A Little of This…a Little of That

Posted: 29th March 2012 by Jeff Bouley / Deacon Blue in Ruminations

I know I ruminated and even fretted slightly in this recent post about whether my characters might be too derivative of other iconic or even obscure comic book characters. (You know, I just realized Mad Dash is perhaps a kind of a mash-up of the Flash and the Creeper).

Today, I wanted to talk about real-world influences.

That is, people in my actual life, directly or peripherally, who influence my characters in the world of the Whethermen.

The first appearance of Query was something my son Rory (@yomilo on Twitter) immediately realized was an homage to him. First, Query is somewhat Batman-like, and that is Rory’s favorite comic hero. Second, the first name we see associated with Query is Milo Phillips. Milo is the name Rory took on at Twitter and as his hip-hop performing monicker (based on the boy who is the main character in The Phantom Tollbooth). Phillips is derived both from one of his middle names as well as the first name of his biological dad. Query’s real name is Alan Millos and the Alan part is Rory’s other middle name, with Millos clearly pulling from Milo again. Even the seldom-mentioned Nigel Roy identity for Query was a kind of in-jokeā€”Sir Nigel Calabash having been an Ultima Online character we dreamed up and Roy being the most common way people screw up Rory’s first name.

But even beyond the name-game, certain of Query’s personality traits owe to my son. Query has musical interests and performs hip-hop in underground and local circles, like Rory does. He literally never sleeps (and Rory has a talent for going to bed very late, whereas I take that up a notch by staying up late and still getting up early-ish). He can be very introverted but also fiercely loyal to true friends. His private thoughts are sometimes a significant source of pain, as well as motivation.

At the same time, Query has some of me in him. Middle-aged and willing to throw down hard when pushed to the wall, sarcastic and somehow both cynical and hopeful. Also, I think I have a knack for sorting out complex situations and figuring out people’s motivations, but for me it takes days or sometimes weeks, and Query’s much quicker than that.

The character Cole Alderman, who now has a codename finally (Quantum) is based in part on one of Rory’s friends, Alexander Kollman (@S_afari_Al on Twitter). Again, there’s a pretty obvious name twist going on, but I also based some of Cole’s history loosely on the early life of Alex. Early on, having been inspired by the web site that Rory and several friends started (The Whethermen’s Union, which sadly has apparently gone into perhaps a permanent hiatus), I had hoped to integrate some of his buddies into the “Tales of the Whethermen” mythos.

Only one person really came forward to give me some insight into himself, and that was Alex. I don’t know that Cole much resembles Alex as he is now (I don’t know him well enough), but even so, working in some of the feelings and struggles Alex had in high school and even before gave me a rich start for Cole’s backstory.

Zoe Dawson is based on my six-year-old daughter and my wife, in certain respects. First, Zoe was one of the top three names on our short list for her when she was born (though it didn’t make the final cut). But also, Zoe has an incessant need to confront people and to be the one who’s “right,” which is something about my six-year-old that I both respect and get irritated by. Zoe’s tendency to push her rage and irritation inward is something I remember all too well from my wife’s younger years. But also, Zoe is someone who stands strong and tries to solve her own problems, which I very much respect in my wife. Also, my wife had locs (some call them dreadlocks) for several years, and that was an inspiration for Zoe’s hairdo.

Finally, there is Janus, whom I think may be my evil twin. He is significantly smarter than me and vastly more ambitious, but we share a similar temperament. Most who know me well would, I think, characterize me as largely unflappable even in the face of extreme stress. I just don’t tend to get anxious or worked up, though I can be pretty irritated at problems that won’t go away. However, I think those same people would admit that if you put me in a situation where multiple things are going to hell-in-a-handbasket or someone I love is at risk in some way from another person, my anger can peak to some scary levels.

Similarly, Janus tends to be outwardly unfazed (and inwardly, too, for the most part) by crap going on around him. The twist, though, is that my calm is more Zen-like and constructive, whereas Janus plots insidious things calmly. And when his anger flares on those rare occasions he is pushed beyond his tolerance point, he’s likely to get medieval on some asses in a Spanish Inquisition kind of way, which isn’t really my style.

So, for what’s it’s worth, there you have it: How the real people around me inform the people I create out of thin air.

Next chapter of “The Gathering Storm” will likely post tomorrow. Certainly no later than Saturday.