Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Worlds Collide with Twitter and Dark Horse

In an interview with the EU Cantina, Star Wars comics writer Tom Taylor had this to say about Darth Maul, the latest character to fall under his pen.

"There’s a cliché in comics and film, and story in general, that people don’t stay dead. But I’ll tell you this; if no one cares about the character, they don’t come back. They stay in their literary coffins and fade away. 

But there are characters who demand to exist. They’re too important to be confined to history. Darth Maul is one of these. He never left. More than ten years after Obi Wan bisected him, he’s still on posters and toys and t-shirts, screaming, ‘You can’t forget me, I’m still with you.’

And I dare anybody to look into the face of Maul on our very first cover by Dave Dorman, this face of pure freakish rage and evil, and tell him he’s a gimmick."
I love that. I completely, shamelessly love that. Why? One, it's true. Through some combination of fear, determination, and raw distilled awesomeness Darth Maul has become arguably the most memorable creation of George Lucas's prequels. Two, Tom Taylor hits on a fundamental fannish truth in his humorous statement. Even after a movie ends, the characters feel real to the fans. Merchandising is as pleasurable to us as getting money is to the studios because when we purchase merchandise we feel closer to the characters that we already love. It's this fourth-wall-breaking passion that enables fan activity at all.

Taylor's words bring us into a reality where fiction and the real world are fused. The transport into that world is the statement that Maul "never left" - an ambiguous phrase that could mean either the Star Wars galaxy or our own. This primes the reader to accept the idea of Maul as a living being, inhabiting a universe with familiar laws. When Taylor mentions the "posters and toys and t-shirts", the reader is brought back into the real world. If they're reading about Star Wars comics they're probably very familiar with shopping for items like these. Then Taylor brings us back to Darth Maul as living, in fact "screaming" for our attention, an action consistent with Maul's characterization in Star Wars.

Taylor's ability to slip in and out of the real world like this bodes well for his work. He's penned issues of the entertaining Star Wars comic series Invasion, and sounds like he might be ready for the challenge of writing a character who was nearly silent in the films.

The other place where people are slipping very fluidly in and out of the real world is Twitter. A trend this week has been the hashtag #SecondaryWorldProblems. It's a mashup of two terms: "secondary world", which J.R.R. Tolkein coined to refer to fantasy realms, and the internet meme "First World Problems", in which inconveniences in daily life are listed ironically. Some of the best "secondary world problems" include "I really wanted to be a blacksmith, but it turns out I'm secretly the rightful heir to the throne." by Dr Nic, and "My counsellor tells me I'm only a symbol in a complex metaphor for the internal psychology of the reader." by Damien Walter.

Both Tom Taylor and the denizens of Twitter had fun - very easy fun - doing the big job of meshing worlds.


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