Three members of our tribe showed up for the Remixing Fairy Tales and Superhero Lore panel at San Diego Comic-Con last week. On hand was Tracy Hickman, author of Wayne of Gotham, Tom King, author of A Once Crowded Sky, and Paul Tobin, author of Prepare to Die!
The moderator kicked off the conversation by asking the panelists to discuss the challenges of writing iconic characters such as Batman, Cinderella, and Snow White. Hickman, who tackles Bruce Wayne’s family history in his latest book, understood his dilemma right from the get-go. “Everybody knows Batman,” he said. “And everybody has a unique relationship with him.”
Counsel at DC Comics gave Hickman the green light to do anything he wanted with the Caped Crusader. Therefore, the key for him was to approach Batman the same as everyone else. But do it a little differently. “You have to be a little bit arrogant when writing the story,” he confessed.
King, on the other hand, said that writing new stories about preexisting characters was analogous to a tenor saxophone solo. In other words, the song has already been written, but the jazz performer is allowed to put his individual stamp on it. “As a writer you’re riffing off the original source material,” he said.
King also felt that everyone currently writing superhero fiction was indebted (in some way) to Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore. Looking back, we can all see how Watchman turned the superhero genre on its head. Inspired by Gibbons and Moore, King wrote his novel in hopes of taking the genre to the next level. “Moore deconstructed superheroes,” he said, “and I want to use superheroes to deconstruct the world.”
Said Hickman in conclusion, “No matter what kind of story you are telling, you need to address fundamental and timeless themes. You need to go back to the classical to anchor the universal.” One thing is for certain: the hero’s journey has been around a long time, and it’s not going away any time soon.