City of Heroes Season 1 Notes

Season 1 Notes

I had every intention of finishing this and posting this shortly after the season 12 finale, but, well…stuff happened! Sorry! I’ll admit I was a bit frustrated with the slow pace of later episodes, but….City of Heroes Season 1 is basically finished! I did a complete, multi-post Kupopolis story for the first time in ages! It’s worth talking about at least some of this stuff!

I think what held me back in getting this out was my intent to include too much, and, as they say, the perfect is the enemy of the good. It’s better to get some of this out than sit on what I have and never do anything.

So yeah, this would’ve been better like a year ago. But my hard-won experience and maturity would’ve been better in the past, too. But we must do the best we can with what we have.

I’ve started the season 2 pilot. It’s coming soon ™.

Genesis – Why “Kuper Heroes”?

Matt and I have been kicking around this idea in various forms for ages. Most of our ideas, though, focused on a post-White Cell “Justice League of Kupopolis” group where we did our best to try to include a multi-dimensional group featuring various writers, including many writers who were highly unlikely to ever be back. (We definitely had Kusader, or Kusader’s son, in many of these groups.)

And I was trying to think about what role Fara would play on such a team – as a pre-existing character it seemed logical that she would fill kind of a leadership role, perhaps she would have Seen some Shit, and be an all-around wise warrior.

And you know what? I didn’t like that.

It felt unearned.

And there’s an old saw about writing – “are you writing about the most interesting time in this character’s life? If not, why not?” – and I decided that the version of Fara I wanted to write was Spunky Young Heroine Fara, as after all she was directly inspired by Buffy.

So I sent Matt an e-mail saying that we should totally set our story in Albrook during Fara’s college life, and he was on board with it. Although I can’t say enough nice things about Matt in this collaboration, I think one his earliest big contributions was the idea to structure at as a “television series” centering around episodes. This allowed us to do self-contained stories while building towards a bigger arc. One of the issues I struggled with Later Proper was that I felt like anything I posted had to be “Important!”, and many more medium-sized stories got left at the wayside.

I mean….if it’s still up somewhere, you can go re-read my last Late Proper posts, which were like “Fara’s Freaky Friday” and “<3 Kenny.” And although I would consider both of these posts reasonably well-written, and they both ooze with affection for the characters and setting, very little of consequence happens. I felt too cluttered, exhausted, and invested in a half-dozen sprawling areas to do anything truly big, and certain other ideas I had in the back of my head for ages (“Web Aerospace Expo”) didn’t feel like they were “big” or “important” enough to post. I mean, shit, at least two of Season 1 posts (and one of the big Season 2 posts HYPE) were ideas I had rattling around for ages but didn’t feel like they connected to a larger plot.

In fact, one issue I had with Later Proper was the feeling that certain plot assets of mine were more deserving of my attention than others, regardless of what I wanted to write. So maybe I had some idea for silly superhero stories, but I felt like I really “should” write some political stuff.

It didn’t help that I was afraid to do any major shake-ups in Late Proper. You know, Aurora came to me with the thought the Shana was unhappy in her marriage and should divorce Celiose. I shot this down, because I felt the relationship was important for humanizing and grounding Celiose, which was part of the point of Dustin’s classic plotline involving Shana going into the River Tyme and seeing alternate realities where she doesn’t marry Celiose. (Spoilers: Nothing good!). HOWEVER, in retrospect, Aurora was right! It would have been an interesting development for both characters. For Shana to cast off this sham domestic arrangement, maybe reconnect with her roots as a badass dragoon, and live her life for HER would be interesting. And Celiose would be confronted with something he could not outsmart or defeat, and have to face the fact that saving the Web multiple times over doesn’t give him an excuse for being a shitty husband. It might even force him to experience character growth! Perhaps it would even bring in the relationships of the extended family Cole, one of the best-developed family trees in the Kupopolis universe.

Anyway, In other words, this “soft relaunch” was exactly what was needed to refocus and get things going.

“A New Story, Set in the Kupopolis Universe”

This was a phrase I kept in the back of my mind while writing CoH early on, almost a mantra for me. I really wanted CoH to stand on its own as a self-contained story, readily accessible to a lapsed reader or even in theory someone who was totally new.

On the other hand, I obviously didn’t want to ignore Proper. Proper was a major triumph of world building. We had invested a considerable amount of time into the technology, politics, economy, and other factors in the universe. I definitely wanted all this stuff to be happening and affect the plot, even if this particular set of characters wasn’t always focused on it. (I mean…in the Spring Break episode Rhodes Palmerston explains a bunch of this to Fara, and that’s really more for the benefit of the readers who care that Scandians and Esperians are trying to reduce hostilities…Fara just wants to know who she should be hitting with a sword.)

And that is the benefit of writing in Kupopolis. It feels like a lived-in universe, because it is! We are often seeing a different perspective – despite the fact we are writing about “heroes”, it at times feels like a “groundling’s eye view” as opposed to our previous perspective of the war-lords. I mean, in the first few episodes alone we have our heroes going to a bank, using a toilet, and applying for work.

Although I view CoH as primarily a character-driven story, I would like to think there’s at least some attempt at thematic depth – what makes a hero? In most places we’re not exactly subtle – this is basically Terry’s whole season 1 arc. However, this is an area where I view CoH as being “in dialogue” with Proper. One of the central “heroes” of Proper was of course Celiose, and he is a hero a teenage me hopped up on reading military history imagined: a genius from a young age who had devoted his whole life to the profession of war. He has often been portrayed as listless and adrift in peaceful times, and I definitely wrote it as though his supreme detachment from humanity was a necessary and worthy price to pay for his superlative skill.

City of Heroes, however, stakes out the opposite claim. Right in the very first episode when Fara wonders if she should party with her new friends or train, Roxanne says she should go and have fun! And her compassion and connection to others is pretty consistently treated as a strength (even when it is used to manipulate her). She in a way, represents a rebuttal, a restoration of a more traditional form of heroism.

(And yeah, this is Roxanne and Eleod’s argument in Episode 6, sort of, as they argue for these opposing philosophies. Or at least it’s sorta supposed to be. Episode 6 is my least favorite of the run.)

(I tried to make this point in Neo with how kinda fucked up Avarael was, and I was even trying to be meta about Avarael’s inherited plot armor, because I was kinda pretentious during Neo. However, I don’t think the Avarael/Leisha plot landed nearly as well as the Salomo plot to Make Tasnica Great Again.)

And…although Proper was all over the place tonally, we did delight in gray and grey morality for most of the run, though the results varied depending on the writer. If the name wasn’t obvious, this is decidedly a heroic tale. The heroes will fight and struggle and even lose sometimes – but we can count on them to do the right thing, and emerge victorious in the end.

Female Characters that Don’t Suck

In the run-up, Matt and I had a Serious Discussion about this.

Now, I don’t expect the PC Police to break down my door and insist I write a more diverse cast, nor do I expect the anti-SJW brigade to complain that Kupopolis was awesome back when it was a manly story about war and politics but now it has vaginas and therefore sucks. This is ultimately a personal expression that will probably only be seen by a few friends. And I did not like the personal expression that the legacy of proper left with regards to women.

To start with, there’s only a handful of prominent female characters in the story (and a lot of them were made by Aurora!). Of the people who got most of the spotlight in proper – national and military leaders – only a handful like Aly Halberg and Faith Weist got much prominence. The fact that there’s a tag for “hotchicks” in the wiki is frankly cringey. During Neo, a relative creative high point for me, of my six “mains”, only one was a woman, and her story didn’t really work – two of the other mains had prominent female support characters to basically be their “girl Friday”. Now, it’s clear at some point I recognized this was a bit of a problem, as I did introduce more female characters, but a lot of them are just gender-swaps of well-known templates. Talina Svensgaard is a woman, but her main characteristic is that she’s a “badass pirate”, and her being female doesn’t inform the character. This “girls can do anything boys can do!” gender-blind approach feels very 1990s. I had characters who were female, not female characters.

(Possible exception: Sheila Sporr has a sensual energy that sets her apart, even though she’s mostly just “badass mecha pilot.” But that’s probably because I stole her from Crest of the Stars.)

So yeah, not only did I want better female representation, I wanted characters that actually were affected by the fact of their gender in a meaningful way.

It does help that there are a lot more female characters so that there’s not just one to have the personality of being “the girl.” We are actually 50/50 for most of the cast. The key heroes are of course split evenly. The main villains are, too, but Marcus and the Master get a lot more of the spotlight because Ariela isn’t revealed as a villain until the end. Our supporting cast is close to evenly split (Fara’s all-female roomies make a big difference on that ledger.) I think we might fall down a bit on special guest stars, but, eh.

Having a range of female characters allows a writer to show them relating to their feminity in a variety of different ways. This is most clearly seen with Fara’s roomies, with someone like Denise being a bit more “girly girl” and Violante’s decidedly nontraditionally feminine aptitude in machines. I have tried to write this with a sort of tonal neutrality – it is not my intent for one character to come off as “more correct” than the other, although the reality of writing a superhero story means that some characters have skills more useful to the plot. (Violante shows up in more posts than any non-main character, though most of her appearances are because she’s the group’s transportation.)

And Fara…is actually allowed to have a personality now. Before she was just “average girl”. Average girl is not a character trait. Pre-CoH Fara comes off a bit bland by comparison, though there’s some elements of current Fara there (a bit of snark, mainly.)

It is worth acknowledging that representation in other areas has room for improvement. Writing in a fantasy setting it can be difficult to ride the line between “coding” a character as a POC without stereotyping them. I mean…Kupopolis and non-white ethnicities is a bit of a mess, because in old canon we had only a handful of places non-white characters come from, and other places were assumed to be white. It’s a bit weird, because you could make the case that Tasnica (or any Great Power) owns basically a whole fucking planet, and should logically contain a huge variety of ethnic groups, but in-story, Tasnicans have largely been portrayed as Germanic. Hell, in CoH they’re MORE Germanic, because I wanted to make different nationalities seem culturally as well as politically distinctive. I think probably the best solution is to better represent certain existing areas, and maybe better establish new ones. (Kakkara is place I’ve been wanting to do more with since forever…)

As for LGBT representation, I think a big problem I had in the past was thinking that it should be treated as a major reveal, and also work it organically into the plot. Like…who here knew that Rycar Mountbatten is gay? This was supposed to be a whole plot, but I’ve sort-of decided that making a big deal of it is stupid, but it’s also stupid for him to say in the middle of a cabinet meeting or space battle, “oh bee tee dubs I’m gay.”

….some of you may have found all of the above insufferably “#woke”, especially for a video game fanfic about silly superhero stories. But as a creator and as a person, I feel it is important to reflect and try to be better.

The Main Cast

Our main cast happened by accident.

It’s clear that they were not conceived as a whole team, but as two pairs. Osprey and Terry have a clear “sidekick and hero” thing going on, and Roxanne/Fara is definitely a “mentor and apprentice” type relationship. Putting all four together DOES result in some interesting personality relationships – Fara/Osprey are more snarky, but Terry/Roxanne are more earnest; Osprey/Roxanne are a bit more pragmatic, but Fara/Terry are more idealistic. It does end give us the weird problem that, power-set wise, they are all melee fighters, and post-repowering, all possess magic weapons.

Terry’s arc is probably the most straightforward, and probably the best-realized. He lost his powers, and needs to find his way to “worthiness” and accepting the new status quo. This is signposted pretty clearly – in episode 3, where he fights the pyra syndicate, he needs to take heroic action again. In episode 8, where in “spring break” terrorists try to take over the airship, he fights without his armor, confronting opponents who have a very real ability to kill him. And at first I think we had his arc mostly wrap there….but since the plan was for him to be repowered between seasons it made sense if his battle with the Master was a bit bigger than originally planned. The Master confronts Terry with his past trauma and offers Terry his powers back, but Terry has grown past all that and decides to go down fighting against a foe he has no chance of defeating. In the process, Terry forges new friendships and connections. He has moved on from the death of his lover, his exile, and the loss of his powers to begin to build a new life.

Fara sort-of has a similar arc of proving herself worthy, but for her the pressures are external rather than internal. First Eleod and then the Master say she’s JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH for the Sword. For Eleod, it’s because Fara is not enough like Kupopolis heroes of old with their mastery of chess and military history. For the Master, it’s because she’s self-evidently a stupid impulsive little girl who has no right to it. (Roxanne is, of course, mostly supportive.) For most of the story, Fara holds, self-confident.

But there’s a scene in the finale where Fara is held captive, the Master has the Sword, and all of her friends are apparently being lured to their deaths. I think in one initial version of this, Fara was defiant and sarcastic throughout. But I decided that that rang false – she is decidedly NOT stonecold badass, and would be appropriate for her to break and show a moment of doubt. It was important to me when writing Fara that she not be a “Mary Sue.” She leads with her heart, and although she is the hero and always does the right thing….she does screw up. She does make mistakes. She even gets her ass kicked a few times. (She went through several University of Albrook hoodies in this story.)

Osprey doesn’t have quite the same clear arc, but….we all love him! He’s probably one of the most fun characters, and weirdly well-rounded? Like, we know he likes meatball subs, can’t eat cheese, and loves samurai movies, which is probably more random little details than we know about almost any other character. He’s kinda just…everybody’s friend, a good utility player, but he’s also simultaneously chronically underappreciated, which is strangely tragic. He still hasn’t let his chronic unemployment get him down – he gets up every damned day to send out more resumes and help his friends.

Osprey is intended to have a more complete arc in season 2.

Roxanne is also doesn’t have much of an arc…but if Osprey is the utility player, Roxanne is the team “den mother,” most explicitly with Fara but she also helps Terry work through her issues. She was originally created as little more than an exposition machine, because I didn’t want to have the Goddess Rainere show up to Fara in every post. But Matt really liked this “modern Valkyrie” character, and even though she’s technically “my” character, many of her most memorable traits come from Matt. (I LOVE that she is an inveterate packrat and horder, having amassed a collection of remarkable stuff across multiple lifetimes of adventure.) She has a deep-seated affection for “Man’s World” and all that is in it, and her endless zest for life feels like it lifts the group. It is significant that almost all the major “team” events happen at her house – including Movie Night, which is probably Matt’s and mine favorite thing to do with these characters. She is often the voice of wisdom – the group’s North Star.

I have thought a bit about what to do with her next season…I do think her confrontation with Ariela shook her up a bit.

SO…technically…we have four mains…but…there’s Eleod. Eleod is the stealth main. Wreathed in shadow, just like a shadow priest.

(And did you just now get that “dwarf shadow priest” is a WoW joke?)

Although Violante has more appearances than Eleod, Eleod’s are much larger and more impactful. He represents a major contrast to most of our main heroes, representing an old guard, “Great War” generation, AND he’s more of a traditional “caster” in a melee-focused “party”. He has deep and close ties to the season villain. Perhaps most importantly, he has potentially a great arc about accepting generational change. In episode 6, he’s all like “you young ones are doing everything wrong! This would’ve gotten you killed in the Great War!” But by episode 10 (the Baneling Episode, where Eleod has a starring role) he accepts that the new generation should make their own decisions, and that they deserve the chance to try new solutions to problems the Great War did not solve. Pointedly, he just doesn’t just leave the party, but continues to lend the younger generation his wisdom and guidance. In the finale, he confronts his own past, acknowledging that his way was not perfect despite its achievements.

Eleod is a character who would benefit a lot from a re-write. It would help crystallize his arc (…and having Fara “ok, boomer” Eleod at some point would’ve made it obvious.). I don’t think he’s broken (like Marcus, Marcus is broken)—he mostly works --but our initial plan and what we ended up doing with him didn’t always sync up. Like, at first, he wasn’t supposed to be part of the main cast until like episode 6, but both Matt and I love salty, curmudgeonly dwarfs, and therefore he found his way into the main cast well before that.

Season Villains

So…let’s talk about villains.

The Master of Mana (“Mannern Fuchuan”) and the Secret Imperial Society appeared way back when Fara first got the sword, and they sucked. They sucked because 1990s/early 2000s me (us?) borrowed elements from other stuff we liked, and sometimes the stuff we borrowed worked, because we understood it well enough to make it work. I feel that the Kupopolitic is largely a success based on many writer’s fascination with history.

Mannern Fuchuan was pitched as “fu Manchu” type villain. I didn’t know why I wanted one. I didn’t know why one would be a good foil for my new Mana Knight. I didn’t know how to make one work in a Kupopolis context. I DEFINITELY didn’t know or think about the #problematic “yellow peril” roots of the character.

In fact, Fara’s whole first outing with the sword sucked. It’s good that it died on the AOL boards. The Reklar arc leading up “the Defense of Egmont” is the true emergence of the character. I’ve thought about revisiting her first outing because it IS her origin story, and superheroes gotta have origin stories, and it would allow me to fix some things. But ANYWAY….

I had gone around and around between trying to “fix” the Master/SIS and just leaving them on the dustbin of history. I initially didn’t want to use them. But Matt said that inasmuch as Fara had “designated villains” these were them, and he was right, and they were the right choice.


So…characters sometimes need “time under pen” to develop. I think of it as “finding the voice” for the character. This is especially true in a collaborative writing project. A character with a strong “voice” is easy for both writers to write. I think pretty early on both Matt and I had a good enough grasp on the main characters and prominent supporting characters to authentically write them without too many problems.

And some characters are easy to find. (Fara’s “Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey roomies!” does it for me.)

But some take time. And for villains, this is hard, especially when we’re trying to make them all cool and mysterious. Sometimes they’re too cool and mysterious to actually have a personality, or do anything.

So our villain team is four – the Master, Marcus, Ariela, and Beretta. In my opinion, three of them mostly work, but their development is backended, ESPECIALLY in Ariela’s case.

I think at first we struggled to make the Master a bit more than a generic evil wizard dude. I mean, I even had a few characters give speeches about how the Master doesn’t want to ascend to godhood, because…that’s so fucking cliché, is the real reason.

But he did evolve – I think a key bit was making being a toxic father figure part of his modus operandi. (Surrogate parental figures were kind of A Thing this season). And yes, he does do the villainous monologue thing, but he’s DOING IT to EDUCATE you! It’s not enough that he beats you – he wants you to UNDERSTAND! He is, after all, a teacher.

(And also…what’s the point of having a villain in a superhero story if they’re not a bit extra?)

More than that, he works as a villain specific to Fara, as they are both linked to Mana in deep ways, yet represent that power in different ways (“caster” vs. “sword-user”), but are also thematic opposites (the idealism of youth against the solipsism of old age, heart vs. head, someone who protects others vs. someone who only uses others…). AND – not only are they similarly powered by Mana, they both try to gain victories by understanding and connecting to other people.

But still – I think my favorite villain moment is the Master’s confrontation with the Shield. He ALMOST kills Terry, and then heals him to full health, to show how little of a threat he considers him, and then he torments the hero with an image of his dead lover (something he’d been avoiding), points out his old mentor was actually kind of an asshole, and tempts him with newfound power.

I don’t know if the Master’s slow build worked, but I do like how he works in episode 11 and 12, and I do think he was the right villain.

And if you re-read CoH, well, bear in mind that Fara’s final battle with the master was basically inspired by this:

It’s too bad he’s banished to the Place Which Is No More, from which he will surely never return!

Let’s talk about his henchmen.

Ariela suffers a bit from having only two appearances, because it’s SUPPOSED to be a big mystery. But she has a compelling, sad, and human motivation, and she works well as a ‘dark mirror’ to Roxanne, as they are very much alike as their final confrontation shows. It’s also an inversion of the old become-a-god trope; Ariela doesn’t want to be a god, she wants to be a person, to live and love and have a family. Unfortunately, in her first appearance (in the trial in episode 5), I hadn’t quite thought of that motivation yet, so it isn’t appropriately foreshadowed. The fact that she is very biased in the trial comes through, but on a rewrite I think we would make it clear that she shares Roxanne’s fondness for man’s world (unlike their sisters), and even really looks up to Roxanne (admiration that is not reciprocated.) We might even choose to ditch sticking all the plot reveals in episode 12 in the service of giving Ariela more screentime. We could have hinted at her presence earlier – the Master could’ve said something like “As to their Valkyrie, well, I have my own!”

But, even with all that…I do really like Ariela’s fight with Roxanne.

“Tell me, Roxanne, daughter of Zahd – do you remember your mother?” asked Ariela.

Roxanne scrunched her face. “The stories say she was named Sigrun and she was steel maiden to the great warlord –“

Ariela pulled Roxanne in, closer. “I don’t care what the stories say,” she said. “I didn’t ask that. I asked….do you REMEMBER ?”

And yes, it is funny her name is “Ariela” and this is her motivation, which only JUST NOW occurred to me:

Beretta…is a bit clunky at first. I found her in an old notes post where I had listed various elemental fiends, and the idea that the Master would hire someone to handle physical/technological security made sense to me. She follow’s Tex’s West naming convention of gun manufacturers, and yes, I was worried I was not southern enough to right this character. And looking back…I do like her southernisms, but I think rendering her accept phonetically may not have been the best choice. James Clavell in Tai Pan rendered many different accents that way, and it got…really annoying. It’s probably why I did it less.

Personality-wise, Beretta doesn’t come into her own until later. I do like the “punchclock villain” thing. I like how she doesn’t give a shit about any of the weird-ass magic shit happening around her. I like how she’s just get the job done, bringing a dose of pragmatism to team villain.

However…unlike the others, she has no real emotional or thematic ties to the main characters Magnum revolvers are supposed to be her signature weapons, but she ends up just sorta using whatever cool guns the plot requires. I ended up cutting a scene where she fights a whole police station to get Marcus out, which would’ve shown off how terrifying she is. (“What if it was one woman with six guns?”).I just love West and gunslingers, I like having a more grounded villain in the Master’s magic-oriented lineup, but I think she needed a bit more polish.

Marcus is a mess, though, and he’s a mess partly because I’m basing it off an initial appearance from the AOL boards that wasn’t well thought out beyond a plot twist of “oh the guy Fara’s hooking up with is EVIL! SURPRISE!”. Now, there’s potential here – there’s the clear rival aspect for Fara combined with their romantic history (something I don’t feel I do enough with), his clear need for acceptance by his father figure the Master, his preening vanity…on paper, he has some good characteristics. His transformation into Fiend of Earth is supposed to be sad and tragic, a consequence of his poor life decisions.

It would be better if I got across that Marcus was playing at being the Big Bad, but isn’t as bad as he thinks he is; that at one point he and Fara did have a real relationship; and that he has a chance to walk away from the SIS and the Master, but doesn’t. His featured episode is episode 6, and the point was to show him as a big threat by having him mop the floor with the three main heroes, but that’s sort of undermined by the fact that Eleod just sorta shows up and spanks him. Episode 6 is supposed to feature Marcus, introduce the threat of the Master, and bring Eleod into the main group, and…it needed something more to drive that.

I’ve thought a lot about how to improve Marcus, and we MIGHT revisit him if I do Secret Origin: Fara Somers.

One-Off Villains

Getting late, so just a few quick hits:

-The Neo-Returners Front and Graegor Idran are an old idea, as evidenced by their very Kupopolitic concept. In writing them and that old post, I did try to pay homage to the circa 1998 tex style of writing. (I felt Tex, noted history buff, would appreciate “the sick man of the Web” line.) I like them as an opposition group, because they’re tough, well-armed, and highly trained and organized.

-We love PRISM MAN. Like, seriously, Matt and I have SO MANY posts for this guy. We desperately wanted a “silly silver age” villain, and I don’t think we could’ve done better than Prism Man, with his connection to the Shield, toxic nerd-masculinity, and over-the-top persona. We want more silly silver age villains, but I don’t know that any of them will be as good.

-The Banelings (episode 10) were intended to be a more straightforward action episode, but Matt realized that didn’t really fit where the story was at, so he went with an alternative version that is much better, and more true to the characters. It probably has the best character moments for Eleod and Fara in the season. I do regret that we didn’t start the post with “The Last Baneling is in captivity. The Web is at peace.” (Super Metroid Intro (SNES) HD - YouTube).

Supporting Cast

I feel continually torn between my desire to keep CoH a focused story and the desire to play with our toybox. You know, I have a file called “binders full of characters” with like…a hundred or so concept characters. Sometimes we work on excuses to involve characters we like in certain posts, even if it doesn’t really make sense.

However, we do try to focus a bit, and some of the more prominent supports get quite a bit of development. (I mean, I moved Eleod up to the main section!)

The roomies – Violante, Kamiko, and Denise-- are really important, because they are partly Fara’s link to a more ‘normal’ student life. (…even though many of them have secret lives of their own.) You know, early in our run, I sent Matt notes on each of the roomies…each of them got a whole page.

Violante ends up being the most prominent – she actually has more appearances in posts than Eleod! – partly because she fills an important role on the team. Weirdly enough, CoH exists because of her – I saw I had the entry for her on the wiki, remembered I had this cool Damcyanese smuggler chick who was going to be Fara’s roommate, and boy, I should do a post with that! She’s like…the second Damcyanese character in the story? And given how Antonio Desrodio was kind of a joke….she’s kind of the first competent one? I don’t think this gets across in posts, but she is a little older than the other college students…like Fara is 18 at the start of the season, Violante is like early 20s already.

And in the Movie, she is played by Michelle Rodriguez.

Besides Violante, I don’t think the other two actively want to go on crazy adventures, though they do get sucked into them. Kamiko would rather be studying, Denise would rather be partying.

Kamiko’s name literally means “superior child”, and it seems like she’s…good at everything!? She beats both Fara AND Osprey in training. She takes down Prism Man. My capsule description of her was:


And: Tomoe Gozen: Badass Women in Japanese History -

Plus a dash of the most over-achieving, over-compensating student you’ve ever known.

So some things about Kamiko will be explored more in season 2, but…I hope you caught that she’s the daughter of one of the most powerful noble families in Eblan.

Denise is the one to bring to a party – and of the three, she’s probably Fara’s closest friend, the one she actually talks to most. Even though they’re both Tasnicans, and thus are all “Guten Tag!” and “Ja!” there’s intended to be a bit of regional and class difference. Fara is from Egmont and Denise is from Centwerp. Now, it’s worth me as an unbiased narrator saying this: Centwerp is legitimately a world-class city in the Web, as the center of Web finance and as an ancient canal city, I’ve always thought of it sort like Venice or Amsterdam. Egmont gets a lot of story focus, but…it’s not a world-class city. It desperately wants to be. It makes sense for Fara to insist it is because it’s her hometown, but for non-Egmonters, putting Egmont and Centwerp in the same category is like an American linking Phoenix and New York. Denise and Fara also have a class divide; Fara’s family are staunchly middle-class by Tasnican standards, and Denise’s dad is really rich, sort of like the Warren Buffet of Kupopolis. BUT – circling back to our discussion of female characters above…Denise is important because in some ways she’s NOT actually a secret badass. Denise doesn’t fix super-powered seraphim armor or best this week’s supervillain…but she DOES help Fara pick the right clothes for a date, which is a thing that matters.

Denise may or may not even know that Fara is the Mana Knight. (“Fara, you say such crazy shit! You crack me up!”)

(I mean, yeah, it’s screwed up that your ‘normal’ friend is like super-rich, but that’s Kupopolis!)

That is all.

It is bedtime – at one point I was going to go episode by episode, but I’m at over 4k words, which is a lot of non-story content.

Season 2 is coming.

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So, I’ll jump in and add some thoughts. I had held off on doing a notes post for season 1 because I sort of felt like Travis had dibs and should post his thoughts first. But time went by, and flowed like a river, and – well, you know!

I just want to say that, really, the major contribution that Travis ascribes to me – structuring this thing into a “series” with “seasons” and “episodes” – is really the first and last most significant thing I did to get this ball rolling. Most of the rest of the credit for City of Heroes taking shape the way it did is due to Travis’ vision of how the story we wanted to tell (remember: super heroes) should take shape.

Of course, saying that it’s mostly one person or another in a work that is inherently collaborative is a little folly; obviously, there is DNA from both my brain and Travis’ brain baked into the final product. That goes without saying. But in terms of which one of us is the lead “showrunner,” I think it’s Travis, hands down – especially in season 1, as we careen toward our confrontation with the Master. Once I put forward the idea of how to structure and present the story, Travis was the one with the vision for how to lay out the soft tissue across the skeleton. I provided the parchment, but Travis (by and large) drew the map.


Ok, one more: I cooked the noodles, but Travis? Travis was the one with the kickass sauce recipe from the internet!

It’s a formula that works, and works well – even if IRL issues have kept us from keeping up the rather ambitious pace of early season 1, where we were cranking out and posting an episode every week. (god, how did we even do that…)

All of this to say, if you like City of Heroes, you should totally buy Travis a beer or something. (preferably, in honor of Fara, a good German beer) Because it really was his vision that made the thing work as well as it did.

I also want to briefly explain the actual origin of the title. I think it’s more than likely that, once or twice, either Travis or I have mentioned this before either here on the boards or in a Discord channel or Slack thread or whatever, but one of the most formative influences on the conception of the City of Heroes storyline was the City of Heroes MMORPG.

Together, me and Travis (and my younger brother) were part of a supergroup… shit, whose name I actually forget, but it’s fine because both Travis and I knew it wasn’t a very good name and we only used it because we didn’t (and still don’t, to this day) have a good superhero team name for our group. (at some point, in a post, both “the Avengers” and “the Justice League” are going to be proposed by someone, and then immediately shot down because nobody likes those names) By rolling our heroes in the CoH online game (where Fara was a Broadsword/Fire Aura Scrapper, and Captain Guardia [the name “The Shield” was sadly taken] was a Shield Defense/Super Strength Tanker), we were able to do things like design their costumes, get a feel for how their powers looked, and actually spend time in the game playing around as the superheroes we wanted to write about.

To this day, thanks to the stand-alone City of Heroes costume editor, the costumes we built in that game are the definitive and official looks for most of our City of Heroes cast members.

And so, when it came time to name the “series” we were writing, a series about a group of heroes who were based largely out of one of the most important cities in the Web of Worlds – a city which hosts, among other things, the Grand Army, arguably a heroic institution within the context of the story world’s history – it felt both natural and proper to name it as an homage to the MMO that helped to literally flesh out some of these characters for us.

Now is the part where I talk about some of the characters.

Fara – In my head, thinking about City of Heroes, it does feel like Fara is sort of the main character. Almost the same way that Terra feels like the main character of FF6, even though much of the game is spent shifting focus to develop individual members of the ensemble cast. In a similar vein, we have Fara: she is really sort of the focus around which all the other characters in the story orbit and gravitate. We’re in Albrook because that’s where Fara is going to school; Roxanne goes with Fara because she has to train her, and Terry and Osprey follow Roxanne because her couches are what the boys are crashing on. At the same time, as Travis alludes to above, it’s not entirely Fara’s story: Terry has a huge arc jammed right in the middle of the season. That that arc comes to its denouement in the middle of a fight that Terry is having with Fara’s archnemesis.
That said, though, Fara’s prominence in the establishment of the setting is utterly undeniable. She is the heart, the soul and the leader of the team – at least in season 1, as the groundwork is laid. Insert spoilery teaser for season 2’s shakeup of the status quo here…

Roxanne – The phrase Travis used to describe her, as the team’s “den mother,” is so appropriate. It’s a term we use in private when talking about Roxanne and developing ideas for stuff she can do. Already cast in a position as mentor and protector of the young Mana Knight, in season 1 she very naturally fell into the role of nurturer with respect to the team’s other Big Damn Hero, Terry Shale.
We often joke about how Kupopolis characters of old almost always had strikingly similar entries in their “hobbies” section: chess and/or military history. Both Travis and I have, over the years, strived to conceive of characters who enjoy other things. And this was why I made Roxanne a collector of quasi-magical chachkies, and also the Kupopolis equivalent of a Trekkie.
… though, now that I think about it, we may have actually made her an avid chess player as well. Did we have a magic chess set somewhere in her apartment at some point?..
Anyway, Roxanne is one of my favorite characters to write. Travis may not have originally intended her to be “fun”, but sometimes that’s how writing (and especially collaborative writing) works.
(also worth noting: Roxanne being a collector of stuff wound up playing a major role in the season finale; a dual-tech master stroke of IS writing, involving Travis riffing off my idea in order to enhance the payoff of the last few episodes of the season)

Eleod – So, here’s a secret that I dunno if Travis has picked up on. I actually don’t like Eleod.
I mean, that’s fine. You’re not supposed to like Eleod – not in season 1 anyway (or, rather, not for a good deal of it). Eleod kind of nosed his way into the group as it developed; he and his wife, Grilka, were made as Roxanne’s nosy neighbors – kind of a Mr. Roper plus Mrs. Kravitz sort of deal. And they were meant to be a supporting cast for our heroes as they used Roxanne’s Albrook apartment as their main base of operations. Of course, much like Fara’s roommates, they very quickly grew off the page and became much more; Eleod had grown almost fully-formed in Travis’ brain as far back as when we were playing the City of Heroes MMO.
At first glance, he doesn’t really seem to have a place in the group. He’s older – much older – than most of the other characters (except, of course, Roxanne). The powers he brings to the table (shadow magic) are something the team already has in some measure (via Osprey). As Travis mentioned, his point of view represents an older generation of Kupopolis character; putting him once again at odds with the heroes and making him a bit of a square peg.
Season 1’s finale represents a turning point for Eleod as a character, though. He has other adventures with the heroes throughout season 1; but as much as the Master is Fara’s nemesis, he’s also kinda Eleod’s nemesis, too. Having to work with these young whipper snappers to put down an old enemy is the first step on a long journey for Eleod.
Let me clarify what I said at the outset of this passage: of the character Eleod, I find I dislike the person he begins the story as. But by season’s end, he’s on his way to becoming just a little softer, less rough-around-the-edges. More a part of what is becoming the core of the team.

Osprey – Okay. Really, I have to amend what I said above, because it’s sort of a tie between Osprey and Roxanne as to which is my favorite character to write.
Let’s be real for a minute: Osprey is a goddamn badass. He’s a master swordsman, he knows shadow magic, he’s a freaking ninja and he types well above 90 WPM. That is fucking sick.
But he’s frequently the butt of jokes in some of these episodes. Stoically, he lets a lot of it just roll right off him, but you know that, more than anything, he just wants to be taken seriously. (even though his “hobby” of “cape-standing” is sort of silly…)
Osprey has had a really strange character journey through Kupopolis. He began life as one of a pile of ZAPS agents I made up back in the AOL days just so that I had people for Bekkler to give missions to. There was one for every element in Chrono Trigger’s magical scheme; and Osprey was the shadow guy.
Also, because the bird-like Lancers in Chrono Trigger were depicted as kinda sword-wielding ninjas, I gave him what was (before the DS remake) the second-best katana in the game (because back then, we were all claiming powerful video game swords for the characters in the story world). The backstory to the sword – which must be recited verbatim every time it’s brought up, as follows: “forged from the frozen final breath of a dying god” – came much much later, and added to both Osprey’s badassness as well as (paradoxically) his silliness (mostly because he insists that you must say it verbatim when you talk about the origin of Shiva’s Edge).
Travis asked me recently how Osprey could possibly enjoy meatball subs and pizza as much as he does when he is canonically lactose-intolerant (note: NOT a trait of his species; it’s just a personal quirk that he has a lactase deficiency [actually, should it be a trait of his species that they’re lactose intolerant?.. is there any reason for any non-mammalian species of sapients to have the ability to digest lactose!?.. jesus we need to discuss this like yesterday]). … wow, sidetracked big time in the middle of that thought. Anyway my thought on the matter was (and this is totally canon btw, prepare yourselves) he takes the Kupopolis equivalent of Lactaid. (in-universe name TBD) Which means he’s probably popping those suckers, like, ALL the time, because 90% of the food we see the team eating together is pizza.

The Shield – I don’t want to talk about the Shield.
What do you want me to say? He’s basically the thing you get when Superman and Captain America have a baby together, through magic, because he’s a magic-origin character (funny story: when we were playing City of Heroes MMO, we remarked that basically ALL of the major heroes we have on deck are magic-origin. Okay, story not that funny, moving on).
Okay, now that you’ve got me talking about the Shield, I’ll talk about the Shield. Reflecting on his journey so far, he’s really kind of had a lot of the expected ups-and-downs of your typical comic book flagship character. He has his origin story; he’s had his banishment storyline. He’s lost his powers, and then regained them. And he’s had a stretch where he’s done heroics in an alternate costume with alternate powers. He’s also experienced the death of a love interest, and he’s joined a team of like-minded heroic adventurers.
All he needs now is a storyline where he’s forced to fight one of his best friends. Or one where he is killed, and then temporarily replaced by four pretenders (a Cyborg Shield, a Cloned Teenage Shield, a Strangely Effeminate Energy Vampire Shield and an Unrelated Hero In A Robot Suit Shield) before ultimately being resurrected due to fan outcry.
All I gotta say is this: Osprey, when the Shield retires to go back in time to be with a woman from the 1940s, don’t you dare donate the Shield’s shield to the Kupopolis-universe equivalent of the Smithsonian. Or, so help me…

It’s late here, as well. Time to sleep.

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Random bits –

City of Heroes, the MMO -
IIRC, Roxanne isn’t ACTUALLY “magic” origin, but “Natural” origin, because her abilities are natural to the race of Valkyries. (Though, that race has inherently a divine/magical side to it…).
Eleod is probably the character who has the best in-game representation of his abilities, using the power of darkness to debuff/control enemies. Although Osprey and Eleod are both shadow magic users, I think it’s pretty obvious they use them in different ways – for Osprey it’s mostly an extension of his infiltration/ninja abilities, and Eleod is more of a caster.
Actually, PLAYING the Master of Mana in CoH helped me fine the character – there was a character class called “Dominator”, which was built around the idea of crowd controlling enemies and then damaging them. It was actually one of the most fun archetypes I’ve ever played. This is a big reason we see the Master do things like encase enemies in ice, disable them with plants, etc.

I also think Matt gives himself too little credit for the significant things he did to get the ball rolling. A lot of the specifics of the how the overall plot plays out are his ideas.