Wednesday, March 23, 2011

From Red Guardian to SheerZan (and from Gerber to Lyron)

Listen, I may well find myself sneaking in more enthusiastic blogs about Steve Gerber's work. here, however, I believe my sheer zeal for writing has encountered a saturation point, leading me to create a beautiful new artifice that I sincerely hope will bring peace and light and fun into the lives of people still many generations to come.

here's where we turn from the Gerber discussion in the past to the writing discussion that's been here all along. There's no better place to change direction than with the very best similarity. I will describe for you the Red Guardian and her introduction in Defenders #35. Then, I will begin talking to you about this idea, Sheer-Zan. (This turns out to be one of seven pieces found in posts ahead.)

To compare Sheer-Zan: One, written over the rest of this month, with Batman: Year One is to strike a very true chord. The years since I last read that story reverberated with me on the days I watched students risking their lives in Tehran, Iran, in 2009, though it could just as well be Bahrain today. Libya, believe it or not, is actually inspiring me to look ahead to the future of this idea. These stories are my way of containing the multitudes, whom I feel with all my energetic heart.

Yet, though she was created to represent a government and face of a country now in the past, its unique relationships thirty-five years on continue their echoes, and so, to think of the obscure but brilliantly-conceived Red Guardian today is to remember the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union. I realize some of you reading this will have to look that one up. It is hard to quickly tell you about that nation, nor its impact on the world and its relationship with the United States of America. In 1976, when this story first appears, we are celebrating a bicentennial here in the U.S., and the end of the Soviet Union is no where in sight. Those were the days of the Cold Wars.

The crime and corruption of 1970s New York City is referenced somewhat topically in the superhero comics of the day, but Defenders #35 opens its readers to fascinating questions when the familiar brightly costumed hero or heroine drops from above to meet justice on a vicious attacker in an alley Moscow. The commonality of mugging transports the American who fears crime into the streets with, and in sympathy with the victims, in the Soviet Union, which was generally feared by Americans, or at least, largely distrusted.

Yet, as the caption offers, there is still common human deprivation and degradation, while, in a tightly-policed state, there is far less street crime. So the question offered beneath the narrative is, what is it like to live in the protection and limitation of a police state? Not for nothing does the heroine flee for her life from the police; they are under party orders to hunt down anyone operating without sanction.

I want to describe that scene to you, because it is so brilliantly played. I want to note that in Red Guardian's outlaw life, there is a respected civilian guise, a secret identity: Tania Belinsky, a beautiful surgeon. She helps people as Red Guardian because her conscience moves her to do so (and you know it must be an adrenaline high), but she cannot be found out: there's too much good from her medical career.

It is her skills as surgeon that draw her to Kyle Richmond's bedside, at the formal request of Dr. Stephen STrange, who is calling in a marker partially involving the removal of an old ulcer from a bureaucrat years before. Yes, before he was Master of the Mystic Arts, Stephen had a successful career, a true adult. But recall Kyle Richmond's bizarre problem: his brain has been removed and preserved by the Headmen.

There are other fascinating bits involving the Soviets shadowing their doctor, on suspicion she will defect. If only, Stephen says while they prep for Kyle's brain surgery, there were a way she could simply visit and explore the U.S. for a while.
She is leery of her chances of that much personal control with the Soviets, even though she has no intention at all of defecting. She informs Dr. Strange that "I do not believe in magic."

I could go on about Ruby, Morgan and Nagan's encounter with Nebulon and the fawn that holds the mind of Chondu, their partner, the mystic. Some day, when it's appropriate, and it'll never really be appropriate but oh, well, I will. Or, you can look up Defenders #35, or just help yourself to the Essentials Defenders vol. 2 and 3 to have these stories (I have them in original issues, bought in "good" condition to fine condition for one to two and a half dollars each, basically).

No, it's this bit about Tania Belinsky, the Red Guardian, and the passport difficulties, and the character I want to do. I conceived of Sheer-Zan about this time two years ago. I believe it was therefore at least nine months before I ever first read Gerber's issue described above. The parallels are exquisite. I was thinking of using Japanese and Chinese fighting styles and philosophy alongside a well-conditioned but normally-powered woman with a medical profession, a medical mission, a secret identity that jeopardizes her freedom and life, sneaking off to fight crime not unlike Batman in Year One by Miller & Mazzuchelli.

I want to discuss the systems of these Middle Eastern countries, whose changes will become the wave of the 21st century, with a pro-female, thoughtfully-designed character, while doing what Gerber would've like to do, but really just ran out of time on Defenders to do (he leaves with issue #41, so with the Annual, there's really only seven Defenders issues from Gerber). "What's that?" Show the intrigues of the police trying to figure out who Red Guardian is, while she continues helping people in both guises.

Now, swap Gotham for the middle east, and you see what I'll spend the week creating. As a matter of fact, her initial story arc was plotted in seven parts, in homage to her predecessor in fiction, my own VAdo Bujinka in 2000.

As for Red Guardian:

Her deceased husband was intended to be the Soviet version of Captain America, so she is carrying on his name as protector of her people. She is educated and worldly and compassionate and overall so very brilliantly made. There will only be a few stories of note ever made with her, however. The last one of note, by David Anthony Kraft, involved nuclear catastrophe, which is also highly timely.

That's my cue to mention my other blog, Be Chill, Cease ill, wherein I'll be developing five stories of tsunami survival. One, at least, will be directly related to the fifty people at Fukushima, fighting to keep the reactors from exploding, and who they might be, what they might be thinking. So you see how accidentally all this mysterious search for meaning I could hardly explain beyond my whims has led me into a place where I should take a week to write about two things: one inspired by Iran, Iraq, Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain, Egypt, Palestine, Israel, Sri Lanka, and yes, Libya, and Frank Miller and Robert E. Howard and my friends Rachel and Bali and Troy (my go-to guy on fixing animals!) and Steely (Animal Expert of the World). The other, over on Cease ill, will culminate in an e-Book with proceeds going to red cross, a true red guardian.


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