If you’ve been browsing around my website, you’ll have seen the section on the old fan-fiction stories I did based on the game ‘City of Heroes‘. I started to put them up here simply because I knew that the subject matter from the game would likely prevent me from ever publishing them properly.
But putting them up for free? Yeah, I could probably get away with that, and it was nice to preserve them for old time’s sake being as they contained characters created by players I used to game with circa 2005.
Still, there was close to 400k words of story…and it seemed a shame that they couldn’t be something MORE.
And then I had the epiphany.
Well, I knew I couldn’t use the trappings of City of Heroes.
I had to throw out Paragon City, all the villain factions (no Rikti, Crey, Malta, etc), all the hero factions (no Vanguard, Longbow, etc). No Statesman or Lord Recluse. No Lusca. No ‘War-Walls’. Even the Zones had to go.
I know what you’re thinking…because I thought the same.
What is a City of Heroes story without the trappings of the extensive City of Heroes lore?
(Oh yeah, no more ‘The Hollows’ either!)
But also, not a lawsuit from whoever now holds the rights and wouldn’t like me profiteering from an IP I don’t own.
Still… I know the old stories I was writing were raw. I mean they were some of my earliest attempts at writing fiction, but I was also convinced that there was gold in there somewhere too. Tales of romances, friendships, sacrifice, redemption, superheroics, and more!
Surely I could tell those stories outside of the game universe? I just needed to figure out how.
I mean, wasn’t that exactly what City of Heroes was a legend for? The imagination of its players?
Sure, the graphics may look dated by today’s standards, but we didn’t care. We had the character creator to end all character creators, and a city sized sandbox to play in.
WE could create whatever hero WE wanted!
Want to create a pink Wolverine clone with angel wings and horns? Done.
Want to create a blue six-foot rabbit with mind control powers and superspeed? Done.
Want a three-foot duck with the ability to turn into a giant space-lobster? Done.
More than that, the game was clever in the fact that you could basically create pretty much any popular hero you knew from either Marvel or DC.
You want to play as Superman? The you roll a Tank, with Superstrength and Invulnerabilty. Give him flight, superspeed and laserbeam eyes and you’re pretty much there.
The point is, we, as gamers, ADORED the game for what it allowed us to do.
Let our imagination fly free.
And then…they took it away from us.
For a little while at least.
Anyway, I figured it out.
The MCU has been doing it for a decade now. Taking the characters and stories we know and love from the comic books and spinning them in a new way. Sometimes it’s a new setting or a different take on a character. Take the Civil War storyline and compare the MCU film to its comic book counterpart. The theme is similar, but the execution is very different.
I CAN do this. I CAN keep the stories, and the characters, and – most importantly – the SPIRIT of the game and push it into a whole different world of my own creation.
THAT is my new city of heroes.
After a little remodelling of course…
Why the Windy City?
Well firstly, I’ve been there. Wifey and I visited the city when we did Route 66 back in 2016 and we loved it. We walked the streets and wandered the lakeshore. I have some, albeit limited, first-hand knowledge of the city and its geography. Which was important. Lake Michigan will be important.
For those of you with a knowledge of City of Heroes, you know Paragon City was based on a coastline. I needed that mix of land and water, and at first, I considered a city on an ‘ocean’ coast. Maybe San Francisco… But at the end of the day, I like the fact that Lake Michigan is self-contained and that Chicago sits right on it.
All I need is a reason to bring the heroes of the world here…
Cue the Independence Day style alien invasion.
But, let’s not give away too many spoilers for book 1, shall we?
I started writing.
It didn’t take long, and soon I had a prologue, chapter 1, and an epilogue for the first book. I liked it. I felt it kept the spirit of City of Heroes, but was establishing a new world for our characters to play in. But… I wasn’t TOTALLY sure.
So, I sent the rough draft of these bits over to my old mucker, and fellow City of Heroes refugee, Steve. You may know him better by his game name, Coin. (He’s also a fellow writer! Check out his website at Steve Vimes) I wanted his opinion. Was I heading in a good direction?
Here’s what he said…
With his approval in my pocket, I started reaching out to the masses. There were things I needed!
First things first, I needed a logo and to get a steer on the cover art. So I went and emailed the woman responsible for the gorgeous covers for my ‘Ballad of the Songbird‘ saga, the amazing Marlena Mozgawa (LenamoArt).
The response I got was MORE than excited. She seemed really keen to get on board with a new project that could be very different from the things she usually gets to do. She sent back a ton of ideas, including a color redesign (which I agree with) and a new logo design. You can see the rough sketch version of it at the top of this page. The covers for these books are truly going to be something to behold. VERY different from Hunters and its sequels, but equally amazing. I’m so excited to get them commissioned!
So with the art started, I now needed to get that other key piece of the puzzle.
So, I have a plan for the stories, a new world to play in, approval of my old chum, and my artist is on board and excited.
I already knew who the key characters in the book are, they’d been established LONG ago. Most of them were my creations, but a few originated from the minds of the friends I used to play with. If I wanted to keep the spirit of the game running through the story, I was pained to change the names and origins of the characters. I needed to get the blessing of these guys and gals in order to proceed.
Starstorm was probably the biggest, as she plays a pretty major role in the books. So I reached out to Paul, who created her in the game. He gave his blessing! Snow was up next. Andrew gave his blessing too. I approached Marcus about Honsou, and he was in on the plan too. As was Kristie with my plea to keep Charcoal Feather intact.
One by one, the characters fell into place. No one objected to having me keep their characters in these new books. All were keen to have the story told.
I cannot tell you how grateful I am to them all for putting their trust in me to pull this off. These books just wouldn’t feel right if I had to replace any of the characters.
There ARE some people I have lost touch with over the years. And if I can’t get their permission, then I’m going to have to change their characters in the story. It’s a little sad, but I don’t want to tread on any toes…just in case.
So, the characters of Famke, Pyra, and Ecstatica will have to change.
I’m trying to keep them as close as I can, so powerset-wise and storywise they’ll remain as they were. But they’ll undergo a name change and an origin change. There may be other characters that I need to do similar with if I can’t track down the original creators, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.
Well, I started a FACEBOOK GROUP for the book and invited every single City of Heroes player I know. There’s a GOOGLE FORM that they can fill in to provide their character details for entry into the book (it also asks if they’re okay for me to put their character into the book!).
I’ve had around 20 responses thus far and the list is growing.
And now it’s over to me to actually write this thing…
And convince my editor, Nikki, that I need more of her services…
Stay tuned for more information. I want this one out for Christmas, so the news should come thick and fast!