Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Superhero Romance Character Bio #14: Julian

It’s been a long time since I did one of these as I’ve been busy with other things.  Namely, writing (I'm about 3/4 of the way done the next book now.)  I thought I’d finally do a new character bio though, and who better than the star of the book I’m working on, “The Only Fish in the Sea,” Julian! 

Julian Thalassic Sargassum AKA “Lord Sargassum” is “Ruler of the Seas” and head of the Consortium’s ‘Undersea Operations Department.’  He oversees their underwater base, is in charge of all aquatic crimes and takes his job very seriously.  He has a team of ex-criminals/current heroes who live in the underwater base with him, but they are usually absent from the Consortium’s activities.
Julian is a demi-god, and claims to be the son of Neptune and a human woman.  Oddly, he spends no time amongst the other Eternal people though, and instead seems to hang out on land with the “mortal surface-dwellers” he hates.  His reasons for this have never been explained.
The only thing we know about his past is that he claim to be responsible for “sinking the Titanic” because it “got in his way” and that he claims diplomatic immunity for his 254 counts of international piracy and crimes on the high seas.

He has the ability to breathe underwater indefinitely, and can talk to all aquatic creatures.  In the past he has also apparently claimed to be able to control seaweed, but has never been shown using this power.  He carries around his father’s golden trident, which he mostly seems to use to add drama to his everyday conversations by sweeping it around emphatically, and occasionally uses it to pick his fingernails when he’s feeling especially bored.  If he has any other powers or abilities, he hasn’t mentioned them to anyone yet.  

Julian is about 6’3” and has shiny black hair and turquoise eyes.  His age has never been given, but one can assume that at the very least he is more than a century old, since he was on the Titanic.  At the moment, he is sporting a beard befitting an ancient god and is very tanned.  He is usually described as being physically fit, and as wearing black fish scale armor pants and either manica (which are like armored sleeves) or a long cape made of material which looks like black seaweed.  Sometimes he wears boots, sometimes he goes barefoot.  Much to the chagrin of many of the male members of the team though, he never wears a shirt.  I seriously doubt this has anything to do with his powers, I think he just doesn’t like them.  Mortals wear shirts; god-kings do not.

His personality is marked by haughty pride and callous indifference.  Julian believes that the undersea world is superior to the world above, and has no qualms about telling people that.  Repeatedly.  To their faces.  He hates the surface world because he says it is destroying his kingdom, and he is on a mission to wipe the Earth clean of terrestrial life.  Every Consortium meeting, he makes a motion to create and oversee an army of “mutant fish-people” who will destroy the mortals for him.  His plan is always voted down though, and he blames Marian for standing in the way of his dreams by not approving his requested budget for the project.

To be perfectly honest, I’m never quite sure if Julian actually means a lot of the things he says.  He seems to alternate between feeling useless because the world considers him powerless, and taking his egocentrism to great heights while claiming to be the most powerful man in the world.  His sense of self-worth is either very good or very bad, and I don’t think even he knows which.  In either case, I think it hurts his feelings when people doubt him.

Julian has the distinction of being the only member of the team who has never done anything.  This is a deliberate choice on his part, and on mine.  He goes on every mission, he just always refuses to help in its completion, either because he does not believe in its goals, he is “on strike,” or would simply rather spend that time studying for an exam in college, which he no doubt will excuse himself from taking anyway.  I don’t think he’s lazy, I just think he doesn’t particularly care what happens to the “terrestrial” world.  He assures the team that if the oceans are threatened though, he will of course stop that danger.  Some might argue that he fails to aid the team because he can’t, since the battles in question are taking place on dry land and he's powerless, but I’m not convinced this is the case.  I think he could help if he wanted to, he just sees no reason to be bothered.
If I had to guess, I’d say that Julian probably ranks amongst the loneliest people on the Consortium’s crew.  He says that there are no other aquatic people, and since he seems to have spent most of his life under the sea, I think he likes the novelty of being around people.  He doesn't like being along, and even mortal company is better than nothing.  He is a member of every club the Consortium has, although he refuses to participate in their activities on general principles.  He still joins though, and still attends the Consortium’s parties, he just wants to make sure that everyone knows that he disagrees with their goals and is attending under protest.  There’s something kinda sweet about that.  There’s an innocence to Julian that most of the other characters lack.  He’s the little boy in school who always sits alone at lunch because he’s unpopular and shy, but wants to be part of the group.

Julian is another one of those characters who has just always been there.  Thematically, he’s based on any number of “fish-man” or aquatic characters in popular culture (Aquaman, Namor, Captain Nemo, etc), and their related tropes and issues.  I wanted to create a bad guy for one of those types of characters, while not straying too far from the trope itself, and stick him into a romance novel.  I’ve always really liked the idea of a hero whose only power would be fairly useless in a fight.  I find the dichotomy of being hugely powerful in one way, but utterly superfluous in another very interesting.  Julian has just always been there to remind the Consortium that they are nothing compared to the majesty of the sea though, and that they would all be doomed without him.  In fact, Julian actually predates the creation of the Consortium itself, and was a member of the team in the earlier (and vastly different) version of [book:Yesterday's Heroes|17231951].  Most of the other characters from that draft of the story (which mostly existed only in my head) are long gone or heavily rewritten (for instance, Seth, Monty and Wyatt were all the same character in that version, which is just impossible to even imagine now), but Julian remains, utterly unchanged.
Comic books have what are called ages.  The golden age stretches from the 1930’s to the 1950’s, and it’s home to most of the archetypal characters we think of as the superhero (Superman, Batman, etc).  The golden age has simple plots and clear morals.  There is good and there is evil, and evil never wins.  Storylines last one issue and the heroes are paragons of justice and morality.  Next comes the silver age, stretching from the mid-1950’s to the early 1970’s, and it introduces a lot of the more complex heroes to the scene, (the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Spider-Man, etc).  It is in this era that the heroes lose their ability to always know right from wrong, and the idea that heroes can dislike one another is introduced.  Next comes the bronze age, stretching from the mid-1970’s to the mid-1980’s.  It is in this era that the heroes’ morality gets even murkier and the idea that the bad guy can win is introduced.  Finally, the modern era, stretching from the mid-1980’s onward.  This era is characterized by violent anti-heroes, dispensing justice as they see fit.  Morality is gray and there is little distinction between the heroes and the villains, and they frequently switch sides. 

For his part, Julian is squarely in the Golden Age.  All Julian wants to do is flood the world and create mutant fish people.  He has no deeper political or personal goals other than that, but the world around him has gotten more and more complicated, and I think Julian sometimes feels lost.
Julian is named after Jules Verne, author of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."  At the time, I thought about choosing something more “godly” sounding, but that just wasn’t where his character wanted to go.  Thalassic is a word meaning: “of or relating to the sea” and Sargassum is both a species of fish and of seaweed.  I chose it because of the old Mystery Science Theater 3000 film “Bloodwaters of Dr. Z” and its infamous line: “Sargassum... the weed of deceit.” 

The Weed of Deceit

I’ve always liked the sound of that.  Incidentally, the Sargassum fish is also one of nature’s most accomplished ambush predators.  It lures in its prey by pretending to be what it is not, and is thus able to swallow enemies many times its own size.  In one bite.

Julian is always fun, because he takes offense at everything, and no one ever gives him any respect.  He does nothing, and people don’t expect that to ever change.  At the moment though, Julian is currently in charge of the Consortium and is tasked with protecting the entire world while the others are gone, so it should be interesting to see what he does with his new power within the C of C.


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