Welcome to a new feature that will be popping up in the blog posts from time to time: Character Focus. This is where I talk a little bit about the conception and development of different characters from my works and after this one, it will be driven by popular demand, so if you’ve got a favorite character and want me to talk about them, just let me know on the forums or in the comments and I’ll make it happen.
This week, we’ll start with the original Descendants character: Warrick Kaine. Now, some of you have read my old blog and know that Chaos and Darkness both existed years before the Descendants, but it’s important to know that when they were created, Chaos and Darkness did have the same codenames, but their powers were vastly different (Darkness’s powers were acidic, Chaos had a lot of fire powers), and they were both just alter egos of myself and whatever girl I had a crush on at the time. So they don’t count.
Warrick counts though, because he started it all. Somewhere about 2006, I was invited to play in a Marvel Universe HERO System game set in the Xavier Institute.
Before I even gave a look at what HERO could do in terms of character creation, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted powers-wise, based on X-men characters that, while not my favorites, had some of the powers I thought were really cool. In terms of powers, Warrick’s ancestors would be Magneto, Colossus and Omega Red. The clever bit was the idea that unlike Magneto, Warrick didn’t control magnetism, but metals themselves—all substances that are classified as metals, from iron to sodium to mercury (which proved interesting in the game as there is a canon character from New X-men named Mercury. You can guess what she’s made of).
Thinks became really interesting when I was trying to build his Omega Red-esque tentacles in HERO. As it turns out, the system can make regular old extra limbs, but it can also make semi-autonomous limbs like Doctor Octopus’s tentacles. And as cing on the cake, the power is cheaper if you just let them have a mind all their own. Thus Isp and Osp were born.
By and large, his personality has remained intact from the game where his powers got more refined and limited for the purpose of not making him too powerful for the Descendants setting. At his heart, he’s pure geek and isn’t apologetic about it. This lets him appreciate just how awesome some of the things in his life are even while they’re also life threatening.
And despite all the good he does, he never really sees it. Like a lot of geeky folks, Warrick has self image issues. In his mind, he’s built up a mythic figure that is Hero with a capital ‘H’, and he can never see himself reaching it even though he’ll never stop trying it. That’s why people constantly have to remind him that he really is doing good works and making a difference; to him, he could have always done more, better and faster.
That’s part of the reason why I call Warrick ‘Peter Parker in a world that doesn’t hate him’. See, for Parker, it isn’t a personality flaw or anything internal that makes him feel like the put-upon underdog; he really is put-upon and the underdog. Wherever he turns, life if going to bite him in the ass and every good deed he does seems to get punished purely because he did the right thing. The world is literally out to hurt him.
When it comes to Warrick, he doesn’t have that as an excuse. There are people out to get him, but it isn’t as if the physical laws of the world are out to screw him; he has a nice life and his insecurities and feelings of inadequacy are character flaws that he’ll eventually have to confront. This is his Internal Arc.
This will come up again whenever I do a Character Focus, so in a nutshell, I have a rule for characters in long form stories like The Descendants and I wish more comic writers would follow it. That rule is this: every character in the story for the long haul needs three long term story arcs.
First is the Internal Arc, where a character starts with a specific flaw, that flaw causes them problems, and over time, that character learns to overcome that flaw, or succumbs to it. Warrick’s self esteem is his Internal Arc.
Next is the Power Arc. In this arc, the character either receives powers or knowledge or undergoes a change to said power or knowledge that they have to come to grips with. Alternatively, it can be a loss of powers. This is probably one of the pillars of creating a classic comic hero in my opinion.
For Warrick, this one hasn’t really come up yet. His powers have changed, but not really in a way that he has to deal with. Just becoming more competent with his powers isn’t enough, he’ll eventually need to gain a deeper understanding of them.
And finally, there’s the relationship arc. This can be any kind of relationship, from lovers to friends to parents, but the important part is that it’s the most important relationship for the character in terms of plot. It can even by the relationship between hero and nemesis if it serves as central to the story.
Warrick’s original arc was with Cyn. At the very start, I intended to bring those two together after a string of bad relationships for both of them. As it turned out, Warrick and Tink turned out to work together better than I could have imagined and plans changed.
I like those two together because the two of them play off one another very well. Tink is introverted but confident while Warrick, in spite of his own issues of self worth, doesn’t really are what others think and helps pull her into things. I also feel that being around her makes Warrick smarter, like he’s more likely to put in an effort to use his potential to its fullest when he would slack otherwise. Without one another, the two of them wouldn’t be at their best.
I panned to talk on Isp and Osp here, but really, they’re characters onto themselves and will have to wait for their own Character Focus. Maybe next time.