[STARFALL] Swamp Patrol #24 "Not a Hoax, Not a Dream!"

Jamie Rosen jamie.rosen at sunlife.com
Sat Mar 4 19:49:06 PST 2006

Low Budget Productions presents,
A Starfall Comics comic:

"Not a Hoax, Not a Dream!"
	Continuity Breakdowns, part seven

	      [COVER: The cover is a plain white
              space. Beneath the logo for the
              Swamp Patrol, someone has scrawled
              in blood "is dead."]

When Jaime's smile shrank back to her face, they were no longer in a
saloon. They were no longer in Pavillion, or Texas, or wherever they'd
been. They were in a study. There were bookshelves lining three of the
walls, and a picture window along the fourth. She was sitting at a desk
with an array of pens and paper in front of her; he stood three paces
away, directly in her line of sight.

"I've always wanted to do this," she said.

"Do what?" he asked.

"Kill you. Every last one of you. But I had to wait, and I'm glad I
did. It just wouldn't have been as *satisfying* to have wiped you out
back when you were facing Black Cat, or Alley Cat, or whatever the Hell
her name was."

"I don't understand."

She chuckled. "Of course you don't. That was never your job, was it?
That was Frank's job, or sometimes Brill's, or even Pete's or Shelly's
-- those two sure weren't much good for anything else." She looked
shocked for a moment. "But how rude of me. Please, do have a seat."

A seat appeared before him, and despite his better judgement Ted sat
down, now within an arm's reach of the desk's itself.

"You must have a lot of questions," Jaime continued. "Most people don't
get this opportunity -- to meet their God like this. Nobody, actually,
as far as I can remember. So you're the first! You must be proud."

"Proud? Proud?! You killed my friends!"

She waved her hands dismissively. "Oh please, like you could say they
were ever really alive in the first place. Go here, do this,
investigate that, eat some pizza. Where was the life? The love? The --
the je-ne-sais-quoi? They're better off now."

He wanted to lunge for her, but didn't.

"Good, good," she remarked. "You're thinking back to your comics,
aren't you? Trying to find an analogy, to figure out how I can be
defeated, my doings undone. Who am I like? The Beyonder? The Spectre?
Thanos? One of the demons of Hell?" She laughed. "Keep thinking, Ted.
Keep searching. Maybe you'll figure something out. Maybe, if you clap
hard enough and really believe, Tinkerbell will come back to life!"

"Shut up."

"You can't shut up the voice of God, Ted. You should remember that --
don't you remember your friend Redemption?"

She conjured up an image of what he had been like as one of
Redemption's Disciples.

"Don't you remember? You tried to kill your friends -- those same
friends you're so mad about me having done away with. Really, now, if
you didn't *want* them dead, you never would have tried to kill them,
would you? Try some of that soul-searching that's all the rage with
troubled heroes like you -- you might even like what you find."

With a gesture, the image disappeared once more.

"And when you saw Donna and your brother kissing," she kept on, "a part
of you wanted to kill them both, didn't it? Don't bother to deny it --
I can see right through you to what your true thoughts are, even if you
can't see them yourself." She sighed. "But I talk too much. Why don't
you fight for me?"

Before he could react, the study dissolved into a decaying urban
wasteland, and he found himself facing a man in a green leotard with
bulky white gauntlets. A man who looked just like his brother.

"I know you've always been jealous of me, Ted," Frank said, green
energy crackling around his gauntlets. "Jealous of my brains. Jealous
of the fact I wasn't a freak like you. I've always known it, Ted, and
it's made me smile." He unleashed a blast that Ted narrowly avoided,
shattering a concrete plantholder behind him. "It's made me laugh. Why
shouldn't you be jealous of me?" Another blast tore a chunk out of the
ground before his feet.

"Why don't you fight back?" Jaime's voice said in Ted's ear. "Oh,
that's right! I took away your powers, didn't I?" She chuckled. "Well,
here, have them back. Use them well. Entertain me."

Ted felt a change wash over him, like the sudden unplugging of an ear
that had been blocked for weeks. If he could find something to focus
through, he had no doubt that he could fire back at the man who was
attacking him. But why should he bother?

"No," he said.

Frank paused in mid-blast.

"What do you mean no?" Jaime's voice hissed in his ear. "This is what
you *do*!"

"No." Ted sat down cross-legged on the street. "No, it's not."


Frank and the ruined city landscape disappeared, replaced once again by
Jaime and the office they had been in before. There was a look of
suppressed fury on her face.

"You people and your free will!" she spat. "I should have known better
than to let you have it in the first place." Suddenly, her demeanour
changed. "But maybe I've misjudged you, Theodore. Perhaps you are a
lover, not a fighter."


She blinked.

"I know your type," Ted said. "I know the sort of thing you have
planned. Maybe you try to convince me that Donna wants to seduce me.
Offer me two or three women at once, tell me that you 'know what it is
I really want', try to convince me to give in to some long-buried
desire or other. Well, sorry, but I don't *have* any long-buried
desires -- not like those. I fully admit I have feelings for Donna.
She's my best friend, of *course* the thought has crossed my mind that
maybe we could be more than that. But I've never tried to hide it from
myself, so it has no power over me."


He wouldn't let her keep going. Some God she was. "But what about
Shelly, or Janice, or both, or maybe some other girl -- the whole
cheerleader team? I'm a guy. I'm a typical guy. Sure, maybe I can shoot
energy beams -- maybe some people might think of me as a walking
arsenal -- but I'm still a man, just like any other. If you think
you'll throw me off my game by offering me untold sexual fantasies
fulfilled, you're SOL, lady. That stuff only works in the comics. And
another thing." He walked towards the desk and picked up a ballpoint
pen from in front of her and started examining it. "Your schtick is
played out. You're God? Yeah right. What next -- you're a writer, I'm
your creation, blah blah blaah? I read Animal Man. I read She-Hulk.
I've seen Tom Stoppard plays. None of that can throw me anymore. Here,
let's have a metaphor for you."

He pointed the pen at one of the three walls covered in bookshelves and
concentrated. A cone of red energy shot out from the pen's tip,
destroying the wall and exposing the world outside. He then pointed at
the wall across the way and did the same, then again to the wall behind
him, destroying all the bookshelves in the room and leaving only the
fourth wall standing.

"Heavy-handed?" he asked. "You might think so. I don't really care. Now
stand up."

She stayed in her seat.

"Stand the @%#$ up."

She did as she was told.

"Now turn around," he said, gesturing with the pen. "Look out that
window. What do you see?" She turned around. "You see trees -- sky --
grass -- birds -- clouds? You see a world, don't you?"

She nodded.

"Could you tell me every *single* thing you see? If I went out there
and went over that hill, would you know for certain what I would find?"

She shook her head.

"Of course not. Because you're nothing more than me. Nothing better
than me. You call yourself a God because you can play a couple of card
tricks and break the ice at parties, you waltz in and try to make me
think you're behind all the stuff that we've been through, try to sell
me on the fact that 'Oh no, you killed my friends.' Well, I call
'bullsh*t' on that, lady! I know the world I live in and I know it
doesn't have room for crap like that. There's a difference between the
real world and the stories, and you think that just because my world is
a little closer to those stories than most, I'm going to fall all over
myself convinced that the whole world's turned into a comic book? Fat
chance. I'm *tired* of this, I'm tired of the lies and the make-believe
and all the nonsense I've had to go through all these years, and to be
perfectly frank, I'm not going to put up with it anymore." He chuckled,
looking at her with her standing with her back to him, her uncertainty
reflected in the windowpane. "You know, this kind of reminds me of a
scene some time ago... I think it went a little something like this."

Ted aimed the pen and closed his eyes. A bolt of energy shot out from
the tip and struck her in the back of her head -- and let loose the
words and fleshy bits her skull had held together, splintering the
window and letting the world rush in.

	*               *                       *               *

Michael Srinivathan knocked on his sister's door. "You ready to go?" he
asked, sticking his head around the corner.

"Yeah, yeah, just a minute," she said, rolling off of the bed. "Jeez, I
was just getting to the good part."

He looked at the graphic novel she held in her hand. _Swamp Patrol_. "I
ever tell you I know the people that's based on?"

"Only about every day!" she exclaimed, tossing it onto her dresser.
"Did they really beat that Writer Goddess like that?"

He smiled at her. "Not really. The world's not so weird as those
stories. They're just normal guys, like you or me. No Writer Goddess,
no pirates, no mole-men. Lots of pizza, though."

"Mmm... pizza...."

"Now go get your boots on, it's time to go."

"Fine, fine."

She left him alone in the room, and he picked up the comic, flipping to
the last page: the final panel was still only a sketchy outline.
Closing his eyes and concentrating, he gripped the incandescent threads
of the universe and began to weave -- he had to make it quick, or else
his sister would wonder what was taking him.

Satisfied, he released the threads and opened his eyes. The panel was
complete, and he had to admit he'd outdone himself this time. With all
the work he'd put into wrapping things up, his employer might even give
him a bonus.

He placed the graphic novel back on the dresser and went out to join
his sister in the hallway, pausing to look back into her room. If he
didn't get that bonus... well, comic book heroes had a way of coming
back, almost as often as the villains.



Afterward: "The Death of the Author"

And so ends perhaps the least-satisfying run of my mature RACC career.
Aside from the abortive attempts I made in my teens to write six
hundred series at once, I think that my time with Swamp Patrol has
probably been my worst -- from my own perspective; I won't presume to
speak about how readers feel about it.

Several things contributed to this. For one, when I took over Swamp
Patrol, I wasn't nearly as good a writer as I thought I was. I'm
*still* not as good a writer as I thought I was back then... so I tried
to do things I couldn't do, which is a good way to learn and grow as a
writer, but not necessarily a good way to produce stories people will
want to read. I did my best at the time, but I think it was obvious
that I'd bitten off more than I could chew.

Another problem was that I found myself feeling like Swamp Patrol had
two or three protagonists too many. I couldn't pin down which ones I
felt were extraneous, and I was all too conscious of the fact that I
was playing in someone else's sandbox with someone else's toys. I
couldn't very well bring myself to throw any of them away, for fear
that when he came back, he'd want to play with them again. So I tried
to juggle seven characters, most of whom I never really got a handle
on, and keep my own interest in the series from flagging while I did
so. When you don't really connect with your characters, it's hard to
stick with them; I'll be honest, I *still* can't remember if it's
Shelly or Shelley, and I still had to go back and check once in a while
to make sure I had the right characters with the right traits.

I think the Swamp Patrol could be a really good series. Heck, I think
the Swamp Patrol *written by me* could have been a really good series,
if I'd set my sights a little lower or taken it over a few years later.

But in all honesty, the problems weren't entirely my own. Going back to
look at the series before I came on board, I have this feeling that
none of the previous writers were ever certain where they were going,
either, and were never comfortable with the number of characters there
were. I mean, if you look back at the issue where the team introduces
themselves to Inspector Carruthers, everyone does something cool to
introduce themselves, and then Frank says "And this is Shelley" and she

That's it. She just waves.

If I had clued into that earlier (which would have required more
maturity as a writer) I would have grabbed her as the central character
of my run and explored her role when surrounded by people who could
shoot laser blasts or change shape or had a history of killing
vampires. Ah well.

So I hope you've enjoyed my run on Swamp Patrol more than I've enjoyed
writing it. Don't get me wrong, it's been a good experience -- just one
that's left me a little disappointed in myself. I'm not giving up on
the characters entirely -- I have a science fiction story in the works
based roughly on a reinvention of the characters in a different milieu
-- but if Arsenal ever comes along and asks me to hand the reins back
to him, I'll do so quite happily. Aside from the aforementioned SF
story, I'm pretty much done.

Michael and some of the other supporting characters, however, may turn
up in something else down the line. Maybe a Starfall title, maybe

Thanks for making it this far.

--Jamie Rosen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
02-19-2005, 11:23 PM

*Swamp Patrol #24 contents Copyright 2005 Jamie Rosen.             *
*Swamp Patrol Copyright Ted Brock, other characters copyright 2005 *
*Jamie Rosen                                                       *

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