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Supervillainy Goes Pro

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I have some exciting news (though if you follow me on twitter this probably won’t come as a surprise) – I’ve been signed up to write an interactive online story for Fiction Express. This is something I can’t wait to get my teeth into – it’s choose your own adventure meets the internet.

Here’s how it works: each chapter I post will have two possible endings, and the readers will decide which path the story takes. So, there’ll be much thinking on my feet required. There’s something exciting (and terrifying) about writing a story whose ending I don’t know. (I usually plan that sort of thing early on.) I do have a number of possible end-points in mind as I write. But, nothing’s certain until the votes have been counted. I can’t wait to start.

Which brings me to the story itself: The School for Supervillains. It’s about a girl called Mandrake DeVille, daughter of two of the most successful – and evil, though perhaps success as a supervillain already implies that superlative – supervillains of all time. She’s currently in training to become a villain in her own right. The story begins with her arriving at St Luthor’s, a school for the supervillains of the future.

The purpose of the school is to wipe out amateurish behavior in supervillains and to learn from the mistakes of supervillains past, in order to turn out the evillest, most world-dominating villains the world has ever had the misfortune to be dominated by. In a bid to increase professionalism in supervillainy, reading this list is an essential part of the curriculum.

But the education is also about making your heart blacker than Blackbeard’s black beard. At St Luthor’s, a single act of kindness will land you in the detention pit, while bullying, lying, cheating, stealing and other acts of villainy are all heartily encouraged. Lessons range from building killer robots, to evil psychology and tactics – how to come up with an evil plan but also how to control your urge to tell the superhero you’ve captured your evil plan before killing him (inevitably followed by his escape and defeat of you).

On paper, Mandrake is the ideal St Luthor’s student. She’s clever, she’s telekinetic, and her parents have worked hard to scar her psychologically so she’ll grow up bitter, angry and with something to prove – a key ingredient in many supervillain origin stories. But, she has one fatal flaw in her supervillain armour – she’s not actually evil. In fact she secretly wants to be a superhero, and to save the world from people like her parents.

So, her struggle will be a) to survive at Supervillain School (pupil deaths are not unheard of, and the class bullies can do more than steal your lunch money – some, for example, can shoot fire out of their eyes) but then also, and more importantly, b) fight her evil destiny and make herself a new, heroic one.

If I could make a plea for help in spreading the word… do tell your teacher friends – initially, the story will only be available to schools who sign up (though ebook rights will be available once it’s finished). So, if you know of any junior schools, or year seven classes who you think would enjoy creating a story with me… do let me know, and I’ll put them in touch with Fiction Express who can explain the ins and outs a bit better.

Here’s the FAQ too:

Right, selling over. Now I want to ramble about supervillains for a bit, and why I wanted to write about them. Though I think this picture says it well:

I’ve always loved superhero comics. DC was my universe as a kid – Superman, Batman… but also The Joker, Catwoman, Lex Luthor. A superhero is nothing without his or her nemesis – the supervillain IS the story, they bring the conflict and the excitement.

But, I also find myself feeling a lot of sympathy for them – perhaps because I grew up in the 80s, when many comics were exploring the dark sides of superheroes… which made me think a lot, too, about the light sides of supervillains. On TV, Smallville’s Lex Luthor, is a great example of a supervillain with a heart of gold (well, some redeeming features). In an otherwise terrible show Lex Luthor, and his relationship with his Joseph Kennedy-like father, draw all the sympathy of the viewer. We also see various moments when he could have chosen to be good instead of evil.

(Side note: on Smallville, this often seems to be the fault of Clarke Kent being cruel to him, which does reflect the original, but lame, idea in the comics that Lex Luthor became evil because Superman… blew all his hair off when they were young.)

I’ve often wondered, at what point in a supervillain’s journey could they have been saved? This is where Mandrake and her fellow pupils at the School for Supervillains come in. If a supervillain knows her destiny as a young person, can she fight it? And, can a school for supervillains teach the good out of someone like Mandrake? Look forward to finding out…



11 responses »

  1. Crikey that was a long post. Congratulations if you made it to the end.

  2. I never knew that Superman blew off Lex’s hair. What a jerk.

    P.S. The story sounds great!

  3. Thank you! And yes, I think they rather glossed over that origin story later on. To be fair, Superboy was doing it to try and save Lex from a fire. But, he coulda sucked the fire out or something…

  4. I wonder how he chooses what powers to use in a given situation. Superman has so many that he must have to take a minute to decide “Yes, this requires my super breath! I haven’t done that in a while.”

  5. Maybe he has a rota? Tuesdays is X-ray vision, Wednesdays Superbreath…

    Though, I assume that his brain works super-fast, so if he does have to weigh up the pros and cons of each power, he’d still have time to do that and act in time.

  6. Actually that must be true, if I remember his ability to read books very very fast correctly. Personally I think he just pulls out the fancy stuff to impress Ms. Lane.

    “Oh hi, Lois! Didn’t see you there while I was lifting the Statue of Liberty with my toe…”

    • He’s such a showoff. I don’t know if you’ve ever read the Television Without Pity review site? It had recaps of Smallville with snarky commentary that were a hundred times better than the show itself. Anyway, in those, Clark was known as the BDA – Big Dumb Alien. Now, comics!Clark is usually more subtle but… there’s a hint of BDA to him whenever Lois is around.

      Just been re-reading Alan Moore’s “Whatever happened to the man of tomorrow” – lovely stuff.

      • I know the site but never watched Smallville, save a couple of episodes here or there (Was Aquaman in it as a surfer at some point?). I like the idea of Superman being the “bro” of the Superheroes though.

        Oh, I never read “Whatever happened to the man of tomorrow?”. I should get on it. I seem to remember the Justice League adaptation of it is the only adaptation of Alan Moore’s work that he likes!

  7. Leave your Smallville-unwatching in its current state. It’s crack in tights – terribly written but somehow compelling, though I think that my enjoyment of it did come through a TWOP filter so it may not have the same effect if you’re not watching in tandem with reading the recaps.

    Definitely read WHttMoT (heh, snappy). I do love reading Moore writing such a mainstream hero, seeing what he does with it. Though my favourite Moore remains Halo Jones.

  8. If I follow the story and consistently vote for whatever option I think will make your life more difficult, will you put me in an inescapable death trap?


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