The Mike Adams “Universe”
When I first wrote my meta-novel Reunion at University Avenue, whose plot was about the backlash against the satire I was not funny enough to actually write, I did not think of it as a franchise. In the 2013 release The Young Mike Adams, I thought I closed franchise. But I was wrong.
I am working on a new release that uses Adams to tell the stories of several other characters that inhabit this “universe” I created, as part of a deliberate plan to launch my next protagonist from within the comfort of what I had already established. I won’t spoil either plan just yet.
But it got me thinking about literary universes in general.
Hollywood has taken after comic books in a lot of ways, and not just because their biggest blockbusters are adaptations of comic books. Now, Hollywood has gone from making series and reboots to creating spinoffs of those reboots. Harry Potter is getting a Roaring 20s makeover with a new protagonist. We just saw Star Wars launch a new younger cast after Star Trek created an alternate universe. Two interconnected X-Men trilogies are not enough, we had to get a Wolverine series and more spinoffs in the work. And do not get me started on the sprawling web of television and film franchises that comprise the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Why? I think the answer is the same as why I’m expanding my original Adams novels and stories to include at least one new protagonist. There is a certain amount of comfort in working within an already defined universe, with certain rules and characters with which writers and fans are already familiar. For a risk-averse, investment-minded studio, it makes sense to milk a successful film into a trilogy into a universe, as long as the audience continues to support it.
Now, for me, Adams was never about selling books, although I would not mind it. Nor does the series have a fan base that “demands” this additional work. Instead, the comfort level is all about my writing process. Adams was the easiest character to write for, as he was an idealized version of me as a successful politician. The people I had surround him during his adventures in the novels as an adult or in the short stories as a college student were either plot- and character-driven or based on real people. It gave me a great knowledge base upon which to build even further adventures.
That’s how a book about the backlash against a satire begot an ode to centrist politics which begot a political thriller which begot a prequel sharing the protagonist’s origin story. And now, at the apex of that character’s career, with him in mortal danger once more, new and old characters are stepping up, sharing their backstories, and revealing their own heroic journeys.
Mike Adams has gone from a sandbox with which to make fun of myself and has now become a universe in of itself. And as much as I felt chagrined about the state of Hollywood and its mega-franchises, I find myself a bit more understanding of that development as it has happened in my own writing.
Photo: A view of “Stadium Road” in Gainesville, circa May 2003. I used it on the original cover of Reunion at University Avenue, an anachronism that the student paper made sure to mock me for when reviewing that first novel eleven years ago.