Magneto was Sephiroth before there was a Sephiroth.|
I've seen this one floating around, and I figured why not?|
First, select your ten fictional characters (from any medium) by whichever method you like best. Then answer the questions below.
1. Optimus Prime (Transformers)
2. Captain America (Marvel Comics)
3. Major Motoko Kusanagi (Ghost in the Shell)
4. Fone Bone (Bone)
5. Bender Bending Rodriguez (Futurama)
6. Yuna (Final Fantasy X)
7. Tepet Ejava, the Roseblack (Exalted)
8. Miyamoto Usagi (Usagi Yojimbo)
9. David Xanatos (Gargoyles)
10. Spider Jerusalem (Transmetropolitan)
I decided to limit myself to one character from a given continuity and selected my favorites from each.
1. Divide the list up by even and odd. Which group of five would make a better Five Man Band (like a Power Rangers team)? Who would you slot in each position: Leader, Lancer (second-in-command), Big Guy, Smart Guy, The Chick? If you think the team would be improved by swapping one character between the even and odd groups, which ones would you switch?
Team A: Optimus Prime, the Major, Bender, Tepet Ejava and David Xanatos. Robots, cyborgs and people who wear some sort of giant armor. This is the most metal sentai team ever.
Leader: Optimus Prime
Lancer: Tepet Ejava
Big Guy: Major Kusanagi
Smart Guy: David Xanatos
The Chick: Bender
Team B: Captain America, Fone Bone, Yuna, Usagi and Spider. This is simultaneously awesome and horrible.
Leader: Captain America
Big Guy: Yuna
Smart Guy: Spider Jerusalem
The Chick: Fone Bone
I think Team B has the advantage here, simply because Cap's team is more cohesive - if anything, his Smart Guy's not already planning to inevitably betray the entire team.
2. Gender-swap 2, 8 & 10. Which character would have the most change in their story arc? Which the least? Would any of these characters have to have a complete personality change to be believable as the opposite sex?
Cap, Usagi and Spider.
Spider changes the least, although many readers would probably find a female with Spider's exact personality traits much less likable.
Usagi's Japan appears to have slightly less strict gender roles than the historical Shogunate-era Japan, if Tomoe Ame is an example. It's likely a female Usagi would have risen less high in Lord Mifune's service, and the subplot of Jotaro wouldn't work, but I don't think much else would have to change.
Captain America, of course, has to change the most due to the nature of 1940s America, but Kalinara already examined that, so.
3. Compare the matchups of 1 & 8 and 5 & 9. (Ignore canon sexual preferences for the moment.) Which couple would be more compatible? Which couple would be more plausible to people from either principle's home culture?
Optimus Prime/Usagi Yojimbo and Bender/Xanatos
Um. They're robots. I have no idea how that would work.
4. Your team is 3, 4 & 9. The mission consists of a social challenge, a mental challenge and a physical challenge. Which team member do you assign to each challenge?
Major Kusanagi, Fone Bone and David Xanatos
Well, no one's more badass than the Major, so she takes the physical challenge, and Xanatos already had a winning plan, so he gets the mental challenge. That leaves Fone Bone for the social challenge, but fortunately Xanatos arranged ahead of time for to be at Fone's speed.
5. 7 becomes 1's boss for a week in some plausible fashion. How's their working relationship?
Tepet Ejava as Optimus Prime's superior.
Hmm. While Optimus would certainly admire Ejava's "lead from the front" style, I think there would be some conflict there. At first it would simply be because Prime would be used to being Supreme Commander, and then due to idealogical clashes - the Roseblack's patronizing elitism toward those of lesser birth would come into direct conflict with Optimus' more populist views.
6. 2 finds him/her/itself inserted into 6's continuity. As far as anyone other than 2 or 6 is concerned, they've always been there. What role would 2 be presumed to have had in 6's story, and could they fit in without going wonky?
Captain America (Spira?) in Yuna's setting.
Hmm. Cap would work as a former Guardian or Crusader, presumed missing for years and only recently returned (sort of like Auron). Steve could easily join Yuna's group of Guardians, or serve as part of Operation Mi'hen. The only big problem is that Cap's union suit is a bit outlandish by Spiran standards - it covers too much skin.
7. 3 and 5 get three wishes. The catch is that they have to agree on all three wishes before they get the benefits of any of them. What three wishes would they make?
The Major and Bender.
There is almost nothing these two could agree on, except maybe beer. So, lots of that.
8. 1 and 2 are brainwashed by a one-time artifact that works even on people immune to mind control to attack and kill 4. They keep their normal personality, skills and competence level, except any Code vs. Killing has been turned off. Can 4 survive? How?
Robot Jesus and the Living Legend of World War II versus Fone Bone.
Unless the Great Red Dragon comes to Fone's rescue, he's toast.
9. 6, 7, 9 & 10 must help an orphanage full of small and depressed children have a merry Christmas. Who does what, knowing that at the very least the kids will be expecting a visit from Santa?
Yuna, Tepet Ejava, David Xanatos and Spider Jerusalem save Christmas!
Yeah, the kids are boned.
Ejava will have no idea what this "Christmas" thing is, but she'll be pretty sure it's blasphemous. Spider hates happy people in general and Christmas in particular, so he'll be on a cocktail of exotic drugs. On the plus side, once someone explains to Yuna what Christmas is about, she'll be all for it.
It basically comes down to which outcome benefits Xanatos. If the kids having a happy Christmas advances one of his plans, he'll ensure Yuna has every resource at his disposal and may even play Santa himself (it's good PR). However, if unhappy orphans somehow factors into his plans, then no Santa for you, kids. Yuna, of course, will blame herself.
10. 3 and 8 are challenged to circumnavigate the Earth in eighty days or less, using only forms of transportation invented before 1900. Can they do it, or will they be fatally distracted by sidequests or their own personality conflicts?
On the road with the Major and Usagi!
There is no way in hell they'll make it in time. Usagi will drag Motoko along on sidequest after sidequest to save villages, help abandoned children and foil demons and evil aristocrats every ten miles ... and then they'll get lost taking one of Gen's shortcuts. Each time, Usagi will exclaim that it's not his fault.
Tags: Y'know, I'm tagging my entire friends list. Post, you bastards.
So, by "tomorrow" I meant "in a week or so". Gonna finish that essay soon, just need to do some more research.|
In the mean time, I've been rather serious here for the past few weeks, and I feel compelled to remind everyone that I am, ultimately, a 26-year-old boy. That's right, it's time for another Transformers post.
So, the Toys R Us and Target in my immediate vicinity are slightly lacking, so today we went out in search of another. Armed with the store locater and bad MapQuest directions, we headed for the Super Target in Leesburg (also, the local outlet mall. Mental note: never ever go to an outlet mall on a weekend. Especially a holiday weekend). My goal was to find the Target exclusive Elita One and the deluxe Arcee, or failing that, the cutest Galactus ever.
Unfortunately, none were to be found. Arcee and Elita's case assortments were there, but the specific toys I wanted were sadly nowhere to be found. The same thing happened last wave, with the Scout-class Arcee, so I'm not too surprised - collectors are just snapping them up as soon as they find them. I'm just annoyed that I'm not one of the collectors finding them yet (also that Target doesn't sell its exclusives online. Jerks).
I'm going to have to trawl every Target within fifteen miles in order to find these toys. It's a darn shame boys don't buy female action figures, isn't it?
Yesterday, I wrote about the path the video game industry has taken to the mainstream. Today, I'm going to talk about how far the comic book industry has fallen.|
There was a time when comics were selling like crazy. To use my favorite example, the Marvel Transformer series was canceled in the early Nineties at its 80th issue due to low sales - less than 100,000 copies per month. This June, only ten titles broke that threshold.
Comic book sales may be better than they've been in a decade, but that's not saying a whole lot, historically speaking. Why is that? Because the comic book industry is working from the same playbook as the video game industry, but they're making the exact opposite decisions.
While video games are sold both in dedicated specialty stores and mass retail stores, comic books are practically non-existent outside of their specialty stores. While video games are advertised on television and in non-industry periodicals, when was the last time you saw an ad for comics outside of Wizard or Newsarama? While video games rely on several overlapping audiences, each purchasing a different selection of product, comic books focus all of their product on the same market, hoping the audience will buy everything they produce. While video games have continually tried to expand their market, reaching wider or different markets, the comic book industry caters to an ever narrowing slice of its original market.
This is how just under a hundred thousand copies sold goes from "not worth the effort" to "solid performer". This is how you can own a major icon like Superman or Spider-Man and still sell for crap.
So, why the hell are Marvel and DC still in business, if they're selling so poorly? As I've said before, the companies aren't really in the business of selling comic books. Sure, the floppies better make some profit, but I maintain the two companies only keep publishing to defend trademarks that'll make real money elsewhere.
Take a gander at Marvel Entertainment's most recent earnings report. For the three month period ending June 30, Marvel Licensing's operating income (basically, profit before taxes*) was greater than the net sales of the Publishing (read: comics) arm. For the six month period ending that day, the disparity is even greater - Marvel Licensing's operating income is nearly twice Publishing's net sales.
Marvel Licensing makes more money after expenses than Publishing makes before.
If you're a Marvel stockholder, the logical conclusion is clear. "Yeah, yeah, Civil War, nice. Print more fucking T-shirts."
Tomorrow: Where I'm going with all this.
* This is a major oversimplification, but work with me
|» Brief notes on reaching the mainstream|
This is something that's been kicking around in my head for a few weeks now, and I'm finally going to try and get it written down.|
I have three major hobbies, these days - roleplaying games, video games, and comic books. Of these, exactly one can be considered mainstream. Like its companions, video games were the province of geeks and children. Today they're a multi-billion dollar industry nearly as respectable as television and cinema. Comics and RPGs, on the other hand, remain niche markets - a greatly fallen status for the former.
How did the video game industry rise out of the Geek Ghetto, and why can't the comic book and RPG industries do the same? More plugged-in minds than myself have tried to puzzle that out, but I'm going to take a hack at it anyway.
The easy answer is that Those Damn Kids TodayTM / Joe and Jane Consumer don't have the imagination / attention span / taste / moral fiber to appreciate such refined fare as Infinite Crisis or Dungeons & Dragons. This is a helpful explanation, because it simultaneously affords an air of superiority and absolves the respective industries of responsibility for the current state of affairs. Naturally, that's why it's also fucking stupid.
The real answer is that early on, the video game industry decided to behave as if it was a legitimate industry. The major developers pushed to have their systems and games stocked in toy stores and large department stores, they advertised in periodicals and on television, they sought to continuously grow their market. When gaming-specific journals (such as Electronic Gaming Monthly) grew up around the industry, developers courted but (and this is important) did not limit their attention and advertising dollars to them. When clever entrepreneurs established specialty stores devoted to video games, the industry incorporated them without abandoning the larger retail stores.
The practical upshot of this strategy is that everyone's been around video games. They're on the shelves where we buy cameras and DVDs, they're advertised alongside our favorite television programs, and if there's not a console in our house, we've got a friend or relative who has one. The industry originally focused on a young demographic. However, slowly, inevitably, their market grew up, and the industry grew up with it, without abandoning the (new) young demographic. Today, most video gamers have been playing for several years, and the size of the industry (in terms of consumers and revenues) grows every year.
How's that going for the other guys? Still crap? Just checking.
Tomorrow: Why Johnny Doesn't Read (Comics)
|» My Pokemans. Let me show you them.|
pallas_melissa and I were discussing our latest shared interest today, and she really hit on why we find the Pokémon games so appealing. It's essentially a trading card game without the money sink.|
For those of you who aren't all that familiar with the series, your basic goal is to collect at least one of every kind of cuddly monster in the game. Some are more common than others, some are really super-rare, and some are only available by trading with other players. Then, you can pit your collection against other players' in what amounts to a cuddly monster cock-fight.*
Minus the light RPG that forms the games' structure, you've got the same basic set-up followed by trading card games, without as much expense. A "full set" is a one-time cost of thirty or forty dollars (depending on which specific game you get, and not counting the cost of hardware) - much less than you'll spend if you want a full collection of any given TCG. The only real investment is time (time spent gathering up critters and training up your existing ones), but with one "expansion" every three or so years instead of three to six months, you've got plenty of time.
It's nice having a game that scratches my collecting itch without soaking up all me cash.
* Okay, so there's a second reason I like the games. If there's one thing I like, it's watching a yellow electric mouse fighting an orange dragon for my amusement.
I'm basically a horrible person.
|» "And I said, well maybe we should just call you White Fish!"|
I told you that story, as I'm becoming wont to say, so I could tell you this one.|
My next door neighbors seem cool. They're of Indian descent, and they have a friendly daughter who I'm pegging at about ten or twelve. That is to say, if you're anyone who doesn't work for the Big Two comic publishers, she's in the prime age to lure into comic readership.
Which made me think, what comics are being written for her?
Off the top of my head, the only character from that general region is Sooraya Qadir, and she's Afghani. I can't think of any others, and that lead me back to Cheryl Lynn's post about making the fucking comics. And now I'm wondering if I can make a comic for my neighbor, and I'm worried the answer is no, and I'm thinking I should try anyway.
(Her name is Rumble*, and she's a third-generation Indian-American, and she has electro-magnetic powers and she wants to be a vet when she grows up. That's the easy part - the hard part is the research)
Naturally, the next station at which my train of thought stopped was the way non-white superheroes are portrayed. This is, of course, no surprise to many comic readers, but many non-white supers tend to be fairly obviously non-white. Black Vulcan, who provided this post with its title, is hardly the only example - a number of fairly common ethnic stereotypes recur within superhero comic. Black heroes come out of the projects, Asian heroes are martial artists and Latino heroes pepper their dialogue with gratuitous Spanish. Even if they don't conform to behavioral stereotypes, their costumes and code-names frequently call back to their ethnicity - in addition to Black Vulcan, Superfriends gave us Apache Chief, El Dorado and Samurai.
This trend seems to be going away now, if the new Atom and Blue Beetle are any indication, and there have almost always been exceptions. Nonetheless, most of these characters are still around (unless the next big crossover requires a sacrificial PoC, natch), and they remain a subtle reminder of who the companies and creators think they're writing for.
* The code-name is subject to change, but so far I like it.
|» Post-Move: Our New Neighborhood|
It's International Blog Against Racism Week, and I feel a great need to participate. I've got a few more posts in mind on the subject (and hopefully I'll get to them), but I want to start by talking about our new place.|
We're in a nice subdivision in Sterling, a small town vaguely northwest of DC (my grasp of local geography is always tenuous at best. Look, pallas_melissa's the imagery analyst, I was all-source). It's relatively new, our townhouse being about seven years old, and very much a planned community - in addition to the residential area, there are a number of shopping centers and two elementary schools within walking distance.
It's also very ethnically diverse.
That actually surprised me - I'm not sure if that suggests speaks worse of the average such community, or of me. I went in with the assumption that a planned community would be whiter than an explosion at a Miracle Whip plant, mainly because ... well, they tend to be. That's where some of the planning comes in.*
Instead, we have a ride range of people from different backgrounds all living in one neighborhood. It's good for us, but most importantly it's good for our sons. I believe the best counter-agent for the casual racism that's still a factor in American society, the Othering of those with skin tones and accents that differ from the "normal" majority, is simply being around people who differ from you. Now I just need to overcome my habitual hermitage and actually get them around other people.**
More to come tomorrow.
* My mother recently discovered that the original charter for her hometown, Nederland, TX, prohibited blacks from buying property. I was surprised to the extent that "sundown towns" were more a Northern phenomenon - Southern racism of the era manifested as dominance over elimination
** I maintain that one of the biggest reasons I am the way I am is because I grew up in a house ten or fifteen miles outside city limits with a total of four other houses in a half-mile radius.
|» Guess Who's Back?|
Sorry this space went dark for two weeks (although I'm sure some of you are used to that by now) - we've been in the middle of moving from Nebraska to Virginia and we're still getting settled at the new place. I wanted to make a "leaving now, won't be online for a while" post but never had the time.|
However, we do now have Internet and all (also stuff, once I find it in the boxes) so that's alright, then.
I'll get back to posting semi-regularly again soon, I promise.