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Putting Identity to Ethnicity; Dark-skinned Heroes and Villains in Gaming

What makes a good character stand out? The struggle of their character as they ascend from the bottom of the barrel to the top of the leaderboards in character development? The development of what kind of character they’ll be throughout the story? While all of these factors, and plenty more, attribute to the development and construction of a character, there has always been a unique connection – a fine line – that’s crossed or maintained when ethnicity is calculated into a character’s bio.

Over the past few years there has been a resurgence in promoting dark-skinned characters through movies, television shows, and comic books (Luke Cage, Black Panther, Black Lightning, Spider-Man, etc.), however, the iconizing of dark-skinned characters has always been prevalent in one form of media or another. In this article, I will display my findings and knowledge towards the establishing growth of dark-skinned characters in video games. I believe this development will garner fruits of representation within the black diaspora and can open the doors towards representing different ethnicities and, from a linguistics point of view, can offer a form of ‘code-switching’ that can be seen from a bigger viewpoint; virtually and culturally outlined with an interactive perspective provided by video games.


  1. Dark-skinned characters to Black/African characters

    Let’s talk about the elephant in the article: Are dark-skinned characters considered to be Black? The answer can be split down the middle, depending on how you view the character and the media it hails from. You could say that dark-skinned characters represent the black diaspora and that each character you find that happens to be darker than most is just another variety of Black/African characters. On the opposite side, you could argue that a dark-skinned character isn’t considered to be black because of their identity within the work of fiction they originate from and could be considered a mixture of different ethnicities – a melting pot – which speaks to the perspectives of different races that aren’t represented in multiple characters BUT is represented in one character. Both answers hold valid points – points that can be made and have been exemplified in various characters over the years within different video games. While some are a bit more obvious in regards to representation with a dark-skinned character, there have been subtler accounts of dark-skinned representation within gaming.


    Suikoden Revival


    A good example of diversity between dark-skinned characters can be found in an old JRPG (Japanese Role-Playing Game) by the name of Suikoden. Suikoden was a notable game for its tactics and implications for war-based strategy, and the turn-based battle system that had players forming a party of six characters rather than the general 4 found in other RPG’s like Final Fantasy. In addition to its unique system of battle, the game gives the opportunity to incorporate 108 special characters into your army that ranges from multiple races and species that inhabit the game. Ever wanted to have flying squirrels, griffons and unicorns as a companion that helps you fight against a tyrannical empire – Suikoden 2 offers that in spades. Ever thought that beavers were capable of dishing out damage and could be a solid foundation for representing third world countries – Suikoden 5 answers that question for you. However, within every entry of Suikoden, there has always been a representation of multiple ethnicities and cultures within the games.



    Starting with the game that introduced the first two dark-skinned characters within the franchise, Suikoden 2, are Hauser (Right) and Bob (Left). At first glance, Bob seems to mirror someone familiar – perhaps iconic – and you would not be wrong in assuming such a thing. Bob’s character is based, in appearance, to that of the legendary musician Bob Marley. From his dreads to the carefree nature that he holds, Bob is a subtle nod to Jamaican heritage within a European fantasy-based war game made by Japanese developers. While he isn’t the main character or a character that’s necessary to the story, the option to recruit him and know more of his history and skills is what makes the goal of finding 108 special characters in each game an intriguing objective. Once you recruit him, you learn that he isn’t actually human but is that of a Lycanthrope (Werewolves) and happens to be the last of his clan. The rune that’s embedded on his right hand, known as the Rabid Fang Rune, doesn’t initiate his lycanic transformation but actually prevents him in being able to transform. His appearance as a dark-skinned male isn’t racially attributed to anything outside of the fact that he appears to have dark skin, however, it’s the subtlety of his history and his lineage that paints a different perspective towards the character. In a description of his village and people, a darker tone is showcased and a word, or two, seems to be relatable to another incident that’s occurred within the bowels of history:


    Once a village of lycanthropes located in the Grassland, Lycanthrope Village was destroyed by Windy in her quest to find powerful runes, leaving only one survivor, a young man named Bob who participated as a soldier in the Dunan Unification War. As a result, Lycanthropes have become extremely rare and little information is known on lycanthropes or the village they once inhabited. The Holy Kingdom of Harmonia has several lycanthropes living within their borders; however, they have been integrated into the non-human class and thus are treated little better than slaves.


    On the other hand, there’s Hauser, another dark-skinned character and one that would paint the argument that his skin and structure would be ideally linked to that of African heritage. Unlike that of Bob, Hauser has importance to the story and is a commander of his own forces before joining that of the hero’s main army. He is a soldier, a knight, and a strong C.O. (Commanding Officer) to the forces he leads. There’s no identifying his race or status, other than being human, but the closest thing he has towards the representation of the black diaspora is that of his facial structure


    Black Male Gaming Characters - Face Structure


    Hauser’s distinct features are linked to a particular art style that’s uniquely attuned to that of Black/African drawings. The structure of the cheekbones, the accentuation of the nose and, most notably, the appearance of the lips. While it’s easy to write off that Bob and Hauser’s ethnical identities are a part of the black diaspora, it’s to be noted that Bob’s appearance, from a visage approach, is ethnically different from that of Hauser’s. Granted that Bob’s appearance isn’t naturally that of a dark-skinned male, and is more of a lycanthropic wolf-man, the two distinct styles in how they were drawn plays against the idea that “all Black people look alike” and that the diaspora of Black/African people can be seen in different views; even as different species.


  2. Implication vs Confirmation

    There’s a lot of trial and error when it comes to making a character, especially a character that is linked, or seems to be linked, to a race, or ethnicity, that’s had its fair share of criticisms. While it’s not impossible to make a good character that can represent the black collective, it’s entirely possible that the implication can overweigh the confirmation in the brainstorming process.

    This process can be called “Implication vs Confirmation“. As a writer and storyteller, there’s always an invisible list to which needs to be filled when creating a story that’s comprised of elements which can enhance the reader’s, or in this case ‘the player’s’, experience. A protagonist to lead the story, an antagonist that makes the events for the protagonist, or the story, more difficult, and many other options can be found on this list. The idea of creating a character that’s ethnically unbiased within a game is plausible. Most games that take place in a fantasy setting require that the characters themselves be unified under one term – Humans. The idea of race and individual ethnicities is turned on its head, subverting expectations, which creates a clearer narrative without the addition of white noise in regards to a person’s race convoluting the storyline. This is the Implication.

    The second part that has to be confirmed is, well, Confirmation. Does the character’s persona appropriate or appreciate the ethnicity? Are certain colloquialisms necessary to convey identity towards a culture? Is it necessary for them to be “too much” of a certain cliché or stereotype in regards to their ethnicity? Every decision to these and other questions is what outlines a character – what makes the character shine as their own individual presence. If the implication of a dark-skinned character has to be showcased through certain actions and provocations, does it create the display of ethnicity that grounds their character OR could it be used to heighten their character’s story in addition to character development? Confirmation plays an important role in structuring and developing a character in regards to their personal narrative. When it comes to race and ethnicity, the outline of character can be based off a figure or even constructed to be similar towards one, however, characters shouldn’t be objectified to a list of demands that MAKE the character.



    Another first in the series of dark-skinned characters comes from Barret Wallace from the Final Fantasy series. Barret stands as the first of the dark-skinned characters introduced within the series and one that can be closely identified to Black/African collectives in regards to representation within video games. While his initial introduction and artwork painted him as a virtual copy to that of Laurence Tureaud (Iconically known by the name “Mr. T”) his character within the game and throughout the game is anything but that. He’s the leader of AVALANCHE, a dutiful father, another main character next to Cloud Strife, and much more. His presence throughout the story is filled with various colloquialisms and vernacular English that’s directed towards, or from, AAVE (African American Vernacular English) which portrays his character.

    The implication that was crafted for Barret was to possibly give the image of a Black/African man with strong leadership skills, a brash/ruff attitude, and a character arc that has gone through strife in more ways than one; in the past and in the present. His conflict in trying to save the planet and to save his daughter, who (SPOILERS) isn’t related to him by blood, develops his character and confirms his identity as a man fighting for what is right; under the circumstances, he endures. He isn’t identified as a Black/African male and outside of his appearance to Mr. T, he isn’t considered to be an icon for the race. He just happens to have dark skin, a hi-top fade, a beard that would make Mr. T proud, a gun-arm, and a mission; both personal and economical.


    Barret Wallace Remake


    With the Final Fantasy 7 Remake, a plethora of design choices and tweaks have been made for the cast. No longer exists the old Mr. T inspired look for the leader of AVALANCHE as he has now adopted a more modern design for the hair on top of his head and on his face. Sporting a nice fade from each side, leaving a short but slicked back layover for the top, a rugged but maintained beard lineup, while outlining various elements to his visage from the initial character design; Barret has evolved. In addition to his pronounced features (outlined in the same account as Hauser’s from the previous number) Barret’s appearance shows a confirmation to the modern era of hairstyles and beard lineups, however, he also showcases how a dark-skinned character can appear within video games. While the industry has access to mocap technology, using the contour of models and other personnel to digitally craft features in real-time, Barret’s design proves that a fundamental choice in perspective from one figure can be transcended with different likenesses. He may have been rough and hard to handle in the beginning, but the development of his character visually can, and has, been improved over time.


  3. Dark-Skinned Villains; Reasons, Motivations, and Script

    With every great hero comes a daunting force of conflict in the form of an antagonist or villain. While villains don’t necessarily need to be dark-skinned to impose themselves against others in a game, there have been some candidates in the last couple of decades that have showcased that their skin color isn’t entirely necessary to convey their story as a villain.



    Rolling back around to the 2nd and 3rd games in the Suikoden series we’re introduced to another dark-skinned character: Lucia. As a villain, Lucia was a unique character right from her introduction in the second game. A young leader of the Karayan Clan, a clan of dark-skinned warriors whose cultural background shares an affinity to Native Americans, she fights to protect her people and collaborates with one of the leading characters in order to ensure protection for her people and the securing of new land. Her role as a villain is further enhanced by the means in which she uses to execute her desired goals. She was merciless in nearly killing the main character, showcasing many of her abilities – which are further fleshed out in the proceeding title, she has ideal strategies in regards to war and tactics, something which is further enhanced in other games due to becoming a leader at a young age after the death of her father (Another interesting point that fuels the flames of her villainy), and was willing to do anything to enact vengeance.

    In comparison to other villains within the game, Lucia’s role is rather minor. She appears near the beginning of the third act with little to no involvement in the main story. She’s propositioned land and safety for her clan, she’s given command of her own forces, made a general within the army (albeit until the end), and fights against the opposition due to personal incidents regarding her clan, family, and how it shaped her life.

    As a character, Lucia has motivations which develop her character and those motivations within Suikoden 2 is what makes her a unique villain. Furthermore, going into Suikoden 3, because of her experience from the previous game, she’s further relentless in believing that no kingdom is worth aligning alongside. The disrespect that is shown to her people, the destruction and theft of their lands, play an important part in the formula that makes Lucia a well-established villain.


    Balrog


    Next on the list is that of another popular figure modeled after, well, a popular boxer: Balrog.  Not to be confused with the mythical beast from Lord of the Rings, this Balrog comes from the highly popular fighting game series “Street Fighter” and has been a prominent member of the cast ever since his inclusion back in Street Fighter II. Identified as an African American he’s modeled after Mike Tyson and is quick to make as much fight money as possible. Balrog’s villainy already shows through his moral compass and decisions in regards to fighting for the main villains, yet his race is never an account for his underhanded tactics and infamous moves throughout the story. His countenance is more towards the sin of greed than it is to villainy, however, given the context of working for Shadaloo, an evil organization infamously known throughout the series, Balrog’s conscious decisions do not promote the inner good of doing the right thing.


    08_rog1


    To his credit as a character, the motivations he carries is undeniably linked to his entire persona. He doesn’t feign ignorance to being better than what he shows to others, as he implies that he’s the best at what he does, and his honesty is enough to make a lie detector look stupid; cause his cold hard truth would make it seem inefficient and useless as a device. Since his appearance, he has been a strong, tough, and rash individual that has been seen as a villain. A rough nature and a smug attitude, Balrog’s street skills paints the scene for a villain pugilist with little concern for others well being; with more selfish and greedy intentions just for himself.


     

    ansem21


    Ansem, preferably the ‘Seeker of Darkness‘, is a fundamentally intriguing villain within the Kingdom Hearts series. In explaining his origins, an account that I will not do in great length, showcases that his existence and connection within the story is, for clarification purposes, fundamentally sound and acknowledgeable to the lore that’s presented within the story. However, if you take out the complications with the lore, this version of Ansem was the first and pressing antagonist that started the Kingdom Hearts series. A shrouded figure in the darkness that did research on hearts (metaphorically and semi-physically speaking) he was the imposing figure that stood in the shadows of Sora and Riku’s adventures within the game. His acts included corrupting Riku’s heart with darkness – a poignant act that would play an important role in the character’s development within later games – and the construction of Kingdom Hearts through the obliteration of multiple worlds.


    ansem smirk


    His appearance on screen is unexpected and the appearance he takes is just as foreboding as the voice that comes from it. He doesn’t pardon his actions and he only parleys for small moments with the main cast of characters. His intentions to find Kingdom Hearts and to use it for his own well being, in addition to filling all of the worlds with darkness, is a straight and simple goal for his agenda. What made his goal and presence unique was the lack of involvement he played within the game itself. The game, Kingdom Hearts, associates most of its story to Sora, Donald, and Goofy as they travel to different Disney worlds and preventing their collapse from the Heartless; which Ansem also happens to be, however, this isn’t prevalent within his appearance as it is more of an epiphany in later games. In future games, an explanation is given as to why he has dark skin and silver hair, however, before those games were even a concept, Ansem’s appearance wasn’t a hot-button topic. His attitude, the role he was given, and how it was implicated within the game is what made Ansem a great stand-alone villain within the series.


  4. Conclusion ~ Representation

    As an African American, I’ve learned that representation within different forms of media is a necessity going forward. Black and African figures in today’s media have been brought into the light for the public through the use of comics, instilling a sense of understanding and acceptance to one’s race that isn’t seen as often. Video games have provided chances for African Americans to be expanded within the media, however, I’ve found that the representation for the race has been used in different contexts; whether it’s from the east or the west gaming franchises.

    I avoided putting any American games in this article for a couple of reasons. One of them was because of how the interpretation of race is seen when compared to the most popular games in America vs the fantasy elements found within most JRPGs. Popular titles like the Assassins Creed series deals with the re-telling of history and the amplification of the past and presents involvement. In Assassins Creed: Black Flag’s DLC “Freedom Cry“, the character Adewale, a former slave with an education that would soon become a pirate and eventually would become an assassin, would embark on his own journey which would lead to many historical bouts against the Templar and freeing captured slaves. I appreciated the bold storytelling, the use of history, and its importance in regards to African heritage, however, I feel that the game is only one example that places the character in an ethnically threatening situation which garners a greater change in their character. Other popular games like the Grand Theft Auto series paints a stereotypical image which, in most cases, presents a toxic representation in regards to cultural appropriation. The games are not bad – technically speaking – but the storytelling for dark-skinned characters like CJ (San Andreas) and Franklin (Los Santos) seem to always have a unique turnabout in regards to their characters.

    In fantasy RPG’s, East or West, the context of the story is vitally important to each character. While there are some tropes that can be filled with throwaway characters, the development of any character should always be seen as a vital component in regards to crafting a great story. While most protagonists can be seen from a Eurocentric viewpoint, the choice to make dark-skinned characters protagonists is just as valid to other perspectives. Square-Enix’sFinal Fantasy” series may have gotten the ball rolling with Barret, but the domino effect of different dark-skinned characters like Fran (XII) and Sazh (XIII) have also been introduced into the fold of dark-skinned representations. There identities as humans, or Viera in Fran’s case, are established as their main identity and the way that they speak are clarified to that of their characters; Fran uses her voice as a means to showcase respect and authority, as her race generally acknowledges is a valuable trait, while Sazh uses comedy and blunt statements, mixed with AAVE, due to a tragic past and coming to terms with the world he now lives within; these developments are paramount to the character’s progression.

    In starting with Suikoden for this article, a game which I have personally favored since playing its second installment back in 1998, it introduced to me, a young, African-American man, that a story can involve many ethnicities and that the concern of “race” shouldn’t affect it. From the second title in the series to its fifth installment on consoles, Suikoden has proven to be a game that uses its diverse cast as a means of storytelling. The third installment showcased the Karaya Clan, previously mentioned with Lucia’s appearance from the second game, which amalgamated Native Americans and Africans as a single clan; pressing the matters of land reservation, cultural racism, and hate crimes – yet their clan isn’t the only one who experiences these events; broadening the subject to others, however, making an impactful statement that alludes throughout the entire game. Further titles would introduce new clans that would further represent Africans, Asians, East Indians, Cubans, Anglo-Americans, and many more. Topics of war would continue to be targeted and even topics of social hiearchy would be challenged in each installment; including issues that pertained to Feminism, Sexism and Gay Rights. To me, Suikoden was like the older brother to Pokémon who preferred World History rather than Zoology. While Pokémon has gone out of its way to make 819 creatures based on actual animals, splashed with some creatures that are more akin to folklore/mythology, Suikoden has created 540 characters that have represented most of the races and ethnicities on our planet.

    In conclusion, this article isn’t a compilation of reasons to make more dark-skinned characters. This article is to bring awareness to how dark-skinned characters can be made and the impact it has on gaming and media. While the progression of Black/African protagonists is few and far between, the acceptance of race and its accumulation in games is slowly developing towards a positive retrospect. From Pokémon’s extending cast of different races (The trainers, not the Pokémon) in their games to the rise of more prominent characters that share in the representation of the black community, I believe that representation will be seen as a positive investment towards the identity of ethnicity in games and media going forward.

     

 

Animated Movies, Character Structure, Comic Book Movies, Creative Writing, Narrative Structure, Plot Structure, Spiderman, Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse, Uncategorized

Spiderman “Into the Spider-Verse” and The Narrative of Relationships. – Part 1

milesmoralespeterparker

With the ongoing successful accolades and success of the newest Spiderman film and the praises it has received since its premiere back in December; including a Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Motion Picture. The idea of dissecting the film and its characters that created such a wonderful adventure with breathtaking experiences is to be expected, which is why I’ve decided to do a little analysis of the film’s characters. For this article, I will be going over the relationships seen within the movie. These include the relationships between Miles Morales and Peter Parker (The Acknowledging Spidermen), Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy (Building of Friendship), The Alternate Spider-people (A Shared Identity) and various others that some have questioned but have yet to come to a correct conclusion in terms of their relationship for the film.

The system of analysis that I will be overseeing for this article will be based on three structures of relationships: Movie Structure, Comic Structure, and Narrative/Representation Structure. Through the use of these three, a clear and cohesive analysis can be made for the characters that reference both their movie and comic counterparts; alongside their impact in and out of the film.

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  1. Miles Morales and Peter B. Parker (Acknowledging Spidermen)
    peter and miles - spidey
    It should go without saying, or not, that the main relationship within the entire narrative of the story is cast around the building and budding relationship of Miles Morales and Peter B. Parker. What starts as a unique meeting for the two in regards to their shocking introduction, quite literally for Peter, begins the foundation for a teacher-student role that was quite different from its comic book origins for the two. In this adaptation of the story, both Spidermen are considered students to one another and proceed to learn new things throughout the film after their rocky start, which leads into the development of different roles of mentoring and being a mentee.Movie Structure: The dynamic pairing of Miles and Peter makes sense towards the narrative of “Teacher and Student”; alongside the entire premise of the movie as Miles learns how to become Spiderman. With Peter in his 30’s, tired and clearly tired from his superhero antics over the years, it sets up a quintessential choice and image for the budding student: “Do you really want to be Spiderman?” This question builds the foundation to which both Peter and Miles experience; both as a newbie and as an expert to the mantle. Mile’s enthusiasm to the cause of being a superhero, by neglecting his means of success in the real world, is similar to that of Peter’s resolution near the end of the movie with his plan of staying behind and sacrificing himself. After Gwen asks him, “Peter, you don’t have to stay. I’ll do it” and with his response of “It’s okay… I’ve made up my mind” could be paralleled to the same thought that entered Mile’s head the moment Peter’s words of taking ‘a leap of faith’ had questioned his own integrity as Spiderman; as both of their lives would change – for better or worse.

    Comic Structure: Transitioning Peter and Miles from the comic pages for the movie must have been a critical headache for the filmmakers to make sense of in the writers room with Miles debut on the big screen (Invoking the idea of a black Spiderman; much less a bi-racial one) and with a bigger audience, including those of the comic community, waiting to see how it would pan out in animation. Mile’s relationship with Peter in the comics are, for the most part, grounded after his death. With crossover events from the main continuity universe and Mile’s universe (Known as the Ultimate-verse), creating the symbolism of Spiderman teaching another Spiderman, while still being a young superhuman, creates a dynamic that relates from one age gap to the next. So when the transition of characters are older, such as Peter B. Parker within this story, the familiarity of “being the same” is taken differently from the Peter of the comics; in comparison to his and another universes’ Spiderman.

    Narrative/Representation Structure: In the end, Miles and Peter’s representation within the movie is nurtured towards the success that’s gained in life through accomplishments. The sides of this similar coin are displayed through Miles’ recklessness in trying to become something that he wasn’t intended to be, however, it was a challenge as to whether he would succeed in his endeavors to uphold this one truth: Can I be Spiderman? This same question resonates with Peter in his endeavors after having the mantle and when he questions towards the end with “How do I know I’m not going to mess it up?”; which is immediately acknowledged by Miles and is further acknowledged by the acknowledgment of Peter before returning to his own universe; accomplishing his task of a renewed vigor in Spiderman and for Spiderman.

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  2. Peter B. Parker and Gwen Stacy (Spider-Gwen) ~ (Decisions, Decisions)
    peter and gwen - spiderThe second relationship for this article is one that a lot of fans, including myself, were really interested to see in animated detail. Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy are no stranger to one another, both in the comics and in the movies, but for the two to have the mantle of Spiderman (Spiderwoman in Gwen’s case) and to essentially have the same role that comes with being the heroine of their story, it’s to be expected that the chemistry of these two would be uniquely portrayed within this adaptation of the Spider-verse.

    Movie Structure: Despite the age differences between the two heroes, Gwen and Peter’s relationship as heroines for their universes shows them on equal footing as heroes. The banter they share is tied with respect and this respect comes from their unannounced past to the origins of their original tales from the comics. It’s through the dynamic of an older Peter (which seemingly appears to be similar to the Peter Parker of her reality – more or less aging from the serum that transformed them into the Lizardman) that a sense of dependability and renewed faith in her acknowledgement of Peter Parker, in taking the mantle of Spiderman and helping others in much the same way she has been doing in her dimension, which creates the dynamic duo for this film. The theme behind these two is built on second chances and the established trust in changed fates.

    While the chemistry between the two was unannounced on screen, a mutual respect and blossoming relationship as superheroes was being established through covert acknowledgments between the heroes. Peter B. Parker’s notices of Gwen are few and far between due to his past with Gwen Stacy and since this particular version of Parker uses humor as a means of deflecting conflict (amidst physical and emotional confrontations), making his only interactions with the young heroine to be straightforward outside of their introduction. He quips at Mile’s surprise at Gwen’s reveal but showcases a silent and positive approval at the two of them getting along; showcasing a sense of detachment to the loss of love and to the welcoming of new love for Miles and Gwen. He furthers this approval as the movie reaches its climactic finish with Peter’s choice to stay behind and essentially die in Miles’s dimension; all the while Gwen acknowledges Peter’s decision, never rallying with Miles against Peter and furthermore acknowledges his decision to do what’s right; even at the cost of his life and the unfulfilled conflicts that resonate for both himself and Gwen personally.

    On Gwen’s side of this unique relationship, it’s to be assumed that the Peter Parker of her world appeared similar to one another; aligning to the idea that Gwen’s take to the older peter, mocking the appearance of a serumed Peter from her world, is a reminder of her failure and is a consistent reminder in trying to prevent her greatest failure from ever occurring again. She, in furthering her respect and trust in Peter, also acts as his light in regards to various situations that he, on his own, wouldn’t have faced; mimicking a significant other in addition to Peter’s divorce from Mary Jane, losing his way as a superhero and the death of his Aunt May – something to which she would’ve known in seeing Mile’s Spiderman’s (Before taking the mantle) death in this dimension. In leading him to Aunt May (Supporting him emotionally), rallying him to be a leader (Reminding him of the great responsibility and power that he has; indifference to what Miles doesn’t have yet) and preventing him from being caught up in the past with MJ and his future (His denial coming to bare with his feelings, internally conflicting him, alongside his mind’s decision to “be a hero”). Her self-sacrifice when Peter says “It’s okay….I’ve made up my mind” after suggesting that she could stay behind creates depth for their relationship, allowing both heroes to acknowledge their mistakes as a past and present dynamic that keeps them strong and keeps them as Spiderman/Spiderwoman.

    Comic Structure: The basis of trust between the two Spider-people are established through the origins of their comics. When introduced to one another, the two found that their relationship, as comrades, was based upon their faults in their alternates deaths. They share a mutual and founded respect for one another, knowing one another in some tangents, which creates the dynamic duo through their chronicles of both “Spider-Verse” and “Spider-Geddon

    Narrative/Representation Structure: Peter and Gwen’s relationship for this movie is arguably needed as a base for the light and darkness within both characters. The two of them play off of one another but with founded respect, newly found by the discovery that they are in fact Spider heroes, which creates the unique connection that makes them the main leads for the film. Peter showcases the gruff and gritty perspective in growing up, while being a hero to others for over 30 years and Gwen showcases the beginning aspects of taking up the mantle to be a superhero; something to which is necessary for Miles to learn in his ongoing quest to do what’s right for Spiderman; both the name and the person.

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  3.  Peni Parker, Spiderman Noir (Peter Parker) and Peter Porker (Spiderham) ~ (United We Stand)Spider-Verse CastNow, who could forget the colorful cast of characters in addition to the big three Spider-figures of this film? The highly animated styles of Peni Parker, Spiderman Noir, and Spiderham were probably one of the most festive looking characters throughout the film as they borrowed respective coloring and highlighting from their comic universes.

    Movie Structure: In addition to being supportive characters and heroes on the screen, the trio of Spider-people represent something that is essentially linked with the film’s animation – their own. In their first appearance on screen, re-telling their backstories, as humorously as it is to the audience, the animation of their backstories are highlighted in the shading that theirs premised behind, with Noir’s being that of a black and white setting, Peni’s contrast of colors with shading imitating the style that you’ll see in eastern animated cartoons and with Porker’s being the classic representation of early animation that’s similar to that of Looney Tunes. When stripped from their original dimensions, unlike that of Peter and Gwen, their style is consistent with their animation and this representation speaks volumes in regards to their origins; in addition to their representation within the film. From Peni’s ever shaking eyes, or expressive changes, to Porker’s cartoon antics with his punches and hammer/anvil tactics, resonates to the adaptation of different animations styles in today’s society.

    Comic Structure: Linking back to the previous statement, representation in animation was the main focus for these heroes on screen, however, their interpretation in comics was just as pivotal to their on-screen appearances. Characters like Peni Parker might, at least for movie-goers, seem like the first Asian Spider-Woman, however, her appearance in comics is seemingly different from that of her big screen appearance; going for more of a “Kawaii” (Cute) appearance than that of her older and more reserved look; this is seemingly the case for her mech, Sp//dr in terms of its interpretation from the comics to the movies.

    Peni Parker Differences

    Noir’s interpretation from page to screen was respectively transitioned with his initial look, with the famous detective raincoat and hat, included in his outfit. On the other hand, Porker’s transition was more than likely the most appropriate from his origins in various media. While in the comics he is a spider, bitten by a radioactive Aunt May pig (Yep, you read that correctly), his appearance within the comics presented him in the most cartoon-ish fashion of a pig that seemingly had the powers of a spider; including the idea of giving him incredibly long ears, a large extended snout and a body that was lengthy in some degrees to a spider’s form. This transition into a more Porky Pig, or Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon adaptation, gives the character another realistic touch to their pig appearance rather than the artistic take of how pigs looked in one dimension; which in itself is another question.

    Narrative/Representation Structure: The narrative for these three was established pretty early as other Spider-People, establishing roles within their own universes, but the general dissection of their appearance in relevance to the plot, and its representation, is a fundamentally sound lesson. Whether you are young, older or just a little bit different, you’re capable of showcasing so much more of yourself. Peni’s intelligence and the will her father gave to her with manning the Sp//dr is her own responsibility, as is the same that goes for Noir Peter Parker and Peter Porker in regards to their Uncle Ben/Benjamin. With great power, comes great responsibility, no matter where you’re from – something to which these three illustrate with pride.

This concludes the first part of this ongoing article. If you enjoyed this, comment, like and support me by following me at my Facebook at J.Arthur’s Roundabout for updates, new stories and so much more!

Animated Movies, Comic Book Movies, Spiderman, Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse, Uncategorized

Spiderman: “Into the Spider-Verse” Review: A Step in the Right Direction

Representation in media and comics for minorities has always been a topic of interest. Where one idea represents a race or ethnicity, such as the impacts of Black Panther and Black Lightning has had during the year of 2018 with its meaningful and relatable matters on racial issues and circumstances in the African American community, the continued trend of representation is upheld by another figure: Miles Morales. In Sony’s newest film “Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse” it’s starring protagonist is of African American and Dominican descent. This combination of hero shows a different representation and the mixing of cultures is presented well with Miles’ story as he learns how to become a better person; in and out of the costume.

The Story:

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For anyone that hasn’t heard of Spiderman, a brief synopsis of the hero is introduced for the moviegoer with his exploits in being a superhero, how he received his powers and a convincing explanation of his accolades as the masked hero for over two decades. Flashbacks of his efforts, including some memorable moments from the past Spiderman films and actual real world memorabilia that has existed, are artfully directed to the narrative of this Spidermans’ tale. After concluding his tale of heroic efforts, the scene is immediately shifted to our main character, Miles Morales (Voiced by Shameik Moore), as he’s jamming out to Post Malone and Swae Lee’s song “Sunflower” while showing an enthusiastic youth to which the audience can relate towards. Miles is further introduced as a student at a highly qualified charter school in Brooklyn, New York and is shown to have a rather stressful life with being from two different bureaus of life; socially and ethnically.

The story’s pacing is worked from the perspective of Miles perspective from being at school, hanging out with his Uncle Aaron (Voiced by Mahershala Ali) after his first day to discuss about how it feels at a new school and one which he is unfamiliar with, alongside the issues that paint Miles life with conflict. This is further enhanced after Miles comes into contact with a mysterious spider with the number “42” on its abdomen, biting the young youth and mutating the cells within his body and making him into something different from within. While I could dive into the story and explain all of the moments that make the film and its story incredible, I’ll leave my take on the story as a cliffhanger for those that haven’t seen, however, to those that have seen the film – the story and how it was managed from beginning to end was orchestrated well and was tactfully directed in regards to race, a branching storyline and the accompaniment of different elements towards the storytelling for its characters.

The Characters:

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A powerful movie should also have a cast of powerful characters, and the voices gifted to the cast of ‘Into the Spider-Verse’ is no exception.  Backtracking back to the story, Miles’s adventure begins when he encounters Spiderman and is thrust into an array of dangerous complications that give weight to the main narrative of the story for most of its characters. This leads to the arrival of different “Spider People”, as Miles politely points out in one scene, that originate from different universes; hence the name. This is the meat and potatoes of the movie, as are the same ingredients for the comics; minus a table full of bloodthirsty vampires trying to hunt them down, however, that’s an analogy for a future post. In his quest to make things right with Mile’s Spiderman (voiced by Chris Pine), he’s assisted and taught by an entirely different Spiderman from a different dimension who, unlike the comics, is a more a seasoned and older hero that’s experienced conflict. This Spiderman is voiced by Jake Johnson and really gives attention his performance by using his broad sense of comedy (a staple of the hero) and his detachment to serious motives as a setting to Spiderman that Miles and moviegoers are unfamiliar towards. In addition to his role is the additional hero to which actress Hailee Steinfeld portrays in that of Spider-Gwen. Her addition to the cast is both intuitive to the perspective of female superheroes and can be seen as a fan favorite to the comics with a different take on the Spiderman mantle; replacing the antics of Peter Parker with the distinct differences of his female interest, Gwen Stacy; creating a narrative that was reciprocated in kind by the community and was an added investment of female representation within the film.

Alongside the two are other spider entities that included Spiderman Noir (voiced by Nicolas Cage) a Peter Parker from the 1930’s and Noir Universe (A universe that is…well…noir), Peni Parker (Voiced by xxx) who comes from the future of 2099 and fights in her father’s created mech known as the “SP//dr SUIT” (Equipped with a living spider on the inside of its system) and one of the most hilarious interpretations of the character in Peter Porker – otherwise known as Spider-Ham (Voiced by John Mulaney) – adding a distinct cartoon flair to an already animated cast; a play on a words to the different animation styles showcased from Noir, Peni and Porker when compared to the rest of the cast.

In contrast to the batch of heroes that the movie showcases there are also a few recognizable villains which make an appearance within the film. The main antagonist of the film belongs to Wilson Fisk (Voiced by Liev Schrieber) who’s entire narrative, as a villain, is represented in making his plans work and eliminating those in his way – sets the tone and the plot to which he follows. Additions to this include ‘The Prowler’, whose role is both dynamic and exquisitely showcased throughout the film, Tombstone, a forlorn villain of comics past that’s given a distinct style, The Green Goblin, whose appearance is more of a representation to the Ultimate Spiderman’s version of the character, Scorpion, whose surprisingly a Hispanic variation to his New Yorker counterpart in the comics, and Doctor Octopus’ surprising appearance are all unexpected and yet their presence is never without merit; symbolizing the ins and outs of villains from the rogues gallery for this version of Spiderman’s Sinister Six.

The Representation:

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It’s easy to miss the signals that are scattered within the film amongst all of the action and storytelling that the cast does a wonderful job of acting and portraying with their characters, however, Spider-Verse also gets another thing right within the movie: Representation. With popular debates and news over the importance of representation among races, a popular superhero that has always been debated in regards to representing others is Spiderman. Under the mask, Spiderman is generally a white male that lives in New York City, going through school, hiding his identity and saving the lives of citizens within the city; even when slandered with hate by media and other officials that are against his vigilante ways. In some ways, the mantle of Spiderman is a representation of those that wish to do good but are against playing to the rules of the law, which is why Miles’ culture and ethnicity play a big role within this film.

Directors Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman and Robert Persichetti Jr. orchestrated a beautiful story and interpretation for the Ultimate Spiderman and the mantle of it being passed down to not only just Miles but that “anyone can wear the mask” which was a deep and inspiring moment for the filmmakers to showcase in times of strife and separation. I felt that the same narrative of storytelling, where it was showed rather than said, was similar to another animated film that came out earlier in the year – Incredibles 2. The story was dedicated to the material that it was based on – Superheroes that were seen as a liability to the foundation of human society – and built upon the future of the source material by including women’s rights and feminism representation with just a splash of realism. ‘Into the Spider-Verse” doesn’t shy away from the premise of storytelling as it showcases Mile’s discomfort in going to a new school, leaving his old one behind, discussing his lack of importance and ability to perform well; undermining his own abilities and trying to fail.

The mantle of Spiderman and the name “Miles Morales” represent something more within this film. By using the mantle of Spiderman to cover his shortcomings or the fact that he doesn’t believe he can be better as Miles Morales, it’s through the guidance of other Spider-people and the impending threat to the city, much less the dimension, that plays with the moral and social ambiguity that the film’s direction can take and that moviegoers can speculate over after watching it.

Overall Score: 11/10

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A film that should not be missed whether you are a Spiderman fan or not. The narrative is easily understood by kids and the action pieces, combined with the visual effects that make it feel like a live-action story straight from the pages of its comics, is a welcomed breath of fresh air after a year of CGI mashups. The characters are relatable, the plot isn’t convoluted, the representation for Miles and the mantle for Spiderman are explored with detailed examples, and it’s overall a great film to see with friends, family or even by yourself; don’t let the absence of others be the reason you miss out on 2018’s Best Animated Film.

And also – A Happy New Year to everyone in 2019! Expect more content in the future for this year!