Wednesday, May 07, 2014

So THAT'S the difference between a 'character' and a 'person'...

Warning: this post talks about Transformers. Again. Because I like Transformers. Deal with it. 

There's been a massive furore in the world of Transformers over the past few months, even bigger than when Beast Wars happened, or when Bayformers happened (but then, Bayformers is awful, so...). That furore is over the whole issue of female Transformers, with the shorthand I've seen used in various places being "the Windblade issue".

Now, to forestall the argument that I'm only against Windblade because I'm sexist (the standard, instinctive reaction even to people making valid, well-thought out criticisms), I'm going to preface this little stream of consciousness by saying that I'm 100% in favour of having female characters in the Transformers mythos. There are already a whole shedload of women out there who love Transformers, and having female Cybertronians also has the rather desirable benefit of making the story universe within IDW's Transformers comics that much more diverse and wonderful.

It's just a shame that Windblade herself, the poster-girl for this absolutely necessary movement, is dire...

Y'see, there's another female character in the mythos, who is (like Windblade) brand new to the franchise, and when I compare the two, one of them comes across as little more than a dull cypher, while the other comes across as a genuine person.

That character is Nautica (the purple one in the pic), and she is, quite simply, awesome. 

Blank slates = duuuuuuull 

Now, you may remember that I did a post ages ago about 'strong female characters', and how they're rather boring. Well this post is kind of an extension of that, because it turns out that there's more to the story than just that. Y'see, Windblade herself is categorically not a 'strong female character', which is a good thing; she's naive about the situation on Cybertron, and trying to make the best of knowing virtually nothing about what's been going on throughout the civil war.

The problem, and the bit that makes her a bit of a non-entity, is this: that's all she is. She's essentially yer basic reader-surrogate, someone for the new reader to view the events of the story, and in that sense, she's kind of a blank slate.

The problem with blank slates is that they're not known for having bags of personality, and that is precisely what Windblade is missing.

You are the little things about you

Compare that to Nautica, currently being awesome in the More Than Meets The Eye comic, written by James Roberts. In the two scenes in which she appears, we learn a surprising amount of tiny, incidental details about her character, that (unlike Windblade) are in no way related to her role in the story. We learn that she's a quantum mechanic (pun of the year nominee, right there), who doesn't like the idea of moral absolutism, who loves to read, and who likes a wee dram of the good stuff.

None of those details matter in the grand scheme of things, but as Nightbeat (Cybertron's greatest detective) says in the very same issue, not being important is precisely what makes something important.

That, right there, is the big difference: Windblade feels like a cardboard cut-out, because we actually know next to nothing about what makes her tick, while in a mere two scenes, we get a sense of Nautica as a fictional person, real and fleshed out (metaled out?) instead of just being a mere character. It's like the real world, I suppose, where the wisdom of Tyler Durden says that you are not your job; at the minute, Windblade is just her job (that job being "reader-surrogate"), while Nautica is most definitely not.

'Character' bad, 'person' good

And so, we come back to what I said at the start of this post. The IDW Transformers comics are truly brilliant, and long may they continue to bring female characters into the fold. It serves to bring in new fans and it makes the universe more diverse, so the addition of female characters is, I'd say, rather essential.

It's just a shame that Nautica, one of the best new characters to join the franchise in years, is losing out on love, in favour of one of the dullest characters in years...

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