Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Around 2001 or 2002 or so, James (of "An Interview With James" fame) and I tried to convince Marvel Comics to let us write a comic book for them. It was for a superhero called Nomad. The only editor to write back to us shared his name with the actor who played the Karate Kid. He told us something like, "No, but good luck."

Nomad was probably the Marvel character with the most potential for awesomeness, while he was always used by really horrible writers.

I also have the script for the first issue. I'm pretty sure I wrote it myself. It is not very good. It was one of my earliest attempts at scriptwriting.

James and I wrote like a zillion emails brainstorming this Nomad thing. Our correspondence was awesome. It probably would have been more interesting than the comic had it been produced.

I just read our proposal. I think it is pretty great. Because we both worked on it and James is really good at writing essay-like things.

Here is out proposal in its full glory:

Proposal for a Nomad Limited Series

When the real battle for the survival of humanity comes, it is not fought by godlike beings dressed in brightly-colored, ungainly costumes, wielding inconceivable powers while their capes drift through the air behind them. The war does not have twenty-four hour coverage on CNN, with members of the Avengers on hand to offer reassuring sound bites.

In fact, very few people are ever aware of the danger, and some of them never even figure out for sure who won. It turns out to be not the big things that were important-- not the armadas of alien ships, the giant nuclear-powered robots, the powers of the ancient gods, the Ultimate Nullifier-- but a series of very subtle choices, and barely-noticeable variations in routine.

Jack Monroe, aka Nomad, has never been known for subtlety. He would probably not be well-equipped for this situation even if he were relatively sane and, right now, he is not. Ever since his teens he's been going into and out of cryogenic storage, and he's stuck in a permanent case of culture shock right now, to say nothing of his massive brain-freeze headache. He's STILL suffering the side effects of the destabilized Vita-Ray used on him in the 1950s, as well as withdrawal symptoms from the elaborate antipsychotics pumped into him by the CSA in the 1970s. Then there's the many rounds of cerebral chemical depressants and stimulants, and the barely-dormant nanoprobes circulating through his bloodstream. There's the latent psychological afterglow of his many brainwashing sessions, all clouding into one confused mess of guilt and fear. And there's the fact that he has NO idea what year it is anymore, or where Bucky's gotten off to... To put it bluntly, this man is a few superheroes short of the Avengers.

Jack's actions lately have made his paranoia in the 50s and his schizophrenia in the 90s seem mild and desirable by comparison. His fragmented identity cannot be described as anything less than psychotic. To make matters worse, Jack's brain is playing tricks on him. He has lost his grounding in the present and finds himself reliving and confronting the various roles he has assumed throughout his life. He's got at least four active identities all making noise in his head, and he's not sure who to listen to. Is he quiet, mild-mannered Jack Monroe-- the bookish young student with a chip on his shoulder and a secret in his basement? Or maybe he's Bucky III, proudly fighting Communism alongside his best friend Steve Rogers II? Or, is he Nomad II, crashing on a different Steve Rogers' couch, wearing bright blue spandex and hurling titanium discs at the evildoers of New York? Or, is he a trenchcoated antihero, exploring the country means of exploring himself? All of these voices are struggling for control of the body that is Jack Monroe, and it's really starting to get him in trouble.

Jack has never known his own limits, after all. And even as his mental state slips past delusion into pure hallucination, he remains wrapped up in the investigation of a mysterious drug cartel, marketing a newly-synthesized and highly addictive drug called Cliometrizone. Whoever is behind the manufacture of the drug has hidden his tracks very well, and Jack keeps running into dead ends-- none of the dealers he busts seem to have any idea who it was that sold them their supply. Finally, admitting defeat, Jack turns to his old friend Giscard Epurer (the Favor Banker) for help.

Epurer's help is cryptic at best, utterly confounding at worst. And there's something a bit odd about Giscard Epurer, anyways. You see, in 2010 he will come up with a plan that threatens the very existence of humanity's random element; its unpredictable evolution and its unforeseen catastrophes. Having discovered that the entirety of human society functions as a single higher-level brain, with each human being performing the function that a single synapse performs in a human brain, Epurer has decided to reprogram the global consciousness to his own specifications-- to, very carefully, bring every living human into line, and to make a focused unity out of the chaos of sentient life. While such a goal may have been impossible in the past, in 2010 Epurer has come into the possession of a time machine, and from that point on everything changes. Epurer has always been a master of working smart, not hard-- of economizing his effort so that not one twitch is wasted-- and he immediately seizes onto the potential of time-travel. No longer are his plans limited by the blind tyranny of linear time. He can now travel to an almost infinite amount of specific points within time, setting up the most minute details of his plan with tremendous care-- in a sense, adding subtle programming commands to the development of human society at all of the necessary stress points. His new capabilities allow him to be anywhere, at any time. And, while the effort might hopelessly boggle a lesser mind, he can be at any place, at any time, MORE THAN ONCE, working in concert with his other temporal manifestations. In a nutshell, he is no longer the lone gunman: he can fire from the book depository and the grassy knoll at EXACTLY the same time. This is the best news of all. He no longer needs to depend on unreliable henchmen and mercenaries for his work-- he can recruit his own past selves into the struggle, and even tap into other versions of himself, from alternate timelines.

When Epurer's plan succeeds, the beautiful diversity of human individuality will be gone. Everything will have its place and there will be no room for God to play dice. This world will still seem meaningless to an observer of average intelligence but will actually be a manifestation of Epurer's will-- nothing more than the most complex clockworks ever constructed. It is fortunate that Epurer has never needed applause from the wings (his work brings its own satisfaction), as no one will ever know what has happened.

In fact, to have any idea that ANYTHING was going on, one would probably have to be highly tuned to the random fluctuations of probability and complexity in the universe. One would probably have to spend one's entire life swimming in a sea of uncertainty, getting to know just how liberating chaos could be, and exploring all of its idiotic, entropic potential with the passion of an ardent lover. One would probably have to be the dapper antihero Madcap, actually. And Madcap feels the world changing, the way the rest of us can feel the seasons shift. Something is slowly ebbing from human life and, while the disjointed mind of Madcap may be unable to cognitively understand it, he is nonetheless able to fear it, and to resent it. For the first time since his rebirth into madness, he knows that his usual techniques of flashy grandstanding and non-sequitur dialogue will be insufficient-- that he's going to need to proceed with some sort of plan if the greatest catastrophe never noticed is to be averted. And he's no good with "plans." He'll need some sort of ally-- someone who knows how to use time productively, and carry on a logical train of thought. He hits a goldmine when he runs into his old friend-- or, the closest he's ever had to a friend-- Jack Monroe.

This is a story about madness: about the unclear contradictions between sense and nonsense, about the ultimately symbiotic relationship between patterned information and chaos, about the thin line between altruism and solipsism, and about what it means to have a defective mind in an ultimately defective world. As Madcap might say, "if modern life doesn't drive you insane, you MUST be crazy." More importantly, though, it's about freedom. For the present-day Giscard Epurer, it's about freedom from predestination, and from the irreversible tug of a predetermined future. For Madcap, it's about the freedom to be ridiculous, to continue to live moment-to-moment, without ever feeling the need to make sense. And for Jack Monroe, it's about the freedom to be human, and to make human mistakes, in a world that seems to demand otherwise. Ultimately, it is the disparity-- not the similarity-- between these three motives that allows the trio to avert the most insidious act of misdirection ever committed.

After all, how do you prevent a crime that has already been committed? How do you fight a villain who's already seen how things turn out, and who already knows that he's won? You'd have to be crazy to try. Have you ever managed to unpop a balloon?


Anonymous said...

holy crap

it's all coming back to me now

except I can't remember what Giscard's plan was going to be. did we ever figure out what Giscard's plan was going to be?

Bradley Sands said...

First spam reply.

My blog has arrived.

I will not delete it. I will leave it there like a tattered dollar bill hanging on the wall of a pizza shop.

Bradley Sands said...

Wasn't Giscard just going to accomplish a bunch of seeming random, meaningless, and often zany tasks? This would be his means of hacking into reality and taking control.

Looking over the proposal again, I think you may have written all of it, except the first paragraph. I think I wrote that one and you fine tuned it.

"this man is a few superheroes short of the Avengers" = awesome

Bradley Sands said...

Dammit, I just accidentally deleted the spam post because I didn't notice my reply about it.