The Genesis of "Dan the Destructor" and the "Barbarians of the Storm" Book Series, Part II
Discussing Influences - Television & Film
*You can read Part I here.
Just as I was turning 5 years-old, there was one thing that was released upon the world that was bigger than everything else combined. That thing was the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon. To say that it captivated me, is the understatement of the century.
I watched the show constantly and I wanted every single toy, which wasn’t possible on my mother’s budget. However, she did buy me a lot more Masters of the Universe merchandise than she could probably afford.
So while I already discussed how I came up with the concept for what became Dan the Destructor, I can’t dismiss all the other things that had a large enough effect on me to actually influence and seep into the creative process of developing and writing the book and its future sequels.
Masters of the Universe was huge for me, and even though I moved on to G.I. Joe, Transformers, Star Wars, and other franchise that weren’t too close to the sword & sorcery aesthetic, it still served as the foundation to a lot of what I would like in entertainment, going forward.
Other animated shows that I loved, that were also very fantasy based, were the Dungeons & Dragons animated series and ThunderCats. Additionally, He-Man had a spinoff featuring his sister called She-Ra: Princess of Power, and even though that was geared more towards girls in how the toy line differed, I still loved the show and I also had some of those
dolls “action figures”.
As I got older, though, I was completely engrossed by the badass action films of the time. I discovered Conan the Barbarian, The Road Warrior, Beastmaster, and so many others that blew my little kid mind. Many of them I probably shouldn’t have seen at the age that I was, but the ‘80s were a different time and for a parent to deny their ‘80s kids these cultural landmarks would’ve exposed them to the other kids as “pussies”, “dorks” and “dweebs”.
Besides, we always found ways to watch the things our parents didn’t want us to. For me, I had my friend Brian, a few doors down, and when I was staying with my dad, there was Greg, across the street, whose father dubbed every movie the video store had.
By the late ‘80s, my dad was pretty cool about letting me watch a lot of R-rated action flicks. This is when I discovered the greatness of the Cannon Films library from the American Ninja movies, the Ninja trilogy of films, all the Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme epics, and so many others. My dad also showed me cooler, hipper and funnier action flicks like the Lethal Weapon, Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hrs. franchises.
While action films like these might not seem like they influenced Dan the Destructor on the surface of what they appear to be, it was their fast-paced style, witty dialogue, and in the case of the ‘80s buddy cop action/comedies, it was that buddy element that worked its way into the relationship between Dan and Fenrik and how it evolves.
I also have to talk about my general love of adventure stories and how spoiled I was with those in the ‘80s from the Indiana Jones movies, their many knockoffs, and also a lot of the cheaper sword & sorcery movies that were pretty prevalent and not just the ones from Italy, Spain and Argentina. Some of this influence also came from my mom, as she loved watching things like Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile.
This probably all seems like a lot, but as I wrote the book and these things subconsciously worked their way in, I wasn’t initially aware of it. It wasn’t until I started proofreading the book, as a full body of work, that I could see these specific influences and where they were coming from, which I found to be kind of neat.
I initially set out to make a mash up of Italian Conan and Mad Max rip-offs. What I ended up creating was a smorgasbord of a lot of my influences, but I do like how it all came together. It wasn’t what I intended to do, it just kind of happened. At the same time, I don’t think that Dan the Destructor is overly derivative or overstuffed by pulling bits and pieces from so many very different things.
The reason I even share all of this, is that I want to be transparent about where my ideas and influences come from. I think it’s important and writers should probably share these things with other writers (and their fans), especially for those who are younger and who really want to take a crack at creating their own worlds.
Plus, I always hate when successful writers pretend that everything comes from them when it’s clear that something specific inspired them at some point. Plus, our influences should be celebrated because they are the foundation we pull our inspiration from. They’re the things that shaped us into the creators that we are.
I think that I’m going to do another volume in this series of articles, speaking about other influences outside of just television and film.
So with that, there will be more to come…
*You can read Part III here.