what makes them perfect for these experiments. They're utterly disposable, but they are always trying to prove otherwise."

The man in the tube feels hopelessness without ever having felt hope. He feels as if he has failed, yet he knows not the terms of victory.

"Shall we subject him to the experiments then?" asks the assistant.

If only the man in the could speak. But he has not learned how. He has not had the joy of hearing language for the first time.

But if he could, this is what he would say right now. This is how he would answer the assistant's question.

"Yes. And though I may never know again the nature of my own existence, I will defy you. I will defy you by being happy in the face of your mad science. I will be nothing but a data point to you, but if I must be that, then I will be an outlier. I will not conform to you natural laws and give you the outcome of being unremarkable and dead that you hypothesize."

That is what he would say if he could speak. But he can't.

"Dump him in simulator ninety-two," says the voice coldly. "Maybe he'll surprise us."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

They Have No Answers

Jormungand writhed about the feet of Janus as Quetzalcoatl returned to the shores from which Ra departs each day.

The hero of the story stood before them, in awe.

What answers could they provide?

More important yet, what questions could be asked of them?

He pulled out his eye and cast it into the River Styx.

“Why am I alone?” asked the hero. “What did I do that I deserved to be forsaken?”

“You did nothing at all to deserve it,” answered the snake(s) of Coatlique’s face. “And that is the greatest crime of all.”

The hero watched as the woman had to empty her cup and Loki screamed in pain as the venom struck his eyes. The shriek shook the mountain, causing Sisyphus to drop his crucifix.

“So it’s meaningless then?”

“Everything has meaning,” Izanagi told him. “Which makes meaning fairly meaningless.”

Ishmael and Abel ran past the hero, fleeing Cain and Jacob. Hades cursed Zeus for his trickery.

“I don’t understand.”

“Now you’re getting somewhere,” said Coyote. “The first step is admitting you don’t know you have a problem.”

Hercules got drunk and ran Balder through with mistletoe. The world ended.

“Where do I go now? What can I do?”

“Forward,” Anansi told him, “Something.”

The flood then receded, and Brahma helped Noah unload the animals.

“And what of love?” asked the hero of the story.

“Good question,” the universe told him.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Capes 101: A Case for Superheroes in the Classroom

In Talking With Gods, a documentary about acclaimed comic writer Grant Morrison, Morrison presents his unique perspective on Superman: “…then for me the big thing was discovering superhero comics, because suddenly, there were people who could stop the bomb, Superman could take an atom bomb hit to the chest and just shake it off…[and then I realized] that the bomb, before it was a bomb, was an idea, and suddenly that understanding: Superman was a better idea, so why not make [Superman] real instead of [the bomb]?”

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The American Nightmare: Examining America's Monsters in "American Vampire"

"Every age embraces the vampire it needs.” –Nina Auerbach
            More than most works in the vampire genre, writer Scott Snyder and artist Rafael Albuqueque’s comic book series American Vampire embraces the concept of vampires changing to match the needs of the society they are in. Explaining the changes in vampires as new species emerging, Snyder explores what America needs in from its vampires across several decades and areas. In the 1880s in the wild of Colorado, in 1925 in the emerging media capital of Hollywood, in 1936 crime-ridden Las Vegas, and in the Pacific front of Taipan in 1943, each presents a new strain of vampire and the new ways that they prey on America.
            The first five issues of the series feature the origins of Skinner Sweet, the first American vampire. A notorious outlaw of the wild west, Sweet was just as much a vampire to society before even being bit. He is a noted murderer, thief, rapist, and glutton. An interesting thing to note is that of all his crimes, his gluttony—manifesting as a “sweet tooth”—is the thing that is his nickname. This focus on gluttony betrays his biggest crime: that he always hungers for more. During his arc, he comes into conflict with a cartel of European bankers that are vampires. During this time, the west was being settled, and America was trying to distance itself more and more from the European powers that once claimed dominion over the continent. America was busy forging its own identity and getting out from the older nations’ shadows. So, this is the time when the new American vampire emerges and separates itself as a newer, stronger breed than the Europeans he comes into conflict with. Skinner is the first American vampire because he is from a time when America needed its own monsters. Holding onto Europe wasn’t good enough anymore. Pear asks Sweet in the third issue, “I’m a vampire? Like them?” and he replies, “Oh, no, Dolly. You’re a vampire like me. And believe me, there’s a big difference.”
            The next time to be explored is 1925 in Hollywood, California. This era was the birth of the movie star. Hollywood was just starting to become the center of the motion picture industry, and gaining the grandeur and mystique that came with it. In a way, Hollywood is becoming the capital of “The American Dream,” a place where anyone can go and make it big. However, the Dream isn’t so clean-cut all the time. As the vampires in this arc show, there’s an ugly side to the American Dream. The vampires are portrayed as the producers and directors and big shots at the movie studios. They’re the ones in charge of saying who does or doesn’t get to experience the Dream. They prey on the naiveté of the Americans who buy into the Dream, and this is exactly how they lure Pearl in to devour her. They seduce her with a chance to meet someone who can help her “make it,” but she ends up having Hollywood drain the life from her instead. As the vampires say in issue five, “A young actress, plucked from obscurity and given her big chance? It plays directly into the great national fantasy…the fantasy that everyone counts equally…It’s a country of Grand Delusions.” However, this isn’t the only vampire that Pearl finds in Hollywood. The very nature of the American Dream and of Hollywood makes it extremely competitive and cutthroat, an atmosphere that can create monsters out of formerly good people. Pearl’s best friend Hattie purposefully transforms herself into a vampire because she wants to have an edge over Pearl and an “in” with the vampires in charge. She knows the dark and nasty nature of what she’s turning herself into, but she betrays Pearl anyway, and all for her own Grand Delusion. The American Dream is the real vampire in this story.
            Starting in issue six, the narrative moves to 1936, Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s the height of the Great Depression for the rest of the country, but Vegas’ economy is booming thanks to the construction of the Hoover Dam, the biggest construction project in American history. A mantra repeated forebodingly by many of the citizens is “Bless the Dam”; a sentence with clear double meaning. We are introduced to a character named Cashel McCogan, who is the chief of the Vegas police force, and is tasked with trying to control the crime running rampant in the town. For the first time, prostitution and gambling has been legalized, but with it comes murders and other violent crime. The owners of the casinos are vampires, and so is the local whorehouse, owned by one Skinner Sweet. The vampires have taken advantage of the thousands of construction workers living in the area now by creating all of the entertainment they could want. However, in true vampiric fashion, they are draining Vegas of its morals and disease and crime are ravaging the city. The vampires are using their influence to bring out the worst in the people of Las Vegas, including Cashel’s father, a man belonging to an ancient breed of vampires. He hasn’t killed a man in over 700 years, but when the newer vampires come to town and exploit the city, they draw out the ugliness in all of the people there, and Cashel’s father reverts to his old ways, and is eventually killed for it. The true vampire here is the desire for money, sucking the moral blood from the city.
            Finally, in issue thirteen, we are taken to Taipan during the Second World War, where a squad of vampire hunters has been sent on a special mission to find a rumored nest of Japanese vampires. When they find the vampires, they are faceless and more like animals than any other breeds seen so far in the series. They attack in waves of hundreds and retain none of their personalities. It is soon discovered that the Japanese have been breeding them purposefully, transforming their own villages into weapons. This is a metaphor for a problem that the American military faced in WWII when facing Japan. The Japanese were willing to sacrifice themselves meaninglessly and freely to hurt the enemy, and the government was content treating their soldiers less like humans and more like weapons, a practice shown in the use of kamikaze pilots and banzai charges. These purposeful suicides and tossing away of life was a hard thing for the average American soldier had a hard time wrapping his head around. The breeding of faceless vampires to use as weapons is just a fictional extension of the war ideology that Japan was using at the time. The monsters, ironically, were the ones encouraging the practice, not the vampires or kamikazes themselves.
            Whether it’s forging a new American identity by creating our own monsters in the wild west, the vampiric draining nature of the American Dream, the unchecked desire for wealth sucking our morals dry, or the disregard for life in war, Snyder and Albuquerque’s American Vampire uses Nina Auerbach’s theory and weaves it beautifully into the ongoing narrative of the series. By making us take a good long look at our monsters, American Vampire forces us to take a look at ourselves as well.

I originally wrote this paper for my ENG 256 class. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Reader's Guide to Pantheon

EDIT: Pantheon now has its own page! Click the tab at the top of the page.

As promised! Here's a guide as to how all of the stories in the Pantheon saga fit together! I'm not going to write them in any sort of real order, as it makes it harder to keep some of the reveals under wraps. I originally thought of this story as a comic book series, which is a medium that lends itself to this style of storytelling a bit better than prose, which tends to be more linear.

The story is broken into 5 "books" which are broken down into smaller chapters. Though the reading order will roughly be the order of how I write it, this list is chronological. There are significant time jumps between each book, which is what separates them. The chapters marked with "???" are chapters that haven't been written yet, and are actually several chapters. It's just a simple way of showing a gap in the story. Also, the titles here don't match up with the titles on the actual posts, but these will be the official ones, due to the pattern.

Book 1: The First Council
Chapter 1: Ra
Chapter 2: The Fates
Chapter 3: ???

Book 2: The Storm
Chapter 4: Mars
Chapter 5: Thor
Chapter 6: Jupiter
Chapter 7: Zeus

Book 3: The Gathering
Chapter 8 Gucup-Cakix
Chapter 9: Hades
Chapter 10: ???

Book 4: The Hero
Chapter 11: Janus
Chapter 12: John
Chapter 13: ???

Book 5: The Uprising
Chapter 14: ???

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pantheon: Born in Fire

Johnathan stumbled from the chair he'd fallen asleep in toward his coat and helmet. He was in a daze, still unsure of whether he was waking up or whether he was beginning to dream. He suited up in a matter of seconds, and slid down the pole to the truck just as the sirens came to life and screamed at him, ordering him to wake. He climbed in and sat down as he rubbed his eyes.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pantheon: Beginnings

Note About This Story: This is part of the whole story I've been developing over the abandoned A-Z Challenge. It's title is tentatively "Pantheon." As is hopefully obvious by now, the story isn't being told chronologically at all. I'll shall compile a post explaining my method and the order and whatnot whenever it strikes me to do so (probably soon). I'm going to try to resume regular updating as of this post, sorry for the long break.

Johnathan Pax climbed the stairs in no direction and every. Like he did most nights, he was visiting his friend Mr. Escher at his immense house. That night, unbeknown to Johnathan, would be the last time he would visit the house. The last time for a very long time, at least.

Monday, April 11, 2011

H is for Hades

So close to being caught up! One more tonight? We'll see. For now, we follow Seven Macaw on his first assignment for his new master...

The screams of the damned echoed off of the cavern walls. The ghostly form coiled in the terrifying throne made of human skulls was motionless, save for the tatters of his night-black cloak waving in the gentle breeze. He had the shape of a man, but it was as if he was made of shadow. The only part of skin that was visible was his hands, and they were pale nearly to the point of being translucent. His cloak was torn and ripped in a tangled mess of shadowy cloth. His breathing was slow, gravelly and pained.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

G is for Gucup-Cakix

Another tale of myth, this one set farther into the future of our little tale. This story stars a deity of the ancient Maya. A character from their holy book, the Popul Vuh...

Poor Gucup-Cakix. The one they call Seven Macaw lays there, a fallen star, a bird that has been knocked out of his tree. The Popul Vuh tells us of the Hero Twins, and how they found Seven Macaw in his tree, pretending to be the sun. Poor Seven Macaw. Poor false sun. He is a demon of folly. He should not pretend to be the sun. The Hero Twins shot him out of his tree with their blowguns, and he fell to the ground. But he took one of the Hero Twins' arms with him with his sharp beak. The Hero Twins have stolen his eyes and his teeth, and he can no longer pretend to be the sun. Poor Seven Macaw.

F is for the Fates

I'm almost caught up! We'll see if I can pull this off with another post tonight and I can be back on schedule after tomorrow. This story is a direct follow-up to the last one, just starting the next scene from a slightly different perspective...

His body was young and chiseled, but his withered face and platinum white beard betrayed his age. The whiskers on his face sparked with blue electricity, and his eyes were glowing grey like storm clouds. He sat in the throne at the end of the hall that was built onto the top of the unclimbable Mount Olympus. The hall was lined with five chairs on either side and another across from where Zeus sat. Thunder shook the hall and he rose from his seat to greet his guests.

Friday, April 8, 2011

E is for Egypt

I apologize for falling behind with my stories. I'm going to the best I can to catch up. There are going to be quite a few mythology themed stories, and they're all building up to something bigger. The groundwork of the idea has been in my head for a long while, and the first story written in this universe was my story from last year, "Stormclouds and Chariots." The "A" story featuring Atlas may or may not tie into it, I'll decide later. Now, please allow me to shift your attention to Cairo in the early days of civilization...

The man stood casually in the shadows of the Cairo alleyway, leaning, unnoticeable, against the warm wall. He wore nothing but a white cloth around his waste and sandals. He was bald, and had darker skin, and there was a falcon perched upon his left shoulder.The man peered distractedly down the alley at nothing in particular, while the falcon stared intently down the busy main street that ran perpendicular. The street was lined with food vendors on either side, trying to pass their product off to the shoppers that filled always the markets at that time of day.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D is for Depth

I'm taking part in a blogging challenge where each post is themed off the letters of the alphabet. Today is a tale from the depths of the ocean...

"Command, we have just reached a depth of 35,810 feet and are still diving," said the captain into the radio. "We are now partaking in the deepest manned submarine dive in history."

Sunday, April 3, 2011

C is for Circus Cosmic

I'm taking part in a blogging challenge that requires a theme each day that begins with the letters of the alphabet. Today's is a concept I've had gestating in my head for a while, and I'll almost certainly come back to it at some point. 

"Beings of the Andromeda Nebula!" roars the Ringmaster's hologram from the center of the arena. "I hope you have enjoyed the show so far! We here at Circus Cosmic appreciate you all attending today. Now, we have our final act of the night!"

Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for Black Enigma

I'm taking part in a blogging challenge where each day's post is themed by the letters of the alphabet. Today's is a one- off story set in the world of The Black Enigma. Click the Black Enigma tab at the top of the page to read more on the story. The following takes place between the events of Masquerade and Raven.


Sir Skull's eyes were locked on her legs from across the table. As she tended to do, Sister spider was sitting up on the round table with her one stilettoed foot set flat upon the surface, which curved her fishnet-clad legs seductively up into the skin tight black leotard that she was wearing. Her hair was as black as coal. It was a perfect match for her soul.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A is for Atlas

I'm taking part in a blog challenge where you post each day with the theme being each letter of the alphabet. 

Mine is the burden of all burdens. I hold up the sky. I am Atlas. No one can match my strength, but no one can match my pain either. No one can ever understand the weight of my suffering. I stand atop this hill for all eternity, with the sky heaped upon my aching and weary shoulders, and so I shall remain for eternity. For who would wish to trade places with me? Who would wish to carry the load that I carry?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

There Were Pixies Dancing

There were pixies dancing happily about in a circle. In the center of the circle was an intricate design made of the petals of roses and daisies. There were exactly a dozen pixies in all. They were varying shades of glowing pink and purple, and about 4 inches tall. They had beautiful butterfly wings and long flowing hair that was decorated with petals and ivy. Each of them was female, and each of them was naked.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

There Was A Troll Under The Bridge

There was a troll under the bridge. He had olive green skin, was the size of a young elephant, and had hair in places he shouldn't. His lower jaw jutted out and two large yellowing canines stuck up out of his mouth like tusks. His bridge wasn't particularly nice. It covered him when it rained, and it hadn't yet collapsed under the weight of the people entering or exiting the village, but there wasn't anything special about it. It was just wood. The babbling brook that flowed under the bridge supplied the troll with water and enough fish to eat to sustain himself. Occasionally a gruff old billy goat or a pig or other farm animal would wander under the bridge and he'd have a treat, and the villagers would become angry with him, but they were too frightened to ever do anything about it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Dark Room, part 7

The man sat back down as another, closer still to the boy, stood up. He had a fork in his hand, which he angrily and repeatedly stabbed into the table, creating a dull thud noise. With his free hand, he reached to the lid of the next platter, licked his lips and and lifted it with vigor.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Dark Room, part 6

The boy could feel himself flipping backwards, and the air rushing by him. Whenever he caught a glimpse of see a circular light above him, and it kept getting smaller and smaller. He righted himself, so his arms and legs were spread in an X shape, and he became aware of the dragon and the raven diving on either side of him.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Dark Room, part 5

"Flee," the raven whispered to the boy. "Before it's too late."

"Be brave," the dragon said in his other ear.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Dark Room, part 4

On the other side of that oddly un-assuming door was a dining hall that very much made up for it. It was as long across as a city block, and the table that sat in the center of the hall extended nearly the entire length. It was covered with ornate candelabras, shining silverware and expensive china, fourteen places down either side, and one at each end. At each place along the table there was a solid wood chair with a tall back, and all up and down they were carved with images of monsters devouring children and demons torturing them, and phantoms sucking their souls out. As the boy approached the chair closest to him, he could make out more of the terrible details engraved in the dark ancient wood. He leaned in to examine the horrible art and it made him uneasy.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Dark Room, part 3

He climbed lower, slower, deeper into the depths of the old dying dark house. The stairs spiraled counter-clockwise downward and were very steep. Every ten steps or so, there was a torch mounted on the wall that feebly flickered a weak orange glow, but they all seemed to have given up trying to keep the shadows at bay centuries ago. The boy went down, down, down. Spiralling into the depths of the house. He wished to leave the staircase, but there were no doors, no windows, no escape. Only the hope that there was a bottom, and that the bottom wasn't worse than the top.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Dark Room, part 2

The feet of the boy's pajamas shuffled silently across the deep grey rug. The painted eyes that lined the walls seemed to follow the boy as he walked past them, and he felt like he was shrinking. He set his eyes on the end of the hallway that he walked toward, but it seemed to be moving ever farther from where he was.

The Dark Room, part 1

The boy woke up.

The room, like the sheets of the unfamiliar bed he found himself in, and like the curtains of the dusty windows, and the wooden panelling of the walls, was dark. Jet. Raven.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Theatre De Pénombre, part 4

Click here for chapters one, two, and three.

They arrived at the next town early the next morning. Rowland hadn't said a word since they left his village, and Rebecca had responded in kind by not looking at him for an equal amount of time. Puppy purred and took turns rubbing up against both of their legs, either oblivious or simply not interested in the tense mood. The wagon creaked to a halt and Rowland could hear they neighing and sputtering of the horses out front.

Monday, February 14, 2011

150th Post: "A Zeppelin Over Paris"

Axel slid the rusting steel door of the zeppelin open and the cold wind of the Paris sky rushed across his face. He pulled his goggles over his eyes and strapped his flight cap on. He tightened the leather belts that criss-crossed his chest, holding the heavy pneumatic tank on his back. He looked behind him at the three other men in his squadron, doing similar motions with their harnesses and gear. Axel looked back out of the opening, gazing at the golden-orange glow of the Paris night life below.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Black Enigma: Raven, part 3

For the preceding chapters in The Black Enigma series, click the tab at the top of the page.

"So, what do you go by, flyboy?" I ask my tenuous ally.

"This ebony bird," he says cryptically, " is but a stately raven of the saintly days of yore."

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Black Enigma: Raven, part 2

For the previous chapters in The Black Enigma, click the tab at the top of the page.

Looking down, now thirty stories up, I apologize in my mind to the sidewalk. I normally don't get so intimate so quickly, but I have no choice in the matter. I am drawn to the concrete as if by gravity. Oh wait.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Black Enigma: Raven, part 1

For the previous chapters in the story, click The Black Enigma tab at the top of the page.

"The computer is reading the bullet as being four floors below you, Enigma," Harvey's voice tells me through the earpiece in my right ear. "That's the forty-first floor. Looks like some sort of suite according to the blueprints I'm looking at."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Theatre De Pénombre, part 3

Rowland stood, stunned, in the dimly lit wagon. He was unsure of what to do next and looked around nervously. Puppy meowed loudly, apparently bored. He was sitting on top of a large chest. Rowland walked over and opened, curious as to its contents. It contained piles of unorganized costumes and clothes, and it was over six feet long. More than large enough to contain Rowland.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Theatre De Pénombre, part 2

As sunset came, the stage was set. Where there once had been an empty town square, there was now a wooden stage some twenty-five feet across and ten feet deep. The townsfolk gathered quickly and filled every open space from which the stage was visible. They stood packed up against the edge of the stage all the way back to the closed doors of the shops on the edge of the square. Surrounding houses and storefronts opened their windows on every story and excited spectators peered out. Not much happened in Rowland's little town, and the Theatre De Pénombre was one of the few times that the people got truly excited.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Theatre De Pénombre, part 1

That day, they came to town, and this time, Rowland was ready. He remembered when they had come the year prior. They had unfolded their wagons into a stage in the middle of the village square and put on a production of Macbeth. It was wonderful. Rowland told his mother that it had been the best performance yet, just as he had every time they came to town for the passed 15 years of his life.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Black Enigma: Masquerade, part 3

"What the hell?" I mutter. I watch as the impostor fires a clip into the crowd, wounding several partiers. I begin to move Harvey towards the door, since I'm supposed to be his bodyguard.

"There is only one crime lord in this town," the man ruining my good alter ego's name declares. "Any newcomers would do well to remember that." He pulls the pin on a hand grenade with his teeth and tosses it into the crowd, where it explodes, killing half a dozen people instantly. The fake laughs sadistically and dashes out the hole that he came through.

The Black Enigma: Masquerade, part 2

For previous chapters, click the tab at the top of the page.

I straighten my mask as Harvey straightens his white suit. We climb the steps to the enormous oak doorway and enter the mansion, finding ourselves in a vast white marble ballroom flanked on both sides by a curving staircase. Harvey snags a shrimp off of an unsuspecting servant's tray and slurps it down before we enter the crowd. They are all dressed extravagantly, and every person is masked.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Black Enigma: Masquerade, part 1

For more on The Black Enigma, click the tab at the top of the page.

The Present, Pulopolis:

I sit in the back seat of the limousine, facing Harvey. He is wearing a white suit and is sipping from a martini glass. He has as dark of skin as you can have while still being called white, and has a thin moustache that runs by the sides of his mouth to meet up with his goatee. He is chatting on his cell phone with his father, Anthony Farleone, Pulopolis' biggest crime boss. The conversation seems typically one-sided, as Harvey says very little. I can't make out any words, but it's clear that Anthony is yelling angrily on the other end. Finally, Harvey tells his father goodbye and hangs up. He rubs his forehead irritably and downs the martini like a shot. He groans and smiles painfully at me.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Red and Blue Clad Alien

The red and blue clad alien smashed his fist down into the purple monster one final time. The battle was over and he had won. The shining city he called home was safe from the menace once more. At least for now. He hovered above the damaged street, winked at some onlookers, and flew off into the robin-egg sky. And then he kept going. He kept going until the blue pastel turned slowly into black velvet, sprinkled with twinkling white.