Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Fuzzy Edges

A little while ago, a fan asked me what Luther Strode was actually capable of, which I answered.

Which lead to this:

Now, I'm glad that people are invested in the character, but it does make me aware that I should have given a caveat, one that is implicit to a writer but should probably be made explicit when you answer questions like that.

Which is this: Character abilities are fuzzy around the edges.

For instance, you know what, say, Jack Bauer, Rambo, and Jason Bourne all have in common?

They're superhuman.

No, they are. No one alive can do what they do the way that they do it.

But you probably don't think of them as superhuman. They're just....heroic. Action movie stuff. And if they started going beyond the fuzzy limits of that, it's going to seem wrong to you. You'd accept, probably, them getting shot in the shoulder and then heroically winning a fistfight against the bad guy. You would not accept them having a greande explode in their pants and then tear the bad guy's head off with their barehands.

Now, Luther is explicitly superhuman. So tearing a bad guy's head off is fair game. But you probably would look askance at him surviving the grenade thing.

When I answered those questions about Strode, the answers I gave are indeed the rules of thumb I use when I write the books. Luther is about twice as strong and twice as fast as the peak human ability*, his senses are about twice as sharp, and then there's the healing, the ability to see weak points, and the ability to read body language.

The key phrase you should be focusing on there is 'rule of thumb' because, as I said, these abilities are fuzzy. I have a sense of what is an action Luther is capable of  and what he isn't.  And the point of knowing those things is to tell a story with the kind of mood and world we want.

What I don't do is say, Marvel Handbook style, that Luther is capable of lifting x weight, and then calculate the physics involved. Getting back to my Jack Bauer et al thing, the writers there did the same thing - they have a set of things that those characters are capable of that feel right and real for the world that they exist in.

Which gives us limits that, hopefully, don't strain suspension of disbelief so far. But at the end of the day, that's there to service a story and not create a mathematically precise fight simulator. Sorry.

If you're wondering, Luther is not the strongest, fastest or quickest person in the Luther Strode world, but you're still not going to see people throwing cars at each other.

*Which, incidentally, is pretty fucking strong and pretty fucking fast - that's being able to run at 70 mph and lift a thousand plus pounds over his head or squat a ton is way more powerful than most people think it is. we just don't have a real context for how fast say Usain Bolt really is.


  1. How can he "dance between bullets" reading off body language? That doesn't explain how the Librarian looked at a bullet coming straight for his head (within 10 feet) and he simply moved his head.

    Nor does throwing a soda machine 60 feet at high speeds give any sense of twice a peak human because that's an inaccurate description. How much do they weigh? It would take much more strength in order for him to do that.

    Breaking out of Binders chains is a core strength feat that 1.5 tons couldn't break..

    Slamming jack into the earth creating a fuckin crater in the process doesn't imply 1.5 ton strength nor does punching a guys head off.

    It's just odd how on panel feats don't measure up to your statistics but I'll always love Luther and I'm not judging or harassing you by any means, I'm just a confused fan. Sorry for that thread too..

    1. Nailed it on the head.
      I agree with this. Before talking of the character, we (I mean a large group of forum nerds) agree Luther was by feats more around 5-10 tons, and Mach 2+. There is a drawn feat of Luther tackling Jack, in it we see what clearly looks like 2 sound barriers broken as well mass derbies (Chairs, Concrete, ect) caught in the wake of the speed!
      I do not get it!?

    2. Eh, I imagine this won't make anyone happy, so you may want to bail out here.

      You how Jack's eyes do that thing? The glow light smoke thing.

      His eyes aren't literally doing that.

      It's a dramatic effect, because that's how we do the book. Just like, for instance, the bits where Frank Miller draws Batman in DKR looking like he's nine feet tall and thousand pounds. At some level, you should know that Bruce Wayne isn't meant to be that big.

      So like Jack's eyes and such, if you're looking at some of the effects Tradd and I use to illustrate the power and speed as something meant to be literally true.

      It's more like, say, when Pai Mei stands on the sword The Bride is holding in mid air in Kill Bill, or when some of the Crazy 88 spurt more blood than a human body contains.

      Those are narrative and stylistic conceits.

      Because, as I mentioned, the books aren't designed to be used as gamebooks. They just aren't.

      Like I said, for you guy's purposes, I am aware this is not a satisfying answer.

      Now having said that, there is an internal logic here that's maybe not apparent that applies to some of this stuff (and I do think about this stuff when I write, just not the way you'd like)

      Tradd mentioned Luther being Karnak plus Sabertooth (the latter of whom, because I am old, is stronger than a human but short of the 5 - 10 ton range) and the important bit there is Karnak.

      One of Luther's abilities is meatvision, and what meatvision is meant to represent is Luther's innate understanding of the human body and, in particular, the weak points. That's the point of some of the crap the Librarian is babbling and why Luther's transformation is dehumanizing - he literally always sees how to kill everyone he sees.

      Which means with the internal logic of the book, his ability to tear people apart isn't JUST his strenght - it's also knowledge of how to do. It only takes a couple of pounds of force to break a knee, if you hit it right. You can break your ribs sneezing.

      So anything you see Luther wrecking someone, that's part of what's at play.

      As for some other stuff - he was able to break those chains for two reasons: one (which is relevant to the forums) is that he got enough rage and adrenaline going to go beyond his regular limits. The other is that those chains and bonds are being weakened by the fire around him.

      But throwing the soda machine at Jack and the craters. They're just there because they're cool and didn't violate my sense of what's appropriate for Luther.


    3. "Not meant to be literally true" above there.

    4. Thank you for the clarifications Justin. I see and understand everything you're talking about and I'm truly sorry that that thread was even made, we just thought (from a debating point) that Luther was much different but I'm glad we all know the truth about him.

      Your creativity is undeniably amazing due to the fact you brought all of those components together and I tip my hat to you sir, thank you for this.

    5. Thank you for taking any time to address this. I know I felt undo anger for being tagged by others who did the "You were full of crap all along" deal, and then felt anger at feeling like a ding bat for allowing myself over hyping them more than they were. I was saying very crappy things about ya in that thread, and I apologize. I pretty much had a inexcusable hissy fit. So sorry about that.
      That said, I still think Luther strode Series is in the top 3 of my favorites along with Spawn, and Ultimates. Not sure how you rate those, but those are insane high on my list.
      Thanks again for taking anytime to adress anything at all. Sorry again.

  2. BTW, I still love the series. Just from a nerd debating point, its confusing, and disappointing.

  3. I wouldn't worry too much what a bunch of over zealous, nerd stereotypes have to say about your work, sir.

    It just seems to me that they can't appreciate your work for what it is - the Raid: Redemption on steroids (which is truly a great thing to behold) and have this version of your story that they've made up in their heads and set in stone, where Luthor is an unbeatable juggernaut of destruction (well, he's not unbeatable at least).

    I think these sorts of people need to wake up and start appreciating the fine series you've created and not what they think your series should be. Those people who would go out of their way to personally insult you over this whole thing really don't deserve the polite response you've given them.

    I'm sorry you had to experience such a gross misinterpretation of your characters, Mr Jordan and I know the next volume of Luthor Strode's story will continue to be as awesome as it already has been. Hopefully a (very small part) of it's fanbase can remove the stick from their behind and just enjoy the story instead of only liking it because they want Luthor to beat Batman in a fight.

    1. I didnt disband Luther or call JJ anything, I was just simply getting the answer that everyone on CV wanted to know. Luther is my favorite character as of now and I have nothing but respect for Justin Jordan.

    2. people do not like to have a character who by Art and illustration clearly better than what is being stated. Its contradicting and for nerds like us on CV, a bit confusing. We want to know why said character is drawn better than he is being represented here. Honestly I felt let down myself on Luther being lower than say Batman or Captain america. What a downer.

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    1. After re reading what you wrote, I think I understand where you’re coming from now. I been thinking too literal on what you stated.
      You made a great series, I still cannot wait for the next one.
      Thanks for taking the time at all to address anything for the fans.

  5. As a member of comicvine I would like to apologize to you for that thread.....Believe it or not but there are actually a lot of fans on comicvine for Luther Strode who don't care about how powerful Luther is. I haven't personally read your Luther Strode stuff (all though I did enjoy your run on deathstroke, I wish it never got canceled...) all though I have seen it get talked a lot on the forums their.Also thank you for the polite response you gave us and taking your time with it. Keep up the awesome work!