My love of comic books has waxed and waned over the course of my life. I’ll go years without reading a single issue and then, one day, pick up a copy of every title on the racks. I’ll continue to follow the books that appeal while dropping those that fail to hold my interest, whittling that lofty initial pile down a scant few titles before shifting my focus elsewhere…only to renew my interest months, perhaps years later. Interestingly enough, there is one title, one hero, who always seems to hold my interest longer than any other: Batman. Partly because he is an atypical hero, a mere mortal blessed with a keen mind and sharp, but not superhuman, fighting skills, partly because of his colorful rogue’s gallery, and partly because his stories have always been a little darker, a little grittier, than the adventures of other costumed crusaders. And it was while reading author Mark Chadbourn’s “By My Works You Shall Know Me” in the Masked anthology of original superhero fiction that I was reminded of those very best elements of the dark knight’s tales. So it’s not surprising to learn that Mark, like me, is a fan of the bat.
Mark Chadbourn is a former journalist who presently straddles the television and literary worlds. The author of sixteen novels (The Age of Misrule and Dark Age trilogies among them), a non-fiction book, and several comic-related works including The Book of Shadows, Hellboy: The Ice Wolves, and Hellboy: The Oddest Jobs – Straight No Chaser, he is currently a scriptwriter for BBC. He also blogs. Here: http://www.jackofravens.com/
I asked Mark if he wouldn’t mind offering up some thoughts on “By My Works You Shall Know Me”, his dark and canny contribution to the Masked anthology. He was kind enough to respond with the following…
‘Masked’ editor Lou Anders also happens to be my editor on my recently-launched historical-fantasy-espionage-adventure sequence (yep, I’m invading all genres…) Swords of Albion, which concerns Elizabethan spy Will Swyfte fighting a brutal cold war against the forces of Faerie. It’s amazing I ever hit my deadlines because Lou and I seem to spend more time talking about all sorts of interesting stuff rather than working. One particular point of interest happens to be our shared love of comics, especially Batman. And my involvement with ‘Masked’ spun out of that.
I’ve never wholly enjoyed Superman, preferring my heroes human and flawed, so my story in this anthology was pretty much a love letter to the ‘masked vigilante of the night’ trope. I had fun, pure and simple. Fight sequences, screwy psychology, mad science and an arch arch-enemy. As others have mentioned, the aim was not to parody superheroes or even to deconstruct in the manner of Watchmen. It was simply finding a superhero story that resonated in today’s world. For me, modern society is very much about how we attempt to assimilate runaway technology while coping with the many stresses battering our individual psychology. The struggles of the supermen seem a perfect metaphor for that.
There was a pleasant surprise waiting for me on my return to the production offices today. Well, not exactly waiting for me. More hanging outside John Lenic’s office when I happened to walk by. Richard Dean Anderson, General Jack O’Neill himself, was back in his old stomping grounds. While he awaited the arrival of the trio of lucky fans he’d be hosting that day, we caught up, chatting about his conversion to twitter (his daughter’s doing), his tireless charity work (http://www.seashepherd.org/ and http://www.waterkeeper.org/), and my pug Jelly’s recent stem cell procedure –
Anyway, Rick is in town shooting a new series (Facing Kate), he looks great, and is in even greater spirits. But then, Rick has always been the affable sort, remembered fondly by all who worked with him on SG-1 those many years. And it was obvious later, when the grand tour passed through my office, that his three guests were thoroughly delighted with his company. Just a great, big-hearted guy.
On set today for Day 1 of Visitation, and it was a good thing too. My episode-saving contributions included a suggestion that the actor not smile while delivering a certain line and a request to emphasize the word “they”. I also spent some time in post with my editor, Mike Banas P.I., locking my producer’s cut of Resurgence. As it turns out, the network didn’t think it was perfect after all. We got their notes this morning.