Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Science of Morphing: Now with 60% More Emo Corner!

Yet another week of simultaneously accomplishing a lot and nothing at all.

After reworking at least the visualization of Pyro last week, I decided to work a bit on Devon's mom Mystique as well. It's hard to come up with a new look for a shapeshifter, though. So I focused more on her powers so that she could still morph, but the styling would be original.

Well, semi-original, I'll get to that in a moment.

I came up with a concept I really like - as do Hubby, Ronoxym, and Phyflburt - but it does have a lot of kinks to work out. I thought it would be neat if "Mystique" had to touch whomever she was trying to copy. I then wondered why that would be, and figured she'd need to actually absorb the DNA of the person. Then her cell structure could use the new DNA instead of the one she was born with, and THAT is how she morphs. This would also mean that her cells could "pick and choose" so she could customize her look.

For example, she could keep her body structure, but take the nose from Person A, and the ears and mouth of Person B, and the skin tone of Person C, and the hair and eyes of Person D, etc.

I was so excited about this idea. Then Hubby found an old 90s show on Netflix: Animorphs. For those who didn't grow up in the 90s and/or read the books, the concept is that a group of kids were gifted shape changing abilities by a dying alien. The way to use their ability? They must touch an animal in order to assimilate it's DNA. They can then morph in to that animal for no more than two hours; otherwise they can't revert back to their human form.

I had totally forgotten about Animorphs and how they used their power. I accidentally turned Neo-Mystique in to an evolved Animorph!

All that aside though, the real issue with my change is that Marvel Canon Mystique was simple. She could manipulate her body any way she wanted - in to a big, burly man, or a frail little girl, or a super model, or a hermit with only one good tooth, or even animals - as long as she could keep her body density. So, she could turn herself into a mouse or an elephant, she would still weigh 140lbs regardless. Matter could not be gained or lost while morphing. As long as she kept to that rule - which she HAD to, it was the physics of the comics - she could become whatever she imagined; whomever she imagined.

In putting the "Needs the DNA" restriction on my version of Mystique, I'm challenging her. If she never absorbed the DNA of a Chilean ballroom dancing champion with two different eye colors and a leaf-shaped birthmark on his left butt cheek, then she can't BECOME any of those things. She can use the DNA she does have to get close. If she has the DNA of a Latino, she can use that for the ethnic profile. She can use eye colors from two different DNA sets to get that look. She can use her own body structure to look like a dancer. Don't know how she'd be able to fake the leaf-shaped birthmark, though. Either way, she can't just imagine or see said Chilean dancer and then become an exact copy of him.

I was also thinking of putting time restrictions on to the absorption. Her cells can store DNA copies for, say, six months. It seems a bit long, but at the same time it's a lot shorter than Canon Mystique who would keep the same disguise for YEARS. In the comics, just to name a few, she was a super model, a senator's wife, a journalist for the Daily Bugle, and the deputy director of a government defense agency. Add in the X-Future board where, after abandoning Devon, she ran off to Chili or Peru and took on a non-mutant persona in order to start fresh. There she fell in love with a former X-Men and had a son with him. Mystique embraced her maternal role this time, confident that no one knew her true identity and that her new son Filipe wouldn't be in danger. Then Filipe's powers manifested and she feared it would out her as not only a mutant, but Mystique. She sent Filipe to the Xavier Institute and continued to live in her new identity.

So all that being said, six months may not be all that long for a shapeshifting spy/villain. Yet, it should also be more than enough time for most uses. This time restriction also gave me the idea of her keeping a collection of "DNA samples" such as locks of hair that she could touch to re-absorb the DNA she'd need to keep up a morphed disguise. Or maybe she just really likes having blue eyes and wants to keep that DNA around.

Another idea I had would be for her cells to have limits. In the above scenario Neo-Mystique could absorb HUNDREDS of people's DNA over the course of six months. It seems a bit too vast. So, with this new limits idea she'd have a cap. Having just one other person's DNA "saved" in her cell memory isn't much of a strain, and so she could "store" that DNA for years. However, add another two or three and it's starting to get a bit cramped in that cell. Now each DNA can only be remembered for about a year. Get her up to about six people and each bit of DNA can only be kept for a few months. And the pattern continues; maybe it's every 3 DNA strains, or maybe the numbers change depending how many there are. Similar to the idea I had with Neo-Multiple-Man and his duplicates so that doesn't get out of hand either. Anyway, the point is, if she gets too greedy with DNA absorption eventually she can only keep them for about an hour or two, or it could even be a strain for her to revert back to her original form; difficult to find her own DNA in the sea of others that she copied.

This is my personal favorite restriction. Probably because it is similar to what I came up with for Multiple Man, and so it just feels like they fit in the same universe.

But now comes the REAL trick when it comes to Neo-Mystique. She doesn't just look at and then copy someone like the original does. Canon Mystique likes the look of this man, but wants him to have an 8-pack ripped stomach instead of a beer belly? No problem. Boop, done. Neo-Mystique on the other hand, I don't know how to handle the weight thing. Yes, weight in some cases IS genetic, but your CURRENT weight isn't determined by DNA. It's neat that my version of Mystique never has to actually SEE the person she's mimicking as long as she has a DNA sample; like a glass he drank out of, for example. However, how would her body know what his weight is or how muscular he is or how long his hair is; if he still has any?

Would she be able to adjust the look of her weight to become burly or chubby? If her cells can only manipulate themselves by inserting new DNA where needed, how does that affect hair length or weight? And what if the person had plastic surgery? That's not in the DNA coding either.

Also, she might end up becoming way too powerful. If she's manipulating herself by inserting other people's DNA where needed, what's stopping her from being able to obtain mutant powers that way? The whole point of the story is that mutants have glitches IN THEIR DNA that gives them powers and/or physical deformities.

Sooooo, there's some bugs to work out. Honestly, I really want to get Mystique to work so I can have Devon actually using his morphing abilities in the comic. However, on the boards Ron almost NEVER has Devon use his shape changing, even though Hubby established it as the primary power over flame manipulation. I think Ron has had Devon use it four times over the last three years. Meanwhile, Devon's always playing with his fire powers. So, would it be THAT much of a loss to cut Devon down to just the flame manipulation like his dad, and cut out Mystique entirely?

I guess I'll leave that decision up to Ron since Devon is his character.

Ron might be a bit too busy to figure that out right now, though. He bravely went back to Please, Let Me Explain in order to see the edits I've done over the past month or so since he last checked in. Aaaaaaand this was his reaction....

Ronoxym: Oh, dear christ... I just pulled up PLME. The last time I looked at it we were only up to 19 pages. WTF!?

Uh, yeah.... it's now up to 27 pages. I suck at this whole editing thing.

Ronoxym: yeah. btw, did you know that it takes like 3 minutes to fully load the document right now?

I'm actually going to steal a Facebook sticker for this one since I haven't made a LycoRogue emote for it yet....

Sorry, Ron. I am HORRIBLE with this "brief story" thing! It bugs me too that it's nearly at 30pages already and we're not even done.

Worst part is I don't know if I'm about to make it shorter or another three pages longer. Followers of my blog might recall that I mentioned about a month ago that I discovered a major plot hole in our story. Reworking that plot hole may completely redo six full pages. We may be able to keep bits of it, or none of it, or almost all of it; I'm not sure yet. Then we have the separate section I wrote in an attempt to fix the plot hole. That is another three pages or so, but I hit a brick wall that Ron never meant for me to even get to. So, editing out that part might shorten this separate bit. Which means when we insert it in to the main file of PLME I don't know if it's going to be two pages, three pages, more, or less. And based on how the insert ends will determine how much of the plot holed six pages we can keep. At the very least, unless Ron changes or deletes a lot of what I added, we know the story is currently 20pages long.

So. Friggen. Good. At. This.

That's my kinda-sorta-maybe-maybe not productive week. I came up with a new character rework; kinda. I ran my head in to the wall with PLME and grumbled about how I want to kill it with fire. Still kinda do. And then I spent the last three or four days off in the emo corner because.... writing funk.

I'm once again at the "do I even know what I'm doing" part of my writing roller coaster. We'll see how long this dip lasts this time.

This upcoming Monday, Ali Luke is starting this year's Summer Writing Challenge over on Writers’ Huddle. I want to participate, but I have no clue what my six-week writing goal should be; let alone the suggested "weekly goals to build up to the six-week goal."

AngelBlood666 suggested that I put all of my open projects on the back burner for the challenge. Start fresh in order to re-energize myself. It's a good idea, but I really can't think of anything other than X-Future or Gyateara right now. I'm afraid if I try to do something completely different I'm just going to be pissed that I can't think of anything during the whole challenge.

Then again, a new thought DID sort of pop in to my head while watching the nearly endless promos for Disney Pixar's "Inside Out" movie. Mostly, that I'm a bit bummed that I didn't think of that concept first since a very similar one keeps nudging me every time I see the promos. Instead of personified emotions running around in the main character's head, the main character is a writer and those "little voices" are actually her characters. I know it happens frequently with me and the X-Future Girls: Lia, Willow, and Trish. In fact, each girl almost acts like the emotions presented in "Inside Out": Willow is Joy, Trish is Anger, and Lia is Sadness.... sorta.

I don't know if I can come up with a full narrative with this concept since there isn't really an ongoing plot. Plus, as I mentioned, Pixar is JUST releasing a nearly-identical idea using emotions instead of book characters. Then there's a semi-similar live-action movie that came out years ago about an author accidentally writing a novel about an actual person: "Stranger Than Fiction."

It might be fun to try my hand at comic book writing again. Maybe come up with a new strip script every week during the challenge. Could be fun.

Then again, I COULD use the challenge as a real push to finish a major portion of X-Future world building.

For the reboot I have the following list of Marvel Canon Characters that I need to make original reworks of:
  1. Kitty "Shadowcat" Pryde
  2. James "Wolverine" Howlett, AKA Logan
  3. Remy "Gambit" LeBeau
  4. Jamie "Multiple Man" Madrox
  5. Amara "Magma" Aquilla
  6. St. John "Pyro" Allerdyce
  7. Charles Xavier
And to a lesser extent:
Pietro "Quicksilver" Maximoff - mostly for the dynamic I had set up between him and Trish, but I could transfer that to a completely original character
Raven "Mystique" Darkholme - who is either a major character or not relevant at all; see above.

I already have Jamie more-or-less finished, which leaves six more canon characters that I need to really get cracking on finishing the rework of; some I didn't even start reworking yet. So, maybe I can use this challenge to force myself to rework one of the above characters each week so that they're all done by the end of July.

Which challenge should I choose? I have until Sunday to decide. If you guys think I should lean one way or another, please let me know in the comments.

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