Fast Five With Mike Leon

Friday, sweet Friday! And here is the next in my series of quickie interviews with my fellow Indie Superhero StoryBundle authors. We head into the weekend with Mike Leon.

SupervillainousIt’s high-concept pitch time. In 20 words or fewer, what is your book about?

It’s the interview with Baron Hammerspace that I did for Trigger magazine a few years ago.

Why did you decide to tackle a superhero story as a prose novel rather than as a traditional comic book/graphic novel?

I actually have no idea. I never wanted to write novels. I was doing screenplays when I wrote Supervillainous, and I thought the idea would work really well for a cinema verite/mockumentary style film. I was doing a blog back then and I knew nobody would ever read a movie script (because nobody reads movie scripts). So I did Supervillainous on my blog in weekly installments. I didn’t expect anybody to read it, so it was pretty half-assed. There are a few loose ends and gaps in the story if you actually pay attention. And the characters don’t have well defined arcs at all. When people point that out, I just insist I reported what I saw.

One of the notable earmarks of our current Indie Superhero StoryBundle is that “indie” part. Are you an independent author by choice? And what are the big pros and cons of life as an indie author?

Yeah, definitely. I haven’t sent a single manuscript to a major publisher. I never even think about it anymore. I write stuff that’s really pretty crazy. Case in point: KILL KILL KILL has been described as “balls-out insane” and it’s about 200,000 words in length. I knew when I was working on it that no major publisher would ever touch it. It’s fucking poison from a marketability standpoint, but I wanted to write it. So I did. And I think that encompasses the pros and cons of what I do. I don’t make much money, but I get to write what I want.

Superheroes are well-established archetypes, and their stories have their own sensibilities and internal logic. How did you play with or subvert the tropes of superhero fiction in your story?

I get complaints about this all the time actually. Supervillainous throws out all of the usual tropes or deconstructs them to the point where they just look ridiculous. A lot of people hate it for that. Those people aren’t  hardcore enough. Yeah, I said it, and I know I sound like a hipster. Here’s the thing: When you eat, sleep and breathe superheroes the way I have for 30 years, you get sick of those tropes. The obvious flaws in them become glaringly apparent. You stop caring if Superman will return, or if Peter Parker will get his body back from Doctor Octopus, or if Wolverine will come back to life (He will). You yawn the fifteenth time somebody breaks ALL of the rogues out of Arkham and Batman has to round them up in a twelve part mini-series, or a psychic manifestation of Magneto and Professor X turns into an all powerful entity that threatens to crush the Marvel universe. You get sick of retcons, retcons, retcons, and retcons. That stuff has been done to death and it’s boring. All that’s left after that is to start tearing it all apart. Now I just want to read a story about what happens if Batman binge watches Orange is the New Black instead of fighting crime, or the Punisher tries to trademark his skull shirt because he’s sick of seeing every angsty teenage white boy wearing his duds. That stuff is fresh. It’s why I liked Garth Ennis’s The Boys so much. That’s a superhero story for people who have already read way too many superhero stories, and I think my book is too.

Beginnings, middles, and ends. What is your favorite/the easiest part of a story to write and which is the hardest/least favorite?

The beginning is easy. I wish I could finish all the beginnings I wrote in the last ten years. I’d be as prolific as Dick or King. The end isn’t too bad. It’s the middle that sucks. In the middle, you don’t always know where it’s going to go, and you also don’t know if the beginning supports what you’re writing in the middle, so you want to go back and change stuff, and that’s a slippery slope. It’s like trying to tune a floating tremolo on an electric guitar. You tune one string and that puts another string out of tune, so you tune that string, and that puts another one out of tune. Pretty soon you’re playing WoW and eating a burrito because you’ll go insane if you think about it anymore, and you decide maybe guitar playing just isn’t for you. That’s why you have to just finish the whole thing and then go from there, changing and correcting things. I’m a big proponent of outlines in theory, but in practice I always end up forgetting about them or throwing them out.

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