Thursday, November 15, 2007

The *Dusk* of a New Era?

Sometimes you become very enamored with a character of your own design. Just something about them just screams, "that's a good character!" Often, the characters that you end up enjoying most are those on the wrong side of morality. And yes, I know this is an old argument, ("villains are always cooler"), but the reason is not because we want to emulate them, but rather because a good villain is able to act in a way contrary to our expectations.

Needless to say, the character I have come to really enjoy is indeed a villain. What's really interesting is that, like a lot of my favorite characters and personae (from the Neo Deus to, yes, even THE_BOLSHEVIK), he is one who started as nothing more than a name that I thought of randomly and arbitrarily.

I'd like to introduce you to Solomon Dusk.

I'm sorry, let me give you a more up-close shot.

As you can tell, Solomon is not a happy dude. But what exactly is he, you're asking yourself. Well, let me give you a little background, both in terms of him in our world, and in his own.

So, there's a computer game called City of Villains. It's an extension of another game called, appropriately enough, City of Heroes. The two games are Massively Multiplayer Online RPGs, or MMORPGS, a genre which has been made infamous by titles such as World of Warcraft. However, this game has two things WoW does not:
1. A fresh and unique comic book style that takes place neither in the science-fictional future or the fantastical past.
2. By far, the single best character creation system I have ever seen in any game, ever. If you're a video gamer whose planning on working in the fashion industry, this is your game. (Errr...)

So, I bought this game when it was on sale for a penny at my local Gamestop and played, creating my first character. Really, I had no idea what to do, and so my first villain was just an amalgamation of the costume pieces I liked best. Really tall, spikey hair; blast goggles (oh, I have much to say about goggles...for the moment, let's just say I have a different type of sunglasses now); a bare torso (a mainstay of all my created characters), and armored pants. Awesome.

Now, what do I call him?

And, literally, out of nowhere, I came up with "Solomon Dusk". And the rest, as they say, is history.

Speaking of history, let's talk about the character's history. The beauty of Solomon Dusk was not in his creation, but in what I eventually made him. Another cool thing about City of Heroes/Villains is that they allow you to create backstories for your characters. Here's a paraphrased version of Solomon's (and keep in mind, this takes place in a comic book world, so things don't have to be 100% realistic):
Solomon Dusk has never seen the sun. Nor does he want to. When he was but a toddler, he was put into the labyrinthine basement of the Dusk Family Manor by his sadistic family. He spent years scrounging in the darkness, searching for a meal, any meal, whether it be a piece of stale "pity bread" or a rat he was able to catch. The only interaction he had with the outside world took place via the speakers placed throughout the labyrinth, on which his family could taunt him. He grew strong, fast, and scrappy, but also incredibly bitter, hostile, and damaged. At age 17, he finally escaped. He brought a pair of blast goggles with him, to protect eyes which have never seen light. And now, innocent bystanders are afraid of the shadows, and what they hide...
And that's still pretty much how it goes.

However, in the last several days, I've gotten a flood of ideas from this character. Mainly, what his motives and perspectives are. It's easy to say, "Oh, he's mentally unstable, he needs no motives." But motives make everything more fun! So, I eventually transformed Dusk into an intelligent villain with a purpose. Basically, I say he spent the first 10 years of his freedom teaching himself how to read, and then reading a lot. So, there, that covers intelligence. What about purpose?

Well, think about it: if your family locked you away in what is essentially a dungeon to fend for yourself, just for the shear enjoyment of it, you'd be quite bitter, no? I'd dare say you'd have a "glass-half-empty" approach to life. And this is what Dusk is: the epitome of pessimism. He thinks the world is a horrible place. And his motive is to make everyone else realize how crappy everything is. And if people are being killed, others usually think, "Wow, the world kinda sucks." And Dusk also actively denies his own humanity. He desires to be thought of as a monster, because if people think of him as human, he worries that they might feel sorrow or compassion for him, which is contrary to his goals.

So, let's take a look at some quotes I've thought of. All italicized quotes are Dusk's (they're italicized because I imagine Dusk to speak in a very whispered tone, and I think italics capture that well). All bold quotes are from Detective Gonzales, Dusk's rival and nemesis (though, some could argue, the only person he considers friend, as they often have respectful conversations).

“Dusk, how many people have to die before you’re satisfied?”
“Death is not my means, not my end. Lucifer used to be the most beautiful of the angels, don’t you know.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“After his fall, he lost his beauty. He was a devil. And so the rest of his life has been focused on the decay of the world around him. To make it worse than him, so that he could once again be considered beautiful.”
“So you want to be told you’re beautiful.”
“I hold not such lofty ambitions. It is my intention to bring people to my line of sight, to make them suffer as I have, to see how ugly things really are when they look past the threshold. Lucifer has succeeded in making the world decay. I am simply here to expose that fact.”

“Tell me, have you ever read Frankenstein?”
“No, but I’ve seen the movies.”
“Bah. They are an embarrassment. Mary Shelley’s original creation was not a lumbering, idiotic brute. No, he had a mind as sharp as any man’s. He discussed Paradise Lost with his maker, and sought to make one like himself. And yet, like any fiend, he brutally murdered people.”
“What are you trying to get at?”
“I’m saying that intelligence and barbarism are not exclusive. Not every beast froths at the mouth.”
“…You’re not going to be satisfied until everyone is convinced you’re a monster, are you?”
“No. I won’t be satisfied until everyone is convinced that *they’re* the monsters.”

“What are you planning, Dusk?”
“You give me too much credit, detective. Tell me, does a beast wait in his cave, methodically planning his every move? Or does he simply follow his instinct and swipe at the hare when it hops by?”
“I, too, am a beast, a feral creature driven by nothing more than my instincts and impulses to whatever ends they may take me.”
“I find it hard to believe you nothing more than an animal, especially considering how well-spoken you are.”
“A parrot could recite the works of Shakespeare, detective. I’d hardly consider that laudable.”
“I’d hardly consider it insignificant, either. Besides, if I were to agree that you were acting on instinct, you’d try to use that excuse in court.”
“Yes. Court, where you’ll stand trial.”
“Detective, I am not one to suffer being a prisoner. I will either walk free for the rest of eternity or be killed by my would-be captors, but I will not be another man’s prize.”

“Tell me, are you a religious man, a spiritual man?”
“You have chosen the wrong time to exist, then. In these ages, the faith of the few is negated by the disbelief of the many. And not even the obvious disbelief, but rather the silent skepticism, the hypocrisy of zealots, the ignorance of the learned...we have long since forgotten the angels, and in return, the angels have forsaken us.”

“And you?”

“Oh, I do not claim to be an angel. I am but a demon in a sea of demons. A monster amongst monsters, worthy neither to judge nor be judged by my foul brethren. Not better, not worse; only a different caveat in the same sin.”

“You’re quite the poet, Mr. Dusk.”

“The poetry is already written in the folds of the world. I merely point it out.”

The next line is actually one that Dusk says to a Mafia enforcer dude who is tries to intimidate him (he says it while choking him [he doesn't like the underworld crime syndicates {or anyone, for that matter}]).

“You walk in the shadows, yet you carry a lantern to guide your way, oblivious to the fact that sooner or later, your oil will run out, leaving you alone and blind.”

Finally, this is a line that he actually says to a crime lord (also while choking him).

“A man who spends his entire life running can evade most things. But no matter how fast, no matter how far you run, you can never escape the dusk.”

I think that last line is particularly good. Now, I think, if I ever made this into a bona-fide story, it would work best as a movie or as a graphic novel. I'd lean toward the latter, considering the source (and who's to say it can't be one and then the other?).

To finish off, here are a few screenshots from the game.

Stop and take a look at this last one again. This, I think, is the perfect Solomon Dusk shot. Passive, brooding, but unspeakably malevolent and waiting to act. The eyes by themselves speak volumes. So, I decided to incorporate this into two different pieces (with some Photoshop edits, of course, for ambiance).

The first little creation I made was a mockup cover for my hypothetical graphic novel, entitled, simply, Dusk.

And the second is, well, it's a desktop wallpaper, mixing together my favorite quote and my favorite picture. And yes, it is my current wallpaper (and yes, I do realize that it is a frickin' scary face to have as your wallpaper, but I'm on a creative streak here).

Goodnight, everybody, and keep an eye out on the shadows!


Anonymous said...

Wow, great dialogue my friend. Reminds me of the movie "Interview with a Vampire." You never cease to amaze me...except for one thing.

I hate to say it Andrew, but the last picture you put with the captions underneath is may get you sued. It has an uncanny resemblence to our favorite gift from Japan:

Just glorious food for thought...Good job though. I'm glad I haven't been written into your stories - I would think you would portray me as a some sort of meglomanical corrupt Lex Luthor like politician or the town conspiracy nut wacko.

-Comrade Chavez

Andrew Schnorr said...