Tuesday, September 13, 2011

MASKs Commentary Track: Chapter 5

Thischapter was the  new twist on the very old idea that appeared in the last chapter. While the meeting between Rae and Trevor has always gone this way, what they do after has changed a lot. This time, I had quite a few people asking me how the characters might each establish that the other was one of the good guys. And when I thought back over all the ways that superheroes might prove their bona fides, there were really only two major ways. They can be introduced by a mutually trusted superhero (“Hey, Batman, it’s Superman. I want you to meet Captain Marvel. He’s probably not useless.”) or they can end up on the same side of the same fight.

For street-level heroes, that pretty much means stopping a street-level robbery, rape, or murder. I liked the idea of the convenience store that gets robbed all the time, especially since Captain Catastrophe is so much a creature of habit, so it made sense to have it get robbed again and have Mr. Chaidez be completely unfazed by the event, or even by Rae’s lack of a costume. This chapter gave me a chance to show off Rae’s relative discomfort with real-world criminals (this is her first real encounter with a gun) and Trevor’s easy facility with weapons.

Side note: the gun disarm Trevor uses is a real disarm, which I borrowed from krav maga practitioner John Konecsni, author of A Pius Man. John very kindly walked me through the whole process several times, and even sent me a couple of videos of the disarm. So there really is a solid, simple way to take a gun like this … I just didn’t include the precise details because it would slow down the scene and, since it took me three viewings of the video to catch what was going on, I figured Rae wouldn’t observe everything on the first try, in the dark, under stress. Character trumped technique here. (I also went with the simpler form of the disarm because it matched Trevor's mixed-style training.) But trust me, the gun disarm really does work.

This chapter also brings up, for the first time, the question of superheroes and guns. There are a lot of adherents of the Batman school in comics—good guys who will never, ever, ever use a gun. This may seem a little illogical for those who don’t have horrific childhood traumas involving firearms, but it makes life a lot easier for the writers. It’s hard to write the amazing adventures of Shooting-People Man without racking up an impressive body count. The Punisher already covers that territory, and any more principled use of firearms easily devolves into a standard cop drama. Unless you make the story about the gun—have your hero be a master of Gun Fu, etc.—firearms can really take the fun out of a written fight scene. So a lot of comic-book writers go out of their way to avoid making their heroes regular gun users, and that’s why Rae doesn’t know how to shoot. (This is also because I don’t know how to shoot, and don’t currently have the resources to pay for professional instruction for the sake of research—and I’m not stupid enough to pick up a gun and try to learn how to use it without an experienced professional helping me.)

Trevor, however, is pretty darn good with guns.

There are a couple of reasons for this. As the series goes on, you’ll find out more about his training and discover that he’s unusually good with projectile weapons of all kinds—his trademark weapon as a kid sidekick was a simple sling, and he’s an excellent shot with shuriken, throwing knives, etc. There’s something in his brain that works well with the physics of flying objects, and that extends to both bullets and arrows. (More on the arrows later.) 

The second reason is that I can’t imagine Jude training Trevor without making him familiar with guns. So much of their job involves gun-wielding villains and henchmen, plus the occasional cop with the wrong idea (because what superhero hasn’t been accused at some point of, say, murdering police officers in cold blood?) that they’d have to be experienced at avoiding getting shot, taking guns away from people, and (if necessary) using them. And Trevor, as you can see here, gets just a little scary when there’s a gun in his hands. Not all of his gun training came from his mentor. More on that later.

And oh, hey, this chapter marks the first time Trevor and Rae flirt with each other! Watch for the phrase “Blue Eyes” in later chapters … it will come to mean something rather different. 

By the way, I'm not a fan of the illustration on this chapter (and neither is Nicole), so it may change in the eventual ebook and printed versions. You have been warned.

This chapter’s musical selection is almost inevitable, since I privately refer to this chapter as “Everybody run, Trevor’s got a gun.” I give you Julie Brown’s timeless “The Homecoming Queen’s Got A Gun”:


  1. Can I say "nice post" without sounding self-satisfied? :)

  2. Probably not, but you can still say it. :)