META/POLL: The Purpose of Criticism

Tom Russell milos_parker at
Wed Feb 20 20:20:40 PST 2008

On Feb 20, 7:46 pm, Martin Phipps <martinphip... at> wrote:
> On Feb 20, 11:24 pm, Tom Russell <milos_par... at> wrote:
> > On Feb 20, 9:51 am, Martin Phipps <martinphip... at> wrote:
> > > I thought you'd say that.  But then there'd be absolutely no reason to
> > > present character witnesses in trial if people's behaviour were that
> > > unpredictable.  Your point seems to be that people are unpredictable
> > > and that's what makes them interesting.  I obviously disagree.  A
> > > person may be interesting because you don't know exactly what they are
> > > going to do next but if their behaviour were quite so random you'd
> > > soon lose interest in them.
> > I see your point there, at least as far as art goes-- in life, someone
> > who is consistently surprising would not lose my interest.  But in
> > art, and especially when working in prose (less so in film), one needs
> > to have some kind of center, something that ties the threads together.
> > Saxon's noted Martin Rock's tendency to bottle things up and then make
> > a stupid decision when all this energy has nowhere to go-- and I think
> > that's a big thread running through his "inconsistencies".
> Maybe but that's more of an interpretation than something that came
> directly from your writing.

Well, that's something that I knew when I was writing the character
and that I put into the writing consciously.  Did I spell it out?
No.  There's no scene where someone says, "the problem with you,
Martin Rock, is that you bottle things up inside and then you make bad
decisions as a result of the building pressure and your anxieties
about your failures to perform".  Because if I was a reader and I read
that scene, I would feel insulted frankly.

>  When Ray's son threatens to reveal that
> Martin was the Mask with No Name, Martin's "face went white" but we
> didn't know what he was thinking.  In previous series such as
> Net.Heroes on Parade or Speak or even the original Green Knight series
> (up to that point), you were always able to get inside a person's head
> so that everybody, including new readers, could understand why your
> characters behaved the way they did.  In all this time, I don't think
> we've gotten to know Martin as well as we got to know Greggory, for
> example.  I realize now that you were laying the groundwork for
> Martin's character with all those flashbacks in the Green Knight but,
> at the time, they just seemed to detract from Ray Crandle's story.

Actually, I wasn't planning on continuing the story after The Green
Knight series, and the Green Knight was not intended to be Ray's story
but the story of both the father (Ray) and his sons (Anders and
Martin).  Once Ray becomes bedridden (issue 3, I think) he pretty much
fades to the background and the focus switched to the two sons.

> > There's
> > also the fact that he's moving from solitude and self-reliance to
> > dependence on and interaction with others.
> Perhaps.  But I doubt if he was wearing his Mask with No Name costume
> for fifteen years straight.  (It would have started to smell.)  Martin
> Rock had to eat and he supposedly "got by on odd jobs" as he told the
> FBI.  He had to have formed some relationships in those years in that
> there had to have been people who knew him and saw him every once in a
> while.

Well, first of all, it was ten years and not fifteen.  But perhaps a
lot of these questions might be cleared up if we go over the
character's history again.  I don't mention these things every time,
because I feel anything pertinent pretty much comes up in the text of
the story.  I see what you were saying about the most recent issue of
Jolt City, and perhaps I should have reminded the reader within that
same issue about Martin's time as the mask with no name.

But, let's look at what _has_ been established about Martin Rock
explicitly in the actual stories.

Okay, so he starts out as the kid sidekick to the Green Knight at the
age of twelve or thirteen and does so until he's in his early
thirties.  Ray gives him a job at Cradle Industries and teaches him
all sorts of superhero stuff.

Now, you maintain that Martin should not be intelligent or
particularly educated because of this vocation.  Leaving out the
question of college-- which has never been established one way or the
other, because I didn't think it was relevant-- leaving that out,
let's look at your assertion, which comes down to this:

Spending most of one's time for twenty years being mentored by a self-
made billionaire and technological genius, Martin Rock wouldn't have
picked up any kind of meaningful knowledge?  Because Ray Cradle would
have *nothing* to teach him about science, economics, history, and
superheroing-- superheroing being comprised not only of combat but of
psychology, detection, and undercover work?  And the same Ray that
ensured that Martin was fluent in several different languages didn't
give him any kind of education or training at all?

In his late twenties he served in the Iraq War.  Afterwards, he went
back to being the sidekick until 1994 or 1995, when he becomes the
mask with no name.  He lives in a number of abandoned supervillain
hideouts, which would of course never have any kind of television or
internet connection.  He would never have access to a newspaper
either, and despite preferring to read nonfiction, he would of course
never read.  Is that what you're saying?

He uses his disguise training to infiltrate gangs and squeeze
information from informants that he uses in his one-man ten-year war
on crime; his odd jobs were _just_ this side of legal and always under
an alias.  That's pretty much his only real "social" contact.  He is a
social dropout, and probably would not keep up on cultural things.

But to suggest that he'd have no idea what's going in the world, or
that he would somehow be less intelligent-- I just don't see where
you're coming from with this.

>  if the reader is confused about
> why a character behaves the way he does then it is going to take him
> out of the story.

To be frank?  I think it's explained in the stories themselves.  I
mean, when he waffles on these issues, he does actually waffle on them
and take them apart.  If you don't see it, you don't see it, and I'm
not saying that's necessarily your fault.  People have been telling me
for years that Ulysses is a great and funny book, that Joyce is
wonderful-- but, y'know, I still don't see it.

Different people have different tastes, and I think that perhaps Jolt
City's just not to your taste.


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