Villain is as villain does

monicaThis is Monica Martinez – Texas Mexican-American, ex-U.S. Marine, neither better nor worse than you or I under most circumstances, and mightily pissed off. She’s also Topaz – a supervillain who robs banks. She tracks down the legendary Bandit and approaches him with a partnership offer, and neither could have guessed how that would turn out. Their series One Plus One, written by me, illustrated by Manuela Soriani and Mattia Bulgarelli, will show you the difference between robbing banks and robbing banksters. Also what supervillains have to deal with when their schemes and crimes work.

Oh yeah – that imprint name, “Xaos Comics,” I decided it’s overly clever (the X is a chi, get it?) and I’m going with plain old, understandable, and mellifluous Adept Comics. Patrons can see more preview material every week or so …yes, the Patreon link is at the top right on this very page. You didn’t see one that isn’t there, or anything like that.

I noted how much flailing went on when I tried to skate past my protagonists in order to talk about other characters. I said a very brief “A,” and the immediate attempts at “B-C-D,” “Z,” and in at least one case, “7,” showed me how dangerous promotion of a supers title can be. The important observation was that people are interested, which is awesome, and that it’s time to start promoting here.

Except, imagine that he wisely decides to do it in a city without Spider-Man in it.

So, explanation, part 1, is this: imagine a fight scene from early Marvel or a comic a lot like that … say, the first time or two that Spider-Man tangled with the Vulture. Fight’s over, never mind how it turns out. Now imagine that instead of following the rest of Peter Parker’s day, we follow the Vulture instead. In fact, that we began the story with him anyway, and we know more about the context of this exact crime he’s doing – why, for how much, against whom – than we do about why and how Spider-Man got there too. We know what winning or losing this fight meant to him.

This idea necessitates abandoning certain cheap writing tricks. No idiot ball. No for the evulz. No “must have revenge on hero” plots. Villains are proactive and mine are smart. And so you see the whole picture, I’m not writing them as misunderstood good-guys or would-be-good-except-I’m-neurotic ones either.

Explanation, part 2, is this: in my superhero setting – which is pretty much the world around us and I see it – there are thousands of supervillains, world-wide. They aren’t concentrated in the U.S. and in the U.S., not in New Tork City. It’s a thing. People know what they are, and each one, or nearly all of them, actually promotes his or her image and activities to the point of branding. For most of them, in fact, it is literal branding, because they are smart enough to offer their personal services for hire, or in alliance with, or under the direction of, some organization which they agree with. It might be an illegal organization or it might very well not be.

tendrilThey typically also manage that image very well via social media and anything else you can think of. For example, the bizarrely charismatic high-tech villainess Tendril does weird shit like trying to turn the Orinoco River into an alien landscape, but she also makes a killing as a “be successful like me” guru and selling self-help books.

This changes up the conventions of costumes and imaging. Consider a super-assassin in a scary outfit and skull-mask. Does he wear that stuff when on the job? No! He wears it to negotiate and sign contracts. And very occasionally when killing someone, with thorough selfies involved, to use for promotion.

Topaz does her version too; although she is unusual in being an actual thief, who doesn’t hire out and isn’t associated with some group, she pulls gaudy “bank jobs” in costume occasionally because that’s what people think a bank-robbing villain would do, and it’s good press for her, as she sees it. Such things account for maybe a tenth of her actual crimes.

My second series is Saif Alllah, or the Sword of God, illustrated by Michela Da Sacco.


He’s at war with the War on Terror, against this sort of thing, for example. As a more shadowy vigilante type, his “brand” is more literally rep among those whom he’s benefited and those who are determined to bring him down. A rep which becomes national and international very quickly, and within which, it’s very hard to decide what to do.

And third, Ophite, in development now with Gennifer Bone – the eponymous heretic, cult leader, prison abolitionist, scary man with half a dozen trigger warnings, and thinking, really thinking, about how to make this endeavor work. Plus snake-women lieutenants, because, um, they uh, have to be included. Logically. Of course.

You’re trying to yap about heroes now, aren’t you? I wrote about them in Scary heroes, and y’all couldn’t resist talking about the villains, and now you’re going the other way around. Never mind crime-fighting or government-agent superheroes on the same scale as the villains; there aren’t any. Don’t debate me about this, please, and let me stay with the villains.

Explanation part 3, is this: I’m writing about supervillains in the above context who offer the most enjoyable judgment calls for the observer. “Villain” means different things depending on whether we’re talking about in the fiction or in the reader’s eyes. Most people in the fiction consider the protagonists of my stories villains, and for reasons you can understand. For the reader, though, again, I’m not using any of the cheap conventions that comfortably place these characters in the “bad guy” story role. No kicking the dog, no complete monster. What they do may be over the moral event horizon for some, and not for others. Furthermore, my four current protagonists aren’t like one another, either; you can’t lump the whole line into categories like well-intentioned extremist or anti-villain.

I’ll be writing about the most important stories in their lives dramatically and consequentially. You’ll just have to see what you think per character, for yourself.

Next: 70s and 80s, ladies

About Ron Edwards

Game author, publisher, consultant, teacher

Posted on June 5, 2016, in Lesser is still great, Xaos Comics and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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