Welcome back to my month long look at my favorite parts of the non-mainline stories in the Descendants Universe! In case you missed it, I put up a bonus article Monday concerning the shenanigans going on at DC comics that you can find here. Warning: it’s an angry rant just like everyone’s articles about DC and their co-publisher, Dan Didio have been this month and not in keeping with the upbeat and constructive kick I’ve been on recently. Tread with caution.
But that’s that article and this is this one. And this one is to talk about how awesome and totally non-egotistical I am. Erm… okay, so it is how egotistical I am, but it’s supposed to be fun is what I’m saying.
I’m cheating here because it isn’t a single specific moment, but it is a series of little moments in the LI series that always make me smile when I write them.
Right off the bat, I’m going to say that I’m sure there are some people don’t like Kura. We recently had a discussion on the forum where someone mentioned not liking Cyn and Kura is an even more overt version of Cyn. Where Cyn’s character DNA owes a lot to Genki Girls in general, Kura’s is almost pure Haruhi Suzumiya, and Haruhi is a massively divisive character in her own right. In fact, Kura takes so much from Haruhi that it’s possible that she’s Haruhi’s (heh) descendant.
Well I like characters who are Jerks with Hearts of Gold, especially when sometimes they’re absolutely adorable. I already talked about how I used funny/adorable moments to soften Icthiani from Descendants: LA, and several things (one of which shows up higher on this list) work the same way for Kura. This is more important for Kura than, say, for Cyn or ‘Ani because by her nature, Kura will never learn, so her callousness and inattention to boundaries and such always has to be framed as either misguided enough to forgive, or cute enough to overlook.
Thus the Gliding Hugs (TM).
In case you’re unfamiliar with the character (I understand that some people are just ere for some stories), Kura can’t fly, she can only float along slower than walking speed However, thanks to physics, she can take a running start, then float/glide along at speed until wind resistance slows her down. With this in mind. Kura often enters scenes by getting a good run at it, then gliding in to hug whoever her favorite person of the moment is. Also thanks to physics, she often ends up doing a partial orbit around them on inertia.
If you’re not sure why this is on my list of favorite things, let me be clear: this is the only reason Kura has this power. Her basic power set is summed up as ‘she can cast the Dungeons and Dragons spell prestidigitation at will’. One of the few things that spell can’t do is let you fly. Kura just has this ability because I find it adorable.
By the way, like Warrick, Taylin and Ru, Kura was born in a tabletop game, this one d20 Modern, Urban Arcana before being ported to HERO for an X-men game played by myself and m best friend/former Ledgermain Comics artist, Nyx/Pele (who was also Pele’s player and, as we’ll learn later in this series of articles, Maya’s). I created a LOT of the LI cast as characters for the game where Maya and Kura originated including Eddie, Rapunzel, Phineas, and Arkose.
I went to college at what was then Mary Washington College (now the University of Mary Washington), which you might remember from my now-classic two-parter, Morganna’s Body where I destroyed the useless tower the college built instead of building us students a parking garage. I loved my time there and all my friends from there… but like the tower, there were somethings I still harbor a lot of spite for a couple of things.
For one I seemed to have a curse that kept me from having good neighbors and/or roommates on my first two years. Warrick’s jerkass suitemate is a compilation of three guys who were basically faces looking for a fist. No names for obvious reasons, but let us just say that Warrick’s soon to be on-going problems with this jackass are going to be based in part on actual events. Jesus wept, let me count the ways:
Let’s see, my very first roommate for anything longer than a drama class weekend trip was a brand new sports guy who discovered alcohol within his first week of classes and thereafter constantly treated me to the wondrous sounds of his vomiting late at night into a bucket he kept next to his bed just for that effect. He also made fun of my girlfriend’s height (she wasn’t really that short, I’m just quite tall).
Then there was a suitemate who would break into our room. He didn’t steal anything, he’d just break into the room, use my PS2, my roomie’s hot pot, store things in my fridge, and generally snoop around. He’d also just bust in at any time he wanted to ask/tell us something. He was like an unfunny Kramer from Seinfeld. Oh, and we eventually learned he was creepily stalking girls on campus. Charming.
And then… then there was my summer session roommate. Guy seemed fine at first until I noticed he was using my computer without my permission (and downloading some things I did NOT want on there), oh, and one time Nyx visited me, he creeped her out so much staring at her that she never came up to hang out in the room again. I finally confronted him about the computer (I never got a chance to get around to he creeping) after he managed to circumvent that fact that I took my keyboard’s adapter to class with me and the guy straight up ran out of the room screaming. I mean storming up and down the halls and then out onto campus.
It was so disruptive and freaked out literally everyone to such an extent that the college gave me a single room for the rest of the session as a kind of compensation for sticking me with the crazy.
So yeah, here’s to you, you small army of assholes that marred an otherwise awesome life in college; you are now forever immortalized in a gestalt monument to your towering horrible natures that Warrick will have to deal with now.
But any resemblance to people living or dead is purely coincidental. The guy is a gestalt, after all and I can’t say any of them had the magnificent man-fur that Warrick’s horrible suitemate does.
I say it all the time, but it bear repeating: I love it when people with powers do mundane things. The framing device of TW&SS, however, is something extra special in my opinion because it’s one of the rare times where that mundane made awesome effect has nothing to do with powers. In fact, not only does no one at the game really use powers in the framing story, but everyone but Whitecoat is strictly a badass normal with some special gear and mad skills.
This idea for this comes from an episode of Batman: The Animated Series called ‘Almost Go Him’. In it, Joker, Two-Face, Poison Ivy, The Penguin and Killer Croc play poker while each telling the tale of the time they ‘almost got’ Batman in their greatest trap or scheme ever. It’s one of the best episodes of the series and if fate be kind, I’ll be able to find the YouTube clip of the most epic joke in it involving Killer Croc’s story.
I absolutely loved doing the multiple vignettes, for this one, which also worked to expand the DU by introducing things like the strix (the bat-like monsters Improv fights in his story) and the One True and Fated Hero of the DU: Bryce the Jelly Pig.
The framing story was fun too, just for the sake of seeing these costumed heroes just hanging around being guys and gals. They drink beer (finding ways to do so without revealing their faces), rib each other, and just generally let their characters show through. This disdain they hold for Stunner and Barn Owl’s attempts to include (and woo) her are absolute gold in my eyes. Plus, the whole idea of superheroes telling ‘war stories’ is something I find highly interesting for the shared reactions even in the middle of the betting and the talk about micro-brewed beer.
I hope the main take-away from this moment and that mini (and honestly, the entire DU) is that Superheroes Are People. They live and love and hope and joke like anyone else regardless of all the terrifying, unsettling and dangerous stuff they might run into in the course of their self-appointed duties. And that’s part of why they’re great.
Ah, Liedecker. There’s something about a Southern Gentleman who is also a massive crime boss who is made of genre-savvy and badassery that just brings people together and fires my imagination. The TVTropes page for Descendants even called him a smarter Lex Luthor (which still shocks me).
I imagine that when I first started writing the Life and Times trilogy, people couldn’t really get their heads around there having been a time when Vincent Liedecker wasn’t the boss, capable of throwing minions and money at his problems. Probably even harder to imagine that people called him Vince… or Vinnie. But being the boss was never (at least to me) the core of his character, nor was being a bad guy. No, the core of Vincent T Liedecker is being a smart and pragmatic bastard whose superpower is using what’s on hand with ruthless efficiency.
And that’s what the truck heist in The Son is all about. Even though he respects his father like no other person, he’s perfectly willing to steal from him to solve a problem because his knowledge of his father’s business is one of the resources he has close at hand and he’s not going to back off the idea just because it’s immoral.
I’ll repeat that: Liedecker isn’t immoral to be immoral or even because it’s easier. Immoral action is just a tool to him. If he can achieve the same ends with a better cost:risk ratio in a legal and moral fashion, he’ll do it. The question is always what exactly his aims are.
The heist itself was inspired by the fact that I freaking love con and heist films. It’d just watched the remake of The Italian Job (the one where they blast a hole under a truck full of gold and just drop the damn thing into a tunnel) and was playing with other ways to steal a truck if you couldn’t just explode things until it worked.
You’d be surprised how much security is on trucks right now to keep big, important trucks from being hijacked and stolen even today. You’d also be terrified how insecure weapons and other nasty stuff is while in motion compared to say, diamonds or cash from retail stores. Because of course money is more worthy of protection than things you murder people with. (By the by, the National Park Service recently admitted they lost like a ton of guns. Sleep tight.)
“They’re mine now, suckers!”
Of course, any and all security placed on a shipment is pretty useless when you’re one of the people who holds most of the passwords. And for everything else, Liedecker has Joe Callahan and a spare (empty) truck.
What I find remarkable about the whole scenario is that Liedecker isn’t doing any of this for himself. In fact, he doesn’t stand to gain much from it at all (as far as he knew). This all stems from Vincent T Liedecker, badass supreme wanting to help a friend get out of the hole he dug for himself.
And again, that goes back to what I said in the previous entry: Liedecker is one of the bad guys, but he’s also a guy. He’s a person with friends and goals and even if his methods aren’t good or pure, there’s still something human behind it. That’s what gives it meaning.
Liedecker: Life and Times III: The Master will be coming next year, chronicling Vincent’s time as a soldier for the Mayfield Underworld and his rise up the ranks to become the kingpin we all know and love. Look for it on a webserial site near you!
11 – Warrick Does Not Understand England (Lost Tales of the Descendants #2)
I often wonder if I was just massively imbalanced when I was younger, or if this was a thing for others too. Chime in ant let me know one way or another. Anyway, back in high school, I hated the Backstreet Boys and later N*Sync (and those other guys, Degrees something?) and it had nothing to do with being a hipster and hating popular things. It had something to do with them being popular, yes, but it was more about who they were popular with.
You see almost every girl in my school was all about the boy bands, just like almost every girl across the nation at that time. And it wasn’t just a matter of the ladies not appreciating me blasting Eminem, Snoop Dogg,Outkast and… Weird Al (“Eclecticism is a virtue. It may not be a word, but its definitely a virtue.”~ Will Smith) on my stereo while riding with them. It was because they were into those guys. They wanted dudes who talked, sang and most importantly, had hair like those guys. And let me tell you right now: a black guys hair like mine? It doesn’t do that. Ever.
So to my high school brain, these guys were stepping on my flow without even being within punching distance (not that I would have punched them because I’m actually a personal pacifist in reality). Aaand somehow this morphed into an irrational hatred of these guys and ideas of what they were like despite knowing NOTHING about them. I pretty much just taped together bits and pieces of things other (bitter) people were saying about them and converted it into a picture I could mentally hang up and throw darts at.
And that’s what’s going on wait Warrick. There’s no actual guy that’s ‘threatening’ his relationship with Tink, he’s just so lacking in self esteem, he’s completely certain that there’s someone somewhere in England that’s better than him and that will be better for Tink. Note that even after the dream here, he knows for sure she’s not that fickle, he just thinks there’s a guy so much better than him that she’d be stupid not to take the offer.
Since there’s no real person behind any of these thoughts in his head, he’s cobbled together this perfect man from his (hilariously limited) understanding of England. Thus we have Sir Lord Giles Worthinghamshireton, a man whose resemblance to fake knight and romantic-rival-in-theory-but-not-in-practice Conrad from Rune Soldier Louie. I actually imagine that Warrick has seen Rune Soldier because there’s a zero (heh) percent chance that Juniper hasn’t.
As for the actual misconceptions… I’m sorry to tell my UK readers, but yes, many Americans imagine your country as a land of tea and monocles where people still ride horses for transportation instead of a hobby, people call you ‘old bean’ all the time and there may or may not be dragons. You also have about a 75% chance of being wizards.
I’m so very sorry for perpetuating these stereotypes and hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me. Please don’t turn me into anything unnatural, old… spice.
Also, Pele and I use the word ‘indubitably’ all the freaking time. And… I might own a monocle with holographic gears on it. DON’T JUDGE ME!
Actually, yeah, go ahead and judge me. Comments are wide open, folks. See ya next week for the next five!
Small Announcement: I’ve dropped the price of the A Girl and Her Monster paperbacks to $9.99 USD (available on Amazon and Createspace [use code “JC6FHA72” to get 25% off at Createspace]. You can still contact me for a signed copy, and for our friends and Europe, the ebook is now finally free on Amazon UK.
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