JUNE EDITION: Your Questions! My Answers!

I asked for questions from folks at the Intrepid Reporter ($10) level, and I got them! Here now, my answers!

David Bishop asks:

  • What's your favorite webcomic that you've discovered within the last year or so?

Man, that's a hard one to answer. For one thing, it's harder to define what a 'webcomic' is these days. Back at the turn of the century, webcomics had a certain countercultural and anarchic feel to them because they represented an entirely new, entirely open distribution model. Comic strips -- of the four panel variety -- typically needed print media (newspapers most often) to get into peoples' hands. Suddenly, anyone could produce a comic strip and get it to potentially thousands upon thousands of readers.

Well, it's 2020, and almost if not all comic strips (at least being produced in America) are webcomics. There are few to no comic strips that only appear in newspapers, and if one does, the net effect is no one knows about it as a result. If there really was a war between newspaper comics and webcomics in 2004, in 2020 webcomics haven't just won, they've annexed all the territory on both sides.

So. If we define webcomic as sequential art distributed digitally over the web, then my favorite discovery of 2019-2020 is, bar none, Popeye's Cartoon Club. We had the Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics in my house when I was growing up, and I read that thing backwards and forwards. Strips like Crockett Johnson's Barnaby (cushlamocree!), Windsor McKay's Little Nemo in Slumberland and (in my estimation the far superior) Dream of the Rarebit Fiend, George Herriman's Krazy Kat and so, so many others were at my fingertips and I adored them.

But of all of those comics? My favorite of them all was Thimble Theater by Segar, most notable for Popeye's adventures, Wimpy's cutthroat tactics to get burgers and his willingness to thank you for your generosity by inviting you over for a duck dinner (you bring the ducks), and a literal strip where a cow was lowered over the side of a boat to graze on algae only to have his tail bit off by a shark which then Wimpy caught, found the tail in its stomach, and convinced Rough House to grind it up and cook it as hamburger. (There are some strips in their run which are... unfortunate in hindsight, to be warned. And by unfortunate I mean yikes. But they're relatively rare).

Besides, as of just recently, our good old Uncle Randy Milholland's been contracted to do a daily run of strips in Popeye's Cartoon Club, running separately from the actual Popeye strip and storyline. If it's on the web and Randy's drawing it? That's webcomic enough for me, by gum!

Remix asks:

  • What inspired Darkhood to go into heroism?

Darkhood made a promise to a dying hero who saved his life. He kept that promise.

  • How does stepping up to a higher tier affect a villain's operation? Jack said Leather upped her game since going to the next level, could you give us an idea of what they entails? 

I could very easily play the "gorsh, you'll have to keep reading" card here, as a big chunk of the rewrites of both Debriefing Leather and Diverged in a Wood are about this very subject (under the collective volume title of Defining Leather), but that feels like cheating, so, a real answer:

Moving from the third tier to the second tier both increases a villain's expenses (and generally their infrastructural requirements) and massively increases their opportunities. There's contract work out there, especially for cat burglars like Leather, and going to the second tier means Leather can charge obscene rates. Further, a second tier villain is generally iconic in a way that third tier villains aren't. Look at Gotham City's burglars -- there's Swindle and Vice, both extremely skilled thieves but fourth tier at best. They work for Veronica Sinclair, aka Roulette (not to be confused with my own Roulette or Marvel's Roulette or any other Roulette -- man, that's a common name), who's a third tier with aspirations of being second tier. Now consider Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman. For a long time, Catwoman was a solid, iconic second tier villain (second tier mostly because she was so purely a Batman villain, before she became ubiquitous -- these days she's clearly first tier but she's also crossed the aisle. Mostly. On a good day).

Iconic crimes and much more lucrative commissions require a lot more infrastructure, as I said. A second tier villain can't really get by with a wheelman, two bagmen, and a Steve. There's actually been some evidence of this in both Diverged in a Wood and Interviewing Trey -- Leather makes a habit of calling Todd Chapman, with tailored phone numbers and ringtones Chapman didn't set announcing her calls. Someone needs to be doing the hacking that makes that possible, and it's prohibitively unlikely to be Marco.

Of course, the Jack and Lady Violet both implied that something pretty big has happened to Leather in the timeframe that Chapman's been a prisoner of the Jack's, as well. What does that entail?

Gorsh, you'll have to keep reading.

  • Do you listen to anything while you write? If so, what are you currently listening to.

I listen to tons of stuff when I write, generally tailored to character, subject, and tone. I like bombastic cinematic for big fight scenes, Murray Gold music for heroes being clever, and if I'm dealing with people standing up under tremendous stress and refusing to bend, it's even odds I'll be listening to Keyakizaka46. Motivation involved listening to a lot of Nick Cave, Warren Zevon, and Leonard Cohen. Greenhorn got a lot of the Avengers: Endgame, Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse, and 11th and 12th Doctor leitmotifs. When I write Cheshire Kittens stuff, I have a steadily growing massive playlist of riot grrl, female-centered rock and punk. And a non-trivial amount of Dick Dale, for the Zephyr Lish bits. Scenes of Rodent fighting bad guys as Rodent gets Elliphant's "To The End" on autorepeat. (And for the record, that vignette of Deej first taking down muggers in the rain the night she learned her parents were dead? I listened to "What's Up Danger" from Into the Spider-Verse for an hour and a half on repeat.)

Oh, and Andi Gannett-Moore gets the 11th Doctor's soundtrack. Just for the record.

Somebody Else asks:

  • Where and how do you physically situate yourself as you write?  Do you have one place? Several? Lots?   Different locales for different parts of the process?

Right now, with COVID-19, things are suboptimal for me -- my home office is a corner of our living room (it didn't help that we had to move literally everything out into a temp apartment so they could renovate, and literally got everything moved back in time for lockdown, minus several pieces of furniture that gave up the ghost. I am in desperate need of about $600 worth of furniture pieces I won't be getting any time soon, and I'm beginning to worry about carpal tunnel syndrome as a result). Most of the time during the emergency I'm in a pretty awesome recliner typing on a MacBook Air that's literally on my lap. It works, but it's not by preference.

When I either have access to my day job office or a better setup here, I prefer to write in comfortable, adjustable surroundings (the recliner's actually kind of perfect except for the lack of desk-type functionality), with a monitor positioned so I can look somewhat 'up' at it, a mouse to my right, and a solid mechanical keyboard for the typing. I'm a massive mechanical keyboard fan for writing. It's much easier on my hands. I currently have a truly amazing CTRL keyboard from Drop with an aluminum base and stiff linear keys (I like linear over clicky, but tht's me). From where I'm sitting I can see that keyboard. Sitting. Waiting. Forlorn.

The Macbook Air's a pretty good machine in its own right. It's a hand-me-down 13" Early 2015 model from before the Macbook keyboards started really sucking. My Day Job assigned computer is a 15" Macbook Pro that is in every way superior but I despise the keyboard so much that I used it as a desktop machine with external monitor and keyboard exclusively before the lockdown. Now, because it gets too hot for my lap and I continue to despise the keyboard, I have it sitting off to the side and literally use Jump Desktop to remote into it with my Macbook Air rather than type on the thing. The Air's also a great machine to bring with me to a coffee shop -- six hours of coffee in a diner or Starbucks on the Air and I can get massive amounts done. You know, except for the fact that there's no going to diners or Starbucks to work right now for the foreseeable future. (I'm in a high-risk group -- even if such places reopen, they sure as heck don't reopen for me until we're actually through this Pandemic, and unfortunately we keep doing things that will prolong how long I'm in this recliner for essentially all my work, day job and writing alike).

I also have a monumentally powerful (thanks to a stroke of good fortune) HP Omen laptop I use for 3D modeling. I call it a laptop, but it's a gaming class machine and if the MacBook Pro is too hot to use sitting on my lap? The Omen would literally cause blisters. The air outtakes on the back sound like a freaking Cesna in flight.

(How do I model with it, right now? You guessed it. Macbook Air on my lap while I sit in the recliner, using Jump Desktop to remote into the machine that I'm literally sitting next to. Because that's how I roll.)

Oh man. I've been bracing for the Michael Brewer questions.

Michael Brewer Asks:

  • Which Parahuman that you've created, but not yet written much about do you find most interesting (aside from the Silver Horseman)? 

Wow, that's a hard one to answer, because the real answer is "it depends on the day." One of the funky parts of working in Paracosm as a form is you have reams of stuff in your brain waiting for their chance to come out. If I could duplicate myself Multiplette-style and my duplicates could devote themselves to writing, I could produce full "comic book runs" of stories for dozens of characters simultaneously. When I get through to the end of the Justice Wing master plan (Emergence, Halcyon Days, Apocalypse Agenda, In Nadir, the Leather trilogy and The Todd Chapman Interviews trilogy -- with Interviewing Hecate serving as the capstone of the Chapman books, the Leather books, In Nadir, and all of Justice Wing, just in case you wondered if this was all going somewhere -- and even then I have a denouement planned to wrap it all up), I honestly can see myself merrily writing individual stories set throughout the history for the rest of my life.

Foolhardy's a good one to mention, since he(?) hasn't actually appeared in a story yet. I actually have a few Vermilion stories I'd love to write, too. The Pentad of Guardians and Sonata 'Sprite' DeLay are always running in the back of my head doing something, so given all that plus lots more (god, I haven't even mentioned the original Beacon, who's been waiting so freaking long...) I guess I'd have to say...

Cosette 'Cozy Tight' Wight. In an absolute rout. I love Cozy. You barely got to see her in the Cheshire Kittens piece. The only ones who could really compete are Antonym, but I think she no longer counts as "haven't written much" so I avoided her (same reason I didn't say Lynette Hardesty, Leather herself, or Moriarty James) and Beguile, who does count, but won't count any more after "A Wake." So let's go with Cozy.

  • How did Anchor get into villainy?

The temptation to say "mail order" is overwhelming.

There was a death. There was an encounter as part of that death. And then there was a... thing with the Ancient Mariner and with Life-in-Death, the Mariner's spectral Everything.

  • Did he ever try working with humans/parahumans to "fix" the environment or did he just jump straight to murder? 

No. Honestly, the fact that he didn't come out slaughtering everyone in his path from day one is kind of amazing.

That said, I'm not sure I'd say he jumped straight to murder. Anchor has no interest in killing some humans. He wants to destroy humanity. When people have died, it's generally been ancillary to his plans and he's not a particular fan of it. He doesn't shy away from it, mind, but it feels like a waste to him.

On the other hand? Malie's got to eat, right? Anchor doesn't exactly try and stop her, and if feeding her hunger can further his goals, he's happy to paint targets for her. He is a murderer. It's just not why he gets up in the morning.

Now, the Jack on the other hand...

Copper Hamster asks:

  • Broccoli or cauliflower. Both or neither are not valid answers.

Broccoli. No hesitation. Final answer, Regis. My favorite vegetable of all time, and I love vegetables.

(Please note that tomatoes are in fact fruit, so my love of tomatoes does not change broccoli's place as my favorite vegetable.)

Remix returns to ask:

  • Are there any heroes that have a reverse rogue style relationship with a villain? Like specifically going after the one villain and seeing their other acts of heroism as in support or secondary to their primary target.

Absolutely. Vermilion's one. Foolhardy's a second. A Texan hero named the Seraph you haven't seen yet. There are others. Interestingly, this happens more to second and third tier villains -- crimelords or specific crazy people or the like -- than the first tier. In part, that's because the first tier tends to deal with obsessed nemeses in ways heroes generally wouldn't on the other side. There are about six dead fourth tier heroes who had dedicated their lives to bringing down Chattergun Calhoun, for example. To date? Chattergun Calhoun's still on top and they're super-fertilizer.

That wraps up the June Question and Answers! Look for other such things, and if you want to be in on the question asking or other such things, consider becoming a patron at the $10 level if that's feasable. In the meantime, thanks as always, and Ever Higher, kids!

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