• Editorial: They Can Be Heroes


    Having covered the individual Pillars issues of Legends of Magic, I wanted to weigh in on an idea that's come up in the discussion. 

    Check out the full editorial after the break. And if you're not familiar with Dr. McNinja and his crazy world, I recommend giving it a look!



    We've now gotten to see each of the individual pillars in action. With that comes a chance to take the long view on the overall series, but my look back started with one tweet. A commentary by comic writer Jeremy Whitely about issue #6:


    I want to preface by saying that I believe in the idea of the "death of the author". A violent-sounding idea that really means that an author's intentions aren't really part of the audience's reception. Somewhere between storyteller and listener, there is a gulf where intention falls away. That amounts to the idea that a creator's word is not law.

    Into the fray!

    Yet good ideas are worth discussing, and–fair is fair–this is not an idea I addressed in my review. Mage Meadowbrook demonstrates amazing skill as she jumps circles around the zombified ponies. It's a role I would expect from a high-flying pegasus or someone trained specifically in acrobatics. Mage is far from what one would expect from a healer or potion-brewing sorcerer, and I can see why that would appeal to an audience.

    How about a QR code we could scan to download a comic's soundtrack?
    Now that would be something!

    It did not strike me as much, beyond an appreciation she could do that in a wide-trimmed skirt. And so, reviewer, study thyself. The most immediate answer is that I've become numb to a display of physical prowess. I'm a child of the 80's, when even the brains of the outfit were expected to be just as combat-proficient as the team lead. You remember, Leonardo leads. Donatello does machines? Well, they're still both ninjas.

    Even Donny could sense the approach of Starbucks.

    So maybe over time I've grown numb to the idea of a hero with physical prowess. Even ponies like Maud Pie or kung-fu-kick Rarity have taught me not to be surprised by a pony's prowess.

    Is it wrong that I'd like to see a battle between Maud and Rarity?

    Realizing this got me thinking about concepts like mastery, courage, and strength. Three ideas discussed by author Jack Donovan in his "The Way of Men" book. He argues that "tactical virtues" like mastery, courage, and strength are amoral. That is, we admire them regardless of how they are used. A person can use strength to build a home or break another man's arm. Yet in a way we might admire both. 

    Odds are they would celebrate Rockhoof's strength even if he weren't as kind.
    But I'm glad he is.

    Though I disagree with Donovan's views on what makes a "good man" (and his assertion that these virtues are expected of men, not women), I do agree that we can be enticed by shows of skill, courage, and strength regardless of a character's morality. Many times in fiction I've been in awe of a villain's power. I wanted the heroes to surpass that might, but the villain stood out. I think there's at least one video game character who might embody this idea:  

    Loreal has never looked so evil.

    But there's something about Legends of Magic that impresses me more than the physical feats. To be sure, the series and its heroes aren't lacking in that department. Starswirl survived battling a golem. Somnambula had the strength to lever a giant snake's jaws open, even by a sliver. Flash Magnus and the Legionaries could slice a tornado to pieces. And Rockhoof managed to dig through magma while staring down a creature. 

    Right now, I'm more sympathetic to the creature.
    Dude like that would freak me out!

    They are also highly skilled in their respective fields and courageous in the extreme. Yet the big theme that I see running through these stories, including Meadowbrook's, is not that these are the strongest or the fastest, strongest, or smartest ponies in the land. They could certainly vie for those titles, but each story has highlighted how they view the world. 

    A military that's focused more on 
    civilian rescue than combat.

    Flash looks at a situation and sees those in need of aid. There is no political, social, or racial divide in his eyes. He is naive in that he doesn't consider consequence, but his mindset compels him to act while others remain stagnant.

    Admit it. In an RPG we'd be attacking this thing on sight.

    Rockhoof lost his perspective for a time, but he is able to look at a situation and realize what must be done. He doesn't stop to worry about if it can be done. That's part of the challenge!

    Rare is the being who can see the world without fear.

    Somnambula is able to see through the fear of a moment and recognize opportunity. Maybe towards a solution, or maybe as a chance to grow. Regardless, her eyes remain open and focused while many would shut them in fear. 

    You want to see what I did to the last royal who fought me?

    Mistmane I think is one of the most evolved worldviews. She knows how to stop and listen, taking in the world without judgement or assumption. Of all the Pillars, I expect she's the one who would be the best guide for the group. 

    A ninja who cures people. Haven't really seen that in an anime!

    I said that Mage's action scenes diminished time to witness her character. Yet the comic did state that Meadowbrook had the ability to see cause and affect, a talent many miss. More than that, she is one of the few ponies in the world who would look at a horde of zombies and see others in need of healing. Most would rather run away. 

    Wouldn't blame anyone for running out of this situation.

    Which brings us at last to Starswirl, whose view is a little harder to understand. He stated in LoM #3 that his goal was building a castle to defend Celestia and Luna. He didn't give it proper consideration to the local animals until Mistmane showed Luna the right path. He seems a view born of hard experience, but perhaps too focused on immediate goals to appreciate the bigger picture. Perhaps it's fitting that we didn't witness his full battle against the dark realm. He's still a figure of mystery. 

    If Celestia and Luna share blame for Nightmare Moon,
    I think Starswirl has some responsibility as well.

    Yet in all these cases I find it's the character's viewpoint that I celebrate. Physical prowess, courage, and skill are an important part of their tool sets, as surely as Rockhoove's shovel or Flash Magnus' shield. Yet without a strong, other-centric viewpoint I think none of these characters would fully deserve the hero title.
    Classic foe!

    On its own, the idea of a hero is meant to inspire young people to believe that achievements are possible. The more impossible the task, the more we celebrate the hero that triumphs. Yet sometimes I think we lose sight of the why behind the act. Conan the Barbarian accomplished amazing acts in his tales, but I wouldn't tout him as a role model for young men. Most of his acts were driven by ego and circumstance.

    Speaking of ego, Celestia used to have it in spades!

    I'd more upload King Arthur, who might have fallen in the end but is celebrated as "might for right." I think that the heroes of Legends of Magic fit in this category. They see what needs to be done not because it is convenient for them, nor might it benefit themselves. They see the right thing to do and they act. 

    The best squad in Equestrian history!
    Before Twilight & Co., of course.

    Though their acts are fiction, my hope is that young people read these stories and allow them to shape their own world view. To not give in to cynicism and selfishness and instead seek out what is the right thing to do for others. Because our own benefit is fleeting and short-lived, but the benefit of all has an enduring quality. 

    Somnambula is one of my favorites of the Pillars.

    So I'm looking forward to the next phase as the heroes unite and we see what new adventures take shape. In the meantime, I hope readers have their own heroes that they can look to embody an ideal. 

    Stupidity has also been around for centuries.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

    Silver Quill on Twitter
    DeviantArt


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