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Nuke 'Em 'Till They Glow!! - The  Early Years

An Art Check
Written by Benjamin A. Oliver
Artwork by Esa Karjalainen
May 16, 2003
Ben Oliver

Artistic License

It takes more than just cheap tricks and heavy explosives to make a great story. It takes daily updates, a high degree of continuity, and a joke on every page to get to that level. So, until we can achieve that, we'll be delighting in our sheer unrealized beginner's potential and dreaming of what the future may hold, or what we could have done had we been more than what we are. Life's kinda funny that way; it's like getting work experience so you can get a job: you need to get the job to get experience to get the job. In theory, that's what internships are for, but it doesn't always work out that way. If I knew as much about NETTG when I started the thing as I do now, I'd either have thought twice about pursuing the project in the first place, or hunted down Jason Hanks and Esa Karjalainen much earlier.

It's definitely a hobby that's grabbed me by the base of the neck, slammed me against the wall a couple dozen times, picked me up, threw me to the ground, and left me asking for more. The Eternal Lost Lurker expressed it very well, awhile back: "Heh. You don't write the 'fic. The 'fic writes YOU."

Aspiring to become a good writer has been my goal ever since I picked up my first novel and started reading. And over the years, through countless proposed ideas and plots—along with twice as many forgotten trains of thought—I've improved a bit here and there. But, I'm not here to talk about me quite so much. I kind of wish I could have asked Esa to write this Extra, so he could explain a bit more about how the creative process of adapting NETTG's characters to a comic has worked out. Esa secretly wants to do a comic with Stefan Gagne, and NETTG is a sort of test-case to make sure he can keep up with an update schedule with characters that he likes, so I gotta cherish 'em while I got 'em.   ^_-

But yes, I don't know who's enjoyed getting all this material for the comic more than me. (Well, yes, naturally, but still…) Esa apparently knows the story and characters better than I do, so he has done a very good job of reading my mind and predicting the future in that aspect—which is another reason I'm glad to have him working on this project. Yet another reason I think so highly of him is that he's not afraid to experiment a whole lot in order to get things done.

A funky thing about creativity is that it occasionally needs breathing space to thrive. Most creative people know the old feeling of falling into a rut; one feels that what has been done is carved in stone, and no more can possibly be done because of the risk of ruining what's gone before. Most creative people also know that the only way to climb out of this rut—that is, to break through writer's or artist's block, as the case may be—is to start thinking outside the box again, to innovate and find something exciting and new out of the compost that remains of the former work.

New characters are an old favorite method of mine for accomplishing that goal.

Elder Mercury and Elder Mars

Here's a pair of characters from page nine of the comic. Don't mind the sort of tired, aged look the one in blue has. It's just an effect of the coloring and extra lines here and there. The point is that coming up with new characters is quite fun, which is why it happens so often with writers. Making them interact with existing characters is even more fun. Unfortunately, as experience sadly shows us, it takes more than nifty powers to make a character. Most Self-Inserts writers kind of miss the point; they give their avatars sufficient power to blow away all the villains in a series with a single strike, turn them good, seduce them from whatever their goals are, and whatnot. To be sure, wimpy characters are usually no fun either, if they don't have what every character really needs…

…which is personality. That's what original characters need. Take Kenshin Himura, for example. Now he's an interesting character. The fact that he's got better swordsmanship skills than anyone else in the series—except maybe Makoto Shisho, but that's always debatable—helps to pique one's interest. Some like to have a character they're reasonably sure will put up a good fight with nifty special effects. At the same time, Kenshin's got personality. He's got a self-depreciating killer psychosis alongside being generally nice to people around him, including but not limited to playing with the kids, getting embarrassed around women, and finally having to realize his own self-worth in order to learn his ultimate attacks. See, that's personality!

Take a look at the drawings above. I mean, the Vash the Stampede-style Gangsta'-ASK pic, the Elder Sailor Mercury and Mars pics, the movie poster-ish thing on the title—They've got personality. In fact, that's what all of Esa's drawings really have: personality! I think I may be getting spoiled with all these high-personality drawings, but that's what makes them great in my opinion. It's the same with drawing or with writing: there's that certain something to a good character that brings them alive.

What would the great ArbyFish do without his personality? He'd just be a flying seal, flat and dull to all but the ones with the longest attention spans. But, with that personalty, he'll strike at your psyche and never give up 'till you've cracked!

That's why stuff like Seinfeld, Frasier, or "Everyone Likes Raymond" can survive: there's not exactly much in the special effects department, but the people in them have personality!

I have no idea how Esa manages to put so much personality in his work. I have seen some drawings with more… finesse to them, but they're usually by professional artists with decades of experience and six-figure yearly paychecks. As far as I know, nobody's gotten paid for working on NETTG yet (I think I may have gotten offers once or twice, but the answer was no). But that's all part of thinking creatively…

Another thing about that creative "thinking outside the box" stuff that is important is the innovation and release that comes with doing something new. For example, in NETTG or any other fanfic, were it suggested that, maybe, Beryl in the past were to send Serenity an expensive gown from the Evil Empress Boutique in downtown Atlantis… if it were just written, people with little imagination might just shrug and say, "Heh. That's cute." (Hi, DB! =^.^=) On the other hand, if that got fleshed out, seeing is believing.

Beryl's Gift

Suddenly, it's a bit more real than if it were just mentioned in a fanfic, now, isn't it? Thats another big aspect of art that I like: it makes the image much more tangible than with simple words. Words can be better applied to enhancing one's already existing imagination, provided disbelief is sufficiently suspended. Drawings and paintings are, so to speak, one step closer to the audience. I think that's why movies tend to command so much more cash than books do: it's less of a leap for people to tell what's going on and what the story's about. It's the accessability, really.

So, all in all, what does it take to make a great story or terrific work of art? I dunno. Personality is one thing; so is dreaming, effort, tangibility, suspension of belief… You'd need a doctorate in creative writing to be quotable on this sort of thing. But I will say this: it's one of those things that just has to happen. If people are responsive to what people around them say, that's a good indication of where to go. Sometimes people are wrong on a suggestion as to where a story should go, but sometimes they're right. It pays to listen to people, then judge for one's self what has to be done. After all, when it comes down to it, whose story is it?


Er… Never say something is yours until you're sure of it. Certainly, I started NETTG of my own free will, but it's been the fans and the people that have liked it that have kept it going. Saying it's purely mine would be selfish, at best.

At the very least, I can say that it also belongs to Larry F, Esa Karjalainen, Jussi Nikander, Jason Liao—and a big chunk certainly belongs to Jason Hanks—and all the others who have fought so hard to keep the story moving. Thanks, everyone! We'll keep trying to keep pushing it along… perhaps until long after the purpose is defeated.   ^.-

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May 7, 2003: Perfecting the ArbyFish


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