Archive for October, 2010

The Moral Panic and the Myth: Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”  (Exodus 22:18)

Across the face of the glowing, leering moon speeds a figure in black riding on a broomstick. Her robes flutter behind her, the tip of her long pointed black hat cuts a trail through the mists and the hideous cackle of her broken voice shatters the peace of the night. Women clutch their infants to their breast, children pull the covers up over their head and men seethe in fearful, impotent anger and dream of this evil that assails them strapped to a stake burning in holy cleansing fire.

There are:

  • Good Witches
  • Bad Witches
  • Black Witches
  • White Witches
  • Sorcerers and Sorceresses
  • Wizards
  • Wiccas
  • Conjurers
  • Necromancers
  • And a host of other subtle variations.

With one common theme running through them all, the “doer of magic” is frightening because “They can hurt you and yours without even being there!”

A magician uses magic to subvert the laws of nature to their own end, if they take it in to their head to destroy you, they can. They can ruin your livelihood, steal your possessions, replace members of your family with evil doppelgangers, send demons after to you, give you bad dreams, make you ill, seduce you and KILL YOU.  And there is nothing you can do to stop it.

Even the power of the church is helpless before witchcraft, which is why the bible tells us it is permissible to kill a witch. Unlike a Vampire or a werewolf or a ghost, you don’t need holy writ, silver or special tools to kill a witch, just a good big bonfire and of course the lack of mental intuition to ask, “Why, if they are so powerful, are they so easy to kill?”

Easy.  It’s “Headology” as the famous Witch Granny Weatherwax (See the works of Terry Pratchett) would say–They will have you kill someone else and let you think it was they.

The Literary Witch

Of all the horror genre monsters,  the witch has the most complicated back-story and the most liberal of generic rules.  The witch in fiction is not to be compared or confused with the many factions who claim to be actual witches in the real world any more than the sad deluded ‘Sanguine-Aryan’ blood drinking cults of California and the rest of world are to be compared or confused with literary Vampire.

There is uniquely among the eight primordial literary monsters, Biblical precedent for the Witch. Both in the form of “The Witch of Endor” First Book of Samuel, chapter 28:3–25, (though she should more rightly be thought of as a medium) and among many others in the admonishment from Exodus quoted above.

Witches appear in every mythology throughout the entire world and even have sanctioned form in many major religions.

Shamans, Witch Doctors, Medicine Men, Cabalists, Christian Spiritualist all are more or less legitimate forms of witchcraft practitioners, restrained and tolerated because of their oath to do no wrong to their fellow man by means of the powers at their disposal. These too have their place in the genre.

So What are Witches?

There is no simple answer.

Mythology acknowledges the existence of witches, but it has little to say on their origins other than that the gods loathe them. It has been up to various authors to fill in the gaps  drawing  on various traditions.  Six  major ideas have emerged on what a witch is.

  1. The Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son-In some fantasy novels a child born in these circumstances will become a wizard or witch, either by nature or by a dieing magician taking it as a sign to pass on the power entrusted to them. See Terry Pratchett’s  “Equal Rites” for an example.
  2. The Tolkien-In the works of J.R.R. Tolkien magic workers are a separate race from normal humans in the same way that elves and dwarfs are, however since Tolkien never mentions female wizards it is uncertain how they reproduce among themselves or if they marry human women. The most famous off shoot from this idea was Sol Saks’ long running TV show “Bewitched” about the troubled marriage between a human man a witch woman it developed in time in to:-
  3. Homo Magi-An alternate form of humanity. We can thank sci- fi writer Gerry Conway and Dick Dillin for this term and idea first put forward in 1979. Witches are an evolutionary off shoot of ‘normal’ humanity. They are much lower in number than we are but are gifted with the ability to tap the natural flow of energy around them and use it bend and overpower the laws of nature. They are neither inherently evil nor good; they are human and as fickle as any other human. This idea has now become the basis for the most famous of all witchcraft stories the “Harry Potter” series.
  4. The Alien/Royal Witch-First posited by C.S. Lewis in his novel “The Magicians Nephew” True Witches are of royal blood decent and though anyone may learn witchcraft only those with the bloodline can exploit properly. According to Lewis on the Planet Charn this lead to a great Witch War between two sisters. Jardis and her unnamed sibling, culminating in the end of the world when one of them dares utter the ultimate spell “The Deplorable Word”. In modern literature the idea of a Witch Queen is quite common and has been used to great effect by Anne Rice in her “Mayfair Witches” books, where a family of once noble birth has by centuries of inbreeding purified their bloodline enough to create a perfect witch, while building up a huge fortune along the way.
  5. The Satanist-one who has sold their soul to the devil in exchange for unnatural powers. Always evil, always up to bad things and thriving on the mischief that they make. Dennis Wheatly’s Mr Mocata is a prime example of this kind of witch.
  6. The Wise One-By far and away the most common form of Witch is the person who has simply learned from forbidden knowledge and or the possession of magical artefacts, how to do magic. Some of them have more of a knack for it than others but the knowledge is kept between an elite few and is passed on in a form of apprenticeship. Stan Lee’s Doctor Strange, Allan Moore’s John Constantine and Gardner Fox’s Doctor Fate are all modern version of this type of witch.

The Genre Rules for Witch Stories

1. The Witch maybe male or female. As a rule of thumb, female witches are more powerful and more evil because they are more frightening to men.   A male witch IS NOT a Warlock,. Warlock means “oath-breaker” or one who has betrayed God. Sol Saks popularised the term as the title of a male witch but he was wrong.

2. The Witch is a tragic flawed character. He or she will have a character trait that will prove their undoing; often it is arrogance or over confidence but sometimes it is subtler such as a lingering conscience or the longing for a child of their own.

3. The Witch will have a physical problem held in check by magic. In the days of the Witch Finders such as Matthew Hopkin and his ilk, it was believed that the Devil placed his mark on his own. Therefore the witch will have a limp, will be of great age but looks young, will suffer a terrible illness but is kept alive in spite of it or as in the case of Frank L. Baum’s famous “Wicked Witch of the West” will no longer have any blood and so will dissolve in water.

4. Possession of a mystical item or the soul of an innocent must be intrinsic to the plot. The Stygian witches were blind and shared a single crystal eye that was the source of their gift of prophesy, Mocata desired the soul of the son of his greatest enemy and so set out to corrupt him, Whateley in “The Dunwich Horror” seeks possession of the fabled volume the Necronomicon. Even Morgan Le Fay of Le mort de Arthur seeks possession of the Throne of England for her son and with it the power  of the Sangraal and Excalibur.

5. The Witch is always motivated by fear of a master or superior or the terms of a spell for his/her own safety or well-being. Every Witch knows there is a price to pay for the use of the unnatural powers at their command, the price is always fearful and if not paid by someone else will be exacted from the Witches themselves. Therefore there must always be others to be sacrificed.

6. The Nemisis of the Witch will always be one who I pure in heart and refuses for one reason or another to believe witchcraft can overcome goodness, natural law or logic. This is simple fairy tale logic; good will out against evil, no matter how powerful.

If an alternate Magic user is pitted against a ‘bad witch’ they will fail. So to this end most ‘good witches’ will have an assistant or apprentice who is either inept at magic or is just a none magical servant. Magic can never be seen to be right, even when it is used for good, since magic is seen as inherently evil a good sorcerer can not win alone, he requires the help of none magical pure good, see 6 above.

A bad Witch’s apprentice will always betray them. By horror story lore: To want to be a Witch indicates you are a bad person, therefore you are untrustworthy and impatient or sometimes the betrayal is an act of redemption. Q.E.D.

The Witch at the climax must perish by one of the four ancient elements, earth wind fire or water. This is to say the Witch will be: burned, (the classic way to kill a witch) drowned, (Ducking Stools and trial by water) buried (a traditional way of trying a witch was to ‘press’ them for an answer. This involved placing a board over them and pilling on heavier and heavier stones until he or she was crushed to death) or killed by wind (Remember the Wicked Witch of the East killed by having a house dropped on her from the plume of a hurricane). This of course stems from the fact that witches manipulate  the elements for their powers and so if you live by the sword you will die by the sword.

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Len Hazell is 46 years old from the north east of England, holds a degree in Media, and is majoring in writing for the print and broadcast media.  He has published in various magazines in the UK, fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, and has had  plays produced throughout England.  He is currently working on his own musical adaptation of Arsenic and old Lace which he hope to stage in 2011.

Your story is flat. You don’t know what’s wrong. You like your characters and you like the milieu, but the piece as a whole–it kinda sucks and you’ve run out of ideas.  What can you do to get you back in the mood?  Take a look at reversals.  Do you have any?  Even one?

One of the components of many strong stories are reversals of action; that is, taking the events from positive to negative and back to positive through each scene or the other way around.  In other words, reversing what is happening from good to bad or bad to good.

This back and forth is a basic rule–actually, I don’t want to use the word “rule” because some people go screaming into the night when it comes to  “rules”–so I’ll say instead, reversals have been a basic “consideration” in storytelling since  humans could communicate.

“Ugh, I go to find deer. I have good plan, but deer not on plain. I disappointed and thought coming home, but I see a monster and think, big monster, big food.  At first I was afraid, but monster on ground sleeping.  I sneak up with my trusty spear to kill him on soft feet. Something inside pound pound. But I brave.  His seeing part was closed.  I raised spear.  Took one step, and his seeing part opened.  He growled.   I turned to run, I slipped. The monster struggled to stand up. His feet came close to my legs.  I tried to crawl away. Came to a tree.  Thought I would climb tree. I would be safe.  But as I climb tree, something thick and heavy brushed me away.  I fell hard on the rocks.  The tree  had another monster, only bigger. I pick up rock. And so forth….”

Each bolded word suggests a reversal from positive to negative to positive.   This action pulls the reader through the scene, creating suspense.  The tribe sitting around the proverbial campfire doesn’t want to hear.  “I went out and killed a monster with a rock. Eat up.”

So the main character has a good idea, but his plan is reversed to a negative when he finds the plain empty.  Then he sees more game, bigger game. Life has taken a positive turn. But bad news, he doubts he can bring it down.

Reversals give movement to a story.  As you can see, I’m not discussing here big reversals that are the standard to movies, but rather small reversals with each scene.  The unfolding of the action going from positive to negative and back to positive takes the reader through the story visually and brings individuality to the scene.  No two writers paying close attention to their text and their own experience and imagination are going to create the exact same series of actions.

I owe my awareness of this pattern of reversals most specifically to Robert McKee’s Story.   As he explains it, this is not formula, but rather  a tool to use to help the author to create a strong story that keeps the reader reading.  This is not to say that the reversals need to be supercharged trains bearing down on superheroes.  The reversals can be slight and work terrifically. Or they can have more heft.

McKee discusses larger reversals in his book also and these are worth understanding too because they taking the reader from one scene-segment to the other, one act to the next,  pushing the story through to the end, but these may be more the concern of the longer short story, the novella, and the novel.

Today’s short stories often keep action at a minimum, the surprise subtle, only one reversal, but there is some sense of change or experience that speaks to the reader.  Many authors are writing more traditional stories too. Whatever a writer’s style, learning about reversals and how they work can be useful.  Reversals add tension and help the reader glimpse the author’s unique world.  It is through reversals  as well as detail in character, setting, and attitude that make each story unique.

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Gay Degani is the editor of Flash Fiction Chronicles.  Recent stories have appeared in Foundling Review and LITnIMAGE. You can find more of her online work at www. gaydegani.com.

It takes courage and faith to believe that sending out work and getting rejected will make you a better writer, but as part of your development, the submission process helps you see your work as others see it and eventually, how much their perceptions vary. Submitting work teaches you to become professional in your attitude as in “Let me take another look at this, how can I make it clearer, richer, deeper, better?”  This cycle of writing, submitting, being rejected, rewriting, and submitting elsewhere  is necessary for most of us if we want to become masters of our art and craft.

Many of us have, when we begin our writing journey, this idea that our writing is who we are and because we want to do it and we work hard at it, it should be good.  Right?  And some of it is, but what we don’t understand or don’t want to understand is that a serious writer (even if one who’s “written all his life”) will inevitably have some kind of learning curve, a transition from newness to less new to okay to good to better.

It’s difficult for us to see this in our own work.  We need someone else to help us.  The problem happens (the hurt, the pain, the disappointment) when someone says a piece isn’t there yet, not quite right, or god help us, “needs a page one rewrite!”  Many of us crumble.  We feel worthless because our egos are all wrapped up in our writing.  But we’re NOT our work.  Well, we are.  However…

Our logic fails us when we see ourselves as creators. We forget the most obvious fact. Just as we are not born with the ability to do everything an adult does, we aren’t born with the ability to write a publishable work. It doesn’t mean we won’t eventually. We might be born with some talent, but talent needs to be developed. Most of us just don’t happen to be Shakespeare.

In a previous post, Giving Context to Structure, I offered a breakdown of how my own process works as a way to help new writers understand that for many of us, the three main components of a  story–content, language, and structure–are fuzzy, hard-to-define elements that get us lost.

Thinking in terms of the “writing process” helps you breakdown  your story.  It gives you specific things to look at at different junctures of creation.  What do I need in terms of content? How can I use structure to create the maximum clarity and effect? Where can I use language for maximum clarity and effect?

Content comes first–whether you arrive at it through writing a rough draft, doing an outline, or taking notes and/or pictures, or working from research. Doesn’t matter where you start with these things, most people start with one of them.

I usually start with a draft. I want to see what’s up in my unconscious before that left brain of my takes over and tells “oh no you don’t.”

Structure–putting meaning in a story by the way you order the event–usually comes after I’ve written a draft. I look at that draft and decide: what works in this and what doesn’t? What is it I want to say? What is the draft’s purpose? It’s hard to do this before anything is written down. You don’t know what you have until something is up on the screen in front of you whether its notes, a draft, or an outline.

What needs to be determined, however, is how do I begin this story and how do I end and how do I get from point A to point B. That is structure in short fiction, long fiction, movies, plays, and yes, poetry and memoir too. And it’s the same kind of steps you need to take when writing an essay . What do I need? What supports my thesis? IS it convincing? What is my purpose?

So content is first, structure second, and third comes refinement of language and with that comes diction, voice, rhythm, analogies of all kinds, and all those other things we study in school when we read literature. If I try and do language while I create content, it gets in the way. Too often in the past have I sacrificed the logic of the story so as not to delete a beautiful image, as if the story supports the image. The opposite is true. Word choice, voice, imagery all are there to support the story and its purpose, and the purpose for me is the theme: the reason I am writing the story in the first place.

And for more about purpose, here’s another post:  The Purpose of Purpose.

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Gay Degani is the editor of Flash Fiction Chronicles, staff editor at SmokeLong Quarterly and you can find links to her online stories at www.gaydegani.com.

Hey, everyone! Here’s the info from the website.

http://www.smokelong.com/features/30wordstories.asp

30-Word Story Contest

In December 2010, SmokeLong Quarterly will publish its 30th issue. We thought that nice, round, pretty number deserved some kind of celebration, and so it is so.

In honor of our 30th issue, we are holding a 30-word story contest.

From November 1 to November 30 (“Thirty days hast September, April, June and NOVEMBER!” Get it?), we will be accepting submissions of 30-word stories on any topic.

The rules are simple:

* Thirty words exactly—no less, no more.
* You MUST have a title for your story, though the title does not count toward the word count.
* You can submit up to three stories, but please submit each story SEPARATELY.
* No entry fee.
* Submissions open from November 1 to November 30.

The top 5 stories will be published in our 30th issue due out at the end of December.

And here’s the really exciting part: The final judge for this hint fiction contest is Robert Swartwood, who is the editor of the brand-new book, Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer, due out by W. W. Norton in November 2010.

“Yes…yes. To hold in my hand a capsule that contained such power…to know that life and death on such a scale was my choice. To know that the tiny pressure on my thumb, enough to break the glass, would end everything. Yes – I would do it. That power would set me up above the gods! And …I shall have that power!”

—Davros in Terry Nation’s Genesis of the Daleks

Today the supervillain is the enemy or nemesis of the Superhero, but  supervillains predate their heroic counterparts substantially.

Myth and legend are replete with evil emperors, dark Lords and sorcerers, night terrors and monsters, but to stay within the realm of literature, let us begin by looking at what makes a simple villain super.

  1. The Supervillain has intent: The Supervillain does not go after one person, one enemy,  one small group; he or she wants to gain power over countries, empires, civilizations, the world, or even the whole of creation itself.
  2. The Supervillain has means: The Supervillain uses  fiendish devices scientifically ahead of its time and/or an organisation behind him or private armies,  sometimes enlisting the dark forces of the devil himself.
  3. The Supervillain has supreme confidence: The Supervillain is utterly intransigent and ruthlessly determined of purpose, driven by the obsession that they are always, indisputably right. In short, he or she is  a fanatic.
  4. The Supervillain has a defect: The Supervillain will be physically, emotionally or mentally abnormal and will probably have henchmen or minions who are even more so.

Taking the above as criteria, we are faced with two real candidates for the title of first literary supervillian or perhaps he is only one man with two names.

In 1870, French visionary fantasy writer, Jules Verne,  introduced the world to Captain Nemo, first in the novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870) and then again in The Mysterious Island (1874).

Nemo (Latin for Nobody, the alias adopted by Odysseus to confuse the Cyclops Polyphemus)  is a revenge-driven, mad scientist and inventor. The son of a deposed Raja (real name, Prince Dakkar), he loathes the western imperial world and is out to destroy it by means of his dominance of the sea. To this end, he builds the submarine Nautilus and sets about disturbing trade, stealing bullion, and destroying the navies of the world.

There seems to have been no end to Nemo’s genius.  Not only has he mastered the sea by the end of 20,000 Leagues, but he escapes through time and when next encountered, he has been living and hiding for 18 years in the past. The Mysterious Island is set at almost exactly the same time as the previous novel.

The log kept by Arronax on the Nautilus states that the submarine disappeared in a maelstrom on June 2, 1868. Nemo on Lincoln Island gives the date to his captives as October 15, 1868 but states it has been sixteen years since he first met Arronax and made the two-year voyage with him on board the Nautilus.

At the end of The Mysterious Island, Nemo apparently dies and vanishes in to the deep along with the Nautilus; however,  in 1886 of Verne’s world, the skies come are threatened by the monstrous flying ship Albatross under the command of the vengeful mad scientist and inventor,  Captain Robur.

Robur The Conqueror (the name means Great Oak in Latin) captains his Clipper of the Clouds at incredible speed that allow him to circumnavigate the globe in as little as three weeks (leaving even Phileas Fogg at a standstill.) The Albatross is a warship that has declared war on injustice and oppression, focusing on imperialism and the egos of the scientists trying to rival his achievement.

Having demonstrated his superiority by planting his standard (a black flag with a gold sun) on every major global landmark and having destroyed the most advance flying machine  the American Dirigible Goahead, Robur departs with the promise that he will return should the world threaten him or itself again.

This threat is made good in 1904 when Robur returns, this time in his even more advance craft The Terror. Robur is no longer content to be The Conqueror, but declares himself  “Master of the World.

The Terror is a truly awesome machine part aircraft, part submarine and part tank it can travel at over 200 mile per hour and can even become invisible.

Robur (or is it Nemo?) is finally defeated by heroic American police inspector John Strock when The Terror, along with Nemo/Robur, explodes and vanishes in to the sea never to be seen again.

Verne’s books set the pattern for Supervillains; however, the next Supervillain was a more domestic character with powerful personal ambitions, but starting out on a more humble scale. He was also the first Supervillain to appear as a direct nemesis to an existing hero.  The hero was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s inimitable Sherlock Holmes and his nemesis was none other than Professor James Moriarty.

He is a man of good birth and excellent education, endowed by nature with a phenomenal mathematical faculty… But the man had hereditary tendencies of the most diabolical kind. A criminal strain ran in his blood, which, instead of being modified, was increased and rendered infinitely more dangerous by his extraordinary mental powers… He is the Napoleon of Crime, Watson, the organiser of half that is evil and nearly all that is undetected in this great city.

Sherlock Holmes in “The Final Problem” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Holmes was the world’s first consulting detective, Moriarty was the world’s only consulting criminal mastermind. Professor James Moriaty, the Napoleon of Crime was the antithesis of Sherlock Holmes.

He is a genius, a philosopher, an abstract thinker. He has a brain of the first order. He sits motionless, like a spider in the center of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them.

Sherlock Holmes in “The Final Problem” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Moriarty declares himself an outlaw, existing by his own rules and controlling his organisation totally. In a matter of a few years, he goes from humble professor and disgraced academic to running the whole of the London underworld, perhaps even the whole of England. Holmes rightly fears his ambitions will not stop there.

An amoral monster, Moriarty arms his minions with advanced weaponry such as totally silent high-powered assassin’s air rifles and sets them to dastardly advancement.  Flawed only by his own colossal ego Moriarty sets himself against Sherlock Holmes in the hope of a challenge deserving of his intellect and for the anticipated joy of crushing a worthy foe.

When Holmes succeeds in dismantling Moriarty’s empire around him, the evil professor flees and in a fit of pique and humiliation physically attacks Holmes at the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland but is killed in the ensuing altercation.

The worst, however, was yet to come.  The “new science” of the twentieth century gave rise to horror of what might happen should modern technology fall into the hands of those unfit to possess it.

For example, imagine a man with three doctorates, who claims the following:  I am a doctor of philosophy from Edinburgh, a doctor of law from Christ’s College, a doctor of medicine from Harvard. My friends, out of courtesy, call me  ‘Doctor.”

He is a man with:

  • An indefinitely extended life span thanks to his miracle drug “Exlir Vita”
  • The power of mesmerism at his control
  • Knowledge and resources beyond those of anyone else living
  • A burning hatred of the British Empire that had, as he saw it, ravaged and raped his homeland.

Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, … one giant intellect, with all the resources of science past and present … Imagine that awful being, and you have a mental picture of Dr. Fu-Manchu.

Sir Dennis Neyland Smith in “The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu”
by Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward, better known as Sax Rohmer

Doctor Fu-Manchu, perhaps the greatest supervillian of them all, was introduced to the world in 1911 and, unlike most of his ilk, started out fairly humbly.

Concealing his real name behind the epithet Fu-Manchu he is a fallen Mandarin, a minor nobleman whose family chooses to support the wrong side in the Boxer Rebellions of  1898. Forced to flee in disgrace, the aging, but brilliant academic pledges himself to the organisation known throughout the world as the Si-Fan.

At the turn of the century, the Si-fan is a minor criminal organisation concerned with opium smuggling via a network of itinerant Chinese émigrés.  Their leader is the so-called Mandarin King-Mi, head of the sacred order of the White Peacock. Fu-Manchu soon rises to be his right hand man, scientific advisor and chief assassin. Within only a few years, King Mi is dead and Doctor Fu-Manchu is head of the Si-Fan, which now, thanks to Fu-Manchu, is a feared international enterprise controlling the supply of weapons and drugs to every other criminal organisation in the world. However, the ambitions of the fiendish Doctor do not stop there.

In the build up to World War Two, the Si-Fan attempts to take control of the Fascist dictators of Europe believing them to be bad for business. The irony was that for once Fu-Manchu and his sworn enemy Sir Dennis Neyland Smith havea common interest and enemy, but cannot face the shame of combining their efforts and so both fail in averting war. (see The Drums of Fu-Manchu)

When China fell to communism, Fu-Manchu diverts the whole power of the Si-Fan in to forming a private army equipped with super weapons with the sole aim of overthrowing communism for good.  Again Sir Dennis who hates communism sees Fu-Manchu as a greater threat in the long term and so thwarts him again. (See The Island of Fu-Manchu and  Emperor Fu-Manchu.)

Rohmer died in 1959, but as far as anyone knows Fu-Machu is still at large.

The Archetypal modern Supervillian came along with the dawn of the modern Superhero.  Two years after the emergence of Superman his great nemesis appeared.  Alexander Joseph “Lex” Luthor was bald, bad and dangerous to know.

Luthor has changed with the times.  Originally a “revenge-driven mad scientist and inventor,” Luthor plans to conquer the world by means of his super-advanced flying machine.

After a succession of attempts to “Take over the world” using various giant robots, super mutant animals, poison gasses and germ warfare, Luthor discovers Superman’s weakness to green kryptonite and begins to depend on a seemingly endless supply of this “rare” element to eventually in 1961 kill Superman in a story that turns out to have all been a bad dream.

Needless to say that the character fell out of favour, though never disappeared totally, until the 1970’s when his character was revamped. In the new incarnation, Luthor becomes the one-time childhood friend of Superman/Clarke Kent, a promising scientific genius with a bright future. Aided by Superman, he makes several important scientific breakthroughs, but in a terrible accident his laboratory is destroyed, and Luthor is only just saved from death.

Luthor, now physically and mentally damaged, swears revenge on Superman and the world for ripping away his chance of glory. Allying himself with aliens and demons, he makes a fortune, becomes a hugely wealthy business tycoon, dealing mainly in media and arms and much to the chagrin of Superman becomes on the outside a respectable public figure while at the same time running a world wide crime syndicate.

When threatened with exposure, Luthor fakes his own death and returns in a cloned new body claiming to be his own son and legitimate heir. In this guise he continues to build his empire and even re-establish his friendship with Superman.

When Superman apparently dies (again), Team Luthor steps in to fill the breach and the public profile of Luther is raised further and to cut a long story short, Luthor the master criminal Supervillian ends up President of the USA.

Needless to say that power goes to Luthor’s head  and building yet another super robot suit after enhancing himself with another serum to give himself super strength, President Luthor declares all superheroes public enemies and then goes mad trying to kill them all.

After that the whole story gets a bit ridiculous.

This is, of course the problem with supervillians.  They have to become more and more evil or reform.  One way, they become parodies of their former selves, the other they lose their Raison d’être.

In today’s world perhaps there is enough real terror to make Robur’s mechanical version obsolete?

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Len Hazell is 46 years old from the north east of England, holds a degree in Media, and is majoring in writing for the print and broadcast media.  He has published in various magazines in the UK, fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, and has had several plays produced throughout England.  He is currently working on his own musical adaptation of Arsenic and old Lace which he hope to stage in 2011. Len can be contacted at Bonniefans@hotmail.com. His music is available at http://www.nuzic.net/members/2565