Sunday, June 24, 2012

Rebuilding Elmer Studios - Rick

When we began the “Rebuild” process, we took a look at each character to decide what worked, what didn’t work, what needed to be changed and what could be improved. As much as we wanted to modernize, clean up and improve, we also wanted to keep the fundamentals of what made the characters themselves intact. The result became something of a balancing act between the old and the new.

And in many ways, Rick represented the biggest challenge.

What worked?
Rick was the “oldest” of the three, having made his debut in 1994-1995 or something. In many ways, he was older then that, as I’d been using the name “Rick R. Mortis” or variations thereof for years before that. The initial premise was that he would be the “everyman” of the team, one that would be the most ‘normal’ and relatable of them. He became something of an anchor between Dan’s idiot slackerness, Rebecca’s trigger-happy menace and Tsuneo’s all too easy fanboy rages.

Instead, he would sit back, relax, take it easy, not get too worked up over things and generally have fun at laughing at the fic. He was the voice of reason, the sane one, the guy who could say “it’s just a bad fanfic, not like it’s the end of the world or the like” while everyone was about to have their heads explode. It was those traits that made him useful, especially in the particularly nonsense or bad fics.

Finally, Rick’s “struggling comic book writer/artist” thing gave us a lot of material to work with; its something that got stronger over time as we used it more and more often.

What didn’t work?
The same thing that was Rick’s greatest strength, his casual everyman nature, was also his greatest weakness. Because he wouldn’t get easily riled, explode, leer, make smutty comments, blow up the TV or the like, Rick was also the one who was the most expendable. Whenever there would be a guest character, be it another MSTer or a member of the member of the B-Team, Rick would be the first to go. Crisis of Infinite Temps proved this point by simply writing him out to allow a rotating cycle of guest spots with surprisingly little difference.

It’s also worth noting that by the time we reached Crisis, Rick had missed one in three MSTings (though that figure skews quite a lot towards the newer end). A lot of this came from his lack of connection to the other characters. Rebecca and Dan had their mutually antagonistic relationship and, while Tsuneo was trying for the Brooding Loner thing, his tendency to devolve into fanboyisim made him a lot more useful.

What’s changed?
Like all of the characters, the first step in their “rebuild” was an appearance makeover. In Rick’s case, it was more of a cleanup then anything else. His horrible mullet-ponytail-thing was replaced with a more modern “short and scruffy” do. Likewise, his typical outfit was changed to better reflect his ‘casual everyman’ nature, with Hawaiian shirts and jeans being the order of the day. The new Rick is lazy and casual and he knows it.

The biggest change was in his background. While Rick and Tsuneo came from completely different and unrelated campaign worlds, they still had a lot in common. It was surprisingly easy to roll the pair of them together, especially when we took a ‘keep it vauge until we need it’ approach. This was done to combat Rick’s biggest weakness, his lack of connection to the others. By making him and Tsuneo “bros” so to speak, we gave him an emotional involvement in hanging around with the others, as well as a way to reign Tsuneo in when he goes nuts.

Also, his bikini model wife has been changed to a bikini model girlfriend. It’s small, but it helps.

What’s stayed the same?
Rick is still the same guy as he was before; a casual, friendly, relatively normal everyman who is surprisingly calm, collected and hard to get a rise out of in the face of badfic. Combined with his new character relationships, this has gone from a weakness to an important strength. Finally, he’s still the struggling writer/artist as before, but now with the added doom of nonsense editors hanging over his head.

Ironically? In the Rebuild, Rick has, thus far, appeared more then Tsuneo or Dan. More on that to come.

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