Wednesday, January 16, 2013


For this post, let me paint you a picture all in words.  Just read, and imagine it with me...

That’s the way of the world.  Plant your flowers, grow a pearl.  Child is born with a heart of gold.  The way of the world makes his heart grow cold.  So sang Earth, Wind, and Fire back in 1975.  As witness we need look no further than the evil that was born long ago in a tenement flat on the East End of London, England.

Here lived the Grimstead family:  Roland Grimstead, his wife Penelope (“Penny”), and their little boy, Graeme.  Penny Hewitt Grimstead was a beautiful, gentle lady--far too beautiful, too gentle, and too much of a lady for the life she led.  What little money she could scrape together, she spent on her paintings--delicate, refined watercolors--and on her doting, adoring young son.  Graeme worshipped his mother, thought she was the center of the whole world, because of her kindness and humor and the little bits beauty and gentility that she brought into their hardscrabble, public-dole lives.  Unfortunately, whatever money did come into their flat that was not from the public dole came from Graeme’s father, who was everything that Graeme’s mother was not.

Roland Grimstead was an unintelligent, uneducated, bitter, hard-drinking, angry man, whipped and beaten by a life in which no job ever lasted and any kind of prosperity was a dream or a cruel joke.  And the recipient of his anger was the woman he had gotten pregnant and married.  Penny had always seen, or tried to see, the good in Roland.  She had tried to help him and tried to love him.  What she had gotten back all too often was his belt or his fist or the back of his hand.  Sometimes the beatings were truly terrible.  But Penny took them all--to keep her husband’s hands off their child.  When Roland flew into one of his frustrated, liquor-soaked rages, Graeme ran and ducked for cover and shuddered and cried at the pain he knew was being inflicted on his mother.  

Why did Penny stay with Roland?  Did she love him in spite of the abuse?  Did she still see the good in him in spite of it?  Did she pity him and see him as the victim of a world in which he was never good enough?  Did she see no better alternative for a single mother with no money of her own?  Could she not bear to separate a son from his father--even that father?  Did she, like so many other battered wives, see no way out?  Perhaps it was any or all of the above.  Penny’s brother Nigel tried many times to talk her into leaving, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it.  Tomorrow, she thought, it could be better.  Tomorrow, she thought, he could be better.  So she stayed, and little Graeme lived half his life in beauty and gentleness, and half in terror.

Then, one awful day, Graeme returned home from playing to find that his father had gone into one rage too many, too badly.  There sat Roland Grimstead, drunk and weeping, on the kitchen floor, in a pool of blood--Penny’s blood.  She lay there at his knees, her skull cracked from Roland having furiously banged her head against the kitchen counter.  His mother slain by the monster she had married, the traumatized Graeme ran back into the streets and hid in the rubbish in an alley until the police, who had arrested Roland, came to find the boy.  Anguished, curled up inside himself, Graeme was bound over as a ward of the state until his grieving Uncle Nigel claimed him.

Nigel Hewitt worked as a handyman and general laborer on a country estate outside of London.  Once the property of wealthy noble landowners, the estate had been converted to a lavish resort for well-to-do tourists and business people.  Graeme refused to leave London until he and his uncle collected all that was left of Penny--her beautiful, delicate watercolors--to take with them to Nigel’s spare lodgings at the estate.  There the little boy lived with his uncle, and saw a very different world from the one he had known in the city.  It was the kind of world that his mother would have painted:  graceful, refined, elegant.  He looked at the resort, and the people who visited and stayed there, and something occurred to Graeme:  It was a world where only some people, certain people, were allowed.  It was a world to which only people of means were admitted, a world from which all others were barred by a wall of money and culture.  For want of money and its refining influence, all there was for a person was the kind of world from which Graeme had come, a world of dirt and cruelty and despair and anger.  It was the kind of world that discarded and destroyed beauty--like his mother and her art.  Graeme realized that people allowed these two unequal worlds to exist side by side, with most people living on the side that was ugly and harsh.  Seeing the difference between wealth and poverty, seeing that people allowed it to exist and didn’t seem to care, or that they believed it was the right and proper thing, and intuitively understanding that this gross disparity of lives was what had made his father a monster and cost Penny her life, little Graeme Grimstead learned to hate.  It was a hatred he would come to bear for all mankind.

People let this be--people who keep everything for themselves and leave nothing for everybody else.  That’s why Daddy was so mean and so mad; people like these made him that way.  I hate them.  I hate them all.  One day I’ll get them.  One day I’ll make them pay.  I’ll get the whole bloody world.  

Such thoughts in anyone’s mind can be dangerous.  But such thoughts in the mind of a boy who discovers that he is a genius--that’s something else again.  Because all it takes is a the anger of a wounded but brilliant little boy in the right place at the right time, with the right means at his command, to create an epic villain--the world’s greatest villain.  Next time we’ll learn how that evil, once planted, took root, and see the menace that grew from it--a menace that only the power of the Environauts could challenge!  For into the life of an angry little English boy would come...the Quantum Prism!

Monday, January 7, 2013


Okay, you visitors to Quantum Comics Blog.  I’ve come to a decision.  You people have simply had it too good for too long.  That ends now.  As of this moment, we’re going to get some evil going on in here!  And in the world of Quantum Comics there is no greater evil than the arch-enemy of the Environauts!  My friends, meet the villain to be most feared and dreaded
--Graeme Grimstead!

When I went looking for the greatest enemy of the Nauts, who would be the greatest villain in the Quantum cast, it was with specific needs in mind.  He had to be a European (British, as it turns out) rich enough, powerful enough, and possessing such command of comic-book super-science as to be a rival for Esteban Vega himself--and ultimately Esteban’s son, Lucky, who would become Earth’s greatest force for good.  He had to be ruthless but tragic, morally blind but righteous in his own way.  He would need a base of power from which he could not be easily removed, which would position him as a potential threat to the entire human race against which he bore a colossal grudge.  Indeed his hatred of mankind would be equalled only by his passion to make the world a better place--after his own twisted fashion.  The nemesis of the Nauts would have to be both a monster and an aristocrat, a fiend with a broken heart, a wounded boy who grew up to inflict pain and torment.

But how to create such a character was the question.  In another comics universe, where we’re acquainted with a very famous cosmic quartet, such a character exists, and he is their arch-foe.  He is an armored tyrant with a face ironically scarred as the result of his own vanity, a heart that loves only power, a contempt for the humanity that he blames for the persecution and deaths of his parents, and the ability to bring forth nightmares of science virtually at will.  That character is the villain against whom all the other villains in that world are measured.  Creating such characters is not easy (indeed, it took this villain’s creators a couple of years to work out all his details), but not impossible--if you know how to go about it.  We see the results here:  Grimstead as he battles the Environauts for the first time, clad in a containment suit that keeps his physical form integrated (for reasons we’ll understand as we go along), and Grimstead as he appears next, a sinister figure in black leather and sculpted, ribbed spandex (think “Locutus of Borg Meets The Matrix”).  Study him well, for none others who live are as deadly as he!

I often look to culture, popular and otherwise, outside of comics for inspiration.  To cast my master villain, I looked to television for an example of where to start.  Some of you may remember one of my favorite series of the 1990s, Sisters.  In one season of Sisters there happened to be a character named Simon Bolt (the late Mark Frankel).  Simon was a British financier and tycoon, phenomenally wealthy, and--because of who played him--virtually surrounded by a blinding force field of sexy male gorgeousness.  (If you ever happen to see another, shorter-lived 90s show, the undead drama Kindred:  The Embraced, Mark Frankel was also the lead vampire in that.)  Seriously, the guy was beautiful beyond belief.  But Simon was also a very tragic man.  He was essentially a modern-day Charles Dickens character, who had brought himself up from an English childhood of crushing, heartbreaking poverty and grief to become a global captain of industry and finance.  But doing so had cost him, for in the process Simon had euthanized his wounded inner child and smothered all the love and warmth in his heart, becoming pretty much a Star Trek Borg in a business suit.  It took the love of one of the Sisters--Sela Ward as Teddy--to turn Simon from a wealth-and-empire-building cyborg back into a human being.  I decided to start constructing my Environauts arch-villain with Simon as the model.  Graeme Grimstead, like Simon Bolt before him, would be an Englishman who demonstrated what happens when Ebenezer Scrooge doesn’t get his ghosts!

Now, as we’ve discussed (and will soon talk about again), the leader of the Environauts and the de facto lead character of Quantum Comics is Lorenzo “Lucky” Vega, who in his superhuman identity will be called Lucky Star.  On Lucky’s handsome young Mexican-American shoulders ride the core values of Quantum storytelling:  heroism, courage, beauty, intelligence (in his case ferocious intelligence), science, wonder, adventure, romance.  In trying to round out the character of Lucky, I came up against a particular challenge.  While he shouldn’t be perfect (because perfect people aren’t interesting unless they’re Mary Poppins), if he’s too screwed-up and neurotic his stories become about how screwed-up and neurotic he is and the sense of wonder and adventure is lost.  So I decided that instead of making him so dysfunctional that he defeats our purposes, I would give him a particular twist of character to make him a little more intriguing.  And what I settled on was that he would be inept with girls his own age and primarily attracted to older women!  I liked that idea because the notion of the hot young boy and the older female “cougar” has caught on in popular culture these days.  (It’s even been a couple of sitcoms.)  Lucky’s cougar, I decided, would turn out to be the one true love of his life.  That meant she had to be not just a beautiful woman approaching 40, but a woman of that type who would be more or less his equal--the equal of a boy who happened to be a comic-book super-science genius!  And for the inspiration for that, interestingly enough, I needed only peer into my own past!

Don’t arch your eyebrows at that; I have no cougars of my own.  But when I was in college, there was an instructor on whom I had a wee bit of a queer boy’s crush.  I once took a college course in fantasy literature as an outlet for my special imagination (one of the very few that I had--I wasn’t as happy a student as I hoped to be after high school).  The instructor for this class was a lady that I’ve never forgotten.  Her name was Alice Hall Petry.  She was very pretty, had light brown hair, a sharp, quick mind, a fine wit, and an appreciation for imaginative things.  In other words she was “my kind of gal”.  I liked her and enjoyed her class, both for the subject matter (including Frankenstein and Alice in Wonderland!) and for her.  So it was that when I set out to create Lucky Vega’s inamorata, I recalled Alice Hall Petry, switched her professional interest from literature to science, and created Professor Elise Hall.

What has this to do with our arch-villain, you ask?  Remember how Sela Ward as Teddy taught Simon Bolt how to love again?  Well, guess what Elise Hall once did for our ultimate bad guy--and imagine how someone like that might feel if his lover happened to leave him and take up with a gorgeous and much younger Mexican-American genius super-hero!  That’s only a part of the motivation of the supremely evil Graeme Grimstead.  When Quantum Comics Blog returns we’ll learn the whole story of how a little boy from a London tenement became the most evil and dangerous man on Earth--and the monster that the Environauts can hold at bay but never defeat!