[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #45 - September 2007 [spoilers]

Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Sun Nov 11 18:21:24 PST 2007

On Nov 10, 12:32 pm, Martin Phipps <martinphip... at yahoo.com> wrote:

>  There's no longer the need to make all characters
> likable, although obviously one would try to make them all
> interesting.

Well, a character doesn't have to be likeable to be interesting.  TAXI
DRIVER unfolds solely from the point of view of Travis Bickle-- but
I'd hardly call him likeable.

> You seem to be endorsing the value of individual accomplishment
> whereas most ensemble casts are there to endorse the value of team
> effort.

Well, I'm really trying to endorse both; as Martin Rock has noted
himself within the pages of Jolt City, he's done more good working
with others than by himself.

> I learn more about people based on how they interact with other people
> and in order for the interaction to seem real then the other character
> must also seem real: it isn't enough for the other character to just
> be there in a supporting role because that makes then either basically
> part of the setting, a foil for the main character or a contrivance to
> further the plot.  You can't have an effective romance focusing on a
> single character, for example.  A lot of the suspense in drama comes
> from irony and from wondering how the secondary characters will react
> when they find out the truth: this suspense won't work if the
> secondary characters aren't developed as much as the primary
> characters.  The problem with following the primary character
> everywhere and never leaving the room to observe secondary characters
> in isolation is that we only ever see the secondary characters from
> the main character's point of view.  They seem less real in that case,
> almost like puppets.

All fair points.

> I feel the opposite.  I've always used to write short stories that
> focused on one character and they would end up being too short.
> Subplots are a great tool to use if you want your pacing to come out
> just right: a subplot can be developed separately from the main story
> and then eventually be brought to the forefront.  This is a great way
> to show the passage of time.

Another fair point.

>  One thing about the TV show Law and
> Order that is a bit annoying is that it follows a single case from
> beginning to end in a single episode even though in real life the case
> would take months to pan out.  So if you look at the 22 plus episodes
> of Law and Order that come out in a year, you have to assume that
> these cases were actually being tried in parallel instead of one after
> the other.  It would be interesting if they actually tried to do the
> show that way instead of focusing on a single case in each episode,
> but of course it would be much, much harder to write because the
> wiewers would get hopelessly confused given the number of cases they
> are dealing with at the same time.

I think that singleness of focus is a positive in Law and Order, which
I still think is the greatest television show ever made.

> To be blunt, if you are going to do an ensemble in the future then you
> won't be obligated to make secondary characters look like idiots in
> order to elevate the status of the central character.  You admitted to
> doing that vis-a-vis Martin and Darkhorse in Jolt City #11.

That's not _exactly_ what I said, and I don't think I was doing that
in # 11.  What I said was:

"In his original appearance
(the new Darkhorse is, somewhat obviously, the very same man who was
Fleetfeet in JOURNEY INTO... # 3), he's far more competent and
intelligent-- if a bit cocky.  I think in having him play a foil to
the Green Knight, and in attempting to make the Green Knight look
in his own series, I've perhaps made him look a little too dumb.

At the same time, if you look at his appearances in Jolt City (with
the exception of Martin handing his ass to him with a car), he _is_
fairly competent, almost to a god-like degree: he saves countless
lives during the park massacre, almost single-handedly liberates the

In many ways, just as the original Fleetfeet story was inspired by an
old Superman story, the Green Knight-Darkhorse Team is inspired by
World's Finest superheroes, Batman* and Superman, and the dichotomy
there-- street-level superhero without powers, teamed up with a god--
is the same in both incarnations.  I think if Martin didn't do things
like tell the Snails that Darkhorse's name was Dipshit that Martin
would look kind of lame in comparision."

So, rather than elevating Martin at the expense of Darkhorse, I was
having Martin deflate Darkhorse to prevent his own deflation.  So I'm
not saying that Darkhorse isn't cool, but rather that Martin has to
make himself feel cool in order to not look like a potzer.

In the case of # 11, the way he beats Darkhorse has everything to do
with the circumstances and with Martin's intelligence.  It'd be
somewhat like having Batman defeat Superman, which happened in Frank
Miller's DKR-- no one says that Miller's making Superman look like an
idiot in order to elevate Batman.  What I'm saying isn't "Darkhorse is
lame and the Green Knight is cool"; what I'm saying is, "Green Knight
doesn't have any powers, but he's pretty cool too".  It's a fine
distinction, but one that I feel is important to keep in mind.

>  I
> personally hate it when authors do that.  I realise that, to a certain
> extent, I make the supers in Superfreaks out to be idiots to elevate
> the cops but the typical approach of superhero stories is to make the
> cops look like complete idiots, little better than the Keystone cops
> of silent films.  The old Batman TV show was particularly bad in this
> sense: when a crime was committed, did Comissioner Gordon
> investigate?  Did he have his men old looking for who did it?  No, he
> called Batman every single time.  What the Hell did he ever do when he
> didn't have Batman to call?

Well, the old Batman TV series was a comedy, and so I'd cut it a bit
more lee-way. :-)

I think your Superfreaks is more effective when you concentrate on the
police and how they have to deal with the heroes and super-crimes/
supernatural phenomena.  When the focus is split more evenly between
police and heroes, or moves over to heroes pretty much entirely--
where the focus switches to the heroes and big action fights rather
than the police work-- I feel that the series suffers.

>  And the whole "I'm wrongly accused and
> need to clear my name" plot (as seen in the TV shows The Futigive and
> Prison Break) usually has the effect of making the police look like
> idiots (the exception being the movie The Futigive which cut back and
> forth between Harrison Ford's character and Tommy Lee Jones' character
> and we got to see them separately figure out who the real killer was).

Which is another fine argument for a ensemble story (or, at least, a
story with multiple points of view).

And, speaking of pet peeves, it's Tommy Lee Jones's character, not
Tommy Lee Jones' character. :-)

> It's a personal pet peeve.  Just as making the supers less than
> perfect seems to be a pet peeve of yours.

Wait, wait, _what_?

You're implying that my characters are _perfect_?  That's news to
me. :-)

The whole reason why I concentrated on one point of view for these
past eleven installments of JOLT CITY is to get the reader into the
head of Martin Rock, and see both his flaws and his virtues.  I take
it from your point-of-view I've failed in this regard?  That Martin is
actually some kind of flat perfect paragon of virtue?


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