Unity

by David Meadows 6. August 2016 23:42

I've just been sorting out some formatting problems on Heroes issue 6 and thought, "Wouldn't it be a nice idea to say some words about writing it?" Don't read this post until you've read the actual issue!

First, the title: Unity. The meaning is obvious (Temple of Unity) but I liked how it fitted with part two of this storyline, Zero, which you will read in issue 7 (and also has an obvious meaning, as you will see). Is there hidden symbolism in the title? Sometimes I try to do that with the titles, but I don't think there is here. There is certainly no unity within the team... indeed, they're barely a team at all and are trying their best to fall apart in this issue.  One of James's catchphrases will become "We're not a team, we're a group." Though I'm not sure when I'll actually work that into his dialogue in an issue.

Narration is in the form of Fred's blog. It's not likely that Fred is actually publishing all this stuff in a blog on line, not when he's supposedly on the run and keeping a low profile. But it suits the narrative purpose, so let's suspend our disbelief.

Using Fred as the narrator lets "him" tell us his background. Rather than go into great detail into his "origin story", I've shown just one scene from his past, and devoted only one page to it. But it's a vital scene, and really everything you need to know about Fred is in that one page. I may have mentioned already that Fred was created by David Allan, not by me (I need another post to explain where all this story originates...), and that page one is my "fictionalised" description of the background Dave verbally gave me. I think Fred is an amazingly deep and complex character, and that makes him hard for me to write, but scenes like this one just write themselves, because I can so clearly see in my head how Fred would narrate it, his voice is just so strong. And I can't take any credit for that.

In a couple of previous issues I've adopted the format of page one being a compact scene told in six panels, with page two being a single big panel to show a big group or action shot. I've done it here again, and I think I'll try to stick to it because I like how it works. Here there's no action, just a group "portrait".

In fact, there's no action in the whole issue, really. It's just a lot of people talking. The plot of this issue is actually really minimal: the group hears of some dodgy goings on, go and investigate, and Sara gets kidnapped. It's a simple story, but one with repercussions. It will become more apparent in part two, next issue, but there's more to the Temple of Unity than meets the eye. I put a lot of effort into working out the whys and wherefores of the organisation, and we're only scratching the surface here. I don't think I'm spoiling anything by saying this encounter is the start of something that will become very important further down the line.

But although the story is important in introducing the Temple, the main thing in this issue is the relationships we start to explore. I've deliberately left a lot unsaid, and hinted at far more than I've revealed. I'm not sure whether this makes readers intrigued or annoyed, but this series is planned to run for a long time, and I want charatcer details to unveil themselves naturally as time goes by rather than being dumped in massive blocks of exposition.

Page three. Fred handily recaps the plot so far. This may seem a bit redundant, as the previous issues are there for you to go and read, and anyway it's only been a couple of weeks so you've surely not forgotten what's happening. But the point isn't to tell you what's happening. It's to tell you what Fred thinks about what's happening. I could summarise the plot six times with six different narrators, and each one would be different. By the same token, as each character does something fairly unimportant on the next couple of pages, we get to hear what Fred thinks about each of them. This is why I like the rotating narrator idea, and I'll certainly be sticking with it. (Over in the Strikeforce story, I'm not doing that. I'm doing an omniscient third-person narrator, with random interjections by the Computer as narrator. But I'm doing a lot of things differently in that story.)

Did I just say the characters are doing unimportant things? That's not actually true. They may be trivial things, unimportant to the plot, but I've chosen them to say something about the characters in every case. And that's important. Consider:

James. He's writing a journal of his adventures. We learned from his narration back in issue 2 that he learned how to be a hero from his father's journals. So of course he's writing his own journal. Everything James does is to live up to the ideal set by his father, and sometimes he interprets that need too literally. Also note that in a century when everyone's using computers and phones, James is writing on paper with a pencil. Why? Well, trust me, there are important reasons. I'm just not ready to reveal them yet.

Harry. We still don't really know -- not really -- whether Harry is real or whether Paul has multiple personality disorder. Fred thinks he knows. But consider this: where did Paul, an office-bound clinical psychiatrist, pick up an intimate knowledge of vintage firearms? It's not conclusive evidence, but I'm just throwing it out there.

Chi-Yun, the shape-shifter, is printing photographs of herself. "So I don't forget when I change." Oh my God. That's just... that idea just breaks my heart. What must that be like for her? It's... no, I can't imagine what that's like. It's awful. But as a concept, it's genius. No, I didn't come up with the idea. But I wish I had. I love Chi-Yun. There's more to her than you (and Fred) expect.

We don't really get much insight into Sara here, just her reactions  to Chi-Yun. But that's ok, her time will come. I've got a lot to say about Sara, but I'll let her say it herself (starting next issue, as it happens).

And then there's Don, steady, reliable, calm and in control. He's the driving force behind the whole narrative at the moment, though for various reasons that can't continue. I'll get to that in time...

And you know what? My word count tells me I've written 1100 words, and I've only covered the first four pages, which is ridiculous. I'm going to stop this here, and if anyone really wants me to continue with the next 18 pages you'll have to tell me. But I'm not going to do this with every issue, that would just be insane.

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Week 10

by David Meadows 5. August 2016 21:45

Welcome to the next weekly update of The Heroes Universe.

This week's fiction is issue 6 of Heroes. You've probably noticed that each issue has been narrated by a different character, and this week it's Fred's turn. It gives me the chance to go a little into his background, his personality, and maybe even the reason he stays with a group where he's clearly not comfortable.

Fred was created by my good friend David Allan, and he created a character so rich and complex that I wasn't sure I could do him justice in my writing. But I'm happy with how the episode turned out, and I hope Dave would have been too if he was still with us.

This is the first time I've felt that there has been enough revealed about a major character to make it worth writing a biography page. So there's now a bio of Fred, which doesn't really reveal anything new but does summarise everything we know so far. Don't read this until after you read issue 6! There is also, for the first time, a character portrait! This is something I would love to have for all the characters, or at least the major ones, but I lack the resources to commission artists to do them... the pictures of Fred are by my friend Tali Ritz, and I'm not sure how she perfectly captured how Fred looks in my mind because I don't think I've done that good a job of describing him! (She's done a perfect Sara too, which will appear in the near future. But that's all I've got at the moment.)

This week's encyclopaedia page covers the Los Angeles Globe, a newspaper which you might have spotted in the story already, and which will ultimately have important links to both Heroes and Strikeforce.

Finally, another of Don's mission reports finds Don musing on the bunch of misfits he appears to have picked up.

I think that's it for this time. As always I'm happy to receive comments, queries, and requests to get on and write any particular pages...

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Week 9

by David Meadows 29. July 2016 22:38

Yes, I know I missed a week. It's not my fault! And nobody complained anyway, which probably means nobody's reading.

The main addition this week is chapter 5 of Strikeforce. The time-stranded team pays a visit to a man called Professor Zod in 1987, and things don't go at all accoring to plan...

To complement this, there's a biography of the 24th century version of Professor Zod... confused? You will be... after you realise that this Strikeforce chapter also contains a guest appearance by young Don circa 1987, who's currently starring over in the Heroes story as old Don circa 2014...

Talking of Don, I'm also experimenting with a new section: Don's Mission Logs. These will go hand-in-hand with each issue of Heroes and give Don's personal view of each day's events. I'm not sure if I'll do this regularly, so let me know what you think of it (if you're reading at all...)

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Week 8

by David Meadows 15. July 2016 19:22

This week's new story installment is issue 5 of Heroes. This chapter introduces Harry, and gives some idea of how Paul Smithsteen's multiple personality "power" operates. Other than that, it feels a bit like filler (I probably shouldn't be admitting that!). I was still finding my way, and working out what type of story worked for these characters. I think the two part story coming up in #6 and #7 is where I hit my stride, so bear with me while I set up the pieces for that.

Talking about setting up pieces, you might also spot the first obvious link back to Strikeforce in Heroes #5. There's a slight problem in telling two linked stories set 20 years apart, in that things you will read in one story will spoil certain things that are supposed to be revealed in the other story (and it will happen both ways). But there really isn't anything I can do about that if I want to write both stories (and I do). So consider it a feature, not a bug.

Elsewhere this week, you'll find articles on the Council of Science and Police Chief Kadnez from the 24th century, and at the opposite end of the timeline some hints at a story to be told in 11th-century Constantinople.

Onwards and upwards...

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Week 7

by David Meadows 8. July 2016 20:07

Over on the site's home page you will find links to this week's new content: chapter 4 of Strikeforce, a timeline of the events of 1987 revealed so far (read this after you read chapter 4!), an encyclopaedia entry on the Institute for Temporal Studies (are these the real villains of the piece?), and a who's who entry for Viper (which rounds out the quartet of 24th-century villains and lets me move on to more interesting characters).

I think chapter 4 of Strikeforce is the one that I've most enjoyed writing. This shows the first steps of the characters changing from super-powered science-fiction police officers to real, proper super heroes in the traditional mould. We get secret identities, the start of a permanent supporting cast, and some actual proper intra-team relationships developing. In the Game, this marked the moment when I think I realised it had long-term potential and that the players were happy with the direction I wanted to go.

Ah yes, the Game...

I've promised to write a blog about the Game that this site sprang from. This post isn't it, but I'll get right on it...

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Week 6

by David Meadows 1. July 2016 21:28

If you hop over to the home page, you'll see the usual gaggle (collective noun for waffle: "a gaggle of waffle") of new pages.

This week's story update is chapter 4 of Heroes: In The Woods. Don leaves the group to fend for themselves, and you just know that's not going to end well...

The history update is a timeline of the "Heroes" year, 2014, which at the moment is pretty short (the events have only covered two days!) but will grow from here on into something substantial.

In the encyclopaedia, there's a complete contrast to last week's science article, as this one explains how magic works. Yes, my universe has both science and magic, and they coexist very comfortably thank you.

Finally, a skeleton bio of Discord, the sonic-powered villain from Strikeforce chapter one.

Next update will be next Friday, see you there.

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Week 5

by David Meadows 24. June 2016 21:40

This week sees the conclusion of the first Strikeforce story: Chapter 3, "Time's Past". (There's a prize* for the first person tell me what I've taken the titles of the three chapters from.) As you might guess from the bombshell at the end (what do you mean, what bombshell? Go and read it!) there is more to come, and we'll go straight into the second storyline in chapter 4 in a couple of weeks.

Also this week there's an article on the Graviton Flywheel, and I apologise for the quality of the diagrams, I didn't have time to paint them or draw them to scale. (There's another prize** for the first person tell me what that's from.)

The history article covers Roman Britain in A.D. 366. One day I'll write the stories for these different eras, but not today.

And as usual there's another biography of another minor villain.

Next update is scheduled for Friday 1st July, and I feel pretty confident of making the deadline again.

 

 

 

 

* May not actually be true.

** Also may not be true.

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Week 4

by David Meadows 17. June 2016 18:53

Site updates roll into their fourth week, with the main feature being issue 3 of the Heroes story. The group undertake their first "mission" together and ... well, let's just say things don't go completely smoothly.

The History feature this week is all about Egypt. It introduces the background to a minor storyline that does tie into to main stories, but filling in the full story will have to wait for another day.

The Encylopaedia gets an article about the Special Police, and you've already encountered that organisation if you've been reading the Strikeforce story (and if you haven't been, why are you reading this blog?)

Finally, Who's Who in the Heroes Universe continues to document all the minor characters with all the biographocal information that is known about Blockhead.

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Why Superheroes?

by David Meadows 12. June 2016 21:14

Funny, 15 years ago this post would have been titled "What are Superheroes?" Now, half the blockbusters coming out of Hollywood are superhero films, and my life-long, slightly strange ("you're a grown man and you still read comics?") hobby has become the a mainstream thing. You all know what superheroes are.

So, why superheroes? Specifically, why have I spent 30 years creating a world full of superheroes which I'm now documenting on this web site?

Comics have been a part of my life ever since I first started reading. (I was reading books too, of course. You're allowed to read and love both, just like you're allowed to love both books and films. They're different things.) The earliest comic I can remember was T.V. 21, a comic that featured television spin-off stories. From there, I went on to all the popular British boys' comics. I read adventure stories, war stories, sport stories, science fiction stories, you name it I read it in comics. I read just as many different genres in comics as I was reading in books.

Plus one extra genre that wasn't in books. When I could get my hands on exotic imported American comics (and that wasn't easy in the 70s, as distribution was spotty and arbitrary), I devoured their stories of superheroes.

You all know what a superhero is: a larger-than-life figure with amazing abilities, who fights villains and saves people. It's not a new idea. Before Superman, Robin Hood was a superhero, so was King Arthur, and obviously so were Heracles and Sinbad the Sailor.

But American superhero comics did something that those old myths didn't do: they built consistent worlds. Huge, massive, self-referential worlds. In American comics, Captain America was best friends with Iron Man and they would pop up in each other's comics to help each other from time-to-time.

And superhero comics had been going for years, and told an ever-unfolding story over those years. Spider-Man started as a high-school student, graduated and went to college, went through several girlfriends (one of whom died, damn you Gerry Conway), and had a massive cast of supporting characters who came into and out of the on-going story. Spider-Man's comic wasn't about a man in a costume who punched other men in costumes, it was a soap-opera about Peter Parker's life.

And one more thing: superhero stories could do anything. Superheroes could go anywhere on Earth. They could visit lost cities in remote jungles. Fly to different planets. Travel through time. Fight aliens, dinosaurs, bank robbers, or evil corporations. They could save the world from meteor strikes, stand up for persecuted minorities, or rescue cats from trees. Superheroes could get their powers from anywhere, so a wizard could fight on the same team as a genius scientist, and neither would think that was odd.

If you want to tell a big story, the superhero genre has all the tools you could ever need to do it with.

That's why I love superhero stories, and have done all my life.

Fast-forward from a boy reading comics in the 70s to an adult (still reading comics) in 1987. I'm thinking about running a new role-playing game for a few friends, and I've found a set of rules for running superhero games. How can I resist?

The problem is, if I'm going to run a superhero game, I'm going to do it properly and make a proper superhero universe. A proper, big, consistent, multi-genre, soap-opera, decades-long, complete universe. So here I am, 30 years later... and here is my universe.

Now, I've just realised I need to write another post explaining what I mean by "role-playing game". Sigh...

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Who's Who

by David Meadows 10. June 2016 21:06

This week's update adds a new section: Who's Who in the Heroes Universe (as well as a new Strikeforce chapter and new history page; see the home page for all  the links). The new section will give complete biographies of all the characters featured in the Strikeforce and Heroes stories.

And immediately, there's an obvious problem with that idea: these characters' stories are still being told. I know how the stories end, but you don't. So if I write the biography of, say, Nightflyer, it's going to spoil all the main plots coming up in the Strikeforce story.

The only real way round this is to only give the biographies of the minor characters, the villains and bit-part players. Characters who probably won't appear in the story again, or if they do nothing will be spoiled by knowing their backgrounds. Except their backgrounds are often fairly scanty when they are just throw-away ideas meant to feature once, and particularly so for the characters created for the very early chapters of the story (before I realised it was here to stay and I started writing richer backgrounds).

That's why the section (currently) looks a bit pointless. What I've got at the moment is effectively just a template for how the biographies will look when I get to the more interesting characters. And I will get to more interesting characters. I just need to wait for when the time is right to introduce them. Bear with me.

 

This week's update was produced to a soundtrack of ABBA (singles and B-sides). Not that you really needed to know that...

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About this blog

The Heroes Universe is an ongoing work of fiction, conceived and chiefly plotted by David Meadows, with help from a group of friends, over a 30-year period.

I am slowly documenting the Universe on this web site.

This blog is a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of that history.

If you're new here, the series of posts listed below will explain what it's all about. I hope...

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