J. Michael Straczynski on BRAVE AND THE BOLD #29
A thing that lives… and fights for its soul. The shambling walking doll that is Brother Power, the Geek has been reborn in Gotham City without a home or purpose. Could destiny have something in store for this seemingly lost relic? And why does his appearance cut into Batman's heart like none of Gotham's strange monsters ever has before? Well, you'll have to read the issue to find out. In the meantime, we have a very special guest post from Straczynski himself, and believe me when I say you're all in for a treat. Take it away, Joe:
I can't remember offhand where I was talking about it...could've been San Diego Comic Con, or MIT, or last night when I was having an imaginary dinner with my imaginary friend and he refused to pick up the imaginary check...not that it matters, I suppose, since the point is really what we're driving at here, with said point being...I was talking someplaceorother and mentioned the lineup I had in mind for Brave and the Bold team-ups.
The list included Atom and the Joker, Aquaman and the Demon, the Legion of Superheroes and the Doom Patrol, the League of Substitute Heroes and the Inferior Five, Zatanna plus Batgirl plus Wonder Woman, Batman and Brother Power the Geek, Green Lantern and Dr. Fate, Adam Strange and Lois Lane...all pairings that alternately met with applause and laughter, generally for vastly different reasons.
Afterward, when talking to some of those in the room, the most common response was, "That was a great list, but you're kidding about Brother Power the Geek, right?"
"You took seriously the Inferior Five but Brother Power the Geek you're having a hard time with?"
"Well, it's just, you can't tell a good story around him. Nobody's going to take it seriously. He's camp, he's sixties, he's a refugee from a Love-In...they're going to tear it, and you, apart."
All valid concerns.
But see, I have this theory that as long as you treat a character seriously, no matter how ridiculous -- even more so the more ridiculous they are -- you can get something good out of it. On Babylon 5, everybody wrote off Londo Mollari for our first season: he was a buffoon, a drunk, and his hair was strictly comic relief. By season five, he was our most compelling, serious character. Again, it's all in how you do it.
Besides, telling a good story around the Geek would be a real challenge.
So I paired up the Geek with Batman, one of the most somber, serious characters in the DC universe. And I gave Batman all of the reactions to the Geek described above, because those would be his natural, logical reactions. So it echoes the reader's response. It's the Zen thing of turning your opponent's strength against him. Rather than run from a problem, if you take it head-on you can turn it to your advantage. If we can prove the character to Batman, we can prove it to the reader. That, at least, is the theory.
The result of that experiment hits the stands this week. Of the three issues of B&B published to date, this is my favorite, because it was the most challenging, and maybe for that reason, came out the best. It is, strangely enough, the one with the most heart.
When I set out to take on The Brave and the Bold, one of my goals, in addition to writing outside current continuity a bit, was to challenge myself and take risks by bringing together combinations no one had ever tried before, because the logic of the moment said this won't work. I think it's important to take chances, and risk failure, because nothing is ever accomplished by playing it safe. You don't get points for doing things that are easy.
All of the pairings so far, and those to come, also have subtle little reasons for the pairing that underscore the thematic elements of the story. Fate/GL combines the Green and its fatal flaw, yellow, as well as putting the ideas of fate/destiny in conflict with will/free will. Aquaman and the Demon pair up fire and water, two primal elements. Other parallels will become clear in the telling.
For Batman and the Geek, there are also parallels...as well as to a third character refrenced in the book, the Frankenstein monster of literature. You might wonder what the heck those three have in common. Well, you'll find out in this issue of B&B.
People tend to look at the progression from serious to ridiculous as a straight line, but it's not. As the universe is curved, and eventually ends up where it began, so is that dynamic really a self-contained loop. You can start out serious, but the longer you go down that road, the more serious you become, sooner or later you end up at ridiculous. Similarly, if you go far enough down the road to ridiculous, eventually you come out at serious. That was my approach to the Geek.
And I'll tell you this much: after this issue, nobody's going to wonder why on earth I'd use the Geek in a story with Batman. And a lot of those who laughed at the notion, won't be laughing by the end of the issue.
Count on it.
BRAVE AND THE BOLD #29 hits 11/18.