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February 27th, 2013, 9:59 pm

Zelkova Asks, or "On the Origin of Characters"

On February 13th, Zelkova asked, "When rereading the comic I notice that Rorschach wasn't as random as he is now. Between evolving and those questions it seem you had set his personality midway in the comic. Would it be safe to say that you starting to plan ahead of time like with Gorden and the other newer members? I recall you stating that Chester wasn't meant to be annoying but that how he kinda ended up. Mind going to detail of how characters were meant to be and how they ended up being? Maybe going as far of how the now dead characters would have been if they were still in the comic?"

That is a very long question, sir. And it requires a very long answer. Too long for me to write by hand. So, two weeks late, here is your answer. Hold on to your Rorschach-shaped hats, everyone; this'll be longer than a "The End is Nigh" rant. (If you don't have time to read it all, at least read the Rorschach section.)

When I was first playing the game, I made a few mistakes with the whole character personality thing. First and foremost was that I didn't really personify Tyton. Since I was the player, he was me. Therefore, I projected my own beliefs and opinions on him, so when I started the comic I had nothing to work with besides myself. I knew I didn't want him to just be me, because from a writer's standpoint, that's boring and feels cheap. So I made him very bland and he started with the classic young protagonist stereotype. This is also why he's basically nobody's favorite character. I had to make him grounded and somewhat plain to keep him universally appealing--or, at least, not universally unappealing. As time has gone on, I think he's gotten a bit more of my quirks, probably due to his upgraded nose. I've also been working to incorporate more of his history, such as my repeated mentioning of his aunt. I am building to some more development in some pretty specific scenes later on. But overall, he's a bit of a failure in characterization. I freely admit that.

Haunshaul, being the starter, brought up similar problems to Tyton. There are two main categories of starters in Pokemon comics: the best friend, or the difficult partner that later becomes the best friend. I think choosing Mudkip directed me into choosing the former category. I chose Mudkip when I first got Sapphire in 2003, and to this day he remains the only Pokemon I've leveled to 100. He's currently hanging out in my White version and means a lot to me for being a bunch of blue pixels, so I think when I chose a Mudkip for Tyton I subconsciously turned him into that Mudkip from a decade ago. Therefore, Haun started out as the ultimate partner--helpful, powerful, and on the same wavelength as Ty. He basically stayed that way in my head through the whole game, and it wasn't until after he'd crushed that Whismur's head that I decided he needed to become more than that. So I looked back through the comic and noted that I had in fact written him to be heading down a dark road, and I took the opportunity to explore that. I got a lot of positive feedback about making him a very human character, and that's become a big part of how I write him now. His intelligence is also something I take into consideration, because somewhere along the line in the Q&A's I decided he should be a bit of a bookworm. Those are the two characteristics that have really grown to define his character, and I honestly do look forward to exploring him more.

The second big mistake I made is not paying attention to the in-game personalities of the Pokemon. I didn't really take note of whether a Pokemon was Sassy, Jolly, Timid... I just looked at their image, gave them a name, and went from there. The names actually dictated their personalities more than their nature in a lot of cases. One of those cases would be Erin. She was named after a good friend of mine I met in middle school, and I mentally gave the Poochyena her characteristics of being intelligent, loyal, and a bit maternal. In game, she had more of a big sister role, looking out for the others and taking charge when needed. When the comic came around, though, I reassessed the natures of the Pokemon and Erin's nature didn't really fit what I'd had in mind. So I created her new personality from scratch based entirely on how Ty caught her. I think it said a lot about her and I tried to let her develop into something more than a battle-fearing Poochyena, maybe eventually to the role I'd given her in my head. People can change, so why not Pokemon? Overall, I think that was a good choice on my part, even if it was cut short.

Gerald was one of the times that his personality and in-game nature went hand in hand. Because he was named after a very strange character I made up for a production in fifth grade, I wanted him to be silly. I also wanted to explore his Latin roots, since his species has elements of Mexican culture. However, it wasn't really until I drew him in shades on the beach that I knew exactly where I wanted him to go. The shades were what pushed the sassiness of his personality to the extreme, which I think gives me a good dichotomy to work with: the Johnny Bravo absurdity of his romanticism, and the genuine care and concern he feels for his teammates. I have some interesting things lined up for his future that will deal specifically with these aspects of him, and I think they'll make his character more realistic and therefore more likable, without moving very far from the essence of who he is.

Blu. Poor Blu. She didn't even make it off the Route I caught her on, so I didn't have time to think about her character much. Her only real distinguishing feature--being Gerald's hour-long obsession--wasn't even decided until like a page before I drew it in. I think if she'd survived, her and Gerald would have developed a very Spuds/Barb-esque relationship, except they could actually have their own children. But other than that, not much thought went into her. In the end, she just became a catalyst for Gerald's internal emotional turmoil, which didn't even affect the comic much.

Rorschach. Oh, Rorschach. Oh dear sweet Francis, Rorschach. We'll come back to you soon.

My third in-game mistake was always thinking of a character's personality when they were fully-evolved. Because of that, some personifications dind't really make sense. Jasmine, being a Nincada, originally had a bit more of a ninja in her. In fact, she was all ninja. She weren't no berry-pickin' Southern girl in my head at any point. This is an example of me trying to avoid stereotypes but falling into other ones. About half my favorites on SmackJeeves are Nuzlocke comics, so I've seen plenty of character archetypes repeated over and over. What I quickly discovered I wanted to do with this comic was avoid as many of those as I could. However, because those popular archetypes work so well, there are only a few ways to change things up successfully. You can either try and create a completely new character type that's never been done before and happens maybe once a year across all story mediums, merge two archetypes into a Frankenstein-ish combination that might work well but might completely fail, or you can just assign an as-yet-unused archetype to a character that might not normally be associated with its design. Three guesses which of those I chose for Jasmine, and the first four don't count. Choosing a feisty Texan for Jasmine doesn't make any more sense now than it did then, but I don't remember having seen any of those before, so I'm glad I made that decision, even if it wasn't quite as daring as I could have gone for had I tried hard enough.

Who'd I catch next? DJ? Okay, let's go with that. In-game, DJ was basically nothing, as evidenced by her lack of leveling. In the comics, I knew I had to make her relevant and interesting, because I'd carried her around on my team for a while. If you guys remember, DJ originally was a bit stranger, what with her chiropractor comments and all. She didn't find her voice (Ha. Puns.) until Dewford. After that, when I realized that she'd remained at level seven for a reaaally long time, I decided to use that to my advantage. I made her cockier to compensate for her lack of battle prowess, and more than a bit jaded about being so physically weak. I think this says a lot about not just her character, but people in general. When you feel severely inadequate, you often overcompensate in some other--usually more aggressive--way. I think that from that angle I have a lot more to say with her, and I'm really excited for a couple key scenes I have in my head.

And now we come to the other manifestation of my failure as a trainer, Yaga. I don't know why I was so bad about not leveling my team equally. I didn't even try for DJ or Yaga. I mean, I can understand ignoring one, but two? That's like, a third of my team. I was running on four Pokemon from like Dewford to Mauville. But anyways. I think I originally made her a bit more witch-y in my head, since her name was Yaga. The characterization she ended up with stems from her Sassy nature. I tried to think of things that were sassy, and I quickly decided that teen girls were sassy. So I guess I split that into two categories: clothes and texting. Guess which element Yaga ended up with.

And guess who got the other one. Yep. Sakura. She's... she's like completely irrelevant to anything, and almost all her characterization has come from the Questions page. I don't have much to say about her, other than I pretty much hate her. But, since she's a character I'm writing, I had to give her as much as a chance as the others. She's still not very developed and I still hate her, but at least you know something about her.

Next? My list says... oh, maaan. Hamlet. I'm sorry, Hamlet! I didn't mean to! I actually do feel really bad about letting him die, because his in-game character is about the same as his in-comic character. He was just a good Pokemon. I mean, yeah, he's pixels, but he was reliable pixels. I don't think he would have changed much if he'd lived. Part of his character is being formal, and I doubt he would have ever loosened up. So, in terms of development, you didn't miss much.

Oh jeez. Chester. In the game, I liked Chester. I named him after Chester Bennington, who is still one of my favorite singers even if I think the new Linkin Park album is mostly worthless. Because of his namesake, Chester the OddishGloom had a lot of respect points. However, they all went down the drain when I saw his nature. He wasn't nearly as cool as soon as he became Naughty, and I had to figure out ANOTHER unique characterization for him. I mean, Sassy and Naughty aren't much different in reality, and I'd already done Gerald, Yaga, and Sakrua between those two natures. So I tried to think of a different angle. Naughty isn't really a positive trait, so I began thinking about annoying things that could have "naughty" elements. And you know what's the most annoying thing of all time ever except for the creaking sound my dorm wall makes in the middle of the night? Swag. I still don't even know what it is, and it's already almost on its way out. But I went with it. I took every swag post on the internet and stuck them all into the body of a little Oddish that once was so dear to my heart. The results are traumatizing. But they did the job. In fact, they did the job too well. I'd created a monster. One of the most characteristic things about my writing style is that I like to keep things real. This means that in a lot of cases I tone down drama, especially in the book I'm writing. It can sometimes be an issue, because it makes things less interesting, but I have always appreciated believable characters and reactions, no matter how absurd their situations are. So, to avoid becoming what I hate, I started slowly adding elements to Chester to bring him down from his swag cloud a bit. He's observant. He's friendly. He likes poetry. He needs these things so I can feel confident that he belongs in the world I'm creating for you. I hope it works, which I think it has in the comments I've seen recently about him growing on people. That, or it's Stockholm Syndrome.

Marston, my friends, is a singularity. Not only did I know what his character was going to be like from the moment I caught and named him, and not only did that character match his nature, but he even had the hat from day one. In fact, one of the practice drawings in February when I was still planning the comic is of him, and he has his hat. The only difference is that his ears popped out of the hat back then. But yeah, his character is basically in line with my thoughts almost two years ago. The only real difference is his relationship with...

...Ashlyn! Yaaaay turtles! Before I realized she was Bashful, I'd kind of just thought as her as a second Erin in the game--reliable and loyal. When I found out her nature, it turns out that she really was like a second Erin, but a second comic-Erin, not game-Erin. It's still early on in her development, so I can't say a ton, but there are some very key differences between her and Erin, and in the time I have to develop her character I look forward to making her a very separate entity from Erin. Her relationship with all the characters, especially Marston, will play a big role in shaping who she'll become.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand Gordon. Duuuude. He was definitely more mellow in my head. Even though I auto-boxed him, I liked him from the start. He just seemed like the kind of guy you'd want around. I don't really know why. I'm also not sure what prompted him to act like he does now. Maybe it was drawing the eyes. Maybe it's because he had a Mild nature in-game and "out of it" is about as mild as you can get. Who knows. But I like what happened.

I'm not going to touch on the other human characters right now, but I might once we've seen more Gym Leaders and Team Magma is introduced.

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for: Rorschach Evelyn Mosby. Wait. No. Just Rorschach.

Let me preface this with two things. First, this will probably be long enough for its own news post. Second, I've wanted to talk about this for a couple months now. Rorschach was never meant to be who he is now. When I played the game, he was brooding, powerful, and awesome. I think he fit a lot more with his namesake, as he was kind of mysterious and antisocial. However, when I was going back through my documentation before writing his entrance, I came across something earth-shattering: he was Jolly.

Gosh. Freaking. Dang it.

Like Erin, I had to throw all my previous ideas out the window and start from scratch. How was I going to write this character? What aspects of "jolly" could I do that didn't involve him being fat and laughing a lot? Eventually I decided to make him kind of obsessed with battling, so that instead of being intense during fight scenes he could be more like a really jacked-up boxer. That was really going to be the extent of his character, initially.

Somewhere along the line, I got weird.

Now, we're going to stray a bit from the current topic to talk about something that has really interested me for a several months: the breakout character. I read a very good article (actually a review of the latest How I Met Your Mother episode) on the topic, and I'd like to share some of what I learned and add in my own thoughts about the concept of the breakout character. For those of you who don't know, a breakout character is a character in a book/movie/show/game/comic that is not, in fact, the main character, but a supporting one that is so entertaining and show-stealing that they usually become the most popular character in the series. Some examples of a breakout character include Stewie Griffin, Sheldon Cooper, the Joker, Jack--sorry, Captain Jack Sparrow, and Barney Stinson. If you haven't been following a series from the beginning, it sometimes seems strange that these characters were ever anything but what they are today. I mean, seriously, who thinks of Will Turner before Jack? And what would Ted be doing right now if Barney wasn't--actually, just in case you're not there yet, I'll let you find out on your own what up with Barney. My point is, these series wouldn't be what they are without these characters. They wouldn't become cemented into the annals of history. I mean, seriously, did you know that Popeye was originally just a supporting character in Thimble Theatre? These characters are fascinating to me because they survive due to interest from fans demanding more of the character. Without fans, the Nard Dog wouldn't still be in Scranton, and then where would we be? We would be without paper in a section of Pennsylvania that nobody cares about, that's where!

Oh, and also, Elmo. Just think about that one for a second. Childhood without Elmo.

There is one major issue with breakout characters, though. It's not about salaries, because Opus wasn't paid any more than the rest of the Bloom County cast, since he's a cartoon penguin. And it's not about fans getting tired of them, because I'm pretty sure there could be a three-hour movie of Jack Sparrow looking in a mirror and we'd all go see it. The problem is these characters are originally background characters for a reason. They're not as fully-formed as the central character. They're more two-dimensional, relying on a small bag of very, very reliable tricks. They steal the show because they create a brief moment of escape from the reality of whatever is currently going on in the scene. They're like humor explosions. And as awesome as it would be to most people to watch a straight hour of explosions (so, Mythbusters or half a Michael Bay movie), it doesn't really allow for much character development, plot progression, or literary credibility. So when a series relies too much on the breakout character, the writers can often become trapped in a corner when they realize that there's really not that far they can go with the character. However, because fans would riot in the streets if their favorite character was pulled out of the spotlight and put back where they started, they're hesitant to change things. This is why it's important to realize the breakout character as soon as possible, and add depth to them in a way that makes them expandable and dependable as a central plot piece without taking away what made them so popular in the first place. The list of times this happens successfully is much shorter than the list of times it's failed. Some series, like Raising Hope, realize that their breakout star (Maw-Maw, in this case) can't hold the show, so they make the character like a delicacy, packing each small part they have with enough humor and entertainment to tide fans over. This is a good idea. Some series roll with the fact that the new direction fans want them to take is shallower than their previous route, and become satisfied with delivering entertaining, if not terribly deep, entertainment. Case in point: the always-entertaining but not-at-all thought-provoking Pirates of the Caribbean series (MOVIE FIVE JULY 2015 WHAT UP). This is usually a bad idea, unless Johnny Depp is involved.

It's only once in a blue moon that a series is able to deepen their breakout character in a way that allows them to carry their own significant storylines without making them any less awesome. If you guys haven't guessed who I'm leading up to now, the answer is Bar...

...wait for it...

...ney Stinson. Barney Stinson!

Seriously, though. If you guys don't watch the show, you won't know what I'm saying. He began as a catchphrase-spouting fount of awesome, but in the last eight years has deftly transitioned into a catchphrase-spouting fount of awesome with a heart. He is everything a breakout character could ever hope to be and watching the transition in like five days because I watched the first six seasons on Netflix in less than a week has been incredible. And the best thing about it? As much as he is obviously the most popular character of the series, and by far my personal favorite, I've never felt like he truly overshadows Ted. They run the show together, and I think the balance is very important.

"What, dear sweet Francis," might you be asking, "does this have to do with Rorschach?"

As you've probably figured out by now, Rorschach is my comic's equivalent of a breakout character. Between the Pocket Ponies, his face as my rating system, and having an entire Contest of the Week dedicated to his headgear, he's eclipsed everyone else in terms of popularity. As soon as I draw him on a page, I know the comment section will fill up with people quoting whatever he said or noting how they love him even more now. I'm aware of that. But I also realize that this comic is not the Rorschach Nuzlocke Challenge. No matter what happens, Rorschach will never be the main character. That, I think, is a good thing. The less we see of him, the more amusing he'll be. Don't take that to mean I'm cutting him out. I think the amount of scenes he's in at the moment is basically perfect, so expect more of the same Rorschach-to-everyone-else proportions in the future. I've also taken conscious steps to avoid running gags turning into repetitive jokes. Rorschach likes Pocket Ponies. That's cool. That's fun. I think that whole thing is awesome, actually. But as of right now, it doesn't really have a place in the comic. I'm not going to force something like that in to make people happy. If I see a genuine opportunity, you bet I'll take it. But having researched and seen firsthand several outcomes of breakout characters, I'm trying very hard to keep the balance. I don't make any money off of this comic, and less than a hundred and fifty people read it, and once it's over it'll probably become buried under a thousand Sonic sprite comics on SJ, but I take the whole thing pretty seriously. I mean, I want to be a writer after college, do I should be thinking critically about these sorts of things.

Another thing about Rorschach's status as a breakout character is his over-the-top...-ness.... He's the most obviously-cartoon character, unless you count Ty's nose as a separate entity. He can fly upside down and turn into popular internet memes in the blink of an eye. He dresses up as Redfoo and Macklemore. He's convinced he's going to have a herd of Pocket Ponies someday. I bet he's already trying to find a jacket with leather fringe that fits around his wings. And, except for the fact that he has a very loving mom and some mischievous siblings, what do we really know about him? How many layers does he have? Is he psychotic? I mean, he sure does love violence. I've seen some theories in the comments and they really are interesting because, despite writing him, I don't entirely know his story, either. However, I can tell you this: like Barney, there's more to Rorschach than meets the eye. It just might take a very long time for those layers to emerge. When and if they do, I hope you're around to see it. I hope you can see me succeed where others have failed. I hope I can make a breakout character that's every bit as deep as the protagonists. It's going to take a long time and a lot of effort, but I really think it'll be worth it.

Is anyone else confused as to why he's the way he is, considering how relatively tame he started out? Part of it I'll freely admit as me just being bored and getting silly. But the rest of it is kind of your fault. You reacted, so I kept it up. And in the end, that's really what's important. You guys shape this comic just as much as I do, and it's really exciting. Because of you, Rorschach is legendary. So thank you.

In short, Rorschach is here to stay, and will stay just as he is, for the most part. All the characters in this comic have more layers and dimensions than you're aware of, and in a lot of cases more than I'm aware of. That's the really exciting part of this. We've got a lot to look forward to. Especially where Rorschach is concerned.

Thanks for reading this massive post. No promises I'll stop doing these though, because ranting is far too fun.

...anyone know where I can apply to be a professional blogger?

(In case anyone was curious, this took all of Breaking Benjamin's Phobia, Death Cab for Cutie's Narrow Stairs, and half of Mindless Self Indlugence's If albums to write.)

Comments:

Zelkova, February 27th, 2013, 10:53 pm

Read all of that. Oddly enough I never heard the term blackout character until now but yea that would fit him to the T.

I can't wait to hear more about Tyton aunt by the way, at least he will get more development even if it is just his background. A background story can tell a lot about a character so it is a good point to start if any.

As for becoming a professional blogger, http://wordpress.com/ is free and while not really professional in the sense you pay for the site there are a ton of blogs on it that many users keep up with. =P Yes I am aware that you were joking but who knows? Maybe you would want to seriously think about taking it up as a hobby if you enjoy writing so much or at least remember the name for when you finally finish this nuzlocke.

Lucario01, February 28th, 2013, 11:39 am

I read the entire thing too.

You stated here: "However, because fans would riot in the streets if their favorite character was pulled out of the spotlight and put back where they started, they're hesitant to change things.", "Don't take that to mean I'm cutting him out." and "In short, Rorschach is here to stay, and will stay just as he is, for the most part."

But what if Rorschach would actually die? That would just really take that perfect character out of the comic, it would even make things sad. I know you've already played the complete game months ago, but you might be hiding it that Rorschach might die after a while, since he's just a Dustox after all.
Or of course you could've just already indirectly told us that he will survive the entire comic.

Also, DJ's nature is a freaking awesome nature for a Whismur. So I really hope you started training her some time.

For the rest, reading this was extremely interesting because I hadn't thought this way about the characters yet.
So thank you for making this!

P.S.: 'A Spuds/Barb-esque relationship' is a reference to 'A Petty Nuzlocke Challenge LeafGreen Edition', but I probably don't get any points for that.

ozymandias_jones, February 28th, 2013, 12:57 pm

It's always fun to read the long rants. I agree with much you have to say, I think that Rorschach may have been shown a little too much lately. I mean, if you want to focus on him occasionally, and give him some development, then that's cool, and I'm not going to pretend that I don't love Rorschach's one liners, but maybe you could sometimes give the role to a different Pokemon like Gerald, who is awesome, but a bit sidelined at the moment. Don't think that I'm criticizing you in any way though, because that entire long news post was pretty much saying that you were going to do exactly that, if I'm not wrong. In terms of some of the other characters, you've done really well though, I've really grown to like Chester in particular (compared to what I used to think of him), and I'd say he's tying for my favourite character with DJ at the moment. Thanks for answering my question about DJ playing the Red emulator by the way, I just noticed that the other question referring to it said she couldn't read yet, so I guess that Ty's taught her to read now.

Zelkova, February 28th, 2013, 7:37 pm

@Lucario01: I hope not or else I would had lost some points. Honestly though he was making a direct reference so I doubt there are points for it.

Lockman, March 1st, 2013, 3:47 pm

Excellent character analysis here. I need to figure out the characterizations for the Nuzlocke I'm working on...

Also, noticed the webpage icon is now a Poke Ball. Very cool.

coldhotshot, March 2nd, 2013, 9:19 am

Wow, gratz to you. Rorschach is a huge mystery. And with tyton, I think he'll develop as time goes. But back to Rorschach, I feel like you are walking on a plank with both sides leading to doom. One would be the Rorschach would take the whole comic and the other would be Rorschach disappearing. But there is a reason why I stated that this is a plank, not a thread or a string.

It's because you, Haunshaul, have this magical power to be able to create a situation that can develop a person's character while being able to make that character shine too much. In Pokemon, the problem with writing the comic is that you will have a choice of writing between 1 perspective and 7 perspectives(or even more) and most would choose 7 because it's more popular to see what the Pokemon think as we usually are in the trainer's perspective. But by writing about 7 perspectives, there is more to worry about, as one, you need to make sure there is a balance between the characters in their profile, two, you can't let the trainer's personality die out as impopular and three, you have to keep the story moving while all this massive character development is going on. This requires a lot of skill as one could focus too much on character development and end up with no story progression or vise versa. Most would still have character development as more important because of the 7 perspectives.

The reason I am stating these facts is that what most people would end up doing is that they would focus too much on the character development and have a story that is not moving or they would have a story that progress too far and characters that we have no idea about. The fact is, there is too many factors to consider in a Pokemon comic. Even in movies, you rarely see multi character development because it would just have too much trouble with no action. Normally in the end, people would end up with with either a 75% character development and 25% story or a 75% story and a 25% character development(rarely this happens as most would end up seeing this like the regular game), but some people who are really famous have the ability to make the character development 65% and the story 45%(like petty and gigi) but what I love most about your comic is that you have the special ability of being able to utilize the 50/50 tactic. Many try to even balance their character and story but end up failing because in the end, people want to see one or the other and in the end, the tension is gone. However you have the ability of being able to balance this character development and story. You can use the technique of progressing the story and the character development. You use the story to develop the characters and using that character development, you keep the tension and excitement, and while that happens you move the story. The only other one that I have seen like this is OhMyGosh(OhGosh)'s platinum run. Its hard to explain, but its like I love your character development and your story is not behind. We still don't know much about every character and normally if we haven't played the game, we wouldn't know much either.

But here is the hard part. you have to be able to keep this consistent, this is almost impossible for most. Like in gigi's the character development and the story were even but then, the pace was taking too long, so the better decision was to focus more on character development(which I still enjoy) but in your case, because you upload the comics daily, this has seriously been the best ever. I just hope you don't give up now. Its all on your willpower and time management. that is why I said it was a plank, because I think(and I bet many agree with me) that you can do this. Thats why we like you(I hope)

Cheers

Coldhotshot(aka 4)

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