Thursday, July 23, 2015

Princess Peach in Punch-Out? Preposterous!

I just saw on Punch-Out!! - Did You Know Gaming? (relevant section) that Princess Peach was planned to be in Wii Punch-Out. That fired all kinds of neurons in my brain, since it's been thinking about women and stories and video games.

It can't be denied that there a lot of video games out there that are unkind towards women. There are lots of games with good women too -- well-rounded characters that exist beyond a simple goal to be obtained. Princess Peach is not one of them.

She has a presence in nearly every Mario game, but when she's not a simple option for Mario Kart or placeholder, she's simpering in a castle. Rosalina has more personality than her. She wasn't even in the first New Super Mario Bros, and games where she has been playable and fleshed-out... have their flaws.

But if she was in Punch-Out, what would that mean? Is it feminist? Anti-feminist? I almost regret it not being included because the analysts would have a field day with that one, all for some silly in-game bonus. The equivalent of Marvel's post-credits scenes.

Now on one hand, we're clearly dealing with a man punching a woman. And there's no doubt that, traditionally and visually, this is an unfair fight. A well-trained boxer versus a twiggy-armed princess. No count. One punch would cause a concussion.

On the other hand, this isn't real life. This is a video game. Besides Princess Peach, you're also fighting a flamenco dancer, a literal "turban-head" from India who wears Bengal tiger pants, a Russian who is LITERALLY chugging a bottle of vodka in his corner, and an obese island king who may or may not be totally human. Like Insane Clown Posse, you would have to be a moron to take this seriously. It's cartoon violence.

But it's still violence. And none of these characters are women. This is Nintendo. Not Mortal Kombat, not Tekken, not even Street Fighter. Any fighting females are doing it with parasols and frying pans against turtles and mushrooms*. You would NEVER see Princess Toadstool strapping on a set of boxing gloves. It's not her identity. Which is probably another reason the feature was cut.

I'm hoping the real version would have had less cleavage than this.  Not practical.  Ask Ronda Rousey.
But when I think of the weirdness and novelty of competing with Princess Peach, I feel a small pang of regret for what could have been. When I think of what kind of girlish squeals she'd make (see Mario Power Tennis) or her twiggy arms power-punching, I can't help but smile. And that's right -- I said "competing". It's not just a Grand Theft Auto-style beatdown. You're on equal footing in a sports arena. In fact, moreso, because she would be a bonus character. A challenge.

The idea/theme of Punch-Out is that these characters are stronger than you. You're a little guy taking on giant Turks and 'roided out Dwayne "The Rock" Johnsons. And you beat them. That's the charm of Punch-Out. But that charm is not present with Princess Peach. It is with Donkey Kong, which is why he fits.

So my big question is -- is this okay? It's a fair fight. You're competing, not striking out of anger. For some reason, we have a thing in our culture where girls fight girls, boys fight boys. But god help you if a boy fights a girl, even if circumstances demand it. It's kind of unfortunate because when it is provoked, it leads to some fascinating results.

There is truth to the fact that, by law of averages (for very wide definitions of average) men have more upper body strength.  Which by some odd corollary translates to "all women are weaker". In honorable fighting situations, that makes sense. But sometimes, it's against moral code for any manly heroes to fight someone weaker.  So it's up to the woman to take out her equal, toe to toe.  While warriors on both sides to sit back and watch the "catfight".

But this is a video game. And in nearly every video game, it's you against the world. Everyone else, whether by virtue of strength, magic, or number, is stronger than you. And it's your job to rise from underdog to champion. The human can think beyond logic, so programmers give all video game opponents an unfair advantage. If Princess Peach is one of those opponents, does that not make it fair? Does that not make gender an irrelevant issue?

I wonder Sarkeesian would say about that.

*Some exceptions, like Samus Aran and Super Smash Brothers, may apply. But Samus is wearing a genderless, identity-less power suit, and the other is the digital equivalent of smashing toys together.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Books I Read: May - June 2015

Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul by various authors

If you haven't noticed, I could use a little pick-me-up for my writing these days. Or maybe a Phoenix Down or Philosopher's Stone. We all need some motivation some times. I was hoping that this book could add a little gumption to my typing fingers. But the articles just don't give much to inspire. In fact, a lot of them did the opposite. They told me just how much more others achieved with so little to start with. The "genius" authors as I call them -- the ones whose success and talent cannot be duplicated or learned. It just comes naturally to them. People like Alex Haley and Harper Lee and Garry Marshall.

And that's the other thing. This book is out of date. We've got people talking about Vietnam and writing in the 1930's. These people didn't have to deal with self-publishing saturating the market or eBook piracy or (god, forbid) Fifty Shades of Gray.

And some of the stories have a Christian spin on in. As in "God was sending me a message to write this book", which is the bane of every slush reader and query letter. Anyone who says they were commanded to write a book by God scares me.

So if you're looking for something to keep you writing, look somewhere else. It has just as much chance of bringing you back down. Bit of a poor effort when it's got the opposite effect.

Life Itself by Roger Ebert

I cannot, for the life of me, remember why I wanted to read this book. I think it was because I watched the documentary Life Itself, but I can't remember why I watched that either. I guess I was coming around to the fact that one of Roger Ebert's underappreciations was his proficient writing. He wrote thousands of movie reviews and somehow never ran out of material, never lost inertia. He even wrote a book about the history of the rice cooker. Who does that? Especially if you're known for being a movie critic.

Back in the before time, there were people who were famous for no particular reason, just because of their personality. They produced things, but they were more known for being celebrities. People like Charles Nelson Reilly, Charro, Whoopi Goldberg. Roger was a gentleman scholar, but you'd never know it from his humble Chi-town roots. He waxes on about the beauty of London and the disgusting destruction of the elder rustic for the modern commercial. Then a chapter later will discuss how great Steak and Shake is (I wish they had one in Minnesota, it sounds tasty).

It reminds me of a blog compilation. The story has little of his life and more of his opinions, statements, and essays. He doesn't talk much about film or writing, except chapters dedicated to people I didn't really care about (like Werner Herzog). He's not terribly clever, but he's a straight-shooter. Don't come here for an autobiography, but come here to learn a little about the man who helped us appreciate the art of story-telling a little more.

The Martian by Andy Weir

The world's longest word problem.

If you don't like math, you're going to hate this book. The first 13% of the book is nothing but engineering problems of how he's going to survive on Mars, just by himself, with the handful of utilities NASA sent. It goes through all the math needed to create crops, combining Earth soil with Martian soil to grow bacteria to grow potatoes, how many calories he needs from potatoes for how fast they can grow and how much he can grow until he runs out of days and how much he needs per day and the water he needs to make and how many molecules of hydrogen he can get for the oxygen and so on; all using only the tools he has available. Someone with less than a college degree wouldn't be able to understand this.

Someone said the whole book is like that scene in Apollo 13 where they're trying to figure out how to make a CO2 scrubber with plastic wrap and cardboard. And I can't disagree. That's not to say it's not a good book. It is. It's just quite heavy with engineering and less so with plot developments and characterization.

The main character has a sense of humor, thank god, and he writes his log entries so the layman can understand. But it's almost to a fault. He sounds too blue collar sometimes to make me think he was taken on a NASA mission (similar to Gravity taking an untrained schoolteacher on a spacewalk).

The appeal of this book is the science. It is kind of fun watching the guy work through a problem and solve it, using science (and in an accessible language). But that is not going to appeal to everyone (like I called "The Historian" out for being just a guy doing research).

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

A re-read. I got a bunch of books from ThriftBooks.com (shout out!) which includes a bunch I want my kids to discover. This is one of them. It's more disjointed than I remember, but I guess Alice in Wonderland and Wizard of Oz were too. It's still a classic, blending logic and imagination in wonderful ways. The biggest flaw is that I never got a sense of the obstacles the main character has to face. It never seems like he's suffering. Dorothy's homesick and Alice is neurotic with the paradoxes and chaos. Milo's just cruising. Needs less scenery and more protagonist.

Heartbreak Hotel by Mona Ingram (UNFINISHED)

Was this person writing a movie? I know it's "show, don't tell", but you've got to play to the medium. Like all great authors recommend, it starts with a description of the weather. Then it methodically introduces us to each character. One. After. The. Other. Just character soup.

It's full of first chapter mistakes and nothing happening. It's supposed to be about a girl coming into a hotel but she has no characterization, no personality. It's just a laundry list of characters coming in. Here's the maid, here's the ski instructor, here's the cook, here's the concierge, here's the billing manager. I couldn't finish it.

A Summer in Amber by C. Litka

A pastoral regency romance. Takes place in an alternate 1900 where there's cell phones but no cars. A Ph.D. is assigned to a quaint country house to transcribe a mad scientist's papers. But more important, the tempestuous daughter of the town's leader is catching his eye. She's a good character, as is the main character's cantankerous boss. But other than that, a lot of them don't have distinguishable personalities.

The prose is influenced by Jasper Fforde's slipstream, but the science fiction elements have no bearing on what happens. Nothing moves the goalposts back. The main character always has his antagonist in the palm of his hand, so there's no tension. I liked the fantastical elements, I wished there could have been more of them.  The romance is the best part, and thankfully that's the main part of the plot.

The biggest flaw is that all it does it explain what's happening. There's no chance for the reader to make his/her own interpretations on motivations or character flaws. It has that early 20th century habit of spelling out everything that's happening for the reader. Not in an amateur way -- the story sounds professional -- but it means there's no element of surprise when someone's backstory comes to the foreground or a twist results. And as a result, it's hard to get invested for what's going on.

The Ables by Jeremy Scott

This is for a younger audience than I thought. It's a simple comic book plot, but a decent one. It's got some cliches. Doesn't break out of a mold or do anything to distinguish itself. It's no "Steelheart" or "Soon I Will Be Invincible". It's supposed to be about disabled superheroes, but the disabling doesn't come up much.

It's fun to see them come up with ways around it (like hooking a telepath to a viewscreen of the blind guy's POV). But they find ways around it quickly and it ceases to be an issue. Katawa Shoujo did a better job of dealing with the day-to-day hardships and it had a variety of characters -- thematically exploring who lets their disability define them and who doesn't. There isn't much of the daily life struggles they face, like the handicapped guy getting stared at. That's the sort of thing I wanted to see. In fact, I think one guy gets his arm back at some point. And my biggest complaint? No girls.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Unenthusiastic is Hard to Type

It's still hard to stay enthusiastic about writing.  I'm still writing, so it's not like I stopped.  But what I'm writing now doesn't require me to bring my "A game".  It's fan fiction, so it's nice to write with no pressure.  But I haven't sold a short story since (goes to look up answer) since July 2014.  A whole year and nothing.  Did the market change and no one told me?  My acceptance rate is down to 3.3%.  Guess I had my peak year.

I haven't written any new short stories in quite some time either, so maybe that's part of it.  I've been trying to write them, believe me, but they're not panning out.  I either choke at the ending, or the whole thing needs severe rewrites.  I've been working on my very long fan fiction or "Merm-8" or "Defender" or my dwarf novella (which I have no idea how to sell -- no one seems to be interested in novellas).

And then I finished "The Martian" by Andy Weir.  According to its notes, it was published online first, then self-published on Amazon, since readers wanted it in an easier format.  Then kept getting traction until it was picked up.  And now it's a frickin' movie.

It makes me wonder whether or not it's easier just to publish something online and let the readers come to me.  But "The Martian" had that something special that other books don't -- a load of whiz-bang engineering and problem-solving and true science.  But also, it never gained traction with agents, so dropping it right into the readers hands was the only way to get their attention, like Amanda Hocking, E.L. James, and John Scalzi.  However, if I do that, do I become untouchable to agents and publishers, because the book/story has already been released online, it's now said to be "published".

It's gotten to the point where I'm thinking about writing erotic fetish fiction.  I recently read this article on Cracked: 5 Secrets I Know About Women (From Writing Their Weird Porn)*.  It mystifies me that people would pay for it when so much is available for free, like on XNXX and LitErotica (sorry, I can't link those.  I'm at work).  And there are other foibles (being prolific, self-publishing, finding a niche, Amazon's arbitrary censorship).  Plus it's been an idle fantasy of mine to write a script to a porn movie.  Like, one of the big budget ones.  The little ones can't afford to have writers.

I've written similar things before (Milk & Honey, The Upgrades, parts of The Centaur Bride).  Whether or not I can write it well -- enough to sell -- I don't know.  But I have no taboos or reservations about this kinda thing (lord knows I've studied enough materials) ...  except that I wouldn't put my name on it.  I'd use a pseudonym/identity.

And maybe it sounds selfish, but I want to be widely read.  I mean, me, Eric Juneau.  I want to make my mom proud and hold up my book and say, "See, I wrote this?  It can even go in the bookshelf with all your other books."  I want to have weirdly drawn covers on mass market paperbacks with yellowing pages.  I want to be able to pull my book out of a bookshelf at Barnes & Noble and turn it out as if the booksellers wanted to feature it.  I want my kids to be able to say that daddy is an author.

Man, why's this gotta be so hard?

*I sincerely doubt the majority of consumers of these books are women.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Death and Further Death of Superman

I recently read The Death and Return of Superman story arc.  Yeah, little late to the game on that one, but I'm trying to catch up.  And as I expected, it did nothing to change my opinion of Underpants Man.  All it did was remind me why I like Batman better.  Just reinforced my image of him as a proto-Captain America (who I'm not fond of either)--the ever moral boy scout.  And it's about the only one that focuses on Superman--and not even THAT because half the story is about the other Supermen.

Isn't that sad?  "Death and Return" is the one story arc that ranks as most memorable solo Superman story.  And it's awful.  Not only that, but it's the only one any man on the street can remember.  X-Men's got "Days of Future Past" and "Age of Apocalypse" and "Dark Phoenix" and "House of M".  Spider-Man has the "Clone Saga" and "Blue".  Batman's got "Under the Red Hood", "Long Halloween", "Hush".  The only time Superman's in anything memorable is a crossover like "Crisis on Infinite Earths".

Anyway, let's get talking.  The first issue is our bad guy.  The prologue consists of three or four issues about non-important things, and each ends with a fist punching its way through a cage, with the caption "DOOMSDAY IS COMING".  This is called hype you haven't earned.  Superman has fought all kinds of nasties.  What's there to be intimidated by a fist?

All right, so Doomsday breaks out of his box prison, buried somewhere on Earth, and starts destroying anything he sees.  He takes out the JLA (conveniently pushing them out the way so we can get the one-on-one), then heads to Metropolis because he saw it on a commercial.  Fight, fight, fight, and then they both die.

And if that doesn't reek of publicity stunt then take a whiff of the FOUR OTHER SUPERMAN who come forward to take his place.  One is just a rip-off of Iron Man, just with steel.  They tried their best to make him different, giving him a "growing up in the ghetto" storyline, but it's too transparent.  Superboy is pretty good -- I'd read his comic book.  At least he's got a personality: young and brash, powers that don't always work, getting swept up in the fame.  Not like the real Superboy comic where aliens keep landing in Smallville and Lana Lang has the power to shapeshift into a bug.

The "Last Son of Krypton" has merits too.  He acts robotically, has to wear a visor (which means he has a weakness other than kryptonite), but struggles with acting like a fascist versus doing the good Superman does.  He learns that he's making mistakes.  He has an arc.

This is the first real solo Superman that I've read for the modern age, and it's bizarre.  It's like it never emerged from the timeline of its origins.  People still talk like 1920's newsboys.  In fact, there's a group of kids that live in a genetic research lab that call themselves "the newsboys" and act like extras from Newsies.  No idea what was up with that.  And then there's somebody named Bibbo Bibboski, some guy who owns a bar and claims to be Superman's best friend/biggest fan and speaks like Joe Palooka.

That's the other thing, Superman never fights humans.  He always fights aliens or mutants or something like that.  And that distances him from relatability (moreso), because humans pose no threat to him, like they do to us.  It makes the comic science fiction instead of superheroes.  Superheroes fight all kinds of baddies, but mostly they fight other humans.  Humans who maybe have some innate thing that makes them a match for the hero (like Joker or Green Goblin), but we're talking peers.  Nothing peer about Invaders from Mars.  It's more like Star Wars.

The marketing gimmick is more transparent than the Phantom Zone flippy-square thing.  And I agree with Max Landis when he said it ruined death in comic books.  It showed you can get away with killing major characters to sell books, and bring them back with no consequences.  Superman defeated death.  When death is no longer an issue, it ruins any suspense.  It's like Landis said: "Superman is boring.  He was just the first."

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Analyzing the Disney Villains: Ichabod Crane (The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad)

Yep. Bet you're as surprised as I was when I realized it.

Here we have an unusual case of a protagonist who's not the hero and an antagonist who's not the villain. Although by the end, neither is much changed (more on that later). Even though this is a half-hour short, and not one of Disney's best, I thought this character warranted further exploration. If for nothing else than to open some minds. I might be right, I might be wrong. But at least I get you thinking.

Motivation: At first, Crane seems obsessed with food. His first malevolent act is pilfering a pie past a poor passerby's possession. But once he sees walking Barbie doll Katrina Van Tassel, his brain leaps from her batting doe eyes to the bales of golden wheat her farm produces, which will result in masses of money. Not sure how legit that is -- not familiar with the economics of this time. One tribble in the grain elevator and Crane's dream goes up in smoke. So minus points for switching motivation partway through the story. He doesn't even know if Katrina can make toast.

Character Strengths: Many and varied. Crane is intelligent, crafty, and sneaky. He plays the town's ladies so he can get invited to dinner and filch their vittles. Plus he's got better sleight of hand than David Copperfield pulling David Blaine out of Penn Jillette's pants. True, it's usually used for sneaking food, so minus points for lack of ambition. On the other hand, you can't fault the guy for staying true. The heart wants what it wants. And it wants turkey.

Evilness: The worst kind of evil is the kind you don't know is evil. Ichabod Crane is misogynist, greedy, and shallow. We're fooled into thinking that he's a humorous goofball because most of the comic relief involves food. Just forget that he's actively stealing from the townspeople he's here to help. He's not looking for a good wife, he's looking for someone who makes a good pot roast. Which makes his pursuit of Katrina doubly insincere. Now he wants pot roast AND the fortune of the farm her father will finally foist on her feminine figure. (Why am I alliterating so much?)

Tools: Now I ain't saying Crane a golddigger, but he ain't messing with no brain bigger. His whole M.O. is to exploit the town, mostly the womenfolk, into giving him treats. Nobody's bright enough to suss this out. And once he's gotten what he wants, he's gone. Also, he's inexplicably lucky, but that bites him in the bony ass later.

Complement to the Hero: By today's standards, we'd consider Brom Bones a bully. He's beefy, not too bright, and spends his time with friends instead of highbrow hobbies (much like a precursor to Gaston). He likes pranks and mischief, but only in a Bart Simpson way. His first real act of malice is making a dog howl outside Ichabod's music lesson (played for comedy). And yes, he's not terribly considerate to women of size.

But look hard at his actions during the cartoon. He opens up a barrel of beer for his friends (and some dogs). Unlike Ichabod, he has the skills that people valued during this time (credit to Washington Irving for this). He's boastful and loud, but also unselfish and civil. Whereas Crane is a schoolteacher. No one needs that in this time and era. They need Davy Crocketts, not Jaime Escalantes.

Fatal Flaw: For some reason, despite all his intelligence, Ichabod Crane is superstitious (maybe to the point of OCD?). He's savvy enough to avoid the black cats and pick up the horseshoes. But when Brom Bones sees him throwing spilled salt over his shoulder, he gets the idea how to bump Crane out of Sleepy Hollow.

(Side note: Bee-tee-dubs, what is Katrina's deal? She keeps engaging Ichabod Crane for, what looks like, the sole purpose of making Brom Bones jealous. Even within the comic scene where Brom keeps running into things, she's revelling in the attention. Does she have reason to make him jealous? To make him get off his ass and pop the question? Is she just doing this for shits and giggles? Is SHE the real antagonist here?

Method of Defeat/Death: After Brom tells his tale (which would be a hell of a lot scarier if Bing Crosby wasn't singing it), Ichabod rides slowly and shakingly through the deep dark woods. After several jump scares (not including the standard yowling cat), the headless horseman appears behind him. A long chase ensues, in traditional Disney style, until Crane sees the bridge, which he knows as the safe point. He rides across, but the horseman throws his pumpkin head (not that pumpkinhead).

In an epilogue, the narrator declares that all they found was Ichabod's hat and shards of gourd. Some say that Ichabod left and got married (which we see in an "is-it-real?" flash forward where he's surrounded by a PAWG wife and ugly, ugly children. But at least he's got a big-ass turkey in front of him).  Brom Bones also gets married to Katrina.

The problem with this ending is that nobody is changed. Ichabod Crane is still insincere, gluttonous, and shallow, but got what he wanted. Brom Bones is still a wiseacre, but got what he wanted. Which is why this story remains in Disney's bargain bin. Nobody goes through any struggles, no one comes out changed, so what was the point?

Final Rating: Two stars (one extra for flying under the radar)

Lady Tremaine (Cinderella)
Governor Ratcliffe (Pocahontas)
Pinocchio's Villains (Pinocchio)
Sykes (Oliver and Company)
Alameda Slim (Home on the Range)
Rourke (Atlantis: The Lost Empire)
The Evil Queen (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs)
Ursula (The Little Mermaid)
Dr. Facilier (The Princess and the Frog)
Gaston (Beauty and the Beast)
Willie the Giant (Mickey and the Beanstalk)
Hades (Hercules)
The Queen of Hearts (Alice in Wonderland)
Jafar (Aladdin)
Shan Yu (Mulan)
Man (Bambi)
Clayton (Tarzan)
The Horned King (The Black Cauldron)
Mother Gothel (Tangled)
Cobra Bubbles (Lilo and Stitch)
Cruella De Vil (101 Dalmatians)
Madame Medusa (The Rescuers)
Captain Hook (Peter Pan)
Amos Slade (The Fox and the Hound)
Madam Mim (The Sword in the Stone)
Claude Frollo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
Scar (The Lion King)
Prince John (Robin Hood)
Edgar (The Aristocats)
Ratigan (The Great Mouse Detective)
Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Final Fantasy VII Remake

So they finally announced the Final Fantasy VII remake. Year after year, it's been one of the hands-clasped-in-prayer announcements for E3 as much as the Half-Life 3. And me, being a huge FFVII fan, former writer on the FF Compendium, I asked myself this morning if I'd ever play it. My answer was "Pfft, no."

Look, man, I love Final Fantasy VII. I LOOOOOVE Final Fantasy VII. I love the characters, I love the story, I love the gameplay. My memories of it are nothing but fond. But the fact is, you can't go home again. It's 2015. It's been more than fifteen years since that magic time. I'm married. I have two daughters. I have a career. I'm not the same man I was when I first played that spiky-haired hero. I'm not as forgiving of things like "This guy are sick" or weird fighting houses with no explanation. The stylistic decisions like popeye arms and fuzzy plot lines can't be glossed over anymore.

Not to say Final Fantasy hasn't changed/evolved during the time I have. But that's a large chunk of the problem. Final Fantasy VII has not died in the time I've been alive. There have been related material -- Crisis Core, Advent Children, Kingdom Hearts, Dissidia -- that are fine avenues and extend the FFVII universe. But they're not good. Not good at all. It's not so much a quality drop as a coherence drop. I played Dirge of Cerberus and it was a load of nonsense story and dull gameplay. Style over substance. And that's been the ongoing modus operandi for Square. As technology improves, Squeenix fills every nook and cranny of every bit, every processor, with graphics and data.

Midgar from PSX Final Fantasy VII
Midgar from PS3 Tech Demo
Midgar from FFVII Remake E3 2015 Trailer
It's now to the point where you have to invest as much time as reading War & Peace to get a full experience. I don't want to play a single-player MMORPG. I don't want to walk down an endless corridor with occasional button mashing when a random monster appears. It's not even fun anymore, it's just pressing the same button. Attack, attack, attack. There's no need for strategy with the smaller monsters. Not when you reach a certain level.

Of course, a remake could change all that. But that is my biggest point. Remember when the Star Wars prequels came out? Everyone was excited not just because of the new stories, but they'd get to see their favorite things without the clunky, boxy robots and rubbery aliens. And then we got a bunch of detailed CG garbage and fifteen minutes of unnecessary pod racing. This is not going to be just a rehash, this is going to be a giant amorphous mass of FFVII gray goo. Remember Cloud as he first was? He helped Yuffie get over her motion sickness, rode a dolphin to the top of a platform, he dressed as a woman in an extended fetch quest. Can you imagine this guy doing that?

This is the Cloud Squeenix has made now. A taciturn, militant, angsty badass who never sees his friends. He only works in black. And sometimes, very very dark gray. There's no emotion he can't push down. Armband representing memory of dead friend? Check. Using sword of other dead friend? Check. Motorcycle? Check. Short, non-committal responses? Check.

One of the lines from Ernie Cline's "Fanboys" comes to mind, about a group of geeks questing to get their friend to see Star Wars: Episode 1 before he dies of cancer. He's the only one that's seen the cut six months ahead of everyone. "You gotta keep the flaws. Crappy effects, real puppets. That's what makes it so good."