getting into character
Welcome to the Weekly Guest Blogger series.
A young billionaire with a head full of vengeance sits in his lavish library, bleeding to death. He waits for inspiration, vowing to let his life ebb all over the rug if it doesn’t come. Fortunately, for us all, it does, in the form of a bat that crashes through the library window. The young billionaire takes it as a sign the crime-fighting thing would be a lot easier to pull off in the right outfit.
“Criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot,” Bruce Wayne muses. “I’ll dress up as a bat and freak them the fuck out!”
All costumes and masks have power, not just the scary ones worn by witchdoctors, druids, and tortured billionaires. Costumes can turn us inside out, letting our true selves shine past the limits set by genetics and fortune. The anonymity lent by a mask allows us to be more than we are: braver, sillier, sexier, less bounded by our egos.
I’ve had some experience with Costume Power. In some ways I use it every day: slipping into my teacher togs, putting on my professional face, and doing three 90-minute shows a day at your local high school. I hate speaking in public, but I put on the outfit and the ever-chipper Teacher Man comes to my rescue.
My first costume, though, was probably the cape. To the unimaginative, it might have looked like I had safety-pinned a ratty towel around my neck, but in my head I was Superman, frequently, and sometimes Zorro, able to leap tall buildings and take on despotic Spaniards.
Then it was the domino mask my mother let me buy at a party store. I was the Lone Ranger all the way, six-guns blazing, with an imaginary horse that could turn, on demand, into a motorcycle.
When I “grew up” and put away such childish things, Costume Power fought back, proving stronger than my alleged maturity. The old costumes leaped out of the past and wrapped themselves around me. And, now that I had more money, the costumes were even more powerful.
I worked in a haunted house for awhile, scaring the shit out of anyone I could. My favorite alternate self was “Gut Boy.” Gut Boy was part of the Mad Scientist room. I rigged up a fake hospital bed that I could sit in, holding a bucket of fake guts and blood in my lap. I made fake legs, too, so it looked like I was lying prone on the bed. When thrill-seekers strolled by, I gave them one, screaming and reaching into my abdominal cavity to pull out my intestines. I think I made a couple of middle-school girls pee themselves.
I got married in costume, part of our wedding’s sci-fi theme. I was Malcolm Reynolds from “Firefly”; my wife was Inara. We were married by Princess Leia in front of a full-sized (but sadly nonoperational) Tardis from “Doctor Who.” (Let’s be clear on this one: I didn’t need Costume Power to say “I do,” but Mal is SO much cooler than I am. How could I resist?)
We honeymooned at San Diego Comic Con, where Mal and Inara made their appearance in front of an even larger audience. I hate having my picture taken as myself, but somehow I didn’t mind being stopped every 50 feet by someone who wanted a picture of Mal. Thanks, Costume Power! I was even dubbed a “Hunk of Comic Con” in a report by Cinematical. Rob Greene, high-school English teacher and practicing (much practicing) writer, is not a hunk by any means, but Capt. Reynolds does all right.
The year after that, we hit Dragon Con for more, call it what it is, cosplay. My wife went as Zatanna and Wonder Woman. I tramped around as John Constantine and, my new fall back, the 11th Doctor. (Some days, when I really need the boost, the Doctor shows up to teach Creative Writing for me. He looks enough like a wacky professor to pass for Teacher Man.)
Bruce Wayne used Costume Power to fight crime, but mostly I just use it to have a fun. A waste of mojo? Batman might think so, but I still jumped at the chance to dress up for Erica Lucke Dean, incarnating one of the characters in her “Daywalker Chronicles.”
Ms. Dean allowed me to pick which one I wanted to be: tortured, sultry Victoria (tempting, but no), slickly sexy and avaricious Sebastian (bit of an aristo prick, probably part of the 1%), or Claude, the everyman-turned-vamp with a mysterious past (bingo). Whenever I’ve thought about becoming a vampire (mostly while I was burning through the three good books in the Anne Rice series and when “Angel” was on the air), I always imagined the process would make me cooler. The enhanced strength and such would be handy, but, with few exceptions, the newly vamped don’t rise nebbish. They’re always slick, confident, playful, and amused, like the cool arty kids who had it all figured out in high school. That was the appeal of Claude for me; he’s just an average (albeit jacked) guy who got knocked down and rose up sexy.
So, I’ll wear Claude for a while, see how he fits. If it feels right, maybe I’ll take him somewhere and see how many people recognize me as one of Ms. Dean’s “Daywalkers.” Then I’ll come home and pack him into the closet next to Mal, The Doctor, Alternate-Universe Neil Armstrong, John Constantine, Gut Boy, and my cape; all hanging in neat rows and ready for the next time I need a little Power.
As a side note, Rob tells us why he chose Claude…
One of the nice things about “The Daywalkers” is that the author doesn’t go overboard in describing her characters, which gives readers some imagination space to play in. In my mind, Claude has served as Victoria’s major domo for many years. No one alive knows her better. He understands she’s a lady of refined tastes, which is why he delights in pricking them from time to time, like with the apron he’s wearing in my incarnation. As befits a servant, Claude’s a bit of a bottom, more passive-aggressive than aggressive. But when fate makes him Victoria’s equal, the roles change.
My Claude a good cook, and has great taste in wine. He’d love to be able to demonstrate his talents to Victoria, but her blood diet doesn’t leave much room for it. Plus, because he’s a bottom, and she still sees him as a kid, Victoria hardly registers him as a man at all. I tend to think Claude is bisexual, but not at all tormented by it. Like a vampire, he’s not particular about where he sticks his … fangs … as long as it feels good. However, he has quietly pined for Victoria for many years and is delighted to be in a position where he can demonstrate that.
R.W.W. Greene is a practicing (much practicing) fiction writer who teaches high school in southern New Hampshire. You can pay him a visit, or offer costuming tips, on Twitter (@rwwgreene) or at his website (RWWGreene.com)
Thank you to Rob for taking one for the team and dressing up as Claude. In fact, since Rob did such a great job, I’ve decided to have a Daywalker’s character contest. Starting December 1st, you can upload your best look-a-like images of your favorite characters. Either dress up as Victoria, Claude or Sebastian…or get someone you know to do the honors. Check the Daywalker page on December 1st for more info!
Until the next time…I’ve got another week of Daywalkers to write!