Reflections from the Guy in the Pikachu Suit
Looking Back on "The Case of the Mysterious Man" (v.2.0)
Author Reflective Essay

by HA
        August 16, 2002         2900 words

Reflections From The Guy in a Pikachu Suit:
Looking Back on "The Case of the Mysterious Man" (v.2.0)
by HA

Reflections From The Guy in a Pikachu Suit: Looking Back on "The Case of the Mysterious Man" (v.2.0) by HA NOTE: Spoilers for the story being pondered in the following piece of freewriting that passes as an essay are present. If you haven't read the fic yet, please do that before reading this one. Thank you.

Well, here I am in fanfic limbo, and as of now, I've produced only seven SH stories. Although the number seven is a goal J.K. Rowling is still striving for, I feel I'm a failure. Ever since I discovered, I've found myself writing fics for other fandoms and pondering others. As a result, I've neglected SH a little, and the Strangers and ENIGMA have been on vacation while I've created more original characters for a fic world based in Cardcaptor Sakura (NOT CARDCAPTORS!). As some of you know, I'm a bit of an anime freak. At this time, I'm striving to work on a Harry Potter fic that starts Ron and has anime influences to boot. I'm also trying to revitalize some original ideas. Taking a higher priority in my life is my studies and other aspects of reality that are annoying yet vital to my survival on the third rock from the sun.

Now, just because I'm involved in other projects doesn't mean I've abandoned Shirley and company. I still attribute the members of the SH fan community as the first people who have read my writing and appreciated it. Before writing any fanfiction, I was content with creating worlds where the only reader was me, and the public was discouraged from seeing my vision. I still feel obligated to finish what I've started, so everyone just keep an eye out for anything by me. I have a little potboiler that lacks only a conclusion, so patience, Grasshoppers. Considering my recent circumstances, I may have to cut down on that planned 53 fics I had in mind when I decided to create an evil force that made Molly look like an amateur. Plus, I have to develop my original characters, not to mention draw them and find someone to scan them for me. Not having a scanner bites.

Anyway, as a way to get myself in an SH writing mood, I thought I'd reflect on how I got into this fandom and produced what has been erroneously labeled the first SH fanfic. I recall someone having a story where Molly had Shirley and Bo follow a bunch of clues in order to beat her, and I view that one as one of the first, if not the first, SH fanfic. Yet, allowing my ego to become a little swollen, I must point out that "The Case of the Mysterious Man" is still around after all this time.

The idea to write a fanfic for SH came to me after watching a few episodes. I guess it was during the third or fourth week of SH on Fox Family (now ABC Family) that I started pondering Molly. Looking at her, I doubt you'd believe she was a manipulative schemer. Only Shirley and Bo know her for what she truly is, and she always managed to avoid exposure. She won the student council presidency in "Ruby Ring," and she escaped being caught in "Broken Oath." I'd have listed more of her crimes, but I never did see Seasons 3 and 4. She's smart, her riches enable her to have many resources at her disposal, and her mastery of cyberspace makes her a potential worldwide threat. Sure, she's a beauty, but she's a dangerous one. She's a worthy rival of Shirley Holmes, and it seems to be destined. Saying "Molly Hardy" quickly enough will yield "Moriarty," and if you don't know who that is, please turn in your SH Club Badge to the nice muscular Pikachu next to the door.

I am a firm believer in that there is always someone worse out there in the world when it comes to evil. As a result, my ponderings focused on "Who could be worse than Molly?" From there, I decided to create a villain who outdid Molly in everything. Granted, that's not a hard thing to do, but I wanted to create someone believably eviler than her. To this day, I'm not sure if I've succeeded, but at least it gave me a chance to enter into writing fanfiction for the first time. My discovery of SH fan sites inspired me further, and I went for it.

Piecing together this new malefactor, I came up with a good background for him. One aspect of him I still can't share with you, but it'll be revealed near the end of everything (if I ever get there). The rest is public domain. I came up with a young man who was rich, brilliant, and inclined toward the criminal lifestyle. A thinker, he preferred planning everything and directing his small gang of hoods from behind the scenes. His main confident was an elderly butler named Nigel. I guess you can consider him the anti-Alfred, but his creation is the result of watching the previous TV interpretation of Superman called Lois and Clark. The show's dashing Lex Luthor employed a manservant by the name of Nigel, who was played by Tony Jay, a man I feel is well suited for voicing animated villains. My villain's criminal alias was the result of Batman Forever; the way the Riddler's puzzles fit together to form a unusual name stuck out in my mind. With that in mind, I christened my villain "Mr. E."

More pondering followed. Although Mr. E had a small gang at his disposal, I wondered if I could expand on that. I gave in to the expansion idea, and the localized band of thugs became a worldwide organization. I decided to call the group "ENIGMA" because of Shirley's interest in mysteries; I thought a group opposing Shirley with a name meaning "mystery" would be apropos. I wanted ENIGMA to be an anagram for something, and that proved to be a challenge. Consulting a dictionary, I finally came up with the Establishment for Nefarious, Insidious, Global, and Malicious Acts, but after the story was posted, I changed Malicious to Malevolent because it sounded more menacing to me. The SPECTRE method of numbering agents came into the picture, and ENIGMA's second-in-command became known as Number One. Since large criminal organizations operating on a global scale are usually depicted as having goals of world domination, I wanted to distinguish ENIGMA from them. I turned it into a group that hires out its services to others at extravagant fees. Members were masked in order to hide their identities. Their possession of advanced technology was an easy way for them to get away with their crimes. The infamous puzzles hinting at their crimes were also courtesy of the Riddler. The standard secret society rule of "tell anyone we exist and you die" rule went into effect. As a result of these changes, Mr. E became a combination of Blofeld and the Riddler, and even then he wasnít completed yet.

My villains established, I decided to create a new sleuthing partner and potential love interest for our favorite detective. I felt Shirley needed all the help she could get against ENIGMA, so I created Blake Hewitt, a newcomer from California who shared Shirley's interest in mysteries. An inheritance from his mother's father gave my newcomer a comfortable lifestyle, but I made sure he was the type of person who wasn't a snob in any way. I gave him good looks, smarts, an adeptness in the martial arts, and a first name from a WWF (now WWE; thanks a lot, panda boys) wrestler. The last item came to me from me recalling a villainous tag team known as the Beverly Brothers, and the members' names were Bo and Blake. At that time, I was unaware of the original character type known as Mary Sue/Gary Stu, a person who was so perfect and always saving the day. Luckily, I really haven't gotten complaints about Blake being a Gary Stu, although MGM did bring it up on the message board. Since I only knew about the first two seasons, I was unaware of the character of Matt Harris, who was a potential love interest for Shirley at the time.

The other significant character in the story, Inspector Hewitt, is the result of giving Blake a reason for being interested in mysteries. A member of Interpol, the inspector seemingly died in a car bomb explosion in England. In reality, Inspector Hewitt had survived and had disguised himself in order to investigate ENIGMA.

After creating the primary characters, I needed to create something vital to the story's existence--the plot. I needed to create a source of conflict that would pit Shirley against the forces of ENIGMA. Being criminals-for-hire, ENIGMA needed to do something that would get her attention and pique her interest. I decided to have the group steal the Mona Lisa because I had mistakenly thought it had never been taken from the Louvre. I learned the truth later, and I'm sure I adjusted the story accordingly. Eventually, I made it so that ENIGMA managed to steal the famous painting and planned to sell it to its current client in Redington. Blake and his mother came to Redington to start a new life, and soon the mystery would be encountered and solved after the major twist. When I learned about Season 3 and its aftermath, I had to alter a few details.

When I wrote "Mysterious Man," I allowed myself to inject a little bit of original Sherlock flavor into it. This is most prominent when Inspector Hewitt tells Shirley, Bo, and his family about what happened to him that fatal night and how he came to learn about ENIGMA. In that narrative, I tried to copy the style of the original Holmes stories; namely, I made the paragraphs long, albeit broken up accordingly. This was the result of reading a collection of the best Sherlock Holmes stories (at least, according to the editor of the book). Consequently, this part turned out to be the longest one I wrote for the story, and incidentally, this one caused what I thought was all my files being erased. Thankfully, my files were still there.

As I wrote, I sent my parts to Leslie, whose site was the most dominant one out on the Web (my, how times change). Overall, I got good feedback, and I hoped to post my fanfic on her site. Suddenly, Hope began asking for fics for her site, and I took her up on her offer. Except for the brief scare with my disk, I was able to post all of the ìMysterious Manî on Hopeís site. Naturally, I had the jitters as each part was posted. In a rare moment of self-promotion, I advertised my fic on the message board, which was hosted on Inside the Web back then. I also began participating in threads in order to establish myself. I remember the first two people who responded to my promotion post, and they were Jessica and Damon. I believe the good sir had asked me what ENIGMA stood for in his reply. A while later, he e-mailed me, and that began a now-and-then correspondence that I really need to reestablish because too much silence drives me to plot random Thundershockings on people in my part of the world. Well, either that or fishwhack them.

Even today, I'm still surprised at people's initial reactions to this first fic of mine. When I was writing this story, I made it top priority to keep the canon characters in character. When I posted it, I was afraid I may have missed the mark on characterization, especially when I showed Shirley holding hands with Blake after he tells her and Bo about his "dead" father. So far, I haven't gotten any complaints in that department, although I think a few parts could've been tightened. I was also afraid of how my readers would react to the new characters I injected into the mix. I wondered if Blake, Mr. E, and ENIGMA would be readily accepted as real SH characters. To my surprise, they were, and after this story, they became recognizable and associated with my fic world. At this stage, Blake and ENIGMA weren't exactly defined. Here, Blake was the son determined to find out about his father's apparent death. Mr. E was just the mysterious criminal mastermind who directed everything from a secret location, who played Freecell in his free time (something I like to do occasionally), and who happened to own a lot of Legos and dangerous items. ENIGMA was simply a secret society without a standard uniform, and members wore masks, usually those of animal faces. In addition to liking and accepting my original characters, some readers liked the puzzles I created. Don't think it's easy to come up with brainteasers. Not only do you have to make sure they're very creative, you have to endure puns. In fact, after finishing and posting the story, I added more elements to the group, including the official salute of the outstretched fist with the declaration of "ENIGMA forever!" This came from the Nazi salute and the English dub version of the Big Fire salute from the anime Giant Robo, which was "Together, allegiance or death, Big Fire!" A terrorist organization and the series' antagonist, Big Fire would feature into ENIGMA more as I continued writing.

There are a few flaws I ignored while writing "Mysterious Man," and Damon was kind enough to point it out one to me one time. He mentioned to me that if Inspector Hewitt had taken over Frederickson's identity, then Frederickson's family would have noticed. That threw me for a loop, and it comforts me now that even an excellent writer like Rowling makes an occasional mistake. I've learned that the larger amount of text you have in a story, the more likely there'll be mistakes in spelling, grammar, and content. Also, when I look back, Bo's explanation to Blake about his cool treatment toward the newcomer seems corny to me now. I guess that's because when I conceived this fic I originally didn't intend Bo to become jealous because he was romantically attracted to Shirley. However, I always thought that when two people are constantly finding themselves in occasionally dangerous predicaments, something would happen. In my later stories, Bo's crush would become more obvious to us. Finally, I had forgotten the name of the theater in "Second Sight," so I created the Redington Community Theater. I made up for my forgetfulness in my third story.

Another thing that bothers me now is ending the story on a note signaling that the ENIGMA situation isn't over yet. With various ideas swirling through my head, I'll be amazed if I ever finish my SH world. My brain keeps coming up with new characters. People move on to other interests, and I've noticed the absence of people I used to chat with. Like I said before, I feel obligated to finish what I started, and barring the abrupt coming of the Grim Reaper, I hope to someday. On a more positive note, I liked showing off Mr. Eís skills with a katana. How many people do you know who can slice thin cardboard into pieces with one?

When I think about it, the title could have been "The Case of the Mysterious Men." My reasoning is that there are two individuals who are truly mysterious in the story. The first is the obvious mysterious man, the person Shirley spots and tries to track down. The second is the villain, Mr. E. By the end of the story, however, only one man remains mysterious. The stranger turns out to be Inspector Hewitt, and Mr. E continues to be a conundrum the police need to solve.

I will still deny that "Mysterious Man" was the first SH fic to appear on the Web. That honor belongs to another. However, if someone credits my story with being the first to establish a new world with new characters for Shirley to interact with, then I'd probably agree. Although I'm occasionally tempted to take credit for starting everyone else off on writing fics, I know that's a bunch of hooey. Like all writers, my SH fanfic writing colleagues had a vision of what they thought SH should be like and decided to share it with their fellow fans. As for my vision, if you want to know more about it, I have only one thing to say to you: Sore wa himitsu desu.

Started on 7/26/2002 and finished on 7/29/2002
Revised on 8/16/2002 (version 2.0)