Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Dresden and Spider-Man

My latest book is Side Jobs by Jim Butcher. I thought I had read all the books in the Dresden Files series, but then realized there was this too - a compilation of short stories about events in Dresden's life that take place between the books of the series.

In a 2004 interview with Jim Butcher, he says that his inspiration for the character of Harry Dresden was Peter Parker ... Spider-man was one of my favorite comics as a kid and I really like the movies too, so this made me smile :) ....

Harry Dresden is such a fantastic anti-hero in the series. He is both humorous and has a certain charming nature that endears him to readers. What inspired you to make him this way?

Jim Butcher: A deep and abiding admiration for the character of Peter Parker, by and large. Petey has always been a complex and admirable hero-character -- and is somewhat unique among comic book characters in that he has a very real, complex, and believable personality which exists wholly within the character of Peter Parker and is not at all dependent upon his sideline as the Amazing Spider Man. The things that make Peter a hero are not his superpowers or his combat record with the Hulk -- what makes SpiderMan a hero is that Peter Parker is dedicated to what he believes and refuses to abandon his fellow human beings when they are in danger or need. Peter exemplifies the very best kind of hero -- the man of conscience who would rather be at home eating pizza, but who cannot make the moral sacrifice of ignoring the need of his fellow human beings.

Poor Peter, he gets beat to crap all the time, too -- not just physically, but in mental and emotional senses as well. If all the heroes in NYC get together and fight some bad guy, when the fight is over you're bound to see Peter Parker walking up to Reed Richards and saying, "Hey, um. My costume got torn to shreds, pretty much, and my wallet is gone. Can I borrow cab fare?" "No need!" booms some other enthusiastic hero. "I'll drop you at your place. Where to?" "Uh, yeah," Peter will be forced to say. "Thanks there, Iron Man, but see, I sort of have this thing about my secret identity, where IT'S A SECRET. So I really can't take you up on that offer." The poor guy is far more than human, is an admirable hero, but he still gets to suffer the little indignities and pains that life has to offer. He's as human as the rest of us, as vulnerable as the rest of us in many ways, and because he is he becomes a person who you can identify with and like.

It's hardly a new device, the working-man hero. Bruce Willis did it as John McClane in the movie Die Hard, for instance. While he was a heroic character setting out to accomplish heroic deeds, he still started off the night with bare feet. He still got covered in cuts and bruises. He was terrified when his life was in danger and was not afraid to acknowledge it -- and that vulnerability is what made the character appeal to so many viewers. A hero, sure. But he's also a human being.

I wanted to use that same basic theme for my wizard protagonist, and so I designed Harry to be someone who is basically your average urbanite male. He has to pay his bills, feed his cat, go to work, worry about taxes, take showers and cook meals without the benefit of electricity and so on. Sure, he has access to Phenomenal Cosmic Powers, but his powers don't define who and what he is. First and foremost, I wanted Harry to be a human being -- to make mistakes, to regret bad choices, to struggle to set things right where they need righting and to learn from his disasters and grow as a person. I wanted Harry to be the sort of person who, even if he didn't HAVE any powers, would still be right there in the midst of things regardless, because he's doing what he believes is right. I want the reader to get the sense that Harry is a guy who could live a couple of doors down in their neighborhood, and who would probably be a polite and amusing guest if you had him over to dinner.


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