Jordan Taylor © 2018
All Rights Reserved
“Dr. Chamaeleo?” Archer jabbed my shoulder with two fingers. “Really? How many superheroes or villains already exist who have chameleon or camouflage or shapeshifter abilities and names?”
“Meaning it’s a classic,” I said. “Who gets tired of shifters?”
“I don’t know. You can do better, Noah. I thought you said you wanted to create a blind superhero. Where’s that guy?”
I didn’t answer for a minute, distracted by the plane’s engine, voices of passengers concealed by the roar, and an infant crying a dozen rows ahead of us.
Archer shifted beside me, probably looking out the window. We had a whole row of three to ourselves, having followed advice from my father about booking a window and aisle seat toward the tail of the plane. The middle seat never sold, leaving us room to roam.
Archer insisted he wanted an aisle. He liked to be able to move. Really, I was beginning to wonder if he was claustrophobic. I had never known that about him. Maybe that was the point of these trips? Getting to know everything you had missed about one another before the vows.
Not as if I could enjoy the view, so he had taken the window while he could still see the vanishing Cascade Mountains or ocean or British Columbia. I wasn’t even sure which direction the plane was taking. North or east?
I had badgered him to read the opening scene—first page, first draft—of my masterpiece in progress while we waited to board. We’d been interrupted by irksome matters like getting on the plane and settling in and taking off. After all the waiting, Archer had finally said something. Yet, now I had a funny feeling about the whereabouts of all that admiring praise I’d been expecting.
What if Archer did not appreciate how much work it had been, writing that first page?
“I did,” I said about the hero question. “I just… I’m not sure—” I shrugged. “No one wants to read about a blind superhero.”
“That’s your motivation now? ‘No one wants to read it’?” I could not hear Archer sigh over the noise of the plane, but I was sure he did. “I thought this was for fun. What difference does it make if nameless strangers want to read your comic book? One step at a time, Noah. Isn’t the point of the outline writing what you care about? Next, you’ll be telling me your hero isn’t even gay.”
“I just don’t think blind will work.” I felt into the now empty aisle seat to my right for my water bottle.
“That’s mine,” Archer said as I removed the cap.
“It is not. I tore the paper on mine so I could feel it.” I drank. “You’re such a dickhead sometimes.”
“What would I do besides enhanced non-sight senses? Hence, a Daredevil ripoff?” I asked, carefully twisting the cap back in place. “It’s been done before. Anyway, don’t you think a gay, blind superhero is a bit much?”
“Maybe for the 1970s. You just said it: so much has been done before. It’s time for a blind gay superhero. Not to mention a few leading women who dress like normal people in safe, practical costumes. Not bras and shin guards to fight all the creatures of the underworld.”
“Your views are too radical for today’s fantasy audience—”
“First of all, that’s not even true.” Now he just sounded irritated. “There are a lot of smart people in the world who are fed up with panty heroines, and there are gay superheroes around already. Second, I told you to stop with the audience bit. If you’re not doing this outline for yourself, who, exactly, are you writing for?”
I sat in silence, leaned close to him at the window so we could hear one another.
Of course I couldn’t admit it, but that was a damn good question. When, and how, had I gotten it in my head that I wanted to develop my comic book idea with an artist and actually publish? I wasn’t sure, but…there it was.
I had somehow regressed over ten years to junior high when I had read everyone from Chris Claremont to Jim Lee, Frank Miller, and Tim Truman, then drew and wrote my own, filling sketchbook after sketchbook. A long, long time ago. Yet, apparently, not as long as I’d led myself to believe.
So was I interested in seriously writing a comic book? Even if I could no longer be my own artist? Even if I had to collaborate with someone else, whose work I would never see? It sounded like a horrible idea. So I felt surprised to discover that I was unsure of the answer.
I said none of this to Archer. I had told him I wanted to do an outline just for fun and I’d welcome his feedback, and for now, that was the story I was sticking to. Trouble was, Archer hadn’t given much feedback. Asking where the blind guy was and why I cared about a mythical audience? Not helping.
“Anything else?” I asked. “About the first page?”
“Except?” I prompted. I knew that tone.
“Except…” Maybe a shrug? “You know.”
“No. That’s why I asked for your feedback. I’m just starting outlines and scenes and characters. Now’s the time.”
“Well.” Like a sentence. Like, No.
“You know Whiteout is an office supply, right? No one is going to think of blizzards or anything if that’s what you’re going for.”
“I thought of blizzards.”
“And you used the word ‘column’ wrong. Column implies a vertical construct, not horizontal. And using Twinkies as a metaphor in your opening line sets a juvenile tone, don’t you think? Unless your main character loves junk food and you’re trying to develop him.”
“Anything else?” I repeated, feeling stiff in my seat now. Yes, I wanted feedback, but this was minutiae. This stuff didn’t matter. I wanted to know what he thought about the setup itself. The tension, drama, danger, and details. All those dead bodies.
“You said the weeds were ‘frosty’ or something in the same sentence you said it was raining. I guess that can happen, right at the moment it starts to rain and everything was already frosty, but it doesn’t make sense. If you want to show how cold it is in the story, just note one: either freezing rain or frosty ground. Which one depends on the tone you’re trying to set and the season.”
What the hell did he know about tone and point of view? Archer didn’t write. As far as I was aware, he had never shown the least interest in it either. I was the one into English and the classics. The one in school for it.
He might have grown up on some of the same comic books, but computers and games had been his thing.
I sat there, listening to the crying baby, not wanting to argue for the whole trip. Things had already been tense before we even reached security—when I thought I’d lost my passport. We both had to get them especially for this trip, neither having been outside the United States before.
“You’re talking about trivialities,” I said after a pause, trying not to sound too accusatory or snappish. “What about the overall concept? That’s all that matters at this stage.”
“Overall, okay, I guess. It’s a little cliché, but if your hero is gay and blind and there’s a fully dressed female lead, you can make up for it.”
Nothing like a nice backhand to crown a heap of criticism.
“Thanks,” I said stiffly.
Archer shifted beside me. “You said you wanted honest feedback, right? Not platitudes and pats on the back?”
“Sure. I’ll think about the hero some more.”
“You’re really creative, Noah,” Archer went on. “You wouldn’t have any trouble with this if you did whatever you wanted. Don’t worry about ‘readers’, or Daredevil, or that something’s been done before. If you make it your own and do what inspires you, it’s not going to matter. You’ll do something great.”
I leaned my head on his shoulder. “I’m sorry I called you a dickhead.”
Archer chuckled. “You’ve called me worse.”
“Then maybe I’m the dickhead.”
“That seems more likely. Move. I’m going back to the aisle.” Archer climbed over me, relocating our stuff from that seat, standing on my foot, and finally flopping back down. He let out a long breath that I could hear now. “Next stop, Amsterdam. Only ten short hours away.”
“Can’t wait.” I leaned into him to kiss his jaw before resettling myself. “Happy honeymoon.”