Meshing of Universes: When Worlds Collide
Board members AdrienVeidt and Spectre allowed us to pick their brains about how to successfully integrate characters from anywhere and everywhere into their respective Universe Asunder and Spectreverse action figure universes.
Let's say you guys are trying to add a character who doesn't exist in the Universe Asunder or the Star Wars Universe. Let's say there is a anthropomorphic beaver character you liked and wanted to include. We'll call this character Beav. :shifty: What is the first thing you would look at for this character's inclusion?
Spectre: The first thing I would need to begin the inclusion of Beav into the Star Wars Universe would be some form of bio and a physical description/reference pic. I would need to know his character's "history", major defining moments, skills, personality, etc. before I could begin tweaking him to fit my (or Lucas') Universe. I could then figure out just how he would fit into the universe and what type of role he would play.
When importing characters from other media, I often stick pretty closely to their established persona, but sometimes will only use a small part of their personas or even just a visual hook as an in-joke to my readers. It all depend s on just how iconic the character is.
My versions of G.I.Joe and Cobra more often than not stays pretty true to who the characters are in their mainstream media with only a few deviations (except for Mindbender who aside from his name and general appearance is a more or less original take on the character) while my upcoming version of the Red Skull is far different than what you would expect based on his history in the comics.
It all stems from what works in one media might not work in another. Deciding what I keep and what I discard is a fairly lengthy procedure. You first need to break the character down to his or her "essence" and decide just what it is that makes fans connect to this particular character. Is it their past? Is it their determination? Is it just a fancy weapon or costume? Not everyone sees the character the same way and you need to balance that with your own particular vision of the character to make it work.
The hardest part of what I do is to try and make my imported concepts fit into the overall established history of the Star Wars Universe (not an easy task with Lucas' constant retconning ) without causing any contradictions or inconsistencies. I often incorporate some of my bigger concepts into the fringe of the Star Wars Universe so as not to have too much of an impact on any of the main characters' lives. I will set my larger stories on new planets of my own invention in the Outer Rim, often in out of the ay space lanes or areas where traditional navigation is difficult at best. My only real deviation of this is my setting "Goth'am By Knight" on Coruscant, the center of the known Universe. Goth'am is just one district in the planet-wide city and the Bat's activities will rarely, if ever, take him outside of his district's crime-ridden streets so outside of his own district (as well as within it) he will be barely more than an urban legend.
Too many fanfic writers try to make their character(s) (who are more often than not avatars for themselves) into major players in an already established Universe, causing discord. If their character was truly the greatest Jedi/bounty hunter/soldier/etc. of all time and rescued the heroes on a weekly basis, why have they never been mentioned anywhere else in the Universe?
AdrienVeidt: Okay, the first factor is that my UA is all about trying to bash pre-existing characters and concepts together. So, when I hear 'anthropomorphic animal', I'll think of how that concept is used in the MU and DCU. I don't come up with ways outside of them two universes for this particular idea.
So, in the DCU, some of the Green Lanterns are basically talking animals, Ch'p and G'nort most prominently. There's also Captain Carrot, but he and his Zoo Crew are all far too goofy for my tastes, and pretty severely separated off in their own universe.
Over in the MU, Rocket Raccoon is the biggest and best example of a talking animal. Well, after Howard the Duck; but Rocket's cooler and his whole planet is full of lots of different species of talking animals.
So, since I dig Rocket so much (although I prefer Mignola's old way of drawing him to the guy doing the art on the current Guardians of the Galaxy series); we'll go that way.
Even though I've read the Rocket Raccoon mini a lot of times, I'll Google for 'rocket raccoon beaver' to see if there's ever been a beaver character associated with Rocket. All I get is this result, but it won't load for me at the moment, so we'll ignore it: Rocket Raccoon
Beavers are known as the engineers of the animal kingdom, along with termites and ants; but beavers are cuter in a sorta gruff way.
Since Rocket is a space traveler, the obvious idea is to make this beaver Rocket's chief engineer on his rocketship. We could even give him a Scottish accent for shins and grits.
Once I've got my basic idea in place, that's when I try to figure out how to make such a fig. I've been having ideas of making a Rocket fig based off an Ewok, which works even better as a beaver body, I think. I'd then try to find a beaver head someplace. I know there's a custom cast one some place, but I'll look at Schleicher and such Euro animal toys as well.
It's usually during the time I'm working on the figure that I daydream an origin story. I'm thinking that if I fail to come up with a story that thrills me, I don't end up finishing the figure. I've got loads of WIP figs everywhere, some left undone because their story bored me. I'd need some other impetus to finish 'Montbeavery Scott' if I couldn't come up with an origin I liked.
Would you work on the custom at the same time you flesh out the back story so that the way he looks flows with the bio you are coming up with for him? Or do you do one or the other first and then try to match it?
Spectre: This one varies from character to character. For me, the story is the most important part. If you have a cool looking custom but there is no "meat" to it, it's just not as impressive, I'm sorry but that's how I feel. Every custom should have a "reason to exist" aside from just looking cool.
I will work out the story first and then build the figure around my vision of the character. When making original characters, I have been guilty of building an entire character around a specific part like a cool head or accessory, but I always make sure that the back story is as engaging as the finished custom (unless it's just a generic trooper of some kind).
AdrienVeidt: I can't recall ever having a problem with matching the look to the story. A lot of the pre-established characters I do are done simply because they look cool. This applies mostly for the mooks and goon villains like the Absorbing Man and WhirlWind. Thankfully, such C-List characters don't really have much of a back story beyond their origin and a series of encounters where they get their ass beaten into the ground.
For other guys, like Plague Guillotine, it's a matter of reading between the lines. They say Guilly was once a HydroViper, and now he's the leader of the Plague. I didn't keep up with the DDP comic, but I don't think there was a whole lot more given than that. So I thought about why COBRA would need HydroVipers, and more about why they're not around anymore. Since both the DCU and MU have Atlanteans, I figure they gotta be the reason why COBRA would try to have divers that could 'go native' in such an inhospitable environment - the oceans cover 70% of the planet and so there's got to be some stuff down there worth getting. So, Guilly gets a back story involving come combat ops against Atlanteans. Then there has to be a reason why COBRA discontinued the program. Usually, such things end because they cost too much or never worked that well. I went with the latter since it adds more 'flavor' to Guilly for him to have some lingering health issues with the Hydro treatments, due to his gills drying out too easily and thus forcing him to wear a hydrating mask most of the time.
/Long winded, off topic, and all over the place.
Ok, to switch gears a little, on an established character like Batman or Spider-Man how much of their known history do you incorporate and how much ends up on the cutting room floor as you fit them into your worlds? What aspects do you typically use and what do you usually toss aside?
Spectre: As stated before, I break the character down to his or her "essence" and go from there. With Batman (and this one's easy as I have already worked him into my 'Verse ), I knew that you'd have to keep a bunch of well-known established facts:
His parents are murdered right before his eyes. His parents were wealthy. After the murder of his parents, he travels and learns the skills he needs for his future endeavors. Cape Pointy "ears" Gadgets Utility belt Batmobile (you haven't seen this one yet but it should blow everyone away ) His city (which is just as much of a character as he is) His gallery of foes His allies (which will play a MUCH smaller role in my 'Verse) Wayne Manor/Wayne Industries
However, I tossed out a bunch of stuff that I felt was unnecessary:
His sidekick (he is a loner in my 'Verse) Some of his foes (no need for Manbat as there are already similar aliens in the SWU, etc.) He will never "team-up" with other heroes nor belong to a "League" of any kind. No goofy specialized equipment (i.e. no "Deep Dive Batman"/"Solar Strike Batman"/"Mountain Climber Batman"/etc. )
As for someone like Spider-Man, I really do not need him for my 'Verse as there are already actual "spidermen" so he would be somewhat redundant and unspectacular (pun intended ). I would, however, consider Peter Parker.
Here's how I'd do it:
He's a holojournalist named P'ter Parkar working for a major news service. He's a science/tech wiz. Hot redheaded girlfriend/wife. Has a rival named Edd'i B'rok. His boss is a jerk. His parents died when he was young and he was raised by a loving aunt and uncle. His uncle was shot by a thug that broke into their home, a thug that P'ter let get away earlier in the day when he decided not to intercept him as he was escaping after robbing the news service where P'ter works (P'er had just finished getting chewed out by his boss and was angry at the news service).
You can see that I kept most of what made Peter Parker an interesting character without involving any of the super heroics of Spider-Man.
AdrienVeidt: I have to think about why I like the character at all. For these dudes, who've been having stories told about them for some 30, 40, or 70-odd years; there's gonna be a *lot* of clunkers.
For Batman in particular, the root of his whole existence is that 'if you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself'. He's the ultimate self-made man, relying on his wits and his inconquerable determination to get the job done. In addition to this, there's the whole 'childhood abandonment' issue that fuels his sorrow and self-imposed isolation. He fears that if he were to open up and let people get close to him, it'd be a betrayal against the love he had for his parents and they for him. They meant so much to him that their murders would just *have* to traumatize him for life, and if he ever allowed himself to come to terms with that trauma, it'd be an admission that they weren't that important to him.
However, he knows the pain is so great that others shouldn't suffer it alone; so he brings in various children that have suffered similar fates so he can train them to be self-sufficient as well, especially emotionally.
So, once I've got a 'fix' on who the character is, I look at all the events written about him that resonate with that essential nature, and toss out all the stuff that doesn't echo that nature.
Batman allowing a young teen become his partner? Works, within certain limits?
Batman discovering who killed his parents and having a confrontation with him, and they guy dies? Doesn't work as it gives his pain closure, and he loses his motivation to be Batman.
/Also long-winded, off topic, and all over the place.
Is there anything else you think people should concern themselves with when they try to incorporate characters from different sources into a single universe?
Spectre: The single biggest concern is making sure that the character fits in the new universe you are trying to incorporate it into. Just having the Smurfs show up in a G.I. Joe story makes little sense, but having the Joes go up against the Umbrella Corporation's T-Virus-created zombies in an urban setting could work if done right. Make sure that how you incoporate any imported characters and concepts does not interfere or stretch the bounds of believability for the Universe you are bringing them to. To do a really good job though, try to work all of the imported concepts into the established history of the Universe without contradicting anything.
AdrienVeidt: Don't worry so much about terminology, but focus on the concepts at play in the various universes you're looking to bash. The Force is described as energy created by all living things, binding them together, and able to be manipulated by individuals with training and willpower. Eternity is the gestalt being created by all living things in the universe and given intelligence by the combined mental power of the sentient portion of said living beings. Therefore, the Force is Eternity's life energy.
Lex Luthor is a corrupt industrialist, and Cesspool was an industrialist specializing in chemical production; therefore, Cesspool was VP for LuthorCorp's Chemical Engineering division prior to being sacrificed by Luthor due to a failed scheme against Superman, whereupon he started to work for COBRA.
The connections are literally laying there because the creators of all these various properties all feed off one another's ideas, and only separate them because copyright law forces them to. All I'm doing is restoring what their original intents were, is how I see it.