Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Secret History of Lightweight

Lightweight_SeniorYearSmallLightweight was first introduced to the world in September 2013 when I launched the Kickstarter for the first year worth of stories. But for me, the history of Lightweight dates back over two decades.

Flashback to the early 1990s. Parachute pants and fluorescent clothing was cool. George H.W. Bush was saying all the wrong things to get reelected. I was a fourteen year old kid coming into my own for the first time. I created heroes for years before then. I distinctly remember my brother Russ and I taking our G.I. Joe, Star Wars, He-Man, M.A.S.K. and dozens of other figures and turning all of them into a massive universe of superheroes. Literally hundreds of characters came out of these sessions and they in turn inspired the creation of dozens more with the classic TSR Marvel Super Heroes and Mayfair DC Heroes role playing games. But so many of those creations were rather stereotypical superheroes. I realized that I wanted to create a hero with unique abilities, with a set structure to those powers, and with a back story I could craft over years.

The first part was connecting with the power of gravity manipulation. Though a villain or two possessed the ability over the years, it was a relatively unused ability in comics. At the time, I could find neither a Marvel nor a DC hero that used the ability. Even now, only the obscure Marvel character uncreatively named Gravity does.

[caption id="attachment_553" align="alignleft" width="180"]Lightweight-COLOR-STUDY-2-A Brent Sprecher's character design for Lightweight.[/caption]

From there, I started to develop the character of Kevin Mathis. In many ways, his earliest incarnation was something of a Mary Sue. He had all my best traits and none of my teenage excesses. His supporting cast initially consisted of all the other heroes and villains we created, but I realized that I wanted to do more with Lightweight. So I set out to create a universe for him.

Initially I wrote his earliest adventures as comic book plots. I had a copy of a two or three paragraph Marvel plot and I used that as the basic structure to lay out my story. I developed literally hundreds of Lightweight plots this way, although my plots grew shorter and shorter as I added on, until they were only a sentence or two. At the same time, I started to develop other characters around him. Many of these figures have found or will find their way into the Quadrant Universe over the next few months and years.

Back then, Lightweight was something of the premiere hero of the line, alongside another figure named Legend (who has been reborn as the leader of another current project, F.O.R.C.E.). But he was also just a fairly typical solo teen hero. Millie, Andy, George and Howl were all in place back then, although a few have went through name changes—and in one case a major personality change—since then. Millie actually went by Winnie back then and in hindsight I not only stole her name from Danica McKellar’s character in The Wonder Years, but I also stole much of Kevin’s initial relationship from that show. (Oddly, the name Kevin didn’t come from that show though. I initially called the lead Nathan Anderson, an obvious fictionalized version of my name. It wasn’t until my high school years that I renamed him Kevin Mathis, after two friends growing up.)

The majority of the villains of this book were also in place with only Hammer and Anvil being recent creations. All have went through some major renovations since their first incarnation. Titan was once basically a Sentinel. Ronin was an eight foot tall cyborg. Hellfire’s powers and origins were the same, but George was one dimensional at best.

In the early 2000s, I set out to turn my dreams of being a comic and prose writer into a dream of selling super powered prose fiction. Lightweight was the first character I turned to. I renovated much of the concept then. In the original storyline, Lightweight was basically a mutant. The new version created the mystery behind his power’s origins and the two organizations that wanted to control them. The Eloi and Morlock element came from there. I always liked the names as literary allusions and I could integrate the history of those names into the greater mythos of the Quadrant Universe.

Most of what you see on the pages of Lightweight: Senior Year came out of that brainstorming session. I designed the plot as twenty adventures then, but I realized the structure of Lightweight’s final school year worked better overall. The change also came with a change to how I wanted to present the story. My original plan was to run the universe as happening in one-half real time: every twenty-four months would equal one year. When I was younger, Savage Dragon was a major inspiration for the timeline, and I felt this was just bringing things closer in line to that vision of real time storytelling.

I ultimately decided against leading off my writing career with Lightweight though. In that time period, the industry just didn’t offer the proper publishing structure to allow me to release Lightweight in the manner it deserved. Digital books existed, but the entry level wasn’t where it is today, nor did they really sell to anyone but the deepest techie. More importantly though, I didn’t feel my writing skills at the time were enough to truly bring Lightweight to life in the way it deserved. So I shelved it again while I worked on other projects, some of which remain unpublished to this day.

Lightweight_Black_DeathLightweight: Black Death changed direction from that early 2000s plan. I meandered a lot in those twenty chapters and the second half is really about focusing the stories with a keener eye on the Eloi/Morlock story that underlines the first year of adventures. The Parker King secondary plot remained in simply because of how much it interlinks with the main plot. Others were left by the wayside, though they will most likely return in later volumes as Lightweight continues.

I started work towards finally realizing Lightweight as fiction in late 2012. I went back to work on framing the basic plot structure of what would become Senior Year. It took months before I thought I had it structured well enough to put it in front of readers. I wanted a great piece of cover art for the book as well, but knew that didn’t come cheap. Brent Sprecher came to my attention as my artist of choice. The need to pay for cover art upfront t brought me to Kickstarter where I raised the funds needed to pay for Brent and the initial print run.

And that brings me to today and the upcoming Kickstarter to fund three more volumes of Lightweight’s adventures.. I wanted to give my previous Kickstarter backers that supported me a look into the history of Lightweight and hopefully introduce potential new readers to the character. I hope you have enjoyed this look into the creative process behind Lightweight and company. Here’s hoping that the long winding road that got us here will be dwarfed by the years of adventure ahead.


For more information on Lightweight: Senior Year and Lightweight: Black Death visit The Books page.

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