When you ask, “what is the oldest profession?” to a random passerby on the street, chances are the answer they will give you will be “prostitution.” To that I say, “fair enough.” However, I believe the aforementioned quote by Alan Rickman proves to me that storytelling and authorship has to be in least the top five. It also gives me reason to contemplate my appreciation for the fantastic—particularly superheroes—and my desire to craft my own tales about them. I very much agree with Mr. Rickman that stories fulfill a very human need. Moreover, I agree that stories reveal who we are, which particularly resonates with me because I cannot help but inject a little of myself into my works.
Without revealing too many intimate details of my past, I admit that I was the kind of child whose head was up beyond the clouds and somewhere in the stars. Superheroes where always a part of my daydreams; I used to imitate swinging from building to building like Spider-Man from the 60s animated show (and confused my poor grandmother in the process on trips to the playground.) The makeup of them changed throughout childhood as I found inspiration from other series like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Samurai Pizza Cats, believe it or not. The core fantasy around them remained the same: I was the hero and my friends would fight evil with me and we would save the world on a daily basis.
Very little of that changed over the years. Prodigious began life as a blatant self-insertion fantasy where I was the star of the show with my friends, family, and even psychological hang-ups along for the ride. Flare was my avatar in this universe and represented my own desire to returned to what felt were more carefree times in childhood—complete with amnesia for a blank slate. The story evolved over time as some friends drifted away and disappeared from my life altogether and thus the characters resembled my friends, family, and myself less and less. It was originally just about me and my friends, but the idea for a “superhero school” in a town that makes Eerie, Indiana and South Park appear normal crept in. It became less about my friends and I saving the world and more about whatever skewed thought crossed my mind.
It feels that Prodigious is becoming more about the absurdities I see in world where it appears that the lunatics are running the asylum. Case in point, the (seemingly) willful ignorance that afflicts the denizens of Apex Falls, especially the mayor, Norman Blanche who could see Bigfoot riding a chimera bareback in front of him and find a way to deny that it happened. I see that cognitive dissonance is pervasive throughout society such as those who claim to stand for “social justice,” for example. As I have stated in the past, I am sympathetic to #gamergate. Not because I believe that the movement stands for journalistic ethics (anymore, at least) but because of how their opponents lack any sort of self-awareness. Opponents of #gamergate claim that their opposition to the movement is to stop harassment and/or threats to women and minorities. Yet, as this video reveals, they will harass their opponents with doxxing and swatting; threaten them with violence; and attempt to incite mass murder with impunity in the name of ideology. People like them deserve savage mockery because they have no sense of irony. It is not just “social justice warriors” but humanity as whole, where groups refuse to turn that critical lens at themselves. It ties to what Rickman said about needing stories to tell us about who we are.
Despite how Flare and the world I created around him evolved beyond what I had intended as an indulgent self-insertion story, I was never able to completely separate him from myself. Perhaps it is possible that he is a facet of personality; I was a timid kid who never stood up for myself and instead retreated into fantasy to escape the bullies and taunts. Who is to say there is not an element of truth in that fantasy? After all, Aunt May said in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2.
“I believe there’s a hero in all of us. That keeps us honest; gives us strength; makes us noble.”
Everyone wants to believe that they are the heroes of their own story and I like to believe that Flare is my heroic persona. He is able to be strong and brave when I cannot; he is brutally honest; and despite being an impulsive brat, he is still noble and selfless. The only times you comes out is when my fingers touch the keyboard. Men like Joseph Campbell have deconstructed the hero myth, which seems to have transcended the cultural boundaries that otherwise divide the human race. Stories are the one thread that ties us together as a species and it is for that reason that I write. Even when I feel distant and isolated, Flare is my way of bringing everyone else into my world where anything is possible.
Cosmic Knight is an… interesting hybridization of two rather disparate characters. In his original incarnation I envisioned him as the Prodigious version of DC Comics’ Starman complete with storied legacy and his “cosmic lance” taking the place of the Gravity/Cosmic Rod. However, the later incarnations would utilize powered armor in their crusade against evil (as hackneyed as it sounds), which effectively bring them closer to Marvel’s Iron Man in that respect. With a the added tweak of transforming the Prodigious world into an amalgamation of several dozen parallel Earths, why not scrap the initial concept and build from the ground up? What makes the stellar sentinel particularly important to the overall series is that his grandchildren are central to story so his “dynasty” deserves a detailed history.
Every superhero universe needs god-like aliens who take an interest in Earth or the human race in my estimation. The DC Universe has the New Gods (who are more like living abstract ideas if my reading of Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis is accurate, but I digress), Marvel has the Celestials, Doctor Who has the Time Lords, and so forth. I am also borrowing a little from the Metroid series by making the alien gods of Prodigious avian-themed like the Chozo, hence their name: the Avessi. They are roughly humanoid in shape, bipedal with opposable thumbs and fingers to physically manipulate objects, and feathers cover the majority of their bodies with a crest on the back of their head like a blue jay. Their closest terrestrial counterparts in terms of appearance and genetics are the family corvidae, though a race similar to the accipitridae family (eagles and hawks) existed as well. In terms of intelligence, the Avessi were the most advanced race in the Local Group and developed psionic abilities such as telepathy, telekinesis, and teleportation. However, as their physical abilities diminished as their mental abilities increased and became reliant on them for mobility and communication. Most of their technology operates on a mental interface rather than keys, switches, or dials. This interface is incompatible with most species, except for baseline humans and ultrahumans though the interface requires a disciplined mind to operate it properly.
Their home world remains unknown because their civilization lasted for billions of years–long enough for the parent star to enter its red giant phase. The last known “nest world” was Qwyll, which the minotaur-like Khrunn decimated and stripped clean approximately one-hundred thousand years ago. Ninety-five percent of the Avessi population died in the raids but a small group took refuge in the Sol System where they fully terraformed Venus and partially terraformed Mars (as well as the Galilean moons of Jupiter and Titan.) The Avessi have had contact with early humans and even conducted experiments that resulted in the premature appearance of homo sapiens ultra.
Welcome to what I hope is the first in series of posts on a superhero project that I have worked on for over a decade. It has gone by two other names while I worked on it, The Baldur Saga and Platinum Dawn, but I ultimately chose Prodigious as a tribute to both Marvel and Awesome comics. For those unfamiliar with the latter, Awesome Comics was an imprint founded by Rob Liefeld renowned largely for Alan Moore’s run on Supreme, a pastiche that celebrated Superman’s history rather than deconstruct it. I grew up reading my mother’s old issues of Action and Adventure Comics, Superman, Superboy, and her Gold Key comics like Magnus, Robot Fighter so I had an appreciation for DC Comics’ Silver Age and see Alan Moore’s Supreme one of the most underrated works of the late nineties. Granted, the stories of Mort Weisinger’s era are silly and crude by contemporary standards but they had a whimsical charm and sense of wonder. Many mainstays of the Superman mythos like Supergirl, Bizzaro, the Bottle City of Kandor come from that era and echo on into the twenty-first century. Anything seemed possible and a certain optimism flowed from the titles. One of the things I wanted to accomplish with Prodigious is keep that wonder and optimism but retain some modern sensibilities without the cynicism and carnage.
There is both Golden and Silver Age of Superheroes with various parallel characters. There is–or rather, was a Superman counterpart (whose fate I will address in later posts), Batman and Wonder Woman counterparts who are supporting characters in the Welcome to Apex Falls series (more on that later as well), counterparts to the Justice League/Avengers, Fantastic Four, and even the Authority. However, they are not the main focus of the Prodigious universe. It became clear to me that many of the characters were–well, too generic to be interesting on their own so I rebuilt the universe from the ground up.