Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Flash Fiction - Peace

Good day,

 I spent the past week writing and scrapping three different stories. I wrote this up in maybe an hour and found it better than everything else I had touched. Think on that for a second.

***


            Pain rippled through him as he pulled the final arrow from his shoulder. Blood stained the silver mail across his chest and now painted the grass beneath his feet. He was tired. Falling backwards, his body found a tree and slumped against it. He felt himself slide down.
            He dropped his sabre some time ago, but that meant nothing. The fighting was done and so was he. The roar of the other army, the whistling of the arrows, the howls of the dogs; it was all gone now. Men, his men, would come looking for him and other survivors in the wood. It would do no good. 
Desperately, he fished through his pockets until he found what he was looking for. With one blood-stained gauntlet, he pulled out the hairpins given to him before he left for battle. Noelle was her name. Everything else, from her hair to her smile to the way she breathed when making love, all faded from him.
The forest was quiet. With the battle passing, the birds sang uninterrupted. Wind brushed against the leaves of the sycamores to his left. Flowers spread their petals in the warm sun, welcoming butterflies and bees as they buzzed and beat their wings about him. Tranquility was in the air once more. Yet, soon these sounds would be joined by the last sigh of a dying man.

***

 Second attempt at a medieval setting. Must be because I'm obsessively reading the Song of Ice and Fire series.

 See you next time,

-RWI

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Flash Fiction - Relief

Good evening.

 A day late but hey, here I am.

***

            One of the torches needed relighting. Its fire had been dying for the past while, but Glen was in no hurry. Alone in the dark, he rested on his spear and counted the stars again.
He shivered and prayed for morning. The black armour and cloak they gave him were poorly built and barely protected his body from the cold. He envied the other recruits. They were given mail and helms recently made by a local smith. His were handed down from a previous guard who was knifed in the market square. Wind blew up the hole in the side where the assassin’s dirk laid its mark. 
Moreover, he envied their positions. All others were placed in high towers, across the walls, or in the city itself where danger was sure to dwell. His placement was at a small gate overlooking the lake. The portcullis behind him was only as wide as two men, and situated on the edge of the city. No islands floated there, and only allied towns were on the other side.
            He spat again and drank from the wineskin on his belt. There was no reason to it. There was nothing to guard there but rocks and sand. Gamblers’ halls were on the other side of the gate, but should marauders come who would miss them? Dice and ale could be rolled or poured anywhere. The men he saw enter those places needed no protection, least of all from a lone man in holey armour. 
Listlessly, he looked around himself. The fire to his left was almost gone. Under his breath, he let loose a string of curses against the city watch’s alchemist. He reached into a ragged side pocket to loose a bandage and a flask. With a sigh, he set the spear aside and reached down to the bundle of sticks by the door, lifting one from the ground.
Wrapping the end of the stick in the thin cloth, he held it away from himself as he poured the contents of the flask onto its top. Clumsily, he screwed the cap back on, lifting his torch towards the dying stick. The oily bandage caught fire and quickly spread across the edge of the new torch. He reached over to replace the burning stick. 
Something flickered out of the corner of his eye. Torch high, he turned to meet it.
A massive horse towered over him when he turned round. Bay it was, but its coat was unkempt and its mane was long and mangy. Leather straps fastened simple iron plates to its skull and sides. Black eyes the size of peaches from the market gazed blankly at the ground ahead. Glen stepped back and held his torch up to get a better view of the rider.
Tall he was, and hunched over in his saddle as though he meant to be sick. Black-gloved hands gripped to the reins of his mount. A rusted hauberk clung to his body while stained steel greaves separated his muddy boots from his brown leggings. The heavy mantle he wore covered his shoulders and its hood was thrown up to conceal his face. 
Glen swallowed and held the torch higher. Blindly, he reached behind him to grab his spear. “Who are you?” 
            Slowly, the pallid face of the stranger turned to him. A dead gaze from two fierce, pale blue eyes burned right through him. “It is time for you to go, my ser,” he said in a voice like metal and gravel raking together.
            Glen swallowed and hefted his pike high. “How did I not hear you?” 
“It is time for you to go, my ser,” the man repeated, ignoring the question.
“What business have you here?” Glen persisted, holding his ground. 
The rider cocked his head. Torchlight bounced off his eyes. “Relief,” he uttered.
Glen's laugh was curt and brief; he grew stern, “I asked for no relief. Be on your way.” 
In a blink, the man was on the ground. The horse was nowhere to be seen . Standing tall, he loomed over Glen and advanced soundlessly. The guard dropped his torch and thrust his spear forward. It cut air and air alone.
Unending darkness grew from behind the pale blue eyes of the stranger. Firmly, it gripped Glen’s shoulders. In fear, the lone sentry dropped his spear and screamed as the devil brought its face close to his. 

In the morning, the other guards found him behind the portcullis. He shivered as though a cold wind swept through his bones, and said no words to them. Dubbing him craven, the commander relieved him of his post and two of his fingers.

***

 I've been reading The Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. You know, if that wasn't clear enough.

See you next time,

-RWI

EDIT: May 20, 2012. Edits.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

PostScript - Marco (Magnum) and Robert vs DC

Pulled from today's chat-log, here is proof that my friend and I are needed by the North American comics industry:

Marco this is the cover to Justice League #1 http://www.blogcdn.com/www.comicsalliance.com/media/2011/06/jlacv12.jpg
 Robert If they do this, I will cry forever
 Marco notice there is a Batman
there is also a batman
 Robert I'm focused more on Green Lantern's guncrotch
 Marco i know, guncrotch is hella distracting
i wonder if it'll show up in the movie
like he'd go all "TAKE THIS PARALLAX" *gunboner*
 Robert hahahahaha
He screams SKEET SKEET SKEET as it fires
 Marco hahaha
the worst of the worst
 Robert Yes, turning the Teen Titans into a bunch of Battle Dominatrices would be the worst thing ever
In fact, that should be the title instead
BATTLE DOMINATRICES
ISSUE ONE: WHO'S BEEN A BAD BOY
 Marco no issue one would be ONE OF THESE CHARACTERS WILL DIE
to complete the 90s Extreme Comics effect
each issue would have a character getting basically murdered
while they fight villains with names like, i dunno, BLOODBONES
BLOODGUNS
GUNBONES
(DC, call me!)
 Robert haha yes
BOMBNOMINAL
GUNFIST
FISTFIST
THE VIXXXEN
 Marco BLOODBITCH
 Robert SKANKTANK
 Marco GUNSLUT
 Robert BALLSDEEP
he could be used for undersea missions
 Marco tagline: THIS AIN'T YO DADDY'S TEEN TITANS!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Let's Talk About: Improving Superhero Comics


Good morning (it is midnight what the fuuuuuuuuuuuuck),

                So this is where I get to take a break from flash fiction and put on my Giant Nerd hat again. See, I’ve been hearing more and more about Detective Comics’ move to reboot their comics and create a new continuity to toy around with. This, unfortunately, seems to include Grant Morrison’s run on Batman, which wounds me because it is really the only comic being released by DC at present that I like. There’s even talk of Rob Liefeld, scourge of the ‘90s, making a comeback, so with those feathers in their cap, what could possibly go wrong aside from everything?

                Those of you who perhaps read my articles at Graphistrophic (plugplug) should know that I don’t mind the superhero subgenre in comics, but that I really find their current state to be lacking. Rather than sit here and stew about it, I’ve decided to come down from my mountain and kvetch at you all while discussing how to salvage superhero comics in general.

                Let’s start this train wreck.

1.       If we’re going to have a multiverse, what are its laws?
I think that a big reason why superhero comics are failing is because of the idea that every costumed loon is down the street from each other. With the sheer volume of masked vigilantes and super-humans the DC and Marvel Earths boast, I ask how the planet hasn’t been completely devastated or enslaved or turned into a giant turnip or some shit. If it was up to me, I’d keep each one confined to his or her own series, or lump everyone together so that space opera characters live in one universe, magical characters live in another, and film noir/pulp magazine-style characters live in another, just to keep things clean.

But I feel like it’s that kind of thinking that led to segregated bathrooms, so let’s not. Instead, let’s ask how this world is run. Establish the core rules of the universe, and how society is actually influenced by these costumed clowns running around, rather than just make a world that’s slightly like ours except with gods and aliens running amok. On that note:

2.       Fix this place up a little, would you?
You’d think that having this many altruistic superhumans around would have a more definite impact on the world at large. Here’s an example of what I mean: why haven’t the Justice League cured AIDS? You’d think that a collective of the world’s greatest scientists and magicians would band together to fight threats against humanity that aren’t from space or cheetah-themed. Someone once told me about a speech Superman gave where he said that he and the rest of the League shouldn’t involve themselves in human affairs. This made me scratch my head and ask why the hell he became a superhero in the first place if he wasn’t going to save people.

It takes on weird forms, too. I remember reading about this whole thing where Iron Man character Pepper Potts turned out to be infertile and this was apparently a huge deal for her and all involved. I ask: Don’t these guys know Thor? You’re telling me that The Avengers can call up Thor to beat up guys in turbo-lederhosen but not to ask some fertility spirits to perform a miracle now and then? How the hell do you have problems like these when you have a god on speed-dial?

3.       You’re a man in pastel-coloured pants; deal.
Superhero comics are still up to their waists in unnecessary drama and it needs to stop. I don’t mind if a superhero series wants to tread down dark roads, but why the hell does it have to involve the characters who were once known for hi-jinks on zeppelins? Superhero “drama” works in titles like Watchmen and The Boys because the creators worked with a) original characters b) original settings, and c) the G.E.D. knowledge that superheroes are inherently silly.
 
Let’s perform an exercise and read the following sentence aloud: The DC title Identity Crisis involved a super-serious plot line where the super villain Doctor Light raped the wife of superhero Elongated Man and then had his memory wiped by a sorceress, later enlisting a man named Deathstroke the Terminator as his bodyguard.

Am I the only guy in the entire world who sees something off with that?

And that leads me to this point:

4.       Go crazy or go home.
Don’t you miss the days when Batman would chase The Penguin across a giant typewriter, or when Wonder Woman would get into a pie-eating contest or whatever? Superhero comics are largely about escapism, about mad creativity and fun, and taking that part out just makes the experience feel hollow and odd. I don’t read Superman to read about the Afghan War. If I wanted a reminder as to how sad and dreadful the real world can be, I’d pick up a newspaper. Or, y’know, my copy of Maus.

5.       Have Grant Morrisson, Ed Brubaker, and Warren Ellis write everything.
Because shut up.

                Restart the damn franchise as many times as you like, but if you’re not going to make it fun again then maybe you shouldn’t bother. Look at the source material, and look at why it was so good to begin with. Motherfucking Archie has been running non-stop since 1939 with decent enough sales and not once did it deal with teen pregnancy or Reggie getting hooked on smack; what does that tell you? Charm and mad entertainment will do more for these characters than a thousand dead girlfriends stuffed in a thousand freezers.

 In summary, stop soliloquising and powerbomb a gas truck onto a dinosaur already.

See you next time,

-RWI

P.S. I could have talked about the portrayal of women in comics but Gail Simone did it for me years ago, and masterfully at that.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Flash Fiction - Duty

Good evening,

 I spent the whole week working on a piece of flash fiction that I eventually sent to the cleaner's. I spent yesterday and today putting this together. I much prefer it.

***

            “Run that by me again,” Nathan asked, slipping out of his environment suit. His supervisor had turned away to enter a code into a hidden wall panel.
            “Like I said,” Ray began, stepping forward as a hatch opened to his left, “We’re at a pivotal point. This next meeting could end the whole war. You and me, we’ve been selected to help put the event together.”
            The younger man couldn’t help but laugh. “How the hell is one event going to stop the war? We lost New Fellport, and after the massacre at Horsehead Ridge, I don’t think anyone’s going to want to talk, on either side.”
            “The Zando Alliance lost a lot of sons at Horsehead,” he explained, reaching into the hatch, “They’ll want to talk.”
            “Right, so where do I come in?”
            “You’ve gotta put this on,” he said, holding up a metal mask. It was a dark gray thing with a solid nose and a visor where the eyes were meant to be. Three black slits, each one an inch in both length and width easily, sat underneath the nose.
            Nathan squinted at it. “What is that?”
Smiling, Ray turned the mask over in his hands, “This thing feeds directly into the speech centres of the brain. You’ll be able to process a range of Zandolese accents, dialects, and languages, and then when you speak it’ll translate your words into the appropriate language that they speak. Cool, no?”
            Eagerness trembled inside the younger man, but he remained sceptical. “There’s a catch.”
            “Well, yeah,” his boss admitted, turning over the object some more, “Certain words don’t translate well into some Zandolese dialects. Like, try to avoid saying things like ‘courtesy’ to a South Ovan or anything fruit-related to someone from the Kakak Desert. Also, the mask might remove your face,” he added, quickly.
            “It might what?!
            “Nothing. Now put it on.”
            “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Nathan said, backing away with his hands up, “That thing could remove my face, you just said that!”
            “No I didn’t,” Ray lied, his eyes shifting around.
            “Yes you did! You said it right now!”
            “Oh, come on, it’s just your face.”
            “It’s my face!
            “Well, there’s only a small chance it could happen.”
            “How small?”
            “I don’t know, seventy percent?”
            “That isn’t small!”
            “It’s not a hundred!”
            “I don’t want to lose my face!”
            “Come on!” his superior griped, “People are counting on us! You could be the guy who ends this thing! Think about it! No more hallucinogen bombs! No more gravity storms on Mars! All the blood and the squalor and the misery, all gone, thanks to you!”
            Nathan did not budge. “You believe in that so much, you put it on!”
            “No way, are you crazy?” he said with a scoff, “Besides, it’s sculpted to fit your face.”
The younger man’s body froze. “It is?”
He nodded, approaching him, “All those times you had to stick you face in the scanner to get in the compound? They weren’t just checking your I.D.” His superior held the mask out at him. “We’ve got to, son. For the future.”
Nathan gulped and stared down at the barbs on the sides of the mask. “So I don’t have a say in this at all.”
With a shrug, Ray lifted Nathan’s new face in his hands. “You got off light. Ever cleaned a Zandolese toilet?”

***

See you next time,

-RWI

EDIT: May 20, 2012. Edits!