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Title: The Presence of Fire (The Burning Down The House Remix)
Artist: danceswithgary
Pairing: Clark/Lex, Kal-El/Lex
Original Story and Author: The Presence of Fire by rivkat
Remix Rating: G
Summary: Of the many rivkat Smallville stories I had to choose from, The Presence of Fire has captured my attention with its graphic descriptions every time I've re-read it, yet it ends on a positive note. Rather than attempting to rewrite or add to the story with another POV, I decided to tackle remixing (actually representing) it visually. I've also included some of the thought process behind my choices for the artwork and some of the interim stages of development.

Image 1: An x-ray of a hip joint prosthetic, possibly one that appears a little futuristic.

Clark had been in Baltimore that day nine years past, had seen what was left of Lex's hip and upper thigh. It had looked like a hunk of meat savaged by hungry dogs, the stretch of exposed thighbone showing white-yellow only in the few places it wasn't covered with bright blood. Clark had seen a lot of meat that used to be people that month. He'd later noticed that the published menus for Lex's state dinners always featured chicken or fish.

Lex had been standing the next day, giving an interview on his feet to dispel the (truthful) rumors that had rippled through the public. Now, Clark thought that the leg must never have healed right, despite all that the meteors had done for Lex. He hadn't known. He hadn't stuck around after seeing that Lex would live, and he hadn't been close enough in the intervening years to tell that Lex's recovery had been less than complete - he'd received Lex's "suggestions" during the war by phone, and he'd refused all honors that would have required a smiling handshake for the public. A quick X-ray revealed a prosthetic hip joint and some odd protuberances on the surrounding bones.

Constructed image: Discarded. Two layers of x-ray, top layer chrome filter inverted then hard light.

Click For Fullsize

Image 2: Lex with black glove, looking statesmanlike, possibly in Oval Office (additional image Presidential Seal).

Even though Lex had been holding the glass with his gloved hand, it was warm as if from human touch. Lex smirked at Clark's surprised downwards glance. "Nothing but the best, most lifelike technology for the War Wound in Chief." The hand hadn't been lost because of the war, of course, but Clark supposed Lex was entitled to display it as a mark of honor in trade for pretending that he was still otherwise whole. How long had the meteor ring been missing? Before Baltimore, even, but the damage had obviously been done by the time Lex gave the ring up.

Constructed Image: None - single promo added to final.

Image 3: Blood - possibly phrase written in blood.

Past and present mix together like paint on an easel, thin blood-red threads of now contaminating the primary-colored purity of then.

Constructed Image: Text graphic on final

Image 4: Bomb/fire destruction

The question triggers memories of Clark. They rush up in his throat and he opens his mouth to speak. Even as the words form, he crushes them. "Anywhere But Here" is for other people. Lex is a realist; he knows how unlikely it is that they'll survive, and even if they did, the Johnson who loved his girl died, unburied, on the bombed-out streets of Metropolis. The Johnson who survived the siege is unlikely to have an easy time with peace, quiet and romance

Constructed image: Three layers - flames, city street with American flag, rubble. Positioning and resize with hard light, merge. Use as background 1280x720 to start.

Click For Fullsize

Image 5: Insect, possibly beetle, pincers

He smiles politely and remembers how the Bugs look after they're dead, forest green chitin plating over black flesh marbled with white veins. The last one he killed with his own gun had a seventeen-year-old girl splashed across its larger foreclaw, and its right shoulder had five notches.

Constructed image: Two different rhinoceros beetles, used head of one to create large claws on second. Adjusted hue, merge.

Click For Fullsize

Image 6: Head MRI or CT scans, medical file/folder

The documents were excerpted from his medical file which, conservatively, took up a full file cabinet by that point. Lionel was not one to spare any expense in his flight from freakishness. Lex flicked through. The meteor strike; one of his worse clubbing injuries; his first car crash; what he thought of as The Car Crash Where I Died, when he'd met Clark; the encounter with the eoraptor in 2004; and dozens of interim MRIs, PET and CAT scans. Interspersed with these were a few printed pages that seemed to be notes of other injuries: "thrown out of car by Ryan's kidnappers," "slammed into wall to calm Pete down," "knocked unconscious by Golem," and the like. Injuries known to Clark but not to his doctors.

Constructed image: Discarded. CT scan of head, MRI of head, medical report, manila folder. Crop and merge and add name.

Click For Fullsize

Image 7: Bone field and/or dandelions

Lex dreams of fields of bone, overgrown with dandelions. He slits his arms, long vertical cuts to do it right, and when his blood rains down the skeletons learn to dance.

Constructed image: Discarded. Four layers - two of dandelion field and two of boneyard (animal). Offset 4 layers and hard light each, adjust contrast and brightness, then use 1% erase to clear areas to allow bone thru. Merge and crop. Sorry, no dancing skeletons.

Click For Fullsize

Image 8: Chloe and Whitney heroic faces and sunflower

Lex sees to it that the faces on the Metropolis War Memorial are Fordman and Chloe's. At the unveiling, he poses with Lana's brat, who does not have the quarterback's eyes, no matter how many people tell Lana that comforting lie. Fordman's eyes have rotted in his skull, somewhere in Idaho or points west. His kid's still cute, regardless, and Pete will do right by Lana, whose dreams of escaping Smallville have come true, in a careful-what-you-wish-for way.

Superman comes to the memorial after the formal dedication. Lex clips the picture of Clark kneeling to place the sunflower below Chloe's bronze smile, then crumples it and throws it into the fire.

Constructed image: Cap of Chloe, promo of Whitney cropped and carved filter applied. Copper layer with hard light then adjusted contrast and brightness and merged, hard light layer over example of war memorial stone, merged and cropped.

Click For Fullsize

Total original images: 17

Not all of the constructed images ended up being used in final composition - it would have been too crowded.


Click For Fullsize


Standard Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters herein. The characters of Lex Luthor and Clark Kent as well as any supporting characters are the property of their creators and DC Comics. Gough/Millar Inc and the WB Network TV own Smallville. Any deviation (or deviant behavior) from the originals, however, is mine.

Feedback is both welcome and appreciated.


( 14 Danced — Dance with Me )
Aug. 17th, 2009 04:58 pm (UTC)
My dad was a professional abstract artist so I’m always fascinated in the thought process of artists. What is it that ultimately draws them to the image they create? Thank you for giving me a glimpse into your process. I found it interesting that you don’t use all of the images you create I do that as well sometimes.

The layers on this cover are beautiful. Very rich and they tend to draw the eye through the entire piece. You picked out the perfect image of Clark. I love the look on his face. The image of Lex is one of my favorites of him from the show. It gives us a glimpse of the Lex of the future away from Smallville fulfilling his dreams. Lex does have a lot of potential if he stays on the right path.

I like the typeface that you chose. It really works well with the “fire” images you are trying to capture. There is so much going on here but no one element is overpowering they are all working together to portray a powerful image.

I haven’t read the story yet but this cover makes me want to. I think that’s what really good cover art should do. Pull a potential reader in. Nicely done!
Aug. 17th, 2009 08:31 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I was hoping showing the process would make up a little for not writing a story - I just couldn't come up with a literary remix I liked. It actually turned out to be quite a task to slow down and detail what I was doing rather than zip through it like I usually do.

Edited at 2009-08-17 09:30 pm (UTC)
Aug. 17th, 2009 09:22 pm (UTC)
Wow, the final creation is just stunning, and I love seeing the breakdown of the steps you went to, plus the supporting text. Absolutely gorgeous, totally worthy of the story you're remixing. I've read a lot of rivkat's stories but had somehow missed this one - thank you for bringing it to my attention.
Aug. 18th, 2009 03:05 am (UTC)
Thanks! I'm glad my remix attempt worked for you. It was an interesting experiment. :-D
Aug. 17th, 2009 10:41 pm (UTC)
This is gorgeous. I love the descriptions and breakdown of the images and the final product. Very beautiful. :)
Aug. 18th, 2009 03:08 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for letting me know you liked it! :-D
Aug. 20th, 2009 07:54 pm (UTC)
Looks good! That's a great cover, and I really like the glimpse of process and how you pulled it out of the story.

(And I like that your folder does not say Luthor, L. like too many things in both fanon AND canon do. Heh.)
Aug. 20th, 2009 08:36 pm (UTC)
It funny you said that about the folder - I had to stop and remind myself. :-D Thanks for letting me know you liked it!
Sep. 2nd, 2009 07:50 am (UTC)
wow! I totally love this story! Well done!
Sep. 2nd, 2009 02:18 pm (UTC)
Sep. 5th, 2009 06:49 pm (UTC)
Oh my God! These are amazing! I'm just blown away! Rather than saying anything coherent, I will just identify my favorite components: the beetle. It's so organic and creepy (and I, uh, actually collect mounted insects; I now desperately want a print of this to hang). The fire/office buildings: such a sense of sweeping devastation. Lex at his podium: awesome, just like I saw him.

Thank you so much for this! Would you mind if I used the final result on my site?
Sep. 5th, 2009 07:38 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you like what I came up with - it was an interesting challenge to do justice to your words. By all means, feel free to post wherever you like and Thanks!
Sep. 5th, 2009 09:43 pm (UTC)
This is utterly gorgeous! I'm not very visual, so I really appreciated seeing a lot of your process. I just podficced presence of fire and spent a lot of time with the story (and fell in love with it all over again :), so these images are really resonating strongly.

I love the cityscape especially...it's devastating even if (or rather because) at first sight the color scheme makes it look much less so...

Thank you!
Sep. 5th, 2009 10:32 pm (UTC)
Thanks. Sitting down to read through the story for visuals was a wonderful challenge for me - I'm glad it worked for you.
( 14 Danced — Dance with Me )


Fics for the Future

Waiting Prompts

Clex - Hitch

Clex - Clueless

Clex - All Who Joy Would Win
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