Welcome back to another round of CC Comic Zone the place where we come to discuss Comics, Manga, Graphic novels and all that comes with it! Last week I spoke about Story Protagonists and how they’re better, and more engaging, when audiences can relate to them. You can read that here. This week I’ll be talking about old (older) characters not getting as much time to shine as the younger characters and how they’re just as good, if not better, at getting the job done. We’ve got a lot to discuss!
Teenage characters are extremely common, they are, and it’s good most of the time, you’ve got Ichigo (Bleach), Scott Pilgrim, all the characters from Teen Titans and Young Justice, they’re everywhere and they’re crowd favourites, THAT’S why there’s so many of them. I happen to like the teen characters, I did an article last week about relatable characters and there’s nothing more relatable than a teenager, but sometimes you have to sit back and think about it; there are people of other ages in this universe right? Answer: Yes, there is, and they rule! They’re wise, they’re experienced and they (now think back for a second) are always around to pick up the slack. Ok so not “always” but most of the time, yeah, they are and don’t forget that behind every powerful young person is a “pervy” old guy who taught them everything.
I want to start off with a massive example of this: Naruto. A majority of the main cast are teenagers, that rules, it’s a Manga about young ninjas learning and growing up. Naruto sets itself apart, in my opinion, from a lot of series’ by also having a large number of older characters: The Jonin. For those of you who don’t know; Jonin is a powerful ninja rank in the Naruto series (it may be in real-life too, I’m not sure) and usually the Jonin serve as the “go-to guys” of the village and they also teach the lower ranked ninjas.
Kakashi Hatake, Asuma Sarutobi, Might Guy, Kurenai Yuhi; they’re all top notch “older” characters who, when poop hits the fan, jump into action and sort it all out. I like the idea of older characters within Naruto because, if you look into it, Naruto deals a lot with generations and the teachings that were passed down before them, this is why I think it works extra well. The Third Hokage trained Jiraiya, Jiraiya trained Minato, Minato trained Kakashi and Kakashi trained Naruto who just so happens to be the titular character. Do you see where I’m going with this?
I feel like the Manga Bleach tends to not do this well at all. Ichigo is a Soul Reaper for a long time throughout the series, he has always been annoyed by his dad and has really never taken him seriously, that’s fair enough, that’s what us teenagers do BUT when Ichigo found out that his father was also a Soul Reaper, one that is quite powerful, the awe he felt was only short lived and in no time their relationship was whittled back to the way it was before he found out about it. It just didn’t feel right to me.
Let’s flip back over to Naruto, he never particularly liked his father because he left him with the Nine-Tailed Fox, understandable, he loved the 4th Hokage because he was a great hero, when Naruto found out that both the man he never liked and the man he revered were the same he went mental! In a good way of course. Fact is; Naruto used that knowledge of his Father to better pursue his goals and to save a lot of people, I don’t believe Ichigo felt the same way.
I’m going to move on over to the western side of things now and bring up Mr Frank Castle who is also known as The Punisher. While his presence as an older “hero” probably isn’t as significant as that in Naruto I still feel like he is a great example of this done right. Now Frank isn’t super old, he’s not an old man but he was in the Vietnam War so you can imagine him being fairly…dated. Apart from being a big-time killer and trained mercenary he was also a family man, I say was because his quest for justice started when he watched his family be killed by mobsters. Look the point isn’t to make you sad the point is to show that he’s experienced, he’s not Spiderman, he’s not little ol’ Peter Parker scrounging up money to pay for rent or getting bullied at school.
Frank Castle is damaged, he’s hurt but he’s not broken. I like the way that Marvel comics portrays these types of characters, I really do. It’s characters like The Punisher and Wolverine, the guys who have been around since Christ was a boy (sometimes literally) who have the most damaged pasts but who have the most drive and the greatest knowledge to share. There will always be the character like Wolverine who, when a team is talking about an enemy, will say something like; “When we met in 19xx he did this and that and yada yada” and it makes you want to see what happened!
There are so many more characters I want to talk about but if I could I’d definitely be here all day and night, what I will give you though is some honourable mentions of great older character who both influence and kick the butts of the younger characters:
– Master Roshi, Dragon Ball Z: Yes, Goku beats all the bad guys, but who taught Goku?
– Van Hohenheim, Full Metal Alchemist: Ok so the guy left his kids when they were young but he comes back…eventually, to kick the ass of God.
– The Librarian, The Strange Talent of Luther Strode: He’s old, he’s bald, he’s dapper and he’ll rip you limb from limb.
– Mr. Chau, Scott Pilgrim: He only appeared once in the comic but this guy has incredible Dad strength!
– Magneto, X-Men: Teaching the youth…how to be evil.
– Nick Fury, The Avengers: You don’t rise through the ranks of military without getting some greys.
That’s the difference between the Western and the Eastern takes on the older character: In the West usually the older characters ARE the Frank Castles, they’re the ones who have been beaten down, shot up, cut to bits but still have something to fight for, they still have something they don’t want to loose and can show these young ones who’s boss where as the Eastern style shows the older characters passing down teachings and traditions to keep their legend (or the legend of those who came before them) alive. I may be wrong about a lot of this but that’s the way I honestly see it. There’s always a few sides to the same story which means there will always be different takes on certain things and while one seems to be a great deal deeper it does not discredit the other. If executed properly anything can be good.