#8: The Three Jeniffers|
I like writing things out like this, though I suppose it's mostly for myself, all things considered. Writing help me organize my thoughts on things, and writing in a public medium keeps me honest.
This one of those things that I've been sitting on for awhile. I have three Jeniffers in my various strips, all with an identical odd spelling of "Jennifer" all looking very much alike (at least at the start) occasionally wearing the same outfits, and having key elements of their person in common.
I suppose I had one idea for a character and I ended up spinning it out in three different ways. Actually, that's probably inaccurate to say. The original intent was for them to be the same Jeniffer, but they changed with their environment into dramatically different characters, at least in my mind.
I've ended up giving them different names, as in the above image, because it makes
them easier to talk about rather than having to always say or write "Peace on Earth
Jeniffer" or "Mr. Snodgers' Neighborhood Jeniffer". Jeniffer Imari annoys me because
that was a generic fantasy name I made up and intended for Peace on Earth Jeniffer,
but then Pabafol Jeniffer decided to steal it in a manner I cannot fully explain.
Jeniffer Singer doesn't seem a fully functional replacement, but it has given her a
new backstory I enjoy. Jeniffer Snodgers just had to stay Jeniffer Snodgers because
the alternatives generally just don't make sense. I suppose things could change
I suppose if I was to list out her desires in order, she wants to be powerful first and foremost, then she wants to be good, and after that she wants to be social. By taking Mr. Snodgers as a role model, since he seems to get away with the most, and since he's the most omnipresent in her life, she's trying her hardest to fulfill her primary desire, but keeps hesitating because she sees that acting in that way won't fulfill her other desires. While they aren't as strong, she can't quite imagine forgoing them entirely, and so she's trying to find a path that leads through all those things. Her mother's path isn't much better. While she's powerful and good, she has even fewer people in her life than Mr. Snodgers. Not even her own family get s to see her much. Jeniffer doesn't have a role model to base herself on, real or imagined, so she tends to just alternate between those that she does have which really only makes things worse.
She also has a painful lack of social network. In part this is because of who she tries to emulate and either end of her extreme tends to be fairly off-putting. Her family is not a lot better, with her mother being away in long stretches, her father never having been there at all, and her primary care giver being somewhat incapable of really caring for another person, either emotionally or in just putting in the necessary effort. I suppose the advantage of this is that she's much more ready to take people into her life that others wouldn't. It's a desperate sort of good thing though.
I've put things on hold with her for now, but I remain interested in coming back to
it some day, since it explores the ways that having power doesn't make you happy,
it's knowledge that does. Knowledge of who you are, what you want and how
to get it. And unfortunately those things are harder to find than they seem.
Power can just help you get there once you know those things.
It does lead her to being a rather terrible person though, blindly harming others since she can't see or care about them. It's also why she's fun to write though, because I can just go with whatever my whim is at that moment, and that is the right thing for her to do. It means seeing what grows naturally from these sparks, rather than taking an idea, and beating it into a shape where it can be carefully fitted into the narrative and world I have at that moment or even potentially discarding it to never grow at all.
This also might be why her series ended. I eventually tried to pull her back to considering others, and that wasn't the formula that worked.
It's funny to me that she grew a great deal more than Jeniffer Snodgers ever did. Jeniffer Imari started out care free, eventually became dark and capable of doing evil, then started to once again grow a conscience before I guess growing out of behaving like a comic character at all and thus ending the series.
Part of that would probably have to do with her moving through a lot more time than Jeniffer Snodgers. While Mr. Snodgers' Neighborhood went on for longer, the time that actually passed in the strip was less than a year. Pabafol, while having no defined world, in my mind takes place over a number of years.
But Jeniffer Imari just also had more reason to grow. Whereas Jeniffer Snodgers is pretty uncomfortable with everyone, Jeniffer Imari is excited by each individual that she meets. She wants to know them, and engage with them and that's very difficult if you're also setting them on fire. While she gets around this in part by just making a universe where people don't care for long, it's still a conflict, and in the end she changes herself to end that conflict.
I suppose it's also funny in a way to call Jeniffer Imari the dark version, considering that her defining trait is that she's absolutely sunny about everything, especially compared to Jeniffer Snodgers. The character she most resembles in my mind is actually Mr. Snodgers though less deliberately evil, which makes it a shame that she can't have his name. Maybe if I decided to name the current Jeniffer Snodgers after her mysterious father instead...
Jeniffer Imari is also a bit shorter than I imagine any of the other Jeniffers being when they grow up, probably because it simply fits for her to have an aspect of youth throughout her existence. She still looks tall in this picture though, which is one part because maybe I drew her too tall, and one part that the rest are just so short because they haven't aged yet.
Oh yeah, Jeniffer Imari is 19-ish, being sometimes more, sometimes less, while Jeniffer Snodgers is 16-ish and Jeniffer Singer is 14-ish, which I suppose would allow them to all be the same person in a really convoluted way if I wanted to go that route. But that would be silly, seeing as Jeniffer Imari is already also Hitler.
(Hmm, maybe I'm not wrong to call Jeniffer Imari the dark Jeniffer.)
Spell wise, it's less of a comparison. Snodgers has an amorphous spell casting ability that I never definitively set the limits on. Singer has the limitation that she can only carve out runes for spells and she honestly doesn't know that many or much about linking them yet. Singer is a lot more knowledgeable about magic in general, and given time could probably do things that are significantly more useful, if not so much "FLASH-BOOM!" impressive. I'd love to say that given enough time to prepare she could beat Jeniffer Snodgers, but a) that would require Jeniffer Snodgers to be willing to put up with waiting for their fight for months, or even years, and b) would still be unlikely to work in Jeniffer Singer's favor since she wouldn't be able to keep things changing enough to really match someone capable of changing the world on their whim. Kinda a silly thing to speculate about I guess, and hardly her defining feature.
Jeniffer Singer has yet to define herself totally, and as such hasn't completely broken out of the Jeniffer Snodgers mold. She was intended to just be Jeniffer in a horror world initially, but changed quite a bit as I decided to take the series in a different direction than that. If I had to start over she'd probably start out with more appropriate cloths (as drawn above) and a less flippant attitude. I haven't mapped out what she wants from life and where she came from as definitively as the others. I have some ideas and basic structures but at the moment I'm leaving that a little open. I've learned that the actual process of just writing strips gives the best results in terms of developing characters. Things just grow over time and I get more and more insight into what's been driving this person all along.
One thing that makes it hard to write out what she wants is that I think that she's still trying to figure that out herself. She thought she wanted to be a great adventurer, but the reality of that isn't a great as she first thought it would be. She doesn't know whether she'll adapt or if she should be looking for something else. In the mean time adventuring shows her more options in ways to live and means that she doesn't have to go home and admit she screwed up.
I suppose the big contrast between the two is that while Jeniffer Snodgers' life is generally alright, but a difficult upbringing has made it hard for her to adapt, while Jeniffer Singer had a good home life, up until when she ran away from home to see the world and is now horribly traumatized on some levels by what she's found. Again, if I could start over I might play that a little better. I'm not sure how that will develop. She copes well and has a solid emotional foundation but there's going to be a breaking point and she's not going to have much of a network to help her when she does.
It's possible that the comparison between them also might be harder because they might have less in common than Jeniffer Snodgers and Jeniffer Imari do. Jeniffer Singer isn't just Jeniffer Snodgers plus or minus anything, she's of a very similar mold, but of a very different world and background and it's not like I can compare how they act in comparable situations. Trying to imagine them in switched in the respective situations I suppose it's easier for me to see their differences, though now I'm left trying to figure out what they have in common. Switched, Jeniffer Snodgers is so much more prone towards violence and confrontation than Singer has been, and Jeniffer Singer would probably just be moody about being in a shity, but definitely a step up from nearly fatal, situation. Even prior to having some true horror to compare it to, Singer would really only be sullen about being in Jeniffer Snodgers' situation.
And then I slowly see them adapting to be more like the other was, Jeniffer Snodgers calming down because, god damn, it's dangerous out here, and Jeniffer Singer getting more erratic because of her environment which simultaneously threatens her and restricts her ability to respond to it and where there's no one to guide her on the right way to thread her way through that conflict. Neither would probably ever reach the level of calm or agitation than the other had though.
So I guess what they have in common is their potential for who they could be. And their difference is what their environment has shaped them to be, which since those environments are quite different shaped them into fairly different people.
I suppose this is one reason I like to reuse characters, is that it's interesting to see how else things could have gone. In the future I may have to be a little more subtle about it though, at least for my sake.