Sunday, February 17, 2008

My repressed id

As anybody who reads my blog knows, I've certainly been blogging a lot. I'm not sure why I feel the constant need to write about everything that's been buzzing around in my head, but it's been some pretty good therapy for me. The thing is, I'm awfully tempermental when it comes to writing. I have at any given time about five different ideas swirling around in my head - for instance, this one has been knocking around in me for about a week now. However, whenever I sit down, I can only seem to write about what's right in the front of my brain. Not only that, but I need to keep writing until I'm done, and any distractions or delays make me somewhat irritable.

So, I've been writing. That's a good thing. Once upon a time, I fancied myself as a writer, and I had aspirations of writing a series of either novels or comic books featuring a character called Eagle-Man. Not that those aspirations are gone, I'm just having a hard time getting these stories told.

The whole deal with Eagle-Man began when I was working on The Talon, which was my high school's newspaper. I did a comic strip for it, and instead of doing your standard strip where everything led up to a gag at the end, I made it more of a comedy/adventure strip, and the humor came more from the absurdity of the situations than some sort of punchline. It took place on the campus of Clayton Valley High School, and Eagle-Man was a student there. He battled the villainous Teacher X, who was basically a guy with a bag on his head with a smiley face drawn on it. He once even duked it out with Baldwin, the school's mascot, in a fight that crashed through the panel borders and into the horoscope, covering up what my friend Scott had claimed would be the key to happiness. (I should point out that he looked pretty different from the picture on the left. He was more of a "bald" eagle and he wore something that was more like a superhero suit.

So, with the end of high school came the end of Eagle-Man. There didn't seem to be any point in continuing anything with him, as his adventures were tied into my high school life. Still, there was something in me that wanted to write superhero stories. (Why not continue to draw them? I eventually did wind up doing that, but I'm not really an artist, and I drew more as a means to an end, so I'm not really going to get into that here.)

There was something about life at San Francisco State University that made me feel like lashing out. I felt as though I was constantly around people who really pretentious but not informed enough to justify their pretentiousness. I was also sick to death of "coffee culture." People simply could not shut the hell up about "espresso" and "cappuccino" and whatever. When I went back home, I wanted to lash out at the "cowboy" culture of the Concord/Clayton area and the phoniness of "Young Country." Basically, I had issues, and I had a long, angry rant in my head about it.

That rant started to come out in stories about Eagle-Man. This was a different guy though. He lived in a place called Suburbia City, and he fought villains like The Piercer (who was behind the whole body piercing craze and put mind-control devices in the various ear/lip/eyebrow/navel rings) The Frozen Yogurt Enforcer (a health-food nut) and The Cappucinator (the owner of a chain of coffee shops who wanted to pave over Suburbia City and create "New Europe." The Eagle-Man wasn't interested in being a hero, and basically used his power and secret identity to smash coffee shops and raised pickup trucks. He also would beat the crap out of the local White Supremecist groups of Suburbia City.

My first story with him was basically one long rant. I don't remember exactly where I went with it, but I seem to recall him dying and ranting in the afterlife. My short story writing teacher hated it. To be fair, it probably wasn't very good for anything other than me letting off steam, but this teacher sucked for other reasons.

I followed up that with another one where I introduced his girlfriend, Mopey Chick. She was a goth-type girl and acted as his conscience, lecturing him on how he shouldn't just use his powers for letting out his frustrations on the world. He was reluctant to listen, but he had a bit of a heart to him. In the story, he beat the snot out of a guy who was making sexually degrading remarks towards a woman (something that still sits uneasy with me today - especially now that Kirsti and I are looking to adopt a daughter.) My teacher hated that one too. So did most of the class. A few people got it though, but the rants turned people off.

The next story I wrote was for another class and it was entitled "What's the Deal with Wayne's Bag?" I kept the first person, present-tense narrative, but I toned down the ranting. Mopey Chick was still there, and he was still reluctant to be some sort of a hero, but his basic good heart kept making him do the right thing. He didn't beat anybody up in that story. Instead, he talked to a kid who was holding his class hostage at gunpoint and got him to surrender his gun. (The kid was bullied, and it reminded him of his own time in middle school. Mind you, this was written years before Columbine.) He also opened up to a local weirdo named Wayne who idolized his Eagle-Man persona. I had a different teacher, and he seemed to like it. Some of my classmates were a bit confused, but many of them seemed to enjoy it - a remember quite a few saying that they laughed out loud. (Which was intentional - in parts. He has a conversation with a cop about how he doesn't know whether he's invulnerable to bullets or not, and he doesn't really want to find out!)

Following that was "Margaritas con el Asesino del Dragon" (Margaritas with the Dragon Killer.) This was more straight-ahead superhero fare, and the elements of satire were toned down. He teamed up with his good friend, George the Dragon Killer to battle a guy called The Harbinger. I tried to bring humor into it, but this time it came more from the situation. George was trying to outdrink Eagle-Man, not realizing that E-M could physically not get drunk. Mopey was in this one too, as she was the one who convinced Eagle-Man that he should open up to his friend and let him know his real identity, as George had revealed his some time before that. That one got an even better reaction than the last one.

For yet another class, I tried to get away from the first-person, present-tense narrative, and did a straightforward third-person, past-tense story. It was Eagle-Man versus The Piercer, and it was the earliest story in the timeline. That one felt awkward when I wrote it, and it didn't go over well.

The next one is the one that I was most proud of. It was called "The Stick Shift of Destiny", and it took place after an epic battle between Eagle-Man and a dragon that was out to destroy Suburbia City. In the story, he was offered the chance to work for the government, which would finally solve his money problems and enable him to propose to his girlfriend. (He didn't feel right about asking her without an engagement ring.) In addition, the city had commemorated his achievement with a giant statue in the middle of town - something that didn't sit right with him and made him feel like he was walking on his own grave. The main battle occurred when a mysterious man known as The Eagle came to him and revealed his true origin, and told him that he'd be taking his powers away for his own. Eagle-Man fought against his benefactor/malefactor, despite The Eagle's claims of it being "destiny." Eagle-Man won, and later when given his first assignment which was to assassinate a Middle Eastern dictator, he turned down the offer and smashed the statue. It ended with him deciding to ask Mopey to marry him anyway. This one went over really well, as convoluted as it was. I remember one guy commenting that Eagle-Man was his "own worst enemy" which is pretty much exactly what I always wanted him to be.

There's more, and I eventually wrote the epic story of him teaming up with a gaggle of superheroes and defeating the dragon. I'm proud of some of the ideas in that one, as he is sent to the Underworld, where he's assisted by a decidedly Greek guy named "Nobody" (That would be Odysseus, for those of you who don't know the story.) He tries to make his way out but is boggled down by the beaurocracy of the system, so he responds by causing a riot. The forces of hell unleash an army comprised of soldiers from every battle from Thermopylae to Antietem, but the heroes of Elysium, which include everyone from Achilles to Elvis Presley, fight alongside Eagle-Man. Jesus, of course, decides to sit it out.

The problem is, over the years, is that not only do I no longer have creative writing classes that force me to produce, but I'm having a hard time finding the right line between humor/satire and adventure/mythology. I've had a lot of false starts over the years, including one that I hope to get back to one day called "Left Upside the Head," which parodies the Left Behind books and the absurdity of the Christian Fundamentalist version of the endtimes. Basically, the rapture happens and Eagle-Man decides that the Tribulation must be stopped because it would be a "total pain in the ass." Part of the theme is that he's much more powerful than he realizes, and he's able to easily trounce the anti-Christ, and eventually he has to go toe-to-toe with God Himself, as he's screwing with divine prophecy.

I also have started a prequel of sorts about an "Eagleman" who's a hero of World War II. I patterned his story after Shakespeare's tragedies, and his story ultimately ends with, big surprise, his death. I like what I started with that, but I found myself having to deal with too much exposition, so I might take another crack at it one day. Also, it doesn't have the same "voice" that I enjoy so much with Eagle-Man.

What's his voice like? It's like me, or as my former roommate once described it, my "repressed id."

I'm thinking that all these blogs are a sign that the id wants to get back out again. Perhaps Eagle-Man will need to be redefined yet again. (I already changed Mopey's name to Monica.) Not only that, but he'll need to take more of a turn from my life, as a happy marriage is great to live, but it would be pretty boring to write about it.

I miss him, and I hope to find him again one day. I'll worry later whether anybody wants to read it or not. I suppose I could force my students to read it, but that would be a bit obnoxious on my part.


Gary Fouse said...

Could be ADD, lance. It seems to run in my family.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Could be? Probably is.

Kirsti said...

I told you that a long time ago.

I miss your Eagleman stories. I hope you bring him back soon.

Kirsti said...

I'm sorry...Eagle-Man.

Ingrid said...

I always liked your Eagle-Man. I still have some of your old Talon papers with him in it and show it frequently to my students.
I am also glad about your ranting, because it keeps me in touch with your "real self".