Sunday, December 18, 2005

Top Ten Worst Offenders II

Guess I'd better finish...

5) Team Comics: Teams can be good and bad. The good is that you can split up tasks, have a range of personalities, have intra-team conflict, and have an easy excuse for some exposition.

These are all great things. Splitting up tasks allows characters to define who they by what they do. A range of personalities allows people to pick someone they like to root for. Conflict is always good, and if you make it natural (such as five people living together in cramped quarters) rather than forced so much the better. And it's only natural that you need to explain things to someone in the group that wan't there or isn't following along.

However, too many writers (beginning and advanced) learned too much from the sentai (think: Power Rangers) school of teams. This means that the team has the following types:

Leader: This is the guy in charge. He's only wrong when it's dramatically right, he can do whatever he wants and no one cares; he is the hero, after all. The older brother of the group and the guy who the Lone Wolf usually rebels against. If there is a long-term romantic relationship, he's usually involved somehow.

Lone Wolf: The rebel. The guy who everyone likes because he's straightforward and does what he wants, something that they can't do. He's the perverted older cousin who's probably into whips and chains. Whatever the leader aquires, he wants. Usually.

The Geek: He knows everything except how to deal with social situations. Usually the least liked character because, well, no one likes the group brain. He's the most dependable of the group (except when it comes to shooting the 300'-tall monster directly in front of him). He's the little brother of the group who is sex-obsessed and the group mascot. If the group has a fanboy, The Geek is usually it.

The Brick: He can lift pretty much anything, punch through pretty much anything, and take pretty much anything. Usually the group mechanic. He's sorta the fun friend of the family; the guy who kicks your butt at Mortal Caliber VII, makes you cringe through his puns, and is the guy you go to for advice, or tickets you can't get yourself.

The Girl: She points out the obvious, is the love interest of The Leader, temporary goal for romance of The Lone Wolf, defender of The Geek, and grudging friends with The Brick. If it's a unisex team, change "love interest" to "best friend" and "of romance" to "of assassination." She is yin to the team yang, and is usually the most effeminate. Aggressively effeminate. Usually the best shot in the team. And the richest, especially when there is no monetary system in the universe.

Now, it may look good, but EVERYONE uses the blueprint without thinking about making changes. When they do, it's the leader that gets in the shorts. If they take characters away, The Brick goes first followed by The Geek. It's a working cliche, but be aware of it anyway, and try to change it.

4) Elemental Powers: This is starting to get ridiculous. Change that: It is ridiculous. The default is: Fire, Earth, Water, Air, and either Heart or some psychic ability (usually Precognition). Each character has abilities that stem from their respective element, and personality traits that stem from their element.

When the elemental base of any powers are changed, it's usually to weather (thunder, lightning, wind), sound, some other psychic ability (cyberkinesis, telekinesis or telepathy), teleportation or desolidification. Although these are visually interesting, they are sorely lacking for imagination.

Just be aware of the problem, and plan accordingly.

[Just out of curiosity: Why is it that the oriental elements are wood, metal, fire, water, and earth, but you only see the Greek elements of water, fire, earth and air? And why rarely (if ever) those from the periodic table?]

3) Angsty Hero: O Woe is I! I accidentally killed my best friend, my lover commited suicide because I was a day late coming home, and my dog has worms. Oh, and my house is trying to kill me.

Today on Oprah: Angsty heroes and the fangirls that love them. Note: These people would not survive Dr. Phil.

I understand the attraction: Girls like guys that need them, and this guy needs something alright. I know that the angsty hero is an old literary tradition (yet another thing we can blame on Ancient Sumeria: Gilgamesh, anyone?). And I know his existence validates that of the artistically dark.

But...give the guy a good day once in a while! Gilgamesh let his hair down! Elric did smile every so often. King Richard cracked wise. Even Macbeth had fun!

But this hero has nothing good happen to him without cost. If he a million bucks, he gets sued and ends up owing money. His new car is possessed. Just let the guy have some fun without cost every so often.

2) Avatar/Sprite Comics and Doujinshi: For the three individuals who don't know what any of those are:

Sprite Comics: Take a video game, take the characters and use them in your own comic.

Avatar Comics: Take avatars from Gaia Online and use them in sprite comics.

Doujinshi: There are many translations, but the one in use here is fan comics using the characters that the fan likes. Included here because, well, if sprite and avatar comics are examples of someone being a lazy illustrator, doujinshi are examples of lazy writing.

I'm sort of in a weird spot on this one. On one hand, I appreciate not having the ability to draw/write and having a cool script that you need to see done. But...this isn't the way to do it.

Besides the obvious legal issues, there's just a lack of imagination here. I mean, you're taking someone else's characters, throwing them into situations that their creators never intended, and then claiming that you're creating something original. Worse, I see it justified because it's a great way to get started!

The issue is that to be a good writer you need to be ableto stand on your own two feet. You can't rely on the crutch of using someone else's creations as the base of your own. It's fine to be inspired; it's lazy to copy. Find the difference, and you begin to walk.

[I'm including this under cliches because cliches are just lazy creating. It just fit...]

1) One-Dimensional Institutional Figures: Okay, this is my least favorite cliche of all time. I appreciate that a lot of artists don't like religious figures; there are a lot of reasons to dislike people that put a lot of limitations on what you do. And I understand why military types aren't exactly popular.

However, that shouldn't be an excuse to make them one-dimensional or explore themes that simply don't exist. When you make any excuse to have one-dimensional characters in your strip, you're wasting my time. I don't mind if you've decided to make a villain that's high-up in the military, just give him a realistic reason for doing what he does.

At some level you need to realize that any group has those members that aren't exactly shining examples of their organization; the more in the public eye the group is, the more likely you're going to see the dregs of that group. There are going to be priests that molest choirboys; but, that's because there are men that molest any boy that they get their hands on and this particular one happened to be a priest, and because he was the gaurdian of the morality of his community the sense of betrayal cuts all the deeper. Priests are ultimately just men, with all the weaknesses thereof. Not trying to mitigate the situation, just trying to say that you need to be avoid stereotypes at all costs.

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