Monthly Archives: April 2013

Los Angeles Festival of Books

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Books, books and more books! Is it wrong that I’m suddenly turned on?

Who’s going? You know Ronin will be there in full attendance. We’ll have pictures and commentary of our trip once the festival is over. If you’re unable to attend, there will probably be videos of the festival on YouTube shortly after its end. Stay up, Ronin! 

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The Virtues of Being Evil

Dudley Do Right. Prototypical Protagonist.

The word protagonist usually conjures images of a hero or heroine, who saves the day, kills the bad guy (or defeats him/her in some other fashion not involving death) or is just generally the moral opposite of the bad guy, the antagonist. However, the protagonist does not have to be morally pristine or inherently good. The protagonist can be evil while the antagonist can be good, for instance the protagonist could be a notorious cat burglar while the antagonist can be a rookie cop bent on catching him/her and making a name for himself in the process.

So just what is a protagonist? The protagonist is someone whom the reader or viewer identifies with. Therefore, the antagonist must be one whose very existence, at least as far as the story is concerned, is centered on stopping the protagonist from reaching his or her goal, whatever that may be.

A protagonist is only as strong as his/her antagonist. According to John Truby’s Anatomy of Story, the antagonist (Truby calls the antagonist the “opponent”) is someone who wants the same thing as the protagonist. This may seem, at first glance, to be counterintuitive but if you think about it, it makes perfect sense.

Snidely Whiplash. Curses, foiled again.

I already mentioned I’m an avid gamer in a previous post found here, so bare with me as I use a popular video game franchise to prove my point. Let’s take a look at Ubisoft’s successful franchise, Assassin’s Creed. Assassin’s Creed features two secret organizations both fighting one another for the same thing, peace. The Templars, based on the Knights Templar from the Crusades and the Assassins, loosely based on the Hashashin from, you guessed it, the Crusades are orders that want peace in all things. However the Templars want peace through subordination, control and submission and the Assassins want peace through free will and free thought. Both want the same thing, but both go about obtaining it differently, and the antagonist’s job is to undermine the protagonist at every turn.

The conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist must be the single most important relationship in a story. Think of Batman and the Joker. Both inherently want the same thing—for the world to feel their pain. Whereas Batman dishes out justice, the Joker dishes out anarchy and violence. Both are screwed up emotionally and carry a lot of baggage. One could argue they are opposite sides of the same coin. This is how a relationship with the protagonist and antagonist should be—not necessarily opposite sides of the same coin per se, but the opposition must be deeply ingrained for the tension between the two to have any meaning.

Lets revisit the earlier example of the cat burglar and the rookie cop. The cop wants to make a name for himself, while the cat burglar wants the same thing—they just want it differently. The rookie cop wants to catch a notorious cat burglar so he can make a name as a good cop. The notorious cat burglar wants one last score before retiring to the Cayman Islands; still he is regarded as the world’s greatest cat burglar and wants his reputation in tact. In order for the story to move forward with any type of compelling narrative, both the protagonist and antagonist must be against each other, the antagonist blocking the protagonist at every turn. It is only in that way, the protagonist becomes stronger. Conflict moves a story. Conflict!

A good way to create a compelling protagonist and antagonist is to psychologically analyze your characters. Know them, see what makes them tick; some writers interview their characters or give psychological profiles. These are excellent ways to really discover your characters and keep them in check when you feel they’re “getting away from you.” It helps if you give the protagonist a germ of “evil” and the antagonist a touch of “good.” Flawed protagonists are very popular because they are realistic. This is especially true if the protagonist is an anti-hero or a Byronic hero.

Well, kiddies I’ll end this entry on a sad note. My heart goes out to Boston. Keep your head up out there, guys. We’re right there with you. Love each other, people. Life is too short for bullshit.

RONIN STAND UP!!

Comic books are a legitimate form of literature, dammit!

Comic books? Poppycock. By the way, I have a carrot in my ass.

Comic books are banal and juvenile examples of America’s declining literacy. Only an immature dolt would find them to be a legitimate form of literature. They have pictures for Christ’s sake. What self-respecting literati would consider comic books art, much less literature? ~ Said some uptight college professor with a carrot up his ass.

OK, anyone who thinks like that can go fuck him or herself! Yeah, I said it.  Seriously, it aggravates the hell out of me when people act as though comic books are just for kids. Comic books are a legitimate form of literature, pictures and all. Moreover, comic books are badass and they are the source material for such great films like Road to Perdition, and A History of Violence. Yes, Road to Perdition was based on a comic book, which in turn was based on a Japanese manga called Lone Wolf and Cub. Both manuscripts were made into films.

Friendly neighborhood Spider-Man

As the times have changed, ever marching onward towards progress, comics have matured with their audience. Gone are the heroes of old, with their perfect moral code. Now, super heroes are flawed and imperfect sinners who struggle with their own demons all the while trying to make the world a better place and assuage some degree of inner guilt. Let’s look at the most iconic super hero of all time . . . Spider-Man!

Good old Peter Parker was just minding his own business when a radioactive spider bit the shit out of his hand. The next day, Parker is climbing up walls and swinging from homemade webbing. Still, Parker was human and the biggest focal point for the character was not his powers, but his desire to maintain some semblance of a normal life. He didn’t want to be Spider-Man ALL THE TIME!! This is what made the character compelling, he was flawed. Comic books are excellent methods of communicating graphic, visceral and excellent stories as well as well rounded, fleshed out characters.

A great example of a super hero whose chicken didn’t fully bake is Batman. Seriously, the guy dresses up as a bat and preys on criminals. He’s literally the flipside of the Joker. And we can all thank Frank Miller for giving Batman that hard edge he needed.

The head of Heracles or Hercules in Roman nomenclature.

Comic books are in a class by themselves. They convey raw, honest stories that rival those told in traditional books. Comic books and the heroes within them are our modern day mythos. The Greeks had Hercules and we’ve got Wolverine (Wolverine could kick Hercules’ ass any day of the freakin’ week!). While illustration is great and can often make or break a comic book, the true treasure for me is in the writing. Are the characters convincing? Is the ambiance set up just right? Does the story make me want to continue?

Right now the comic books that own me are Y the Last Man and the Walking Dead (seriously, the comic book is far superior to the TV series and since Frank Darabont left the show, it’s kinda gone in the campy direction). Just as my last entry spoke of how video games deliver gripping stories, so do comic books. Comics are just another example of how we continue the story telling tradition.

What are you favorite comic books? Do any of you read? What do

you look for in comic books? Leave a message and as always,

RONIN STAND UP!