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Strange Sad Superhero Dreams

I had a very odd and rather sad dream last night, and while I realize that dreams are generally not terribly interesting for anyone but the dreamer, this one actually had a very straightforward narrative, beginning to end, and it was in the style of an old-school superhero comic. The dream was mostly made of panels printed on cheap grayish paper, circa How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, and it was quite short–sixteen pages, maybe? You wouldn’t need a lot.

The heroine was a dark-skinned woman of indeterminate ethnicity, her hair rendered in the dark blue characteristic of the era. She had a couple of aliases, but was going by “the Purple Phantom” at the time of the comic. Her origin story (I suppose it was an origin story?) had her married to a police officer, and picked up for some crime or other. He was driving her in the squad car to the station when they were caught in an (earthquake? bomb? unrelated superhero battle?) and buildings started falling down on them. Her husband yanks her out of the back of the squad car and tells her to run, and when she looks back, the last she sees is him standing next to the squad car while bricks and chunks of masonry rain down around him.

The comic then skipped forward a bit, where our heroine has become a vigilante for social justice. She was, however, strictly bottom of the bag superhero-wise and was mostly tipping off reporters and whatnot. (You didn’t see her actual superpower until the very end.) At some point, she bites off more than she can chew, messes with the wrong crime-lord, something. In the comic (and I can still remember the panels so clearly!) she said that she felt like a fox who had wandered into a fight between bears. She was seriously out of her league, but she shows up to the last fight anyway, where the villain had brought, among other things, a war elephant* and finally reveals her superpower, which is to turn into an eight-headed serpent.

Actually, it was eight giant serpents with human heads, all joined at the tail, sort of like a cross between a naga and a rat king. Different people’s heads, too. It was both kinda awesome and exactly the ridiculous things that a comic writer in the early 80′s would come up with when they had completely run out of ideas.

The eight-headed serpent kicks elephant ass, kicks all kind of ass, gets very beat up in the process, and for a couple of minutes, we kinda think she might win this one. But as soon as he sees the tide going against him, the villain yanks out his trump card, which is a set of three vaguely Tibetan-looking demons. (I have no idea what they were—my subconscious didn’t render them terribly well—but the Tibetan underworld is full of such extraordinarily nasty creatures that it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s what our non-existent comic artist was going for.)

The demons have a very specific power. Whenever you think a good thought, they get to attack you. So if you think “Hey, I’m winning!” the demons get you. If you think “Wow, I might live through this!” the demons get you. If you think “Happy bunnies, fluffy kitties!” I assume that they are allowed to tear your head off and wear it as a hat.

So the heroine has to get through the rest of the fight while only thinking about how tired she is, how much this hurts, how stupid it all is, etc—and this gets worse over time, so that eventually you have to actively be thinking bad thoughts to keep the demons off. She beats the villain, but flees into the night, pursued by the demons.

The last sequence has her curled up on the floor of  hotel room, with the demons crouching over her, reliving the moment where her husband is killed by the falling buildings over and over again, because it’s the only memory bad enough to keep the demons at bay.

Needless to say, I woke up and immediately checked under the bed for Frank Miller.

It was strange. And sad. And no, there is no chance that I’ll draw it, it’d be far too depressing. But wow, weirdly specific narrative there, brain!

*It’s still one of MY dreams, obviously.

Originally published at Tea with the Squash God. You can comment here or there.

"Needless to say, I woke up and immediately checked under the bed for Frank Miller."

For that line alone, I would declare that you have won the internet.

Sounds more like Alan Moore than Frank Miller. ;)

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Yes, ({Hug}).
You must be going through some interesting times or have come to an interesting conclusion.

I say: Wow. Powerful and haunting.

DH says: "Eight headed serpent-being, tibetan demons, and a war elephant? That's not Frank Miller that's Stan Lee." Which is good, because it means she'll be rescued in the next 8 part miniseries.

That's a really detailed dream. But maybe you should finish the story and save her.

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Last weekend I was discussing with my son (a wargamer) what a bad idea war elephants actually are. Unlike horses, whose basic instinct is to run in the direction their herd leader says, elephants have the intelligence to find their own way of the battlefield. And if the easiest way is back where they came from, that is where they go. Elephants are really only suitable for Kai Lung style battles in which the sounding of gongs, letting off of fireworks and imitating of savage animals play so large a part.

Would you let someone else draw it?

"And no, there is no chance that I’ll draw it, it’d be far too depressing. But wow, weirdly specific narrative there, brain!"

You pay attention to and serve your fans too well. It may very well be that you will draw (a small part of?) this.

Or just post it as a webcomic. I mean, just a few pages, maybe a sequel, how hard can that be? (grin, as I believe that is how Digger started?)

It would be simple and get it out of your soul.
And you have drawn things as dark as this, haven't you?

Edited at 2012-06-10 02:45 am (UTC)

I read a lovely book called BLACKDOG by K V Johansen, which deals with characters and setting inspired by Tibetan mythology. I would recommend it - it was pretty good :)

That sounds like it would make an awesome comic! You have to make this happen! :)

That sounds like a Neil Gaiman story.

It's fascinating to me how closely your dark side resembles his.

That's haunting and powerful and oh, the poor woman.

I was thinking Neil Gaiman.

"And no, there is no chance that I’ll draw it"

you say this a lot, and yet frequently, you turn out to be lying mistaken, so there's hope for us yet.

I am totally hopeful, and glad to see someone with my sense of her history.

... Unless these comments have spooked her.

Just post it as a webcomic. For laughs, for fears, for whatever. Not all art must be immediately sold. Digger did not bring in money directly, just fame and awards, right?

Edited at 2012-06-10 02:44 am (UTC)

Man, that last bit is really . . . I can really relate. And that is frightening.