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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Skye, from Becoming Hero--Character Interview

I've never gone to a superhero's house before. I wish I had--someone's living space tells you a lot about them, and I would've loved to meet Natasha's mom. Oh well. Ding-dong, goes the doorbell by a little screen door that looks like it was installed in the 80s, and then the door opens and there's a tiny middle-aged Japanese-American woman in--

"Is that your rapper outfit?" I joke.

She takes off the beanie and adjusts the sagging pants. She's not joking. "Mmhm. You've caught me recording. Can I help you?"

"I was actually here to talk to Skye--I'm a volunteer with his mentorship program at school. But now, wow, I just have so many questions!"

"Well, rapping's not my day job. I've been doing some small local shows and youtube MVs. Come on in, I'll call Skye."

I don't know what I expected--it's just a cream-carpet living room and a vinyl kitchen in here--but for some reason I'm surprised. I brush my fingertips across the eggshell-blue walls and the simple picture frames as the little woman scurries ahead of me to shut off the base-heavy beat blaring from the master bedroom down the hall.

"Skye, you've got company!" she calls. To me, "Can I get you something, miss?"

She's back in seconds, before I can answer, and trailing behind her shuffles a teenager in jeans with torn edges--edges worn to a fray not by pretentious Abercrombe fakery, but by real overuse. Skye's eyes glint curiously at me.

"Skye, get the tea box," says my hostess.

"Thank-you so much," I say, "but actually I was going to take Skye out for our volunteering activity, and--"

"One cup of tea won't make you late," she says. Skye's already sliding across the vinyl on his socks, snatching the box off the counter without stopping as he skids over to me. I take out a white "momo" tea.

"Good choice," he says. "Mom won't let you leave until you have tea. I think she's trying to take over the world by forcing nanobots into everyone--through tea."

"Skye!" Mother scolds.

Skye grins. He takes the kettle from his mom and taps her shoulder. "Aren't you trying to finish that hook before Dad comes home? Lemme get this."

"I am, and thank-you, but--well, just make sure you don't steep it too long, or it'll--"

"Mom, it's putting a bag in hot water. I think I can figure out tea."

"I don't know, you did put the laundry in the dishwasher yesterday."

"Mom!" He looks at me, then back at her. "That's embarrassing!"

"So is a son who interrupts when I'm talking." She stretches way up to ruffle his hair. His glowering's as fake as her scolding, and they both laugh at her awkward reach. "So tall," she says as she disappears down the hall again. The beat starts up, and Skye hides the kettle and mouths at me to sneak out the door.

"We can't really talk here," he says when we're outside. He's still hopping on one foot to get his shoe on. "My parents don't know still. About me."

"Your mom seems nice."

"Sorry, she's taken," he says. "She's out of your league."

"Dude, I'm like thirty years younger than her!" I protest as he swings open my car door like he owns it.

"Ha! Don't be hurt, she's out of my Dad's league too. Hey, where we going?"

"Wherever you want."

"You look weirder than I thought you would."

"Thanks," I say. This is normal. My interviewees all know me before they see me, and their brains usually fill in some kind of false memory about an appointment or an interview, or, like in Natasha's case, a therapist. It's my dimension-traveling superpower: they'll never need an explanation about me.

"You're welcome," Skye says. "I hate it when people take weird like it's an insult. I'm weird, too."

"What's weird about you?"

"Turn right up here," he says, pointing at the road. "I guess the way I talk. I'm funny in like a stupid way."

"You think you're stupid?"

"No, I'm funny, in a stupid way. There's a bunch of words in the middle that you missed there, lady."

I'm not sure how to respond to that.

"I'm not sure how to respond to that," I say.

"It's cool. Don't you have, like, a bunch of questions to ask me? Gimme a hard one."

"Sure." I'm feeling mean. "Are your parents fighting?"

"Why you keep asking about my parents? No my parents aren't fighting. They're just hiding a lot from each other right now. My mom's in the middle of recording a song for my dad's birthday, and he's in the middle of planning her dream-vacation to Spain 'cuz she's always wanted to go there, and apparently the thing he wants for his birthday is her smile." Skye grins. "I wish they were fighting--then maybe I could go to Spain instead."

"Really? You wish they were fighting?"

"Nah, just a little." He sees the weird look on my face and explains. "I'm thankful they're cool with each other and all, don't get me wrong, but if they're always on each others' side about everything, and it's just them and me in the house. My dad's head is too big. He doesn't need Mom helping him when I'm in trouble. He's Army," he adds, as if that explains everything. "You know what I really wish, though--left, left!"

We swerve. "Tell me earlier next time!"

"I'll try. Anyway, I really wish I had a sibling. Brother, sister, I don't care."

"Too much pressure as an only child?"

"We call it 'attention,' not pressure. I mean, I don't even know how I'm gonna keep hiding my superhero job. But I want a bro or a sis to have a bro or a sis, not cuz of my parents. I like my parents. But Natasha has five siblings, and she grew up literally never alone. That sounds so cool!"

"Doesn't it also sound a little noisy?"

"I guess, if you're introverted or whatever. Sounds awesome to me."

"Me too, but you must know that makes you weird."

"I know, right? Pull over here."

I do, and we find a lake surrounded by sparse woods and a mulch running track. The track's choked with weeds.

"Check out how the sun hits the water. You can tell it's clean 'cuz it comes off bluish-clear, right? Natasha comes here sometimes. She pointed that out." He picks up a stone and skips it. "I'm not supposed to be here when she's here, she said. Like I'm supposed to read her mind and know when she's here. I mean, I try to avoid bothering her, but it's a cool spot. How's she gonna show it to me and then tell me not to show up?"

"But you're trying to give her space, right."

"Yeah, I mean, she doesn't own this lake though. And sometimes she's all happy if I show up by accident, and then she punches me and tells me to get, and that's confusing, you know?"

"I'd just go by what she says literally and ignore all the other mixed signals. It'd be unfair of her to expect you to read her mind, and you'll go crazy if you try."

"That's what my dad said." He throws another rock. This one goes PLUMPK! and sinks. "Mom says I need to learn to read between the lines, and that Natasha totally likes me. Like, like likes me. Mom's cool, but then there's consent and stuff. You know, how, like, consent's gotta be expressed? You can't assume it. I feel like that should work with everything."

"Aren't you like, fifteen? What's got you thinking about consent and communication and stuff like that?"

"BB spends a lot of time on tumblr. And when she's not, she's arguing with Natasha about what she reads there. I overhear stuff." He shrugs, and flashes a beautiful smile. "You know, we've just been, like, talking. Wasn't this supposed to be like a formal interview or something?"

"I don't mind letting an interview take its own natural path. But we can change it up. How'd you decide to become a superhero?"

He bursts into a long belly laugh. "Ha! Decide? I didn't decide! Robotman drafted me! Ha, decide. Who decides to become a superhero?"

"I think Robotman did."

"Well, Robotman's a real hero. Most of us just got stuck in crap too bad to ignore without fighting back."

"Mmm, but you could decide to stop helping people once you've solved that crap."

"I guess, yeah, but you can't go back once you're in. It'd be boring."

"You really don't have good insight into your own heroism, do you."

"Are you kidding? I'm totally cool. But I'm not like Robotman, or like Natasha, out looking for ways to save everybody from everything. She's crazy." He smiles distantly as he says this, and something occurs to me. 

"You keep talking about your friends and family, more than you talk about yourself, and more than anyone I've interviewed you just keep bringing it back to them. Are the Guardians, maybe, your brothers and sisters? Are they maybe the reason you run around in tights?"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, I don't wear tights, I wear tight-fitting armor, and the ladies would revolt if I didn't." He points finger-guns at me and laughs. "No, maybe you're right. I dunno. It's true, I love seeing my teammates. I guess if we did ballet or sewing instead of superhero stuff I'd probably stick around." He glances around suddenly. "I hope Mark didn't hear that. Mark!" he yells. "I don't want to ballet with you!"

No response. Some ducks quack.

"Mark's my best friend. Sometimes he creeps up on people. It's totally weird. Cool, but weird." He raises his voice again. "You're makin' me look crazy, Mark!"

I try skipping a rock, too. "So what happens if a bad guy wins, and those friends die?"

"Oh, I'd straight up kill him." Skye doesn't hesitate. "Not even playing. I mean, I'm supposed to try to understand, and forgive, and justice, and so on, and BB and Robotman would hold me to that, but…"

"But if they're not around?"

"Robotman's like our conscience. I'd try. I'd get to know the killer before…I guess. I don't know if I'd succeed without our conscience, though." He scowls. "Anyway, don't murderers deserve to die?"

"I think so, but--"

"Well there you go."

"But whose job is it to make sure they're murderers? Whose job is it to kill them? You think that's your job?"

"No. I'm not crazy. But I'm gonna stop you right now, because the sun's going down and this is depression city, right here. Next you're gonna ask me something sad about my parents, and I'm just not gonna talk about that right now. Let's go."

"Sorry," I say as we trek back to the car.

"It's okay. Just buggy. As in, that thought bugged me, and the air's buggy with mosquitoes. Bugs."

We talk about rap music and crunchy sushi rolls on the way back, and as I drop him off at home it's dark, I'm tired, and we're both a bit bummed out. We both know people do die in his line of work.

He just doesn't know how soon.

Learn more about Skye when his comic comes out in May! There will be a few limited edition physical prints, and of course it'll also be available for free online at becominghero.ninja. Head over there now, or follow our progress on twitter @petr3pan! To read another character interview, from another Becoming Hero protag, click here


  1. woah, nice pic! love your art style. looking forward to the comic!!!