Thursday, October 12

Chance Fortune and the Outlaws

by Shane Berryhill
Starscape Books 2006

I've got an idea. Let's take Harry Potter and instead of making him a half-breed wizard lets turn him into a wannabe superhero without any powers. We'll put him in a superhero academy, a world-within-a-world, a parallel Earth where the twenty-first century looks exactly the way it was imagined in 1950's comic books. And let's surround him with a misfit bunch of superhero friends -- we'll call them the Outlaws -- who find themselves at odds with another group of mean and nasty superhero nemises -- we'll call them The Invincibles. Oh! Let's not forget to infuse the school with superhero professors who all seem to have their own agendas, and who may or may not be under the spell of a dark force from beyond. And instead of an aerial football-type game lets make the different superhero training teams do battles with each other, where they can pick their battlefields like a video game! Yow!

Wait, that's too easy. We need to work the comic book angle some more. Got it: name all the buildings on campus after big names in the comic book realm. Kirby Coliseum after Jack Kirby. Waid, MacFarlane and Buscema Halls after Mark Waid, Todd MacFarlane and John Buscema. Don't forget Stan Lee for the Lee Old Main building ('nuff said). But stay away from using Steve Ditko's name because that guy is likely to make a stink and his politics are a little iffy. Hmm, let's see, what else. Okay, so for the teachers, how can I make them vaguely resemble characters from Marvel comic books without getting sued? I could turn Thor into a female character, that could work. Make one of the teens like Mr. Fantastic from the Fantastic Four but I'll give him a name like another character... call him Private Justice and give him traits from Captain America. Throw in some X-Men- or New Mutant-like characters, add a goth girl to make it hip, toss in a kid that becomes Hulk-like, find a variation on The Thing. Yeah, this is coming together nicely.

Let's throw everyone off their track a bit by calling comics 'funny books.' That's archaic enough that it'll sound like it's from another world! I could also have the kids say things like 'holy schnikees!' because I doubt any of them remembers Chris Farley, much less have seen Tommy Boy. Wouldn't it be great to have kids going around saying that? Kinda like a code word! I could also use that Babylon 5 word flarn like a cuss word!

Now, what else do kids like these days? Video games and anime. No problem. Make one of the battle teams a group of anime characters, that's easy. Make sure all the battle scenes play out like video games where players choose their battles and match skills. Or like those card games kids play, what are they called? Warhammer? This is too easy. Fish in a barrel.

I'm feeling like I need to toss in some more details. I know, every time I talk about the guys who are physically developed I'll make sure to mention that their muscle ripple like iron beneath their outfits. (Does it sound like a romance novel to say that? Say, maybe that will keep the girls interested!) It sounds too fay to mention leotards or unitards -- tards just has a different meaning to kids these days -- so I'll just call everything tights. For the girls all I need to do is describe their hair and what their clothes look like. I wonder if anyone has ever used a redhead as a fiery personality?

A funny thought just came to me: what if when they're in the cafeteria the food dispensers only issue soylent! Not green, because that's too obvious, but what about soylent red or soylent yellow? Yeah, that breakfast scene in The Island just reminded me of that. It's like two movie references in one! What are some other movies I liked... Gattaca? Already got that I-cheated-my-way-into-the-academy thing going. Ooo! This is funny! I'll have an alien named Orson from the planet Shazzbot! No kid's going to get a Mork and Mindy reference! And speaking of Orson, I think I'll throw in a reference to that War of the Worlds radio broadcast and mention Grovers Mill, New Jersey. Yeah. Gotta work in some of those old sci-fi serials from the 30s and 40s... but how?

You know, I understand that kids these days don't read as much so maybe I better help them out. I think that whenever I can I'm going to either have them describe what just happened or explain what they just said. I know the rule is 'show, don't tell' but a little show-and-tell doesn't hurt, does it? I want them to understand that they're in a different world, that these things are unusual. It isn't that I don't trust them to understand on their own, it's just that I want it to be real to them, and everyone knows that repetition helps you remember things better. It may read a little clunky but, hey! it's from another dimension, right?

It would have been easier if my agent just could have sold the manuscript directly to the movie studios and jumped the book publishing step, but everyone knows that if you want to get a movie made these days it's easier to have it published than to sell the screenplay first. I'm sure that some snarky reviewer out there is going to try and nail me to a tree for all my pop culture references, but so what? It's my book and if he wants to shut up and show me how it's done then he can go right ahead. It isn't like anything he -- or any other adult -- says is going to matter once the kids get hold of the book. Those kids aren't going to read reviews of books, they're just going to pick them up and start reading. And once they see what I've jammed into this sucker, well, they'll be impressed.

Unlike some freelance reviewer trying to show off how smart he is by pointing out all the pop culture references in a over-recycled teen potboiler that didn't really rate this much attention in a blog.

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