The Way of the Word

29. April 2011

Novel in Progress: Die Young

The single worst problem when I’m supposed to work isn’t writer’s block. It’s distractions.

It’s late in the evening, and I’m rather tired. It’s been a long day, and I haven’t slept well for two nights. I’m currently rereading James Clavell’s Shôgun, which is one of my all-time favorite novels. I haven’t read it in several years, and it feels fresh and exciting again. It’s difficult to tear myself away from the novel, and I have to expend a lot of willpower to not boot down the computer and lose myself in Japan of AD 1600.

I have several DVD box sets that I still want to watch. Among them two seasons each of Magnum PI, Starsky & Hutch and Home Improvement. I’m a member of media swap groups, so I don’t have to buy used books or DVDs or CDs. I swap out stuff that I no longer want or need, and get back stuff that I do want. The problem is willpower: it’s hard to resist impulse swapping. When I decided to write Die Young, I locked the unwatched DVDs away, to remove the temptation.

One thing I do to reduce distraction is that I write on the notebook. The notebook has  no internet connection. It has no games installed. It’s a pure work machine.

And yes, the internet and games are massive chronovores. I just finished translating a movie that took twice as long as it should have because, well, I didn’t like the movie, so I spent more time on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking places, or playing Half-Life, than I should have. And yes, I got Half-Life through one of those swap groups. It’s a major effort to not check the swap groups all the time for interesting stuff, because while I work on Die Young I wouldn’t want to take the time to watch movies anyway.

The matter is made worse by the fact that I don’t have a deadline. Die Young is a sequel to The Coldest Blood, which hardly anyone has read. Nobody’s waiting for it. It makes no difference if I finish it this year, or next year, or not at all. I’m pretty good with deadlines. That movie I mentioned above, the one that I disliked so much I procrastinated too much? I still turned it in a day early. Go me, right? Yeah – I know, though, that I could have turned it in much earlier than that. Then I would have had a bit more breathing space with the other four deadlines I have right in front of me. The next translation is due on May 2, then another on May 9, then a couple of columns on the 18th, and then there’s another translation that I need to squeeze in somewhere along the way. Busy, busy, busy. I don’t really have the time to slack off, to be distracted.

And yet, there is that copy of Shôgun over there, beckoning me to boot down, call it a night and immerse myself in the adventures of John Blackthorne, the Anjin-san, and the rise of Toranaga-sama to Shôgun.

If I were smart, I would try to use it to motivate me. Tell myself that somewhere down the line, some guy with a notebook computer and word processing software will try to resist the distraction of Die Young.

But only if I can resist temptation.

By the way, you might know the writing rule ‘kill your darlings.’ Well, every now and then, I get one that is very very difficult to kill. This time: His confusion was so obvious that I didn’t know if I should feel sorry for him or invite him to poker night. Tell me: is that a potential classic, or what?

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27. April 2011

Novel in Progress: Die Young

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Okay, to be honest, it wasn’t all that great either way. Sure, I had a good writing session last night, but I’m rather unhappy with my output. To the point where I had to decide, against my habits, to fix it in revisions.

What happened?

As I told you in a previous post, I discovered that the first chapters of Die Young emulated Robert B. Parker’s method of one chapter per conversation.  Once I discovered that I had done that accidentally, I decided to continue that way for the first in-story day of Shaw’s investigation.

That meant I had to start Chapter 6 from scratch. The problem with that was that Chapter 6 is an exposition chapter. Shaw received evidence and draws his conclusions. That’s much more difficult to pull off only in dialog. From that you can probably understand why I started and scrapped that chapter five times before just hacking it out and telling myself I’ll fix it in revisions.

Then there was the final conversation before Shaw confronts the person who did the actual deed. I had wanted to get more hard information about anesthesiology before getting to that chapter, but I forgot. I had read up on it to see if my idea on how to do it would work, so I winged it with what I remembered from that. So I’ll get the hard data and insert it into the placeholders when I do the revisions.

One thing I am happy with is that I managed to work in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference to The Coldest Blood. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, The Coldest Blood is the first Shaw novel. It’s available for only 99 cents on Amazon US, Amazon UK and Amazon Germany. I’m quite proud that I managed to make a reference that you can consider light snark from the character if you don’t know The Coldest Blood, but if you do know it you’ll catch a different layer of meaning.

If a blog post had chapters, I’d call the next one Evolution of a Suicide.

There are some things I always knew I would do. One was the killers’s motivations. There’s the Mastermind, and I know their motivation. And there’s the trigger person, and I knew how their motivation would result in Shaw really getting involved with it.

Huh? What?

Yeah. Exactly. The problem with the idea of Die Young was that Shaw initially gets involved out of curiosity. But that’s not enough to make him take the case. It’s not believable that he should put aside paying work (okay, which he doesn’t have) and get into danger just because he’s curious. I knew I needed to provide him with a stronger reason to go after the Big Bad. I found that reason in the Trigger Person’s motive for their part in the murder. That had also been slightly tricky, because the Trigger Person needed to go against their apparent own interest to do it. When I found an answer to why someone would do it, I also had the answer for Shaw’s motivation to follow this through.

The other thing I knew from the beginning was that I wanted to leave it vague just how much the Trigger Person knew. Did they know they were murdering Diana Young? Did they think they were doing something else? Did they know and just fool themselves into thinking they didn’t? I think I pulled that off. Which leaves the next thing nicely poignant.

The suicide.

Another thing I always knew was that I wanted the Trigger Person to commit suicide in front of Shaw. (No, this is only a mild spoiler, because it happens only 30 pages into the manuscript.) As I worked towards it, I had this image of him chasing the Trigger Person up to a roof, where the Trigger Person confesses their part and jumps. As the story progressed, that became implausible. There was no way that the Trigger Person could stay out of Shaw’s reach long enough to get to the roof. There was also no way that Shaw would meet the Trigger Person on the roof. For the leap into death, they had to be in a closed room high up in a building. Problem: windows, and windows that high in New York, AFAIK, don’t open. So I needed the Trigger Person to have a way to smash the window. Solution: the Trigger Person brings a gun, to shoot out the window. Waitasecond — if the Trigger Person has a gun, they don’t need to shoot out the window, they can shoot themselves … Also, that they had brought the gun has some interesting implications about the Trigger Person’s state of mind after the murder.

So all in all, I’m happy with some things that I managed to do, but I’m unhappy that I left so much “to fix in revision”. But if I hadn’t, I’d probably still be tinkering with Chapter 6 (the exposition chapter, remember?). It’s probably better this way, even if I feel not very good about it.

23. April 2011

Novel in Progress: Die Young

Progress on Die Young is slow but steady. And as the saying goes, that wins the race, right?

On the chapters so far, I’ve borrowed a page from Robert B. Parker. If you look at how he did things, you’ll see that each chapter is one conversation. His protagonist has a conversation, end chapter, new chapter with new conversation, end chapter, new chapter with new conversation. Even if the two conversations happen in the same location. Start chapter, have conversation, end chapter. Start chapter, have conversation with the other person sitting at the table, end chapter.

So far, I pretty much did the same thing in Die Young. Shaw has a conversation, end chapter, next chapter is a different conversation in a different location. I’ll admit, though, that I did it that way mostly because I like to shift chapters between locations, not between conversations. I didn’t realize I was emulating Parker until after chapter 3.

So far, it makes sense to do it this way. I’ve got Shaw driving around, meeting people and asking questions to solve the murder of porn actress Diana Young. Three or so chapters from now, I’ll break style. Once Shaw has identified the person who actually administered the poison, I’m going to return to the pulpier, action-ier style of the Mickey Spillane school that I already used in The Coldest Blood. (Obviously, Spillane and Parker are two of the greatest influences in my own mystery writing.) Hopefully, the stylistic shift won’t be too upsetting, because it will be accompanied by a narrative shift.

21. April 2011

Novel in Progress: Die Young

Yes, I admit it. I haven’t talked about the progress of Die Young for a while, because there hadn’t been any. I had written one page in February, and then nothing.

On Sunday evening, I booted the notebook again and continued work. I’m not going very fast — I’m a slow writer anyway — but I’ve completed the first three chapters now.

As the plan goes, the first couple of chapters will chronicle the first day in the investigation, which will end with Shaw confronting the person who pulled the (metaphorical) trigger. That is going to open a completely different can of worms, and will keep Shaw busy (and in danger) for the rest of the novel.

The funny thing is that I got back to it because I was bored. I had one free hour. In such cases, I usually either watch a TV series episode on DVD or read. I didn’t feel like watching anything, and because I planned to get a certain book from the library the next day I didn’t want to start on any books. (I’m a one book at a time person.)

So instead, I did a bit of work on Die Young.

I’ve recently noticed that there is one piece of advice that’s frequently given: don’t stop the flow. When you’re writing, don’t go back to edit, just hack it out and leave all the edits/corrections for revision. I have  a friend who works that way, and he’s fast. Even I admit that the advice makes sense. Unfortunately, I can’t make myself work that way.

When I have a scene that contradicts an earlier scene, I feel compelled to go back and fix that. If I think of a better phrase for something I wrote earlier, it’s the same. I edit and revise constantly. Which, yes, is why I’m a slow writer.

I have also considered that I could post the chapters of Die Young here on the blog as I finish them.  That idea came, in part, from wrapping up a chapter evey night (so far). The main obstacle is that it’s not a pace I’m sure I can maintain. And unless I can maintain a regular update schedule, I wouldn’t want to start. On the plus side, it would be the whip I’d need to keep me going if I get another block. I put Die Young aside after one page because I’m not required to continue working on it. I have no deadline, and there isn’t anyone in the world who is actually waiting for this novel. There is no pressure to finish this. Turning it into a blog novel would provide that pressure. And yes, that would be a good thing.

What ultimately decided me against it, other than my worries about meeting a schedule, is the above-mentioned fact that I revise constantly. If I post chapter 1 today, next week’s version might be completely different after the story has progressed in a way that might have required many changes to chapter 1. Or simply after revising individual sentences as I thought of better ways of saying them. A good example is a running gag that I decided to add to the story, so I added it to chapter 1.

The running joke is that when Shaw tells his friends about knowing Diana Young, aka the porn starlet Teh SexKitteh, they all reply, “I didn’t figure you for the type.” When he clarifies that he knew her because she actually lived in his neighborhood, they make an unbelieving comment.

By the way: if you want to encourage me to finish Die Young and/or present the chapters on my blog, you can do so by leaving comments to my Novel in Progress posts and by buying The Coldest Blood, which is the first Shaw novel. For the latter, just follow the link on (your) right-hand side of the screen. It’s only 99 cents per download, and it’s DRM free.

20. April 2011

Review: Thor

USA 2011. Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins. Runtime: 114 minutes

A thousand years ago, there was a great war: the Frost Giants attacked the Earth. But the humans did not stand alone: to their rescue came the Asgardians, led by Odin (Anthony Hopkins). The Asgardians defeated the Frost Giants and sent them home. There was peace since then, but it was a fragile peace.

Now, Odin is about to retire from the throne, and intends to proclaim his son Thor (Chris Hemsworth) king of Asgard. Unluckily, the ceremony is interrupted by a trio of Frost Giants who have breached Asgard’s defenses to steal the Cask of Ancient Winters. Odin’s superweapon The Destroyer makes short work of them, though. Still, it is not enough for Thor, who considers this an act of war and wants to retaliate.  Against his father’s wishes, Thor, his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and their closest friends take the battle to Jotunheim, the realm of the Frost Giants. And much ass is kicked. But in the end, our heroes are outnumbered, and look to go down fighting, until Odin comes to their rescue.

I suppose you can imagine how unhappy Odin is with his favorite son. He’s unhappy enough that he banishes him to Earth. But with an escape hatch: a quickly whispered enchantment and a hammer throw provide Thor with the means to eventually return to Asgard: “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.”

Both Thor and hammer end up in New Mexico, where Thor meets Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her friends. Jane is an astrophysicist who has been busy exploring peculiar electromagnetic occurrences. Thor, of course, happens to be in the middle of one of them: Jane was tracking Bifrost, the bridge between Asgard and the other realms. Once Thor finds out that his hammer Mjolnir is also in New Mexico, he sets off to reclaim it. Bad news: he can’t. He isn’t worthy. Which means he is now stuck on Earth.

Meanwhile, on Asgard, Odin has slipped into the Odinsleep, leaving Loki king of Asgard. Loki, never one to miss an opportunity, sets out to cement his rule and make sure that Thor never returns. Leaving Thor stranded on Earth sounds like a plan, if only it weren’t for those pesky Warriors Three Fandral (Joshua Dallas), Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Hogun (Tadanobu Asano) and their companion Sif (Jaimie Alexander). (For those who wonder why Sif receives extra credit, instead of being part of Warriors Four – the three guys take their collective name from the comics, and in the movie, Sif is badass enough to merit an extra mention.) These four set out to bring Thor back, because they don’t like the idea of Loki being king. Which means Loki has to kill Thor. Pity. He hadn’t really wanted that. Destroyer, if you would, please.

When the Destroyer comes to smash New Mexico, Thor shows some new found humility and the willingness to sacrifice his own life for others. That seems to make him worthy, because now Mjolnir takes off to return to its master’s hand. And much ass gets kicked.

The good things first: Thor kicks ass. Or rocks. Whichever you prefer. On a scale of Marvel movies, it’s not quite as good as Iron Man 1, but better than Iron Man 2.

The movie wins because of the cast and the characters. Because of the story and the writing. Thor is a jock, a braggard, he’s big and strong, he has never met anyone he couldn’t take, and he never had to grow up. For Thor, life is an adventure. And it helps if your father is king of the gods. Chris Hemsworth sells this, he owns the part. He walks with a swagger, and he is so utterly charming in his arrogance that it’s impossible not to like him.

Something similar can be said of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. He’s a schemer and a planner. His plan in this movie is far more layered and complex than it seems at first. But even though he is a wily manipulator, his actions don’t grow out of evil. They grow out of being the second son, the less-loved son, who stands in the shadow of his larger-than-life brother. As Hemsworth and Thor, Hiddleston makes Loki believable. Likable, even. Sure, he wants to have his brother out of the way, but at first he doesn’t even want to kill him. He just wants to humiliate him, then get him out of the way. As the situation escalates, so do Loki’s plans, as he grows increasingly annoyed and lashes out with the same petulance that Thor exhibits at the film’s beginning. In that, Loki’s increasing childishness while Thor grows up, Hiddleston and Branagh present Loki as the mirror image of Thor.

Those are just the two principal players. All in all, the entire movie is perfectly cast, up to and including the two actors where I had certain problems. Before the movie, I was opposed to the idea of African-American actor Idris Elba playing a Norse god, as much as I was opposed to the idea of slim actor Ray Stevenson playing a character known as Volstagg the Voluminous. Both won me over, because they nailed their characters. There is not a single bad performance in this movie.

The story is not too complex, and yet Thor manages to be a rather smart action movie. There are several laugh out loud moments, sometimes in the dialog, sometimes in the way the actors present their lines, sometimes as physical comedy. But they are never out of place. The humor comes from the characters, their interactions with each other and the world(s) around them.

The bad: you will want to see this movie in 2D, because the 3D is Last Airbender-level bad. The 3D makes the movie darker, it becomes blurry, and it doesn’t add anything positive to the experience. The best scenes are those where the 3D doesn’t punch you in the “lookee, 3D” face. Scenes that are really just 2D. Well, it’s not as if this problem is anything new with post conversion, right?

The other bad is that Thor shows that Kenneth Branagh, who is a solid character (and story) director, is not an action director. The four major action pieces — the Frost Giant attack on the Vikings, the battle in Jotunheim, the fight of Thor vs. Destroyer and the showdown with Loki — are visual messes. I’ll have to see the movie again in 2D to know just how much the bad 3D helped jumble the scenes (the opening action piece was definitely ruined only by the 3D), but the Thor vs. Destroyer fight was almost as bad as the showdown in Ang Lee’s Hulk — it was very difficult to tell what was going on.

Finally, Thor tries to stuff too many characters into this movie. Every single one of them gets a moment to shine, and every single one contributes something essential to the story, but it does make for a bit of a clutter.

All in all, however, those two are the movie’s only flaws. All in all, Thor presents a coherent and clever story, likable and nuanced characters and solid acting by every single member of the cast.

The after-credits scene, by the way, connects Thor to both Captain America and Avengers. I’m not going to spoiler it any more than that.

Verdict: very recommended

13. April 2011

Awesome Ideas That Will Never Be

We all know that the new Superman movie is going to be a trilogy, right? And a reboot. And it’s common knowledge that Zod will be the villain in the first movie. Now, nobody’s asked me, and they never will, but this is how I would do a Superman trilogy. I’m focusing on Luthor’s storyarc here, because I feel that after having been the villain/supporting character in 4 out of 5 movies, the animated series, and Smallville, justifying his presence requires a bit more effort in order to make him interesting.

The first movie opens with the destruction of Krypton: a distinctively-shaped spaceship approaches the planet and destroys it. Just before that happens, Jor-El sends of infant Kal-El. The next years are summarized during the opening credits: arrival on Earth, growing up on a farm, discovering the powers and joining the Daily Planet.

Enter Lex Luthor, the most brillant mind on Earth. And a total sociopath. His supergenius intellect has made him a giant in science and economy, and his lack of conscience (“I am the pinnacle of human evolution – to me, all of you are like ants”) has made him utterly ruthless and disregardful of human life. Literally the only thing that matters to Luthor is Luthor. The rest of us exist to worship him.

Then Zod arrives, and with his superpowers begins to take over the planet. Luthor sets out to stop him – and fails. The first and only failure in his life. Even worse, this is the moment when Superman shows himself, takes on Zod and wins! Superman succeeds where Luthor failed, and he now gets the accolades that Luthor considers his due. That leaves only one thing to do: in order to set things right, Superman must be destroyed!

But that will have to wait, because in the second movie, the distinctive spaceship that destroyed Krypton approaches Earth. Brainiac has come, to destroy our world. And this time, even Superman alone isn’t up to the task. While Luthor would love to see Superman fail and destroyed, this won’t do — the only one who gets to destroy Superman is Luthor. And since there won’t be anyone left to worship Luthor if Earth is destroyed, Luthor needs to save the Earth. During the final confrontation on Brainiac’s ship, Luthor steals Brainiac’s data and happens upon something that nobody on Earth has ever seen: Kryptonite. He discovers that because Brainiac uses it against Superman, and Luthor needs to save Superman from the effects. Needless to say he keeps the sample for future use. Together, they kick Brainiac’s ass.

The third movie brings up the confrontation that audiences have been waiting for: Luthor vs. Superman. Luthor has used the information he stole from Brainiac’s ship to build himself a battle suit that is powerful enough to take Superman on. So he does, confident that even if the suit fails, he still has the Kryptonite to back him up. Superman wins, of course. That is the one thing that Luthor can’t tolerate, so he activates Plan Omega: he overloads his armor, which would result in an explosion powerful enough to wipe Metropolis off the map. It is something that Superman can of course prevent. Worse, from Luthor’s POV, is the fact that Superman saves Luthor’s life. In prison, all Luthor can think of is revenge…

10. April 2011

Awesome Ideas That Will Never Be

I originally had this idea sometime in the 1980s/early 1990s. I don’t remember exactly when. At the time, the idea would have worked. By now, that is no longer the case, the timeline makes it impossible.

Something that was established in the Roger Stern/John Byrne run of Captain America was that the US government had messed with Cap’s memories. I took that ball and ran with it.

One of the things that Cap had been made to forget was that he had been married, sometime after receiving the Super Soldier treatment. Therefore, he had no idea that he had a son, Steven Junior. The boy’s father had been told that her husband was missing, presumed dead – like so many others in wars all over the world throughout time. So she raised her son accordingly.

Steven Junior (from here on SJ, for convenience) fell in with the wrong people. With the extreme right. He had seen how his mother had worked herself to death, literally, in order to give her son a future, and that didn’t sit too well with him. His father had died for their country, and the country had abandoned them. The country owed him! The attitude didn’t change when SJ married and had a child, Brian. SJ managed to rise in the ranks of his right-wing group.

But the reader wouldn’t know all that when we start out.  The reader would encounter SJ when Captain America does, pretty much by accident. Cap notices just how much SJ resembles him, and the man’s name is Steven Rogers, so he has Nick Fury check the guy out and is stunned to discover that SJ is the son he never knew he had. And that he has a grandson, who is in college! Cap tries to connect with his son. For SJ, discovering that his father is Captain America is an opportunity. He stays at Cap’s side for a while, and when he has Cap’s trust — he traps him. He doesn’t kill him, he wants payback for being abandoned. So SJ becomes Captain America. And he wants his father to know what he does in his name.

Remember that I said that Cap married after becoming a super soldier? The treatment affected his genes, and the results carried over to SJ. SJ, now Captain America, turns against the US and establishes himself as a Neo-Nazi.

Enter Brian, who I’m sure you’ve already forgotten. Brian is shocked at what is going on. Especially once he discovers the true connection between his father and Captain America. So Brian Rogers does what every self-respecting grandchild of a superhero would do: he pretends to be his own granddad and takes on SJ. SJ flees the scene. Now, he decides, is the time to kill the real Captain America. Brian, who had expected something like this, follows his father. He prevents the murder of Captain America and frees Cap from the cage he’s locked into. Together, Cap and Brian defeat SJ. After which they take on SJ’s extremist group and kick their asses.

Afterwards, Captain America suggests that he could train Brian to be the next Bucky, so that he can eventually take over the shield himself. Brian refuses. He believes that he can accomplish more by finishing his education and putting that to use within the system, instead of as a masked adventurer. But he does stay on as an irregular supporting character.

5. April 2011

Awesome Ideas That Will Never Be

I actually pitched this one to Marvel, many years ago. It was shot down because of their sliding timescale — “JJJ isn’t that old.” Actually, he is; I had the idea after seeing Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson in the 1939 scenes of Kurt Busiek’s and Alex Ross’s Marvels.

Back in the early 1940s, Steve Rogers was not the only candidate for the Super Soldier program. There was another one. A newspaper journalist: J. Jonah Jameson. He passed the physical as easily as Rogers did, and truth be told the army preferred him. He wasn’t as wimpy as Rogers. True, Erskine had assured them that it didn’t matter, the end result would be the same. But the army liked Jameson’s more combative attitude.

In the end, they put both candidates into separate rooms for the final interviews. But something went wrong.

Nazi agents stormed the place. They Sieg Heiled through the top secret installation and, the element of surprise on their side, managed to kill Erskine and fight their way through to the two candidates. They stormed into the room where Jameson was. When they pointed their Schmeisser machine guns at him, Jameson slunk back into a corner and whimpered. They didn’t bother to kill him. He wasn’t worth their time.

Another group charged the room where small, skinny Steve Rogers was. They were met with a chair thrown at them. When they pointed their Schmeisser machine guns at Rogers, he stared at them defiantly.

“You can kill me now,” he said, “but you will never defeat the power of a free nation!”

That was when the general aborted the test. Rogers had passed, he had proven that he had the strength of character to become the first super-soldier.

Jameson was sent home in disgrace. Inside, he seethed. And every time he saw Captain America in action, or any other costumed hero, he knew that it could have been him, should have been him — if he had been man enough.

3. April 2011

Awesome Ideas That Will Never Be

A couple of years ago, the Joker beat Robin, whose civilian name was Jason Todd, to death.

Some time later, Jason Todd returned from the dead in a covoluted and fairly silly way. The less said about that, the better.

Jason Todd took on the identity of Red Hood in order to wage a war on crime. This choice of alias was fairly bizarre, considering that the Joker used to be Red Hood before he became the Joker.

As it turned out, Jason, who hadn’t been the most stable of personalities to begin with, had become even more balanced. Death and resurrection will do that to you, I suppose. You could even say that he had become downright crazy.

During one of his clashes with one of the Batmans, Jason happened to find a time machine. Now, what do you do when you find a time machine? You’d probably go back in time to set things right. The classic “Kill Hitler before WW2” scheme.

For Jason, the matter was personal. He didn’t care about Hitler, but think of how many lives could be saved if The Joker had never been. Most likely, Jason’s own life would have been far far happier. Sadly, nobody knew who Joker had been before he had been Joker. Well, except that Jason knew, from Batman’s files, that Joker had been Red Hood. Jason also knew when Joker had become Joker.

Setting the time machine for that date, Jason went back. With his knowledge of the events, he made short work of Red Hood’s gang.

Only, Red Hood wasn’t there. Or rather, the only Red Hood who was there was he, Jason.

Batman didn’t know that. All Batman knew was that Red Hood was on a killing spree, murdering his own gang. Jason knew he couldn’t talk to Batman. Batman was too OCD about this killing thing. Even if Jason told Batman, Batman would still insist on bringing Jason in.

Jason ran.

Batman gave chase.

Until they got to a dead end. Jason hesitated. He was down to three options. One was to surrender to Batman. No. Not an option. One was to fight Batman. Also, not an option. He knew that Batman was a much better fighter.

That left the option of jumping into the vat of chemicals. Jason was sure he would be all right. The helmet he wore had a built-in air supply for just a case like this. He could dive in and get away.

So he did. But the chemicals seeped into his helmet. And they burned. Oh, how they burned.

Somehow, Jason Todd survived. He climbed ashore somewhere farther down the Gotham River. He made his way to a flophouse.

Why did he feel so strange? He lay down on the bed, not bothering to even clean himself up.

The next morning, when he stumbled into the bathroom, the face he saw in the mirror was not his own. It was chalk-white face, topped by a mop of unruly green hair. A face that he knew too well, a face that haunted his nightmares every night.

Destiny had played a cruel joke on Jason Todd. But  a funny one. Jason laughed.

And he would never stop laughing. Not even when, years later, he would beat his younger self to death to punish him for being so stupid.

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