SwordCat Princess is a superhero webcomic (formerly Eternal Knights).

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by Caley Tibbittz Collopy

Comic Morality

 

The lines of morality have shifted and evolved over the course of the development of Eternal Knights. At first, in the early days working out the mechanics of it all, the heroes were simple in their approach to right and wrong, with little in the way of grey area. And the bad guys were just bad guys. Good and evil. Nice and clean.


Fake as hell.

 

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Jenny McCarthy's boobs fake.


Influenced later by Alex Ross' austere and reverent approach, I tried to adopt a sort of DC Silver Age morality to EK's Kathryn/Artemis. She would be a stalwart paragon, all restraint and reason, a real white knight.


Bull. Shit.


It's not that there's anything wrong with that approach or that it can't work, but it didn't work for her. She couldn't be pure (by complete stroke of luck, this is what Kathryn actually means); I'm not pure. Attempting to write an ideal bored me. I wanted to write what I knew: knowledge of what it takes to be the best version of one's self mired in reality, temptation, and weakness. The failure and greyness moved me, it spoke to me.

Right and wrong is sharp and clear in my comic, but the means to achieving it taken by its heroes are often questionable at best. In real life, I mean very well -- but I still have a lot of dark thoughts about grudges and people who have wronged me and the shortcuts to outcomes I desire.

I have been royally fucked over by grand forces at times. I have wished cancer and sharks and bus crashes on my enemies. I have held doors open for old ladies and given money I couldn't reasonably afford tot he homeless.


I have been a hero of sorts in real life...

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...and an absolute bastard in my head. Mostly just in my head. I try to rein the bastardry in tight.


In striving to be a better person, one often has to abandon or at least give less attention and energy to selfish desires. I struggle with this pretty much daily. The protagonists in EK are often called to serve the public good, but their answer to this call is hampered by their selfishness -- both in the pursuit of their own less important goals, and in allowing themselves to be driven by their weaknesses and self-serving desires.

When they attempt to do good, their belief in the ends often justify less than commendable means. I've been there, too.

Jack's need for revenge clouds his judgement and closes his ears to the truth. Kathryn's emotional weight turns her away from selfless service and toward suicidal self-destruction. James would rather drink and shag than be bothered helping people who need him. Though concerned for her sister Kathryn's well-being, Arayna offers scorn and judgement in place of kindness. Julia feels the pain of human suffering, but she's really here to play. Erica devalues herself seeking the temporary self-esteem boost of meaningless sex.


They'll all get better, but they have a long way to go to become a little more selfless.


I see a lot of flaws in the mirror. I use EK as a mirror. I am most of my characters' flaws, and in journeying with them, I kinda hope I learn a little something about right and wrong.

An important part of the moral framework of the EK universe is to understand that MacKnight, even as he's chopping your arm off to steal your power ring, is not an evil man. He's not a sociopath. He doesn't want to hurt you. He's doing what he believes needs to be done. He'll usually give you a chance to do things his way before acting the villain. But he believes himself to be the hero of the piece, and with the greater good honestly in his heart, he's not entirely wrong. When he sacrifices a piece of his humanity, it's often for that greater good he believes in.

*     *     *     *     *

The inherent morality of human equality is meant to permeate the work. The boss is a woman, and when she is questioned, it's never on that level. She's multi-ethnic. So is her butler/sorcerer, Robert. I believe we are all equal.


...except, I tend to feel like I'm smarter than everyone. And I might be. But I sure am a Sheldon Cooper-esque condescending prick about it sometimes.

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A lot of the time, actually.

I see this as a failing. There's this Dave Matthews lyric: "If kindness is your king, then Heaven will be yours before you meet your end". I try so hard to live up the simple wisdom of that, but I fail constantly.

Kathryn shares this shortcoming with me. She thinks she's so damn special, almost to the point of infallibility at her worst. It leads to her taking whatever action she deems necessary at times, even those common sense and her religion expressly forbid. She insists she knows better.

She might be compensating for low self-esteem.


I believe in redemption, in the abilty to change. Sadly, most people don't self-assess well, or else needs everything to blow up in their faces before they can see the light -- it's like we're all on Kitchen Nightmares, telling Gordon Ramsay how great our food is until he plays us the blind taste test that shows us how much the public hates our terrible pizza.

I've met sociopaths in real life, people so damaged they cannot self-assess at all, and honestly cannot be saved by any means we have available today. But most villains really aren't. I believe that. Most people doing terrible things are doing so with their conscience intact, and just badly beaten down. They are squarely in the grey, surviving and justifying.

Eternal Knights, beyond simply trying to entertain, thrives on parsing and exploring the morality of our protagonists as they wrestle with the grey, as they struggle with their weaknesses and failings, and they strain to rise above it all and be the heroes that the world -- their fellow humans -- need them to be. It's hard to be unselfish. It's a lifetime struggle, from what I've seen so far.
In the first arc, "A Dark and Stormy Knight", Kathryn starts out depressed, pissy, violent, and self-destructive.


Suicidal.


Suicide is about the most selfish a person can get; a lifetime of potential, an extended family of people who love you, and you just want to flip it all off. You don't trust the good, you can't take it at face value -- it defies your self-loathing narrative. Friends are your enemies, and family is in your way. You want out, and you really only think you know why.

I have been (and remain) depended upon by some very good people. My wife, our cat, family, friends... I would argue that most of us are like tiny superheroes in our own lives, helping each other out in ways we take for granted, ways we don't realize mean the world to the people who care for us. I think a big central theme in the moral fabric (shit, have I used this term twice in the same blog?) is recognizing that we don't just belong to ourselves --

-- not that we need to sacrifice ourselves and our happiness for others, mind you. But here's a give and take, and there are a million tiny rescues needed in the communities of our lives, and to focus only on ourselves is to fail to connect and to spit in the face -- by purpose or by oblivious accident -- of what it means to be a member of the human race.


I am not religious, and I don't believe in traditional concepts of sin. But, to quote the great Bono: "To hurt is to steal." In a world view absent a God, a well-meaning atheist such as myself has to work out what a naturalistic morality looks like for ourselves. Easing pain, and avoiding causing it, seems a pretty logical measure.

The moral fabric (hat trick, bitches!!!) of Eternal Knights has changed a lot over the years, from the almost black and white simplicity of the overgrown kid I was when I started this enterprise to the seasoned and weather-beaten beyond my years even more overgrown kid I am now. I used to see a lot of us v. them, and not enough middle ground and second chances.

There aren't that many pure heroes, and there aren't that many pure villains. Most of us are deeply flawed, scared of more than we care to admit, and trying our best. It's either all this, or I'm just writing a turgid supernatural soap opera. Or maybe both.


...and maybe, just maybe, people should have to start passing background checks before being let into the Eternal Knights. 'Cause these fuckups do a lot of crazy shit. I just try to keep it honest.

Fishcakes of honesty,
-Caley Tibbittz

. S. Please visit my Patreon page and become a supporter of Eternal Knights today -- there are so many great rewards, and you get to read new pages a WHOLE WEEK EARLY! Help me quit my day job and bring you new pages more often!

   

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by Caley Tibbittz Collopy

Watch Orphan Black

 

I heard mixed reviews about BBC America's Orphan Black when it debuted, and decided to skip it. Regrets, I've had a few --

-- so many, it's almost like they've been cloned and have different accents and haircuts and stuff!

Two of the TV shows I've been most impressed with since I've developed the kind of skill and taste needed to rise above the rank of Casual Viewer are Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Broadchurch. The latter is one of the most perfectly conceived and executed stories I've ever had the pleasure of enjoying, whose pickable nits are so small they really aren't even worth mentioning; the former is a brilliant achievement on a lot of levels, but suffers from somewhat scattershot plotting in places.

Orphan Black is what would happen if someone spliced the DNA of both shows, perhaps in a cloning lab of some kind.

In case you haven't heard, it's about a group of women whose paths cross in the discovery that they are all genetically identical. They are illegal clones, and someone is hunting them down, presumably to keep the secret of their provenance (I'll just assume I've used that word correctly) a secret.

The writers, directors, and especially the wonderful Tatiana Maslany deserve a mountain of praise for creating a space in which the disparate personailites of each clone breathes vividly on their own and spark with wonderful dramatic chemistry in conjunction with the others. The question of nature v. nurture naturally arises, and it's handled with intelligence and resonance in way I desperately wish franchise-killer John Logan had had even half the capability of exploring or even bloody understanding.

Star Trek: Nemesis was a painfully dumb clone story with a painfully dumb and artificial clear-cut moral divide between the "good" and "bad" selves; nothing in Orphan Black is nearly as tidy.

In devising the lead character Sarah Manning's lives (her old one and the new one she assumes), it would have been easy to run out of inspired steam and have something in the mix be a cheap contrivance, but every new revelation and upset feels very real. Furthermore ('cause I'm still typing), the antagonistic forces never feel cheap or hyperbolic. Even the "monsters" in the mix come across as disturbingly human.

Watching Sarah come to realize she has a calling beyond her own selfish needs to the greater good in the face of versions of herself both better and far worse is handled perfectly. I like watching characters who had no intention of becoming a better person get caught up in events that force them down that path anyway.

The other thing I like about this show is its deft employment of humo(u)r. NBC's watchable but wonky Believe is overly dark and then forces humor in like a sledgehammered stake. The jokes in this show feel like they just happen -- like they do in life. They make it look so damn easy...

Sarah's foster brother is the main source of levity; the role could have cross(dress)ed the line into parody, but in keeping with the rest of the enterprise, his ridiculousness is warm and human. And then bitchy and human.

Whether you view casually or want to be a writer when you grow up, you need to watch this show. It's smart entertainment, and it's a writing school in 10 parts.

...and a second season, debuting 04/19. It's on Xfinity On Demand right now. Binge.

Fishcakes for all,
-Caley Tibbittz

. S. Please visit my Patreon page and become a supporter of Eternal Knights today -- there are so many great rewards, and you get to read new pages a WHOLE WEEK EARLY! Help me quit my day job and bring you new pages more often!

   

(If the Disqus comments box is not showing, CLICK HERE to comment.)

 

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