Character Conception Corner: Shadow Jones

I’ve mentioned before that Shadow Jones is one of those characters from the original Ninja Turtles books that I really wish had made it into 4Kids’ adaptation, and that hasn’t changed much–I still really wish she’d made it to the cartoon. Introduced in 1992 during the “City at War” arc, she since became a fixture of the Mirage ‘verse, which focused various stages of her life–infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood–as various stories hopscotched through the timeline.  She’s also one of those characters who were really useful in showing how time had passed and changed the various characters; TMNT isn’t about just having endless iterations of a single status quo–or at least, not usually about that–but about change.  The characters as seen in volume 4 are not the same characters we first met in volume one; almost twenty years have passed since then, and they have made their presence felt, and Shadow is one of the clearest signs of that, as she turns characters into parents and uncles and teachers.

Since 4Kids did not see it fit to feature Shadow in their universe, I decided to take on the job myself. Because I’m me, this meant changing almost everything I thought I could get away with, while still retaining what I felt was the core of the character.  I then paid an artist, as I’ve done before, to translate my ideas into paper (or whatever its online equivalent is), and this is what came from it.

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My perpetually in progress list of Queer, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Trans*, Bisexual, Asexual, Gay and / or Genderqueer characters in the Monsters of New York-verse

Let’s face it: no matter how progressive Gargoyles or TMNT‘s TV incarnations may be in some respects, they are both guilty of establishing universes in which no sexualities besides “straight” exist.  Yes, there are very good reasons why this is the case, and “the creators didn’t want to” is probably not among them; nevertheless, the fact remains that only straight cisgendered people are able to see those aspect of themselves represented on either series, and that remains a problem, regardless of creator intent.

So, since the shows won’t give me QUILTBAG characters, I’ll just have to establish my own.  This is my in-progress list of characters whom I consider Queer, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Trans*, Bisexual, Asexual, Genderqueer and / or Gay .  Some are based on word of god.  Others are based on conclusions drawn from the text.  Others are what they are because felt like it.  It’s still incomplete and far from representative, and it probably displays problematic patterns that I’m unaware of at the moment (for example, there are no asexual non-mutants in the list yet) but this is it so far.

(Note: Yes, I know that Gargoyles, at least, has characters whom we have been told by Word Of God are gay.  However, no confirmation of that assertion exists in the actual text.)

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Prelude to The Shredder Wars — Snippet 2

April 9, 2009, 7:40 p.m

Raquel Silva loved Shakepeare like you wouldn’t believe.  Loved him since college, where the drama students who would put radically different versions of Othello every year taught her the power of stories.  Had that really been almost thirty years ago?

In any case, when she first begun making waves in the competitive fighting circuit and was told that she literally needed to make a name for herself, there was no question what that name would be.  Granted, it had initially been a pain in the ass to continuously have to explain that her alias didn’t actually refer to the character who actually went by that name but to her husband, but the king’s name on its own just didn’t sound dramatic enough for the venue.  Eventually though, people started getting it–Lady Macbeth: No man of woman born could beat her.

Then came The Society.  While she didn’t much care for its endgame—whatever that was—she was extremely grateful for the perks that came with associating with them.  Not only had their health plan allowed her to stay in the game for far longer than she would have been able to otherwise, it allowed her to send both of her kids to college even after she was no longer making money in the circuit.  Now she made the most out of semi-retirement in Brazil, where she lived with, and took care of, her parents.

The Hotel Cabal was not Brazil, nor was it the sort of hotel she would frequent, given a choice.  It was owned by The Illuminati, and served as part hideaway, part torture chamber.  Care was advised when traversing the hotel; legend was it that one of its administrators, Mace Malone, once lost his way and was never seen again.  This was on Raquel’s mind as she led Takeshi Yoshihama—Master Khan—through the building’s beige halls of drabness.

“You know, there’s no need for you to be so tense,” she told her prisoner. “We seriously don’t plan on killing you.”

“You are Illuminati.  Killing me is among the least you could do to me.”

“Yeah, you’re right.  Still, why make yourself miserable beforehand?”  This got no answer, which wasn’t particularly unexpected.  From everything she’d heard about the Foot’s ninja, they tended to be annoyingly disciplined.  Khan, in particular, seemed like the kind of person who would hide in a closet when not on a mission.  Not at all the kind of person she liked working with, although that didn’t mean she wouldn’t—she too could be disciplined.

After three minutes of some very circuitous walking, the two martial artists arrived at their destination, a door marked 532, a designation that might have been helpful if it hadn’t been preceded by a dozen doors also marked 532.  At the other side was David Xanatos, the man tasked with selling Khan on the idea of betraying the people he had dedicated his life to.

 

The Fall – Snippet 1

July 7, 1999

Mikhail stifled a yawn, careful not to drop the binoculars; although the manufacturers assured that the ten-thousand dollar piece of equipment could withstand war conditions without loss of function, he wasn’t about to test that claim by letting them fall from a twenty story building.

His watch beeped, indicating that it was now five o’clock and that sunrise was roughly half an hour away.  If the last few days were any indication, the two targets would be making an appearance soon.  And indeed, they there were, two gargoyles heading south towards the Eyrie Building; if they made it before the sun came up, they would be unapproachable all day and he and the rest of the Knights would have to scrap the mission and begin all over tomorrow.

“This is Solitaire”, Mikhail said into his wrist radio.”  I have a visual on Honey and Oddjob, coming your way.  If you’re going to put on a show, now’s the time.”

“Copy, Solitaire”, said Knight One from the street, where he and Knight Two had been waiting.  “Stand by for further instructions.”

Knight One and Two signed off; they would maintain radio silence until their little drama played out.  Until that happened, all Mikhail had to do was wait.

The plan they’d drawn out was simple, almost embarrassingly so.  Knight One would pretend to mug Knight Two, in the hopes that the altercation would draw the gargoyles’ attention.  Its purpose was twofold; delay the gargoyles enough to prevent them from reaching their home that night, and to plant a tracking device on either of them.

Had he been less professional, Mikhail would have admitted a fair amount of ambivalence about this mission.  While he hadn’t been following the chatter regarding gargoyles closely, he’d felt rather sympathetic towards them ever since they´d saved his older brother, a clerk for Bank of America, three months ago, and felt that they were being genuine in their stated desire to protect the city.

Still, priorities were priorities.  Regardless of their intentions, the gargoyles were proof that the universe was larger and weirder than most knew, and humanity´s survival in the face of unknowable threats depended on being prepared.  And knowing what and how gargoyles ticked was a vital part of that.

“Man, you’re missing a great show over here,” said Knight Four, who’d been in his own rooftop watching over One and Two´s drama, over the radio.  “Chew just shot Oddjob on the arm.  Hard to tell from here, but I think it´s stuck in there.    And—oh, ouch—Honey just tossed him like he was made of balsa wood—he´s going to need a lot of leave after this. “

“Well, that’s not going to make things unbearable.”

“Aw, sick!  Jaws just kissed Honey.    Aren’t gargoyles supposed to be all full of pigeon crap and everything?” Honey was their code name for one of the female gargoyles.  Jaws—Knight Two—was straight, as far as anybody knew.  While the four Knights were expected to do things like this without issue, the fact that Knight Two had chosen to do this particular thing said…interesting things about her.  He’d have to ask her about her some time, preferably when he couldn’t be beat up over it.

“Okay, the tracker’s been placed,” Knight Two chimed in, breaking her radio silence. “Solitaire, can you see them?”

Mikhail picked up the tracker receiver, which he had earlier placed next to his sniper rifle.  A quick look indicated that yes, there was a figure heading south with some speed, which a quick eyeball confirmed.  It was now five twenty—at this rate, the gargoyles would not make it to their home base before sunup.  He hoped they’d notice, since the last thing the team needed right now is to see all their work shatter against the New York pavement.  “Everything looks good,” he said to no one in particular.  Once the gargs settled down for the day, he and the rest of the Knights would go home, their role in this particular operation over.  Oddjob and Honey— Broadway and Angela, to use their real names–would officially become somebody else’s problem.

Prelude to the Shredder Wars – Snippet 1

Because even though I haven’t posted any new story bits in years, I still haven’t really given up on finishing my big messy crossover Gargoyles/TMNT mythfic.  Since I haven’t had much luck finishing anything bigger than assorted snippets, I’m gonna try a new approach of writing those and posting them as I finish them.

In any case, this and the rest of the snippets in the Prelude to the Shredder Wars series are meant to set the stage for the Shredder wars hinted at in the first episode of TMNT: Back to the Sewer.  It’s set between the end of that season and Turtles Forever and will involve time travel, betrayals, and strange bedfellows.  Here’s hoping the story’s as good in actual text as it is in my head.

–Ian

April 9, 2009, 7:34: p.m.

As his metabolism processed the drugs that had hours ago entered his system, Khan dreamed.

He dreamed of his older sister, who now made and sold jewelry in Oregon. He hadn’t talked to her in years, although now he was thinking that maybe he should. He dreamed of his first kill, the details still fresh even after twenty-three years. He dreamed of a world where everything dissolved into butterflies with a touch.

He awoke.

Khan was not in the FBI van where he’d spent his last waking hours, although he wasn’t particularly surprised by that. Instead, he was in what appeared to be a hotel room, of the sort found in places one only went to when one missed their flight and needed a place, any place, to stay for the night. Hotel Cabal, said an information sheet located, along with the traditional bible, inside the drawer next to his bed.

He felt like crap. He had already been on an empty stomach when the trip from Boston to New York had begun, and the remains of whatever had been used to knock him out now settled in the pit of his stomach like a super-dense star. He needed food and vomiting, not necessarily in that order.

A look around revealed a mini-fridge, and a look inside that revealed pitcher of water, a packet of tea of a brand Khan had never heard before, and several calorie bars. He ignored all of them, and instead went to the bathroom, where he drank from the faucet: although he didn’t suppose anyone would try and poison him—they’d had plenty of chances to kill him while he was asleep—it didn’t hurt to be careful. However, given the locked door preventing him from leaving, not eating meant that it’d take several hours for him to get in anything resembling fighting shape. Still, he had nowhere else to be at the moment, so this scenario was as acceptable as any other; after showering, he picked up the Bible, opened it at the Book of Songs, and began reading.

Fifteen minutes later, Khan heard a knock on the door, and in walked a woman carrying a bundle in her arms. More important to Khan though was her warrior’s aura, and it only took him a few moments to recognize his visitor as Raquel Silva, known in the competitive mixed martial arts’ circuit as Lady Macbeth.

“You didn’t eat,” said Silva casually, as she inspected the fridge.

“I wasn’t hungry,” Khan replied, as he inspected the newcomer from behind his book. She had a gun holstered on her right hip, which she probably didn’t need but was yet another reason not to try and attack her in his state. Better to just stay calm and see this through.

Silva tossed her bundle at Khan. It turned out to be a bag of clothing. “Get dressed. You need to go see the big man.”

Electric Boogaloo, Chapter 7: Lin Takahashi

Lin Takahashi loved her job.  For months at a time, she could forget herself and become an architect, an entertainment agent, and now a policewoman trying to take down the very organization which she secretly belonged to.  For a woman who as a kid loved to play pretend, her constant assignments were a trip and a half.  The considerable perks were nice too.

And she’d be damned if she was going to let some F.B.I. prick take it away from her.

“Hacker, I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she said.  Live the cover, she’d always been told.  She could do that—she’d been doing it for the past five years.

“Is that so.” Hacker said, smiling superciliously.  Pulling out a manila envelope, he removed from it a series of photographs and set them before her.

It was her.  At a glance, Lin recognized herself at various stages of her adult life.  Her college graduation.  Her vacation/assignment in France.  That night with the disgraced late Diet member Megumi Sakai.  She, Karai, and that Joshua kid.  Her past five years, captured on camera.  Also, Hacker’s first mistake.  A dedicated F.B.I. agent could have plausibly obtained, at best, a fraction of the pictures she’d been shown. For him to get all of them, he’d have to either be Foot, or something much worse.

Martin Hacker, it seemed, was Illuminati.

*          *          *

“The Illuminati?” asked an eighteen-year old Lin, as she scoured the Amphi lingerie store for the perfect bra for the night.  “As in ‘organization secretly taking over the world via secret conspiracies involving vaccines’?  Isn’t that supposed to be us?”

Her companion, Karai Saki, did not seem to find the comment amusing.  Then again, that wasn’t exactly rare for her.  “The Illuminati are not to be taken lightly, Lin.  They are the biggest threat to everything The Foot has worked for.”

Lin sighed. She generally thought of herself a patient girl, but Karai was making her seriously reconsider that stance. No matter what the comment, the ninja princess’ reaction would be the same detached humorlessness.  It took a special something to react to her story about that time she’d staged 200-person naked protest with utter disinterest.

Still, she wasn’t about to give up on her newest project.   Two months after Karai had first joined Lin’s martial arts training squadron, with a demeanor that suggested a biologist studying a particularly interesting colony of ants, the older girl was still determined to figure out what had made the smart, confident, beautiful—yet maddeningly reticent—sixteen-year-old tick.

Fortunately, her efforts were not without their progress.  It had taken three weeks of awkward “conversation”, but she had eventually begun obtaining  semi-friendly snippets out of the girl.  For her to freely volunteer information like this was a major breakthrough.

Amazingly, Karai wasn’t finished.  “My father has gone out to meet with their leaders, you know.  Apparently the Foot have killed one of their number, and they are quite cross about it.”

“Is that so?” Lin asked, from beyond the dressing room door, as she tried out garment after garment. Surprising news. If everything she’d heard of the Shredder was true, he was not the type to admit mistakes easily.  For him to actually go through the trouble of apologizing…

“You should know, by the way: this is classified information. If you tell anyone about it, I will be forced to eliminate you.”  Said with total conviction.

Figures, though Lin.  “Well, thanks for giving me a choice on the matter,” she replied, tartly.  “Why’d you tell me, then?”

Karai considered her answer.  “I am concerned for my father. I had hoped that sharing my worries would ease my discomfort.”

“Well, when you put it that way…” So frustrating. Still, she was glad the ninja princess had decided to confide in her.  She might be human after all.

They continued their trek through the store. Before long, Karai suggested Lin buy an expensive-looking turquoise number which, according to its manufactures, would guarantee “fantastic cleavage”, even if it had to perform magic in order to do so.  To Lin’s surprise, it fit perfectly.

*          *          *

A barista brought Hacker’s meal to their table.  As she set the items down, Hacker retrieved the various photos.  “Let’s not be coy, Miss Lin,” the F.B.I. said, as he began adding sugar to his latte.  “We both know you’re not quite what you pretend to be.”

Lin had stopped paying attention, though.  Her mind was in a frenzy, trying to come up with a battle plan.  First things first, Lin thought: if she wanted to beat Hacker, she needed to take stock of all she knew, all she didn’t know, and all she needed to know.  She knew that:

一) Hacker had possession of a series of suggestive pictures—genuine suggestive pictures, at that.  However, from what she’d seen, the photos did not go beyond suggestive.  They included no evidence of wrongdoing.

二) Hacker obviously planned to blackmail her, and was willing to risk his life in order to do it.

Unfortunately, the list of things she didn’t know or was unsure about was somewhat larger:

一) Did Hacker possess additional, more incriminating, pictures or evidence?  If he did, why didn’t he bring them here?

二) Did he know her true affiliation, or did he merely suspect it?  He could merely be bluffing, hoping she’d slip up and give him free information.

三) Was he an idiot, or had he actually thought this through?

四) Was he actually Illuminati?  She was almost certain he was but she couldn’t afford to be wrong.

五) If so, was he acting on their behalf?

六) If the answer to the previous two items was “yes”, what did it mean? The Illuminati and the Foot had a set of pretty strict rules when it came to inter-conspiracy interaction, set up precisely to prevent this sort of situation.  If he was breaking Society protocol on their behalf, then things were about to get dicey.

One thing was clear: until she got more information, slitting the self-satisfied G-Man’s throat and dumping the body was not an option.

“You’re not making any sense,” she finally said, a full five seconds after Hacker had last spoken.  “What are these photos supposed to be?  Have you been following me?”

“Ah, so it is you in these photos then.”  Not quite a question. He looked a bit like he’d achieved an early victory, which suited Lin just fine.

“Some, yeah,” she said, singling the more innocuous ones of the lot. “I don’t see what they have to do with anything.”

“Okay, lets start at the beginning.  You’ve kept up with the recent reports about the Foot Clan, yes?”

“Ancient Japanese cabal with secretly taking over the world via secret conspiracies—I have been paying attention, you know.”

“Good,” Hacker said.  “Well, it all brought to mind something a friend of mine over at Interpol had told me a while back, about a series of seemingly unrelated crimes over in Japan.  Unrelated, except for one thing: in every one of these incidents, a young woman—or rather, young women—had been found to have direct or indirect connections to people involved in each case.  Strangely enough, all these women shared several key physical characteristics, and all had the same name: Lin.”

Lin put on her best confused face—this was supposed to be new information, after all.  Not a bad story, she considered.  Probably bullshit all the way through, but the average person would probably find it plausible enough not to ask awkward questions until it was too late.   “And you think I’m related to these incidents.  Do you have any proof?”

“Not really, no.  Still, one can’t argue that Kessler’s case seems to fit the profile; the similarities would no doubt raise some eyebrows to anyone who became aware of them.  A curious and enterprising investigator—Maza, for example—would certainly find it worth looking into.”

“It’d be a waste of time; I didn’t do anything,” Lin said, allowing hint of despair to seep into her demeanor.  Koyobashi may have been created to be cool under pressure, but being impassive would merely confirm Hacker’s suspicions.

“That may well be the case—maybe they look into Kessler and find nothing. Then again, a particularly smart investigator—again, Maza—may decide to check in on Lin Koyobashi’s record, and what will they find then?  Either way, your job has just become a whole lot harder.”

Lin would have smiled, if her cover had allowed for it.  The plan was brilliant, covering his ass from every angle.  Unless she was extremely careful, any counter-attack would be as likely to cast suspicion on her.

“Like I said, I believe you’re part of the Foot Clan.  I can’t prove it and I won’t try to, but that is what I believe.  If my suspicions are true, then it means that you can do something for me—or more specifically, for a group of people I’m associated with.”  The dog whistle at the end was too deliberate—he did have proof of everything.  The comment made no sense otherwise.

Their little game was winding down.  “If your suspicions are true.  And if they’re not?”

“Then you are of no use to me and I’ve tragically and accidentally—but with the best of intentions—damaged an innocent cop’s career.  You’ll get over it—after all, who ever heard of a public official getting punished in this city?”

And there they were.  The game—at least this round—was over. Hacker held the lead, but that was hardly a permanent state of affairs.  She’d learned a bit, and she’d kept her options open—not bad for a largely improvised gig.

Hacker produced another manila envelope, which he gave to Lin.  It was completely unmarked.  “Open that when you’re back home, and read what’s inside immediately.  Give me an answer by noon tomorrow, and we’ll be set.  If you agree to do this favor for me, I’ll be out of your hair, and you’ll have nothing to worry about.  If I hear nothing from you, or you decide to disagree, then I’ll just have share my suspicions with Maza and the rest.

Hacker finished his meal, paid his bill, and then left Lin alone in the coffee shop.  As she watched him walk out of sight, she entertained herself by imagining him being killed in various humorous mishaps.  She particularly liked the scenario where he was attacked by a squadron of rabid squirrels.

She was hungry.  She’d eaten before arriving, and she knew that priority one should probably be to read Hacker’s papers and contact Karai, but the confrontation with the Illuminatus—and she was certain that was what he was, all things considered—had left her peckish. To that purpose, she headed to the counter to order a meal.  Everything else could wait.

*          *          *

Hacker had to admit it; he was impressed. While he hadn’t expected Miss Lin to break down in sobs during their encounter, he’d though he would get far more out of her than he actually did. Pity she worked for the other team, or he’d try to recruit her in a heartbeat. He almost felt sorry for framing her for the Kessler murder—almost.

————————

“Here’s your coffee, ‘lisa,” said Cedric Harris, as he handed over the large (Starbucks would call it “venti”) cup of Miss Carmen’s almost acid-like concoction.  “Hope it keeps you awake.”

“Yeah, you and all of Manhattan’s drivers,” Elisa said.  Coffee in hand, she stepped outside of the car—no way was she risking the stains—and gratefully began imbibing.

Neither Elisa nor Cedric were regular coffee drinkers.  The sudden dependency had come about thanks to the their shift in hours, which had let them with an annoying mix of sleepiness and insomnia.  So far, they still hadn’t found the combination of chemicals that would magically transform them into daytime creatures, but they hadn’t give up hope yet.

“I really hope this detail ends soon,” Elisa commented, as she stifled a yawn.  “Humans were not meant for daytime living.”

“I don’t know,” said Cedric, his own coffee in hand.  I’m kind of enjoying it.  It’s nice to be synced with the rest of the world for a change.”

“Yeah?” Elisa said incredulously.  “What about Diane?”  Cedric’s wife worked night shifts at a hospital, a decision she’d made after she’d first got serious four years ago.

“We’re fine—in fact, I think not being able to see each other is just the jolt our marriage needed.  Now it’s just hello, a quick roll in the hay, goodbye.  Plus, she really likes that the house is now clean by the time she wakes up,” he said, without a hint of irony. “How about you?  You thinking of getting back in the dating game? At least now you’re not limited to the graveyard shift crazies.”

Elisa smiled. “I don’t know—you sure you won’t get jealous?”

“Moi?  Never.  I’m a generous guy—I know you’re too much of a woman for me to keep for myself.  Plus, maybe it’ll stop all the locker room talk about you being a secret lesbian.”

“Well, maybe if you stopped spreading them around…” The conversation was a familiar one, and one that occasionally made her pine for Matt.  While Cedric’s ribbing was not malicious—it was more biological imperative than anything—it would occasionally touch some still-open wounds.  In addition, it reminded her of the foundation of lies of omission at the center of their relationship; she couldn’t tell him about Goliath without revealing his nature, and she couldn’t do that without raising some obvious—and unanswerable—questions.

A call went up on the police radio—another multiple murder at the docks.  Without a word, the two policemen finished their drinks and returned to the streets.