Several friends of mine once invited me to participate in a superhero based role playing game which produced a website named “Asylum Raiders.” (NOTE: Some material which originally appeared on Asylum Raiders has been modified for use here.) This new site’s name is a nod to that earlier work, and this graphic novel is based on that campaign.
The story is set in a universe very similar to our own. In it, publishers distribute stories about superheroes, politicians vie for office and political leverage, wars are fought, technology and science strive with each other to find the purpose of life, and new products launch in the marketplace.
In this universe the foundational premise is that rather than 9-11 and airline crashes, there was a mass poisoning when a new energy drink was tainted with a mutagenic poison; survival was rare but granted superpowers (yes, this strongly resembles Marvel’s Ultimate Universe in that a relatively super-free world is suddenly home to a sizeable number of supers). The incident mostly affects the U.S. east-coast but small amounts of tainted product are sent to the ends of the earth. DC and Marvel and some other comics publishers exist here, so superhero characters are a familiar concept; when people begin to manifest suitable abilities, superherodom was an almost automatic consequence.
My interest in superhero stories has always been the characters. In the comic book world, scenery and surroundings take a backseat to the action. I focus on the characters as they prosecute the action.
I stopped buying comic books regularly in 1984. Before that I bought every single title of my favorite books – Batman, Spiderman, Ironman, Green Lantern, Captain Marvel, and so on – for years. My memories of comic book characters are from the 70’s and 80’s; reading this will be a little like reading old-school comics. I know nothing of the Crisis of Infinite Earths, Black-Lantern Batman, the collapse of Green Lantern Corps or the Secret Wars; the reboot craze completely turned me off.
The Batman I know had the cylinder-shaped cartridges on his belt and a bright yellow symbol on his chest – stealth be damned. Seriously, if the Batman was standing in the middle of an empty room wearing blinking Christmas tree lights and didn’t want you to see him, you wouldn’t see him. I know Spiderman as a perennial bad-luck bachelor, Tony Stark as an alcoholic, and Carol Danvers as Ms Marvel. It is that age that shapes my understanding of who these heroes are and that age that will shape many of the personalities you see here. This story will benefit from having a single overall controlling editor: me. No massive numbers of characters involved in galactic battles. No reboots or rewinds. If I write myself into a corner, I’ll just have to write my way out.
To address the subject of continuity briefly, I don’t expect to be publishing for so long that I will have problems like ‘my Batman is mortal but somehow never ages in 20 years of storytelling.’ However, I’m going to put an answer in place now just to be sure. I’m going to go with “x number of months after the terrorist attack (that started it all)” to establish chronology without putting year-dates on it. Reading stories dated this way provides a dynamic-timeline that prevents me having to explain why the Batman is still a virile crime-fighter at the age of 70 – he’ll always be 30-ish. This will perhaps limit the amount of character development you see, but this is a superhero adventure, not a daytime drama. The heroes will develop as heroes, and the heroes will tell action-adventure stories.
One device I will (try to) use in storytelling is font; I hope to use different fonts to help establish the setting of each portion of the book, whether dark and foreboding , clipped and official “business only,” or bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I tried using different fonts to the extent that different characters had different fonts, sometimes within the same paragraph, but found that distracting and even annoying. Typically, the font will be determined by who (or what) is telling the story at that point – for example, newspaper excepts will be in New Times Roman to set an impersonal tone.
Enter my friends and their imaginations. I lived in California when I was invited to participate in the superhero role-playing campaign with them – and they lived in Florida. Back when I lived in Florida, I’d always played the Batman, but a friend had already adopted that character by the time I was contacted. Batman also already had a partner, Blackwing – think “Dick Greyson meets the Crow” with added flight power.
Several characters in this story will be “familiar,” I put that in quotation marks because they will not be the same as previously published anywhere else before. The reason is the characters you will see here are, in part, products of the imaginations of my friends and part fantasy role playing game based on superheroes – this is not an attempt to duplicate DC or Marvel or any other publisher so much as it is an adaptation. A couple examples will serve to illustrate.
Marcous Wayne is the son of Bruce and Barbara Wayne who built a financial empire on the wealth left by Dr. Thomas and Martha Wayne. He was the victim of a terrorist incident along with his family and nearly a million others world-wide, most of whom died. The terrorists put a mutagenic poison in a new, widely distributed soft drink and as he struggled to survive it he realized he was orphaned, a massive terrorist incident was responsible, and he could focus the responses of his body and mind to produce particular interactions with the mutagen which would yield valuable dividends – if he survived.
Alfred Pennyworth is the life-long servant of the Wayne household, ever since being taken in by Dr. Thomas Wayne as a destitute youth and offered the opportunity to do something besides beg and steal. He seized upon the chance and took full advantage of the Wayne’s generosity, pursuing education and, when given time off, adventure. He became utterly devoted to the family; no one he’s ever met before or since has been so generous or could recall anyone else who had been. He will serve the Wayne household the rest of his life.
All of this left room for an idea I’d been playing with. I once read a DC story about a 70 year old Bruce Wayne coming out of retirement as Batman because he’d had enough of the criminals running things. He was joined in that series by a young female Robin wearing the circus tights and elf shoes that comic book Robin always had. I wanted to try a different approach to Robin. Orphans have been done-to-death beginning with Superman and Batman, so that was out. I also felt that anyone setting out to be Robin ought to have the opportunity to develop a more practical costume over time rather than be expected to launch with a finished product. Additionally, this character ought to have a background familiar to everyone who has ever been a teenager, so I made Robin fraught with the notion of social-disconnection from her parents and a couple other normal teenage afflictions that, when intensified by a 9-11 like event, would eventually produce a superhero. Finally, she would call herself Robyn.
The similarities are obvious and acknowledged. The differences are the products of the imaginations of those who played in the role-playing campaign. My goal here is not to create amazing new characters, my goal is to tell an amazing new story using the characters imagined by my friends, many of which were based on characters found in major-publishers comic-book products. There is no intent or attempt to profit by infringing on copy-written material or to infringe on the intellectual property rights of others, this novel is free to all to read. That said, we retain all rights to the story, the illustrations that accompany it, the adaptations introduced here.
This is the story of Robyn, a teenage superheroine seeking her place in a world suddenly populated by supers and now awakened to the truths that terrorism is a fact of life, international crime syndicates thrive, and rogue nations are not simply misunderstood but really do want to take advantage of the rest of the world.
Enjoy the read!