Scribbler’s Saga #83 – Team Building for Dummies

Posted: April 16, 2019 in Uncategorized

© 2019 G.N. Jacobs

Assuming you care for the why of the silence about the superhero opera bloviated about some months back; I don’t have anything remotely like a libretto. At the moment, it’s a character problem and so Scribbler’s Saga. I have too many heroes…

My characters now collectively referred to as The Angel Association have mentally evolved over the years. Starting out as adjuncts of a SF/Horror franchise where the main characters of the two primary series of interrelated books interacted with the supers, changes became necessary. The stories largely remain.

Mostly twenty-somethings in perpetual search of the good job, promotion at the job they already have, the next musician to sign and a worthy partner, the association stands ready to protect Los Angeles against all comers. All of that survived largely intact. But, for most of the time thinking about it, there were only two villains…for a hero association now expanded to well over fourteen heroes. If there are only two villains, they’d pretty much have to be Galactus and Thanos at the three falls tag team match.

My best villainy so far: a trademark safe Joker and an ill-defined dude in Roman armor (must’ve been watching Looney Toons that week). Suddenly, I’m sitting on two psychos turning Los Angeles into Gotham West without anyone making for a challenge, even at the level of Brainiac or Sinestro. And there aren’t any Galactuses, Thanoses or Darkseids (the advanced class ready for the third opera) yet to appear in this story. I need more and better variety.

I may have had an easier time making heroes, but in a way what happened here is what happened with with the villains only sooner. Which leads us to the several related meanings of team building.

In the first sense, team building is all about putting the team together. Nick Fury just shows up in your house, helps himself to your coffee and leans on you hard about joining the Avengers Initiative. He has your file being the dumbass that admitted – “yeah, I’m Iron Man” – on TV. He has Captain America’s file. Hulk’s file. Thor’s file. You get the progression.

Pretty much S.H.I.E.L.D. has set loose strategists, chess players, comic book fans and a snotty AI to achieve what real world comic book fans yell about every Wednesday, who wins the fight and why? That when upscaled to the marquee team mimics my current problem…do these characters belong in the same fight, let alone the same spandex clubhouse/lair?

I probably need to read more about how Stan Lee devised his characters with the art staff, including but not limited to Jack Kirby. Did they sit around goofing on concepts for characters completely at the expense of how they would be used? Or once they had the team did they start playing games like “we’re doing a volcano villain do you think we should borrow Ice Man from the X-Men?” Judging from the comics, either they did that intentionally from the start of each book or they naturally got to the same place afterward taking the temperature of the readership likely to send in letters to Stan’s column. Go left, go right, the road is usually the same.

Or we could discuss a friend (a primary source for me), who famously can’t stand that Aquaman is an A-list founding member of the Justice League. Visit his store on Sunday and ask him about Aquaman – “What does he bring to the team? He’s the water super. He talks to and controls fish. He swims real well and helps his friends win underwater. He’s also pretty strong. Okay, cool, until you understand who else is on the team. You have Superman, a largely invulnerable alien who survives in vacuum who is also the apex of strength plus all of his other godlike powers. You have Green Lantern, a crazy brave man given a ring limited only by his imagination. You have a Wonder Woman who pretty much has all of that strength plus the Lasso of Truth. I could go on, but we can stop here now that we have the Top Three of the League who all have powers that can be used to replace Aquaman on the team. In fact, just about the only thing he does that helps might be to summon up a tuna sandwich for lunch!”

Underneath the Comic Book Guy trash talk, listen carefully…my friend has spent a lot of time doing the tactical analysis puzzle. Superman and Green Lantern really don’t notice being underwater and the rest of the top tier can simply figure it out. An opinion I don’t completely share; I like to think I’m writer enough to figure it out knowing that Aquaman is part of the team. And fans seem to love him.

Back to my characters, the heroes pretty much rolled off my smoking word processor. I’ve already done much of the imaginings for the heroes and how they fight together. Trademark Safe Batman plots and plans. Trademark Safe Wonder Woman makes cookies and provides the emotional leadership that belies that she gets most of her power from being a retired Fury. Trademark Safe Flash adds speed and the take no prisoners attitude of a feminist school teacher.

When I feel ready to speak more directly about the archetypes I folded, spindled and mutilated for my own purposes, you’ll get to see who else I’ve looted to keep LA safe. But, fourteen heroes and two villains still is a slaughter for the good guys. The heroes don’t do well with slaughters, narrow victories will do nicely.

The easy temporary solution is to act in another sense of team builder, that of a general manager looking at a looming trade deadline. Needing at least eight villains of great enough heft to make things interesting for the reader, I simply took two heroes and sold them to the Yankees for a metaphorical $80,000, players to be named later and at least three draft picks. I hope my nonexistent mistress appreciates the starring role on Broadway.

One former hero eats data. She touches computers and flash drives and destroys the data contained within saving a copy to her regular long term memory. But, she also eats the onboard biological programming and memories built into a living brain, a mind flayer in skirt suit for those of us that play RPGs. Brains simply taste better.

And I thought she was the tortured hero sorry for killing somebody in the past trying to make do like Lestat saying, “well, you can eat rats, but they taste like shit.” Her power very easily drives her crazy, especially now that the ink just dried on the trade agreement. I did leave it open for her to be the subject of a redemption plot. You get one.

The second former hero in this trade is my Trademark Safe Green Lantern that I killed off in the backstory. My villain team slaughtered off the original heroes in the spandex version of Order 66. My Green Lantern analog went with the rest. And now he’s back from the dead as a wildcard villain with no love for the Legion of Chaos. Trades are such wonderful things.

I still need up to three more villains. I have other old notebooks to peruse from earlier passes at these characters where I tried to figure out where they fit. There might be some good villains, we’ll see. Or something will just come to me.

Throughout the whole lengthy development process, the mix and match game of what makes a good team has played out constantly with each pass of the pen and keyboard. Hopefully, you’ll do the same with your characters. With that…Go Home!

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