Adam Redux

Of all the characters I’ve drawn, there’s one that has consistently bothered me. An early one, completed back when I was still new at digital drawing. One that I’ve updated here and there without getting fully satisfied with: Adam.

Then it came time to draw our backers and I had less time than ever for updating existing characters. Now, though, that I’m adequately ahead, I’ve been able to complete a 100% new Adam:

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For comparison, if you don’t recall his original look:

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Needless to say, I’m far happier with the new Adam. Hope you are too.

BTW, an update to my last opinion piece: as of episode 11, I have a new respect for the writers of Daredevil. Way to turn the damsel in distress trope on its head.

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Confession: I Don’t Really Like Marvel’s Daredevil

Netflix has earned a lot of my trust. Peaky Blinders, The Fall, Marco Polo, House of Cards, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt have made me excited each time I see “Netflix Original Series” stamped across the icon in my recommendations. Marvel’s Daredevil seemed like a shoe-in for me – an avid comic reader who watches each new superhero movie. Maybe I should’ve readied myself, though; after all, I’ve always been a DC girl (Gotham notwithstanding).

The first episode was underwhelming but hey – it’s a pilot. It needs to set itself up, so a lot of boring backstory needs to get out of the way first. And I appreciate the way they Arrow-ed it a little bit: break up the backstory into montages within the larger narrative. Nice.

But as time went on, I felt less and less drawn to the characters – even as my friends became more and more invested. If I’m honest with myself, Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple is the only character I like. I mean, obvious Wilson Fisk was a stroke of genius casting and is well written, but I don’t feel a pull or connection to him that makes me personally invested in his outcome – not to mention, he’s the villain. Obviously he’ll be defeated somehow.

The characters that should be likeable – primarily Karen and Foggy – are… underwhelming. Karen affirms to Foggy that they are on a date. She then spends that date inquiring about Matt. Then she panics when she realizes that Foggy has feelings for her, even though she just let him validate those feelings by saying they were on a date. Her stupid decisions annoy me constantly (she works for lawyers, but won’t take a contract from her evil ex-employer to them for them to peruse?) and despite being quite pretty and emotive, she has this almost soapy trill in her voice that makes me incapable of taking anything she says seriously.

Foggy’s persona is amiable, sure, and he’s painted as a surprisingly competent lawyer. But he’s never really given much to do. He follows Karen around, gets drunk, whines about money/what they left behind at their soul-crushing corporate jobs/Matt being blind but bagging hot chicks, etc. etc. I get that every kick-butt hero needs a goofy best friend. But if I like this character, make me care about his life more, please.

And Matt. Matt. Matt, Matt, Matt. Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt. Well casted, I suppose. I don’t know. His backstory doesn’t resonate with me. His father intentionally defied the mob, knowing that they might kill him and that his son’s mother isn’t even around to take care of him? And without seeking out a legal guardian? Thus dooming him to an orphanage? Because what? Because he wanted his son to hear him cheered for, instead of being alive to cheer for his son? And then Matt thinks, “Yeah, good plan.” I mean, ok, he was heroic before his father died (pushing the old guy out of the way of the toxic chemical truck) but just- just. No.

On top of all that, he talks about how he doesn’t kill people. But he’s taken several actions that might kill people (throwing an injured man off a roof, for starters) – he’s just lucky that no one has died yet.

The show itself is more gruesome than I care for; I don’t need to see bones popped out of joints and heads crushed to slimy bits – but it’s on Netflix rather than network, so why would they worry about that?

And while yes, I do feel like this is the show Arrow would like to be but for network restrictions, at least I genuinely like Felicity and Diggle and yeah, even Roy and Sarah. At least I like watching them and I feel motivated to follow them a little bit. Although Arrow is generally too self-serious for me to be a true fan of that, either.

I think the general consensus is that superhero shows are hitting their stride. And maybe that’s true; maybe Arrow unlocked a lot of doors for this genre on the small screen. Truth be told, I still haven’t watched Flash – which I suspect would be my favorite of the bunch. But right now, I’m still waiting. And as much loyalty as Netflix has given me to their original shows, Daredevil is making me nervous about what Legend of Zelda might hold.

In other news, an update was posted on our Kickstarter page regarding Legend of Lotus – we’re making strides!

More Characters

Hi all! Sorry for the long absences. I have some new illustrations to show y’all, though.

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Zanami Leojin, based on one of our backers.

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Karyn Falles, based on one of our backers, to appear with her dog:

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Bonley Furbottom

We’re chugging along with backer portraits, as well as the other extras we’ll be needing. Once that’s done, some of the old cast members might get a better facelift, such as Auhn and Sulitha.

 

Hope all are doing well!

Chipping Away at Backer Portraits

Hi all. It’s been a hectic month here at the Falestead. Another move to a new flat and Justin’s new job has kept us on our toes, but work continues!

I’ve been able to start work on several backer portraits. Take a look at a few:

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Just wanted to check in so that no one starts to get paranoid that we took the cash and ran, haha.

If any of our backers are reading this, and you have requests for your character’s portrait, just leave a comment below or message me!

A Few Canadian Actors (Are Taking Over the World)

I watch a lot of sci-fi shows. It’s no doubt that it’s my favorite genre. I’m willing to give just about any of them a chance, and I often try to juggle more than one so that I always have something to watch. It all started with Star Trek: TNG – pretty much the only sci-fi I watched at the time… until I latched onto X-Files way after it was cool. But that was it for a long, long time. Until SciFi channel’s Battlestar Galactica introduced me to some of the cool new things happening in sci-fi. And some of the faces I should’ve prepared to see over and over again (and in other genres) – even if their names aren’t really known. What’s even more fun than to just play “Spot the Canadian” with them while I’m bingeing on Netflix is to see one of them and try to predict how long before I see another. Observe:

Richard Harmon (AKA Julian Randall AKA Angry Snot-faced Jealous Beta-Male)

 

Ok, so I know my opener was all about BSG, and this kid was not in it (to be fair, he was like 12 when it came out) but – fun fact – he was actually in BSG’s cousin/spin-off/prequel, Caprica. But I know him best from Continuum, where he plays the bafflingly against-technology would-be/future terrorist, Julian Randall (ok, to be fair, he’s supposed to be anti-corporations, but they really played it as anti-tech during his dad’s little cult meetings).

I guess he perfected the bratty/angry jerk face, or was just born with it, because he appears in this role over and over again. He was also credited as “Gaunt Teenager” in Smallville… which seems to actually be the hidden breakout show for most of these guys, rather than BSG.

I’m not quite sure what it is that enabled this guy to pop up in our living rooms on so many shows in such close temporal proximity, but I’m willing to bet it’s his RBF.

While I’m talking about this Continuum antagonist, let’s take a look at another:

Terry Chen (AKA Curtis Chen AKA That Asian Guy AKA Minority Thug #1)

Fun fact #1: he wasn’t only in the 2004 BSG, but also in the prequel mini-series Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome (which did not live up to the series at all) playing an entirely different character. In addition to that, he’s played Asian Thug #1 in Arrow, Bates Motel, The 100, and, as mentioned, Continuum.He’s also played crooked, tough Asian Businessman/Official guy in House of Cards, Smallville and Nikita.

Fun fact #2: “Chen” is part of his character’s name at least 7 times in his IMDB filmography, and is “Chin” at least once.

Alessandro Juliani (AKA Gaeta AKA the one who loses a leg AKA that guy I remember as being Gaeta in Man of Steel)

This is where things start to get fun, cuz he’s in tiny little parts all over the place, plus, he and Tahmoh Penikett (next) almost always show up in the same things, even if not in the same episode. Heck, they even showed up in Man of Steel together. I don’t know if they just happen to be buddies who recommend each other to projects, or if they have the same agency or what, but you can’t see one without the other, it seems.

He usually plays a brainy “nobody” who tells the hero (and audience) something important, conveniently, before disappearing. That even was kind of his long-standing role in BSG (until they cut off his leg).

His “tactical officer” type roles include spots in: Watchmen, Smallville, Continuum (although he was actually a computer simulation), and The 100.

Tahmoh Penikett (AKA Helo AKA Fish Face AKA the nicest guy on BSG)

You can pretty much see why Tahmoh Penikett shows up everywhere despite his weird name. He’s beefy and not bad looking, but somewhat without the leading man “luster” so he gets plugged everywhere. Everywhere. The only shame is that he played a nice/decent guy so well, yet he keeps getting plugged in parts as “tough guys” or “gangsters” or just generally “meanie pants. We’ve seen him do that in: Continuum (corrupt mayor), Arrow (gangster), Castle (contract killer), The Killing (abusive husband or something? Jerk ex?), and Smallville (super soldier).

Probably, besides for BSG, my favorite role for him was Dollhouse – because he was kind of a tough guy (cop), but was basically just a tired guy, doing his job, and doing what he thought was best. I thought it fit him well – just like being the perennially likable Helo seemed natural for him. Too bad I didn’t really care for Dollhouse itself, though.

As a side note, back to Man of Steel, J and I were sitting in the theater when Penikett showed up on screen: “Hey it’s Helo!” Followed a few moments later, “Hey! Gaeta!” Later, J joked with me: “If I could, I would have paid so much money to have James Callis in the background of every scene going, “What exactly are you saying?”)

 

Now, good for these guys for getting some steady work. That being said, I’d really love to see them get just a good, long stretch in one show – because seeing them in all these other shows, all intersecting, kind of take me out of the moment. Sometimes, rather than focusing on the story, I start to build in my head how all the storylines could connect into one massive, really weird universe.

But perhaps I should start thinking of it like Japanese Noh Theater. In Noh theater, the actors would wear masks that represent different archetypes – that way the audience wouldn’t need too much explaining or backstory. It was understood that they could be different characters, but their origins, motives, and personalities did not need to be specified because they audience could assume it was familiar. And so, next time I see Tahmoh in a show, I can just think: Ok, he’s big and tough because he was on a spaceship fighting androids before becoming a cop that got beaten down at his job, so turned to a life of crime. Got it. Or Alessandro: He’s kind of ethnic looking, so he’s bound to be smart and good with computers. Great. He’ll give the MC some major information. Chen: Asian Thug. Got it. Harmon: RBF. Ah, got it. Right.

Still Here

Just a brief return (after nearly a month to the day!) to let everyone know that we’re still alive and still working on Legend of Lotus. With the comic prequel in works, it’s very difficult to carve out time for much else, but below is a sample of what I’ve been working on.

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This all started as a rough sketch, that gets a finished outline. I intend to do the whole comic in outlines like this first, before going back through and adding more detail, like backgrounds and patterns.

J, too, is chugging away at work.

In the words of Joaquin Phoenix…

…probably not the most reassuring message, is it?

The Problem with the YA Genre

I know any time you make sweeping generalizations about any group, there are bound to be exceptions. But there’s been a recent, damn-near unavoidable surge in a very specific type of fiction in both movies and books: one “special” character becomes hero to an unlikely dystopian community.

I don’t know if I can name all of the recent entries we have: Harry Potter arguably sparked the trend, though with the added elements of wizardry (and it’s probably not quite a dystopia… but as I can see it, there’s been some crappy governance in Narnia, or wherever it takes place), followed by Hunger GamesDivergent, The Giver (though this one also preceded all of them), Ender’s Game (also an older novel), and, most recently, The Maze Runner (which I just saw today, as you probably guessed). There are doubtlessly entries that I missed that fall into this category. There are others that are older that probably technically qualify, but which at the time of their writing were not part of a overwhelming trend (such as Star Wars) . But I have noticed a trend in the YA fiction of our current generation. The fact that I generally enjoyed The Maze Runner only made more clear the fact that even well-done versions of this genre exhibit this one trait. So ok, here it is:

They make the general population of characters dumb and unrealistic so that the main character can seem both special AND relatable at the same time.

I had chalked up the bad decisions and baffling attitudes of side characters in past movies as shoddy writing or “because plot.” But after seeing this pattern play out time and again, I’ve come to the realization (I’m slow on the uptake) that this has all been intentional.

This is the quandary facing YA authors: to have a hit, kids need to want to read your book. The best way to get kids to want to read your book is for your book to tell them, “It’s ok that you feel different. You’re not a weirdo. You’re special. You’re the most specialest, in fact.” Because I know, for fact, that I felt like a freak when I was 13. I remember telling people or writing on my Xanga profile that I’m “probably the weirdest person you will meet.” And then I read that same exact statement on hundreds of blog/social network profiles. It’s a strange moment, because you think, “Lexi, you’re not that weird. You’re not like me weird.” But you know what? Everyone’s probably read my profile and thought the same thing (or they thought “Yeah… that chick’s pretty weird.” Because honestly, I walk around talking to myself).

So you have just tons of kids like me and Lexi and Edwin and Eric and Chiann who all think they’re the weirdest one. We’ve all been picked on our entire lives – so clearly it must be because we’re weird, right? And the authors of these books – who knows. Maybe they felt like us and they’re really sympathetic to us. Maybe they just know that kids like us are the ones that read. No matter how it came about, these authors grew up and thought, “Lots of kids think they’re just the weirdest person on the planet. How can I flatter them based on that?” Well, by having your super-awesome, world-saving protagonist go against the grain and finally attain the recognition he/she deserves!!!!

But if society is practically composed of “weird kids,” weird is the norm – thus the quandary: how do you make your protagonist “weird” but do things normal people do?

Aha! I’ve got it!!! NONE of the other characters can do what normal people do!

Let’s take a look at some of the degenerates of society that these movies would have us believe are actually the “normal” ones that weird kids like you and me need to fight against:

1. The “District 1-ers”

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I don’t even know the names of the individuals in this group, but they’re more like a single unit anyways, so I’m just going to call them the District 1-ers (although yes, I know District 2-ers are included in this). Their core traits: sadistic, self-centered, self-serving, eager for violence, egotistical alpha-types.

When you’re a shy, quiet book nerd, it’s easy to think that the majority of humanity are all like the bully that stole our lunch money. In fact, it’s pretty much biologically wired into us to dwell on the negative, so we are totally more likely to exaggerate the prevalence of negative qualities during our private musings. And to be clear, those attitudes are presented as the majority, since everyone in the Capitol watches the carnage without an ounce of guilt.

When they really SHOULD feel guilty about their crimes against fashion.

When they really SHOULD feel guilty about their crimes against fashion.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but my general experience with humans during my stay on this planet has been fairly positive. Of course terrible people have and continue to exist. And of course people fall prey more easily than we’d expect to mass hysteria, minority-blaming, and general douche-baggery than anyone would hope. But I dare say that although I recognize that in several countries shitty behavior continues to prevail, I also recognize that those extremes are being progressively stamped out. Enough people in enough countries have come to recognize that institutionalized crimes against humanity are shameful that change is possible, probable – and I believe we’re the majority.

My point is this: Katniss is presented as special and heroic because she generally refuses to kill, especially her friends, even if it means being killed. I argue, though, that most people would refuse to kill their friends. Most people would refuse to kill their enemies. Most people would find it incredibly difficult to kill at all – which would explain why so many soldiers can’t bring themselves to kill even enemies. It’s against our nature, since our nature – by coincidence or by design – is to replicate/spread the genes of our species.

2. All Non-Divergents (although yes, the above picture depicts one self-identified “divergent.”)

guys of divergent

In the world of divergent, everyone fits nicely into one of… a specific number of categories. There’s… a name for people that are altruistic (uh… I think they were “Hippies” or something), people that were smarter than you (Wait! I know this one! “Erudite… brainy lady” – Thanks Flight of the Conchords!), ummm… people… that were…. I don’t know. Katniss- I mean… Beatrice chooses the one that any teenager would choose: the meathead group that does parkour.

But gasp! What makes Beatrice special is that SHE has *double gasp!* MORE THAN ONE QUALITY! She is brave AND smart AND kind. What ever will she do with all these virtues!

Here’s the thing, though: literally everyone in the real world is three-dimensional. I mean honestly, everyone has more than one defining quality, and what those defining qualities are often shift depending on who you ask. Parents would generally say “My kid was the smartest kid ever. He/she learned to talk/walk/hold a crayon so much faster than that other, dumb baby” (unless they’re honest and tell you that you were the dumb baby). A teacher, though? A teacher might say, “Oh, John? Meh.”

Now back to the premise of this rant: side characters are reduced or dumbed down to emphasize the specialness of the protagonist. In Divergent, for example, Miles Teller and the Neo Nazi/Emo Punkster wanna be are both of the Dauntless variety. Meaning that they can’t also be smart or kind or funny or very human in general. They’re ass hats, and they remain so for the duration of the movie because plot – even when their allegiances are proven wrong.

So Tris, like literally the entire audience, has more than one quality, but literally everyone in the audience is made to feel special because if Mr. Fantastic and Good Charlotte are one-dimensional butt-holes then being a fully-fleshed person must be rare!

3. And most recently, The Maze Runner:

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Literally, at one point in the movie, the black leader kid says to the white protagonist kid, “You’re different. You’re curious.”

“HOLY CRAP! I – THE AUDIENCE MEMBER – AM CURIOUS TOO!!! I’M LIKE THOMAS. I’M SPECIAL! THIS MOVIE GETS ME!”
-the response studios hope to elicit

Most characters are simply content to farm or whack at trees while sleeping in hammocks and not at all curious about why they’re obviously in the middle of a man-made puzzle and supplied by an obviously intelligent and present mysterious source. But Thomas – well, Thomas possesses a rare quality amongst you humans: curiosity. Oh, and he’s smarter and more capable than the other characters, too. But, I argue, he’s as smart as the general audience, because he’s solving things that the audience would probably be able to solve (so that we can feel good about ourselves, you see), but they’re just puzzling enough that it’d take a little effort on our part (so that it feels like no one else can make the phenomenal logical leap we just did). This means that really, he’s about average, and everyone else in the movie is a little less than that.

For example, the main d-bag is named Big Dumb Dumb-Face (hey, I didn’t name the characters). BDDF takes every random occurrence to be all “Thomas is bad! I’m a beta male, and he might take my spot!” For example, the first girl ever arrives in the little community, and he actually says, “The second you arrived here, everything started going wrong! *This one bad accident happened* *This other unusual bad thing happened* AND A GIRL ARRIVED!” Meanwhile, Thomas is all, “Whoa, bro. Let’s take a second to think this through…” I motion that most of us would probably say the same thing. (Actually, most of us would probably be all, “Having a girl around is a bad thing?! It’s about time we had someone who could make a proper sandwich!”)

And BDDF continues to live up to his name right up until the end of the movie. He has literally no redeeming quality. Thomas breaks a rule to save his friends (he goes into the maze). BDDF’s first act in the movie was to break a rule (he hurts another “glader.”) Yet Thomas, who was altruistic, must be punished, while sadism is totally fine.

Now, I’ve met meatheads. I will say, though, that in defense of humanity: most people would never follow a meathead. Most people have the common sense to say, “This guy is an idiot. Let’s not listen to him.” or “Hey… he might be bigger and stronger than me… but he’s bigger and stronger than Thomas, and Thomas beat him! Let’s follow Thomas!”

Conclusion

I don’t know if this type of pandering is exactly “harmful” – but it certainly seems damaging to me to teach people that everyone else is a moron because there can only be one special person in the world, saving the day. In reality, it’s groups of people to make change over a number of days.

Now, I mentioned Star Wars earlier, and it’s true: countless movies have a “one” or “special” person. Heck, The Lego Movie specifically parodied that trope. But not all movies try to convince you that qualities you share with literally 80% of the general population are what make you special.

Luke Skywalker, for example, wasn’t “the chosen one” because he cared about his friends and was nice and optimistic and had just enough personality that we could like him but just little enough that we could still project onto him. He was “the chosen one” because though he was otherwise normal and unassuming, he legitimately had a quality others aren’t born with: the Force was with him. Also, he could bullseye womp rats in his T-16, and they aren’t much bigger than 2 meters. Nor did Luke Skywalker ever save the day alone. A lot of times, he wasn’t even the commander. And enough times, Han Solor or Leia did just as much or even pulled more weight.

Or in Ender’s Game; Ender wasn’t special for being like everyone in the audience. He was legitimately depicted as being smarter than you or me. And even he didn’t do it all alone. He had Bean, Petra, and the Indian kid to help him out.

All I’m saying is, telling people that being smart or having common sense or caring about your friends is rare will only serve to make the young and impressionable think that they’re right and, more importantly, everyone else is wrong. Because every one else is normal, and normal just isn’t the guy or girl that will save the day.

Project Update and Axel’s Facelift

Wow! Thanks to kind internet folks such as yourselves, our Kickstarter has just about met its 2nd stretch goal of $3000!

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We’ve also updated two of our nearest stretch goal tiers to contain some more exciting incentives:

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Help us meet these new goals while there’s time left! We’re down to the last 4 hours!

I have felt for a long time that as my competency with MangaStudio and the Wacom tablet have improved, some of the older characters have required a facelift of sorts. The biggest offender? Axel.

Check him out now!

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I cleaned up the line art, and this time knew to “Export in Dimensions” rather than in pixels – creating smoother colors truer to how they were originally blended. Expect similar updates to Adin and Arinnel too 🙂

And as always, thanks a ton for the support! I know many of our readers have donated – if you could reblog this, you will gain an extra day of eternal gratitude! 😉

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A Kitten Has Been Saved!

With sad statistics like this:

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It’s with great joy that I bring this news today!

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Thank you all for your support and for helping Legend of Lotus get Kickstarted! (That’s a thing right). Our goal has been met – but the campaign hasn’t ended. This morning, a new statistic has been revealed to me:

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Let’s fill the belly of these three (or six, or nine!) penguins! Help Legend of Lotus to keep its campaign rolling right down to the bitter end!

You know… we hear a lot of sad stories about the Internet. Kids getting bullied. People seeking advice getting trolled. Zooey Deschanel getting thumbed down. And it’s true, we haven’t escaped that all (though honestly, we only experienced any at all once we hit Steam. Some gamers can be a finicky bunch – though the majority have been just as lovely as WordPressers and Kickstarters) – but the support we’ve gotten from people we’ve never even met in person has helped reinforce my faith in the overall good of the internet (and… you know… humankind). So to all you gracious supporters of people’s dreams I say, thank you and may your cupboards be ever full of the ramen of your choice! To all others, bite me 🙂

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