Saturday, October 30, 2010
Psychological Hang-Ups The Way You Like Them Here
The Chris-Chan/Sarah Hammer/Wes Iseli love triangle continues this issue, as Christian Weston Chandler continues to bend time and space towards a favorable reality. And in doing so, he introduces the arch-villain of Sonichu, Count Graduon, whose name is a reference to Christian Weston Chandler's high school graduation.
The fact that a story about one man's refusal to grow up and take responsibility for his life would have a villain named after a rite of passage into an adulthood is stupefyingly appropriate.
Count Graduon is represented as a purple staff containing an evil spirit-- the Cherokee and Wasabi clans apparently teamed up to banish him to an inanimate prison. While the symbolism inserted by Chandler doesn't go further than the name, the meaning attached to Graduon runs much deeper, like everything else about Sonichu. Graduon is a perfect representation of the personal and cosmic forces that Chandler believes oppose him; while he has a name, he does not have a body. He is a force that is attached to an inanimate object. But he directs the efforts against Chandler, coordinating efforts of the Jerkops, Mary Lee Walsh, and the other " trolls " who deny Chandler immediate pleasure and ask him to do things that might cause pain.
The symbolism is even more telling ( and horrifying ) due to what Chandler attributes to his high school graduation. He sees it as the turning point in his life, the point where things started to go downhill. Chandler has said that he expected to receive an award for his art at the ceremony, and when he didn't, he started crying. It is certainly understandable that a young person, especially a socially awkward one who'd been coddled by his parents due to his " special needs " labeling**, would become visibly upset if they did not receive the recognition they felt due. However, the disappointments in our life are the moments where we are given opportunity to show our true strength. At that moment, Chandler could have,
A.) Done what every person ( autistic or not ) has to do, intellectually accept that life isn't fair, and try to make the best of his situation, or
B.) Create a comic strip universe inhabited by childhood heroes where he is treated like the very special flower he wants to believe he is, and refuse to leave there.
Guess which one he did? Instead of pushing back against the circumstances of graduation, Chandler DID bottle them up in a cartoon super-villain, and constrict their overt activities to sending giant golem monsters after CWCVille. Except that adulthood is too big a concept to be adequately summarized as a single bad guy, shaped like a glowing purple dildo***.
But that's the unwitting central conflict of Sonichu-- Chandler tries to create a paradise where adult problems become manageable villains, but only creates more problems for himself as he tries to simplify/ignore his challenges. The triangle between Chris-Chan, Sarah Hammer, and Wes Iseli is another example; Sarah dumps Wes for attacking her " best friend ", and teams up with Chris-Chan to fight Graduon's monster. But Wes is still around, acting mopey and hopeless until Chris tells him to snap out of it ( because Chris-Chan's ephemeral infatuations are apparently a worse loss than Wes actually being dumped by a woman with whom he was in an adult relationship ). And after the battle, when the two take a taxi home****, Chris-Chan makes a point of " being there " for Sarah, listening to her talk and playing the best friend ( while obviously waiting for her to jump his bones ) only to find that she still regards him as nothing more than a friend. Because being honest about his feelings would be a risk for Chris-Chan, and CWCVille is a place which is supposed to be free of risks-- even if that keeps Chris-Chan from the female contact he so badly wants.
The sad part is that is that Chandler ends the chapter with a tribute to the real world Sarah Hammer, his childhood friend. Uncharacteristically, he's actually acknowledging the good times they had together as kids, and mentioning specific instances that he fondly remembered. This is emotion that evokes a genuine feeling of loss, untainted the sexual frustration that warps everything else in Sonichu. It's also a reminder that underneath his outer shell of childhood trappings and adolescent libido, there are redeeming qualities that remain in Christian Weston Chandler. Of course, every time they surface, he immediately buries them under more outlandish behavior, and never learns any lessons.
* Who I'll get to in the review of the next sub-episode.
** There isn't a hell painful enough for Bob and Barbara Chandler, whose enabling of Chris catastrophically ruined a child who had as much chance of success as any. It's known that Chandler's mother buys his clothes for him, and speculated that she picks those ridiculous clown colors so that he'll appear more " special " and thus won't face adult repercussions for his actions. It's also known that Chandler's father encourages him to remain on welfare for disability, despite a lack of any known impairments that couldn't be corrected by a tall glass of Grow The Fuck Up. Chandler at least garners pity; these people are simply reprehensible.
*** This is one of many things that makes Chandler's homophobia doubly hilarious.
**** In a badly drawn taxi so lopsided that it could never roll in a straight line. Like Greg Land, Chandler's drawings liberally borrow/plagiarize from other sources; unlike Greg Land, he can't even copy his references accurately.
For two years I've been doing my webcomic Ruby's World, and for the second time in a row, I've done a Halloween cosplay image, with my characters dressed as other characters from comics and animations. In order, they are..
-- Buzz Lightyear from the Toy Story characters, a character who ( in the first film anyway ) is troubled by his artificial nature. This was a deliberately idiosyncratic choice, to reflect not just Opal's lack of social awareness, but her flexible gender as well ).
-- The original Wolverine from the 70's Hulk, wearing a costume which might be construed as badass, but is more likely completely ridiculous ( much like Jens' personal conflicts ).
-- Rei Ayanami from the landmark anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, an extremely quiet and isolated girl with a mysterious nature ( Rei's was revealed in extremely unsettling fashion; Alexis' has yet to be divulged. Yet. )
-- Solid Snake from the peerless Metal Gear Solid series of video games, a cloned super-soldier whose traumatic life has left him emotionally discombobulated and extremely cold, and whose stealth catsuit attire makes grown men question their heterosexuality. I'm not sure if the latter has been true regarding Jiro, but if any readers have had that experience, I won't judge.
-- Cally Calhoun from the recently launched webcomic Spy6teen, written by Tim Simmons, with art by DJ Keawekane, colors by Lisa Moore, letters by Brant Fowler, and story edits by D.J. Kirkbride. Starring another seemingly ordinary teen girl given super-powers and thrust into a larger conspiracy, with red hair to boot. The comic hasn't been around long, but it has such a high level of technical craft and collaborative skill that it deserves the shout-out. It updates weekly Here.
I'll also be bringing more major news regarding Ruby's World and its upcoming new direction. And more Sonichu reviews, of course. It works to my advantage that I put news about my comic following my Sonichu reviews, because no matter what I put out, it will seem like pure genius compared to Christian Weston Chandler's creative abortions.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
This is where the horror starts
In this episode of the Anchuent Prophecy Saga, we are introduced to Sarah Hammer and Wes Iseli, more characters who are based on real people. Sarah is Christian Weston Chandler's childhood friend, who he lost touch with after age 10. Wes Iseli is her boyfriend, which makes him CWCVille Public Enemy #1. Both of them also have ancient destinies dating back to the era of the Cherokian Clan; Sarah's ancestor was the wife of Chris-Chan's ancestor, while Wes' predecessor was head of the rival Wasabi Clan. Sarah's ancestor at least looks somewhat like a Native American woman, if you can call a blonde-haired blue-eyed white girl in Pocahontas cosplay " Native American ". Wes' Wasabi Clan ancestor, however, just looks like a Pope in orange.
In short; this is an alternate history where the Cherokee were Caucasians who wore Greco-Roman gold armor, wrote in Hieroglyphics, and were the arch-enemies of a clan who dressed like Catholic clergy and took their name from a spicy condiment in Japanese cuisine. This is either an extremely clever mixing of world cultures, or an extremely lazy handling of the author's thin sliver of Cherokee blood. I'm tending to believe it's the latter-- call me crazy if you want.
Stories dealing with ancestral destiny usually tend to have the characters question the old ways, and try to forge their own futures. This scenario implies that the characters ( and authors ) question the seemingly conventional wisdom placed before them. This, of course, is not how Chandler handles it. Instead, he takes the forces of destiny within his story and uses them to ensure that he will defeat Wes in the battle for Sarah's heart. The extent to which Chandler carries this is almost ingenious, creating a set of circumstances that rob both Sarah and Wes of any agency without denying them the pretense of free will.
This is a love triangle with the powers that be balanced squarely against Wes' point, even more than they favor Chris-Chan. If Wes were to win Sarah back, he would have to...
A.) Not be tied to the losing side of history. Presumably the entire Wasabi clan was wiped out, without even any survivors on CWCville-sponsored reservations. Wes says that their clan cried Trails of Tears* over losing claim to the Cherokian Crown, suggesting that in this alternate history the Cherokee were the ones to commit genocide against the Wasabi, via forced exile. Wes is Jacob Black, forever fated to watch with a broken heart and a bluish scrotum as his true love goes for the Cullens, the thoroughly European vampires that eradicated his race.
B.) Find a different arena in which to compete with Chris-Chan. In the real world, Wes has the clear advantage as a prospective mate, since he's a self-employed magician available for any festivities, as opposed to being, well, Christian Weston Chandler. But in CWCVille, the measure of a man's superiority is their ability to fight with the ancient martial art of " Being an Anthropomorphic Hedgehog ". In this realm, Wes-Li Sonichu is just a copy of Chris-Chan Sonichu ( himself a copy of Sonichu, who of course is a copy of Sonic and Pikachu ). And since Chris-Chan can bend the rules of time and space so that a Yu-Gi-Oh playing card actually becomes a dangerous trap, any extra skills that Wes may or may not have are moot.
C.) Not show any pretense that he wants to keep his girlfriend. While Sarah and Wes have since split up ( though Wes is currently married ), they were a couple at the time this comic was drawn, with Chandler looking on jealously. In Sonichu's universe, Chris' fixation on wanting to fuck his friend from elementary school is him being the hapless nice guy, while Wes wanting to keep this stranger with no capacity to move on is him being a controlling, jeaous boyfriend. Wes' words are twisted into a pledge of world domination, while Chris-Chan is in his own words, " pouring my heart about how I care for my best friend, while you did into your pot of greed **". Even Sarah's opinion is twisted into finding Chris-Chan's crush, one that persisted for the many years that the two were apart ( including all of puberty ) sweet and flattering.
D.) Treat Christian Weston Chandler with the credit he is due as a romantic rival. I.E. none, under normal circumstances. But " normal circumstances " are never something you expect within Chandler's mind...
* It's actually offensive that Chandler was familiar with the word, but didn't even bother to Google it to see that it referenced the government-sponsored murder of thousands of humans, not the invented heritage of a white boy who wants to be special.
** I have to give Chandler credit here-- he's great at delivering melodrama so overly bad that it's good. Were he translating video games in the late 1990's, he would have found a calling as the Master of Unlocking.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Click here for the strip
One of the most important points I want to make in this series is that Christian Weston Chandler isn't just an isolated freak. All of his bizarre theories and hang-ups can be found in other people, both neurotypical and autistic, and especially in internet fandoms. Chandler is just a special case because he's cut himself so completely off from everything BUT his hobbies and his neuroses, so they inbreed and mutate into the compelling train wreck that is Sonichu.
Case in point: The Anchuent* Prophecy introduced in Episode 7. This is where Sonichu is literally replaced by Chris-Chan as the star of the comic, and where Chris-Chan's grand purpose within CWCVille is revealed. Chris-Chan is, beyond any shadow of a doubt, a Mary Sue character, an author avatar created in an idealized image. And he has all the typical traits of a Mary Sue. The story is devoted to proving that Christian Weston Chandler is a very special flower.
The plot involves Sonichu finding an ancient tomb in the CWCVille woods guarded by a mysterious old man. He brings it to Chris-Chan's attention, and while reading the heiroglyphics, Chris-Chan meets the ghost of his Cherokee ancestor. Chris is granted the power of Chris-Chan Sonichu-- this is the origin of his transformation in Sub-Episode 1, where he renders his flagship character completely and utterly irrelevant.
You can practically use Chris-Chan Sonichu as a textbook case for the Mary Sue, a character found in awful writing everywhere. Let's use the ;TVTropes checklist of Common Mary Sue Traits
-- Chris-Chan is portrayed as pure and incorruptible. All of the denizens of CWCVille, human or hedgehog, love their mayor. His only weakness is his inability to get a girlfriend, but Chandler presents his avatar's romantic woes as the result of the cruel world in which he lives. Hanna toyed with him because she was a bitch, and his attempts to find a mate at the mall were only hindered by the Jerkop conspiracy.
-- Chris-Chan is all-powerful. The Anchuent Power that his ancestor bestows upon him isn't defined, so he's basically in God Mode. The Curse-Ye-Ha-Me-Ha is powerful enough to warp reality against someone's welfare. Like the Scarlet Witch in recent years of Avengers comics, Chris-Chan's power can do anything except get him the kind of relationship he wants, which causes his descent into madness. Except that the Scarlet Witch wants her dead children back instead of just getting laid, and is actually treated as criminally insane. Perhaps the next Sonichu issue will have Chris-Chan declare " No More Boyfriends " and make himself the only male on Earth. Even then it wouldn't do him any good.
-- Chris-Chan is striking and uniquely handsome in his appearance. Granted, this is entirely in the context of the comic, where everyone's proportions warp and weft based on how much or how little time Chandler spent on the panel. But he's got a unique wadrobe, gaudy jewelry, and special eyes. In real life, Chandler has mild heterochromia, with one eye colored slightly differently than the other. But in the comic they're sapphire blue and emerald green, further proof that Chris-Chan is a Very Special Flower.
-- Chris-Chan is the hero of the story thanks to the powers of destiny. In fact, the Cherokee heritage that empowers Chris-Chan makes him so important that he can retroactively change the entire culture to suit his own whims. In Sonichu, the " Cherokian Clan " consists of Caucasians in gold armor and purple silk, who have recorded their Empire in ancient tombs with Heiroglyphics. Plenty of Americans claim that the slight sliver of Cherokee heritage in their genetics makes them special, allowing them to identify as Native American as much or as little as they want-- and it invariably becomes " as little " when it's dealing with the circumstances forced upon actual Cherokees. Chris-Chan takes it even further, identifying fully with his Cherokee heritage by completely disregarding any and all traits of actual Cherokee culture. He doesn't even use common Native American stereotypes, like feathered head-dresses or communion with nature ( unless you count deformed hedgehogs as nature ).
The upside to this is that Chris-Chan's identification with Native American culture isn't stereotypical, so much as just outright stupid. The only people who should be offended by the Ancient Chief of the Cherokian Clan are fans of Yu-Gi-Oh, since Chris-Chan basically stole the Ancient Egypitan backstory, and thus people who watch Yu-Gi-Oh or play the card game will forever have the image of Christian Weston Chandler tainting their fandom.
-- Chris-Chan is literally modelled after his creator. The literal aspect makes what is strongly implied by other fanfic insert characters a direct statement. And since people from Chandler's real life will be introduced next chapter, it gets even more of a ridiculous attempt to skew the world to the author's whims...
* Pronounced " An- CHU- Ent Prophecy ", though most people assumed it was just a misspelling, like 90% of other words Chandler types.
Friday, October 22, 2010
The madness starts here, click on the images to proceed
Aaand now we go back to the " classic " Sonichu, the style that obscures its plagiarism with its warped recounting of Christian Weston Chandler's personal problems. The second sub-episode recounts another installment in Chris-Chan's Love Quest. While loitering at the mall ( apparently having cursed the Jerkops away this time ), eating his eight daily Chicken McNuggets and waiting for a girl to come up to him, a girl DOES come up to him. A blonde woman named Hanna** invites him for coffee, and while is able to maintain his composure enough to agree, he leaps for joy against a rainbow background* while declaring his Love Quest over. Chris' hedgehog friends are equally happy to see Chris share his Sonichu-themed world with Hanna. However, Rosechu overhears Hanna gloating over the phone to her friends about how fun it is to yank Chris' chain, and immediately tells Chris. Chris confronts Hanna, and upon finding this to be true, screams a massive no as his heart level is reduced to 15%. " ***Fortunately " for Hanna, he's willing to send Hanna an email telling her that he forgives her and is still open to the possibility of them dating.
At first glance this seems to be another affirmation of Chris-Chan's virtues, painting him as the victim with the woman rejecting him portrayed as a manipulative harpy. This actually happened to Chandler in real life, and the only substantial difference in the fictionalization's plot is that Rosechu tells Chris the truth, instead of a " gal-pal ". The real-world Hanna is actually as cruel as Chandler makes her out to be; however, the event reveals the faults in Chris' dating methods, and how he unwittingly sets himself up for this sort of trolling time and time again.
For somebody who wants a girlfriend so badly, Chandler has done tremendously little to actually learn how he should best go about finding a mate. The sub-episode's altered reality only serves to highlight Chandler's willful ignorance and subsequently warped perspective, because...
A.) Chris-Chan doesn't get involved with any outside activities during his Love Quest. The most he's done to put himself out there is to loiter in a public place. And even then he's just waiting to be noticed, eating his eight McNuggets and playing his DS.
B.) Chris-Chan puts all his expectations into every girl he meets. This is hard for most single people to control, but most of them intellectually realize that relationships do take time to build. Chris immediately-- and literally, in the most homo-erotic way possible-- jumps to the conclusion that he's found his soulmate right after an initial coffee date is arranged.
C.) Chris-Chan doesn't reflect on whether any of his behaviors are socially acceptable. What is documented of Chandler in real life shows that his fashion sense and conversation style are EXACTLY what we see here. He regularly wears a shirt resembling Ernie from Sesame Street, he brings up Sonichu in every conversation, and he spams all of his personal effects with the plagiarized kid show mash-up. There are plenty of geeky men who are able to attract women, but they are aware that their interests aren't necessarily socially acceptable, and are able to poke fun at themselves. Chandler doesn't even think this far. If Chandler could give himself an honest assessment, he'd realize that the gaudy Sonichu medallion he wears is more effective than any chastity belt, and a woman who comes up to him with a sudden invitation is probably trolling.
D.) Most damningly, Chris-Chan doesn't leave his own little world, even when trying to embrace others. He " practices " dating by playing Sprung, a DS dating simulation. He's trying to take real-life advice from a video game designed for entertainment purposes only. Perhaps he was drawn to this because it was available for the DS handheld, meaning he didn't have to leave his comfort zone. But instead of using the advice of real friends and family, self-help books, or even reality shows like " Blind Date " , Chandler goes for a low-quality*** dating sim. It's also worth noting that Hanna only gets one line of dialogue when they're getting to know each other, saying that she's a fan of Fight Club director " Chuck Paladuck ". First of all, it's Chuck Palahniuk, and secondly, he wrote the original NOVEL that inspired the book; the movie was directed by David Fincher. Apparently Chandler wasn't paying attention to what she was saying, and was too lazy to use Wikipedia as a fact check.
Chandler actually captures the truth in this installment-- that any human female who enters his candy-colored atavistic world and isn't his mother is probably screwing with him. But his intention was to set himself up as the innocent victim, not the clueless sucker.
* Chandler went back and editted this image. The new version is a significant improvement, as it looks cleaner and more consistent, and doesn't exaggerate further than even a cartoony style will allow. Mind you, it's still crude and childish, just less so. Why Chandler chose this image and not others in the strip is probably because of the homo-erotic symbolism attached to rainbows, which he couldn't reconcile with his vicious homophobia.
** Chandler also retconned the names to distance them from real people, as per the advice of a troll pretending to be Nintendo R&D head Shigeru Miyamoto. In the modified version, " Hanna " is " Fandanna ". Everything else is the same, including her spherical Peanuts-gang head.
*** Even putting aside the ridiculousness of measuring his romantic feelings in a " Heart Level ", Chris-Chan apparently thinks that being rejected by a girl you knew all of a few hours is heartbreaking.
**** GameRankings Aggregate Score for Sprung: 48%. But being a fan of Sonic the Hedgehog, a game being completely terrible never stopped Chandler from buying it, yes?
Thursday, October 21, 2010
I'm reviewing " the Black Sonichu Saga " as one lump installment because, frankly, there's not much to say here. This is still the point where Chris-Chan's Caligula-like reign over CWCVille doesn't totally dominate Sonichu, and as such, the stories can be read as just another awful fanfic crossover, instead of a surreal documentation of Christian Weston Chandler's ongoing nervous breakdown. Everything here is plagiarized; Black Sonichu is an inferior copy of Shadow the Hedgehog, himself a transparently grim-and-gritty copy of Sonic the Hedgehog. His construction was a joint effort by the Pokemon villain Giovanni ( leader of Team Rocket ), and Sonic's arch-nemesis Dr. Robotnik. His black shade is explained as accidental, as his creator Bill the Scientist spilled Cherry Cola over the Sonichu DNA.*
So yeah, there's no gripping narrative here, intentional or not. The swindled Sonic and Pokemon villains make an evil Sonichu clone, said evil Sonichu clone kidnaps Rosechu, Sonichu and Sonic the Hedgehog ( also swindled from his copyrighted environment ) team up to fight Black Sonichu and Metal Sonichu ( a derivative of Metal Sonic, another evil Sonic doppelganger ). The day is saved, with Black Sonichu defeated, Metal Sonichu retreating to the moon, and Rosechu getting to have girl talk with Amy Rose.
Christian Weston Chandler has repeatedly tried to counter accusations of plagiarism by saying that Sonichu is a parody. But this isn't making fun of Sonic or Pokemon, or even using them to try and make some sort of point. This is just a poorly written, poorly drawn regurgitation of those series' formulas. The worst fact is that even though both Sonic and Pokemon have comic adaptations, Chandler chose to plagiarize from the animated medias, the games and the cartoons. He has no grasp of sequential storytelling; he uses massive text walls to dump information upon his readers, and those salvos of Comic Sans MS usually don't even have full figures attached-- he cheats and has the speaker be a severed head floating in white space. He takes on the Pokemon style of having characters scream the names of their moves while they attack, but instead of utilizing the page space for dramatic angles, Chandler crams the action into little panels the size and ( poorly approximated ) shape of a Game Boy screen. Presumably he doesn't use a ruler, or even use the line tool in Photoshop to create borders.
The only thematic value the " Black Sonichu Saga " has is that Black Sonichu becomes a major character later on, and there's some interest in having the original Sonic the Hedgehog meet his his hideous half-Pokemon counterpart. To Chandler's credit, Sonichu holds up okay as a character when compared to his inspiration. Of course, given how Sonic's games have been infected by superfluous and uninspired supporting characters over the past decade or so, that's not a compliment to Chandler so much as an insult to Sega. Were he divorced from Chandler's problems, Sonichu would fit right in with Amy Rose, Shadow, Big the Cat, Silver the Hedgehog, Rouge the Bat, Cream the Rabbit, and any number of other annoying spin-offs.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Here Begins the Jerkop-Tastrophe
The Sonichu Sub-Episodes are where the Christian Weston Chandler phenomenon truly starts. Initially they were categorized outside of the main Sonichu chronology because they did not actually involve Sonichu-- they instead dealt with Chandler himself, and focused on his own trials and tribulations. Yet they did so within the Sonichu continuity-- Chandler's avatar, the mayor of CWCVille, was the one experiencing his author's problems, and responding to them with fictional solutions.
These stories were in large part why people became fascinated with Sonichu-- not just because of the absurdity of Chris-Chan's stories, but the fact that the absurdity was accentuated in direct contrast with Chandler's real life. The premise of the first sub-promise has Chris-Chan hanging out at the mall, making himself " available " for any girl who wants to be his true love. However, a " Jerkop " ( Chandler's not-so-subtle reference to local mall security, a portmanteau of jerk and cop ) tells him to stop loitering and accuses him of loitering.
Now, This Actually Happened in the Charlottesville Fashion Square during September of 2004, where Chandler was disciplined and eventually banned for loitering. What's more, Chandler was reportedly more active in his real-world Love Quest, by throwing out a red construction paper heart attached to a string towards eligible women. After months of being a public nuisance at best and a sexual harasser at worst, Chandler received what is definitely an appropriate consequence for his actions. But through the power of fiction, Chandler has created an alternate reality in which events occurred somewhat differently.
" Somewhat differently " being an understatement. In the comic, the Jerkop is an evil authoritarian devoted to squelching Chris-Chan's love quest, out of an apparent disdain for love itself. When he tries to detain the love-questing loiter, Chris-Chan activates the power of his Sonichu medallion* and transforms into Chris-Chan Sonichu, a blue version of his " son ". The Jerkop transforms into an armored warrior, but is not only defeated by Chris, but utterly ruined. Chris-Chan uses his " Curse-Ye-Ha-Me-Ha " attack ( inspired by the Kame-Ha-Me-Ha move from the Dragon Ball Z manga and anime ) to infect the Jerkop with bad luck; immediately after the spell is cast, the Jerkop trips over a banana peel, breaks his glasses, and receives a phone call telling him that his wife has left with the kids and all their possessions. The Jerkop cries " My Soul Hurts "; Chris-Chan, however, comments that he's endured worse than losing one's family and fortunes-- the " shattering of his heart ". Because being stopped from soliciting is just that terrible.
The Sub-Episode sets the precedent for the genre in which Sonichu actually belongs; rather than a fantasy adventure for kids, it's a piece of magical realism. The fantastical elements linger around Chris-Chan's experiences without being treated as remarkable. Unlike most science fiction, the Sonichu webcomic does not try to explain its fantastical elements, or even set itself apart as a unique universe. Chris-Chan's world is just Christian Weston Chandler's world embellished to lead to a friendlier environment with potentially favorable outcomes.
Certainly this was not the intention of Chandler; he just wanted to work out his frustrations with his Crayola supplies, and used his " franchise " to do so. But in his catastrophic failure to tell a decent genre story, Chandler has hit upon the rich tradition of magical realism, seen mainly ( but not exclusively ) in Latin American literature. Authors like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Italo Calvino, Sherman Alexie, and the Hernandez brothers have all written stories that use an ambiguously surreal landscape to reflect the human condition. Christian Weston Chandler joins this tradition, drawing upon his stunted maturity and warped perspective on dating to diffuse the boundaries between our shared reality and his own personal worldview. Except instead of dealing with ghosts and angels, his expansion of consciousness gives us electric hedgehogs and anti-love conspiracies.
If you don't believe me, read Junot Diaz's recent magical realism masterpiece, the Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao! It, too deals with a romantically frustrated twentysomething fan who can't find a girlfriend because of a curse within his Dominican family's heritage. Since Chris-Chan works his tiny sliver of Cherokee heritage into Sonichu as a major plot point, you can read his story as a Charlottesville, VA variant of the " Fuku ". Granted, Diaz actually succeeded in what he intended to do, but postmodernism knows no boundaries.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Witness the Work for your Self
Sonichu Episode 3 is an interesting transitional episode, marking the point where Sonichu stops being a children's adventure story and starts becoming the final stand for Christian Weston Chandler's besieged youth. On the one hand, it has a very clear good vs. evil plot, with the villainous Naitsirch ( Christian spelled backwards ) trying to kidnap Pokemon-- a standard plot for the show that contains half of Sonichu's conceptual DNA. On the other hand, it is the full introduction of the stage upon which Sonichu is set-- CWCVille, the city where Chris-Chan is mayor, and holds his office in the shopping mall.
Fan works regarding Sonichu often treat CWCVille as a totalitarian state, dominated by the promotion of its dictator's ego. Later issues of Sonichu will justify this, but for now CWCVille is a haven where Chris-Chan is treated with respect-- he's a benevolent authority figure who has the townsfolk's respect, even if the townsfolk are mostly mutant hedgehogs. But this is also the debut for Chris-Chan's major character arc-- his " love quest ". Chris-Chan is absolutely obsessed with finding a girlfriend, and treats the search for a relationship as a Herculean ordeal. Ironically, at this point he can't find a mate, even within a fictional world of his own creation. But his " son " Sonichu is there to give Chris-Chan words of encouragement. Even though Sonichu's thought balloons show that he doesn't really believe Chris-Chan will be successful, he still admires his creator's courage for continually trying.
At this point, Chris-Chan knows he is not the hero who gets the girl, but the sad sack nice guy who can't get past the " friend zone ". He uses the comic as a means of coping with this problem, by having the hero to whom he aspires validating him. Even though Sonichu calls Chris-Chan " father ", he's more of a good big brother figure here; Chris-Chan watches how Sonichu and Rosechu interact, and he sees the kind of relationship he thinks he should have. It's similar to a sick child seeing an actor dressed as their favorite cartoon character as part of a Make-a-Wish event, and having the actor tell the kid how important they are. Except that Chris-Chan is A.) a grown man and B.) has no serious illnesses.
Sonichu's relationship with Rosechu is another important development here, showcasing what Chandler believes a man-woman relationship should be. Rosechu exhibits every female gender stereotype in existence-- she wears pink, she shops to the point of running up a massive credit card debt, she has Sonichu lug her purchases around like a pack mule, and she's completely useless in an actual fight. This is a common phenomenon in boys' adventure stories, where we are told that the female is just as tough as the guys, but she never actually proves it ( at risk of upstaging the men ). Believe me when I say that the hypocrisy here is NOT an isolated incident for Sonichu; most of the perverse appeal of Sonichu comes from Chandler's extremely twisted conception of " women's rights ". The hypocrisy of trying to telling us that the main heroine is effective while showing her as helpless without her man is just the beginning.
But the story here is still a story that, hypothetically, could be taken as a straight adventure comic. Granted, it would be an adventure comic well below professional standards, due to the unique storytelling methods chandler employs. Chandler makes countless amateur mistakes; he uses Comic Sans MS as a font, his pages are infected with white space, and his panel borders are crudely drawn by hand. This isn't even beginning to describe the many errors present with his anatomy, perspective, reference material, and basic consistency. But since I'm analyzing Sonichu as a postmodern artistic statement for the sake of this academic exercise, I think it serves the story. The childish, Crayola-colored visuals accentuate the fact that CWCVille is an adult-free Neverland, and they make the instances where more mature issues slip in even more jarring.
Sonichu Episode 2 continues to set up the world of CWCVille, and while it's still relatively benign in its content, it predicts the relationship dynamics that would help make Sonichu an ironic favorite. What's unfortunate is that the " chemistry " between Sonichu and Rosechu is NOT a problem exclusive to Christian Weston Chandler's personal problems.
Like most Sonichu stories, the plot of episode 2 is about as deep as a wet piece of paper. While looking for food for his new, larger body, Sonichu realizes that he's lonely and needs a mate. At that exact moment, Rosechu walks by and Sonichu is immediately smitten. Later, Rosechu is talking with her Pokemon trainer Kel about how she needs a mate; they are conveniently interrupted by Sonichu arriving at the door. Not in the least bit perturbed by Sonichu having followed her home, Rosechu invites Sonichu in for dinner. A few days later, Sonichu and Rosechu look at the night sky together, exchange some truly awkward confessions of love, and kiss.
There is no conflict in Sonichu and Rosechu's relationship, even when they first meet. Their personalities complement each other and their goals are identical. The entire basis for the coupling is because Chandler considers them the One True Pairing. After all, Chandler is as much fan as creator, so if he wants to live vicariously through Sonichu, he'll make sure that the character has what Chandler considers an ideal relationship-- one based on " true love " and not any shared interests or experience.
Almost everything in Sonichu is lifted from other sources, and Rosechu is no different-- she is based on Amy Rose, the pink female hedgehog from the Sonic series. However, while Amy is smitten with Sonic, Sonic has never returned Amy's affections-- in canon, at least. Their dynamic is very much like a gender-flipped Pepe Le Pew cartoon, and Sonic's only kindness towards Amy is being willing to save her life when her stalkerish activities put her in danger. In other words, the canon Sonic/Amy dynamic is a relationship meant for comedy. But Chandler is just one of several fans who see an actual relationship between the two, with Sonic eventually returning the affections. In Chandler's " adaptation ", the variants of Sonic and Amy do not have any dramatic tension interfering with their romance. That they have romance is enough.
Any fandom will have readers who view the stories in context of the relationships, and wether or not they fit the reader's individual tastes a la a bingo game. They need not even have any basis in canon, and often don't; Sonic has the aforementioned Sonic/Amy, Avatar: The Last Airbender has Kitara/Zuko*, and Metal Gear Solid has Snake/Otacon**. The most egregious example may be Harry Potter, where Harry/Hermione 'shippers even threatened to boycott the books if Harry ended up with Ginny. It's worth noting that regardless of the pairings, NONE OF THESE SERIES ARE BASED EXCLUSIVELY ON ROMANCE. The interest in shipping comes from the personal baggage the fans collectively bring to the forums.
This is an odd phenomenon, and unfortunately, it's one that threatens to derail drama and creativity-- instead of reading stories because they're curious where the characters will end up, fans have strong preconceived notions of what they want to see, and won't accept anything else. It doesn't matter for Chandler that nobody cares about Sonichu and Rosechu's true love but him, because this world is his escapist paradise. Unfortunately, the phenomenon isn't restricted to the mass of neuroses and perversions that is Christian Weston Chandler-- just take a glance at the majority of fan fiction.***
One of the most interesting relationships that I've read in a mainstream comic is the X-Men pairing of Scott Summers and Emma Frost. This is because it's an active deconstruction of the nature of the OTP. While Scott and Jean Grey were the official pairing of the X-Men****, Grant Morrison had Scott come to realize that after all the hardship he'd been through in his life, he didn't want a perfect relationship. He found himself more comfortable with tempestuous ex-villainess Emma Frost, whose sins made her more relatable. The relationship began with an affair and was cemented with a kiss over Jean Grey's corpse, but so what? These are mutant pariahs whose profession has a high mortality rate. They aren't part of the culture that sets the terms for what acceptable love is, they aren't necessarily going to be drawn to conventional notions of relationships, and they're going to seize any chance at happiness they can get. Of course, this is antithetical to fandom logic, but it allows for more story options.
* Of course, because Aang/Kitara was an Official Coupling done with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer and logic of a fanfic parody, I can understand this.
** And Hideo Kojima has all but made this canon, since MGS4 ends with Snake living out his final days with Otacon and their adopted daughter Sunny. I can't even call Metal Gear a homoerotic series anymore, because between this, Ocelot being a secret hero motivated by his gay love for Big Boss, and the Big Boss/Miller slashfic missions in Peace Walker, Kojima is basically pre-empting the fandom with homosexual pairings.
*** There are many great fan fics, mind you. I want to make clear that just because the medium is used by terrible writers doesn't mean it has exclusively terrible writers. Some are even more inventive than the canon creators.
**** I often think of the main 'ship in my own comic as a reconstruction of the Scott/Jean dynamic, with genuine devotion and love being constantly challenged by the fact that Ruby and Jiro are two outcasts with troubled histories and no other real options.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
I've discussed the fascinatingly pathetic phenomenon of Sonichu before, in context of the hilarious parody Asperchu. For something so utterly terrible, Christian Weston Chandler's much-derided webcomic has drawn more interest than many genuinely good stories. Most likely this is because Chandler* is so ready and unwittingly willing to embarrass himself, and the internet is quick to seize upon the bizarre and novel. But I think there's something to Sonichu that's more compelling than simply being a bad comic by a truly disturbing individual.**
Academia enjoys its alternate readings of works, and Sonichu need not be any different. Reading it as Chandler intended, as a children's adventure comic, means getting a badly written, badly drawn expression of an author's neuroses for an audience that could care less. But reading Sonichu as a parody ( and not " parody " in the way Chandler intends, as an excuse to swindle copyrighted characters ) shows a genuinely interesting psychodrama. Sonichu is an unintentionally brilliant commentary on genre fiction and its fans, and how people use stories and characters to cope with a complex world. Everybody does this, but Chandler's excesses illuminate fandom in a less-than-flattering light.
Even from the first Sonichu story, we see that the " electrical hedgehog Pokemon " is not the star of his strip. The very cover of " Issue Zero " has comic Chris-Chan telling Sonichu to " Zap out to the Extreme ", and Sonichu thanking his " father " for the instruction. The dynamic between Chris-Chan and Sonichu is meant to be father and son, but it goes without saying that biology would not allow a virgin birth of a cartoon animal to a human male. Instead, Sonichu serves as Chandler's idealized avatar-- if the Chris-Chan who appears in the comic is meant to represent Chandler's " dogged nice guy " conception of himself, then Sonichu is who Chandler wants to be, the children's hero who thrives within a never-maturing status quo.
Not only does Chris-Chan hog the cover, but he serves as the narrator for the debut story. He frames the story as its " intrusive creator ", telling us how the unwitting influence of Super Sonic transformed a Pikachu into Sonichu, and a Raichu into his female counterpart and girlfriend Rosechu. The Pikachu is literally just sitting there, about to be eaten by a monster, when he is transformed into Sonichu. After the transformation, he immediately fights and defeats the monster. He's cheered by the public, is impressed by his newfound power and ability to speak, and does not hesitate to rename himself " Sonichu ". Chris-Chan starts and ends this sequence, reminding us that Sonichu is his creation-- Chandler not only lives vicariously through Sonichu, but feeds off of the hypothetical adulation Sonichu receives, hoping that there will be a trickle-down fandom from his creation to him. He's creator and fan in one.
The episode concludes with a " Who's Who " list, involving Sonichu, Rosechu, the " Chaotic Combo " of other recolored hedgehog characters, the villains ( based on Chandler's real-life antagonists ), and three mysterious new Sonichus. There's not much to say about this as writing, since it's clearly telling and not showing. But it does reinforce the idea that Sonichu is about a status quo-- and in later chapters, that status quo finds itself under threat and has to resist.
More to Come..
* I'm referring to the real world Christian Weston Chandler by his last name, while the in-comic CWC will be called " Chris-Chan ".
** And this is NOT because of his autism. While Chandler may use his autism diagnosis as an attempt to excuse his problems, too many people bash him in context of his condition. Autism does not make people do any of the things Chandler has done, and calling him things like " that autistic fuck " or " autistic man-child " in the comments will not be tolerated.