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 The concept of "archetypes"

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roygbiv666

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PostSubject: The concept of "archetypes"   Thu Aug 18, 2011 4:31 am

Hi

Fun site. I think I understand the site section on creating Open Source Characters and the desire to create character concepts based on existing superhero archetypes. Keep them basic variations, and let others build upon them.

But, why not create new archetypes? I don't mean create another dark detective, but a new category.

The way I conceptualized it was this: Let's say you (and me) are comic creators living in 1938. "Action Comics" #1 has just sold like gangbusters based on this newfangled "Superman" character. Your editor wants you to make a bunch of new characters "like him" to cash in on the trend - this weekend! Trouble is, you have no other "superheroes" (a term that doesn't even exist yet) to look at, just him. What do you do?

Well, you draw on any reference you can think of and jam them together to see what works. Let's say, for example, you were a big fan as a kid of the German expressionist horror film (like "The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari" and/or "Nosferatu" for example) and you bring those into your work. So, maybe you come up with a person who can transfer his conciousness to another being, like an inanimate android, that he then moves around (Caligari's Somnabulist - didn't involve transfer of conciiousness, but why not?). Couple that idea with the Jewish folkloric concept of the Golem, and you have a weird new superhero.

Perhaps that character becomes popular and everyone rips it off for their own variation - that makes it an archetype.

I guess I'm playing with the idea of putting oneself in the place of an early comic creator - what influences might you bring to cranking out 10 new characters over the weekend? DId you read with rapt excitement about Howard Carter's unearthing of the Tomb of King Tut - boom , Eqyptian influence. etc.

Anyway, that was my thought. Anyone else buy into this?
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argosail

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PostSubject: Re: The concept of "archetypes"   Thu Aug 18, 2011 6:32 am

Well, I think we've started with archtypes because when you have a basic model to examine, everyone who contributes an idea, at least has a starting point and some basic concept of what the goal is for the character. It lends tiself to group participation a little better. There's no shame in building on archtypes...even Batman, who is now an archtype, was built on archtypes. And the characters we've gotten from these projects: Astro-Man, Dr. Acacia, Red Rose, Damascus, Starizer are all pretty unique spins on their archtypes...very distinct from any other character. However, truly unique characters are a little tougher to build as a group because the ideas will splinter a lot more without a "skeleton" idea, likely producing a lot of formless "mush." The idea is to create characters that are fairly well defined, with a coherent "canon" version that is supported by the community, which will hopefully encourage creators to use them. Of course, creators can change anything they want, but we put some meat on the skeleton and give it a face. Personally, I have nothing against creating totally original characters, but I am a little skeptical. Where do we start? It seems to me you are suggesting the construction of fiction chimeras. Putting together some random concepts into a unique new hole...this could, of course produce some interesting results. Anybody have ideas...I'll trow out a few random things to mash up:

Audrey Jr. from little shop of horrors
Robocop
Gimli from LOTR

Ms. Piggy
Obi-Wan Kenobi
Attack of the 50 Foot Woman

Tron
Harry Potter
Kraven the Hunter

Frankenstein
Neo
Dr. Doolittle

Darth Vader
Tony the Tiger
Barbarella

Flash Gordon
Edward Cullen
Megatron

Davey Crocket
Serpentor
Mega-Man

Skeletor
Kid Iccarus
Popeye

Super Mario
Lois Lane
Scrooge McDuck

Aquaman
Dr. Who
The Lone Ranger

James Bond
Yoda
Fred Flinstone

Dr. Evil
Wonder Woman
Zorro

Hulk Hogan
E.T.
Spider-Man
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roygbiv666

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PostSubject: Re: The concept of "archetypes"   Thu Aug 18, 2011 6:58 am

argosail wrote:
...It seems to me you are suggesting the construction of fiction chimeras. ...

Not random combinations per se, but maybe if we go to the character archetypes predating superheroes and combining them. Hercules plus circus strongmen = Superman (kind of). The Shadow (similar to the older "Man in Black" from ... Boy's Life?) + Scarlet Pimpernel + Zorro + Sherlock Holmes + Houdini +++ = Batman.

Just an idea - put yourself in the shoes of a writer or artist with no other superheroes to go on - what other sources would you have drawn on in 1938 to come up with characters. If different writers had come up with different types of characters, today we might not be looking for variations on the dark detective, but the ... melancholy scientist ... the reincarnated prince (oh wait, that's Hawkman) ... magic animal master ... mind controlling Golem., whatever.

That said, looking back at some of my characters, they are variations on Superman, Batman, etc. ;-)
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argosail

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PostSubject: Re: The concept of "archetypes"   Thu Aug 18, 2011 11:51 am

Haha...I kinda want to flesh out my chimeras now. But, I see...you're talking about using more classic pulpy elements. Out of curiosity, who is this "Man in Black" character? I can't find anything about him online...isn't Boy's Life a scouting magazine?
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GoldenBard

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PostSubject: Re: The concept of "archetypes"   Thu Aug 18, 2011 11:53 am

Interesting idea, Roy. Reminds me of a "metastory" I came up with one time, where a writer for "Two Brothers Comics" was given a weekend to come up with some original characters that would be recognizable to the masses. He got inspired while reading bedtime stories to his daughter, and created superheroes based on Grimm's Fairy Tales.


  • The Prince - Prince Rupert of Genovia was heir to the throne, and really wanted to help bring his small nation to greater prominence on the world stage. He was thrilled when geologists found McGuffinite, a rare isotope believed to be of extraterrestrial origin, in the mountains of Genovia. Generations ago, some of the mineral had been used to create the ceremonial sword of Genovia. Rupert went to check out the find himself, and was trapped in the mine for a week, drinking only spring water that seeped through the radioactive stones. He found that this had given him incredible powers, which were amplified when he had the sword in his possession. These powers came in handy when he came to the US on a diplomatic mission and stopped an assassination attempt at a state dinner. Realizing that this could be his chance to help others and education the world about his people, he used his great strength, near indestructability, and power to fly to help others in his new home.
  • Red Riding Hood - Rachel Scarlett's father was a genius in many fields. So much so, that he was abducted by foreign agents looking to steal his latest stealth technology. Rachel, however, found the tech and used it to rescue her dad. She continued to use the new invention, a cape that enabled her to become invisible and protected her from fire, gunshots, and other projectiles, as well as allowing her to glide for some great distances, even if she couldn't actually fly.
  • Woodsman - Jake Florin thought he had the best childhood. Most of the year he spent in the city with his police detective father. Summers were spent at his uncle's cabin, learning tracking, woodcraft, etc. This ended, however, when his father was killed in the line of duty. Jake lived with his uncle, increasing his dedication to his studies so that when he became an adult, he could move back to the city and use his skills to track criminals like those responsible for his loss.
  • Cinderella - Ellen Glass was born with mild pyrokinesis (the ability to control fire). In college, she took part in a study designed to study psychic powers. Somehow, the bio-feedback machine had a strange effect, increasing Ellen's powers 50 fold. Now able to summon and control all kinds of pyrotechnics, she began to fight evil under the name of Cinderella.
  • Frog Lord - Fredrick Hopper was an oceanographer by trade, but he had a secret that he kept from his more scientifically minded colleagues: he got into the field because he was fascinated with legends of Atlantis. All of his spare time was spent studying and searching for the fabled lost land. In Greece, he purchased a vial of some potion that was said to come from Atlantis. Fred doubted it, but was interested in the inscriptions on the vial. When he opened it, however, the potion evaporated into a cloud of mist that Fred inhaled. He became so ill that he lapsed into a coma. When he awoke, his body had undergone massive changes. He found that he was now an amphibious humanoid with incredible leaping abilities. Fred took to living on his research ship, avoiding normal humans…until he came upon a ship being attacked by pirates. Fred used his new abilities to rescue the crew, and realized that he had a new destiny. He returned to his home in Port Town and became a protector of the waterways.
  • Tom Thumb and Thumbelina - Alan Thomas and Lena Horton were researching diseases of the thyroid, seeking to help those afflicted with giantism and dwarfism. One night, several of the drugs they were using spilled, causing an explosion. Splashed with the flaming chemicals, the duo barely escaped the fire with their lives. They found that the accident had given them the ability to shrink to nearly microscopic size. They chose to help others with their newfound powers as Tom Thumb and Thumbelina.
  • Snow White and Rose Red - Sarah and Rebecca Prism were twins who loved to travel with their archeologist father, helping him in his work. On one dig in a previously hidden city in South America, the girls fell through a crack in a wall, landing in a strange chamber that held what seemed to be an ancient flying saucer! While exploring, the girls must have activated something, because they were struck with two odd colored beams. As a result, Sarah became able to radiate intense cold, and Rebecca could control all plants. The duo battled crime with these abilities as Snow White and Rose Red.
  • Tin Soldier - Armond Timmons was a soldier, like his father and his grandfather before him. In fact, most of his family was dedicated to the military…even Armond’s brother, James, who couldn’t get into the army but was a genius and worked for military contractors developing new and improved weapons. In his spare time, he worked on a suit of powered armor that he hoped would lower the mortality rate among soldiers. His one problem was a power supply that wasn’t a clear target. When Armond lost his left leg on a mission, however, James’ genius came to both of their rescues. He realized that he could actually put the power supply in Armond’s prosthesis, and the suit’s servo motors would enable Armond to walk again. In fact, the suit would make him a one-man platoon. Armond and James used the suit to give the former G.I. the ability to take on “all enemies, foreign and domestic” under the code name “Tin Soldier.
  • Dr. Knowall - David Nolan was a child prodigy; thanks to observant parents and supportive teachers, he had graduated high school by the time he was 11. He had received 7 Ph.D.s by his 25th birthday. He had invented numerous devices and been granted several patents, as well as an impressive grant. When one of his inventions, a sonic wave gun, was used in the commission of a crime, however, he discovered that the organization that gave him the grant was actually a front for a criminal empire. Determined to make up for any damage his work might cause, David developed numerous chemical and electronic gadgets to battle crime as “Dr. Knowall.”
  • Beetle - Back in the old West, there were ranchers who did not want any farming, because it got in the way of grazing cattle. Some of the unscrupulous ones went so far as to sabotage crops. In the small town of New Sanctuary, one man decided to fight back. Virgil Walters donned a mask and called himself “The Beetle,” because several breeds of the insect are known to destroy agricultural pests. In modern times, his great-grandson, Carter Walters, was an entomologist who was well aware of his ancestor’s history. When his girlfriend’s younger sister was kidnapped after witnessing a mob killing, Carter wanted to do something to help. So, invented a suit of armor that allowed him to emulate the powers of insects. In honor of his ancestor, he called himself the Beetle.
  • Hansel & Gretel - For generations, the Schloss family was known for it’s expertise in battling the dark arts; they were famous throughout the Black Forest. In the modern world, however, this talent was, of course, largely forgotten…until an evil sorceress tried to marry and destroy Charles Schloss. His twin children, however, realized the evil and managed to save their father. After this, they trained and studied the records left behind by their ancestors until they had reclaimed the lost knowledge. Now the duo, Hansel and Gretel, wear protective uniforms as they battle any supernatural evil they find.
  • Hedgehog - Henry Sonus was born with a genetic abnormality. His uncle, known for his dry sense of humor, remarked at one point that Henry could join a side show as “The Human Hedgehog.” Luckily, Henry’s father was a doctor specializing in genetic rehabilitation. He developed a treatment that gave Henry a human appearance. As Henry got older, however, he found out that he could transform himself into a large, strong, hulking creature with great strength and quills all over his body. He decided to use this ability to help others, calling himself the Hedgehog.
  • Talisman - John Collins enjoyed his job as a security guard at the local museum. One night he was working late, and wound up helping one of the scientists unload a new shipment of African folk art. Among the objects in the box was an odd pendent that the doctor said was supposed to be a mystic talisman. John was holding the pendent when they heard a noise upstairs. A group of gang-bangers had broken into the museum, looking to cause some damage. As John went to stop them, he found that the talisman gave him the ability to control photonic energy. After using this power to stop the gang, John was given the talisman by the doctor so that he could protect others. John created a costume and took the name Talisman.
  • Water Sprite - Lorelei Undine had always loved the water. That’s why it was ironic when she drowned after being swept off a friend’s boat during a storm at night. Or, at least she would have, if her body hadn’t been entered by a water elemental. Lorelei was returned to the land of the living a changed woman, with the ability to survive under water and to control water in the area around her. She had become a water sprite.
  • Dryad - Hazel Clark was a normal teenage girl dealing with a normal problem: her parent’s divorce. In an effort to gain some control over her world, Hazel took up Wicca. She read tarot cards, chanted, and performed small rituals. None of this really came to anything, until Hazel decided to try a summoning spell in the woods outside her home, under her favorite tree. To her surprise, she summoned forth the spirit of the tree, a Dryad who not only became Hazel’s friend but sought to improve the lot of all humans.
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Thunder Lad



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PostSubject: Re: The concept of "archetypes"   Thu Aug 18, 2011 1:40 pm

Would Lovecraft and Robert E Howard characters be something along the lines you are talking about Roy?
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roygbiv666

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PostSubject: Re: The concept of "archetypes"   Thu Aug 18, 2011 8:35 pm

argosail wrote:
Haha...I kinda want to flesh out my chimeras now. But, I see...you're talking about using more classic pulpy elements. Out of curiosity, who is this "Man in Black" character? I can't find anything about him online...isn't Boy's Life a scouting magazine?

I'll try to remember to dig up the "Man in Black" (not Johnny Cash) when I get home - I probably didn't get the magazine name correct, but IIRC there isn't much online about him.

Not necessarily "more pulpy", just treat superhero creation more like you're an actor and the role your playing is an early creator with nothing to go on but whatever came before. Take Egyptian gods, the the body of humans and the head of animals - those things are made for superheros. Or, say you really liked Charles Lindburgh and Amelia Erhart and you dad was a pilot in WWI - maybe you'd come up with someone more like Skyman.

Or even just looking at some of the lesser known PD heroes - if they became popular, they'd be your archetypes.

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PostSubject: Re: The concept of "archetypes"   Thu Aug 18, 2011 8:41 pm

Thunder Lad wrote:
Would Lovecraft and Robert E Howard characters be something along the lines you are talking about Roy?

Anything and everything that existed before any superheroes existed except Superman. What would a writer or artist have drawn on to make a "superhero" without the benefit we have of 70 years of hindsight? Was he a fan of Grimms' Fairy Tales as mentioned above, or did he secretly think that the Japanese mythologies were awesome and used those as inspiration.

I guess I'm almost saying like one approach is to do some role-playing and your character is a 1930s comic creator.

Look at Stardust and Fantomah - what the hell was Fletcher Hanks on when he created them? (Answer - booze) What if they have become super-popular, we'd be trying to come up with variations on them all the time instead of Batman or the Flash.
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PostSubject: Re: The concept of "archetypes"   Thu Aug 18, 2011 11:30 pm

I definitely see what you're saying, Roy. I also went through a period where I created many characters (mostly in a modern setting) that were colored and flavored by Celtic mythology, Arthurian legend, and a medieval/Renaissance Faire vibe (lots of armor, swords, mystics, seekers after the Grail, etc.). It was really taking those archetypes and moving them from their traditional settings to my world. To use other examples, RoboCop was an attempt to create a character that had superhero underpinnings with scifi trappings. Similarly, Darkman was building a superhero with horror movie trappings. This has also been done before (anyone remember Dracula, Frankenstein, and Werewolf, Dell Comics' attempt to make superheroes out of horror movie icons?).
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PostSubject: Re: The concept of "archetypes"   Fri Aug 19, 2011 8:45 pm

argosail wrote:
Haha...I kinda want to flesh out my chimeras now. But, I see...you're talking about using more classic pulpy elements. Out of curiosity, who is this "Man in Black" character? I can't find anything about him online...isn't Boy's Life a scouting magazine?

Apparently I can upload images, but can't post the link yet. But I can copy and paste their URLs to my PDSH page under Roygbiv666 - ha ha.

The source is a book on Batman, Man in Black appeared in "The Boys of New York - a Paper for Young American" December 16, 1882. Jeez why isn't anyone familiar with it? ;-)
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