A Slave to Format

817313-lion_o_vs_he_manWhile my efforts to find a job in Denver have mostly gone unsuccessful, I’ve at least been able to keep busy far less valuable endeavors.  Like writing.

The current project I’m working on is one I began about ten years ago, as a fan fiction.  (Hangs head in shame.)  You see there was this really great action figure line out at the time called Xevoz, which was a product of Hasbro.  It was fully expected that the toy line would get the full multimedia push, there was a web-based game upon its release, in order to maximize potential sales.  So of course the fans engaged in conjecture about what the storyline for the anticipated animated television series would be.  I was among them.  I went into a bit more detail than most, though, and ended up outlining a three season story arc on whatever defunct forum we gathered on.

Alas, the toy line was not terribly successful and the show never materialized.  Still, I had grown very attached to the story I’d come up with and never stopped developing it.  The first issue was to “divorce” it from its source material; not a terribly difficult task since I had neglected to include the most iconic aspect of the toy line, dubbed “xevolving,” which allowed toys’ parts to be swapped out (via Stikfas‘s ball-and-socket joint system, which they’d licensed to Hasbro for the toy line) into my story.  Once that was discarded you basically had just a bog standard fantasy adventure series populated by colorful characters.

So I’ve been writing a bog standard adventure series populated by colorful characters.

However I felt the need to really borrow from the iconic programs in this genre that I’d grown up with.  Even though my story is not a fan fiction anymore, it still took inspiration from a toy line the same way that programs like He Man and the Masters of the Universe or Thundercats did.  It was actually interesting how, once I realized I was working from them as a template, I started trying to make things fit it properly.

Such as …

1. A Team of Heroes: It’s not just He-Man, but also and the Masters of the Universe.  There wasn’t only Lion-O, so it’s the Thundercats.  Really, I would struggle to think of any of the 80’s & 90’s kids’ adventure shows that weren’t about teams of heroes.  From The Real Ghostbusters to Sonic the Hedgehog there was always a strong emphasis on a team.  Sure, in the 90’s we also had Batman and Superman cartoons, those heroes usually work alone (Batman has his cast of allies, but they’re more guest appearances than intrinsic parts of the show), but they also predate the 80’s and 90’s by a wide margin and so already had their format set.  Heck, Sonic had a gang of side-characters made up specifically for his Saturday Morning show, since the video games were largely solitary affairs.

2. But Still a Main Character, Who is a Reluctant Hero: This one has a lot of exceptions to it.  Still, it’s present in the most well-known examples of this era. Prince Adam/He-Man didn’t set out to be a hero.  He was just some prince (with a fabulous pageboy haircut) who had the power to transform into He-Man bestowed on him by the Sorceress of Castle Grayskull, who did this because of prophecies or something.  It’s never really established whether this was a life he wanted, but he certainly took to it.  Then there’s Lion-O from Thundercats, who fans might recall ended up the buff leader of his ragtag band of survivors by accident.  A glitch in his hibernation chamber made him age to an adult form prematurely, but fortunately that was just what was needed to combat the evil of Mumm-Ra.  The heroes in Dungeons & Dragons were waylaid into the fantasy world, and their only desire is to find their way home.  These aren’t the typical RPG band of adventurers who set out in the name of wealth and glory.  In Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, the hero is just some kid who is given half a magic root and needs to use it to stop evil.

As I said, though, there are many exceptions to this.  The Real Ghostbusters is a group of grown men going into a business (although since this is based on a previous movie, and not a toyline, this may not count.)  BraveStarr is a marshall, who presumably picked the career of lawman on his own.  The Silverhawks apparently chose to be “part metal” and “part real” for the sake of fighting (interstellar) crime.   The G.I. Joe soldiers weren’t conscripted, they volunteered.

This post is too long.


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