Ruby Nation

Ruby Nation
Ruby Nation: The Webcomic

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ruby Nation Is Coming: Get Your Passports Ready

As Baby New Year 2010 has become Dying Old Man 2010 thanks to the terminator genes engineered into him by the Patriots, we start making resolutions for 2011's arrival. 2010 was a big year for me, as I started doing freelance writing, got a lot of Ruby's World comics done, found a wonderful new fandom in Metal Gear Solid, and a horrifying new interest in Sonichu. But I digress...

People who have been keeping up with the Ruby's World comic know that it's coming to a close, and is going into the next chapter, entitled Ruby Nation. After being transformed, ostracized, and appalled by the world, our nine-foot-tall heroine is going to start her own country with a new, uncorrupted system. Joined by the comrades she's made along the way, and funded by the US government's black budget ( in exchange for military services against Beagle Labs ), Ruby plans to take an island military base off the coast of Southern California and make it into a refuge for other nanotech-enhanced young people, allowing them a place where they can live in peace and feel accepted.

It will NOT be an easy task.

This story is the story I actually want to tell. Consider Ruby's World a warm-up, what was necessary for me to gain the storytelling abilities and set up the framework for Ruby Nation. I've always been bothered by the reactive nature of hero stories, how most characters simply respond to threats instead of trying to build something positive. And most of the hero stories that do have the heroes try to reform society end up going into aggravating slippery slope parables, where taking the risks to do something positive makes the heroes into extremists or outright villains. This is going to be a more complex examination of what it requires to build something pure in a fallen world than, say, Iron Man being treated as a despot for trying to change the system from within.

The launch of Ruby Nation will not be for another few months, because I wanted to wrap up this saga in a properly heartbreaking fashion. And I will not be updating this weekend or next, due to the holiday vacation. However, when the story returns to regular scheduling, you'll see what the point of divergence between World and Nation is-- and who'll actually get through it alive.


  1. I'm really excited that Nation will be proactive.

    Have some good holidays, Nitz!

    (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is probably an example of the characters trying to fix society and it being pulled down by reaction.

    Also I am reading Just David by Eleanor Porter, which focuses on "creating something pure in a fallen world", and will be interested to see how Nation keeps and makes a tune and pays the piper).

  2. Hey Nitz,

    I'll be posting a review of the final Ruby's World chapter shortly (although I like what I'm seeing so far) but I do have a few thoughts about the reactive nature of many hero stories.

    The thing about heroes being reactive depends somewhat on the setting, I think-a fantasy novel where the heroes are proactive in some way, such as by establishing a kingdom that's based on higher moral principles than other parts of the world, doesn't necessarily pose as many moral questions as does a band of superheroes trying to impose their own views of right and wrong on a world not unlike our own real world.

    It's difficult to explain briefly, but I think a lot of the issues come when someone arbitrarily tries to impose a new set of morals and values from the top down, without at least the appearance of consent from the public who would be expected to live under those rules. In real life, we have laws and rules that are made by democratically elected governments, who are accountable to the people if said people decide they don't like what the government is doing. Both sides of the political spectrum have made important gains in advancing their world views through this forum, and even though the other side might not like some of the changes that have been made, they were done under the rule of law, and most people will take the bad with the good.

    Now, compare this with a fantasy world like something out of the Shannara series, the works of J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis, or your typical Dungeons and Dragons setting. Oftentimes bold and daring adventurers might actively set out to achieve a particular goal, or create a better way of life for their people, and this can often be done through their own dashing and heroic deeds, or by carving their own kingdoms out of areas that are still wilderness and establishing themselves as leaders in areas where no rule of law exists...

  3. (cont'd)

    To an extent, Ruby Nation or a Magneto-ruled Genosha are similar in that they're creating independent territories where adhesion is largely voluntary. Genetically varied individuals can choose to migrate to these territories, or they can choose to live in a "standard" country as they see fit. It would be a different matter if their inhabitants were being shanghaied and forced to serve in these territories, which they aren't.

    Along with all the other inherent problems with Civil War, we also have the fact that Tony and Reed were essentially agreeing that anyone with superhuman powers could and should be made a government slave, which is by itself extremely coercive. Given the innate lack of trust in state or collective action that Americans have (witness your raucous debates over health care reform in 2009), I'm baffled that the American public, out of all the populations of the world, would willingly consent to something like this. It could happen to any of them, too-I would have liked to see Sally Floyd gain superhuman powers and be forced to either spend the rest of her life being at the government's beck and call, or rotting in an extradimensional prison.

    Similarly, few people are inclined to complain when Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne use their vast fortunes to achieve various social goals, whether educational endowments, soup kitchens, or what have you. Again, that's not coercive and they're not trampling on either the constitution or the democratic process by doing so.

    It's one thing if superheroes are a loose collection of disparate individuals who have no collective goal beyond defending the innocent and enabling society to function normally, and quite another if they start forming organized groups and coercive initiatives outside normal social channels.

    In Earth-2706, for instance, you couldn't get the liberal Reed Richards and the conservative Tony Stark to agree on any kind of comprehensive social plan if their lives depended on it, and indeed Reed is more interested in science than politics. Tony, for his part, would prefer that the government keeps its nose out of his business as much as possible, although he recognizes and laments the fact that not everyone will use their freedoms responsibly. Professor X doesn't have much to say about health care reform or energy independence, as he's more concerned with mutants' rights.

    In both Earth-2706 and Earth-616, the X-Men are different because they are actively trying to change society from within, and their superheroics are meant to improve the reputation of mutants, with the goal of persuading humans to accept mutants, rather than forcing them to do it.

    Ruby is trying to create something that can coexist alongside "standard" humanity and society, Batman Inc. has a foreign billionaire attempting to impose his own version of law and order on different societies without giving them any say in the matter. Genosha was an attempt to provide a choice for mutants, the Illuminati and the Initiative provide no choice at all.

  4. Thanks for the comments, Jared! I agree with you about the distinction between something like Genosha and the Initiative. It makes me think that it's not about proactive vs. reactive, but ACTIVE vs. proactive vs. reactive. Proactive is a role taken by morally ambiguous-to-evil characters because they deprive people of choices-- they build something first, and keep building no matter what anyone else thinks. Active is building something but making it a voluntary choice and hoping people follow by example. Reactive is waiting for direct action from an enemy party before responding.

    Unfortunately, I feel as though the Heroic Age goes back to the opposite extreme-- proactive may have failed, but simply having Steve Rogers running SHIELD doesn't solve the fact that the MU Public wanted someone like Norman in charge. The system is still broken, even if the zeitgeist has shifted back towards the heroes.

  5. I originally posted a long screed about how the public in Earth-616 are a collection of ungrateful douchebags who hardly even deserve to be protected, but that's not really the point here.

    Bearing in mind the difference between "proactive" and "active", it's worth noting that many heroes are ironically more effective at being active in their civilian identities. Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne are philanthropists whose companies also provide important technological innovations, Matt Murdock is a dedicated lawyer, the X-Men are political activists, Clark Kent can be a crusading journalist, even Peter Parker as a teacher could try and be a positive influence in his students' lives.

    With this in mind, you could argue that being a superhero is almost reactive by necessity, since most heroes only suit up when there's an active threat they have to deal with. If the Joker didn't try to poison Gotham's food supply, or Bullseye wasn't killing prostitutes for shits and giggles, Bruce Wayne and Matt Murdock would never have a reason to even put their tights on in the first place.

    If this makes any sense it all, it looks like superheroes tend to be "reactive" when whatever it is they're being "active" for is threatened. Tony Stark has to put on the armor to protect his company against all the super-powered lunatics that are trying to sabotage or destroy his work, and the X-Men need to actively use their powers in combat against human and mutant extremists alike. If they didn't react to these threats, everything they tried to build by being "active" would be destroyed.

    That, I think, is the crux of the argument. Heroes can be fully active in pursuing various goals in their civilian identities, taking the initiative in dealing with whatever social problems they face, but they have to put on their masks when they're forced to react against something that threatens their civilian activities.

    Oh, and Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Kwanzaa, Wonderful Solstice, and Happy Whatever-Other-Religious-Festival-I'm-Forgetting. To the atheists among us, I offer a very Happy Holidays. :P