Note: This post was originally published on Jeffrey Allen Davis’s blog
The Redsaw Origin and How I Write Supervillains
Disclaimer: The following article is meant for those who have read some or all of The Axiom-man Saga. If you have not read the series, please stop now and consider checking out the series first (http://bit.ly/1oy9MJU) as this article contains spoilers, namely Redsaw’s secret identity, which is part of the mystery of the first book.
Like Axiom-man, Redsaw has something of a muddled past. I’m talking about his real life origin, not his story one. However, Redsaw didn’t really come together until writing Axiom-man. Until that point, he was more an idea that never materialized in the mental fantasy I had going which eventually birthed The Axiom-man Saga we know today. All I knew about my overall fantasy was there were two cosmic beings at war. One that represented Good (known as the messenger in the saga), and one that represented Evil (known as the master). How these cosmic beings work is they each have champions on multiple planets throughout the universe, one guy stepping forward for them and duking it out on these planets while these two cosmic beings fight it out elsewhere. Usually, the messenger only puts his man in place once the master strikes an unsuspecting world. On Earth, the messenger’s champion is Axiom-man so, you guessed it, the master’s main man is Redsaw. What’s interesting to note is Axiom-man was put in place shortly before Redsaw’s arrival, a pre-emptive move on the messenger’s part and for reasons revealed in the series.
Redsaw is the main supervillain of The Axiom-man Saga.
That should bring you enough up to speed on who’s who in my superhero universe.
When it came to creating Redsaw, other than knowing he had to be the bad guy, he needed to be more than just the bad guy. The first thing I decided was it was imperative he was more powerful than Axiom-man, first and foremost in his superpowers—which are similar but stronger—and secondly as his human alter ego.
In costume, Redsaw can fly twice as fast, is twice as strong, and the energy beams he shoots from his hands do twice the damage.
Out of costume, Oscar Owen is rich, well-known, and utterly confident, whereas Gabriel Garrison (Axiom-man) struggles with money, is a nobody, and has self-esteem issues.
But that’s just the superficial stuff.
Even the name “Redsaw” is superficial in that I needed a cool name for a villain and “red” typically represents evil and “saw” was named after a sawblade, a dangerous weapon if used to kill somebody. The jagged lines on Redsaw’s red and black costume represent his own jaggedness and danger—again, the sawblade thing.
Going deeper, however, I didn’t want a bad guy who was the bad guy simply because he was the bad guy. In other words, I didn’t want a bad guy being bad for bad’s sake. There needed to be a reason, and the best reason for any villain in literature or film is the one that says they’re the bad guy because they don’t have any other choice. They have a strong motive that turned them down a dark path. A classic example is Darth Vader. He joined the dark side to save Padme. The dark side consumed him and we all know the rest of the story.
Oscar Owen was chosen by the master because Oscar drove himself hard to rise from poverty and become a somebody and tried to be a good guy with his powerful position. Once joined with the black cloud that gave him his superpowers, even then, he strove to be a hero like Axiom-man. He just didn’t know joining with the black cloud came at a cost and the black cloud transformed him into someone he wasn’t: the reluctant villain. The villain you and I can relate to. The one that, if you or I were put in their shoes, would do what they do no matter how dark or despicable because, from their point-of-view, they’re doing the right thing even if the cause is evil.
That’s the kind of main villain I was after for Axiom-man: someone like him. Someone who strove to do what they perceived was the right thing. Unfortunately, for Redsaw, his “right thing” is the wrong thing, but thankfully we have Axiom-man there to stop him.
Regarding other supervillains I’ve created—Char, Bleaken, Battle Bruiser, and Lady Fire—they all have something in common and it all goes back to what I did with Redsaw: they’re more powerful than the hero. It might be their powers, it might be their intellect, but either way, my villains always have a leg up on Axiom-man so they’re a challenge to fight. It’s the only way to create true conflict in the novels otherwise, if they were weaker, Axiom-man would stomp them into the ground every time and the story would be over in a few pages. Sure, it’s fun to have a few purely-human bad guys for Axiom-man to quickly dispose of, but when it comes to his superpowered rogues gallery, I needed my bad guys to be stronger than the hero and make him really dig deep whether physically or mentally to put the villains away for good. And even then . . . they might not always stay put, but for what I mean by that, you’ll have to check out the books and see for yourself.
A supervillain—breaking down the word—sure, the “villain” part is easy. It’s the “super” part that’s hard because that goes beyond their powers. They need to be above average in who they are as a person. They need to be motivated by something beyond what gets us normal people through our day. They need to be motivated by something “super.” It could be a tragedy, a misguidance, even a dark heart birthed out of something beyond their control in years past. There’s no such thing as a person who’s born bad. We all make choices. Some yield Good. Others yield Evil. Others take us down roads filled with both. Throw superpowers into the mix and you have the potential to create a superpowered problem that only a superhero can fight.
As for Redsaw, well, like Axiom-man, he’s on a journey, too. One that can only lead to one place. As for where or what that is, you’ll just have to read and find out.
Like all writers, I’ve read countless books over the years. Some were awesome, some so-so, and even the ones that weren’t that great I still appreciated for the story even if the writing needed some work. Out of all those books, some have impacted me in different ways both personally and professionally.
Here is a list of 5 books in no particular order that have influenced my writing. I’ve stuck to fiction for this list instead of any writing how-to book.
1. Stone of Tears by Terry Goodkind – an ultra long read, but worth every page. The dude knows how to paint pictures in your head with his words and, aside from Stone of Tears being a killer story, it was this word-painting that stuck with me and set the bar for how I paint pictures for the reader in my own work. Not saying I’m anywhere near Terry Goodkind’s caliber, but his great description definitely stuck with me over the years.
2. Batman: Knightfall by Dennis O’Neil – The first superhero fiction book I ever read and my favorite book of all time. (Yeah, I have a soft spot for superheroes, as you well know.) This book got me in Batman’s head in a way the comics didn’t, and humanized him in a way I could relate to on different levels. It also showed me superheroes didn’t have to be confined to four-color comics or to movies. Clearly, this influenced me later on when it came time to write The Axiom-man Saga.
3. The Summer I Died by Ryan C. Thomas – Easily the most brutal book I’ve ever read, and I don’t mean brutal as in bad. Not only is it an intense story–people kidnapped by a madman–but the violence level in this thing is through the roof. I loved reading it, and I hated reading it. Ryan made you live each terrifying and painful moment his characters went through. Like live-live. Crazy. But it showed me how to get nasty with violence when needed and how to draw the reader in when it came to someone getting hurt, and it reemphasized for me the importance of ensuring the reader is indeed in your characters’ shoes and not outside of them no matter what is happening.
4. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks – Such a bittersweet love story, and it was this book that demonstrated the difference between a romance book and a love story book. It was the love story between the characters that impacted me the most, not their romance, and nowadays when I write two characters in love, I play up the love story angle versus the romantic one. I did this in my book, April, written under the name Peter Fox. To me, love stories have so much more heart than romances.
5. Left Behind by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye – Aside from the entire series being an interesting story of the Earth’s last days before Christ’s return, the writing takeaway from this book–and the rest of the series–were the constant cliffhanger endings to each chapter. It was just non-stop, and since I’ve read them I’ve done my best to cliffhang each scene and each chapter in my own books. Even cliffhang the ending of book one of a series to get the reader pumped for book two. Cliffhangers keep those pages turning.
So there you have it. A quick list of 5 books that impacted me as a writer. There are more, but I’ll save those for another post.
What books have influenced you, whether personally or professionally? Sound off in the comments below.
One night, Gabriel Garrison was visited by a nameless messenger who bestowed upon him great power, a power intended for good. Once discovering what this power was and what it enabled him to do, Gabriel became Axiom-man, a symbol of hope in a city that had none.
One night, after a routine patrol, a mysterious black cloud appears over the city. Flying over to investigate it, Axiom-man is stopped short when the cloud’s presence shakes him to the core. An electrifying fear emanates from the cloud, and he can barely get near it. Quickly, the cloud takes flight and leads him on a wild goose chase throughout the city, only to flee from him in the end. Almost immediately after the cloud’s appearance, a new hero arises, Redsaw, clad in a black cape and cowl. The people, now enamored with this new super-powered marvel, seem to have forgotten about Axiom-man and all he’s done for them.
Except something’s wrong. That same fear that emanated from the cloud drips off Redsaw like a foul smell and Axiom-man can barely get close to him without feeling ill.
What is Redsaw’s agenda and who is he? And why is it every time Axiom-man gets close to him, it feels as if his powers are being sucked away?
As if that wasn’t enough, Gabriel’s day job hasn’t gotten any easier. His co-worker and the woman he adores, Valerie Vaughan, has little interest in him, and his boss has made it clear that one more day late to work will be the day he cleans out his desk. Then there’s the new trainee, Gene Nemek. What is his fascination with Redsaw, and why is he never around when Redsaw appears?
From flying over city streets and soaring at dizzying heights, to balancing a secret identity with destiny, Axiom-man must discover what Redsaw’s presence means and how it ties into the messenger’s life-altering visit before the city—and the world—are enamored with an evil that has haunted the cosmos since the dawn of time.
This newly-revised special edition includes an introduction by the author, a bonus short story that takes place right after the novel, and the essay, “The Axiom-man Origin and Why I Write Superhero Fiction.”
In light of yesterday’s release of Axiom-man Episode No. 3: Rumblings, below is the updated reading order for the saga. In short, it’s real easy: full-length book, episode, full-length book, episode, etc. While there are a few short stories that take place throughout, the main storyline follows the books.
Axiom-man Episode No. 0: First Night Out Doorway of Darkness Black Water (short story) Episode No. 1: The Dead Land There’s Something Rotten Up North (short story in the anthology, Metahumans vs the Undead) City of Ruin Rite of the Wolf (short story in the anthology, Metahumans vs Werewolves) Episode No. 2: Underground Crusade Outlaw Episode No. 3: Rumblings
Axiom-man has been captured and locked inside an enormous electric cage. Within? A small city and residential zone. Who made them or for what purpose, he doesn’t know. One thing is certain, however: he is trapped and at the mercy of those who took him captive.
The intentions are soon made clear with the appearance of two super-powered beings: the tank-like Battle Bruiser and the playful femme fatale Lady Fire. Soon the battle begins and Axiom-man is forced to survive against those with powers that rival his own. And it seems these two new metahumans are only the beginning. Something is brewing beneath the surface of reality, something sinister that will change the course of history and Axiom-man’s life forever.
“A refreshing teen fantasy full of bite, blood and romance.” — K. H. Koehler, author of Raiju
Now disconnected from their families, Zach and Rose try and make it on their own away from the war between vampire and slayer. But word has been spread to the undead that Zach needs to return to his family otherwise his mother will only make matters worse for him.
Trying to survive together isn’t all it is hoped to be and Zach and Rose must decide if a vampire and human truly can remain together, or if it’s a lost cause and they should accept their fate.
Is love enough?
Before the two can find out, the vampire’s family comes for Zach and Rose, and the two are swept into a nightmare where there will be only one survivor.
“A refreshing teen fantasy full of bite, blood and romance.” — K. H. Koehler, author of Raiju
Zach and Rose had fallen in love during their sophomore year, their worlds completely changed and utterly belonging to each other’s. It was the first time either had fallen in love, deeply, purely. Aiming for a future together, plans were interrupted when Zach went missing for three long months, leaving Rose distraught, heartbroken and depressed.
Zach awakens in the dark of a coffin, his memory erased, his life and feelings for Rose forgotten. A strange group of people who identify themselves as his family reveal he has become a vampire, one of the undead, and is now a being with incredible power and a thirst for blood.
However, during Zach’s absence, Rose learns of her own secret heritage: she comes from a long line of vampire slayers, hellbent on eradicating the unholy threat of the undead from the face of the Earth. Now, not only does she need to try and get over the young man she loves, she must also come to terms with her new life and what that means for her future.
It is only when her path accidentally crosses with Zach’s does lost love begin to surface again.
I’m a huge fan of Max West’s Sunnyville Stories, which are slice-of-life tales of anthropomorphic animals in a small town. He releases the comics issue by issue then, when he has enough, collects them into trade paperbacks. Presently, there are two trade paperbacks: Sunnyville Stories Vol. 1 and Sunnyville Stories Vol. 2. They are available both in print and eBook.