Thursday, September 8, 2011
MASKS Commentary Track: Chapter 4
This is the oldest piece of Masks you’ll get to see, I think.
I began writing Rae Masterson’s adventures in January 1998, mostly to amuse myself and see if I could actually write a story every month. For a while, the serial was biweekly; I’d write a story every two weeks, and the people who’d become my friends (mostly by pilfering my notebook) would get to read another chapter. But you can’t expect brilliant decision-making from a fourteen-year-old, and after a couple of years and about 60 short stories, I started to get a little antsy. I wasn’t going to be a kid forever, and there were a few legal problems with the stories I’d written so far—namely, my penchant for having copyrighted characters swing by for a team-up. I thought nothing of having Captain America pop in for an issue, or having one of Rae’s friends have a long history with Lee Falk’s wonderful character The Phantom. Now, I wasn’t charging for these stories, and I was reasonably sure that no lawyer in his or her right mind was going to sue a fourteen-year-old for a few handwritten stories … but the fact was that by the time I was seventeen, I was a much better writer than I was at fourteen, and I wanted a do-over. So shortly after my seventeenth birthday, I rebooted a series that had been written as Rae’s diary and made it an ensemble piece. I called it Masks.
Trevor showed up in chapter two.
He was supposed to be a one-off character, a playful jab at a trend in the Bronze and Dark Ages of comic books where every kid sidekick seemed to meet a horrible and socially significant fate. From Speedy’s heroin addiction to Robin getting blown up to a hundred lesser sidekick traumas (turned evil! infected with AIDS! joined a pop band!), it seemed like kids couldn’t catch a break in comics. So I decided to create the ultimate screwed-up sidekick, someone who wouldn’t just be a tragic figure but would legitimately scare the hell out of readers.
And, as I’ve blogged before at length, I just couldn’t bring myself to kill the guy off on schedule. Trevor was badly damaged, yes, and he’d made some terrible choices, but underneath all that I knew that he just really, really, really wanted to be a hero. I write stories about heroes, about people trying to do the right thing. I have a soft spot for the guy who tries to do the right thing even though the deck is massively stacked against him. And what could be more heroic than a character who does battle not only with villains, but with himself? And so that chance meeting on the rooftop, which was supposed to end in a violent death, ended up being the start of a very complicated relationship. Trevor was supposed to be the bad boy of the supporting cast, but he fell in love with Rae, and eventually she with him. And he made it into the novel, and here he is, meeting her on the rooftop once again. The running and dancing have always been part of the story; his fear is new, but I think it keeps things fresh.
Some random notes on this chapter:
1. Roofrunning—I did not invent the word, or the concept. Superheroes have been roofrunning for at least 30 years, and calling it that for at least 15. They’re usually low-power heroes, guys who can’t fly and don’t have a fancy vehicle, and they creep and jump and run over rooftops in whatever neighborhood they protect. It’s a bit like parkour or freerunning, I suppose. I first ran into the concept in Daredevil comics from the 1980s, when David Mazzuchelli used the sequences to show off his ability to draw complex landscapes and lithe superhero anatomy. I picked up the word “roofrunner” from an issue of Nightwing that dated to … the late 1990s, I think, but don’t quote me. I know the phrase “rooftop express” was more common in that series, though. Anyway, roofrunning is officially a superhero tradition. So there.
2. I have had someone ask me why Trevor never asks anyone out loud why there are hoofprints on the rooftop. To which I answer: how would you start that conversation? And anyway he meets the Masked Rider later, which should answer everything.
3. Trevor’s rules really are going somewhere. Oh, that boy has a screwed-up brain.
This chapter’s musical selection pretty much proves I’m insane. A few years ago I had to review Michael Bublé’s album “Come Fly With Me” for my college paper. It was the first time I’d heard most of the standards he sings, including his cover of Van Morrison's “Moondance.” It struck me at the time as an interesting soundtrack to this very scene, since no matter how many ways I write it, it always takes place at night with enough light to see by, and it always begins with running and ends with dancing. So here’s “Moondance,” the official soundtrack for doubles roofrunning.