The Futility of Hope
First of all, let me get something out in the open immediately. The Hell Bound Kids: Wild in the Streets is not the feel-good hit of the summer. It is a mélange of hardboiled fiction, by way of The Lord of the Flies, The Warriors and Dark City with just a tiny hint of supernatural intimations. Manson’s creation of Punk City is a big mysterious, sprawling set piece that serves a specific purpose and a specific group of, let’s just say, vested individuals. It is an experiment in social Darwinism writ large. Where the only way to survive and thrive is to get your hands dirty. As a father of two, the concept of Punk City is downright frightening to me. It gives me a strong case of the heebie-jeebies. It hits me on a visceral level.
When editor Jason Duke graciously invited me to contribute to this shared world project, my immediate thought was to introduce a counterforce to the city. An individual whose purpose is to disrupt the status quo. A yin to the city’s yang as it were. While I was at it, I wanted to pay homage to all of those comic book and pulp fiction characters that I loved reading about (and watching) growing up. The Question, The Shadow, The White Tiger and Diabolik, are some of the inspirations (among others) for the character of La Madre de Los Dolores. O’Neil, Cowan, Rucka, Bendis, Kaluta, Sienkiewicz, Baker, Bava with a hint of Andrew Vachss thrown in for good measure. She is my take on a street level hero, who, due to the nature of the city, has dirty hands.
But in addition to riffing on the masked vigilante genre, I wanted to infuse a bit of hope into Manson’s world. Just a bit. That’s not to say that her creation is downright Ligottian-it’s not. I have it on good authority that The Hell Bound Kids is ultimately a story of hope. And as the series progresses, readers will see this as well. In my contribution, “La Madre de Los Dolores,” I posit the question: is it foolish to have hope in a seemingly hopeless situation? Well, it’s a complicated answer, to be sure. Grant Morrison, in his magnificent history of the superhero genre, Supergods states: “It should give us hope that superhero stories are flourishing everywhere because they are a bright flickering sign of our need to move on, to imagine the better, more just and more proactive people we can be.” Are Morrison’s ideas utopian? Certainly. Is his brand of optimism a little too rose colored? Perhaps. I would argue that it is the intent that is important in this statement. Without hope, without the possibility of things changing, existence is reduced to a turgid cycle. The idea of one’s actions, making a change (even a slight one) in this harsh old world, for the better is a heartening one to me. And as a father, I would not want my children living in a world devoid of hope. That doing good deeds (and treating others with respect and dignity) can have a positive impact on the people around them. Hell, if Matthew McConaughey character of Rust Cohle, at the conclusion of the most Ligottian sequence on television yet devised (True Detective season one) can get in on the action, why not my pulp hero? Sure, the dark has a lot more territory, but maybe, just maybe, our minuscule actions can make this place just a bit less inhospitable.