Hello, my name is Sean Tait Bircher. I was going to use the nom-de-plume Sean Tait, so I could complain about work and still have plausible deniability, but I just did a Google search and discovered there's a lot of Sean Taits in the world, but I'm the only Sean Tait Bircher. That's kind of cool.
This year I’ll be thirty-three years old. I’ve been a feckless dreamer for most of that time, but I’ve got to change that or I’m going to continue to work jobs I want to complain about on my blog for the rest of my life. My dream since I was sixteen has been to be a writer. I’ve dreamt of writing comics, novels, screenplays, short stories, television, and pornography, but I’ve put few of those stories to paper. This blog is going to be self-therapy, a place where I can force myself back into writing regularly. Maybe by the time I’m thirty-four, I’ll be able to say I’m a writer instead of a dreamer.
The cornerstone of this blog is going to be giving away all those stories I’ve had in my head for so long. What you’ll be getting will be notes, outlines, essays in essence of stories not yet written. If I get back some positive feedback from the blogosphere that helps me shape them into finished pieces, that’s great. If by putting these notes into semi-coherent written forms I’m just able to leap the hurdle inside me that keeps me from writing them, even though nobody ever reads this blog, that’s great too. If all I do is put these orphaned stories out onto the internet and they languish and die because nobody reads them and I never write them, even that will be better than keeping them trapped in my own head.
I’ll be contributing at least once a week, hopefully more frequently. To give some sort of greater coherency to the blog, I’ll also be writing reviews of comics, movies, novels, and television. There might very well be cat photos, too.
Last week was the twentieth anniversary of my local comic book shop. It’s now part-owned by the Dragon’s Lair chain based in Austin, Texas, but it used to be part-owned by Antarctic Press (San Antonio’s local anime-influenced small press comics label) and went by the name Excalibur. As part of their anniversary celebration, Dragon’s Lair held signings by a number of comics professionals. The one I went to get an autograph from was Gail Simone.
Ms. Simone is best known for her work at DC, which includes “The Atom,” “Birds of Prey,” and “Secret Six.” I’ve been following “Secret Six” because she revived one of my favorite B-list villains: Cat-Man. I had a nice, brief conversation with her in which I failed to introduce myself (not that I would expect her to remember me if I had). I complimented her on her work and managed not to be intimidated the way I was when I got Warren Ellis and Michael Moorcock’s autographs on other occasions (but those are stories for another time). She mentioned that “Secret Six” would be continuing beyond it’s six-issue run in some form, and that she hoped to do a Batman versus Cat-Man story that would journey from Batman’s home turf in the city to Cat-Man’s in the jungle. I said I’d eagerly buy a Cat-Man solo series …
… Because I once dreamed of writing one.
Shortly after Catwoman traded in her purple tights for practical leather, got breast reduction surgery, and became protector of Gotham City’s slums, I decided it would be a perfect time to reintroduce Cat-Man, one of Batman’s silliest villains. Cat-Man is Catwoman in male drag; the character was introduced in the fifties so that they could reuse a bunch of Batman vs. Catwoman plots by featuring Bat-Woman vs. Cat-Man. My concept was going to exploit this to the fullest in a super-villain comedy.
The idea was to do a sort of super-take on George MacDonald Fraser’s Sir Harry Flashman, a cowardly rogue who somehow always comes out ahead. My Cat-Man would have been a wannabe jet-setter super thief, similar to Lupin III but far more pathetic. He stayed in third-rate hotels, was bullied by more competent super-villains, and his only friend was a grouchy old tomcat who peed on his costume when he didn’t get fed on time. One of the jokes would have been Cat-Man constantly trying new costumes, including a male version of the abandoned purple tights and thigh-high boots and one in black and white that had everyone making Looney Tunes jokes. It was an amusing concept, but obviously its time is long past.
The Cat-Man idea, however, began morphing into something that stood on its own, something quite different from what I had originally envisioned. That idea is the first of my “Half-Told Stories.”
TOMCAT (An ongoing comic book series)
It’s the 1980s. Greed is good. The popular imagination is dominated by tycoons and CEOs – “Dallas,” “Dynasty,” Iacocca, and Trump. Los Angeles and New York are gang-infested hellholes. Vice cops in pastel-colored shirts work the Miami waterfront and Belgian-accented kick-boxers duke it out in top-secret competitions. One man is trying to take advantage of it all.
We meet Thomas Wright at a fashionable nightclub. Dark, handsome, and somewhat cruel, he picks up pretty young woman named Katie Rice and takes her back to his penthouse suite. They have a nightcap (during which he slips her a sedative) and rough, “Basic Instinct”-style sex. When she slips into post-coital unconsciousness, he slips on dark clothes and jumps out the window. He’s on his way to work and she’s his alibi.
Thomas Wright is a cat-burglar, preying on the bloated fatcats of ‘80s corporate greed. (Why the ‘80s? Partially nostalgia, partially for satiric reasons, but mainly because modern fiber-optic cameras and digital security make a modern cat-burglar’s life nigh-impossible.) Tomcat is not a nice guy. He’s cold, distant, and a bit of a sado-masochist.
As we later learn, he’s also the son of the Gargoyle, New York’s caped crusader, and the Gargoyle’s ex-villain (and ex-wife) the Feline Fatale (a name that definitely needs work). He’s got a serious Oedipal complex going on with his parents; dad’s an abusive pastiche of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight and his mother’s … weird. She would be introduced sunbathing naked on the French Riviera; it would always be vague whether she really has an incestuous interest in her son or if she’s just got a sick sense of humor.
Tom has an older brother (Byron Wright, Jr AKA “BJ”) and a younger sister (Maggie) who patrol the night together as the new Gargoyle and the Rook. His brother is nakedly competitive with him. In fact, the only person whom he really seems to love and who loves him back is his sister Maggie. But this is all buried deep in the background as the story begins.
Tom’s real problem for now is that his alibi isn’t any good. Katie is a teenage runaway, and soon she’s on the run with him when the police come snooping around. Katie, or Kitty as Tom soon renames her, serves as our POV character as we get deeper into the seedy life Tom lives. The life of an international super-criminal is filled with danger, deceit, drugs, and decadence.
Tomcat is also bisexual. More on that soon, plus a review of Matt Fraction's "CASANOVA."
NEXT HALF-TOLD TALE: My Lone Ranger