Dropped Story Threads
I know the schedule says that this week was going to be a post on fan fiction, but this just came up in the comments and I thought it deserved some attention.
A long time reader was looking back through the archives and asked what ever happened to Warrick’s ‘silver eye’ moments such as the ones mentioned in ‘The Irrepressible Spark’. It’s a fair question and it’s a bit more involved than I can explain in the comment section, so here we are, talking about the phenomena of dropped plot threads:
First off, I fully believe that things like this, no matter how annoying it can get for dedicated fans, is an inevitability in long running, serial fiction. It happens all the time in comics, especially in cases where a new creative team takes over and doesn’t care about what the previous team was working on. Only incredibly influential writers may be allowed to come back later and tie up their loose ends, possibly in the form of an alternate universe retelling (such as Claremont’s X-men: The End). It also happens in television, where writing is typically done by teams and sometimes someone’s pet plot has to die for someone else’s or changes made with the ratings in mind.
And, of course, it shows up in individual works, for reasons as diverse as the writer getting bored with an idea that was initially exciting, because a better idea came along, or just plain old forgetting.
I used to be incredibly frustrated when things that looked important early on, that I really, really wanted to see pay off later, ended up with not paying off at all, or simply never being mentioned again, especially considering how much I love continuity in my entertainment. Then I actually had to go through the process of writing and lo and behold, I find myself doing it too. Now I understand why this happens!
…And I’m still incredibly frustrated. Only now it’s with myself, so I save a considerable amount for hate mail postage.
Here are a few of those dropped threads, some you may have noticed, some you may not have, and why they’ve become dropped, lost, or terribly, terribly delayed:
Warrick’s Silver-Eye Mode
We’ll tackle this first because I’m a big believer in customer service and ones of people DEMANDED it!
As I’ve mentioned before, the way I do (major) characters is to give them a number of ‘arcs’. One of these arcs is their ‘power’ arc, where they develop, come to terms with, or come up with new and creative uses for their powers. I like this because one of my favorite things about superheroes is the powers themselves and cool and fun uses thereof and I wanted to highlight them.
The problem was that by the time I started writing Descendants, Warrick was a 400+ point character in the HERO System role-playing game he was born in. And already, his powers were getting esoteric and crazy. This worked well back when Descendants was Elementals, because Warrick was the main character instead of part of an ensemble (Juniper, Laurel and Kareem didn’t even exist in the first concept).
My solution was to depower Warrick for the serial and then slowly increase his powers over the course of the series. Sounds about right, yes? Ha, your innocence and naivete is just adorable.
See, game!Warrick wasn’t just a metal controller with weird tentacle manifestations. Oh no, gentle reader, by the time Descendants #0 was being written, I had gotten to the point that adding more points to his metal control and element transmutation powers would have broken the setting (that being the Marvel Universe, where he was able, by haymakering his powers, melt adamantium.). So I’d started taking other powers. Insane powers.
How insane? How does ‘ability to grant sentience to metal objects’ strike you?
Yeah, I’ll wait until you stop laughing/cursing at me. It made sense in the MU because there are mutants whose powers are explicitly magical/sufficiently advanced so as to basically be magical like Scarlet Witch or Nightcrawler. In the DU? Not so much. At least not at the start.
Still, I was going to forge ahead on Warrick eventually becoming Magical Pretty Soldier War-Kun because… what the hell, right? Also, his car in game was the most awesome thing ever. His eyes glowing when he pushed his powers were intended to be the first indication that his powers were of a different nature from the rest of the cast. Eventually, he would have started developing physical mutations like his hair turning silver at the root and his eyes going gunmetal gray.
So what saved us from that?
I didn’t want Warrick to become a Marty Stu. While I still like the idea that some descendant powers are less scientific and more magical in nature, layering it on Warrick, who is a member of the power three among the younger cast was just too much. Considering that his concept is already ‘Magneto if he ever picked up a physics or chemistry book’, the boy is already powerful enough, thank you. And frankly, he might be due for some sort of downgrade in the future.
At the same time, I hit upon the idea that Warrick’s power arc could also serve as Isp and Osp’s character arc, as the twins continue to grow more of a personality and learn to use themselves to better effect without input from Warrick.
Now when you see his eyes flare, it’s just a comicbook-y shorthand for ‘he’s trying really hard guys!’. Because stuff glowing is cool. Especially eyes.
Leo and Robin Atan
Leo is the robot introduced in ‘June 18/Post-Modern Prometheus’ and his creation was the entire point of the B-story of the issue. He had build up, he was going to be a major player in the story and because he necessarily meant that it would involve robots, it was going to be awesome!
See, Leo was just a means of introducing Robin Atan and Robin Atan was possibly the most long range mythology gag ever written by man. How long range? I invented her in 1990. In third grade.
If you’re a long, long, long time fan, possibly back to the time when I was doing the ‘Ledgermain’ webcomic, or back when I had that Blogger blog, you might remember a mindlessly self indulgent (Hey, that’s a good name for a ban—DAMNIT!) post about my background as a writer/storyteller/deeply disturbed child. (Hey, Disturbed! That would be a good band nam—SONOFABITCH! [But seriously, they’re awesome]) In that post, I mentioned that my first stories were created by taking over stories my mother told me and telling them to her instead. Somewhere during the evolution of those stories (around the time they were called… ugh… the Diving Dolphins), I had a villain who was the Mistress of Robots. Her name: Robata.
Surprisingly, even as a dumb kid, I knew that villain names that on the nose are kinda corny, but I was stupid enough to thing that I could ‘disguise’ that in a punny name (Incidentally, I AM still dumb enough to love puns). Thus, the primary foe of the Diving Dolphins was Robin Atan, a British National by way of a conquered Iraq. I… have no excuses for that. Gulf War I was on, my soft, stupid child brain knew that a) Iraq was the bad guys and so needed to be defeated and b) all bad guys needed a British accent, dammit.
There’s a whole lot of childhood insanity surrounding her, leading up to preteen insanity and finally teenage insanity wherein for a brief time before I dropped the entire series concept, she was a cyborg, but also hyper-sexualized to the point that I think one of my older stories might constitute a hate crime.
I never, ever used her well, but Robata/Robin was a character I more or less grew up with. She was my first villain who I was pretty sure wasn’t real (unlike evil dogman, Bozo-Wozo, who was totally real and stalking me [If there isn’t a stronger argument for stomping out a child’s imagination, I haven’t heard it]). In short, I have a special place n my heart for her and when I came back to writing and moved on to other projects, I felt bad for leaving her behind.
Part of her character was reborn in the form of Maven. In fact, all of Maven’s robots are based on ‘bots Robata was already using in my stories back when I was blazing through my homework so I could watch all-new episodes of Blossom and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. But aside from shtick, Maven was an entirely different character, so I worked out a way to reintroduce Robin with her first ever original story more complex than ‘she’s crazy and also likes robots’. Here, she would be someone who Brother Wright used and manipulated often, who then decided to strike out on her own as a villain.
Leo was really just a way to show the weird kind of ‘Spike and Dru‘ kind of relationship Wright and Shine had with each other and would just be kind of their robot son. The real major robot characters would be ones Robin built later.
So what happened? In a word, Brother Wright’s angle didn’t happen, which never gave me a chance to develop Robin. (See below for information on that one). I never got that springboard to make Robata a major player and to be honest, at that point, I had already used all my coolest robot concepts for Maven stories. Add to that the character of Manikin being my best ‘Pinocchio’ character, which made Robata’s robot minions less special, and everything special about her just kind of bled out.
Her future is probably more in villain support than big leagues now. But we’ll see.
Brother Wright’s List
In Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir’s brilliant New X-men: Academy X miniseries New X-men: Hellions, we are introduced to a villain called Kingmaker, whose shtick was that he could make your dreams come true—as long as you returned the favor by using your new fame/fortune/powers to help benefit other people in his little pyramid scheme and/or himself.
The execution made him a formidable villain who more or less could have the whole of the Marvel Universe at his disposal. This made him flexible, variable in power, and an all around awesome villain.
Unfortunately, Marvel decided that mutant fans can’t have nice things and nuked the series from orbit and more or less abandoned DeFilippis and Weir. So we’ll probably only see Kingmaker again when we need a disposable bad guy to suck and die on screen, if that.
Brother Wright was my attempt to salvage such a great idea given such an ignoble end. It was established very quickly that he worked on a system of favors and had an extensive rolodex of people who owed him one, making his resources immense. From the very beginning, Wright was part of the Big Four villains: himself, Liedecker, Morganna and Project: Tome. I had visions of him using his clout to stack Hollywood, Washington and everywhere in between in his favor for his awesome schemes.
What happened? Well, there’s still elements there and the list exists and is in Liedecker’s hand, but the problem that kept Wright from growing is that the thrust of the series has increasingly been about the world and not the villains and Wright’s theme demands being the center of a major arc.
Originally, the Big Four were going to be ongoing and overlapping threats, important beyond all other things. Volume 3, for example is almost all about a counter initiative against Tome. But I, as a writer, am a world builder and what I like and (hopefully) do best is create a world and an atmosphere. The omnipresence required by Brother Wright’s schemes is at odds with the idea that the events in the series have ripple effects in many different directions.
So while I intend to move forward with this idea, it likely won’t be as epic as originally conceived.
There are, of course other dropped threads over the years I’ve put into the series, but our time together this week has come to an end.
If you’ve got more seemingly dangling plots you want to hear about, drop me a line in the comments here, or ion the forum, and you’ll get some kind of answer either there, or in a future blog.
Next week is a Rune Breaker week, but we’ll see if I can rock that fan fiction article the week after. Until then, thanks for reading!
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