8FOLD: Daylighters # 5, "Dark Future"

Tom Russell joltcity at gmail.com
Wed Jan 30 23:25:38 PST 2019

On Wednesday, January 30, 2019 at 11:20:32 PM UTC-5, Scott Eiler wrote:
> On 2019-01-27 19:19, Tom Russell wrote:
> > In the half-second it takes Julie Ann's eyes to flutter open, she has
> > three thoughts simultaneously. This isn't anything new or surprising;
> > one of the perks of being an alien with two brains is she has a lot
> > more processing power than a human with only one. (One of the
> > downsides? Double migraines.)
> One thing I like about this story, is how it treats its Leading Hero of 
> the World.  (She's your Superman-counterpart, right?)

Yes and no.

I mean, she's the sole survivor of another planet, sent to Earth as an infant, raised by kindly midwesterners, has a host of strange and incredible powers - so I'm definitely working within that archetype. The character's first appearance, way back in JOURNEY INTO number... two? three? ... cast her very much in a Superman-like role, and cast her fiance, Max, in a gender-swapped Lois Lane kind of role (though he is ten thousand times less awesome than Lois, Silver Age Lois is a delight). She even had a super-powered pet - the cat Docrates, the Mighty Supragato - who is canonically (if tongue-in-cheekily) the lead hero of the world.

(The real Doc, one of our cats, passed in twenty-sixteen. I've been unable to write about the fictional one since then, even in passing. He was too young.)

The joke in the original Julie Ann and Max story is that Max gets completely dumb super-powers but becomes insanely (and ironically) popular, so much so that Julie Ann is treated as ancillary to him by fandom and the press. There's a hint of sexism there that was expanded upon quite a bit in the NONFICTION story "Justice for Julie Ann", which gives a brief history of her career.

The even-briefer version is that she debuted as a teenaged hero in a time when there weren't teenaged heroes anymore, and was a fairly inspiration figure for a number of then-kids and teenagers who grew up to be superheroes - Knockout Mouse is a good example. She was hyper-competent but her accomplishments would frequently be overlooked - she had to be ten times better than any other hero to be taken seriously.

Her husband accidentally started the Pulse War - well, not really, but he was the excuse that the Pulse used to hide their true motivations - but she took the brunt of the blame for it, resulting in increasingly ugly and misogynistic conspiracy theories, harassment, etc.

(I remember when that issue of Nonfiction went out in 2015, talking to a couple of people both on RACC and off it, who felt that the story captured a certain toxic tendency in fandom, but that they couldn't see that kind of insular thing going wider or targeting a public figure who would be something like the equivalent of the politician. And, oh man, after the last few years, do I wish they had been right. If anything, I think that story undersells it.)

One thing I've tried to do as Julie Ann has become more of a focal character is emphasize two qualities: her super-competence and her alienness. She's kind and she's humane but she's not human, and there needs to be reminders of the gulf between her and everyone else, the loneliness. Incidentally, this is the thing that makes her a poor Superman analogue; no matter how Kryptonian he is, Superman is achingly and profoundly a human being. Clark, not Kal-El. He's not some god from space above the rest of us; he is instead the best of us, what we could be [emotionally, mentally, morally if not physically] and that's what makes him an inspirational figure.

She was/is inspirational in-canon but also inspires a lot of irrational and sexist hatred that's quite unlike Superman's worldwide popularity. As she's been taking more of a central role - rather than feeding straight lines for Max's shenanigans - and as that sexism/hatred has become amplified by the Pulse War, Julie Ann is in a place where she gives zero effs. She knows she's good at the job, and she's going to get the job done, and screw what anyone else has to say about it.

This makes her very much a "task leader" instead of a "social leader", which would be another key point of differentiation - Superman is both of these things, because of course he is. :-) Julie Ann's all-business approach is more like 90s Batman I think. Bethany (Knockout Mouse) is similar - witness her lack of patience for Violinista in # 4 and for Klutz in # 1. That might be due to her own shyness (it's easier to overcome that by focusing on non-social dynamics) and it might also be how much she looks up to and admires Julie Ann.

Come to think of it, Darkhorse has a similar leadership style, though that's probably borne more from the fact that she's used to doing things on her own - she doesn't really _need_ anybody else. (Social leaders: Derek for sure - though he's often ineffectual. Strikeout - we saw a little bit of this in # 4 where he defused the Knockout Mouse-Violinista situation in the sewers. Cal probably fits the bill as well, though that's giving away spoilers for the next arc.)

Anyway, I'm rambling. So -- she's like Superman in certain archetypal ways, but not so much that I would call her an analogue in any meaningful way, or where I would use the character to tell "Superman stories". Hope that makes sense; it's two am and I'm only awake because I'm shivering from the cold.

> >    Claire turns toward the sound. There's a woman in something that
> > looks approximately like Claire's own costume, carrying an umbrella.
> > It's the same umbrella that Claire has on her own person - the same
> > exact umbrella.
> >    "I'm you from the future," says the woman.
> I'm not sure what to make of Claire.  I guess I'll keep reading and find 
> out.

Well, that's the idea. :-) My nefarious plot is working!

I think this issue probably does more to humanize her than any of her previous appearances; it's the first time we've really been inside her head instead of watching from the outside. She doesn't really know how to "person" very well and I think that's sad and interesting though every other time I've done a character like that no one else thought it was sad or interesting, so, uh, we'll see. :-)

What we know about Claire from MANCERS is that while she's employed by The Company, she's neither working for them or against them, but is striving to maintain balance between The Company and the secret circle - to keep the "midnight war" going forever and without end. She is hiding the existence of the Company and the midnight war from the superhero community at large and the Daylighters in particular. The Company has an interest in Cradle Tech and FEVER, and so she is also working with them, and with Caracalla directly.

And as part of that she's done some very bad stuff including a few murders here and there. Claire has a set of values and priorities that motivate her, values and priorities that are clear and consistent *for* *her* - we just haven't been told what they all are yet. One thing I am trying to be careful to avoid is having the eventual revelation absolve her or excuse her actions, and to leave the question of who she is - hero? villain? somewhere inbetween? - up to the readers. I want to give context so that people can understand what she's done, without explicitly asking the reader to condone it. And part of that is the emotional context - someone who is confused when others are kind to her, and even more confused when she herself is kind in return.

Thanks for reading! Arc should be wrapping up this coming weekend.



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