Ruby Nation

Ruby Nation
Ruby Nation: The Webcomic

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ruby's World Post-Script: Take That, Neil Kapit

The Pages In Question, Here and Here

One of the most frustrating things about doing long-form series fiction is that when you create a character or idea who seems less and less interesting in practice, you're usually forced to continue with that. One of the most rewarding things about long-form series fiction is that as you keep going and your universe develops, you can find ways to remake that character or idea into something to fit the increased complexity of your framework.

I started doing Ruby's World over 2 and a half years ago, so at the time I thought that the most compelling villains were those who were just pure evil to the Nth degree. Hence, the physical face of Beagle was Buzarde', who I wrote as more and more deranged with each appearance. It was fun to write a character that was every inch a depraved serial killer, but it didn't make him a very interesting character to others.

I would hardly be the first person to make this mistake, as many writers enjoy creating Complete Monster villains. Even now, I can still appreciate the appeal. However, ideally even those bad guys have some kind of viewpoint with some appeal beyond the complete release of impulses. If you're writing an antagonist who doesn't have any kind of hook other than pure nihilism, you're not really challenging the protagonists' morals, just their skills and physical abilities. Certainly there are very few people in reality who actually see themselves as the bad guy, despite their actions.

So, dissatisfied with what I'd done, I came up with a solution that would break the Fourth Wall to make Buzarde' more compelling; a villain who was literally designed for evil, and failed at it. Then he's kind of a pathetic figure because he can't help the way he is. Not only was he constructed only to do evil, but he wasn't even good at it. And his impulse to torture when he should just execute turned out to be a flaw in his effectiveness, something an instrumentalist villain like Dr. Carcharria would not tolerate.

In the new world of the Ruby Nation, villains so simple have no place as a credible threat. This is me symbolically outgrowing those past mistakes.


  1. I find that this tends to be more of a problem in series with only a couple of recurring antagonists. This is one of the things that makes the Rogues Gallery trope so useful for a writer-if one bad guy doesn't work out or needs a break, you can replace them with another antagonist until they're ready to be brought back. That way, when the original villain does appear again, you have the potential to make it that much more meaningful.

    Take Dr. Carcharria, for example. She's appeared on panel, what...four times? Five? She doesn't appear much, but when she does she's bone-chillingly effective. There's probably a lot of potential payoff when she finally takes center stage, and we get an idea of where she came from and what her ultimate motives are.

    Not every villain needs to be like Hannibal Lecter or the Joker, in that part of his mystique is that we know very little if anything about his background or origins. Indeed, Buzzard himself has some parallels with the likes of Sephiroth, just as Opal is in some respects in the same situation as Cloud Strife. Both Buzzard and Sephiroth eventually discovered the truth behind their origins, and they both ended up falling screaming into an abyss they never came out of again. Their ultimate failing was that, in the end, they became in many respects what their creators intended-learning the truth about themselves only reinforced the original reasons for their creation.

    Opal, on the other hand, deliberately subverts it and, like Cloud, ultimately rises to something better, defying her puppeteer's intentions and making her own choices on what to do with her life. Ironically, Ruby is a combination of both-she's reconfirming her mother's original intentions when she became infected with the nanobots, but because of her own choices she's gone well beyond what I suspect Evie Harrison had in mind. Taking down Beagle would be one thing, but creating an entire nation for everyone affected by Beagle's experiments is quite another.

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Jared. I wasn't actively thinking about Final Fantasy VII, but given how much I love that game, I'm not surprised that such comparisons would be drawn.

    And you make a good point about a Rogues Gallery. Trying to consolidate everything isn't always beneficial.