Sick of the Old Stories, Composing, 28/06/2016

You know what’s been taking up my creative energy lately? My actual creative writing. Work has been busy, and I try to devote as much spare time as I can to getting the You Were My Friend script ready to hit the indie fundraising circuit of Toronto. 

Today, I wanted to talk a little more about some of the motives I had for telling the story that I chose for this film project. From an ethical and political sense, I think it’s important to tell the stories of people who are genuinely struggling in the urban economy of the 2010s. 

An intense mixture of smog, stress, and enthusiasm.
A lot of the hype that comes from the leadership of my current home base city of Toronto is about the wonders of our dynamic business sector. It’s true that the startup / tech sector of Toronto is growing. But there are some severe problems with it. 

Toronto’s tech sector suffers from a similar problem as Silicon Valley. There’s a lot of investment capital chasing a lot of business development plans. And those plans themselves are chasing trends that are already dying out in Silicon Valley itself. 

A lot like the Toronto hipster culture that dominates the aesthetics and fashion of the Toronto startup scene, its business culture isn’t an organic development of Toronto’s own people and potential. It’s an emulation – maybe you could call it a simulacra – of a business culture that organically arose in northern California. 

There's a devotion to the image of libertarian Silicon Valley business culture – just read some of the job ads if you want to be disheartened – without really understanding or embracing the philosophy behind it. Contingent, insecure working lives are celebrated for their freedom without taking seriously their risk and danger.

You Were My Friend is the story of one person who suffers the fallout from that risk, but accepts that the ‘every one for herself’ attitude is ordinary. Even as it causes a horrible result. 

It’s not a story that’s told enough. At least not yet.

The Killing Joke was a story of angst-ridden men battling
each other while a woman is brutally tortured to make
out brooding male hero brood even more. Apparently,
Alan Moore can't stand this book now.
That’s really the motivation behind the kind of stories I’ve been writing in the last few years. When I started my first major writing project, A Small Man’s Town, I thought a novel with an uncritically self-absorbed male protagonist was still worth telling. And it isn’t that the story isn’t valuable, or can be told well. It’s that we already have enough.

I want to take those kinds of characters and just lay them in the background for the next couple of decades. Then we’ll see what stories can come from other characters. Maybe we’ll pick the self-absorbed male up again when our literary and creative conventions have had a good, strong muckabout. They’ll be quite different in such a new world.

It’s why I'm so glad to see so many vibrant stories in the mainstream comics scene, even though I rarely get a chance to read them. But I follow them and their artists, at least looking at their personalities and the ideas they promote while they promote their work.

When the graphic novel version of Ta’Nehisi Coates’ first volume of Black Panther comes out, that’s going on my list. Maybe a Comixology download of G. Willow Wilson’s best stories with Ms Marvel. Miles Morales seems to be the one Spider-Man I’ll never want to punch in the face. And I really want to get my hands on Chris Hastings’ Gwenpool, not just because I’ve loved his Dr McNinja for more than a decade.

I’d like my plucky little indie film about the friendship between a girl struggling to survive and a woman on the verge of losing hope to contribute something to that.

And I’ll sometimes dream of even more ridiculous stories. Especially when I look at comic book culture. If only because the last decade of films about these archetypal characters* have so closely followed the aesthetics and trends of the 1980s.

* And they are archetypes. One of my co-workers was arguing that my weird idea for a Batman story wouldn’t work because Batman has never been quite that way. I like the guy, but I don’t think he’s right. There is no one realistic Batman character to whom all the events of the comics lines happen. He’s been the same age for almost a century, except those stories where he isn’t. Comics archetypes are characters in the public storehouse we can play with – even though we can’t get permission to make money from our play without approval from corporate.

I think what I love most about Chris Hastings' work is his
innocent and enthusiastic embrace of the absolutely
demented, surreal, deranged, and unapologetically happy.
I’ll be blunt. Frank Miller is old hat. Even Alan Moore has come to hate the grimdark effects his own masterpieces from the 1980s have had on culture. That’s why I like the vibrance coming out of these new comics. 

It resurrects the joy of mid-century mainstream camp, but having learned the lessons about complex character development and ethically evocative storylines. I feel like it could only culminate in a gay Batman.

Remember how, in the paranoid days of the Comics Code Authority, ignorant, insular, rich white advocates for moral purity read so much homosexuality into the Batman-Robin relationship. They saw it as a way Batman was disgusting, morally evil, and corrupting.

So take the aesthetics of the flashy and bright Ms Marvel, Gwenpool, and Morales’ Spider-Man, and unite them with a relationship between Batman and Robin that is openly that of an older male taking on a younger trainee as a vigilante crimefighter and as a lover at the same time. And write a story that explores that relationship of deep, abiding love for exactly the joy that it is.

It'd sell, you know.

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