Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Superhero Romance Novel character bio #11: Troubadour

A long-time supporting character in my Super-Hero romance series, Gabriel Hartley Hamlin AKA "Troubadour" is head of the Consortium’s Human Resources Department.  He oversees the hiring and firing of the members, as well as the finer points of their duties around the Lair.  He is tasked with the almost impossible job of keeping the other members from killing each other on an hourly basis.

Gabe is around 6’3”, and has jet black hair and baby blue eyes.  His precise age has never been given, but he appears to be in his mid to late 30s.  He has no birth certificate, no social security number and his fingerprints are not on file anywhere.  He’s been described as looking like “Don Draper” (the lead character in AMC’s “Mad Men”), dresses in a 60s style dark grey suit and always wears sunglasses.  In the past, he reportedly wore a multicolored “renaissance mistral” costume as his villainous attire, complete with tights and “little curly shoes.”  He seems to try to avoid discussing this outfit however, as it apparently embarrasses him to remember it.

Although it’s never been specifically stated in the series, Gabe is probably the most conventionally handsome of the members.  His matinee idol good looks have given him an above average confidence in himself, bordering on a smug charm.  He’s one of the few characters who never seems worried or concerned about anything, and his main personality trait is a relaxed sort of apathy.  He claims to not worry about anything, and that “the nice part of not caring about anything; no matter what happened, you could be perfectly happy” and that “not caring was the essence of cool.”  He also has a genuine love of women.  He claims that the women on the team are the only coworkers he can stand, although he didn’t specify if that was because he found them sexually attractive, or merely because he simply prefers spending time with women in general.  Personally, I think it's probably the latter.

Gabe has the ability to create and use musical instruments which have strange powers.  Whether this ability arises from himself or the instruments he creates has yet to be revealed though.  In the past, he’s used his creations to control peoples’ minds, alter the flow of time and to attempt to kill his enemies.  He is most famous for winning a Tony for a stage musical he wrote based on his own crimes, and then using his acceptance speech as a platform to announce that he was holding the audience hostage for ransom.  Additionally, every word out of his mouth is put to music, unless he is introducing or closing one of his songs.  Whether this is a personal choice or a part of his abilities has also not been revealed.

Unlike many of the Consortium members, Gabe seems to have had a fair bit of success in the field of villainy before switching sides to heroism.  He is described as having once singlehandedly held off the entire Freedom Squad super-team for a prolonged period.  Additionally, his music is allegedly quite popular among the general public, although since his specialty is mind-control, that’s probably not saying a lot.

Gabe seems content to let the madness unfold around him.  He very rarely gets involved in the fights and screaming matches his coworkers get into on a daily basis, unless he feels that someone has crossed a line.  Usually, the line seems to involve people yelling at women.  Other than that, Gabe seems content to sit through meetings and calmly sing his HR updates when called upon, which he fills with sarcastic barbs about his coworkers and jabs at their crazy lives.  His coworkers seem to enjoy his musical cliffnote versions of what has happened since the last meeting, oftentimes wishing that they could add his song to their iPods.
He does seem to be one of the more well-respected members of the group though, and thus far, only Holly has contended that he is pretty useless in a fight.  Holly seems to think that everyone but her is useless in a fight though, so we can probably take that with a grain of salt.
Gabe claims to be able to do “everything,” can play any instrument, and once had an affair with the Amazons.  …All of them.  He has also made a few veiled references to having once died, a process he refers to as a real “downer.”

He is probably the character who most often gets cut from a scene.  Since everything out of his mouth needs to be sung, everything he says takes up a lot of space.  Thus, when editing down overly long chapters, it’s usually easiest to cut what Gabe has to say about a certain topic.  While this isn’t entirely fair to him, it does work.  I’ve cut pages and pages of his songs from the books.  This is always hard, as I am NOT a songwriter or lyricist.  His dialogue consistently takes me hours and hours to complete, and it always hurts to just toss it all away at the end.  But, such is the editing process.  Incidentally, I usually find it helpful to find a base melody from which to write the lyrics from.  For instance, his songs in Yesterday's Heroes uses the Irish fiddle melody "Irish Washerwoman”  Sometimes I write lyrics without basing them on anything, but those are usually the ones which get cut for some reason.

Gabe is based on a Rat Pack aesthetic of the cool swaggering well-dressed man.  I was watching a lot of Twilight Zone episodes during that period, and I’ve always liked Rob Serling’s effortless and confident cool during his intros to the episodes.  I think some of that found its way into Gabe’s mid-century attire, propensity to smoke and general feeling of wizened calm.  Even more of Serling’s Twilight Zone “character” probably found its way into The Narrator, but that’s another story. 
Although there are several music themed villains in comic books, I honestly based Gabe on both an old image of Johnny Cash and on Stubby Kaye and Nat King Cole in "The Balad of Cat Ballou".  They acted as a Greek chorus, occasionally showing up into a scene and singing the narrator’s part, but were still a part of the action as well.  For some reason, I’ve always liked that idea.  I first came up with a very basic outline for a character who did that way back in the mid to late 90s (long before I ever even considered writing anything) during a brainstorming session with my sister about characters we’d like to see on a soap opera.  I dismissed the idea immediately as too high concept for mainstream daytime TV, but I still liked it.  15 years later when I was thinking up people to stick in a chapter filled with random villains, I thought back on that proto-character and reimagined him into Gabe. 

Gabe’s one of those guys who has a lot going on inside his head, but he just doesn’t really let any of it show.  I know his backstory, but he doesn’t really like talking about it.  He doesn’t drop many references to it like a lot of the other do, and instead, prefers to just lounge around the Lair and make fun of his coworkers.  Originally, I had envisioned him going with Holly (a Lucy and Schroeder from Peanuts kind of thing) but discarded it early on.  They’re just friends, as far as I know.  I did spend several days carefully drafting a holiday themed song where he professes his feelings though (sometimes in inappropriate and explicit detail), but discarded that as well.  Fun to write, but didn’t fit where the series was headed.

I picked his code name from a Simpson’s quote (“Do I look like troubled troubadour David Crosby?”) and the Rolling Stones song “Sympathy for the Devil.”  I retrospect, I probably could have found something that sounded slightly more ominous, but I was going for a wandering minstrel sort of feel at the time. 

Strangely, his name was Gabriel before I even thought of the Biblical trumpeter connection, although that was just icing on the cake.  I honestly don’t remember where I got the name; I think it was just picked at random from names I liked.  Hartley comes from Wallace Hartley, the band leader on the Titanic who famously played violin as the ship went down.  Hamelin comes from the Pied Piper fairy tale.  This would probably be a good time to mention that all of my names use the comic book style naming scheme of wincingly bad puns and silly references.  Generally, the genre isn’t known for its subtlety about such things.  :)  

Gabe’s probably the hardest character to get to focus on something.  He just doesn’t particularly care about the plots of the books, or what people around him are doing.  As such, coupled with the amount of space it takes for him to say anything of substance, he isn’t really in the series as much as he should be.  I blame him for that.  I need to make a concerted effort to get him to focus on important things, like not dying before his own HEA.


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