First off, I’m over at Cloey’s Book Reviews today, writing about how I adapted the Sentinels characters to their hometown of New Orleans. You can enter for the blog tour prizes. The Sentinels tour ends this week, after which we’ll be talking Penton for a while!
First, though, please join me in extending a warm, Preternatura welcome to author Erica Hayes! Erica is dropping by today to celebrate the release of her latest book, Scorched. Scorched was published on May 22 by HarperImpulse.
Erica Hayes was a law student, an air force officer, an editorial assistant and a musician, before finally landing her dream job: fantasy writer. She writes dark paranormal romance, urban fantasy and romantic science fiction, and her books feature tough, smart heroines and colorful heroes with dark secrets. She hails from Australia, where she drifts from city to city, leaving a trail of chaos behind her. Currently, she’s terrorizing the wilds of Northumberland. You can learn more about Erica by visiting here website, on Facebook and by following her on Twitter.
ABOUT SCORCHED: In a world where everyone wears a mask, you can’t trust anyone… not even yourself. Verity Fortune was once Sapphire City’s top crime-fighter, wielding her powers of telekinesis to battle the city’s most despicable villains. Now, she’s consumed by a single burning desire: revenge. Against those who took away her mask, her memory, and nearly her life. Having escaped from the asylum they left her to rot in, Verity dons her mask once again and becomes the Seeker, a vigilante warrior for truth. But when she unwittingly uncovers an evil conspiracy deep within her own family, she’s suddenly on the run, alone and hunted by those she thought were on her side…
And now, let’s hear from Erica…
On the appeal of superheroes – and villains
Hi everyone! I’m Erica, and it’s lovely to meet you. Thanks to Suzanne for hosting me today. Let’s talk about superheroes.
See, I’ve written a superhero novel and I love it – are you a superhero fan? They’re pretty popular lately on TV and in the movies. The Marvel sequence of movies has done huge business at the box office. Probably because hey, they’re actually good movies, whether you count yourself a fan of superheroes or not – great action sequences, sure, and cool effects. But most of all: compelling characters.
How things have changed, right? When I was a kid, an action film didn’t have characters. It had Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jean-Claude Van Damme. I mean, don’t get me wrong: I adore Arnie and JCVD. (Just as an aside: JCVD’s beer commercials are hysterical. If you’re a fan, you’ve gotta check ’em out.)
Anyhoo. These movies were the backdrop to my wild university days (heh, maybe not so wild…) The Cold War was only just ending. We still knew who our enemies were, and the bastards deserved no mercy. Our action heroes were tough, cool, sexy (in an alpha-asshole, me-man-you-woman kind of way) and exciting. So what if they never reloaded their guns? We didn’t really care whose ass they kicked, so long as ass-kicking happened.
But compare John Matrix (Arnie’s beefcake special forces character in Commando) to, say, Iron Man, or Thor, or the new Spider-Man. Matrix has little backstory and fewer flaws, unless you count ultra-violence. He’s a ruthless machine with His Own Brand of Justice™, and his enemies are faceless cannon fodder. He has an archenemy, sure, who’s the Dark Version of Himself Who Must Be Defeated – his own little Joseph Campbell, Hero’s Journey moment! – but that’s about as far as character development goes.
RDJ’s Tony Stark/Iron Man, au contraire, gets an origin story that drives his personality. He forms dreams and aspirations outside the main plot of the movie. He has personal relationships that mean something to him, not just archetypal family members who can get stuffed into the refrigerator by the bad guys as a plot catalyst.
Even if you discount the fact that Arnie and RDJ lie on, er, opposite ends of the acting talent spectrum (ahem), it’s clear that audiences these days demand a lot more from their on-screen action heroes. We want nuance, subtlety, inner conflict and humor. We want Iron Man to be contradictory: violent yet thoughtful, immensely strong yet vulnerable, the smartest guy in the room yet outmatched by the girl he desires. He makes bad decisions sometimes. He fucks up.
Superheroes have become people.
And their archenemies have developed to match. Compare Jack Nicholson’s sickly fantastical Joker in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman (still one of my favorites!) to Heath Ledger’s unhinged freak in 2008. In the eighties, The Dark Knight would have been a horror film. Now, that depth of character – and exposure of the unnamable horror that is the villain’s soul – is simply what audiences expect and require from a mainstream flick.
Even a quasi-comic villain like Loki from the Avengers series is a window on our darkest dreams. He didn’t spring mutated from a vat of toxic waste. He’s got his reasons, sure, but they’re ‘human’ reasons, polished by remorseless intellect and unapologetic ruthlessness. Loki isn’t an accident, or a product of any system. He’s scarier than that, because he’s his own damn fault. He is what he is: a man who chooses to be bad. And film audiences want to see that come out on screen.
Burton’s Batman, on the other hand, isn’t a film; it’s an on-screen comic book. By that, I don’t mean comic books don’t have well-developed characters and amazing stories. They do. I simply mean that in 1989, most people still thought superheroes looked like Christopher Reeve and wore their undies on the outside. That was the audience Burton needed to convince when he put Batman on the big screen. And it was just as stunning and cutting-edge then as the Marvel films, or Nolan’s Batman films, are today.
(Another aside: in some ways, it’s a pity Burton made Batman back in 1989, before he had Johnny Depp’s number on speed dial. One guess who he’d cast as the Joker now. I think I’m feeling faint.)
So yeah. Superheroes still fight crime, kick villainous ass and protect the world from evil. But these days, they do it carrying a load of emotional baggage, self-doubt, romantic complications and ennui, in a world where the lines between good and evil are obliterated, religion and politics are uncomfortably mingled, and the enemy is no longer them but us.
A much tougher job. Good luck to ’em.
You may purchase a copy of Scorched by clicking on the following link:
Thanks, Erica!! Congrats on the release of Scorched.
So what do you think? Who are some of your favorite superheroes or villains? Or who would you like to see cast as a particular superhero or villain? Leave a comment to be entered for your chance to win an ebook copy of Scorched. I think among my favorite modern-day superheroes are the guys from Black Dagger Brotherhood. I mean they’re larger than life (literally), have super skills, and yet OY! Talk about emotional baggage. Leave a comment for your choice of books on Erica’s backlist–there are some awesome paranormal titles there!