Status Update #3: What A Long, Strange Trip
Last night I completed The Heart of Emma Earl, Tales of the Scarlet Knight Volume 8. That completes the epic superhero series that began last summer. When I started I was just burned out from my “serious” novel Where You Belong and just needed something to do. I’d written a short story with this superhero character and decided that I might as well go back and start from the beginning. That wouldn’t be too mentally challenging, I figured.
When it started, at most I thought it would be a trilogy. In the original notes for Volume 3, our hero Emma Earl dies, though maybe she’d be reincarnated to fight crime in a future time, shamelessly ripping off a Neil Gaiman Batman comic. But then I decided that I wouldn’t kill her. Well, OK, I did kill her but then I brought her back to life, which is one of the great things about superhero stories–you don’t have to feel embarrassed about rampant deux ex machina or soap opera twists. I mean, between those and bare-knuckle brawls that’s pretty much all most comic books are.
There’s a little gap between the third one that was finished in 2009 and the fourth volume in 2010. I did some research and did a very rough graphic novel script, which was one of the first posts on this blog. Anyway, when I started going on the fourth one I was pretty much just diddling around on weekends so it took a while. The same for the fifth one. It wasn’t until my last regular blog post here that I figured I should kick things into overdrive. In large part I was determined to actually finish the series. It would have been easy enough to quit after the 5th one or the 6th one and go do something else. But I didn’t want to half-ass this. So I stuck to it and finished it up.
There were a couple of things I noticed around the 4th and 5th volumes.
The first was something I wrote about here, which was about secondary characters taking on a life of their own. Another part of this was I noticed that my characters had formed a makeshift family over the first few books of the series. I especially noticed this around volume 6 during our hero’s baby shower. At the center of it was our hero Emma. The matriarch of the family was her witch friend Agnes. Emma’s big sister was her childhood friend Becky. Her confidante was Agnes’ “wife” Aka. And her favorite nieces were a couple of students at the school where she taught, Megan and Amanda. It’s kind of like one of those sitcoms that goes on for too long like “The Cosby Show” or “Friends” where after a while characters are getting married and having kids and all that. So the whole dynamic changes from the first story.
The second thing I noticed is that I cared a lot more writing the domestic, relationship stuff than the action scenes. I bet if you actually read the stories you’d notice during some action scenes where I just kind of mail it in. When I was a kid that was always the good stuff. Then I guess I started writing a bunch of literary fiction and as a result the action scenes became less important than the character development. Sadly you can’t have a superhero story without action scenes, so I had to keep throwing those in. But in the epilogue of the final story you’d note that there’s no superhero stuff at all; pretty much the whole thing is wrapping up domestic relationship stuff. That kind of tells me that I really should retire from the action story business.
But I won’t just yet because I was going to rewrite the graphic novel script of the first volume. Now that I’ve finished it might help me in going back to apply some retroactive continuity. One thing I noticed is that I really began to hate Dan, the dude I was setting Emma up with in the first story. He’s such a douche. I mean he’s not a bad guy or a jerk or anything. Maybe that’s the problem. He’s such a wimp. That’s probably why I hooked her up with the Sewer Rat. He’s a lot more fun–and he talks like Grimlock from the original Transformers series. So maybe I should make Dan less douchey this time around. I’m not sure exactly how. Just make him less wimpy and more manly or something. Or whatever. I dunno.
And just for fun, here’s how I would rate them in terms of my favorites.
- Future Shock (volume 6): We really got to have fun with the relationship between Emma and her future daughter Louise, who has to take up the superhero gig after Emma gets the crap beat out of her. My favorite scene involves Louise frantically running to the hospital to find her mom, who’s just calmly sitting in bed reading a book. (There’s more to it that’s hard to explain).
- The Heart of Emma Earl (volume 8): Since this was the end I finally worked out how to do an epic adventure. Alternate universes, parallel universes, Emma as a vampire, we’re throwing in almost everything.
- The Hazards of Love (volume 3): This was the one that sort of upped the ante when Emma takes on an evil and really pissed off goddess, Isis and in the process has to fight Becky. It also sets the table for her and the Sewer Rat to hook up. Really he hadn’t done much until this point, but then I began to see that he could be useful after all.
- A Hero’s Journey (volume 1): This is so far down only because there are a lot of continuity issues from the other stories. If I ever rewrote this (or rewrote the graphic novel script to suck less) then it would probably rank much higher.
- Living Sacrifice (volume 7): This one is a little more stripped-down in terms of weird stuff. (Except for Chapter 20 or so.) No evil goddesses (until the end) or aliens or time travel or anything. More of a straight-ahead adventure where Emma goes to Russia to fight a gangster who’s kidnapped her kid while back home Captain Donovan and Officer Amanda Murdoch try to stop a tide of mob violence. It has a great cliffhanger ending too.
- They Stood Up for Love (volume 5): This was inadvertently a sprawling adventure, though the story itself is pretty thin. A douchebag business guy blackmails the witch Sylvia into helping him take down the Scarlet Knight and unleashes a wave of terrorism. The best part is that Emma and the Rat hook up and it also has a great cliffhanger ending.
- Change of Heart (volume 4): This too has a thin, almost ridiculous story. An alien parasite takes over the son of a Russian gangster, who runs amok in the city. Through means that I can’t really explain, Emma switches bodies with her fat friend Becky. The best part is the first chapter or so where Emma is homeless and has to apply at McDonald’s for a job. It’s kind of downhill from there until the very end. (I’m great at cliffhanger endings!) It does introduce the whole parallel worlds and Aka/Red, who becomes important to future stories. Plus Emma loses her virginity–sort of. (I mean she’s in Becky’s body, but it still kind of counts.)
- Time Enough to Say Goodbye (volume 2): This story just has a cheesiness to it that I would need to eradicate in any rewrites. The Watchmaker character is such a Saturday morning villain. That or one of those crappy Batman villains like Mad Hatter or Egghead or Liberace. There’s a couple of good scenes, like the alternate reality wedding between Emma and Dan, the scene where Emma wakes up “Quantum Leap” style naked and in her childhood bedroom, and the scene where she says goodbye to her mom. Basically the Emma stuff is good but the rest sucks. So when 2/3 of the story kind of sucks, there you go.
Anyway, that’s it for now, but we have set it up for four future continuations:
- Sequels! Emma doesn’t die (spoilers!) so we can still do sequels. Those would focus on how the hell she’s supposed to be a superhero when she has two young daughters.
- Spin-offs! We spun her friend Tim Cooper off into a parallel universe where he and a super-smart little kid build a cool Iron Man suit. So obviously I could do more with that if I want.
- The Next Generation! Volume 6 kind of paves the way to do a series like 20-30 years into the future when Emma’s daughter becomes the next in line to be the Scarlet Knight and fight crime.
- Prequels! In volume 5 I wrote the witch Sylvia’s life story just about and it got me thinking that a prequel series might be fun. It would pretty much be like “Charmed” only in the past, where three witch sisters (Agnes, Sylvia, and Louisa) are becoming witches and fighting evil and so forth. (And making illegitimate children and other soap opera things)
So obviously we’re only done if I want to be. Which I might be if I think of something else to do.
That is all.