The story/memory below is a repost from my daddy-blog, Sleep Deprivation Ninja, pulled from the Ninja as Child stories. A recent event has sparked the need to revisit this memory. This is the only thing I can leave for my daughter on this topic–my own personal experience. I was hoping she would be older before having to learn about this side of humanity–and I think even now, at nearly 5, no child is really able to fully grok the concept. It just flat out doesn’t make sense. There’s no reason they should understand it–but here it is.
The below is a true account of my childhood as I remember it, as are all of the Ninja as Child stories on that other blog–these are some of my most vivid memories because of their intensity. I spent many nights staring at the ceiling of my bedroom, reliving them, thinking how life might have been different, if there was anything I could have changed…
“You don’t know who Jon Bon Jovi is!?” This came from Izaak, the 7-year-old kid standing in front of me, wearing a leather jacket with a big “Jon Bon Jovi” spread across the back.
I had, of course, in my ignorance, dared to ask him, “Who is Jon Bon Jovi?”
We are all standing in line, awaiting our release from our second grade classroom, into the open embrace of recess. I look at Izaak who has only half way turned around to give me the same face the Fonz would use to tell someone, “hey, it’s cool, I’m cool enough for the two of us.”
Izaak is cool enough for the two of us. He is a certifiable badass. This kid knows everything that is cool. He’s slick with the ladies. He can always win those toys from the stupid claw machines at the video arcade. Every. Freaking. Time. Sometimes we go to the video arcade at the mall just so he can prove it.
So, I’m standing there, turning red with embarrassment that I don’t have a clue who this Bon Jovi guy is and Izaak saves me. He leans in and whispers, “he’s a singer, man.”
“Oh. Oh, yeah, I knew that.” I’m such a smart-ass. Izaak shakes his head, totally not falling for my ruse. “You going to Mike’s birthday party tonight?”
“Yes I am.” He says and then he throws his hands into the air in a badass biker style “ROCK” just as the bell rings. For a split second it looks like he made the bells ring just by throwing his arms up and giving the signal. I marvel until the vanishing line catches up with my position.
Children pour out into the play yard like a bag full of marbles spilling out onto the floor. Direction is meaningless. Vectors change based only on the terrain. Individuals coalesce into groups, arbitrarily merged based on location, rather than social status. The hordes of children indulge only in fun.
Mike’s birthday party that night begins at Angelo’s Pizza. There are about eight of us running amuck, pizza in one hand and a fistful of quarters for the video games in the other. Several very large pizza’s are quickly devoured. My stack of quarters lasts me about fifteen minutes. Some other kids have more and I watch as they play. Izaak has been playing for over thirty minutes on the quarter he borrowed from Mike. Badass. Within the hour, all the quarters are gone and Izaak has killed the game. This place is spent. But the night is still young. The party continues at Mike’s house, where we will all slumber over, living the fort-building, pillow-fighting, video-game addicted paradise.
When we get to Mike’s house, I look around at all my cohorts and something isn’t right. “Where’s Izaak?”
Mike shrugs, “I don’t know… I think he had to take off or something.”
“Man that sucks.” I’m a little hurt. How could he ditch out on the best part. A sleepover! That’s just crazy. I’m sad for a brief moment but little boys with their toys and games are easily distracted and fooled. We all forget about Izaak.
The next morning, my mother picks me up and she asks me how it went. “Oh, we made this awesome fort and played video games and ate lots of junk food and it was fun. I wish Izaak was there. Do you know why he didn’t come?”
My mother stares out the window of the car as we drive away. She looks unusually distant. “I drove Izaak home last night from the pizza place.” Then she looks at me with a pained expression like she is about to cry.
“Why, what happened?” I’m scared for Izaak. Did he get injured or something? Did he have some kind of emergency?
“Mike’s mother told me she didn’t want him there because Izaak is black.” She looks at me. I’m at a total loss for words. “She said, I don’t want that negro boy staying at my house with my son. That’s what she told me. So I took Izaak and I drove him home and I explained it to his parents…. I’m so sorry.” She turns back to the road.
“Mom! Why didn’t you tell me? Why did you let me go there? I wouldn’t have gone if I knew that.” I start to get angry, brooding with my arms folded tight.
“I’m sorry, I should have told you. I regret not telling you.”
I can’t stay mad at my mother. I stare out the window and I imagine that I am Izaak, sitting here in the passenger seat, being driven home from the party. Did he cry? I wonder, did this happen to him a lot? I had no idea someone would ever do something like that to him. Why? WTF? Why?
Fuck. Now I’m fighting the tears just remembering this shit. And yes, ninjas do cry, but it only happens when a ninja relives some of the tragic memories that eventually combined to create the need to become Ninja. I can still choke a Jabberwock with my pinky.
Izaak just keeps cool. On Monday, in class, he just shruggs like the Fonz when Mike and the others ask him what happened to him. “Hey, I just had to go, you know.” Izaak didn’t miss a beat. Mike doesn’t even know his own mother is a racist bitch.
I look around the classroom. Tiffany has red hair. Brian’s hair is black. I have extreme blue eyes, about which the teacher makes frequent creepy comments. I’m the only one in the class with eyes this blue. Tiffany is the only one with red hair. Izaak has really dark skin. It’s darker than peter’s and in a different way. Everyone’s hair is different. Everyone’s eyes are different. Our noses are different, our chins, our height, the size of our hands. Everyone has a different skin tone. The only thing we see in each other is difference. And difference is cool.
This classroom is full of hippie children. Most of our parents were hippies. Some still are. We live in a little town full of natural food stores and local bars where everybody knows your name. In this town of monotonous living, conformity is tantamount to wearing a shirt that says ‘Dull’. So we all look at each other for the differences that make us cool, all trying not to blend in with anyone else. Until we get around to learning about discrimination in school, none of us has any idea the world is full of such things. Sure, we notice we are all different but by what scale could we even dare to label any of these traits better than others? The only thing that matters is that you know who the fuck Jon Bon Jovi is. That’s definitive.
Many years later, I’m about 15 years old now, and I’m at the grocery store getting a bunch of stuff for my mom. When it’s my turn in line, I unload a full cart of food onto the conveyor belt and when I look up, I recognize the woman at the register. It’s Mike’s mom. She’s older but she still looks the same. I remember Izaak and as I think about him, recognition dawns in her face too. She knows who I am. She knows I was friends with both her son and with Izaak. I think about screaming at her or just casually asking her what it’s like to hate people like Izaak for such stupid reasons. I look behind me and see that the line is long. Everyone is waiting for my heap of goods to be purchased so they can take my place and interact with this woman.
No, not this woman. I look at the ground and lick my lips, clenching my fists, ready to bash her face in while she’s calmly beep-beeping my groceries. I look up at her and slowly shake my head. I can’t do this. I can’t make this transaction.
I leave. I just walk out. The pile of groceries sits on the conveyor belt and yields to no one. She doesn’t say anything. I know as I leave the store that she is just staring at my back and she knows exactly why. It’s not much resolution but at 15, I am not yet a ninja. I’m still just a little boy who doesn’t understand the world. Not even a little.
Damn. That was the saddest stroll down memory lane I’ve taken in a while. I’m getting all of these memories written so I can remember them when I’m old and so my daughter can have an idea what the world was like when I was a kid. I had forgotten when I started this project that so many of the memories that stuck are pretty shitty. I’ve got a million more. But that’s why I eventually cracked and became Ninja. Time for something to laugh at. This seems relevant:
I made this one page comic for the Bureau of Drawers Vol D, but we didn’t get enough submissions and the guy putting it together didn’t think half of the submissions (2/4) were good enough to publish. Since he was vague and I know the other artists in the group are awesome, I’m assuming mine fell into the bad group. Sad panda day. -[._.]-
[Click Image for Full Size]
He’s crazy. This PhD student we’ve got in our place. Granted, we are living underground, in an abandoned missile silo, so we all have our eccentricities. But this guy has really lost it. We think he’s acquired a real missile–a fucking nuclear powered atomic bomb thingy. He keeps playing with the control room, like he’s setting up for something.
He’s done it. This place is on lockdown. There’s apparently no way to stop the bomb. The whole system is rigged on a death-lock. If anyone tries to tamper with it, the missile goes off immediately. We’re certain he’s got it aimed at Moscow. He’s going to trigger the doomsday scenario. He’s on some kind of ‘world must reset itself’ binge. Bunch of fucking philosophy major bullshit. The whole world knows. It’s on the news. NATO was alerted that a formerly deactivated launch center has triggered an offensive attack and it’s gong down in the next two hours. Seems like a long time. Maybe the government will be able to break into the silo and stop this thing. Maybe they have a backdoor into the system and they can stop it for real. I’m kidding myself, of course.
I’m not certain but I suspect he thinks the russian defense system won’t work, like it’ll be delayed a few hours in responding. Just enough time for the US of fucking A to take full offensive and finish the job in fear of the final retaliation. He thinks some people will survive this thing. We don’t even try to argue the ecological impact that will undoubtably carry radiation and death to every door of the world. Even if half the world is destroyed. We are all members of a fragile web. He’s fucking with the web.
The radios are all scatter-cast. They hiss and jibe in a frenzy with broken reports and speculation. The World is onto this place. Everyone is kissing their loved ones. Ready for the end of the world.
He likes me. Some kind of comrade in arms thing. We’re bunkmates, telling stories of our childhood and fucked up upbringing. We know each other’s secrets. I should have known he’d go ballistic on the entire world. But he has some kind of escape mechanism.
We are going to the moon. He’s got this advanced military device that can teleport (or some crazy science) us to the moon in no time. I don’t know what to say but he’s invited me to watch the end of the world on some odd little secret military base with him. Before I know it, we are beach-towel-laying on the moon, just outside of the base station, staring at Earth and the whole thing just looks so sad and fragile. I ask him about space suits and he says he didn’t have time to pack them but the air filtration and ventilation system inside the base will allow us to breath outside within 20 feet of the entrance. It’s just blasting us with oxygen, faster than the void of space can rip it away from us. My hair is in a permanent wind gust pattern the likes of which Morrissey has never known.
I’ve got to get back home. This moon-base is freaking me out. It’s a dome that looks like something out of a James Bond casino scene. There’s a Jukebox and a sassy waitress, booze and billiards. I feel like throwing up. I jump for the transporter while his back is turned.
One of my housemates reminds me that I have an experiment brewing. It’s a form of nano-machine powered ectoplasmic fluid that will melt through just about anything, even heated enriched uranium, releasing safe, eco-friendly waste into the air. The missile is right in front of me and I drizzle the beakers all over it. The cap melts, revealing a super-hot plasma sphere. Canisters of all kinds of deadly crap are sitting inside the missile, melting together into the ultimate weapon. I don’t know what to do but I keep splattering the fluid all over the device. The timer is ticking. It’s getting hotter in here. I can see that if I continue to eat through the material, this whole place will fill with such heat and fire that all the oxygen will burst into flames. We will all die. I prod the goo, trying to get it to work but something in it has just given up. It’s just laying there in spatters like inert spit–a worthless affront to the inevitable. Like the whole of physics has just flipped a middle finger to this crazy species.
I envision the end of the world. The ecto-acid goo isn’t preventing the apocalypse. I can’t stop the timer. My flatmates are hiding themselves in self-flagellation, coming the form of last minute video game victories and alcoholic drinks–they’ve given up. I can hear the military, with their best men, banging on the top door. They want in–knowing full-well the best they can do is put a bullet in my flatmates and me. I can’t open the door from the inside. It’d be worth a try to give them a chance at stopping it. This is happening. We’re all going to die.
The timer counts down and I can hear, through the distant crackles of the kitchen radio, the cries of mothers holding their young. The missile fires. We watch it go up into the air and all we can do is hold our breath.
Russia has a hand on the trigger. The US has the same. Everyone ready to kill and die but not willing to fire until it’s set in stone. Thank fucking reason for that. Nobody in the face of the earth breathes for a long time.
The missile keeps going. It goes up–and when it should be turning toward Russia, it doesn’t. It just keeps going up, through the atmosphere and into space, off to detonate somewhere else.
I gasp for air as all the oxygen in the planet moves in and out at once.
Every blue moon there’s a comic that really speaks to modern culture. Atomic Robo (written by Brian Clevinger and art by Scott Wegener) fills that gap for me at the moment. I mean, Nikola Tesla invents an immortal AI robot who grows up to kick ass with Carl Sagan (on one particular adventure). But the real kicker for me is in Vol 4, Revenge of the Vampire Dimension, with the introduction of Dr. Dinosaur (AKA Lord Raptor) who explains how he will dismantle Atomic Robo:
Plattribution [pla-truh-byoo-shuhn] –noun
– The polar opposite of plagiarism; rather than taking credit for someone else’s content, it is the act of attributing original content to someone who did not create it.
– Also, riding on another’s fame to publish content under that person’s name.
– see plattributious, plattributed, platribution
Examples of Use:
Martin Luther King Jr never commented on the loss of thousands in contrast to the death of one. It is a plattributious quote by some internet user.
The plattribution of twitter content to historical characters has become a plague in recent years as the youth have become increasingly disconnected with historical fact.
“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.” – Martin Luther King, Jr
“People believe anything they read on the internet if it fits their preconceived notions.” -Thomas Jefferson.
This is the three-act character arc & story structure that I’ve been using, boiled down from many online sources. It is now packaged in my template for creating new scripts, stored under the handy research folder in Scrivener–but I figured I’d share it here for posterity. Please comment with any notes, or suggestions for alterations.
This is a pretty standard formula. If you run through any major Hollywood movie, you can map it pretty much directly to this set:
- ACT 1 – Introduction, contentment
- Introduce protagonist who will resist change (inner conflict), being perfectly content—or at least having no reason or will to change
- Plot Point 1 – Event that throws the character’s life off balance.
- Surprise shifts the story in a new direction
- Reveals the protagonist’s life will never again be the same
- Introduces an obstacle, which forces the protagonist to deal with something he/she would normally avoid
- ACT 2 – Emotional Journey
- Challenges — the protagonist struggles toward the goal/McGuffin
- Conflict! – Each conflict appears and resolves to move the story forward
- Inner and Outer conflicts, working together, alternating between hope and despair/disappointment
- External conflicts seem solvable then insurmountable, then solvable.
- Get into trouble. Raise the stakes. The character will make bad decisions.
- Ends with the hero’s dark moment—utterly beaten, abandoned, all hope of achieving the goal is lost
- Plot Point 2 – Throw the story in an unexpected direction, allowing the goal to be reachable
- Rally the troops, head for the goal
- Act 3 – Resolution
- Draw upon new strengths, realized by lessons learned in overcoming Act 2 conflicts
- Obtain the McGuffin / Achieve the goal.
- Wrap it up
- Show the character’s change
I’ve now been trying to get inZomnia finished for a while (as a 12 issue volume) and I’ve been rolling this other idea around in the back of my head for almost as long. I’m not really putting off inZomnia but I have to admit it is an ambitious first entry into the comics space. This other idea is much simpler and allows me to create a single issue to introduce the world without worrying that later issues might need to revise the first.
Something about the comics industry that I find so strange is that writers don’t usually have the full story mapped out. They might have the current arc fully bulleted (hopefully) but they typically write an issue, it goes to the artist, they write another issue, and so on. Usually this only happens with ongoing series like The Walking Dead, DMZ, The Boys etc, which are three series that have been really disappointing to me lately–I find that any series pushing past 60 issues is just going on too long. But imagine writing a novel where you write the first chapter, polished and complete, ship it off to press and then start writing the second chapter, knowing that you have no ability to revise character interactions, manners of speech, plot devices, etc in previous chapters–those are set in stone. The really minor things are what get me. Since I’ve been writing inZomnia, I’ve revised the first issue script 3 times–and they are very different versions. Perhaps it’s just an issue with having all the characters and story fully mapped–something I’m still working on–but I keep thinking of subtle things that I issue #10 or #11 will have that need a little foreshadowing earlier on. It would be a pity to press those and not have the ability to include that. So, since I’m new to this, I’m not just outlining–I’m going to at least write a prose page for each issue, fully flushing out the details before I go back to revise the actual scripts again.
In the meantime, as advised by my virtual mentor Antony Johnston in his fantastic articles on writing comics, it’s good to step back and work on something else to give your brain time to come back with a fresh perspective.
If you are unfamiliar with Antony’s work, he is currently writing Wasteland and the following articles on his site are required reading for anyone wanting to write comics (or even if you are just into writing anything at all, the first article is for you):
- Getting Things Written
- Antony Johnston’s Process
- Scrivening Comics (I highly recommend Scrivener as well–it’s a beautiful writing tool for writers of all kinds–and I get no money for saying that).
So, as I was saying, I took a little break today and created a 3 act outline for a 1-shot comic called “Asher Evans isn’t Real.” Of course, it’s a 1-shot that sets the stage to grow into an ongoing series or, as I prefer all media to be, a more flushed out and conclusive graphic novel. Asher Evans has a twitter account if you are interested in following the progress of a fictional character living a fictional life within his own fictional world: http://twitter.com/AsherEvans
Next steps with this one-shot are:
- Writing a prose summary for the issue
- Converting the prose summary into 3×5 cards (using scrivener to create 22 cards that also double as script pages)
- Expand those cards into scripted format
- Find an artist to do some character sketches