Monday, January 6, 2020

New Year, New Project: Introducing "The Kick"

I believe I've alluded periodically to my obsession with "The Umbrella Academy."  It's a comic published by Dark Horse and was recently made into a Netflix show.  It's got just about every element I like in fiction: dysfunctional superheroes, existential angst, a flamboyantly fabulous asshole who you can't help but love.

While discussing the ten-episode show for the umpteenth time, I said, "I wish the writers would just do what I want."  To which my husband offered a childishly uncomplicated solution: "Then you should either become a writer or publish your own work."

He's right, of course.  Most of the fictional content I generate uses existing franchises, which precludes it from being published, monetized, or useful in any way whatsoever.

In case you're wondering what I want from The Umbrella Academy, it's this.  I have a theory that Reginald Hargreeves works for the Temps Commission.  I believe that he orchestrated the apocalypse from beginning to end, beginning with, of course, his own death.  After all, for the apocalypse to happen, all of the Hargreeves had to come together in the first place; Klaus had to discard the notes about Vanya where Leonard could find them; Allison and Luther had to fuck up horribly to push Vanya over the edge; Five had to fuck up the timeline further to ensure everything went to shit.  This explains a lot, including how Reginald knew the apocalypse was about to happen in the first place, and why he was such a shit father.  Because he had to guarantee the kids were poorly-adjusted adults in order to cause the end of the world.  What's more, it explains how Grace knew about the apocalypse, and why Reginald was so adamant about keeping track of how long Five had been gone... because he knew all along that Five was working for the Temps.

I hope you've seen the show or else this article so far probably seems like incoherent rambling.

I believe that Season 2 would be amazing if all the kids went back in time and had to confront Reginald as an agent of the Temps Commission.

But this post isn't about my fan theory.

Although if it were I would show you this chart in which it's clear Reginald is the source of the apocalypse.

It's about Andrew's suggestion that I stop wasting my time on existing franchises and try to build something new.

"After all," he pointed out, "you have a ton of ideas.  If you just change the names of the characters, plenty of your stories are divergent enough to be a separate franchise."

My main character be like

Andrew was right, of course.  I have a lot of unrealized ideas, many of which I never endeavored to develop fully because of an idea that they were "unmarketable."  But lately, dark and dysfunctional superheroes are in, and there are plenty of publishing houses (Dark Horse, Vertigo, and Image Comics, to name a few) who love the dark subversion of the superhero genre, especially when it includes familiar elements and tropes.
Umbrella Academy, for example: X-Men meets Arrested Development.

So, I ask you, dear reader, what is one of the most common tropes of the superhero genre that has inexplicably not been subverted?

Hint: I bitched about this well over a year ago.

The "young boy sidekick" theme is one that feels increasingly fake and unrelatable in today's culture, and incidentally, I already had an idea for a story exploring this.

Here's my general outline and characters for my newest entirely original comic book idea, "The Kick," hopefully hitting shelves within a year or two, depending on how quickly I can get a storyboard onto the right person's desk.

The Kick

  • Tomas Castiel: a 17-yr-old "Enhanced" individual whose superpowers have just manifested with puberty.  Bright eyed and bushy tailed, our young protagonist aspires to become a popular superhero.  He lives in Los Angeles with his two sisters and patrols the city at night with the aid of a police scanner he purchased off of Craigslist.
  • Alec Slick (aka "Tesla Man"): a tech mogul and ultra-popular superhero who is notable for saving the world from an alien invasion while he was in college.  Now 38 and the head of TL-Corp, Alec is a charming, handsome, clever, and filthy rich eccentric who spends a sizable chunk of his time hanging out in his personal resort and spa on an orbiting space station.
  • Aria Platsky: a burned-out superhero publicist who juggles various case files for a company called "Heroes on Dial," which is basically a mall cop rental but for superheroes.
  • Beth: The first Kick.
  • Tristan: The second Kick.
  • The Oracle: an Enhanced with the power of shape-shifting, who has given up the superhero life since an accident left him horribly deformed and slightly mentally unstable.  He's Tomas's confidant and friend.

Volume One

Overview: Castiel is an aimless latchkey kid with recently discovered superpowers.  One night, while intervening in a drug store robbery, he comes face-to-face with Tesla Man, the world's most popular and beloved superhero.  Tesla Man expresses interest in mentoring Castiel and offers him a partnership.  To protect his identity, Castiel takes on the mantle of "The Kick."  The two proceed to go on various thrilling adventures against Tesla Man's various supervillain rivals, including The Entropy Institute, The Post-Master General, Professor Pandamonium, Nightshade, and rival corrupt businessman Gene Hamilton.

Alec Slick is everything Castiel could want in a mentor: supportive, encouraging, flattering.  The only one who seems suspicious of him is The Oracle, who believes that the closeness between Castiel and Slick is weird.  (Castiel believes Oracle is only jealous; Oracle is 27 and hardly has room to talk.)  As the two get closer and closer, Slick and Castiel eventually end up in a romantic relationship, kept secret to protect Castiel's identity from too much scrutiny.

It slowly dawns on Castiel that he has been groomed from the beginning and Slick is a clever manipulator who orchestrated the entire "mentorship."  The final straw comes when Castiel realizes that "Kick" is a short for "Sidekick," and they were never equals or partners; Slick has always seen him as lesser, and his insistence on secret identities and so forth was all designed to maintain a questionably appropriate relationship.  Full of guilt, shame, and embarrassment, Castiel resigns as "The Kick" and returns to a life of anonymity.

Volume Two

Two years later.  Castiel is now nineteen and a sophomore at a community college.  He has rebranded himself as "The Scorpion" and is trying to make a name for himself as an independent superhero.  Regrettably, he' got a lot of competition; Los Angeles is a major city for the Enhanced to try to make a name for themselves.  He goes to Heroes On Dial to try to get some help rebranding, but lacks the money to purchase their services.

He discovers that Tesla Man has a new "Kick."  Remembering his own experience and worried it's happening again, he approaches the new Kick and tries to warn them, but is dismissed as being a jealous ex.  He goes back to Heroes On Dial, desperate for help to take on Tesla Man.  No one wants to help him, except for Aria Platsky.  Operating independently of Heroes On Dial, she takes on Castiel's case, trying to dig up dirt on Tesla Man and help Castiel rehab his own image.  (For one, she tells him to ditch the moniker Scorpion, as no one like Scorpions.  He renames himself Scorp Kid, which she says is even worse.  Unfortunately, it sticks after he foils a major plot by Nightshade to poison the city's water system.)

With Aria's help, Scorp Kid tracks down the previous "Kick," and learns the tragic story of the first Kick, who died.  Tristan, the second Kick, wants nothing to do with Scorp Kid's crusade against Tesla Man.  Fortunately, Scorp Kid manages to get enough dirt on Tesla Man to take him to trial.  The nation watches the drama unfold with baited breath as their beloved protector is accused of abusing his power, arrested, and put on trial.

While on trial, aliens attack the city, and Tesla Man defeats them.  He returns in time from fighting aliens in order to make his final trial appearance.  The jury is out for less than a minute, and return with a Not Guilty verdict, clearly grateful that he saved the world again and willing to forgive and forget all misdeeds.

The judge calls this a clear, gross miscarriage of justice and calls for a mistrial.  In the meantime, he sentences Slick to 15 months of house arrest for violating the conditions of his bail by going into orbit to fight aliens.  Castiel is deeply discouraged by what happened, but Aria suggests that at least he's getting some semblance of justice, and, more importantly, has disrupted the relationship between Slick and his newest "Kick."

Volume Three

One year later.  A jury has recently acquitted Alec Slick of charges of child endangerment and sexual misconduct.  Scorp Kid, walking home at dawn after a night of superhero patrol, watches the story unfold in the window of an electronics shop in disgust.  Slick transmits a message to the people of earth from his space station, where he is still under house arrest.  He thanks the people for believing in him and states that he thinks the charges brought against him are indicative of a larger problem, which is that people don't trust Enhanced people.  He says that the problem is that the Enhanced have a very different culture and are not well understood by normal people, and that they aren't integrating well into society.  To rectify this, he says, he is starting up a "finishing school" for promising young Enhanced on his space station, where he can mentor classes of students and oversee their actions to ensure no one else ever has to go through what he has.

Castiel turns away from the storefront to walk home, hands in his pockets, a single thought bubble forming above him.  "God damn it..."

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