I’ve explored inspiration for particular stories, characters, and situations. Titan was inspired by a nugget of an idea born from the character/technology of “T-1000” from Terminator 2: Judgment Day. It expanded from there. But that’s an idea.
There is a broader effect that acts on us as we create.
Everything we have experienced throughout our lives is rattling around in our brains. It makes us cautious when we sense familiar danger. We perk up when we smell a favored food no matter who’s making it. And we enjoy new stories similar to tales we enjoyed long ago.
If it isn’t immediately evident, I am influenced by the superhero myth. I have my favorites (*ahem* Batman *ahem*). But I’m strongly influenced by the notion of the superhero, which is that one person receives great power and uses it to combat evil. I always use Spider-Man as the best example of this.
Meek, kind, and intelligent Peter Parker is bullied, maligned, and ignored — a boy without power. His good-hearted, responsible Uncle Ben raised Peter and treated him like his own son. Ben instilled in Peter the principle that power is a responsibility. When Peter is bitten by the spider, which gives him super abilities the power goes to his head. Uncle Ben is killed as a result of Peter’s inaction. From that day forward, Peter Parker uses his power to help people who have none and confront individuals that abuse theirs.
In the real world, I think we’re used to people actively seeking power for their own selfish purposes. They keep it despite the costs personally and at large. Furthermore, we’re accustomed to people of privilege having power or individuals with physical prowess be it attractiveness, athletic, ability, or both. It’s a rare thing when you find someone who has power and it’s used selflessly or, even rarer, freely gives it up.
I think often about the first American President George Washington with regards to power. He knew why we fought the War of Independence and knew the King’s arbitrary rule well. When Washington’s second term was over, he did not seek reelection. Washington could have been reelected until he died, but he was making a point—this new republic could only work if individuals elected to power freely gave it up when their time was over. Think about the politicians we have now. I can’t see very many of them giving up their power.
I am drawn to superheroes because they use power selflessly (for the most part). They’re also pretty cool. But it’s the use of power that influences me. I’m comparatively short and not especially physical, so the idea of the powerless gaining power is attractive.
Most superheroes are tall, broad chested, and heavily muscled or, in the case of women tall, long-legged, large breasted, and thin. In Titan, the hero is 5’5. I’m not looking to deconstruct the superhero myth, but I wanted to expand it to include people who don’t fit the type.
And, of course, my own physical dimensions bias me. I know how my height is a punch line. I know that I am overlooked (…pun) and underestimated purely because of it. Spider-Man is considered a short superhero, but he’s still 5’10. And yes, I know that Wolverine is short (he’s 5’3 – Titan is taller!), but Hugh Jackman, who portrays him in movies (see X-Men: Days of Future’s Past this summer!), is 6’2 so I’m going to go ahead and not count him.
On another track, I am also disillusioned by “regular” people getting superpowers and being expert with them five minutes later. I like big superhero fights and romance and all that, too, but I think it means more when it’s earned. I prefer what I call the Breaking Bad method of story telling. Walter White became a drug kingpin over the course of 5 seasons; it didn’t happen over night or through a fun, quick montage set to “You’re the Best Around.” We watched every painstaking detail and decision, which led him along the way. That’s called “story,” and if it’s done right it’s better than a superhero fight any day…
…well, most fights. The end battle in The Avengers was pretty amazing.
Although, Robert Downey Jr. calling out the guy playing Galaga was pretty good, too.