Nature or Nurture Notes

And that’s the first special episode of City of Heroes! I wanted to give a few notes on it, since it was the first bit of interaction I’ve done since Avalon.


This will spoil the shit out of it. So go read it first.

When I started reading CoH, I knew I wanted to contribute; I didn’t wanna throw off Matt’s and Travis’s outline, so I talked with them, and we worked something out. I didn’t provide an outline of what I was doing, beyond some very basic stuff (“Hannibal shows up!”). I wanted to leave some surprises for them; that meant balancing the desire to make it a fun read, with a few twists they wouldn’t see coming, but not stepping on their toes.

It was a lot of fun! One thing I’ve always loved about Kupopolis, vis a vis other interactive creative hobbies (for instance, roleplaying), is we get to try our hands at writing others’ characters. CoH gave me a lot to work with; I didn’t feel like I didn’t know anyone’s personality. I tried to find little character moments for everyone. Fara got to talk about the meaning of being a knight; Terry got to deal with the idea of someone being broken.

And, well, Osprey. I won’t lie: Osprey’s my favorite character in CoH. He’s hilarious, but I think there’s more there, and I wanted to build on it – show how it seems like he really cares about people, how he’s coming to see this group as family, and how he values that. In the ending, when he tells Hannibal to step up and make things right, I think it came from that place. I wanted to play up his ability to observe things, and that’s why he realized Scipio = Hannibal (which I worked out with Matt and Trav in advance).

And we got Hannibal! This was a little tricky. I never really wrote about the Malakim in Kupop – I kinda set them up and then never touched them in detail again. A lot of this was showing who they are: the GA’s giant robot cleanup squad, who handles it when someone gets Seraphim and could go on a rampage. I actually held back a few things I wanted to touch on, to set this up in a more tone-fitting way; I thought of contrasting Hannibal, who will kill people he faces without so much as blinking, with our band of heroes, who… don’t. Besides the scene where Os realizes, I didn’t.

I wanted to set the Malakim up. I was a little hesitant to have Roxanne say the group shouldn’t bother with a Seraphim problem – I’m not totally satisfied, really, but I think it works. She figured, hey, Hannibal has giant robots. He can handle the Bogart Brothers. The Bogart Brothers were made so Hannibal had a robot to fight – and to show that Zendir has crazy resources (~mysterious~), and that he’s bankrolling them. I deliberately left the three brothers alive; Johnny, Harry, and Bobby Ray could show up again. I gave Travis and Matt full license to use them.

And speaking of: yes, Zendir is alive. The big bad from the first part of Leviathan clearly survived. I wanted to use him as the villain from day 1. I also decided I didn’t want Hannibal to fight him again – because, I think, that would have made it a story about Hannibal, with the CoH crew guest starring. That felt wrong. I wanted it to be vice versa, and I wanted to take Zendir’s theme of breaking people to corrupt them to his purposes to the story here.

Which led to the brand new character: Lera Casterian! A half-esper. She was an idea I had for Reborn (and maybe appearing some in White Cell), when she’s in her twenties. At first, I thought it’d be a cameo, but I realized two things: first, waiting potentially a year or two to do a plot point (“Lera’s a half-esper! OMG!”) could be stupid. Remember the Hajes War? THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN, EVER? Yeah.

But. I also wanted a kid, who’d look at these people with wide eyes, and think they’re heroes. It felt right; I got to introduce her and reveal her thing, and set her up. And hey, once White Cell and Reborn starts, she’ll be able to meet up with them as an adult.

Also, for the people who read Avalon: yes, that’s Meri’s daughter, and yes, Meri made a cameo.

Hope y’all enjoyed. Lemme know what you thought, I’m dying to know! I’ve kinda been living with this story for a month, mostly by myself, and it’s exciting to share it.

It was really good! What I appreciate the most, though, was how well it fits with everything else that’s been written, and the overall vision for the season and the series. Like, Matt and I have talked about a lot of things on Skype, and we’ve been kicking “Kuper Hero” ideas around forever, so I know that we are on the same page, but Tex mostly just had the posts we had written and a few quick clarification, and yet he nailed a bunch of the beats that I would’ve done. A few examples include:

-More world-building for Albrook. I love that we are developing Albrook as a setting, and that it’s accumulating more details, like the presence of the Lenart Bridge and the Bogart mafia family.

-Fara can’t win through force alone. In my opinion, she already did that way back in the Defense of Egmont/Reklar arc, and she must go beyond simply hitting things with a sword until they die to truly become a hero.

-I also consider one of the thematic through-lines of Season 1 to about worthiness, particularly for Fara and Terry – what makes them worthy to be heroes? Fara’s speech about protecting the innocent and Terry’s continued struggle with his exile and loss of his powers both tie into that.

-and Osprey. I asked Matt back at the start of this if he ever reflects upon the strange twists of fate that led to Osprey becoming a very prominent character. It’s probably all the striving he’s done. And this post did a great job of simultaneously using Osprey for comic relief, while maintaining that he’s still actually suitably badass and heroic. And, I don’t know if Tex did this intentionally, but I often do use Osprey’s job search to drive plot points, because he’s the one out and about and investigating things to find work.

…also, I’m really glad that a half-Esper showed up. I don’t think we’ve ever had one in Kupopolis, excepting Terra herself, who appeared in some 1995 Aurora posts shortly before becoming a goddess. Given that Kupopolis has its very early roots in the ‘moogle clubs’ that sprang up after FF6 was released, it always shocked me that we never had a prominent half-esper character. Long overdue, and a slave-crown reference to boot.

(Does this post have the first Giant Robot Fight in New Age Kupopolis? Truly a historic event, if that is so.)

Although it’s kind of tough on my time, it’s kind of neat to approach the story of Kupopolis simultaneously from different time periods. (Hey, TO Halberg is not yet dead in the CoH-time, but the fact that he’s no longer around to rally the Esper Union is significant point in White Cell Saga-time!)

Briefly (because I need sleep, and because this re: is several weeks late): I really liked this post. I thought it blended very well some of the hallmarks of some of our older Kupop stuff (i.e. giant robots, mecha battles, action sequences) with the tighter focus that we established in the first part of CoH.

I know a lot of us like to look back and critique some of our old writing (or the culture around our older writing) a little harshly, but I think all those years of collaborating and writing together and reading each others’ stuff has really given us a skill that not a lot of other writers out there have. Tex talked about how much fun he had writing with the CoH regulars, and he does a good job at that not just because it was fun for him, but because we’ve been doing this for DECADES now – and it shows.

Now I go sleep. Okay bye.