August 14, 2012

Blasphemous to Some, Refreshing to Others: an interview with Lincoln Crisler

In case you didn't get enough of Corrupts Absolutely yesterday, with my review which you can find here, not to worry. That's because we've got an entire week dedicated to the dang book. That's right. Starting tomorrow, you're going to see three round table discussions featuring some of the talented authors who contributed to the anthology. But before we get to all that, today we have just one guest, and that guest just so happens to be the man who edited Corrupts Absolutely? Lincoln Crisler.

Gef: What initially drew you to the darker elements of superpowers enough to helm an anthology dedicated to them?

Lincoln: I'm drawn to realism--in the fiction I write and the stuff I read. Not all the stories in Corrupts? are about darkness or evil, but I'd like to think they represent a good cross-section of what people would really do if they had superpowers. Take Spider-Man for instance--unrealistic. How many people would have gotten screwed with all through school and then kept themselves in check after getting spider-powers? I wouldn't have. I wouldn't have gone over the top, but I'd have kicked the crap out of a few people--probably killed them, since the teenage mind isn't geared towards logical thinking. Now, isn't that a more interesting character to read about? Do you really think a real-life Peter Parker would have watched Aunt May struggle to pay the bills? I wouldn't have broken into houses or anything, but a few FDIC-insured banks, knowing how much the government wastes anyway? Hell, if I got bitten by a radioactive spider, I'd do that TODAY.

Gef: It feels like superheroes are the modern mythology, replete with their fair share of orthodoxy. And Corrupts Absolutely? feels like a book that could almost be considered blasphemous to some. How do you see the genre as a whole, particularly when it comes to its relation to the real world?

Lincoln: It's gonna be blasphemous to some and refreshing to others. Not eating BACON is blasphemous to some religious groups, after all. There's a place for the sort of hero we all grew up reading about. However, mainstream superhero comic books CAN'T relate to the real world. In the real world, Batman would have killed the Joker the first time he murdered a bunch of people. In the comic industry, that's a waste of a revenue-generating character the company spent months, years or decades of time and money getting the readers to care about. In a novel, a skilled author can make you care about the character in the space of a few chapters, then run them through a realistic scenario without worrying about how he's going to sell you action figures, the next issue of the comic, etc. Same thing in a short story, scaled down for space, of course.

Gef: What superheroes--or supervillains for that matter--have you seen depicted in comics or elsewhere and felt they came closer to reality than the rest?

Lincoln: Robert Kirkman's INVINCIBLE seems to do well. Invincible and his girlfriend started building a business around his heroics--I totally get that. And the new character design for Atom Eve (being vague to avoid spoilers)--at least as attractive as her prior incarnation. And genuine.

Villains? Give me the X-Men's Apocalypse, I guess. He's all about seeing how things play out, how the strong survive, not interfering on behalf of anyone, unless it suits a higher purpose. Any straight-up villain who's in the game for himself and DOESN'T kill the hero as soon as possible..? Is either a weak villain or else unrealistic as a character. Magneto would be a good one as well, but in the real world, Xavier would have murked his ass a long time ago, and God bless him for it.

Gef: The directions in life for the characters depicted in the anthology are as varied as the superpowers they possess. While frailties and flaws were a necessity for the stories, what approaches caught you off-guard as you read submissions and had you say, "I hadn't considered that?"

Lincoln: Malon Edwards' story, 'G-Child,' was like that. When I was old enough to move away from home, I did it post-haste because I didn't want that life, but I never even spent time daydreaming about getting revenge for the bad crap that happened to me during my childhood. I just wanted to go. What the MC revealed at the end of that story made me sit up and fall on my ass at the same time. 'The Real Church' by Jeremy Hepler evoked the same sort of feeling--superpowers used on behalf of a religious organization. Perfect example of what I was looking for.

Gef: "With great power comes great responsibility." I always saw that line as the equivalent to suggested servings on cereal boxes. Sounds like it's true, but that responsibility can be shirked if you've a mind to and you're powerful enough in the real world. What would you say really does come with great power? I'm inclined to replace "responsibility" with "consequence."

Lincoln: That's a good assessment. You might have mind-control powers, but if you go around making every woman that catches your eye immediately rip your pants off, you're never going to experience a truly mind-blowing intimate moment with someone who genuinely wants to be with you. If you can pull untraceable money out of your butt, you might be unprepared for any situation calling you to actually work for something. You'd certainly have to deal with judgment from people who don't have the same perspective on life as you, because they are normal and you are superhuman. Superpowers could just as easily be a curse as a blessing.

Gef: I think Ed Erdelac and Karian Fabian had two of the most memorable stories from the bunch in Corrupts Absolutely?, and when I look back I think it might be because the characters they highlight are children, since childhood is usually where we are introduced to the concept of a superhero. When you were a kid, what was the first instance you can recall where a superhero seemed too good to be true?

Lincoln: When I was a kid, everything was cool. I was in love with the characters. I'd have been heartbroken to see them die. And there's a place for that. There really is. But as my brain matured, I wanted things that were logical and that made sense. Star Trek is kind of the same way for me. I didn't analyze it much as a child--and I love it to this day, don't get me wrong--but if I were a starship captain, things would be a bit different. "Those space pirates are threatening that colony? Beam their bridge crew into space. The end."

I think that, like a child, we want our heroes to be better than they are, sometimes. And I think it's interesting to deconstruct that.

Gef: Mainstream media, especially movies, has seen an explosion in popularity for superheroes over the last decade. Do you think we've hit peak superhero yet, or is there plenty more oil in that well?

Lincoln: I'd like to see Hollywood leave mainstream comic heroes alone for awhile. We've had three Hulks in nine years and a Spider-Man reboot planned within...what? Five years of the last movie in the original franchise? Comic books have a lot to offer Hollywood in terms of gripping stories and opportunities for cinematic wizardry. But damn...let's see some PREACHER, RISING STARS, Y: THE LAST MAN or THE BOYS. We've already seen lesser-known comic works kill on the big screen: THE LOSERS, RED, WANTED and KICK-ASS, for instance.
Gef: Which characters from this anthology would you like to see in a showdown?

Lincoln: Man, I'd have to re-read the anthology cover-to-cover to really weigh in. Let's say, the armored heroes from 'Crooked' and 'Sabre.' Or maybe Weston Ochse's Valiant Fang against Max from 'Max and Rose.'

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