Can we separate the art from the artist?

At times it’s not easy to separate the art from the artist, especially if they reveal parts of themselves in the stories they tell. If a cartoonist has serious depression, if you have characters who’re very irritable, depressed or suicidal then these share the author’s experiences and innermost feelings in a way the former’s not always aware of. It’s a red flag if some of the characters are depressed and some have powers that induce suicidal thoughts.

(I could be referring to somebody as heard in a sermon but I won’t reveal them for now.)

In the case with Nate Stevenson, he was brought up as a lass in a strict Christian community and admitted in an interview that he left the church at age 19 and had struggled with Christianity. This gets reflected a lot in the one programme he worked on for a long time, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. He even projects this onto the stories he writes so much not only do fans reveal things he doesn’t realise but also relate to it on some level.

In the case with Carl Barks, he worked as a farmer for some time so it gets reflected in some of the stories he writes. Having actual experience in something gives a stronger air of authenticity in a way that being interested in something doesn’t, so much so it works for other stories to their advantage. But this also makes it harder to separate the art from the artist, especially if it reflects their experiences and thoughts.

To return to the case of the depressed cartoonist, if a good number of characters have symptoms of depression and the author turns out to be depressed one would have to look at the red flags to know what they’re suffering from. Having depression can get reflected in the way the characters are written, but as I said before it makes it harder to separate the art from the artist once the latter’s outed as depressed.

That would surprise fans, even though the red flags are there in the stories for us to see. But that goes to show you how difficult it is to separate the art from the artist, especially if the art reflects what the artist experiences or feels.

A confession

To confess, I really don’t get the obsession with continuity. Perhaps I never cared much about it, well not to the same extent as other superhero readers have though there are probably others who’re also in my position. It seems when it comes to storytelling, you have a later generation of superhero readers who obsess over and insist on continuity. It’s not that continuity’s nonexistent in the earlier stories, but the major difference between the earlier storytellers and the later ones is that the former were simply interested in telling a story.

It seems like the obsession with continuity began when it comes to making sense of the character’s appearances in every story as well as the degree of consistency, it could be helpful when it comes to maintaining storytelling consistency. But at times, I think it’s best to just tell a story to the best of one’s abilities. It would be wiser to give one’s best to telling a Superman or Wonder Woman story rather than obsessing over whether if it fits the continuity you’re telling a story in.

While adhering a lot to continuity can produce good results, it’s not something everybody can easily do especially if they themselves aren’t that beholden to continuity to begin with. Again it’s proof that it’s sometimes better to give one’s best at storytelling over figuring out which story fits in a given continuity. I don’t think adhering to continuity is something people should aspire to, not only because they may not be beholden to it but the fact that sometimes you just have to tell a story.

If you want to write a story about Mickey Mouse, you may have to get the basics right but for most of the part give your best at writing Mickey Mouse. I think giving one’s best at writing let’s say Gen13 whilst knowing the basics is more important than obsessing over the continuity of each rebooted Gen13 storyline. It’s better to know the general idea of something rather than the convoluted details of each iteration, especially when it comes to storytelling.

I also think the obsession with whatever is in continuity puts off certain readers and writers, especially if they don’t share this. They like the characters, the ideas behind them but aren’t into the continuities of every reboot and retcon. So getting the general idea of the character is more important in storytelling than obsessing over inane details over every passing incarnation. It’s even better storytelling this way, when one considers this.

This may be my opinion but I do think it’s more important to simply give a shot at telling a Flash story than it is to know the details of a certain continuity, given others may not care much about continuity to begin with. Some may even forget the details, so continuity maintenance is not for everybody.

Obscured inspirations and topics

It’s been said that when it comes to the X-Men, for all its anti-prejudice message, has a history of fumbling a lot when it comes to nonwhite characters. Characters like John Proudstar and Dust are stereotypical, Elizabeth Braddock being bodyswapped with a Japanese woman to get ninja skills (until recently when it got undone) and that Dazzler was going to be black as she was based on Grace Jones. Grace Jones was certainly a big name celebrity in her time, but Dazzler got racially whitewashed half-way.

Comes to think of it, this kind of tampering might not be unique to superhero stories as this also affects other kinds of stories. In the case with romance novels, there could’ve been romance stories that tackled abortion, getting one’s tubes tied, miscarriage, STDs and the like with a likely number of romance novel heroes being based off of somebody else. Somebody who doesn’t fit the romance hero mold, so there’s a good (and weird) chance that one romance hero may’ve been based off of somebody like Nick Rhodes. He may not have a great body, but he and his band Duran Duran were pretty popular in the 1980s with girls having crushes on them.

So it’s likely some romance novelists and readers grew up with Duran Duran, though it could be said that one’s preferences change over time. But for others, there’s bound to be those whose preferences aren’t beholden to the stereotypical norm. There are even romance readers and possibly romance novelists who’re turned off by muscles, that their own romance heroes were at some point not the typical romance novel hero. They could’ve been thin or chubby, they could even be middle class or working class.

Romance novels might be changing for the better, but the fact that muscular rich men are very popular stereotypes remain. Same goes for bad boys, while not all romance novels have them as heroes, it’s likely some novelists are pressured to keep writing these kinds of characters even if they’re not really interested in or attracted to them as they would in real life. I also think there are romance novelists who likely have less stereotypical Latin or Arab heroes, less stereotypical in the sense that they’re not rich sheikhs or Latin Lovers.

Even if these characters may have at some point more closely resembled what other Latin or Arab men are actually like, they got changed halfway to meet editorial and sales expectations. This could’ve been to the chagrin of novelists who either go against the grain or create characters based on the people they know so well that we never get an opportunity to read them as they actually were. Or rather were going to be, since other than any possible surviving draft we don’t get to see them as what their authors intended them to be.

Thus these characters get rewritten in the interim to meet romance expectations, that’s to fulfill a stereotype. While the Duran Duran example is only hypothetical, it does make you wonder why there isn’t more room for romance heroes who’re openly based on what some romance novelists are actually into or inspired by. Likewise for Arab and Mediterranean men, there could’ve been stories where these characters differed greatly from the stereotypical depiction but were made into stereotypes halfway.

There could’ve been romance novels that tackled the topic of infertility and to some extent, they already have but when it comes to meeting market and editorial expectations authorial desires are compromised or altered to meet such demands.

What influences storytellers

Anything can inspire storytellers, it could be life experiences. It could also be encountering such people, knowing them secondhand or anything else. In the case with Carl Barks, he was inspired not only by his habit of reading National Geographic magazines but also his experiences in farming which explains why some of his stories centre on agriculture. Here’s a rule of thumb: if an author has depression, what seems like a subversion could be a character suffering from some of the symptoms.

This could also explain why some characters have guilt based powers, that’s if feeling very guilty can also be a symptom of depression. So this proves my point that an author’s life experience can also influence the story as well as their moods at the time, which can and could explain why a character would act this way but it could also be attributed to the author encountering or knowing such a person. Anything and anybody can inspire a storyteller, sometimes in unexpected ways.

It’s like realising how in the story Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures that one of the stands (the super powers) there is based on a cat but it’s not that obvious at first, I’m referring to Spice Girl and one sign is that it initially manifested as clawed hand prints. Likewise it’s not that obvious for some readers to realise that an author has or had depression, even though some of the symptoms show up in some of the stories and characters. Or if the author knew somebody like that, even if it’s not blatant at first.

As for JJBA again, some of the references that could be attributed to Kiss might be more of a Prince reference that’s if Hirohiko Araki liked Prince so much that rather than a David Bowie reference it could be a Prince reference. Stories like that can be inspired by many things, some blatant and some subtle.

The unhappy princess

There lived a princess in the kingdom who’s often unhappy. She didn’t like staying in the place, she wanted to go out more often as she told her servants. Her servant said ‘but your grandmother doesn’t want you to go to her house because it’s messy and she’ll get sick’. The princess didn’t like hearing this, as she wanted to go out and escape this place.

The princess went around in the other side of the castle where she played with her cat and dog, but she still wanted to go out so she went out with her servant to a nearby shop for food and beverage. There she paid the food and went back home to eat, but the princess felt very unhappy again. She said ‘I really want to go to Grandma’s house, but you said I can’t come but I have little else to do here.’

Her servant said ‘she doesn’t want you to come here to her house, it’s always a mess’ but the princess said ‘I still want to go’. To make up for not being able to go to her house, the princess sewed dresses, trousers and skirts for herself and others which she sold for around 50 per piece. She remained bored and unhappy, despite her many pets in the kingdom.

One day, her grandmother said to her on the phone that ‘you can come to my house’ so she packed her belongings, dressed up and went to her house with her servant where she played with her dogs and cats, then she burst into song singing ‘it’s a happy day for me to go here, there I am rapping away my sorrow.’ She stayed there forever and ever, the end.

Where is my teddy bear?

Barbara had a teddy bear which she loved very much, she played tea party with it and cleaned it up like she would to a baby.

One day her teddy bear went missing, so she asked to someone ‘where did my teddy bear go?’

Someone said ‘I don’t know where it went’ so she kept on finding it in the bedroom and found nothing. She still tried looking for it wherever she went in her house.

She asked an old woman ‘where is my teddy bear?’ The old woman answered ‘it’s probably somewhere in the library’ so she accompanied her to the place and Barbara tried looking for her teddy bear in the bookshelves.

The old woman said ‘sorry if I didn’t know where it was, I’m just trying my best in helping you find it’. Barbara remained disappointed as ever, so she continued to look for her teddy bear in the supermarket.

She tried sifting through the bunch of toys in the supermarket but her teddy bear’s nowhere to be found so she went out again, trying hard to find it wherever she can.

Barbara went around asking a boy to help her out. ‘Where did my teddy bear go?’ Then the boy replied ‘it’s somewhere in the forest’ so both of them went to the forest looking for that toy over there.

There they find her teddy bear, she said ‘thank you very much’ and he said ‘you’re welcome’.

She went back home and played with her teddy bear again.

The Monster and The Girl

There was a girl who lived with her mother, she said to her mother that ‘I’m leaving to go to Grandma’s house’ and then she left. When she went to her house, she discovered a monster instead. She asked ‘what big teeth do you have?’ The monster replied ‘the better to rend things apart’. She asked again, ‘what hairy arms do you have?’ The monster answered ‘that’s just how I look and would you like to drink this?’ The girl refused to drink.

Then she asked ‘may I go out and return to my mother’s house?’ She escaped from the monster who now got attacked by dogs and when she went back she played with her cats and dogs using strings to play with cats and sticks to play with dogs. ‘Fetch’ she said to one of her dogs and she said ‘here’s one for you’ to one of her cats. She lived happily ever after.

Little Red Riding Hood

Panels 1-3: A girl clad in red goes to her grandmother’s house but she’s nowhere to be found.

Panels 4-8: The girl discovers the wolf.

Red Riding Hood: What sharp teeth do you have?

The wolf: The better to rend you apart.

Red Riding Hood: What fur do you have?

The wolf: That’s my coat.

Panels 9-11: The wolf appears in her place, giving her blood to drink.

The wolf: I’m giving you something to drink.

Red Riding Hood: Eeww.

Panels 12-15: The little girl discovers the remains of her grandmother in the refrigerator, she’s horrified to see those.

Panels 16-19: The wolf lures her into the bedroom but she escapes.

The wolf: Do you want to go to bed with me?

Red Riding Hood [running]: I’ve got to go. [Then she runs back to her house.]

The Monkey and The Turtle

Panels 1-5: The monkey’s sad, walking around until she sees a turtle.

Turtle: How are you Mona?

Monkey: Alex, I’m hungry and the farmer’s squash was taken by other monkeys. [Next Panel] I’m going to die due to want of food.

Turtle: Don’t be discouraged. [Next panel] Take a look and follow me, we’ll steal some bananas.

Panels 6-10: They walked, the turtle dug up some plants and the monkey goes up to the tree to get bananas and then she gives it to the turtle, the turtle buries some seeds in the ground.

Monkey: When my tree bears fruit, I’ll sell it and have a great sum of money.

Turtle: When my tree bears fruit, I’ll sell it and buy three varas of cloth in place of this cracked shell.

Panels 11-15: The monkey discovers that her tree didn’t bear fruit so she goes to the other tree, eats the bananas there.

Monkey: I’ll go to the top to eat fruit there. [Eats it right away.]

Turtle: Mona, can you go give me some? [The monkey gives him an unripe banana to eat.] Darn you!

Panels 16-20: The turtle gets a sharp bamboo for a stick, bothers the monkey while she’s sleeping.

Turtle: The crocodile’s coming! [Knocks again] The crocodile’s coming.

Then the turtle cut the monkey into pieces and sold the meat to others.

21-25: The monkeys discover her dead body.

Monkey 2: Don’t eat that body! You’ll eat yourself if you eat it!

The monkeys catch the turtle and bring him to their home.

Monkey 3: Let’s get a hatchet and cut you up into pieces.

Turtle: That’s what I did to her [shows the back to them] do you see the scars on my body?

Panels 26-32: The monkeys plot revenge on the turtle.

Monkey 3: I’ll throw water on you.

Turtle: No, please no. [Crying] Please don’t.

They throw the turtle into the water, but got a lobster to tie a string with.

Turtle: That’ll do the job when I tie this string. [Tying it fast] There, I’ll go. [Ties a string to the rock.]

Narration: That’s why monkeys don’t eat meat, they remember the story.

Why the sea is salty

Once upon a time, there was a couple where the husband had a grinder (which was given to them) and a goose, the grinder grounded salt which poured onto the food they ate. One day the man exchanged the goose for a grinder, his wife got mad at him because the goose is gone.

Then the thieves stole the grinder from him, grinding down the salt until it falls down to the sea. The grinder doesn’t stop, it keeps on grinding, they don’t know the password to make it stop. The sea kept on getting saltier, the more it kept on grinding.

They forgot the magic word to make it stop, that’s why the sea and ocean are salty.