“Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.” – Joss Whedon
Book 3 of the Masks series follows Eric’s adventures as a newly-transformed supervillain sidekick. Taking advantage of Eric’s relationship with Peter, the Devil’s Trill uses him for a shield against the superheroes. In the meantime, new villains and a new, covert vigilante-like group appear, with a young hero with chameleon powers attempting to infiltrate the Trill’s hideout and help Eric.
Eric struggles with his conscience and schemes to turn the tables on the Trill, but his powers deteriorate. He grows more and more unstable and unsafe while the Trill’s henchmen appear to grow stronger and stronger, as though they were also subjected to the same manipulation that’s been used on Eric. As the Trill fights both the heroes and tries to assert his dominance over the new villains, Eric realizes that he doesn’t have much time left to set things right on his own, even if it costs him his life.
THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED
This song came out years after the original publication of my Masks trilogy and was, in fact, part of my “author playlist” while writing Mimi Attacks! (the fifth book in the series). It was also a song I’d attached to Mimi, not Eric, in that book. Now that I got to listen to it again, it’s pretty safe to say that “Movie Loves a Screen” is really Eric’s song all the way.
Excerpt: (from Chapter 8)
“We’ll see about that,” I said as I hung back in the crowd, dying from the heat in my medium-weight hoodie, but never once giving myself away. Every five minutes I pulled out an old bandanna from my jeans pocket and dabbed my face and neck with it, cussing at the world and at life. Funny — I’d been doing a lot of cussing at the world and my life lately. I wonder why.
It was midday and in the middle of the week. Our “job” was supposedly in downtown Vintage, where the Trill planted me in all my disguised glory. Commence one world-weary eyeroll.
“Find yourself a comfortable spot,” he’d said inside the limo as it crept through downtown traffic. “And wait. You don’t need to be alerted when the time comes. You’ll see it clearly enough, and you’ll know exactly what to do.”
“Cover your ass, you mean, while I get myself beaten to a pulp by Magnifiman and his gang.”
“Now don’t be so sensitive.” He even mussed up my hair, all Dad-like, drawing a deep, threatening snarl from the depths of my belly. Any innocent bystander would’ve mistaken me for a rabid dog in human disguise. “You certainly make me glad I’m past my adolescence.”
“Wanna make a bet about that ‘past adolescence’ bit?”
He jerked a thumb at the car door. “Shoo, kid. Beat it.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Beat it, huh? I see we’ve expanded our vocabulary today.”
“Stop your damned sass and get out of the car before you turn me premenstrual, Mr. Plath.”
“Oh, that’s not a good mental image,” I said, pulling my hood over my head and bracing myself as I opened the door. Hot air and bright, bright sunlight immediately blasted me from outside, suffocating me. I made a face and hesitated. “Can I have money for a chocolate parfait at least? Or even an iced mocha? Considering the heat and what I’m wearing right now — and considering that I’m about to get pounded to dust for your sake — I think I should be allowed some compensation. You should’ve seen that in the Supervillain Handbook in the ‘Sidekicks: Who are They, and How are They Cared For?’ chapter.”
The Trill stared at me for a moment. He seriously reeked of WTF. “I don’t believe this,” he muttered as he groped around the seat, shoving a gloved hand between the cushions. When he pulled it out, he actually had a fistful of crumpled bills and loose change, which he gave me.
I gaped at the cash in my hand. I guessed that I had about thirty bucks at least — thirty-three bucks and seventy-eight cents, I later found. “Holy cow,” I breathed. “How much lost money would you have trapped in your sofa cushions back home?”
“Just get out of the car, for heaven’s sake, before I strangle you!”
“Okay, okay, I’m going,” I said, jumping out.
I heard him hiss something just as I shut the door behind me, but I didn’t care to figure everything out.
He actually gave me money for a treat. The Devil’s Trill, Vintage City’s Demon Spawn Number One, just handed me some cash for ice cream. Still reeling in disbelief, I quickly wove my way through the midday lunch crowd and went straight for Isaac’s Ice Creamery, home of the biggest, most perfectly made chocolate parfaits in the world.
A half an hour later I was “on the job” and waiting, stuffed with too much ice cream and chocolate and sweating under my stupid disguise. Who was I hiding from, anyway? Althea, Peter, and Wade were in school.
Trent was most likely working with his dad. None of the good guys would be watching over the city because they were … being good guys.
Okay, that didn’t sound right, but it certainly made sense. At any rate, I wasn’t in school, and I wasn’t with my family. I was … at work, being the bad guy. How long ago was it when I was moping around and grousing about getting a job that my parents wouldn’t approve of? As they say, be careful what you wish for.
I hung around the main square near the founder’s statue. At least there was a place for me to loiter and not look suspicious, if one were to ignore my hoodie and jeans while everyone else was in tank tops and shorts, that is. I’d already walked around the statue and absorbed the sight of its rotting organic replacement head and wondering when City Hall would come around to getting the lost head replaced. What used to be a vegetable that precariously balanced between the founder’s shoulders now drooped in a discolored and bug-infested blob. Nobody bothered to change it with another gigantic vegetable or fruit, and there it stayed, on its way to being fossilized produce.
At the base of the statue was a big circle of weathered brick, where pigeons and people hung out and soaked in the sun while eating lunch or reading or, in the birds’ case, crapping on people’s heads with impressive precision.
When I first wrote Rise of Heroes, my intention was to write a gay YA superhero novel that reads like a cartoon. I wanted to veer away from what’s now referred to in geek corners as “grimdark” or the brooding, gray-toned, Chris Nolan / Dark Knight approach to the superhero narrative. Especially when it comes to such a vulnerable population as LGBT teens, I wanted to offer something more uplifting, hopeful, and uncynical. Something like this:
I hope they – if they ever read the series, that is – get to see themselves in Eric and Peter (and even Althea, Wade, Freddie, and eventually, Ridley). And I hope even more that they find an escape in these books and know that, hey, they can rock those awesome powers, too.