In eighth grade I started writing the story that would eventually give me my longtime internet handle: Crisis.
It was half a high school drama and half a superhero comic, paralleling puberty with the onset of special powers that brought with them the life and death choices of adulthood.
I wrote and re-wrote the story endlessly. Sheaths of handwritten pages, endlessly revised files on my first word processor, and an infamous purple binder in which I worked in parallel on a sequel novella, allowing Gina to read it once a week in the back of Health class.
I never finished Crisis Team on paper; it mostly existed as a narrative daydreamed in slow moments of class and long waits at the bus stop. Still, I knew every beat of the story, and how they broke down across every chapter. If someone had sat me down at a keyboard for a week I could have typed it in a single unbroken string of sentences.
Then came Gen 13.
I can’t even remember why I ordered it at the time, but when I cracked the first issue I realized that Crisis was over before it was finished – Gen 13 copped my entire storyline almost beat for beat, and it did it’s job very well.
It was too late to change the core concept of my story. all I could do was rewrite and revise and hope to transcend our shared archetype to create something more distinct.
For the past year I’ve been reading breathless media coverage of Heroes, and how it is the next generation of television, way better than 4400, and a comic fan’s wet teevee dream.
I admit, I let my hopes get slightly up as details of the plot saturated the media and eventually leaked to me through magazines. The Wolverine/Cheerleader wakes up from an autopsy. The Japanese Nightcrawler learns how to use a sword.
It all sounded fascinating.
Now that we’ve Netflixed the DVDs my hopes are proven to have been in vain. I can’t detect anything beyond the mundane about the show, except for Mohinder’s hair. The best I can say for it is that it’s nice to watch so many standard comic archetypes being explored on screen. Not thrilling, or must-see. Just nice.
By contrast, Elise returned from her pre-Australia shopping trip to inform me that, so far, she loves it. She even powered through an extra four episodes while I was asleep and out at rehearsal.
I was annoyed for a moment by the disconnect; Elise and I share a perfectly tuned kismet sort of taste in sci-fi television shows from which we hardly ever deviate. The Pretender. Buffy. Alias The 4400. Battlestar Galactica.
A second later I was all caught up.
Elise is Gina in Health class, reading from my big purple binder. She can pick an X-Man out of a lineup, but she isn’t connected to the collective comics unconscious that stores all of those many standard stories – that place that Crisis and Gen 13 and Heroes draw their underlying structure.
I, unsurprisingly, am me, and in my mind Heroes is the same thing as Crisis – just a different medium spinning a familiar archetype.
Of course, you can argue that about almost any concept. Aren’t most of my songs just reconstituted versions of songs by other people? Haven’t I written this post about this feeling before?
What’s the difference?
The difference is the execution.
I kept rewriting Crisis, hoping that at some point my skillful execution would transcend my story.
I was hoping the same for Heroes, but it’s all archetype and no execution. The script is inert compared to Buffy (chosen one fights evil, fate) , the pace sluggish compared to The 4400 (people gain and struggle with powers, are discriminated against), and the acting pale in comparison to the revised Battlestar Galactica (original Battlestar Galactica crossed with Star Trek Voyager (original Battlestar Galactica)).
I was so hoping for something along the lines of that trio of shows – a done-to-death concept rendered thrilling through unusually outstanding execution. And, though Heroes has plenty of story, and plenty of network gloss, it’s that extra ingredient that’s lacking.