Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Everything Old Is New Again

Yesterday was a rather momentous day for the Return of Jetman site. Episode 1 made its return in revamped form, and that marks the beginning of new "airings" of the entire series. Longtime readers might notice some subtle updates and corrections that have been made. Let me tell you, there is very little more frustrating to me as a writer than coming across typos that have eluded me for EIGHT YEARS. Wow.

Reviewing that particular story is an eye-opener to me every time. It was very tentative when Lewis Smith wrote his original drafts back in 1995, and I was definitely very unsure of myself when I wrote this version in 2002. Lewis' work evolved considerably from that initial installment, to the point where he was ready to apply the lessons learned from ROJ to his own creations. He's done that amazingly, as both Gunmetal Black and Seven Spheres Legend can attest. I finally feel confident enough in my own characters that I am ready to do the same thing now, and you've been witnessing some of that evolution happen on this very blog.

I have stated in the past that launching the sequel "New Return of Jetman" series was something of a mistake on my part. I still sort of think that. ROJ tied up very neatly, and there was no real need to do any kind of follow-up. However, I was caught up in the spirit of the story in 2003, and proposed some things to keep that spirit alive after the main story was finished. That stuff became the main thrust of NROJ because it seemed a shame to let it go to waste.

When I began NROJ in 2005, I only envisioned it going on for a year. I had no idea the rollercoaster ride of life that was about to happen to me, and I couldn't have imagined the second series would still be sitting unfinished in 2010. There have been many, many times during the intervening years where I viewed NROJ as a chore and a burden. In fact, the only reason I continued it at all was because I had made it available to the public and therefore felt committed to reaching the end. Otherwise, I would have felt like I cheated everyone that cared about those characters.

So I kept working on NROJ even when I'd just have rather forgotten the whole deal, and something profoundly odd happened. One of my goals in tackling the first series on my own was to prepare myself to write other things. I never felt like I achieved that particular goal, and that was a major disappointment. As I worked on NROJ, sometimes under protest, I found that pushing myself led me to create new and different ideas - ideas that, while building from the experience, were drifting further and further away from writing about a Japanese superhero team.

During the last year or so, I finally realized that the struggles in piecing together NROJ were inadvertently laying the foundation to tell new and different stories when this project was over. It was liberating to throw aside the fear that I was a one-trick pony only capable of compelling people with a fan-made sentai that wasn't even my creation in the first place. I could do my own thing, and have it be totally mine. The Captain Satellite/My World profiles and "Shelly's Story" are examples of that.

"New Return of Jetman" is still not quite finished, but that conclusion is definitely in sight now. And honestly, even if the series was unnecessary from a dramatic point-of-view, it does do a lot of novel things, and addresses some weaknesses I perceived in the first series. I mean, Dirk Dixon alone might be one of my greatest ideas ever, and he works best in the context of this story.

I look back on the last 15 years, and it really sometimes is about the little things. I think I remember the collaboration between Lewis and I on ROJ better than anything else from 1995. Would it have been the same if he had chosen the obvious route and created his Jetman sequel as a starring vehicle for the TV characters, rather than his own original heroes? Would we have sustained interest without his lightning in a bottle creation of Green Wyvern? Would I even be writing any kind of fiction if Lewis hadn't essentially and very generously handed me the keys to his story in 2001 and let me drive it around to see where it took me?

I don't have any answers to those questions, and thankfully, I won't need to find them.

If you haven't tried it yet, now is as good a time as any to check out Return of Jetman. You can still get in the ground floor of this relaunch and experience it like it was new. Even though it is far from perfection, I am still quite proud of the work everyone has put into it.

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