paulmundane

General and somewhat random story things

Archive for the month “September, 2013”

Pirates of Neverland Chapter 1

The storm roared through Pirate Shanty, shaking the makeshift town to the core.  Bartholomew Smee jolted up in his cot as lightning crashed outside.  He looked nervously around his tiny hut for a full minute before he chastised his lack of nerves.  Smee should have been used to the storm by now; it had been going for weeks, maybe years.  Time in Neverland was relative after all.   It felt like the storm had always been outside his hut.

Mr. Smee shook his head.  No, the storm hadn’t always been here.  It had blown in shortly after Pan and his crew of Lost Boys had left.  Shortly after they’d stolen the Jolly Roger, and set course for London.  Shortly after they’d murdered Captain Hook.

“Well, murdered you by default I suppose,” Smee commented to the empty room.  After all, Pan had forced Hook overboard, and into the mouth of the waiting croc.

Smee took a quick glance about the room as though concerned about listeners.  There were none of course.  “Oh, captain, if you knew what had gone on since you passed on.  Mullins in charge now.  We call him mister, of course captain,” he commented.  “No other captain for us, now is there?  Besides, no boat for him to be captain of.”

Mr. Smee shook his head slow, and tried to relax back into his cot.  It was late to be getting nostalgic, and Smee wasn’t getting any younger.  Mr. Smee closed his eyes, and tried to get back to sleep.

Again, the storm shook his tiny cabin home, and again, Smee sat upright in bed.  It wasn’t the thunder keeping him awake this evening.  Smee could swear he heard someone calling for him from outside.  It was faint, and far, and familiar.

Smee ran a hand through his long beard.  “Nah,” he decided finally.  “It must be the wind.  Yes, a mix of wind and spirits.  I should know better I should.  It can’t be…”

“SMEE!”

The shout rattled the windows; more powerful then the thunder that rocked the shanty town.  There was no confusion of its owner.  Bartholomew Smee fell from his cot, and scrambled to throw a coat over his nightgown.  “I’m coming captain!” he yelled as he dashed into the night.

Hook stormed into the town, unfazed by the weather. His hair, normally powdered and poufed, now hung in thick wet ropes over his face.  His fine black frock coat hung tattered from his shoulders, and his pants were missing a leg.  Blood dripped black and thick as hot tar from his many wounds.

Hook walked with a noticeable limp; hunched and struggling to drag something unseen in the darkness.  The captain dropped his strange luggage as he reached the center of Pirate Shanty, and stormed towards Smee.

“Odds bods Smee,” Hook snapped at the smaller man.  “Would you have me shout down the moon?”

“Begging your pardon captain,” Smee stammered while draping his coat over Hook’s shoulders.  “It’s just I wasn’t expecting it to be you sir.”

Hook ignored Smee’s excuses as he looked about the Pirate Shanty.  By now, the other men were coming to the center of town; wondering at the noise.  They stared at Hook as though he were a ghost.  Smee did as well; at the moment, it was still possible that Hook was indeed a spirit.

Hook looked at the men, fury burning in his eyes.  Seeing them all here on land affirmed his suspicions, and he turned on Smee.

“Where is the Jolly Roger, Smee?” Hook roared when Smee didn’t answer right away, and reached for his sabre dangerously.  “Where is my ship?”

“It’s gone,” Mullins answered for Smee.  He pushed his way past the others, and stalked towards Hook.  “Peter Pan took it, after he’d fed you to the crocodile.”

Mullins was an intimidating man in his own right.  Though not the largest of the pirates (that honour went to Mason) Mullins was certainly the most daunting.  His red hair hung in tangles from beneath his tricorne hat.  A scar split the length of his face, and set his lip in a permanent sneer.  Were the scar not there, Mullins would likely sneer nonetheless.

He was certainly sneering now, as he stared beady eyed at the ruins of the great Captain Hook.  Mullins had always been loyal to Hook.  Well, as loyal as a pirate could be.  It’s just, once Hook was gone, Mullins had taken control of what was left of the crew.  There was only one way to go up in the pirate ranks, and that was over the body of the man ahead of you.  Mullins was in charge now, and it seemed bad form for Hook to come back from the dead.

“A bunch of children took the Jolly Roger from the fearsome Captain Hook,” Mullins spat.  He grinned a wicked grin.  “They stole your boat.  What does that make you James?  Can’t be captain, right boys?  Can’t be captain without a boat.”

Mullins was almost as large as Hook, almost as loud, and almost as fearsome.  By his expression as he tried to stare down Hook, it was clear that Mullins had forgotten the almost of it all.  Being in charge even for a little while can sometimes skew a man’s sense of self worth.

A monstrous noise rumbled deep in Hook’s throat.  It was like the growl of a caged animal, just before the door opened.  The pirates flinched back a good few meters.

Mullins didn’t step away.  He didn’t notice Hook’s growl.  He was too busy listening to a different familiar sound.  Mullins mockingly put a hand to his ear, never breaking eye contact with Hook.

“You hear that sound boys?” Mullins questioned.  “You all hear that ticking?”  Mullins laughed at Hook.  “Tick. Tock.  Looks like time’s up for you Jimmie.”

Mullins laughed again, but this time with less certainty.  Hook hadn’t looked away.  The ticking was right on them, but Captain Hook hadn’t even flinched.  Mullins, even lost to his bravado, noticed, and found it strange.  He’d seen Hook panic at the sound of an ordinary pocket watch.

“You do hear the ticking,” Mullins whispered harshly.  “You do, don’t you Jimmie?”

Hook didn’t budge.  He smiled coldly, and slowly raised his hook till it was only centimetres in front of Mullin’s nose.  Dangling from the hook was a large clock; rusted, pocked from years in the belly of a crocodile, but ticking yet.

Mullin’s grin twitched, then vanished all together.  His Adam’s apple juggled in his throat as he looked over Hook’s shoulder at the burden he’d been dragging.  Lightning struck, illuminating the carcass of the monstrous crocodile.

Mullins looked from the crocodile to Hook.  He swallowed several times before finding his voice, as he finally saw what the others saw.  This was not a man that jumped scared at the sound of a clock.  This was not a man defeated by a boy.  Standing in front of Mullins was a man that had been through the maw of a monster; a man that had met his true fears, and come back alive.  This was pirate incarnate.  This was Captain Jas Hook.

“I was joking,” Mullins muttered hopefully.  He stared at the clock, no longer able to stare into the eyes of Captain Hook.  “You understand that I was just joking captain.”

“Oh, I understand, Mr. Mullins.  I understand you very clearly.”

Hook tilted the old clock into Mullins hands, and placed his hook onto the pirate’s shoulder.  The point slid easily into the soft flesh at the nape of Mullins’ neck, just between shoulder blade and collar bone.

To Mullins credit, he didn’t cry out.  Still, the large man stared terror at that hook, and at its owner.  “I’m sorry captain,” Mullins stated with all sincerity a pirate could give.

“ah, Mullins.” Hook tilted his head at the other pirate, and smiled maliciously.  “It’s this storm.  I couldn’t quite hear you.  You’ll have to say it louder.”  Hook slid the hook deeper into Mullins’ shoulder.

“I’m sorry captain!”

“Yes!  Say it again, you pox ridden codfish!”  Hook twisted the hook again, and jammed it downward; forcing Mullins to his knees.  “Who am I, Mullins?  Who?”

“Captain!” Mullins screamed.  “Captain Hook!”

Hook could feel Mullins pulse against his hook.  He’d only need to twist his hook slightly inward, and he’d slice Mullins’ main artery wide.  Instead he pushed it downward till the point sliced out from beneath Mullins’ collarbone. “Not James?  Or Jimmie?”

“No!  My Captain! Captain Hook!”

“That’s right!”  Hook pulled his hook free, and shoved Mullins back with his boot.  He then turned a vicious glare at the rest of the pirates.  “Do any of the rest of you bilge have questions about authority?”

The rest of the men stood at stark attention, staring at their boots.   Mullins shambled over to join them, standing in line with the rest.  He did nothing to staunch the flow of blood from his torn shoulder.  Mason, Jukes, Cookson, Smee, and Mullins.  Five men.  Four and a half really; as Jukes was little more than a boy.  There weren’t enough men to make a press gang, much less crew a ship.

Hook only had to raise an eyebrow, and Smee slid from line to his side.  The two  men turned away from the rest of the crew.  “Where is everyone Smee?” he asked quietly.

“This is everyone captain,” Smee answered, just loud enough to be heard by Hook over the storm.  “Lost almost everyone else in the last fight with them boys.”

Hook frowned.  “Almost everyone?”

Smee shrugged.  “We’ve lost a few since, captain: to the injuns.  They swing in, pick off men along the edges of the town.”  Smee shrugged again.  “Truth be told Captain; if them reds had known you were gone for sure, they’d have probably done us all in.”

“I suppose it’s good that I didn’t kill Mullins then,” Hook mused.

“Well, I’m sure he appreciates it,” Smee agreed.

Hook turned back to his men, and barked commands.  “Mason, Cookson,” he began.  He kicked the crocodile’s carcass.  “Get this reptile into town.  See if there’s any good meat on it, then I want it stuffed and mounted.  Jukes, help Mullins put himself back together, then grab some gear.  We move inland tonight.”  Hook watched as his crew scrambled all hodge podge to follow his orders.  “Step lively boys,” he advised, “lest someone meet the cats tonight!”

Happy with the scurry of work, Hook turned back to his boatswain.  “Smee,” he began.

“C’mon Captain,” Smee urged, gently nudging Hook towards his hut.  “Lets get you out of this storm; clean you up a bit, eh?”

Hook nodded.  His crew properly distracted, Hook allowed his shoulders to sag.  “Aye, Smee,” he said, limping for the small hut.  “But only for a moment.  We have work to do, and it must be done this evening.”

“Work captain?”

“Work, Smee.  Pan has taken my ship.  It’s only proper form that I take something of equal value from him.”

Smee took Hook into his tiny cabin; noticing only how small it really was with the captain inside.  Hook paid no mind.  He sat in the only chair, and brooded; lost in thought, as Smee went about making a proper cuppa.

“What are we taking from Pan?” Smee asked finally.  “He left with his boys, and the Darling children.”  Smee prepared needle and thread for both Hook’s wounds and his clothes.  “Besides, this is Peter Pan we’re talking about,” he added.  “Any knick knacks or thimbles he’s left behind sir; I’m sure he’s forgotten them by now.”

Hook sneered from beneath a veil of tangled hair, and watched as his boatswain got to work patching him up.  “I don’t want his boys, or his thimbles, Smee,” Hook growled.  “You’re thinking too small.”

Smee stared blankly at Hook.  He thought as hard as he could, and nodded sagely.  “Of course captain,” he said with sudden inspiration.  Smee stroked his beard wisely.  “Only, I don’t think we’ll all fit in his tree.  I mean, it was barely big enough for him and the boys as it were.”

Hook choked on his tea.  “No Smee,” he stated with exasperation.  “Not his tree house.  Bigger.”

Smee tied off the last of Hook’s wounds, and snapped the needle free of the thread.  “I’m not sure I follow captain,” Smee admitted.

Hook smiled like a shark, and rose slowly from the chair.  “Neverland, Smee,” he explained.  “We are going to take Neverland.”

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Eighties X-Men

I loved the X-Men during Claremont’s run, but haven’t really gotten into them so much in recent years. It’s always felt like something was missing, and I think I’ve finally put my mind around it.

I’m going to put it together in an analogy. It involves a cat, a burning building, and you, the reader. See, here’s the deal. That burning building? You’re in it. Running for your life, you pass a cat. Unlike you, the cat’s not trying to get out, because it’s a cat, and not fully aware of the danger. You do the right thing, scoop the cat up, and run.

Now, if you’re anyone else in the Marvel Universe, things are pretty ok. If you’re an Avenger, for example, the cat holds tight as you both dash to freedom. It licks you playfully, and you both stop for a photo op. Then it, I don’t know, goes on a date with Tigra. Everyone’s happy, and you’re a hero.

But if you’re a member of the eighties X-Men, things are much different. You stoop down to grab that cat, and it scratches at you. You try to pick it up, and I swear to God, that cats tries to kill you. And the smart thing to do is just leave the cat to its own fate, and save yourself. You don’t because you’re an X-Man. Despite the cat trying its best to kill you, you take it with you as you get out of the building. And once you put it down, that cat just goes right back into the fire. And you go back in after it and save it again.

The cat is a thinly veiled analogy for humanity, in case you’re not following. And in the eighties, everything the X-Men dealt with was a thinly veiled analogy for racism.

See, to me that’s what’s missing. The X-Men constantly saved a world that didn’t want them. I know that’s still kinda the catch phrase, but back in the day you felt it. It was in everything the X-Men did. Heck it was even in the ads between pages of the comic.


Exhibit A

And you know what? The X-Men would still save everyone. That was what made it so great. The X-Men were hated, but they’d still save everyone. They didn’t deal with the same brightly colored spandex enemies, because they were too busy dealing with the fact that humanity hated them.

The absolute culmination of this, btw, was the Days of Futures Past storyline: possibly the best thing ever out of Claremont’s pen. It was a story of a future where sentinels had decided that the only way to fufill their prime directive of destroying all mutants was to take over the whole of the USA, and kill or imprison all mutants. There were concentration camps, and (suggested) sterilisations, and open death in the streets. It was hell.

It was also what cemented the direction the X-Men would go for the next ten years. Mutant registration was the big enemy. Not Magneto, not Juggernaught, not, well any one person. The enemy was a concept. An opposition to Xavier’s big dream.

And somehow, the idea that a concept could be scary became lost over the years. The idea that humanity could be horrible was replaced with bigger and bigger brightly colored spandex villains. In short, the X-Men just became another hero book.

The one that really got me was during a revisit to Days of Future Past, Marvel introduced Ahab. It wasn’t enough that humans were forcing mutants to hunt mutants in their dystopian future (Rachel Summers, Hounds, ect). They had to add a big cyborg guy with pouches and guns and a harpoon that could kill anyone it touched, or else I guess no one would understand what the X-Men were afraid of? The subtlety had been lost, replaced by a splash page.

During the Civil War, Tony Stark argues that the X-Men should back his hero registration because the 198 remaining mutants were already registered. Just like that. Mutant registration, the big fear happened off panel. Ignore the fact that at the time Xavier mansion was surrounded by sentinels (well intentioned sentinels, but still) and had become a camp for all the remaining mutants. Concentrated in one spot. You get the picture.

Either way, the X-Men didn’t flinch. Heck, there are two separate times where female members of the team run a burlesque show for the sentinels. No, I’m dead serious. I should mention that the sentinels have pilots at this point, or else this whole paragraph sounds off.

And, since there are humans in the sentinels, I question why they are using them. I mean, what exactly are giant robots going to do that a camp ground of mutants can’t do for themselves. You are aware that the X-Men live here, right? Surrounding the mansion with sentinels is a dick move, no matter how hard you work to make them look like Gundams.

Anyways, the whole of Decimation got me excited at the time. I thought maybe we’d see a jump back to a world where mutants were openly hated, and you know, punk X-Men. No such luck. Mind you, Peter David did touch on it a bit with X-Factor. Damn that was a fine series. You should all read it.

Anyways, not griping. Just sharing what the X-Men used to be whilst I read my old books. It was a hell of a time.

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