Writing characters based on loved ones is a mistake. A BIG mistake every time for a multitude of different reasons and it could not be any more clear why as with the recent Frank Cho vs. Robbi Rodriguez dispute.

Allow me to explain, Robbi Rodriguez is one of the brilliant people who created the now-extremely-popular series Spider Gwen. Recently, a known comic artist, Frank Cho, did a sketch cover of Spider Gwen that Robbi took issue with (pictured above).

His response was less than flattering…

Here’s my take on the frank cho sketch cover. Your drawing dirty pics of one of my kids. Be lucky your never around me. #spidergwen

— RobbiRodriguez (@RobbiRodriguez) April 7, 2015

The full controversy can be read about here if you’re so inclined.

Now you can say that the cover is distasteful and maybe even pornographic, and that’s fine. I’m not asking anyone to like it or hate it. Whether you do or not is your own personal opinion and you have every right to it.
That being said, Mr. Rodriguez is 100% in the wrong here. The comic book industry is no stranger to objectifying women in poses like this or with… physically impossibly large body parts. They do it with men as well, but it’s less sexual and more masculine steroid looks. In any case, this is a fantasy world with characters that have been around since the 60’s yet have somehow barely aged 10 years.
Put aside your view whether you’re okay with this or not and look at it from an objective viewpoint.
Robbi, you create a character based on your daughter, put her into a comic book… a medium known for… as you call it, creating pornographic images, which is something you were very well aware of, and you’re mad at someone who takes the character you created and builds their own rendition of that character in the way they see fit?
Is it really Frank Cho’s fault or your own that this happened?
Characters in the comic world have been drawn and redrawn in multiple forms by multiple artists, that’s the industry.
This is one of a million reasons why you don’t base a character on someone you know or care about, especially a main character. Things happen to characters in stories that may be less than flattering and if god-forbid the person you wrote about ever recognizes themselves, you can deny it all you want, but it’s still going to look sketchy.

Even if that is not a problem or hasn’t happened, or you’ve somehow managed to avoid that in your writing, let’s say your writing becomes popular and someone does a fanfic of it at some point and it gets posted online, or you sell the rights to you story to a publisher or movie company. Guess what can happen to that character once other creative eyes get a hold of them?

People, do yourselves a favor, DO NOT base characters on people you know. It’s not as flattering as it sounds and it is prone to causing problems as we’ve seen.

Trust me, you’ll be a lot happier.


Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Thanks friends!
Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

9 Comments on “Basing Characters on Loved Ones

  1. You nailed it on this one. Creating characters based too closely on people you know is a surefire way to generate discord, if not outright litigation. That’s why I prefer to create characters that are composites of people that I encounter in daily life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Litigation? That’s honestly one I’ve never seen, and I’ve seen some pretty bad and obvious characters based on real people… Watch 1998’s Godzilla. Mayor Ebert and his assistant Gene? Who are we trying to emulate there, I wonder…

      The funny thing is that Gene Siskel thought it was funny and used it to further criticize the directors saying, that if they were going to make a character about him, at least have the nerve to kill him off.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s hard to say how people will react to being characterized in print. Personally, I would feel flattered, but that’s me…hehe.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The problem is, all women are someone’s daughter. The issue of objectification is huge in comic books. I don’t men outfits etc, I mean the endless presentation of women without a storyline, treated as objects, less legit than men and less worthy of respect, or clothes.

    As a woman, I ddon’t loom at that and feel excited to read Gwent story. Being perved on at work is a daily hassle I deal with. It’s boring. Nor do I think it would teach a young girl anything edifying.

    Blaming Cho shifts thd debate from what is actually happening, we are looking at Spider Gwens ass and reducing her to a piece of meat.

    If this is not a concern to you, I’d question where your readership is and how honestly you are prepared to write and read characters that teach young people about the many facets of humanity. If you don’t acknowledge that objectification is the issue, rather than irreverence, maybe you need to ask why?

    Comics can withstand this sort of scrutiny. Characters deserve this kind of respect, as do women.

    Like

    • “If this is not a concern to you, I’d question where your readership is and how honestly you are prepared to write and read characters that teach young people about the many facets of humanity. If you don’t acknowledge that objectification is the issue, rather than irreverence, maybe you need to ask why?”

      With all due respect, attacking me or my readership for expressing a viewpoint isn’t necessary, let’s try to keep this clean. Most of my writings do tackle issues of racism and bigotry and believe me, I condemn both as much as possible.
      Not to mention that my next book has a strong female lead… a general none the less.

      To your points…

      I would argue that the same thing happens to men, but that get’s pushed aside. In any case, its a fantasy world where both men and women are objectified. Men with skin tight clothes showing off muscles that would make a WWE superstar jealous, and women with hips, breasts, and buttocks that would make a porn star jealous. I really don’t get why one is considered okay where the other draws so much outrage. Isn’t that a double standard?

      The problem is that it’s a fantasy universe that was never meant to be taken this seriously. It has been this way for almost 50 years, has it really done that much damage? I would say the glamour magazines that fly off the shelves at the grocery store on a daily basis are far more damaging.

      I would also repeat what I wrote in my post, you may not view this as artwork, but others do. I don’t view a soup can that someone signed their name to as artwork, but others do.
      To use your metaphor, if you dangle a piece of meat over a pack of hungry dogs, can you really blame the hungry dogs for devouring it?
      You create a character, you put it out there. You can’t really get mad if someone does a comical rendition of it or draws it in their own interpretation.
      I still say Robbi Rodriguez was in the wrong on this one.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The view that artists should divorce characters from real people in order to make objectification less real seems really odd.

    Like

  4. You know, I hadn’t thought about this. I’ve based one or two characters in older stories on people I know. I won’t be doing it again. I hadn’t thought about what might happen f others were to get hold of those characters. Thank you for pointing out the pitfalls.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No problem, I made the same mistake when I wanted to write a strong female character and used my wife’s personality as the template…
      It got a little awkward when that character was killed off.

      Liked by 1 person

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