Sunday, January 13, 2013

Dieselpunk, Retro-Futurism and the Superhero! - Part III

Welcome back for a third instalment of this series on... well on what I think about the topic I guess.

No that's not right.  It's more like my creative process being shown, for all to see.  One of the hardest parts of my creativity is that I have a sort of ADD when it comes to these things.  I get an idea and as I begin to think about it, research it, etc... I start to have other ideas that fight for attention in my brain and soon I am so far away from where I started that it just undermines the whole process.

For example, in researching this idea I came to a couple of conclusions.  The first is that I am not a fan of the existing retro-futurism stories and alternate histories I have encountered.  They all leave me feeling, I don't know exactly, but feeling a bit disconnected from the world they present.

The other thing I learned is that WW2 and the Holocaust are such huge events of the 20th Century that I just can't justify ignoring them or even glazing them over.  I mean these events were so defining of the remainder of the century and carry over even into today.  How can one just ignore them?

I remember when I was reading the back story of the roleplaying game "Brave New World", I was stopped dead in my tracks when they used a concentration camp as the origin of the most powerful hero ever who stopped the war dead.  I had to put it down cause to felt just so wrong to me.

There other thing is that when you start playing around with alternate histories you start looking at ways that either the Nazis could have won the war or points where the war could have been stopped cold and a sort of  Cold War with Germany could have developed.

Very quickly one finds themselves looking at how fascism would have spread, as well as communism and then before you know it you are so far down the rabbit hole that you just can't tell a story about superheroes any more, but now are creating an alternate world history.

Or at least that's how my brain works.

Then what about the Pacific theatre?  It gets all too complicated rather quickly there and I came to write superhero stories.

When you look at the Golden Age of comics the war is such an important part of the development of things. Captain America would not exist without the coming war in Europe.

So what to do, what to do?

Well for me the choice is simple.  Keep history real.  The fact that there are superheroes is maybe just alt-history enough to make the difference.

How can superheroes exist without effecting the war?  Why weren't they there lending their support on D-Day?  Why didn't the greatest hero fly to Berlin and Tokyo and end the war in an afternoon?

DC used the idea of the Spear of Destiny that stole the powers of the Allied heroes if they entered Nazi controlled parts of Europe (or gave Hitler control over them) and then Japan had the Holy Grail with which they instantly took control of the supers if they entered Japanese territory.  Sadly both of these ideas are a bit forced and having BOTH of them do it was lazy writing.

To neutralize the heroes of the Zenith Universe, I would have them constantly being used to stop the Axis supers, even so far as having their own objectives on D-Day to engage their enemy counterparts to prevent them from stopping the invasion of Normandy.

Just as hackneyed and lazy?  Maybe, but I feel more organic and less meta, as well as not requiring a whole fabricated mysticism that has large holes in it.  Why could the Spear of Destiny/Holy Grail only affect superheroes?  What about the ones without powers?  Why couldn't they use it to control the populace of any area they controlled?  Etc...  This also feels more in line with what the Marvel comics did for WW2.  The Invaders where never really on the same power level as the JSA, but they had their hands full fighting the crazy Axis villains, magicians and other strange stuff.

But what about the retro-futurism?

Well not for me in the end.  The closest it will come is in the presentation of the big city of Centropolis, which will have more of that 1930's "City of the Future" vibe to it (I am also planning to revive my east-coast metropolis of Capitol City, yes it is spelled with a "o" for a reason, and eventually will look into a west-coast city as well).

As for the Dieselpunk, well that will just be the brush I will paint the Golden Age with, but not so omnipresent as to change the world.  It is, I have learned through this all, a spice, not a sauce.

Thanks for taking the time to read this series and travelling through my creative process with me.


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