Thursday, September 30, 2021

My Toons, Let Me Show You Them: Palette

Wow, I can't believe I've never talked about my first level 50 on City of Heroes, my namesake Palette. 

She wasn't my first character, but she was the first character I played as me, i.e. she was the character I made when I gave myself permission to explore the possibility that I was transgender. "I'll make and play a girl character," I told myself, "and see how long it takes for someone to accuse me of being a guy."

That never happened, of course, and that's how I'm here today. It just seemed fitting, then, that I honor her by taking part of her name as my own for my new life. 

I am really, really pleased with how this came out. 

Her biography is a lot more simple than some of my other characters, partly because I created her when there was a much shorter word count allowed and partly because I was still learning to write well. Still, I think I captured the spirit of the Mighty Marvel Capsule History:
A bohemian artist of the surrealist style, Sarah McLughan was accidentally sucked into one of her own painted landscapes. She soon realized that her paintings were, in fact, mental gateways to other dimensions, though she isn't sure if she creates a new world each time she paints, or if her paintings come from clairvoyant visions. She now uses her connection to the realms of chaos to disorient criminals by scrambling their senses with synesthesia.

Oh, and her art? A critic once described it as "A cross between Dali and Escher, on an acid trip." Sales are good. 
If you know me and you know my taste in fiction, you can instantly see an homage to the Chronicles of Amber and their use of tarot-esque cards to travel between dimensions. This doesn't mean that Palette was specifically an Amberite... but I wasn't ruling it out, either. I wanted to keep things open-ended. 

Later on, my character discovered the Shadow Shard, a land of illusion, and I thought "Hey, maybe Palette's from there." Then the game introduced Praetorian content, and I liked the highly magical vibe of Night Ward, and... well, you get the idea. I went through a bunch of origins for her, and none of them felt especially right... or especially wrong, either. 

At this point, I enjoy and embrace the ambiguity. It seems fitting, and it mirrored my quest to get her costume right. Not "just right", but merely "right". Oh, my original concepts were horrible. No, I don't have them saved, they were that bad. I was trying to make her costume represent synesthesia, and that just didn't work out at all. Eventually I just went with pink and purple, because 1) pink and purple and Palette are all p words, and 2) the colors matched that of her powers (this was long before the game allowed us to customize the colors of our powers).

For those curious, her main powerset is Illusion Control, which is explained in the game as "You can manipulate light and sound to manifest all sorts of Illusions, aiding your allies as well as deceiving your foes," but I always imagined her powers as "Synesthesia, but cranked up to 11."  

With regular synesthesia, your senses are cross-connected, such that numbers have colors or sounds have tastes. This is a quirky bit of neurology, but to my knowledge people with synesthesia don't suffer from it. 

BUT! Imagine if it were to come upon you unawares, strong and sudden, while you were trying to do something highly stressful like, I dunno, rob a bank or something. Suddenly the sound of the bank alarm is generating flashes of light which obstruct your vision, and the tastes of all the differently-colored numbers turns your stomach, and the screams of the bank tellers makes your skin feel like it's on fire. I imagine it would be terribly disorienting and painful to have your senses amplified and cross-connected in a manner which you couldn't process. You'd probably fall down and curl into a twitching ball. 

That's why I made her an illusion controller, and that's why I named her Palette: because of the palette of colors, sounds, and sensations she had at her disposal. She's a strange hero, and quirky in the fine tradition of B-class heroes (more quirky than The Question, less quirky than Ambush Bug) and I like her just the way she is. 

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