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October 19, 2015

Shower Thoughts with Monster Girls (Part 2)

You know what’s worse than talking about someone else’s created monster girls?  Talking about your own monster girls.  So let’s double-down on the sacrilege and get through this together.  I’m sure it won’t be…

Wait.  I feel like I’ve done this before, albeit under slightly-different contexts.  Like, does this feel familiar to anyone?

Eh.  Doesn’t matter.  As long as I don’t link to earlier posts, no one will ever judge me.  Now let’s dive into a post practically destined to include giant breasts.  Because if you’re going to hell, you might as well dive head-first.

I’ve mentioned it before anecdotally (and directly in long-buried posts), but for posterity’s sake I’ll go ahead and pull back the veil once again.  It’s a long way away, but I sincerely hope that someday, I get the chance to write about one of the premiere characters in my metaphorical stable -- in this case, the one I’ve touted time and time again as a “Godzilla-sized single mom”.  Execution barrier aside, I think the potential is there; it’s pretty common for characters to go small and explore a newly-massive world, but the reverse is rarely explored, isn’t it?  Especially not with the main, POV character.  I think it’s time to change that, even if it’s just for a little bit.

To that end, I’ve got Julia on my side.  I’ve been thinking about her a lot recently, because in my quest to revamp and evolve my characters -- or Xrd them, as I prefer to call it -- she’s the one who’s both received the most changes and needs the most changes…likely because even after years of brainstorming, she’s still much farther from completion from some of my other guys.  I guess you can think of her as a challenge, more so than anyone else.  And seeing as how she’s my character from my brain, you’d think I could figure something out in a flash.  I can’t.  So I guess cracking her open is as much a matter of pride as it is telling a good story.  Even if it means one revision after another, after another, after another.

So here’s what I’ve been mulling over recently.  Julia’s story starts off with her in a bad place -- as in, she’s the slave of a pair of warlords.  As such, she’s forced into being their “enforcer”; she has to fight on their behalf, and help their army raze their way through enemy territories on behalf of the warlords’ father, the king (and the cruelest man the world’s ever known).  The first wrinkle in all of this is that even if Julia’s a slave, she’s taking it in stride…which is to say, she’s taking advantage of the kinder of the two warlords to gain his trust, work her way into the king’s inner circle of comrades, gain a material advantage, and ultimately exact her revenge.

The second wrinkle is that Julia is -- or was -- a married woman.  She’s had a rough life, but her luck started to turn around once she found her soul mate…who just happened to be a shipwreck survivor, a failed artist, a penniless drifter, and a dopey idiot rolled into one.  But she loved him, and he loved her back -- and then everything got wrecked by the king’s forces because manifest destiny or some ol’ bullshit.  Julia got enslaved, her hubby got killed, and now she’s biding her time until she can wreak havoc.  Incidentally, she ends up getting her chance pretty early -- because the inciting incident of the story is that Julia heads to a hidden sanctuary with the warlords and shoves them aside so she can willingly gain power from a cursed little girl, with said power being a curse in its own right that steadily makes her grow to kaiju sizes and beyond.

That is a lot of information to digest.  Here, let’s take a quick break.

Okay.  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand we’re back.

My intent with the current “build” of Julia is to escalate slowly by having her scale up over the course of the story.  Putting in terms of tiers, she’ll go to King Kong-tier, then fifty-foot-woman-tier, then mecha-tier, then kaiju-tier, and so on…which would imply that anything past that point would be when it hits the fan, but hey.  That’s the plan.  She’s the good guy of the story, but she’s also the biggest (ha) threat her world has to deal with -- to the point where you could call her an anti-hero, while one of the warlords is an anti-villain.  That’s kind of to be expected when the latter is legitimately trying to make the world a better place, while the former becomes a living natural disaster pretty freakin’ fast.  On the other hand, it just means Julia gets to wrestle other kaiju and mecha on her way to the endgame -- because yep, it’s that kind of story.

It’s worth noting, though, that Julia never really started off as normal.  At her default size, she stood more than fifteen feet tall; for comparison’s sake, imagine the average overpass and then realize she might have trouble passing under one.  She becomes more monstrous as the story goes on (in more ways than pure size), but she started off as a monster.  Even for someone her size, she’s freakishly strong, and she’s durable enough to have common weaponry shatter against her skin.  The tradeoff is that she’s got zero magical aptitude, and is vulnerable to it as a result -- which is kind of a problem in a world where people have started tapping magic to reliably fight monsters.  Also, being anything more than human is frowned upon in her world, so to put it flippantly, racism is super-effective.

Not like anyone cares.  She’s got big boobs, which -- as you know -- utterly invalidates her as a character.

Thinking back, there hasn’t been a single iteration of Julia that wasn’t busty.  Ever.  That’s to be expected when her inspiration is a Soulcalibur character, but it’s in pursuit of a character that’s different from the norm.  Admittedly that comes from me one day going “Hey, what if this character had really big boobs?” and rolling with it, but in the time since I’ve refined and revised to create something more than just a pair of walking bazongas.  True, if my calculations are right (hahahahaha), then the current Julia is proportionately an H-cup, at the very least -- which means that for a fifteen-foot woman, my calculations (AHAHAHAHAHA) would make her something like a P-cup.  Petite, she is not.

At any rate, there isn’t a single aspect of Julia’s design that isn’t purposeful.  I’ve found that even the slightest difference in sketches -- in a single lock of hair’s placement on her head -- can make a huge difference in her character.  So yes, she’s incredibly busty, but I’m not backing down on that.  In my mind, she’s also plus-sized; she’s got lots of rounded features, a thick waist, wider hips, and thighs that -- while comparatively doughy, like the rest of her -- are big enough to make Chun-li take pause.  The idea is to go with the “mother goddess” symbol and create an unforgettable silhouette, something that’ll help inform the character in an instant.  And then expectations will be played to or defied thanks to her beastly parts -- horns, tail, and whatever else comes her way.  And then there’s still the matter of her attire, which would take like five more paragraphs to go into.

So let’s not go there, and get to the biggest problem yet: what the fuck is her personality going to be?

That’s the problem with this build -- and subsequent ones -- that I have yet to figure out.  I mean, Julia’s backstory has her going through some nasty stuff, like prejudice and several personal tragedies (many of which are the result of the world being cruel to the innocent).  She’s got a reason to have a chip on her shoulder…but on the other hand, it’s almost a given that she should slide into the typical gentle giant role, isn’t it?  A key thrust of her story is that she partners up with the girl who cursed her, and travels the world in search of an ancient, legendary library that contains ultimate power and can effectively rewrite reality.  So I guess that means she would have to be nice on some level, but to what extent?

There are so many questions surrounding this character now.  How has being a slave impacted her?  How has losing her husband, the one man who would willingly smile at her, affected her?  Is she willing to forgive the world that can and has taken away her freedom?  Does she still hold love in her heart, or has the wicked king filled her with hatred?  And how much of either does she show off -- or rather, which one is more apparent on a regular basis?  Given that at the outset she’s only playing one of the warlords to gain his trust -- forming a false bond that becomes a huge part of his character arc -- doesn’t that mean she’s an inherently cruel person who’ll toy with hearts as well as bodies to get what she wants?  Knowing full well that what she wants is revenge and ostensibly the murder of her enemies by her own two hands, itself made possible because she jumped at the chance to gain a cursed power?

How does she feel about being huge?  How does she feel about getting even bigger?  Given the body horror aspect that comes into play, is she terrified by it, or does she accept it because there’s more important stuff to worry about?  Is she going to tiptoe her way through the world that’s shrinking all around her, or stomp her way from point A to point B?  Will she play the pacifist and go for non-lethal attacks against humans that try to stop her, or will she slaughter everyone who opposes her?  Does she start to fear her newfound power?  Resent it, since it makes her both a target to be eliminated as well as someone who draws even more scorn and hatred?  Embrace it, because now she can make all of her ambitions come to pass?  Or would she simply be corrupted by it, and go from well-intentioned ex-slave to a monstrous menace no more evolved than the kaiju she takes to power-bombing into oblivion?

Even if the plot never happened, then what kind of person would she be?  Skittish and reclusive by default, but willing to open up to those who approach her?  Confident enough to go about her day, but unwilling to cross paths with anyone but a scant few?  Bold to a fault, but left jaded and cynical by a world that didn’t even try to give her a chance?  How does she feel about herself and the way she looks?  Embarrassed by her body and curves, or willing to accept it, or indifferent-yet-content, or even show it off with gusto?  Is she the type to go out of her way to tend to her appearance, or does she just go with a natural look and let it rock?  Given that she's too big to go on the average shopping spree, wouldn't that automatically exclude her from wearing anything more than tattered rags?  Would she be okay with that?  

Is she tomboyish and willing to get down and dirty, or feminine and harmonious with nature?  Is she graceful?  Is she brusque?  What does she like to do?  What does she like?  What does she dislike (besides the cruelty imposed upon her daily)?  Who does she like?  Is she capable of making friends?  Is she capable of bridging the generational gap and becoming a surrogate mother to a girl who’s seen just as much cruelty as she has?  Can she do that if said girl, from her perspective, eventually becomes no bigger than a grain of sand?

How many questions was that?  Thirty-seven?  Okay, thirty-seven.  Great.  Terrific.  Perfect.  Now you know what it’s like to have a brain like mine.  It’s not exactly enviable, is what I’m trying to say here.   

You know what, though?  It’s fine.  Okay, sure, it means that I’ve effectively got to start over with this character again, only now I’m further away from nailing her specifics than I’ve been in a while.  But this is good.  It means that those are all points I can and should consider for the sake of creating a good character.  Thinking about it now means that I can flesh out Julia in the days, weeks, months, and years to come.  It sounds like a pain in the ass, but I think it’s fun.  The character’s changing, and evolving, and (presumably) getting better with every question I ask -- and subsequently answer.  As a wise man once said, “All right, that’s cool.”

I’ll admit that the process I have is mine and mine alone; I don’t expect everyone to do what I do, because it’s not the only way to succeed (also, it has yet to be proven to succeed).  On the other hand, I’d hope that the big-name creators out there at least try or have their version of it.  Characters create opportunities, and that means that the more tools are given to a character, the more tools the story has.  I feel like I keep crying about this over and over again, but I have to belabor this point: it’s okay to start with basic archetypes and expected (even pandering) traits, but it’s important to go further.  Much further.  And as far as I’m concerned, Everyday Life with Monster Girls just doesn’t do that -- to the story’s detriment.

(See?  I knew I’d tie this post back to that eventually.)

It’s a shame, because the show’s concept isn’t wrong.  The potential is there, waiting to be tapped.  What’s life like for a bunch of inhuman invitees?  What challenges do they face?  And I’m not just talking about stuff that can be used for a quick gag; if you create a character with useful tools and traits, then I don’t think it’s too demanding to ask for those tools and traits to be used.  It’s like asking a Zangief player to not use throws, or a Guile player to not use charge moves.  Sure, it’s still possible to win, but it’ll be that much harder, it’s a betrayal of what the character can offer, and those are some SERIOUSLY good tools. 

As annoying as it may be, we live in a world where some creators can’t (or won’t) go far enough.  They only need to go so far to succeed, and in a lot of cases that lack of effort is proven as the right method.  I guess ultimately I can’t help but be thankful that they’ve seen success, but I don’t think that’s the way to do things -- or at least, that’s not the way I want to do things.  Stories represent endless opportunities -- and even if it’s impossible to tap all infinity of them, being willing and able to do more than just the basics means plenty.  It gives the audience a better chance at finding a likable character, and not just because of the way they look, or some basic archetypes, or even their love for some other guy.

You want a likable character?  Fine.  Great, even.  But you’ve gotta put in the work.

Do it for them.  Do it for her.

Speaking of work, I hope that someday my art actually becomes…you know, good.  (And I don't take all the shortcuts I can to pump the art out.)  But on the plus side, I think I’m all right when it comes to heads and faces -- everything above the neck, essentially.  Just as well, since I’m of the opinion that if the face doesn’t look right, nothing looks right.  As evidenced by the DOA games.

Christ.  No wonder everyone would rather talk about their chests; their faces are swirling maelstroms of nothingness and despair.  And also, they're creepy.

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