I figured it would be nice to talk a little bit about the development of Gwen Collins, the protagonist of my series Virtue.
The truth is I've been tinkering with the story of my own original super-hero off and on. I think the earliest form of The Heretic was conceived when I was only in the sixth grade. Keep in mind that I'm a full grown adult now. In that time I've joined the US Army, left, and have been patching together an education as an animator ever since.
While it is true that I thought myself as more of a space fan (My friends and I regularly played pretend by mixing Star Trek and Star Wars together). I had dreams of writing a space-saga that involved massive fleets, ancient alien weapons, and political strife. I didn't really pay much heed to my endeavor of creating a super hero. It wasn't until my sophomore year in high school when the idea that would become Virtue truly began to solidify.
My friends of this era were deeply ingrained in table-top role-playing games. Heck, I'm still deeply ingrained in table-top role-playing games. The point is that my group played a wide variety of these games. We played Dungeons&Dragons (2nd Edition, and we transitioned to 3rd when it came out), Vampire: The Masquerade, The Babylon Project (a game based off of the Babylon 5 television series), Rifts, and Heroes: Unlimited.
Heroes: Unlimited was a game that was based entirely around making your own original super heroes for play in a role-playing game. The game is still available at hobby shops across the nation. If you do experiment with it be warned: there wasn't much consideration to game balance. Some of the characters that are made function well above and beyond the parameters of other characters. So a great deal of networking is required before all of the players even *make* their respective characters. That being said, this was the setting that gave birth to what later would be Gwen Collins.
I actually have a contemporary rendition of that character here on DeviantArt:
The thing was, one of my friends (my girlfriend at the time) hit on idea that stuck with me. She stated that comic book costumes are more-or-less ridiculous. She couldn't think of a legitimate reason that her character would ever put on something as flashy and loud as Spider-man's outfit. She felt that if her character was to have a costume that her powers had to be the costume.
At the time, she was deeply ingrained with her passion for the Mega Man X series. So the character she ultimately made was a cyborg. Her hero possessed metallic wings and talons (both hands and feet). Her character also had an eye implant and looked something like a Borg drone from Star Trek. I also went with the idea for a cyborg. The character I designed looked like the fella in the image above facing off with Gwen.
So we played our game, and we all had some good laughs. I ran that ongoing game for a solid three years. I enjoyed making adventures for these characters. It's something that I miss and wish I could find a group to do so with. The thing that I carried away with that game was the powers are the costume.
Fast forward another year, and I become Mr. Angsty. I lost the girlfriend I described above and I took it very personally. I probably took it in a way that was *extremely* unhealthy. I knew I had to distance myself from the lady or I was going to hurt some one (or at least continually embarrass myself). So I took to illustration and writing, and I dug up my hero from the old role-playing game. At the time, the hero was named The Wind Claw.
I started tinkering with his origins as well as his powers. I also tinkered a bit with his villains. As I went through various iterations with the character, I found myself making a more timid hero on the outset. He was originally something like Captain James T. Kirk (adventurous, bold, confident with the ladies, etc) and was rapidly becoming something more like Luke Skywalker (inexperienced, eager, self-doubting). With this personality change came many alterations to the powers this guy would inherit.
It was becoming impossible to motivate the character to go on the adventure I had planned. No matter what I did, this timid version of Arthur (later to become Gwen) would always settle for returning the Iron-Man-like suit. He didn't want to challenge authority. I needed to force the issue on him. That was when the sentient suit was born.
(An early version of the sentient suit. That one also talked to the wearer, similar to Senketsu of KLK. Though that version of the suit was a bit more like Ghost from Destiny.)
As mentioned earlier, I also tinkered with villains. I always knew that I wanted The Wind Claw to face off with some one who was extremely similar to him. I wanted this villain to be like a reflection of the hero, his equal and opposite. That was when the first extractions for The Darkling came about.
Maria Montoya was never originally envisioned for the role of the Darkling. I had initially imagined a boy that was just about Arthur's age named David. Arthur was stealing a contained darkling parasite when he was ambushed. David was caught in the crossfire of this ambush. Arthur was critically injured and had to escape.
David was killed in the exchange.
The darkling parasite was also released from its container. It found its way over to David's corpse and resurrected him. It held on to his body like an oil slick and behaved a bit like TheChitinousTeen 's xeno-resin. The parasite also drove David mad and forced him to obsess over his ex-girlfriend. In the end, Arthur and David would meet in combat. Arthur would be forced to kill David again in order to protect David's ex.
This was all invented when I thought this was the best song in the universe (and actually served as the theme for the battle between Arthur and David):
(Aren't we glad I don't listen to these guys anymore.)
Keep in mind, I wasn't making these decisions specifically to emulate the concept of the second skin as defined here in this group. These were decisions being made by an angst-ridden early 20-something guy. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was pushing forward into this sub-genre without even knowing it.
I guess that's part of the reason I've enjoyed SymbioteMaskLover 's Alien Skin series so much. His Rachel character and powers have a lot in common with David as the Darkling. Both were obsessed with acceptance and sex but are so repressed until they find their sickly and parasitic outer shell.
Later, I'd incorporate many of those ideas into Arthur's suit. His once fully robotic suit was becoming more organic with each revision of the story. In each and every time, it started to exert more and more control over Arthur. For Arthur, it was a matter of meeting that control and becoming one with it. For him I wanted a story that referenced the idea of inner beauty and strength finding its way to the surface.
Later I redrafted the story with a female lead. My primary reasoning behind this was because of a decline in female representation in film. I must admit, however, that I also changed the gender to get a bit more viewership. By the time I did that, the armor had become so organic and instinctual that I couldn't help but see the sexual connotations. I invented a rather rape-oriented item. It's spooky and rather scary. Even for the male lead, Arthur, I had already scripted his reactions to being violated by this thing. When it's worn by Gwen, the rape analogy only becomes more pronounced. I wonder if I sometimes made a mistake in swapping the protagonist gender. The genre of the second-skin is an easily fetishized one. I think it no mistake that most of us in this group are males, and that most of our second skin characters are female.
As a response, I might just dig up David to serve as a premier male 'Grafter'. He'll be villainous and sick just like he was when I invented him. Heck, he might even get his own setting dedicated to himself. He doesn't have to be in the same setting as The Heretic.
So here's to broader horizons, and the rise of a potential male second-skin OC to this group.