Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Writer's Notes: S.H.O.O.T. First #2

By now you’ve probably read S.H.O.O.T. First #2 by me, Nicolas Daniel Selma, Marlac and Amanda Aguilar Selma from Dark Horse Comics. Right? And you’re probably wondering what it was like writing it. Right? Well, read on! But be warned: full spoilers within, so you should really read the issue first.



1-2.
The official tagline for Dark Horse’s excellent line of horror comics is “drawing on your nightmares.” And though we’re not officially part of that line, it’s certainly applicable here, because this entire page is based on a recurring nightmare I had as a little kid. I would cover my eyes and different family members would try to convince me to put my hands down and look at them, but I knew they were monsters and I’d try not to look. I was talking about those nightmares with a friend when I realized, “Holy shit, I have to use that for S.H.O.O.T. First!” So I did!

This flashback, of course, fleshes out what we learned about Ray Brookstone at the end of issue 1. So now we know for sure that he’s half-Outside Actor on his dad’s side, and that his dad (the elusive Mr. Brookstone) apparently had grand plans for him before Mrs. Brookstone stepped in and put a stop to it. That’s a hell of a demon design, isn’t it?

3.
Similar to issue 1’s opener, we get a tender scene between Mrs. Brookstone and Ray before she blasts off to adventure. I love the line “Look, they’re washable!” because that’s exactly what a kid would say. Your kid has probably said that to you.

4.
Mrs. Brookstone (unlike me) is a pretty good artist! I thought it was important that S.H.O.O.T. not just be anti-religious or anti-Outside Actor, but they be humanist. For me, part of humanism is celebrating what makes us unique and wonderful, and part of that is that we create art. So I wanted to make art something that’s important to Mrs. Brookstone (which is part of why she gets so upset later on, inside the Golem).

Fun fact: I actually wrote a newer draft of the script that didn’t have the needlepoint, and then I never successfully sent it through to Nico, and I didn’t realize until I got the art for this page back. But I’m glad it’s there. I hope somebody makes it their Tumblr profile pic or something.

5-6.
I fully expected to get some letters about this, but nothing yet. For an in-depth explanation of why I made the terrorists Jewish, check out my interview on Podcast, The Comics, the official podcast of Comics, the Blog.

7-8.
As I told Chris Sims at Comics Alliance (interview dropper here), I loved the concept of the Pyramid Goldem so much that I’ve lived in fear for the past few years that someone would beat me to the punch. Incredibly, no one has (to my knowledge). Kenshin’s line about the Jews building the pyramids being a fallacy and Eilat’s reaction is one of my favorite moments - and something I didn’t know when I came up with the creature. I mean, I’d always heard Jews built the pyramids, right? Funnily enough, learning that they didn’t really didn’t change what I was going to do. If anything, it makes it more appropriate - in theory, that fact should make the Pyramid Golem impossible, but it’s all about perception.

You’ll notice that a dust storm kicks up around Giza, meaning that the wider world still hasn’t seen the Golem or any other Outside Actors.

And jeez, the art on page 8 and on the Golem in general is just so fantastic. I can’t tell you how excited I was to see this thing for the first time!

9-10.
You’ll be shocked to know that I had a Star Wars reference on this page for the longest time but I took it out. Pop culture references just didn’t feel right here. Also, people seem to really like Byron’s little icons, which I’m happy to hear. The first issue played things fairly straight, and this issue amps up the comedy (and the drama) quite a bit. By issue 3...well, you’ll see. I’m curious how people will react to that one.

This is the first time we hear that S.H.O.O.T.’s guns also have a stun mode, which is good because otherwise they’d just be murdering people in these pages.

11.
Here we get a bit of a sense of how S.H.O.O.T.’s weapons really work in a battle setting. Infidel thinks he’s being clever about the aleph, because that’s the solution to a Golem in every story you’ve ever read. But by thinking that, he’s accepting it as a supernatural creature, and his doubt slips up. If his doubt isn’t correctly calibrated, it won’t be drawn into the bullets and the failsafe kicks in within the gun, preventing him from firing. You’ll notice that the green indicator lights aren’t lit in panel 3, which is how you know they’re not ready to fire.

12.
I have no idea if you could survive being thrown by a giant Golem through a sandstorm in this way, but hey. Comics. More important is Infidel’s wordless pondering of the worshippers who don’t even look up when he lands in their Mosque.

13.
Full spoilers, right? So I’m curious if Kenshin picking up the cylinder pinged readers’ suspicions that he was the traitor. I’m curious how people reacted to the traitor storyline in general. I mean, we resolved it within two issues, which is probably much quicker than it should have played out. But we’re super-condensed here.

14.
This is where things start to go really wrong for the team, and I thought it was important to see them have a really big loss in this issue (even though they defeat the creature). They’re obviously very good at what they do. They’re cocky about it, to a certain degree, and Mrs. Brookstone thinks she’s got an airtight plan. So hopefully when she realizes what it means when she sees the heart, you’re feeling for her and realizing the team is perfectly capable of having major losses.

15.
For what it’s worth, I doubt that the Golem has balls. But it’s probably annoying enough getting shot in the crotch to cause it to yell, anyway.

16-17.
I tend to be a verbose writer, and I haven’t always used silence very effectively in my writing. So I’m really proud of how many silent panels are in this issue, and especially this long sequence where the only dialogue comes from the newscast. (And page 16 is entirely silent.) That wouldn’t work without a kick-ass art team, of course, so thank goodness we’ve got one of those!

18.
I was on the Nerds of Color’s Hard N.O.C. life podcast with my friends Keith Chow recently and we were discussing the Buzzfeed piece that went around recently about the Strong Black Woman trope, and how it’s its own type of stereotyping. And I feel that Mrs. Brookstone probably feels she has to exert that aura in the field, which is part of why she never lets the team see a vulnerable side of her, including her side as a mother. And in this case, she keeps it together until she’s alone with Hersch, and then she allows herself to break down. Hersch is definitely her only confidant on the team. But hopefully, the fact the she does have this vulnerable side keeps her from reading like a Strong Black Woman trope. I really love writing Mrs. Brookstone.

19-20.
The entire end sequence of this issue is seeing the team deal with a loss. Infidel has a particularly hard time, and he needs Bett to talk him off the cliff, so to speak.

I really love this sequence, and it’s my wife’s favorite of the issue as well. This is where Bett really opens up as a character, for one thing. Her backstory was laid out in the MySpace Dark Horse Presents story in a brief caption, but I found myself unable to fit it into the first issue of the mini, so this is the first time we hear it. The idea of fairy rings and Rip Van Winkle-style fairy kidnappings freaked me out as a kid (combined with that movie Flight of the Navigator), so that jumped out of my subconscious when I was populating the team way back when.

So what makes this work, to me at least, is that these two characters who in theory should be so different are so similar. And in fact, Bett kind of represents what Infidel could aspire to be. I love characters who make each other better.

Byron, though, is not thrilled with this course of events.

21.
I didn’t realize that I had put two different and distinct sandwiches in this issue until after it was completed. But I find it hilarious. I want to make sandwiches my trademark.

Here we get a little more of Mrs. Brookstone’s reasoning, especially as it relates to Ray. She knows that if he’s half-demon and not half-Outside Actor, it means more than that she’s wrong. It means that he’s destined to mean bad news for humanity.

22.
So here we have the big reveal of the traitor. If you’re curious as to why I chose Kenshin, watch that video interview I did with Keith Chow. Basically, I wanted the least likely character, and Kenshin’s scientific background and non Judeo-Christian background (which I never really got to explore in the mini) made him that character, in my mind. After the issue was in the can, I started to wonder if I was unwittingly playing into some negative stereotypes of Asians, and you can also hear me puzzle that out with Keith in the interview. It certainly was not my intention, but I’m willing to accept that it may unfortunately come across that way regardless of intention. But know this: Kenshin’s story isn’t done yet.

But Kenshin was intended to be the traitor from way back in the MySpace DHP story, and I can prove it because there were clues! In The Wooden Saint and in these two issues, Kenshin is the only member of the team to never fire a S.H.O.O.T. gun, which obviously requires a total lack of faith that he doesn’t currently have. Additionally in issue 1, when you get the Kenshin-vision look at the Jinn, you can see Kenshin’s arm in the foreground and it’s green marbled with blue. Blue is the infrapsycho color of faith, and green is the color of doubt. When you see Infidel through the scope later, he’s solid green. I’m really curious if anyone picked up on the clues, but they’re there!

So thanks for reading. Come back next month for my favorite issue yet.

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