by Antonio Miranda
Mister Claremont faced a considerable dilemma when the comic book editorial department rejected his Bangla manuscript. Even his artist, Mister McLeod, wasn’t very sure about the new mutant hero original concept. They first argued about the character being based on an animal.
“But there is a number of mutant heroes —even villains— based on several wild animals”, Mister Claremont said. “Hank McCoy is a blue, furry beast, and Sabretooth is similar to a frenzied prehistoric tiger! Not to mention Wolverine, Viper, Black Panther and Toad! Most of them are great comic book hits! I just don’t get your rejection of my new proposal!
“You misunderstand, Chris”, the editor said, keeping his own temper. “We don’t question your new concept. It could be anything, for all we care about. We actually have issues with Bangla’s origin story.”
“What about it?” Mister Claremont argued.
“Well, let’s see…” the editor started while browsing the pages of Mister Claremont’s manuscript. “Here, right at the ending scene…”
In the first few squares we see a WHITE Bengal tiger inside a barred steel cage. The creature is larger than a real-life equivalent, although it looks very skinny. Several flies revolve above its body. It goes impatiently from one end of the cage to the other, head lowered, always looking at the first person. A shadow slowly creeps-in until it overlaps with the tiger’s figure. Suddenly, we have a zoomed-in growling face of the beast. It looks fierce and angry, and the flies scramble away. Simultaneously, we have a thought bubble:
“I would be angry too if I was caged like this.”
Then we have a one sixth shady square of a young Indian boy’s face. It has a stern look and his eyes are fixed on one point (the tiger). We can’t see much of the background, since it is dark. We do see the shapes of a large pole and some long curtains at the bottom. In the same square we have a growling onomatopoeia that comes from the tiger. The boy’s stern look is not supposed to change. He is not scared.
We have a last square of a hand reaching for the cage’s lock.
We get three small successive squares of two hands working the cage lock with a set of pliers and a bent metal wire. The cage finally opens up. The following bigger square shows the tiger rushing through the opened cage door while the boy climbs the bars at the side of the cage. He is shirtless and bare-footed. A thought balloon reads:
“Bangla knows this is not fear. As a proud and majestic creature of the wild, Bangla needs its own free space to roam about. I’m giving it back to him. I’m letting him be.”
The following image is a half-page of Bangla’s front profile (seen from below and slightly in profile to show a greater size). The body itself looks badly nurtured, but the object of the illustration is the tiger’s face. The overall composition has to give away a proud, tranquil demeanor, regardless of the tiger’s miserable condition. One of the front paws should be raised just a bit, in mid-walk. Its head needs to be straight up, looking alert and away to either side, as if there was nothing at all in its way. The eyes should look bored. The flies are now gone.
At the bottom corner of the same square, like a shadowy afterthought, we can barely see the opened cage and the boy on top of it, leaning forward over the edge. This is the vanishing point for this picture. A small thought balloon reads:
Now we have a six by one page. The first square shows a series of leather boots pacing through a dark hallway. There should be some clattering onomatopoeias. Next, we get a diagonally slashed square of the boy and tiger’s alarmed face. They just heard the people coming through the corridor.
In the next square we see the boy jumping from the top of the cage. His face looks worried, almost in despair. Next, he rushes and reaches to the white tiger, screaming:
But the tamers and mercenaries flood the exit in a fifth square. They all have guns and sharp blades. They grin wickedly, but we cannot see their eyes at all. Everything else is covered in shadows. One of them yells:
“It’s over, Maladhar!”
They refer to the boy’s name. The sixth square is split horizontally in half. The upper space shows Maladhar’s narrowed eyes, frowned forehead and nose bridge. The lower space is actually Bangla’s gaping jaws. Together, they should look like a single angry face.
Maladhar doesn’t even try to reason with these people. He knows they mean business! In a four by one page we get a succession of gestures that lead into a bloody fight.
First, we get the tamers and mercenaries raising their guns against Maladhar and Bangla. The white tiger feels threatened, so he growls in the following square. We can see the boy’s worried face in one corner. The third square shows the tiger lunging against the mercenaries. Maladhar tries to reach at him with his hand while screaming:
But, in the fourth illustration, the mercenaries unload their weapons against the surprised tiger. We can see flickers of blood as the bullet pierce through the creature’s flesh.
Two-page spread. A dramatic, oversized narrator’s text box reads:
“BANGLA IS STILL ALIVE!”
The tiger rises with one closed eye, its white fur stained with crimson blood. Its undernourished body becomes more apparent since the bloody patches of wet fur stick to the skin. This large picture has to bear great detail to convey the cruelty inflicted upon the beast.
The page is divided evenly into halves. The upper illustration shows the tiger charging back at the mercenaries while the tamers slash and stab at the crazed animal with their blades. The second half of the page extends the action. Several scimitars are now sticking out of Bangla’s back. The tiger is crushing one mercenary’s leg with its jaw while trampling two other struggling bodies with its sharp-clawed paws. One of the survivors is already escaping through the curtains. There is blood everywhere.
In the first square of a six by one page, Maladhar approaches the dying tiger while screaming his name. He then, encircles the tiger’s head with his arms and gives away a really disturbed look. His eyes should be wide-open while the brows stay flat and low. The tiger’s jaw must be bloody and half-open. The eyes, however, should be lost in thought. Maladhar can barely hold the tiger’s head between his arms.
At this point, Maladhar’s X-Gene activates! The traumatic experience he just went through becomes a catalyst for his mutant transformation. The following three squares show him in extreme pain, screaming, shedding his nails and growing longer and sharper claws. His skin becomes thicker, his muscles bulkier. His hair becomes white, like an albino. The canine teeth are suddenly larger; the eyebrows become pitch-black and the pattern runs down on both sides of the nose. Finally, his pupils turn to amber.
In the final square Maladhar howls with his eyes closed and arms extended. His mutant transformation is complete. Another dramatic narrative balloon appear at the upper edge of the square:
“He is now… BANGLA!”
The tittle credits appear at the bottom: BANGLA in THE HOAR HUNTER
The editor looked at Mister Claremont as if the point was now crystal-clear.
“I think Bangla’s origin story is heroic and inspiring”, Mister Claremont said, retaining his position.
“It is dark and violent!” the editor retorted. “You are just too conceited of your own work. Also, the subtitle is ratter suggestive.”
“I thought the alliteration was a nice touch. The Hoar Hunter”, he repeated. “It is definitely catchy. And since when is violence an issue, anyway?”
“Well, for one, we do have to adhere to the Code.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You know what I’m talking about, Chris. The Comics Code Authority won’t accept this story.”
“And what exactly do we need to do to make the comic book Code-friendly?”
“Well, the bad guys need to be punished, for one. They are not to be killed and they shouldn’t be allowed to escape, either. The tiger scene in the cage is disgusting. You need to remove the flies because they bear a scatological significance. Maladhar’s transformation is similar to that of a werewolf, which are considered as undead by the Code and, therefore, unsuitable for younger readers. Also, there shouldn’t be so much blood in the fight scene. In fact, there cannot be anything resembling gunshots, lacerations or bloodshed in general. It is just not acceptable by the Code.”
“Screw the Code! They shouldn’t have any authority over our work!”
“It has been like this almost since the very beginning. You cannot ignore their presence or their influence over public opinion.”
“Are you telling me this, or are you just repeating to yourself?”
“You tell me, Chris. What I do tell you is that this won’t go to the prints the way it is right now. Period.”
“Look, the subtitle I can change. I honestly didn’t intend for the dirty reference at all. We can totally change it to something like Indian Boy Meets Albino Tiger, or —even more classy!— My Fair Pussycat. No big deal.
“Chris!” the editor shouted.
“But you can’t make me change the whole story based on some silly assumption that this so-called Comics Code Authority will not accept it” Mister Claremont continued without paying any attention at all to his editor. “I mean, we make fiction, not moral!”
“We make comic books, and comic books are read by children and teenagers…”
“You would be surprised” Mister Claremont interrupted.
“I’m an editor, Chris. I know who our readers are. We have a target audience that we need to care about!”
“And I have a career to protect and a name to make. I won’t lower my standards for some stupid puritan code. After all, it is not like they are going to fine you or anything. They just approve or not approve of the comic book. We can still publish it like any other creative work.”
“But then, it will not have their seal of approval. That alone is enough to scare away the majority of parents who buy their children’s comic book.”
“Yet, it will also lure-in new mature readers. Think of it as a promising market that nobody has exploited. We can just put an Adults Only label on it. That should be enough to shut up whoever comes up with nonsense.”
“It is not that easy, Chris. They might label all of our following titles as Adults Only just because of this one comic book. That’s just the way people react.”
“No matter. We can print a larger seal of approval on the cover of our following titles. It is true that people will trust whatever others tell them to believe, but only until they can see for themselves! And we’ll make sure they see for themselves!”
“This is unnerving…” the editor mumbled while looking at the shiny floor tiles. “I’ll see what I can do, Chris. But no promises!”
“That’s all I’ll ever ask of you” Mister Claremont assured. “You will also see for yourself!”
“Whatever, Chris” the editor retorted, already walking away.
About Antonio Miranda
Antonio Miranda was born in Jayuya, Puerto Rico, 1988. He is a licensed chemist and a student of Creative Writing at the University of the Sacred Heart of Puerto Rico. He won three first places for his short stories at several literary prizes, both local and from college, besides some honorable mentions. He published his first short stories collection, Queridos hermanos…, in Puerto Rico, 2012 as an author’s edition book. His first short story selection for an anthology, ‘Ecos en el anfiteatro’, will be included in Antología MetaLenguaje —Literatura y escena metalera— (Santiago, Chile, 2013). He is also moderator of the literary discussion blog ‘De cuentos (vivo) queriendo ser escritor’ under the infamous persona of Rey Brujo.