Not everything about life is exciting, fun or happy. In fact many of the most evil things in the world are mundane and boring. That said, they don’t always make for the most interesting storytelling. When telling stories about a struggle between good and evil it is difficult to encompass evil without showing some of the more extreme, clearly despicable things it does. The mundane evil of keeping time on the train to Auschwitz isn’t as stark as we’d like to think.
All of this is prelude to something I find myself saying more and more often these days – Fire and Gold isn’t always the most uplifting thing I’ve written. Perhaps my mind is dwelling in darker places than it did in my more optimistic days. But these details are a part of a bigger picture and before you decide whether Fire and Gold is something you want to read let me make my case.
Action Comics #775 is an iconic issue of the series. Titled “What’s so Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way” it features a fascinating story about Superman literally and figuratively answering criticisms of the way the character is traditionally written. While that story is undoubtedly worth its own standalone analysis that’s not my purpose here. A lot of great storytelling was done there but one thing that really stood out to me came in the third act of the story, as a band of self-righteous supervillains suddenly found themselves on the run from Superman as he implacably hunted them down, one by one. It was a bizarre subversion of a horror story.
In the classical horror story grossly disproportionate retribution is brought on a person or group of people for a simple moral failing. They’re morality tales, but the creature at the heart of the story is just as evil or twisted as those it punishes. (Incidentally, this is why the most pure and innocent member of the cast, usually a young woman, is the final survivor in most horror stories – morality is a defense against the horror.) But in “Truth, Justice and the American Way” Superman becomes the monster in The Elite’s own personal horror story.
I have always wanted to explore that idea as the core of a full story. I never really had the right characters or setting for that story until I came up with Roy Harper. Once I had him clearly in mind and realized I wanted to tell his story from multiple viewpoints I knew I had the core elements for this kind of horror story in hand. In time Fire and Gold was the story that grew out of that.
The premise is simple. A truly evil man will find the notion of justice terrifying, and the notion that justice is interested in him personally doubly so. I hope that walking through that shadowed valley to the final dispensation of justice will be satisfying. But, like C.S. Lewis before us, we’ll have to spend some time with the Uncle Screwtapes of Roy’s world before we can get there.
Hopefully you’ll be willing to come along with us.