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

NETTG: Character Evolutions
Written by Benjamin A. Oliver
Art by Esa Karjalainen (2002-2004),
Liz Imp (1998),
Chad Yang (1998),
and Evan Lindsey (1999)
June 15, 2004

NETTG: The Terra Evolutions

Life's a funny thing, y'know that? Why, just seven years or so, I was puzzling over what in the world this "Ranma" thing was, got introduced to fan fiction, read the FFML like crazy, and started coming up with my own junk. Egads, seven years! I could have painted most of the Sistine Chapel by now if I actually had any artistic ability. But since I don't, I've been obsessing about writing for quite some time. Even when I was little, I wrote things. I have this example of a book I wrote when I was in kindergarten, six years old. It was a children's book, only a dozen pages long, plus poor illustrations, but it was my children's book. I also wrote this choose-your-one-adventure thing based off of a video game called Altered Beast…

Okay, so I have been writing for quite some time—for much longer than since I discovered anime. And a good thing, too. I was cutting my teeth on fan fiction before I knew what fan fiction was, like an ancient Jurassic Park thing… which is best forgotten, and a pair of SIs which are also best not spoken of as well. There was this Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers parody thing, too. It was funny, but looking back upon it now is, for me, like looking at embarrassing baby pictures.

It all comes back to NETTG for me, when I feel I actually started becoming a decent writer. As such, I have a very special feeling for the story, the first one that I shared with a lot of people and for which I got a good response. I've worked with the story for so long—it's been a part of my life for so long that oftentimes I feel I know my characters better than I know myself. In preparation for writing, I've spent my spare moments imaging them in different situations, supposing if one thing or another happened to them, and what would be the niftiest course to pursue…

If I digress now, it's to make a bigger point later on. I recall something entitled "How to Tell a True War Story."

This account tells about a great variety of things that may or may not have happened during the Vietnam War. The story told keeps on changing, though. The author begins with some shocking, gut-wrenching things. Then he goes on to tell about some more things that happened, worse than the others… then he turns around and tells us that it never happened—none of it at all—but some other stuff did. His point is that in order to tell a "true" war story, you have to tell it in a way that makes your gut believe it. He says at the end:

"You can tell a true war story if you just keep on telling it. And in the end, of course, a true war story is never about war. It's about sunlight. It's about the special way that dawn spreads out on a river when you know you must cross that river and march into the mountains and do things you are afraid to do. It's about love and memory. It's about sorrow. It's about sisters who never write back and people who never listen."

After a certain manner, I've started to feel that the only way I can keep telling the story I've grown to know and love in NETTG is to change things about it. I've already forked the story into its ten and a half "Classic" original chapters and a totally rewritten "OAV" story. And then there are the spin-offs, the stuff with Bruce and Ribbons, as well as the stuff with Sailor Stylin' in London.

NETTG is about blowing things up, it's about strange ideas and strange humor. It's also about me growing up while I'm writing it, becoming more experienced, dealing with the characters in ways that I deal with my own life. The story is at the same time an unchanging old friend and a volatile science project. It's all kinds of things, simple at times, full of red herrings, but then the red herrings suddenly are part of the larger plot of it all.

Dealing with school and other things, I sometimes forget why I ever liked writing the story, and when I'm actually writing it, I can never imagine why in the world I would ever not want to work on it.

Sometimes, I wonder: Are all writers and artists like this?

Working with Esa all the time, I'm beginning to think the answer is yes.

The art and story changes as time goes on, becomes more interesting, more detailed, more what I've always wanted and never knew I wanted. One might thing we'd pick a single style and stick with it forever. But we're not quite satisfied with any one appearance for the characters. They can always be closer to the dream, or vision of what the story should look like.

Of course, some of it's variation in the artist's mood, and I'm cool with that. Esa's an impressionist artist and not an industrial artist, which means variable moods and usually an unreliable schedule, but it also means that even the roughest sketches have a quality about them that makes them somehow better than the most technically accurate drawings could ever be.

Did I ever mention to anyone that Terra's my favorite character? ASK is my flagship character in the fanfic, and the story always comes back to him, but ever since he encountered Terra, I've been keeping my eye squarely on her, even as she fades into the background in the fanfic.

Arby's hilarious and very useful for patching up the story's odds and ends… but Terra is still my favorite.

Liz's version of TerraWay back in 1998, my best online friend, Jason Hanks, responded to my requests to have some pictures of the characters to toss around. He asked for some descriptions to hand off to an artist friend he had. I was enchanted by the idea of getting art, but I didn't know that you ought not to force an artist to draw characters they don't know and care nothing about. The results, I felt, were less than spectacular.

I credit and thank Liz Imp for drawing for a humble up-and-coming fanfic writer. I didn't quite have the large, mostly quiet following back then that I do now. I couldn't exactly make like a celebrity and demand more and better, now, could I? ^_^;;; The drawings weren't… bad, but they weren't quite right, either. Somehow, the artist wasn't telepathic and couldn't read my mind to find out exactly what I wanted, and I'd been given exactly what I'd asked for in my character description. Basically, I'd asked for what amounted to a girl-type Ranma that had been raised by Kasumi. Oh yeah, and a looser outfit than the previous one that she'd sent along. Nevertheless, despite my incompetence, I did get another drawing.

Chad's version of TerraThis one was closer—a lot closer to what I wanted. I believe Chad Yang was reasonably familiar with NETTG when he drew this one. Still, I never communicated with him. I kind of want to thank him and ask for more, but I don't know what's become of him. He's done fan art for some other people, I found out on a quick Google search, but no specific homepage where I can accost him and say, "Thank you! Thank you, Chad, for drawing me that picture all those years ago!"

Then along came the Ashikaider, who later wanted to be called Evan Lindsey. Ash was an impromanga artist, and a fanfic writer as well. He usually worked with a pair of people known as Face and Nied on drawn material. He knew my stuff, I got to reading some of his stuff… and he drew me a couple of ideas for Terra and ASK.

Ashikaider's TerraAshikaider sketches

We had some big plans. We wanted to start up an NETTG impromanga, with contributors handling filler sections of the comic and Ash handling most of the core storyline. It was to be a glorious retelling of the original fanfic in modern times, with all kinds of nifty eye candy. And we could have done it, too, if it weren't for those darn kids…

Erm… I mean, I had a mission to complete, starting in June, 1999. Just after I finished NETTG Chapter 10, it was time to head off to Utah for training, and then Mexico. Ash and I agreed to correspond while he worked on the comic, so I could drop hints when needed. I wrote to him, his address was wrong, I wrote to the new address, and never got a response.

He moved or something to that effect. The dream was crushed.

I went for, like, three years without any NETTG art. When I came back from Mexico, I met back up with Jason Hanks and slowly picked up on making the next part of the fanfic. I'd earlier sent a trailer to the FFML, promising more NETTG before a certain deadline. I made the deadline by only a few scant hours. The old-school fans were cheering, and so were the ones I'd picked up without knowing it over the years. A fanfic author had actually returned, and returned with a significant quantity of material as well.

I loved the comments, but what I really wanted was art. And you don't find too many willing artists among FFML lurkers and occasional fanfic commenters. I took an art class and appreciated art all the more for it.

And then, mystically, a new champion appeared…

The first Terra to show up for years

An image suddenly got sent to me. It was a quickie, but the artist obviously knew how to draw quite well. It may have been rough in some spots, but it was art drawn for me, gosh darn it! XD

To a man dying of thirst in the desert, a glass of lukewarm water is worth a million times its weight in gold. I thanked this artist profusely for his efforts. I was overjoyed to have it, and I was soon offered more.

For as long as I could come up with agreeable ideas, more art came along.

Terra was most often the subject matter. She seemed to be the most fun one to do anyway.

TerraUsagi and Terra

This time, the art was more right than it had ever been before. Esa Karjalainen was the name of this new Paladin of Painting. Since the name, from a USA perspective, sounds kind of like a girl's name, I had the impression for a few weeks that I had some cute groupie drawing things for me.

Anyway, I asked another Finnish friend, Jussi Nikander (whom I also thought was a girl for a time when he started proofreading for me), and he cleared it all up.

"Esa is a man's name," he explained.

"Ahhh," I said, nodding with understanding.

Oh my. Another neurotic disappointment? Yes. ^_^;;

While the cute, creative, infatuated blonde Swedish girl of my dreams would have to wait, I still had a very qualified, loyal artist to work with. No harm, no foul.

Like a bad escalating addiction, I started getting into web comics when fanfics failed to fully satisfy, and I eventually asked Esa if he would like to work with me to do an NETTG web comic. He thought about it, agreed, and got some ideas worked out after reading the proposed script.

I believe "Evil Plot" was the subject line of many of our emails after that first script got written. :)

It wasn't in the contemporary setting of the fanfic. It was, rather, in the realm of the past, where much of the story remained to be told. The sweet, Kasumi-like Terra wouldn't even show up. No, we would be dealing with the secretive, homicidal maniac Princess Terrifying!


Mwahahahaha. Trogdor strikes again! I knew quite a few people preferred the Kasumi-like Terra over the evil Terra, but still, it was the only character derivative that could have made a fun, interesting storyline without having to resort to the same Sailor Moon filler episode calling-out-attacks and fawning-over-the-guy-in-the-tux antics. It'd end up being more Nuke 'Em 'Till They Glow than Nuke 'Em 'Till They Glow ever was!!

Terra, in this one, had sort of straight hair. Hair's probably one of the biggest distinguishing characteristic of anime characters. It's the distinctive helmet for finding the characters one wishes to cheer for.

Present-day Terra had her hair in a ponytail, Kasumi-style. In fact, before she had her brain-enhancing encounter with ASK, I kind of wanted her hair in cheesy dual ponytails.

Princess Terrifying needed something a bit more menacing than straight hair or a ponytail. As it turned out, her hair in Esa's designs started getting gradually spikier, much like her Galactic Destroyer appearance.

This was quite all right, and I insisted on Esa doing more of it. It was one of those things that I'd always wanted, only I never knew I wanted it. Her hair spiking served as a reminder of who and what she really was.


Before, I'd asked for both teen and child Terra images, and a few of them had the spikes, and others didn't.


But that wasn't the end to experimenting with her. No, I just couldn't be content working with a highly recognized fanfic, a great artist, and a comic, could I? I wanted also to make a Princess Maker parody starring Terra and including an original cast of supporting characters, just in case we felt like going commercial with it. So, we got to know Terra a bit better at various points in her life, from younger to older.

GDM ExperimentGDM ExperimentGDM Experiment
GDM Experiment GDM Experiment

This is getting to the pretty recent stuff. The most "Modern" models of Terra show a wide degree of variation as well. They're done in different styles and I can't decide which one is best—I love 'em all!


And, I think, that's the only way we're ever going to get Terra to be where we really want her. As time goes by, we'll get to know her better, and know how she's supposed to look in any given circumstance. Like how to tell a "true" war story, how to get to Terra's "true" appearance is to just keep drawing her, in recognizable yet very distinct ways.


Throughout all my experiences with art and writing, working on this with all the people I've come across has been quite gratifying. It all takes time to put together, it takes time to write, and it takes time to be on standby for just in case an artist needs advice or cheerleading, but I wouldn't have it any other way. It makes me appreciate the art I have even more when I don't get any for a good long while. There were times I thought Esa would be gone forever. Perhaps someday it still might happen, though I hope not. ^_^;;

But if so, I may need to be prepared to move onto new artistic pastures, finding someone else and watching the characters develop as they will under the ever-changing hand of those I work with to bring these characters to "life". If the characters are to survive, they have to change and adapt to the story. Or the story has to adapt to them. Or whatever in the world all this stuff means.

In the meantime, in this crazy, mixed-up universe of ours, it's still comforting to know that somewhere, there's still a character that survives and goes on to bigger and better things. One day, the character now known as Terra may be called something else and look considerably different… but by how the story is told, you and I will know that it's her.

Ahh, memories! ^_^

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March 14, 2004: The Horse Will Be With You… Always.


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