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The skeletal bird on the album cover of El-P’s Cancer 4 Cure was originally designed for him by artist Alexander Calder and has since become, in El’s own words, “a representation of who I am.” The same bird also appears on the cover of his last studio album, 2007’s I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, and the contrast between the two depictions is highly suggestive of a transformation in El-P himself. Initially a symbol of luminous expansion—a pulse of light refracted through El’s sigil, reminding the void of a time before universal heat death—the bird was a Phoenix dead and reborn forever, the God Particle of a never-ending Big Bang. I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead was a Promethean Icarus aiming for the heights of total self-expression: an exercise in unbridled play.

Cancer 4 Cure, on the other hand, strips El-P’s career (nearly two decades in the making) down to its radiant core, polishing his technique and cementing his sound until there’s no room to maneuver—until he has reached and defined his own limitations. But that’s not enough for El. Having amassed, constructed, and refined his musical identity, he does what any great artist would: he smashes it to pieces and makes something better from the shards. Cancer 4 Cure is El-P’s reaching the limits of his own identity only to realize that the glass ceiling can be broken and reworked into whatever the fuck he wants. If I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead was an expansion of self, then Cancer 4 Cure is the dismantling and subsequent reorganization of that self—a self that knows better than to try to capture its entirety in one production and, instead, aims to distill and organize its fragments into a flexibly intelligible refraction of the Self: of genius.

Somewhere in-between I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead and Cancer 4 Cure, El-P grew up. His perspective elevated, he exudes a confidence previously assumed but unrealized: a security in his vision that allows but in no way clamors for exceptionality, nor pure expression, but somewhere comfortably and malleably in the middle. This is El-P as truly not giving a shit what listeners think, and as a result it’s his least insecure, most accessible production to date. There are no rules, just what sounds good.

R.A.P. music is El-P exceeding the limitations of himself. With Killer Mike’s syrupy vocals, affable swag, and machine-gun flow, El’s able to take his productions to a whole new level. There’s a bounce to the beats, a nightclub humidity echoing sweat, booze, and body heat. It’s a night of some depravity, some regrets, of hazy memories and life-changing moments, alternating between shit-wasted and cross-faded.

This is Kanye West by way of Brooklyn, Jay-Z come The Blueprint 4, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross on the soundtrack to a David Fincher Notorious B.I.G. I draw the comparison to Kanye and Jay-Z for another reason: where Watch the Throne presented itself as the new gold standard for future rap collaborations, R.A.P. Music actually is. El comes into R.A.P. Music as part of Mike’s team, purely on production (aside from featuring on “Butane”), allowing him to tailor the album’s sound to Mike and give the production a cohesive polish.

And yet, there’s never the feeling that El’s personality is getting lost in the shuffle from soulful crooning to dub-step wobble. If anything, the extent to which the album remains definitively El is a puzzling testament to his genius. How can it simultaneously be a perfect Killer Mike album and a perfect El-P album when the very structure of the album goes to show just how stylistically different the two artists are? But that’s the magic of El-P. There’s El-P(roducto), the producer, and then there’s El-P, the rapper, and Jaime Meline has spent the last two decades mastering both roles, together and apart. His in-depth knowledge of both roles allows him to play one to the maximum benefit of the other, even if he’s not the one playing that other role.

Selina Kyle opens up an “acquisitions firm” in Gotham’s East End.

“Bradley, Robinson, & Kyle Acquisitions”: Selina Kyle, Holly Robinson, Kitrina Falcone, and Slam Bradley.

They are “not thieves or P.I.s; [they] just procure whatever needs procuring.” The series itself is all about Selina regaining everything she’s ever lost: edge, finesse, fun, sexuality, love, family, power, and, ultimately, freedom. Morally ambiguous agency, globetrotting adventures; Selina’s relationships with The Crow and The Blonde; her and Kitrina’s shared Falcone heritage; reunions with her sister, Maggie, and her daughter, Helena; Selina’s taking control of and uniting the Three Families in Italy; the establishment of an international thieves guild; and her eventual marriage to The Blonde.

The second season would feature Selina as a virtual queen, ruling the Italian underworld in the most self-serving way possible. When her scheme stands fully revealed, she leaves The Blonde with divorce papers, moving her cat agency/thieves guild to The Crow’s country. She assists him in the final stages of his political coup in exchange for asylum.

Eventually, The Blonde launches an all out attack against Selina’s people. Slam is gravely injured. The Blond takes Helena, accusing Selina of having taken his daughter away. Selina and her surviving cat girls go on the attack, taking the fight to Italy. Kill Bill-style, they decimate the entire Italian Mafia and it’s top lieutenants to get to The Blond. In the end Selina decides not to kill him but Kitrina does. After this Selina decides to return to Gotham with Slam and Holly. Kitrina and the Italian Catwoman stay behind, assuming control of the mafia for themselves.

– Catwoman (Selina Kyle)
– Catling (Holly Robinson)
– Kittyhawk (Kitrina Falcone)
– Slam Bradley

– Calico (Orabella Palladino)

– The Blonde
– Louisa Falcone

– Magpie (Leticia Vasco)
– The Crow (Vincente Barbosa)

By Quinn Hopkins

Alan Scott, locomotive engineer/train operator, is the sole survivor of a train derailment. Moments before the crash, the train was struck with what appears to be a meteor. It is, in fact, The Starheart, an otherworldly gem containing the spiritual fragments of The Twelve Facets of Gemworld–the legendary creators of that world. The resulting explosion destroyed the Starheart, forcing the fragments to seek a new host. They chose Alan Scott. In the blink of an eye, he found himself transported to the mysterious land of Gemworld where he was discovered and rescued from the train wreckage by a young woman–who he would later discover was actually another survivor from the crash–Amy Winston, AKA Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld.

Alan Scott (The Lantern)
Amy Winston (Amethyst)
Jennifer Winston (Jade)
Todd Winston (Obsidian)

By Quinn Hopkins

Between Winick’s “Under the Hood” and its film adaptation, Grant Morrison’s “Revenge of the Red Hood” storyline in Batman and Robin, and Winick’s “Lost Days” mini-series, a Red Hood series has been a long time coming. Jason is an extremely compelling character, he has a sizeable fan base, and he’s a badass anti-hero with twin red pistols, just waiting to take back the anti-hero niche in market (he’s Daredevil, the Punisher, Wolverine, Daken, and Venom rolled up into one guy who was trained by the goddamned BATMAN).

When DC came out with The New 52, Red Hood should have been a title selling at least 90k. Instead, we get Red Hood and the Outlaws, debuting at a respectable 65k but now down to 39k. Instead of a book bordering on Batman-meets-Boondock Saints, we got a book so contrary to the highlights of Jason’s character—ancient magic zombie sensei, say what?—that it really feels like it could have been about…anyone.

It’s not bad—39,000 people might even say it’s good—but that doesn’t change the fact that it should have been great. It should and could have been a breakout hit: the birth of a new franchise in its own right.

My intent is not to discredit the current creative team but to suggest a more financially profitable and hagiologically rewarding alternative.

First and foremost, Jason is a redhead. Bruce is WASPy, Grayson is Romani, and Tim is also pretty WASPy, and it all adds up to every Robin having black hair. Jason having red/blonde hair works perfectly to signal him as something slightly apart (the red headed step-child) and the fact that he used to dye it black to look more like Grayson just works so well with his character and his relationship with Bruce that I hate to see it forgotten. Then there’s the matter of his being the Red Hood and all, so his red hair works there, as well—almost like a predetermination of his character arc. The red also works well with the fact that the Joker, his pater mortis, beat his brains out—and the fact that only Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, another redhead, received equally harsh treatment. The Joker hates redheads?

Also, Todd is an Irish surname; so let’s take advantage of that by making Jason not just kind of Irish but extremely Irish: his father was first generation Irish-American and most of his extended family is still located in Ireland. This way, he has a place to build something for himself outside of Gotham while retaining a sense of personal history—for example, his ancestor, “The Flying Todd”, a Robin Hood-esque who mounted a private war against corrupt landlords during the Great Famine.

Jason could never work in Gotham, not with Batman around, and for him to work outside of Gotham it would have to be somewhere low key. Ireland is a good starting point and home base, but his adventures will take him global.

As far as his mission statement is concerned, Jason will have taken the next natural step in his development. Jason, the child soldier raised from the dead, will shift his concerns from the egotistical (proving his methods to the Bat-Family) to the universal (allowing his methods to speak for themselves). No longer a spirit of his own vengeance, he will embrace his role as a protector of the world’s innocents, staining his hands with blood so they won’t have to.

Batman doesn’t kill because he values life too much. The Red Hood does kill because he values innocence even more. The bigger sacrifice, in Jason’s mind, is to kill and live with the burden. The Red Hood is the result of Batman’s own selfish morality—had Bruce been willing to get his hands dirty, Jason never would’ve needed to. But the mark requires its Cain, and since Bruce wouldn’t carry the burden, it was passed down the line to Jason. Jason embraces the sin-stained mantle of the Red Hood. He’s happy to consider himself Life’s violent “catcher in the rye.”

Batman couldn’t prevent the Red Hood, but the Red Hood could have prevented Batman.

The Red Hood kills the killers.

————————————————————————————————————-

The series would pick up right where Morrison left it. During the chaos of Professor Pyg’s escape from Blackgate Prison, Jason will also have escaped. He will have returned to the sewers—as in Battle for the Cowl—emptying one of his previous bases before hitting the road. When the series opens, Jason will already be operating in South America, tracking down a lead to the rogue Flamingo. Jason has vowed to rid the world of its deadliest and most sadistic killers. He’s decided to let The Joker be Batman’s problem, letting the responsibility of each victim fall squarely on Batman, while employing his own methods to more effective ends around the world.

The major themes of the series will be trace—the inability to escape the past entirely, no matter how many bodies you bury it beneath; revenge versus retribution—acting out of self-interest or out of interest for the greater good; and the dynamic of nature versus nurture—can man be anything more than the product of his circumstances?

————————————————————————————————————-

  • THE RED HOOD: Jason Todd
  • SCARLET: Sasha
  • REVEILLON:
  • BLUE BOOK:

Jason Todd* = Red Hood** = Red Cap = Holden Caulfield/A Catcher in the Rye
(* = Fox  [“Flying Todd” = Flying Fox = Bat Species = Bat Family])
(** = Red Riding Hood)

The Red Hood #1
“Best Served Cold”

By Quinn Hopkins

Page One

1/ A young Jason (red hair) stealing the tires from the Bat-Mobile and Batman catching him doing it.

CAPTION: Jason Todd. Orphan.

CAPTION: Bruce Wayne. Batman.

2/ In the Bat-Cave, Batman (sans cowl) in the middle of training Jason.

CAPTION: A new world.

3/ Jason as Robin–his hair now black, except for a single red streak.

CAPTION: A new way.

CAPTION: Robin.

4/ The Joker swinging a bloody crowbar, from Jason’s POV. Black and White, except for the blood and Joker’s green hair.

CAPTION: The Joker.

5/ Batman cradling Jason’s body.

CAPTION: A Death in the Family.

6/ Black.

Page Two

1/ Green.

OFF-PANEL VOICE: Rise.

2/ Jason rising up from the Lazarus Pit, as if waking from a nightmare. Ra’s al Ghul and Talia stand over him, looking down.

Jason’s hair is now back to red, but the previous streak is now Lazarus green.

CAPTION: Rebirth.

3/ Jason training with Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins. Directly mimics the panel of him training with Bruce.

CAPTION: A new life.

4/ Ra’s sitting on a throne. Talia is to his left. Jason, in LoA gear, to his right.

CAPTION: His Red Right Hand.

5/ Talia pushes Jason off a cliff’s edge. Her words/speech balloon follows him as he falls.

TALIA: Remember.

6/ Jason, in his gear from Under the Hood, looks up at the Gotham skyline from the river’s edge/harbor.

CAPTION: Gotham.

Page Three

1/ Jason, beating the Joker with a crowbar. Again, the panel is in black and white, except for the red of Jason’s hood/helmet and the blood, and the green of The Joker’s hair and Jason’s eyes.

CAPTION: Revenge.

2/ Crime Alley. Batman punches Jason to the ground, cop lights in the background getting nearer.

CAPTION: Retribution.

3/ Jason and Sasha from Morrison’s arc, staring down Batman (Grayson) and Robin (Damian).

CAPTION: Return.

4/ Close-up: A letter being held in Batman’s hand (his thumb beneath the last words). The letter reads: “To Batman, I leave the Joker. Sincerely, Jason.”

CAPTION: Resignation.

5/ Jason in his new costume, riding on a motorcycle on a long stretch of highway in Mexico.

CAPTION: Reboot.

6/ A series of photos being taken by Jason of a priest with a young boy as they enter a cathedral.

CAPTION: Redefine.

Page Four

A figure in monk’s robes–the hood is red, as are his slightly visible boots–standing in front of the Cathedral doors. He’s in the middle of posting up a wanted sign of the priest (Wanted: Dead, not Alive)–a la Martin Luther.

TITLE PAGE:

The Red Hood
“Best Served Cold”

Page Five

1/ Interior of cathedral. Priest is in the middle of a prayer. We see the church from behind the pew (from over the priest’s shoulder). Three knocks at the door interrupt him mid-speech.

PRIEST: Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in–

SFX: Knock kock knock!

2/ The front doors swing open. A silhouetted figure in robes and a hood stands in the open doorway, the sun shining in from behind him.

PRIEST: –peace…

3/ The doors close behind him. We see the figure is wearing priestly robes, his face covered by the hood.

4/ Close up on red combat boots (like the Pope’s red slippers, yo).

5/ Close up: we see the lower half of the figure’s face. He’s smirking. His left hand is at his hood, readying to remove it.

6/ Close up: from his right sleeve, the tip of a red gun emerges.

Page Six and Seven

Double-page spread.

1/ The Red Hood stands revealed. Between his helmet and the priestly robes, it’s as if the Devil just entered the church. His right hand is raised, ruby red gun in hand, aimed at the priest.

SFX: Click

RED HOOD: Amen.

2/ Jason pulls the trigger.

SFX: Blam!

3/ Close up of priest’s face, a bullet hole in-between his eyes. His eyes are rolling back. Behind him a stained glass window of the Virgin Mary and Christ shatters.

“Welcome to the Jungle.”

— Ted “Wildcat” Grant

Ted Grant (Wildcat) as former Meta-Weight champion, Casino owner, and owner/host of Meta-Martial Arts Presents. His illegitimate son, Tomas Bronson Ramirez (Tomcat), arrives on the Las Vegas MMA scene looking to take the title for himself.

Cast:

TED GRANT (WILDCAT): Mid-40s, former Meta-Weight Champion of the World, and owner of the WILDCAT hotel-casino.

TOMAS BRONSON RAMIREZ (TOMCAT):

YOLANDA MONTEZ (DUENDE):

DANIEL TSANG (STRIKER Z):

ALIX HARROWER (BULLETEER):

SONNY SUMO:

SHILO NORMAN (MISTER MIRACLE):

EMERSON PRATT (DAMAGE):

Le Rouge et le Noir: La Danse Macabre & Die Fledermaus

By Quinn Hopkins

Batman and Death. When Bruce’s parents were gunned down in front of him he suffered his first ego death. The safety of Mother and Father—of the triadic family—was taken, the bonds snapped, pearls spilled on blood and concrete. The Red and The Black. No more pearly-white necklace—no more of mommy’s smile—no more mommy—no more love—no more light in the world, only the Red and the Black. Life in Sin or Life in Death, the boy chose an alternative.

Art, the axis of meaning and the meaningless, would be his parents’ departing gift: Alfred Pennyworth. The Bell. A vibration across time and space signifying something in the absence of anything: the cry of a bat, directing it through the darkest of night. A former stage-actor and secret agent, richly cultured, Alfred would serve as Bruce’s mentor in the theatric paradigm he assumed on that night in crime alley.

Years later, sitting bloodied and beaten in his Father’s armchair, Bruce faced his second ego death. Red and Black. He could let himself go, or he could ring the bell. The bell—music—art—the theater—Zorro: “Yes, father. I shall become a bat.

“Criminals are a terror. Hearts of the night. I must disguise my terror. Criminals are cowardly. A superstitious terrible omen. A cowardly lot. My disguise must strike terror. I must be black. Terrible. Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot. I must be a creature. I must be a creature of the night. Mommy’s dead. Daddy’s dead. Brucie’s dead.

– Grant Morrison, Arkham Asylum

Batman. Robin. The Joker. Catwoman. Pop-Crime! Bruce’s life was transformed into an operatic tour de force—an archetypal spectacle performed on the World’s Stage. Bruce had been through the ultimate childhood tragedy and survived, making everything afterwards seem comic by comparison. And so life became a game. A mission. A goal. In The Red of rage and revenge, Bruce became his obsession. He became his desire to become the ultimate man, beginning a years-long journey to become perfect in mind, body, and soul. He became The Best in revenge against Life’s worst: Bruce Wayne to Life’s Joe Chills.

But that wasn’t enough. The horror of Life wasn’t just that everything dies, but that some things kill. Life necessitates death, but life could never necessitate murder, not for Bruce. To right a wrong with another wrong—or to seek Red in response to Black—is to perpetuate the cycle and, in doing so, become it. Face to face with Joe Chill, he was forced to overcome his bloodlust—to show compassion. The Red was not enough. But the Black… Draped in the shadows of mythology and spectacle, Bruce showed Gotham darkness darker than its own: a darkness that, in rejecting the ego-satisfaction of lex talionis revenge, brought order into a world of chaos. The darkness could be good too.

If Bruce Wayne was the response the criminals of Gotham expected, Batman was the response they deserved.

An avatar of Death that doesn’t kill—that’s Batman.

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