Posted by Ron Edwards
My pick for the most banal possible phrase to lead with in any writing about comics: “I have always loved the interplay between words and pictures.” However, right now I’m struggling to lead with anything else, because this post is simply about pictures that have emerged from playing (words).
Playing in this case means a late stage of developing Champions Now with a great group of people, two of them being the primary artists for the game, and one of whom, Erica Rossi, has been illustrating for fun from it. The pictured hero is hers: Ianus (“Janus” in English, here pronounced Yah-nis). He’s very dual, with the core concept being a completely failed struggle for balance. That’s why this sketch is called “Inner Peace.”
The timing of the game itself was good and bad. On the one hand it’s always a good idea to play when a bunch of people are crazy-motivated. On the other, I’ve been in the thick of final writing and design, which badly limited my ability to participate or to introduce it properly. I had to call it off for a while when I got so over-extended that I was cancelling almost every session. This post is my mea culpa to showcase the great work they did, although me, not so much.
The starting concepts were:
- Powers are themed by metals, as in, elements and compounds
- Love, hope, and justice in Istanbul
The players are super-international: from Italy, the U.S., Turkey, an English expat living in Poland, and if you count me, one U.S. expat in Sweden. I was excited when I went to the translator software to see about title ideas, especially to find out what the word for “metal” was in Turkish. Um … newsflash … it’s “metal.” Extra newsflash is that it’s probably original from thereabouts, the oldest acknowledged use being Ancient Greek. I came up with “Metaltürk” for the comics title, as opposed to the in-fiction group name which I left to the players. They wanted something like “outsiders” or “others,” and Aybars (our long-suffering source for city and cultural details, as well as off-the-cuff translations) suggested “Ötekiler” or “Diğerleri.”
Originally I was going with a strong New Gods aesthetic, and as it happens, that’s preserved in the comics pages by Sarah Yoshi that will accompany the game, using the same title, as well as its cover illustration by Erica. Realizing that was a bit over the top for current playtesting purposes, I tried to back off a little from it for this table-situation as we began to make characters, but failed badly as the players happily ran metal-mythological over my backpeddling.
Ianus, Erica’s hero, is based on gold and lead, tied to his two different forms and his divided psyche. The others are equally weird. Stardust, based on the fluidity and thematic instability of silver, isn’t illustrated at this point, although I hope to see that one day. Açayip is a delighted, passionate, recently-created bronze construct:
And then there’s Saturn, who is … um, dead, but also married, a dad, and a poet. He’s based on lead, like half of Ianus, but in this case connected to the Bosporus at an elemental level.
Playing superheroes set in Istanbul is … well, all I have to say is, for all these decades, comics creators have been missing the boat. It’s a city of freaking 20 million people (counting “greater” like the suburbs), it’s been continuously inhabited and continuously interconnected with four continents’ cultures since as long as humans recorded anything, and it’s as modern as anywhere else, amenity and media and technology-wise. If you think of it as some ancient backwater, think again:
Manhattan shmanhattan, this place begs for superheroes to roam about in, to save stuff, and to break other stuff. (oh – also, it’s a big vacation destination for Scandinavians, so my neighbors and friends are always tripping off there; note to self, go)
Making villains based on metals is an absolute joy. The players went classical with bronze and silver and so forth, but I have gone the other route with plenty of americium, yttrium, sulphurized steel, and tungsten, the latter blessed with the awesome name wolfram in Swedish. This being me, I cannot help but bring in politics and recent history in the most intrusive and brutal way, specifically the collusions and interests across Israeli, Saudi, and various factions of U.S. power. There’s so much to work with that I felt overwhelmed – to do this justice (no pun intended, or maybe very intended), I’d like to focus on it as a more dedicated and promoted project.
Well, that’s it – a glimpse into some creative fire, and appreciation for Tobe, Aybars, Sarah, and Erica.
Links: Erica’s ArtStation site