Sunday, May 31, 2009

Meet Slice

Introducing Slice, one of the heroes of Worlds Apart!

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Titanic Trademark Universe

As I’ve alluded to in previous blogs, the action in Worlds Apart commences with a senses-shattering splash page setting up what is admittedly an over-the-top, supercharged slugfest scenario. A gang of super-powered terrorists known as Götterdämmerung storms the global telecast of pop princess Trishy Tanaka’s live concert from Fantasy Land Amusement Park. The gang’s de facto leader, a brute named Breakneck, is wired up with a nuclear warhead, making him the ultimate suicide bomber. Breakneck’s plan is psychopathologically simple. He wants to rape Trishy Tanaka in front of a worldwide audience, and then detonate the bomb he’s wearing, thereby wiping out Fantasy Land and the surrounding metropolitan area.

Poised to thwart Götterdämmerung are two teams of superheroes, the Protectors and the Irregulars. The Protectors, as their name indicates, represent Law & Order. The Irregulars, on the other hand, embody the credo “By Any Means Necessary.” What emerges, then, is a three-way conflict between the two teams and the super-terrorists they oppose. As readers first peruse these opening panels, they hopefully find themselves asking some curious questions. Namely, just who the HELL are all these characters? Where did they come from? Is all this supposed to be immediately understandable?

Good questions, and they’re all answered briefly in the succeeding pages. Don’t worry. But I know a lot of readers are like me, and brief answers contained within the narrative just whet the appetite for more in-depth exploration. Think of this blog entry, then, as a kind of FAQ for the characters and situations encountered in the opening of Worlds Apart. Once you’ve finished reading the next few paragraphs, you should be armed with all the background information you could possibly need.

What is Trademark Comics?

Trademark Comics is simply the name I gave to a comic book company I created when I was 10 years old in 1975. Trademark Comics began with one character, Skater, who was eventually renamed Silver Streak. He was soon followed by a host of other superheroes and villains that comprised the Trademark Universe (TU). I took the name Trademark as a pun on my first name, Mark. Before Trademark Comics, I had created another universe of superheroes and villains, but I never formalized their creation into a “comics company.”

Who are the Protectors?

The Protectors is a team of Trademark heroes unabashedly inspired by Marvel’s Avengers. They are the TU’s Law & Order superteam led by Mr. Law & Order himself, strait-laced super-speedskater Silver Streak. The Protectors originally banded together to battle a mythical, juggernautical giant named Antaeus. The team’s original members included Silver Streak, Hangman, Mastodon, Flurry, Maze, and Airfoil. After Mastodon’s shocking and untimely death on page 4 of Protectors #1, the team was forced to recruit a super-powered heavyweight that could go toe-to-toe with a baddie who drew virtually unlimited power from Mother Earth herself. Tapping into Flurry’s powers and wisdom as an ageless Elemental, Hangman was able to resurrect the invulnerable demigod Achilles. Achilles quickly replaced the easily-forgotten Mastodon and came to be regarded in later years as a charter member of the team. Through subsequent line-up changes, the team would add Clarion, the sonic songstress, and Buckshot, the living cannon. (Note – Buckshot is the first and so far the only of Maniac’s hybrids to completely overcome the sadistic and homicidal impulses resulting from re-engineering.) The Protectors’ chief nemeses are the Suzerain and Cain, wannabe worldbeaters born more from Milton’s Satan than Burgess’ Alex. The Protectors are a little bit out of their comfort zone when confronting the new breed of psychopathic supervillain exemplified by the Maniac and Götterdämmerung.

Who are the Irregulars?

The Irregulars are a somewhat looser team of Trademark supertypes, perhaps more accurately defined as anti-heroes rather than heroes. Originally reminiscent of Marvel Comics’ Defenders, the team’s concept evolved during my adolescence as I began exploring the morally-ambiguous writings of Nietzsche, Rand, and Sartre. Basically, the Irregulars do whatever needs to be done in the fight against evil, often employing identical methods to the villains they battle. Led by former militant radical Wolf, backed up by Hellfield, an amoral Elemental, and Retaliator, a kind of cross between Iron Man and Luke Cage, the Irregulars routinely earn the enmity of heroes and villains alike. Shortly after the group’s inception, they welcomed their fourth member, Slice, a former prostitute and drug addict turned hybrid killing machine. Unlike Buckshot, Slice has never been able to fully control the sadistic and homicidal impulses resulting from Maniac’s re-engineering. Primarily, the group wages an endless battle with Maniac and Götterdämmerung, next-generation supervillains indebted more to Manson than Machiavelli.

Who is Maniac, and what is Götterdämmerung?

Maniac is an insane genius supremely gifted in the science of merging inorganic objects with human genetic material. The resulting synthesis creates Hybrids, mentally-twisted amalgams of man and matter. Unlike your garden-variety superbaddie, Maniac entertains no delusions of ruling the world. Rather he wishes to inflict unspeakable horror upon humanity before ultimately snuffing out all life. To reach his goals, he has assembled his most inhuman hybrids into an army of sadistic, genocidal super-terrorists, christened Götterdämmerung. Key members of Götterdämmerung include Breakneck, Gashouse, Mosquito, Spree, and Buzzcock. Only two hybrid members of Götterdämmerung have ever managed to escape the terrorist legion: Buckshot and Slice. Before their respective roads to redemption, both were high-ranking members of Götterdämmerung, responsible for many deaths and other crimes against humanity.

Who are the Challengers?

Yet another Trademark superteam, the Challengers comprise a kind of second-rate Protectors, much as Marvel’s original Champions functioned as a minor-league Avengers. For the purposes of Worlds Apart, the only Challenger we need to consider is Diatom, the TU’s answer to Reed Richards.

This concludes the Introductory FAQ for Worlds Apart. Any questions? Please post a comment below.

More of these FAQs will follow as the story progresses.

Until then, Always Look for the Trademark!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Meet Hellfield

Introducing Hellfield, one of the heroes of Worlds Apart!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Moral Clarity

In a previous blog, I spoke briefly regarding my father and his influence on my life, worldview, and early love of comic books. By emulating my father’s example, I grew to internalize the qualities of personal responsibility, fundamental decency, and hard work, not to mention a love of the arts. I am not just my father’s son, however.

Being the product of a very loving and stable nuclear family, I’d be quite remiss if I failed to acknowledge the instrumental role my mother played in shaping my personal and creative values. From my mother I inherited a thirst -- no, rather make that an obsession -- with moral clarity. Even as a small child, I was adamant about not only knowing what was right, but why it was right. Consequently, the issue of fairness became my constant preoccupation. No wonder my favorite comic book hero of all time is still Terry “Fair Play” Sloane, b.k.a. Mister Terrific, a.k.a. The Man of a Thousand Talents.

Family members constantly point out that my temperament falls more in line with my mother’s side of the family than my father’s side. I’ve always taken this as a compliment. What some may call impatience I deem forthrightness. Although I may be prone to flights of indignation, they tend to be of the righteous variety, not self-righteous. My father may have inspired and nurtured my love of comic books, but my mother’s influence gave that love expression and meaning.

My mom grew up a PK. For those of you not familiar with 20th century acronyms, PK stands for Preacher’s Kid. PKs, like Army Brats, live in a kind of parallel universe alongside the children of lay or civilian folk. My mother once described growing up a PK as living in a fishbowl. Every eye studies you, expecting you to be perfect, and then delighting when you fall. Some PKs “act out” against their parents’ authority and society’s expectations. Other PKs embrace their identities and follow in their parents’ footsteps. Much to her credit (and often to her dismay I’m sure), my mom zealously pursued the latter option.

My grandfather, the late Reverend Huber F. Klemme, wasn’t exactly your typical American preacher. From the onset of his ministry, he used his pulpit to address quite a number of controversial causes. Throughout the 50-plus years of his ministry, my grandfather remained deeply and unequivocally committed to the core principals of the Social Gospel movement: civil rights, social justice, world peace, and economic equality. Given the political climate in our nation during the ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s & ‘60s, his unyielding stance invariably set him face-first against our culture’s prevailing winds.

During the 1930s, amid the first Red Scare, my grandfather proudly declared himself a socialist. My mother, a grade-schooler at the time, found herself in quite a bit of trouble when she informed her teacher that her household supported Norman Thomas for president over FDR. A short time later, my grandfather’s pacifist philosophy prompted him to counsel Conscientious Objectors during World War II. (Think about that for a moment-- not the Vietnam War, but WWII.) In the 1940s & ‘50s, he zealously advocated for civil rights and the abolishment of Jim Crow, long before public sympathy got swept up into the monumental social upheavals of the 1960s. My grandfather’s recognition of racial injustice and Black Achievement certainly rubbed off on my mother. Once, when another grade school teacher asked my mother to name a famous scientist, she responded with George Washington Carver. Obviously, the teacher wasn’t impressed, as she snidely dismissed Carver as “just an old nigger.”

As a teenager and college student, my mom proudly followed her father’s example, becoming active in a wide variety of social and religious causes. After graduating from Heidelberg College, she taught in the Cleveland schools for a few years before marrying my father and starting a family. Understandably, my mom was strict with my brothers, sister, and me. She suffered neither fools nor brats gladly. Each and every time I was punished, however, I not only learned what I’d done wrong but why it was wrong.

In retrospect, I think those hard object lessons probably spoiled me. From childhood on, I’ve always looked for the same clarity and consistency among the legion of authority figures I’ve encountered in life: teachers, bosses, policemen, elected officials. Needless to say, I am constantly disappointed and troubled in this regard. Perhaps this sense of anomie, more than anything else, explains why the world of comic book superheroes became so significant to me.

Throughout my childhood and adolescence, both the comic books I read and the superhero stories I wrote all revolved around questions of right and wrong, idealism vs. pragmatism, selflessness vs. expediency, the needs of the many vs. the needs of the few. I may not have been familiar with Nietzsche, William Faulkner, and Ayn Rand way back then, but I still instinctively sought out those heroes whose conflicted hearts daily wrestled with both inhuman monsters and inner demons: the Specter, Mar-Vell, Hank Pym, Mr. Miracle. Reflecting these ideals in my own fledgling work, I created a host of similarly torn and wounded souls caught up in myriad morality plays.

One of my early, precocious efforts pitted arch-conservative Silver Streak against arch-liberal Wolf, two staunchly idealistic characters who would often lose sight of a common enemy while engaged in endless socio-political debate. A little later, I became fascinated with dangerous philosophical concepts like amorality and nihilism, which I explored through my Elementals, Flurry and Hellfield, beings who were literal, corporeal forces of nature. When I first encountered the Orwellian notion of thoughtcrime, I conjured up Hangman, a blind, deaf, mute telepath driven to pre-emptive vigilantism after experiencing a joyless childhood of sexual and emotional abuse. Oh, and don’t let me forget Buckshot and Slice, just two of the numerous antisocial juvenile delinquents recruited and reprogrammed as soldiers in Maniac’s hybrid army, Götterdämmerung.

At the beginning of Worlds Apart, the reader immediately gets punched in the face with a classic philosophical dilemma embodied by two superhero teams -- the Protectors and the Irregulars -- and an army of supervillains, Götterdämmerung. The Protectors, led by the aforementioned Silver Streak, represent the staunchest ideals of law and order. The Protectors possess an intractable code of conduct that defines Right and Wrong like two mutually-exclusive circles in a Venn diagram. Any action residing in the Wrong circle is prohibited whether committed by criminals or the heroes opposing them.

The Irregulars, on the other hand, view Right and Wrong as two intersecting Venn sets. Their leader, Wolf, places the Irregulars squarely in the overlapping portion where Right and Wrong meet. It is only from this position, with one foot squarely over the line, that Good can confront and defeat true Evil. Heroes constrained by their own moral limitations will invariably and tragically fail. In other words, the Irregulars fight Evil’s fire with an intense controlled burn, not a trickling garden hose.

The third element in this combustive formula, Götterdämmerung, seeks only chaos, depravity, and destruction. Unlike the typical supervillains routinely routed by the Protectors, Breakneck and his hybrid crew aren’t would-be world beaters or malevolent martinets. Rather they are sadistic rapists and genocidal maniacs, genetically re-engineered and psychologically reprogrammed into the ultimate agents of social terror and mass destruction.

I’m certain my mom won’t like the stage I’ve set in Worlds Apart. Her tastes run more to Murder She Wrote than Natural Born Killers. However, beneath the deranged exterior of Tony Lewis’ carnally crafted panels lies an interior dialogue I know she’ll appreciate. The opening frames pose the same fundamental, tripartite question she inspired me to consider when I was first in diapers: What is Right? What is Wrong? And Why?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Meet Wolf

Introducing Wolf, one of the heroes of Worlds Apart!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Questions of Character

My first comic books were purchased for me by my father at Parma, Ohio’s legendary James Books on Ridge Road. My father worked 80-90 hours a week as a school music teacher, a private teacher of woodwind instruments, and a professional musician playing five nights a week at Pesano’s Restaurant, a somewhat notable supper club in Garfield Heights, Ohio.

Monday was a short workday for my father. He only had to work two jobs that day: teaching school from 7AM to 3PM, then teaching music lessons at Grabowski Music in Parma from 4PM to 9PM. Grabowski’s was a stone’s throw away from James Books. When my dad had his break for dinner, he would grab a bite to eat and saunter over to James Books. He never left the store without buying my brothers and sister and me bubblegum cards and comic books.

When I talk to my father now about those bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived days back in the 60s & 70s, he always seems surprised how much of an impact they made on me. He was just a man trying to get by and feed his family. He regrets all the long hours away from home and the fact that he didn’t do more with my siblings and me. I try to tell him that waiting up for him Monday night so that I could read my new comic book and watch Monday Night Football with him and my brothers was the highlight of my week.

I always treasured the time I spent with my father when I was young. All of my friends had the kind of love-hate relationships with their fathers that have become so cliché in literature and popular culture. From an early age, I instinctively knew the sacrifices my father made for our family, and I never felt anything but gratitude, respect and admiration for his tireless efforts and selfless work ethic.

I relate this now because my feelings towards my father directly interacted with my feelings towards those early comic books I digested. My father always bought me DC comics because DC featured the heroes that he grew up with: Superman, the Flash, Green Lantern. Coincidentally, DC comics also revolved around heroes who were decent men and women that all seemed cut from the same cloth.

Others before me have already pointed out that, for the most part, the heroes that populated the DC universe and comprised teams like the Justice League, Justice Society, and Legion of Super-Heroes were pretty much interchangeable throughout the Silver Age. In other words, if you suddenly gave Barry Allen’s super-speed to Hal Jordan and Hal Jordan’s ring to Barry Allen, not much would change. The heroes rarely argued, debated strategy, or expressed any difference of opinions.

Exceptions to this rule only occurred among the few “human” heroes that had to fight alongside their more godlike colleagues. “Hot heads” like Karate Kid and the later retooling of the Green Arrow did seem to have small chips on their shoulders when dealing with Superboy’s Legion and Superman’s JLA respectively. Generally, though, their outbursts were viewed negatively by their teammates, and KK and GA always found themselves back on the right track by the end of the story.

At age five, when I first began creating superheroes in my head and mentally scripting their adventures, the Silver Age DC template guided my creativity. My first heroes were blatantly lifted from DC archetypes and joined together in superteams with names like the Super Legion. Like their Silver Age DC inspirations, these heroes and heroines were also invariably decent people blessed with a wide array of powers -- super-speed, super-strength, growing and shrinking -- and naively crafted with interchangeable personalities.

I fantasized about these characters for several years as I continued reading DC comics. I even jotted down some rudimentary plots and stories when I dreamed up particularly good adventures that I wanted to relive. During this time, my older brother discovered Marvel comic books, and he began teasing me that Marvel’s characters and stories were way better than my stupid DC comics. Because I simultaneously hated yet wanted to be like my older brother, I openly eschewed his Marvel comics whilst surreptitiously trying to read them when he wasn’t home to guard his collection.

Marvel comics of that era were very different from DC. For one, the art was bold, brash, and splashed all over the page. Unlike the simple line drawings and primary colors favored by DC’s artists, Marvel’s artists used much heavier shading and the entire spectrum of the color wheel. Similarly, Marvel’s dialogue balloons and boxes also seemed stuffed with words, while DC favored a more minimalist, journalistic feel. The biggest difference, however, rested in the faces of the characters.

DC’s heroes had two facial expressions: happy and determined. By contrast, the faces of Marvel’s heroes ran the gamut of emotion. You could tell just by the art when the Thing was arguing with the Human Torch, or when Captain America was upbraiding a sarcastic, recalcitrant Hawkeye. To be honest, the personalities of Marvel’s heroes and villains scared me a little even if I couldn’t read all the words they were saying.

When I first began perusing Marvel comics at age 7, I was still unable to read them from cover to cover. Conversely, DC comics, from a readability standpoint, posed no problem for me even at 5 or 6 years old. Gradually, as I pored through more and more pages of Marvel comics, a tectonic paradigm shift occurred in my reading ability, and this invariably added depth to the fantasies and adventures I concocted in my head. To this day, I am convinced that my desire to decipher Marvel comics hastened my cognitive development from toddler to adolescent.

By age nine, I had already begun having introspective, interior monologues with myself à la Peter Parker. Unlike the rest of my male classmates in the third & fourth grade, I already found myself obsessed with such angst-ridden teenage concerns as girls, popularity, and the constant sturm und drang of isolation and alienation. When I realized how different this made me from my friends, I quickly learned to keep my thoughts to myself. With no way to express my feelings, my interior monologues grew even more troubled and neurotic.

I finally found a way to exorcise my inner demons when I began incorporating my psychological turmoil into the superhero stories I had begun writing down in notebooks. By age 10, I had created a whole new slew of heroes and villains more in keeping with my Marvelesque sensibilities. Alienated, psychologically-fractured heroes like the Hangman and Wolf fought warped world-beaters like Cain, the Suzerain, Abraham Seth, and, of course, the Maniac. My superteams -- the Protectors, the Fury Force, the Challengers, the Irregulars, the United Front -- consisted of myriad personality types with a wide variety of values, ethics, and ongoing personality conflicts. In keeping with my Marvel templates, I had my staunch moralist in Silver Streak and my wisecracking slacker in Airfoil. But I also had truly damaged heroes like Slice and Buckshot, not to mention heroes who weren’t really heroes at all: Hellfield, the Lynx, Pythoness.

In other words, the characters I created changed with the transformation of my own personal character. The five-year-old boy who once stayed up on Monday nights to see his dad and read DC comics filled with decent men acting decently gave way to a moody, vaguely troubled youth who was precociously neurotic and prematurely adolescent. I guess someone out there might blame comic books for stealing my childhood, but in retrospect I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Worlds Apart wouldn’t live today if any part of my childhood had been different or “happier.” My father may still not understand how those Monday nights comprised some of the happiest moments of my life, but he really doesn’t need to. All he needs to understand is that his decency and commitment to our family polished the lens through which I view not only comic book superheroes, but the everyday heroes I encounter each day of my life.

Next blog I’ll tell you about my mother!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Meet Buckshot

Introducing Buckshot, one of the heroes of Worlds Apart!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Genesis -- or How This All Got Off the Ground

We’re all familiar with the old cliché: a lifetime in the making.

Well, I won’t go that far when describing how Worlds Apart (WA) grew from concept to reality. Various bits and pieces of WA are as old as my first creative memories. Some portions took their original shape in my grade-school years. Larger chunks occupied my thoughts in high school and college. Something approaching an outline of WA’s final form solidified in my mind during the early 1990s when I briefly lived in New York City. The possibility that WA could actually become real, however, didn’t happen until the mid 1990s when I met Tony Lewis.

Tony worked as a periodicals clerk when we first met circa 1995. At that time, I found myself back home in Cleveland, gainfully and painfully employed as an assistant manager for a large national bookstore chain. I was Tony's immediate supervisor. From his first day of work, I appreciated his dry, laconic, sardonic sense of humor. He, I found out later, considered me one of the few people in the store he could tolerate. So he talked to me because he didn’t have anyone else to talk to. Even misanthropes get bored, I guess.

Many offhand conversations later, we discovered a mutual passion -- comic books. Not the overly-stylized, Mangan or Liefeldesque fare cluttering up our comic book racks and graphic novel section -- but the REAL stuff, the Silver Age stuff -- colorful newsprint chock-full of hard-hitting heroes and bad-ass bad guys, splash pages and slugfests, legible line art and letters sections, and above all, obsessively-compulsive (for the most part) continuity.

As our lunchtime discussions evolved, we found ourselves good-naturedly deconstructing the entire genre of the comic book. Slowly, we both came to realize that we had a kind of yin-yang dynamic going on. I was a guy who wanted to write comic books, and Tony was a guy who wanted to draw them. One day, as I told him about some of the characters I’d created over the years, Tony offered to draw an assortment for me. All he needed, he insisted, was a basic description.

I told him I could do one better than that. I had pages of old notebooks in my apartment with hundreds of plot ideas and scripts that I’d scribbled out since my days in elementary school. I told him I’d give him some short scenes, and he could design and draw the characters however he wanted.

The next day, I handed him some scenes. Scant days later, I finally saw some of my creations in comic book form for the first time in my life. The experience was revelatory. Our partnership was formed that day. I knew if I was ever going to live my dream and write comic books, that Tony Lewis was going to draw those comic books and share in my dream – 50/50.

Much has happened in our lives since Tony pounded out those first rudimentary panels in the mid-90s. We both met the respective women of our dreams, got married, and started families. Tony and his wife moved away from Ohio and lived in California for a few years. I went through a few employment changes before finding a functional 9-5 job that puts food on my family’s table.

Through all these changes and upheavals, though, one thing has pretty much remained constant. Worlds Apart.

Of all the concepts I’d dreamed up over the years, WA was the one that struck both Tony and I as our Genesis, our Beginning, our opening salvo across the bow of the industry. When you actually witness the pages unfolding -- the story and the art -- I’m sure you’ll see why this project held so much sway over our creative imaginations. WA is the kind of rip-roaring yarn a comic book writer searches an entire lifetime to spin. WA is also the kind of superheroic Sistine Chapel that a comic book artist aspires to not only begin but finish.

The idea of WA is simple. Every Silver Age aficionado loved those big team-up books: Justice League & Justice Society, Avengers & Defenders. When DC and Marvel began crossing over their universes and creations, we all pored over the pages of Superman vs. Spider-Man. Later, we watched Superman meet the Hulk and Batman team up with Spawn. Heck, we even took a curious gander at Archie Andrews joining forces with the Punisher. Of course, the pinnacle of all crossovers has to be Busiek’s & Perez’s JLA/Avengers in 2003.

At its heart, WA is one tale in a long tradition of team-up books. WA features heroes from two very different and somewhat contradictory universes meeting up to fight a common foe. Other similarities exist between WA and the myriad crossovers and team-ups preceding it. But I can guarantee that WA takes the crossover/team-up dynamic to a level never even attempted in comic books before.

Such bold claims require bold evidence. You will discover such evidence in the pages of Worlds Apart.

‘Nuff said!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Thematic Considerations

I grew up reading comic books. That makes me exactly like millions of other kids from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Comic books and superheroes weren’t just a pastime for me, though.

Along with mythology books, “Le Morte d’Arthur,” and other collections of legends and folktales, comic books like Superboy & the Legion of Superheroes, the Justice League, the Avengers, Daredevil and Captain Marvel (Marvel’s) provided me with a sort of moral landscape that I still try to live within today. I often joke that I ask myself “What Would Captain America Do?” when faced with any kind of ethical conundrum.

Comic books, myths, and legends create a subconscious narrative that plays in my brain as I go through day-to-day life. The basic archetypical outline followed by all epics, whether we’re talking The Iliad or the Kree-Skrull War, posits a world where brave heroes stand and strive against foes while simultaneously trying to adhere their own senses of purpose and identity.

Just because someone defeats an enemy doesn’t make that person a hero. When we fight monsters, we must always make sure we stay distinct from the monster. When we finally see the enemy, we must make sure we are not simultaneously seeing ourselves. In the world of myth, legend, and comic books, heroes not only defeat their adversaries, but they do this by staying true to themselves without transforming into a mirror image of the enemy.

In my real life, I’ve been plagued with my fair share of “bad bosses” and “crazy coworkers.” Most savvy workers react to these kinds of personality conflicts by fighting fire with fire. I routinely see fellow workers at odds in the office slowly become what they hate, all in a Sisyphean quest to create their perfect workplace in the sun. They cheat, lie, gossip, and pass blame, always looking for the means to get one over on a bad boss or get one up on an arch nemesis.

I must admit that I’ve tried to fight this kind of war at times. Something inside me always derails my Machiavellian machinations, however.

Achilles becomes evil in his battle and ultimate victory over Hector. Yet the tears of Priam, Hector’s father, soften Achilles’ hard heart. After his brief immersion in the dark side, Homer’s hero walks back out into the light. Likewise, during Mar-Vell’s early career, he was a spy working against planet Earth, torn between his loyalty to the Kree and his sense of morality. Neither Achilles nor Mar-Vell were perfect men doing perfect deeds perfectly.

In other words, heroes don’t always do good. They don’t always make the ethical decisions. Ultimately, though, heroes define themselves by their ethics. When heroes transgress into the mindset of their enemies, they eventually realize this and seek to make amends. Put more simply, a hero is one who is inexorably drawn to the light of redemption.

Worlds Apart directly reflects the very moral landscape I’ve been attempting to describe in these few meager paragraphs. My partner Tony, whose art brings to life the flickers projected against the walls of my mind, proclaimed once that Worlds Apart had gradually become “a freaking epic!”

I took a step back from my computer monitor and had to agree. Good epic or bad epic (our readers will be the judge here) Worlds Apart is an epic. Without consciously wishing to do so, I have created a universe -- actually two universes -- hewn from the moral building blocks of Homer, Beowulf, Bullfinch, Mallory, Cervantes, Lee, Fox, Englehart, and Ditko, to name but a few.

My heroes are heroes. My villains are villains. The battle is about victory -- victory over the evil before us and the evil inside.

More thoughts in my next installment.

Friday, May 1, 2009

First Post

This is the official blog for Worlds Apart, an original graphic novel by Mark Kozak & Tony Lewis.

It is an epic tale of costumed heroes with superhuman abilities, inspired by seventy years of comic book history, which we intend to publish online.

Worlds Apart is currently in the early production phase, and should go live next month.