Friday, September 25, 2015

Sympathy for the Devil

Talking about Errant Story reminds me of an article I did about villains last year.  While I will go into more detail at the end of The Classic, Ian is never portrayed as an irredeemable villain, a monster or otherwise.  The reader gets to know him early on and comes to sympathize with him and his decisions, to the point that some are just fine with the genocide he attempts.  Maybe that went a little too far.

Still, presenting the "villain" (and I use quotes for a reason you'll soon see) in a sympathetic light is a good idea.  Almost no one is purely good or evil, not even the Austrian corporal we all know and loath.  This creates a complete character, one that is more than just a cardboard cutout of a villain.

Gunnerkrigg Court does this pretty much across the board.  Many characters do not-nice-things, but I doubt many, if any of them, can be called outright evil.  While many fans were suspecious of various characters, none would say so and so is a villain, evil, or the devil.

Then came Chapter 51:  The Tree, and everything went nuts.

Anthony Carver is Antimony's father and has been basically absent from the entire proceedings since the comic began.  The only times we saw him was in flash backs to his childhood, and then there was a phone call in Chapter 37 which seems to have lead to Annie being placed in a coma in Chapter 38.  Zimmy says outright it was Annie's father, but why?  What was he trying to do?  Was it on purpose or an accident?  As I suggested sometime after the event, maybe he wasn't responsible at all.  Like many of the characters in the Court, he was met with suspicion, but nothing more.

Then he shows up as a biology teacher and careens through the comic, and the fandom, like a mad bulldozer.  I won't get into specifics, but in the span of one chapter, Tony went from being a background character of some minor importance and interest, to being the Devil himself, someone irredeemable in every way shape and form.  Watching this develop amongst the various fan groups (not even the official forums, where I hear it was far, far worse) was amazing and terrifying.  The sheer hatred some expressed for him was unbelievable.

The following chapter, 52, made things even worse.  Annie seemed to regress in a way that angered many, at least one declared they weren't following the comic any more because of it, and they all blamed Tony for ruining her character.  We saw a bit more of what was going on, but it only from outside of Tony's perspective, and that just made things worse.  The rage over this one character was amazing, remarkable, and unbelievable.

Chapter 53:  Annie and the Fire clarified a few of the issues.  Annie cut her own hair in order to remain in control of her emotions, that wasn't dictated by her father as many suspected, and the loose fire spirit that resulted is, um, well independent, but incorporeal.

The real gem though was that we finally got to hear Tony's side of the story.  The incdent with Annie's illness was explained (it wasn't meant to hurt Annie, and he was glad Zimmy sucker punched him before it finished).  Why he was coming down so hard on her was also partially explained, and I will admit I guessed it, as he was protecting her from the Court itself.  The real meat was his reaction to Surma (that's Annie's mom) dying, and the fact that he couldn't save her.  It ripped him up and, as Coyote says in the next chapter, he's a Broken Man because of it.

Donald, Kat's dad and the one who got Tony to open up to him and secretly Annie, made a point about the whole exchange.  It explains why he did it, but doesn't excuse it.  Yes, he did some horrible things, and will never win father of the year, but he did so because he felt it was the best, perhaps the only, way to protect his daughter.

Eventually, Annie and her father will have to confront each other on all of this.  It will either be very messy, or very heart breaking.  Possibly both.  When that happens, though, I think this entire sequence will be justified and I look forward to it.  Still, there is a lot of rage at Anthony, and it won't be going away any time soon.

I think Tom Siddell knows this, and tried to show a mirror up to his fans with the opening of Chapter 53, showing a raging fire spirit, impotent to destroy her environment, attempt to use sheer rage to burn a picture of young Tony she happened to see.  And when the chapter was all over, Annie calmly says "see, he had his reasons" and the spirit went into yet another rage, just like the fans themselves.

Next time, um, maybe a Touching Base.  Nasty busy week coming.  Until then kiddies.

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