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Johnny Saturn Behind the Scenes

You’ve read some or all the “Johnny Saturn” stories, in comics or prose, right? Of course you have. If you haven’t just play along.

There were a lot of underlying precepts that went into making these stories, and that’s what this blog post is about.


When I got going on this series, it was important to me to include a wide range of different backgrounds among the characters. Gender, age, sexual preference, religion, ethnicity, political leanings, they all needed to be there. I wanted the full array of human (and inhuman) experience to be at play.

What made the Saturn-verse different from other comic universes is that these differences just didn’t matter all that much. People accepted each other for who they were, or at least they didn’t make those differences an issue. Women weren’t to be patronized or disrespected; LGBT people weren’t stigmatized, or novelties, or misunderstood; Muslims weren’t marginalized; and so forth. If you know me and my own world views then I supposed this approach could be expected. I supposed I was indirectly influenced by Gene Rodenberry and his “different but celebrated and accepted” philosophy from later Star Trek episodes.

How well did this all play out? Sometimes well. I pretty much got no blowback from making the Utopian gay. He was always a popular character in the series, and remains so till this day. I expected some negative reaction, but attitudes in America were changing quickly, but my no-nonsense gay superhero character came off as more quaint than divisive. Even then, I did break my guidelines a little by showing how much Utopian’s father Elect was in denial about his son’s preferences. I did that as much to show generational differences as anything, and even then there was never any doubt that Elect truly loved his son. I suppose we did this for a little humor as well, but mostly to indicate what kind of person Elect was.

I’m afraid I didn’t come off quite so clean on the political divide issue. It was easy for me to point fingers during the second Iraq War, and Titanium Tom’s rampant nationalism and gung-ho military positive attitude were easy targets. Even then, however, I went against steryotypes sometimes to show that even Titanium Tom could be civil or reasonable. His bluster and tactlessness were real, but he was still a human and capable of a little empathy. It would have been too easy to villify the far, far right characters without showing at least a little understanding.

Women hold much of the power and honor in the Saturn-verse. I admire women and always have, so it was natural for me to treat them with respect. I’ve been surrounded by strong women my whole life, so purposeful sexism just isn’t in my nature. How well will my writings hold up by future standards? It’s hard to say. We are products of our time, but I would like to think that history will at least look kindly on my treatment of women.

I should add one caveat–women are great, but I never wr0te them to be indistinguable from men. Our basic biological makeups can make us, in broad strokes at least, different. In general, women can be peace makers, community builders, multi-taskers, caregivers, and pragmatic. I’m speaking in very broad terms, and no individual character fits those steryotypes perfectly. From what I’ve been able to tell about men, the steryotypical man is focused in a way that makes him a good hunter, avid tool users, and given to physical responses to problems. Maybe future science and psychology will call me out on these views, and that’s fine. Histiography in college taught me that it’s impossible for us to completely divorce ourselves free of the times that we live in and the prevailing ideas that we have been born into.

Race and ethnicity is one such issue. Perhaps foolishly, I had always assumed that I was 100% free of racial bias. Now the idea of White Privelidge has been made popular, and I have realized that I am not qualified to think myself free of prejudice. This is humbling and upsetting. Maybe I’m without bias or preconception on these issues, and maybe not. I can’t know for certain, because I’m a white male and thus the beneficiary of all sorts social benefits that other peoples cannot take for granted. I could be patronizing without any desire to be so, and unable to avoid it. This bothers me because it’s not what I wanted or expected from myself.

Being honest with oneself like this is not easy. I may not always like the answers when I dig far enough into my basic life assumptions. Do my good, all-inclusive intentions excuse me from all this, even a little? I would hope, but who knows.

Other precepts and attitudes that made it into the Saturn-verse include a dislike of the “will-they-won’t-they” romance theme. I really dislike overbearing romantic drama, and I’ve preferred to let the characters carry on much of that behind the scenes. Yes, the Saturn-verse characters become romantically intangled just like people do in our world, but I prefer to let them work it out on their own. I never expected Greg Buchanan and Victoria Shelbourne to fall in love, for example–it happened organically, on the comic page, and sort of took me off guard. I didn’t write about their first dates, or first kiss, or doubts about dating each other, or any of that. They did that on their own time, and then I showed the result of their developing union in the comic as flourished.

Well, that’s more than enough for now, and I’ll revisit this subject in the future.



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