One of the things I find incredibly enjoyable as a writer is to leave my mark on certain existing things. I even find it fulfilling to simply imagine my own stories with characters I already love that manage to fit into the existing framework someone else’s work. Some call it the “highest form of praise” and others call it “Copying” but I tend to think of it as being able to give something back – at least within the confines and safety of my own skull (where I wouldn’t be sued for copyright infringement) – to the characters and/or universes of somethings that I love. If you paid me (or promised to not sue me), I would sit down and regale you with copious amounts of stories about The Doctor’s adventures, life as a Federation Marine during the Sphere Builder War, what happens to Alpha, Echo, Topher, Dewitt, et al between taking down Rossum and the Epitaphs, and I could even tell you a good story involving the ORIGINAL (1988 TV Series) Mission Impossible crew.
There are very few things that I find influential in my life and to my writing that I DON’T wish I could get my hands on just for a brief period of time.
In the summer of 2001, I was surfing through the channels late one night while at my Dad’s house. I’m not even going to pretend that at age 11 or 12, I didn’t have a soft spot for anime. I will admit that around that time, I had just outgrown Dragon Ball Z and Gundam and, being in America, I really had limited access to the wide myriad of offerings. I managed to stumble upon a show where an androgynous child and a dog were on a scooter chasing a dude who sold magic mushrooms. It had some wicked Jazz and took place in space and even though I was starting to shift away from “cartoons” to live action fiction, I wasn’t completely beyond giving one last anime a try. I tuned in the next night and realized that this was going to be something I had to watch from the beginning. Luckily enough, the series restarted a little while later and I made sure to catch every episode as the music, the mood, and the characters caught hold of my early adolescent soul and would not let go.
For those who are unfamiliar (and I don’t blame or judge you), the series is entitled Cowboy Bebop. To this day, it is one of my top 5 favorite shows… ever. Period. Back then, it was a a release valve. It was an escape hatch. It was a warm blanket on a cool, rainy day. As a 12 year old boy – and at that specific time and in that specific location – Bebop provided one of the strongest connections to real life that I could have ever hoped for. The simple reason was that the show – though futuristic and all Sci-fi-ey – was deeply rooted in the humanity of its characters. How is an idealistic 12 year old really supposed to accept that the world is not predominantly “good” or “evil” and that often, things happen without rhyme or reason? Bad things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people, bad things to bad people, good things to good people. There’s not one thing anybody can do about how life runs its course and at the end of everything, the world is neither good nor evil… it just simply, tragically, and miraculously exists.
The story of Bebop exists in a twilight of consciousness. Spike, the central character, is stuck between feeling as though he is dreaming or truly awake. He’s the man who can’t die yet doesn’t know if he’s truly alive. All of this is a metaphor, beautifully woven together with the other characters and their colored experiences and somehow, my adolescent mind was able to accept and understand it. Now, obviously there was humor and action and fun within the series. It even got downright campy at times (and chillingly creepy at others) and yet no one single quality overrode any other mood in the show. It was a neutral universe with only the characters and their experiences – both good and bad – affecting their pasts, presents, and futures. THAT registered with me. It struck every fucking chord it could and when the final scene faded to white, tears filled my eyes and I smiled because this “cartoon” had made me make sense of Life, accept it, and make my own place in the world. I make a point of watching the series at least once every year and am still incredibly emotionally moved when it reaches its conclusion and the fade out allows us to retrospectively think about the entire story all at once. In a great many ways, Bebop is the reason I’m here today, writing and just (finally) LIVING.
The series’ influence over me is pervasive in everything I work on. From simple things such as timing and sly allusions to the show, all the way to how I think about different shots, put scenes together in my head, and even putting music to different scenes, my mind always seems to spill and get Bebop everywhere when I’m trying to work — and at the very LEAST, it allows me to open up how I think about something and expand on what I really want.
It’s also one of the few projects I’m not sure I could ever bring myself to work on, if given the opportunity.
Don’t get me wrong, it would be a crowning achievement in my life if I were given the opportunity to work on a live action Bebop (and PLEASE, fans of the series, do not worry… I understand the importance of both ENDING the show with “Real Folk Blues” AND leaving said ending open to interpretation). It is also a series that’s initial impact was so strong because the story existed within the thin sliver between fantasy and reality that Spike experienced as his life. The power of the show lies in the twilight between dream and reality and I’m not entirely sure I would – in the role of writer/producer – be okay waking from said twilight to realize the reality of the dream and the fantasy of “reality” (which anybody working on the production end of the project would have to). I could do it… but I’m just not sure I want to…
BUT THEN AGAIN… It can be said that the best dreams we ever have are the ones we get to live – even for a brief moment… and even if it’s coming in on a show with an androgynous kid and collie both riding a moped and chasing down a magic mushrooms dealer. As a writer, artist, creator, etc. isn’t it our job to create the dream for others to live and sometimes even share our dreams?
I go back and forth and the only conclusion I can come to is actually something Spike says: “What happens, happens.”
I’ll go on record and say that it would be an honor to ever be able to be a part of Bebop… but only if it was Bebop the way I know it… and if Bebop is not meant to be woken from, I’m completely okay with that.
See you, Space Cowboy.
PS… Proof that the music for the show is amazing, here’s the opening titles. The song is entitled “Tank” and it is one of the most amazing jazz charts I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing.