Super Sunday: Flood River Prison

The Situation

Our cast are inmates in Flood River Prison, and they have a secret.

The Characters

Gabe Diaz

Gabe went to prison after an armed robbery went bad and he was shot by his supposed partner. Full of hatred for both his betrayer and his self, Gabe wasn’t much enjoying his stay in prison. That is, until he met Sparkleshiner…

Sparkleshiner

Sparkleshiner is a magical pixie sort of thing that lived in the forest that was destroyed to make room for the prison. With nothing better to do, it went to explore the building, where it befreiended Gabe. Now, with its magical powers, Sparkleshiner periodically helps Gabe out of jams, but also frequently gets him into them.

Joshua Kleppent

Gabe’s cellmate is Joshua Kleppent, notorious former hitman who may or may not have dabbled in cannibalism, and he was pretty rough on Gabe for a while. But when Gabe made a supernatural friend, Joshua was brainwashed to be friendlier. Now he is Gabe’s best friend and helps keep Sparkleshiner a secret.

Budson Rodney

Budson was just weeks from getting out when Gabe first came to the prison, but his sentence has been extended because of all the trouble he’s gotten into trying to prove that Gabe is up to something. His constant efforts to snitch to the warden, and his constant failure to prove anything, have driven him over the edge and now he wants to murder Gabe.

Colby Worthington

Warden Colby Worthington hates a lot of things. He hates his job. He hates the inmates. He hates himself. He actually assumes that Budson is right, that Gabe is hiding something, but why is that his problem? Why can’t everyone just kill each other and let him be? After all, he’s got serial killing to do. That’s right, Colby Worthington is a serial killer. A man needs to have a hobby.

Notes

If it isn’t obvious, this is my bizarre take on the I Dream Of Genie or Bewitched type of sitcom, in which a character has magical powers and they have to keep it hidden from someone. I decided that that would be funnier if everyone involved was a terrible criminal.

Superman Cast: Jimmy Olsen Transforms

One of the things I intend to do with these Superman Thoughts is to talk at length about the supporting cast of the franchise. As I complained last time, the supporting cast is often the first thing writers cut out to fit in DC Universe Guest Stars and stuff that I don’t care about. So, if we are going to make the franchise the way I think it should be, getting the supporting cast working correctly is basically my top priority.

I’m going to get pretty darn obscure with these later, but not today. Today I am going to talk about possibly the least obscure member of the cast with the obvious exception of Lois Lane. Today I need to talk about Superman’s pal, James Bartholomew Olsen.

Jimmy Olsen’s deal is thus: He is a younger coworker of Lois and Clark at the Daily Planet newspaper, and frequently gets caught up in the various adventures and weirdness and Supermanning that happens there. It is hard to believe in today’s comics industry, but this character starred in a series that ran for over a hundred issues. There was a time when Jimmy was considered to potentially star in a television series, and that would have been before even Batman got one. Once upon a time, Jimmy Olsen used to be a big deal. Not lately, though.

As far as I can tell, nobody likes poor Jimmy anymore. Even among Superman fans I see on the Internet, Jimmy is mocked as a loser. And, sure enough, he is kind of a putz most of the time. But then, when he isn’t, such as on the currently-running Supergirl, where he is a successful photojournalist (and handsome as heck), a vocal number of people on the Internet saw it as being wrong for the character*. But, as with all things, I think it’s more complicated than people give it credit for. Neither putz nor pro is completely right or wrong for Jimmy.

When I read through the entire run of Jimmy Olsen’s comic, I particularly enjoyed the way he changed over the course of the series. In the beginning he’s a kid, kind of a sweet kid, but kind of an idiot. Superman always has to get him out of trouble and teach him lessons in bizarre ways. By the end, Jimmy is a legitimate photojournalist and bonafide action hero in his own right. If we think Superman should be about inspiring people to become better and step up to be good people, Jimmy was, in that era, an in-text example of that happening.

I contrasted that with a more modern retelling of Superman’s arrival in Metropolis, I think it was Superman: Secret Origin but it could have been Birthright, in which Jimmy was practically an action hero even before meeting Superman, and read the writer’s thoughts that they wanted to show why people like Jimmy (and Lois) were people Superman could be friends with. I can see that argument for Lois, but I feel like it takes away Jimmy’s most useful role in the franchise. Anyway, Superman can be friends with a chump like Jimmy. He’s Superman, after all. And Jimmy takes that friendship as a motivation toward self-improvement.

The problem is, I think, that no status quo in comics will ever again last long enough for that amount of growth to happen naturally. In my dream world, we would have a long-form telling of the Superman story that follows the cast for decades of their lives without interruption, but the odds of that happening aren’t great. So, if we’re only ever going to get glimpses of Jimmy in the process of his journey from chump to champ, I think the writers need to be more conscious of that fact. If you’re telling a tale set early in Superman’s career, let Jimmy be simultaneously a lovable doofus and an unlovable jerk. If your Jimmy has known Superman for longer, let him be on his way to being an actual hero, but not quite there. If you’re writing Jimmy who has been through it all and is now a true hero, you should emphasize how far he’s come, and how much work it was.

If I were writing a Jimmy in the middle of his transformation, I think I’d treat him like a Spider-Man type hero (minus the powers and costume, of course). He’s the kind of hero who can and frequently does make mistakes, but maybe we’ll believe he can learn from them, preferably being amusing on the way.

Anyway, I swear these were supposed to get shorter as I went. I had better sum up:

Jimmy Olsen, as a character, is about the way he is transformed by being friends with Superman.

And I didn’t even really get into why that concept is so appropriate for him.

*And let’s be truthful, they were also complaining that he’s black on the show, but that’s not actually a valid concern to me, so I’m not gonna bother with it.

Super Sunday: Divide By Hero

The Situation

In a world where superheroes are fairly commonplace, there are bound to be more loser ones than good ones. This is a sitcom about a handful of heroes of lesser renown who keep stumbling across one another in their attempts to fight crime. None of them are really friends and they only tolerate each other in the name of fighting for justice, or as close as they can manage.

The Characters

Secret Sword

Our point-of-view character, the Secret Sword is a young lady who found a sword that gives her magic powers. Having recently been fired, she decided to fight crime. She is immediately in over her head, and gets beat up repeatedly, and sticks with it only to show up the other heroes, who think she can’t make it.

Flasher

A prominent hero who has been active for decades, the light-powered Flasher is so very tired. He puts on a brave face for his fans, but he really thought that punching bad guys would have made a difference by now. He can only open up about his cynicism around the younger generation of heroes, who he wants to talk out of even trying, but also hates because they haven’t made everything great yet either.

Big Beetle

A teenager who accidentally got trapped in a superhero costume created by a rich scientist, Big Beetle has to fight crime to the scientist’s liking in order to get out of the costume for temporary spells and have a normal life. He doesn’t actually care about heroing, but the scientist sure does.

Techbelly

By eating metal or plastic or other such things, Techbelly’s powerful high-tech belly can rearrange them to create devices and gizmos that do all sorts of cool sci-fi stuff. Using these gizmos, Techbelly works to take down the criminals who run the illegal weapons rings in town. After all, he could make a lot of money selling high-tech stuff if they weren’t around.

Watchful Eye

Stuck by lightning, a young man found he suddenly gained a peak-human fitness level and no longer required sleep. Deciding to use these powers to benefit humanity, he became the Watchful Eye, a hero who prowls the streets and, when he sees danger, calls the appropriate authorities to the scene. All the other heroes find this incredibly lame and mock him mercilessly.

Steel Owl

The mysterious Steel Owl is a vigilante of the night wearing high tech armour that provides awesome powers and hides the wearer’s identity. There are rumours that the Steel Owl is actually a rich playboy who hates crime, but the truth is that the Steel Owl suit is worn by a high-ranking police officer. She knows that what she is doing is very illegal, but just enjoys it too much. It isn’t even an “I hate crime so much” thing. She really just finds superheroing fun. The rest of the cast are in awe of the Steel Owl who seems so cool and aloof and driven, but the Steel Owl is just extremely desperate to not mess up in any way and give away her secret identity.

Notes

Superhero sitcoms have been done well and done poorly. This, I think, would be one of the latter. I don’t think this show even gets to air all the episodes that are produced before it is cancelled. I would try to avoid the “superheroes hanging out in their downtime” thing that is most common. These guys all run into each other while working, but never in their downtime. It would only be Seinfeld-grade sitcom coincidence logic that makes them have to endure each other. That amuses me, at least.

I just shovelled a bunch of characters from loose sketches into this. At some point I was half-jokingly dared myself to create ANOTHER superhero universe so, while these would fit into one of the many I have already created, instead I declare this Yet Another Universe. Try and stop me.

Flasher is meant to be a superhero whose name would be seen as terrible by people who think about it more than he does (see the Whizzer, for example) and, in case it isn’t clear, I absolutely think the Watchful Eye is the most sensible person in this cast.