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Writing Good SWAT Kats Fanfiction: Staying In Character

Posted: Sun Jan 29, 2017 11:53 am
by EricoBard
Greetings, all. Erico the Super Bard here with a series of posts that I hope you will find informative, useful, and instructive.

Many of you, like myself, feel the need to write and create, and to have our efforts appreciated. With the advent of the internet, this has become several factors easier. Gone are the days when people who enjoyed a TV Show or movie wrote scripts and sent it in hoping that it would gain traction and a place in the pantheon. Gene Roddenberry was famous for shooting down scripts written for Star Trek...and you wonder why there are so many Star Trek books that have been published over the years.

Fanfiction carries on in the footsteps of the years before, but with one subtle difference; we hope for no monetary remuneration. We do not expect to profit from what we write, since, at its heart, we have started with someone else's intellectual property and run with it. Barring famous characters now in the public domain such as Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, and other selected works by Edgar Rice Burroughs, most publishing companies, movie studios (Unfortunately in the case of the Fantastic 4, Fox Studios), and video game companies keep a lock on their IP's by putting out some drudge every 5 years or so just to renew the ownership rights.

As I've argued with many of my fellow Fanfic authors in the past, however, the very nature of what we do somehow makes it more honest, and grants us a fantastic degree of freedom. We will never have studio executives or producers breathing down our necks telling us to remove something from a script, to edit it, or to wipe it out entirely. To put it in perspective, one early draft of "When Strikes Mutilor" had the aliens that Mutilor had stolen the ship from as NOT being kat aliens, but wearing spacesuits for the entire episode, only to pull their helmets off in the end to reveal that they were HUMANS. It could have been great, it would have been a defining and shattering moment in the series, and for cartoons as a whole...and it didn't happen because some producer said, "Nope, too controversial, we're not doing it."

Then there is the opposite side of the coin when it comes to the freedom we have in writing Fanfiction: That is, of going too far. Of deviating from what is expected, and what will be tolerated. TV Tropes identifies this moment in TV shows as "Jumping the Shark", that moment when they take a step too far and lose their audience. Seaquest DSV was a fantastic TV series in Season 1...but then they Jumped the Shark, and Season 2 brought in genetic mutants and aliens, and Bob Ballard (World renowned oceanographer, discoverer of the Titanic, and according to some people who know him, kind of an asshole in real life) washed his hands of the mess, as the show was no longer about exploring the depths of the oceans and their mysteries, but had become just another serialized B-grade science fiction show.

As Fanfiction writers, we do not have producers or executives to encourage wild and stupid ideas like that in a quest for ratings (The Disney movie Bolt actually did a terrific job of making a point of this!) Of course, we don't have editors to shoot down the wilder and stupider ideas we ourselves might have that would lead to us losing our audience and making people go, "Well, it WAS a great story until..." In short, we have to police ourselves, regulate ourselves. This is very much a personal task; each of us has a degree of freedom and autonomy when we write. We make no money from what we do. We are beholden to no corporate entity, we are our own quality control. Every time we publish something, we put our reputations as writers, however small, however large, out on the line. If we fail, our works contribute to the pile that is 90 percent of existing Fanfiction: Pointless, self-serving drudge that inspires nobody, and is readily glossed over. The remaining 10 percent, as TV Tropes' Fanfiction Recommendations would attest (By no means a complete and necessarily accurate list, but at least a good start) is what we hope to write: Stories which expand on a given property's universe and make it better. Stories that inspire and re-energize a fanbase, and with luck, drive up interest to keep an existing property going or to resurrect a dead one.

There are certain things that we can do as Fanfiction writers to make sure that, even if ours is an initial effort with lackluster dialogue and prose, it can at least be viewed as believable and a part of the existing universe. Certainly not canon, by any means, but close enough that it can establish an acceptable Fanon.

I have been writing stories for 17 years now. In that time, I have published 22 Fanfiction stories, 2 original stories (Online, I don't make money off of them), and countless unpublished short stories, what-ifs, and thought bunnies. Taken in total, this amounts to more than 3 million words. Likely more around 3.25 to 3.5 million words. To look at my early stuff back around the turn of the millennium is to see what a bright-eyed, idealistic and unpolished teenager is capable of. To read the things I've written from 2008 and on is to see a more seasoned individual, someone who's taken his lumps and learned some hard lessons about what to do...and what NOT to do when it comes to writing stories.

Everyone knows that if you want to be a better writer, you need to read a lot, to understand how others before you construct prose, dial in their syntax, and how they come up with believable dialogue. Everyone knows that sometimes a character may say little, and yet we may understand them perfectly through the bare hint of a smile or a frown, and the subtle actions that they perform. And everyone knows that EVERYBODY has done an evil twin "Mirror Darkly" story and a time travel story, even the SWAT Kats. Even me, unfortunately. We can blame Star Trek for this; they've done several. I think it's something akin to a reflex response. "Um, can't think of anything new to do. Evil twin story? Yeah, evil twin story."

Because I care about writing good stories, because I want to encourage prospective fanfiction writers to aspire to be their BEST, I have decided to write a series of articles for the public consumption here on this Forum to help you all become better writers, and to craft better stories. As there are undoubtedly others who have written about how to be better writers in general, this series of articles will address the SWAT Kats Fanfiction community exclusively.

Later on, I will write articles talking about working within the existing setting of Megakat City and its surroundings, and how to go about expanding it without straining credibility and belief. I will touch on designing weapons and threats, and the pitfalls you should avoid. I will talk about how to go about addressing mature themes responsibly, going between what is gratuitous for gratuitous violence's sake, and what isn't, and why romance can and should be used, if you are comfortable with it.

For this first installment, I will begin at the heart of the matter. Every great story has something in common, going back to The Odyssey and Beowulf: Believable, relatable characters.

Characters matter. And SWAT Kats, to its credit...Has several that are very well defined.


In the posts that will follow, I will be detailing not only the main characters, but the villains and some of the more important tertiary ones as well.

We will look at them through the lens of what they say, what they do, and how they do it. A writer must understand their likes and dislikes, their particular quirks and habits. A writer must understand what motivates a character, and what they are most afraid of. If one wants to write a character, one must be able to get inside their head, to close their eyes and see them for who they are. When you are able to do that, then you will be able to write them well. Then you will be able to expand on who they are and what they can do without violating that sacred trust each fan has with that will be able to avoid Jumping the Shark.

TV series publish series "Bibles", a list of important characters, events, places, scenes. Things that MUST be true from one episode to the next to maintain continuity and credibility. Every script written for a TV show must use this Series Bible to make sure it avoids the usual pitfalls that accompany the worst of fanfiction errors and mistakes. Changes, when they do occur, are scrutinized and evaluated to determine if it makes a character better or worse. Or at least, they should be. Some TV shows fail to do this, and end up Jumping the Shark regardless.

You could consider this series of posts to be a character bible of sorts. While I cannot promise that I will hit every minor nuance of every character, I put forward my oath that I will do the best within my abilities, and give each character their proper due, not tainting them with whatever personal likes and dislikes I may have. I will not encourage particular 'ships', nor will I discourage them. I will focus on what we know about them specifically, what we can reasonably infer, and what should be avoided with them at all costs; so-called 'red flag' moments.

In my next post, we will begin with the two that matter the most; Jake and Chance, Razor and T-Bone. Of all the characters, they are naturally the most well-defined and the most fleshed out. Amidst the 'crisis of the week' that they go up against are all the details we need to paint a coherent picture.

Come. Take a walk with me. We're going to keep it in character.


Re: Writing Good SWAT Kats Fanfiction: Staying In Character

Posted: Sun Jan 29, 2017 2:24 pm
by Cait
I'm not a writer, but even as an artist, I can sense a lot of quality information in here. I'm sure I can find these articles useful too, so I'll be following the topic closely.

Re: Writing Good SWAT Kats Fanfiction: Staying In Character

Posted: Sun Jan 29, 2017 3:46 pm
by EricoBard

Chance "T-Bone" Furlong- Chance Furlong is a Megakat City native. In the episode "A Bright and Shiny Future", we learn that his 'old neighborhood' is a rougher, more run down one, and that he frequented "Pop's Newsstand", owned by Pops Purrkins. "I always wanted to be a good guy, like the Kat Kommandos." Chance retains his childlike wonder in the show; he watches Saturday morning cartoons and he still loves comic books. His dream as a kid was to grow up and be a pilot for the Enforcers. While currently non-canonical, it is implied from "Revolution" interviews that the Tremblays have it in their heads that Chance's dad was also a pilot who went MIA. This would mean that he was driven to follow the family legacy. He was the pride of his neighborhood until he was drummed out of the Enforcers, but to quote him, "Down these mean streets, a kat must fly. We want to be the good guys."

Chance wears his emotions on his sleeve for everyone to see. When he's mad, you feel it. When he's happy, you see it a mile away. He's quick to get into a scrape, and Jake has had to pull him back from slugging it out with junk haulers Burke and Murray on more than one occasion. He is impulsive and instinctive, two qualities that help to make him perhaps the best pilot to fly the skies of Megakat City. Pilots tend to have egos to match their ability, and Chance is no exception to this rule. One should not confuse impulsive with reckless, however; during "Cry Turmoil", we see that Chance is willing and able to play a long game of subterfuge just so he can be given a tour of the entire air fortress and plant explosives all over it to disrupt the Vertigo Beam. It should be noted that this is one of the few times we see Chance act in a devious fashion, and even then, he shows an unusual deal of remorse for it, going so far as to write a letter to Turmoil in Alkatraz telling her to "Keep your whiskers clean, beautiful."

Chance is highly athletic, with a build that puts most kats to shame. On the show, only two other characters are more physically imposing than the brown-striped yellow tom; Commander Ulysses Feral and Dark Kat. This is reflected in his fighting style; whenever possible, T-Bone will try to out-muscle his foes in a brawl with punches and shield charges. His fighting style, that of unstoppable blunt force, is reflected in his name: "T-Bone", a reference not to the steak, but the act of crashing one car into the side of another so hard that it curls the chassis around the impact point. He's more than willing to carry heavy ordnance when it's required, such as lugging along a bazooka. He's shown to have capable metalworking skills, even having enough experience to perform some blacksmithing and repairs on the Turbokat during their trek to the past and Megalith City. While Chance may not be the technical wizard that his partner is, he's still very capable with a rivet gun and the other tools required in their new career as grease monkeys.

Above all else, if one thing defines Chance, it is Honesty: The way he talks, the way he fights, the way he wears his heart in the open for everyone to see. He may wear a mask, but he sees the world in terms of good guys and bad guys, he always sees himself as being in the right even if he no longer carries a badge. He still harbors a grudge against Commander Feral, perhaps even more than Jake does, as he's usually the one to throw the first insult or off-color remark. Chance will always speak his mind, he will always charge headfirst into danger, and he will never stop protecting HIS city so long as he draws breath. It is because he is honest and without doubts that he is the solid rock of the team, the unbroken center. One cannot crack him, only mar the surface.

In terms of his weaknesses, "Mutation City" exposed a very troubling one, complete with a hostile reaction when it becomes exposed; he can't swim. "Fish swim. I fly." He snapped at Jake, after his partner discovered the problem during an obstacle course race. Later on in the episode, he's able to dive down underwater and save Razor from drowning, which could indicate that this weakness was a one episode 'one-off', or perhaps that he merely needs sufficient motivation to get past the mental block; a threat not to himself, but someone he cares about. During the Ci-Kat-a incident, we also learn that Chance has a similar fear of bugs or insects...which, as with his inability to swim, he either overcomes completely by the end of the episode. This tells us that if Chance does have a problem, his first instinct is not to ask for help with it; he'll either deal with it himself, or he'll try his best to hide it.

If one were to try to find other characters in popular culture that Chance most resembled, it would probably be Maverick from "Top Gun" that served as the primary inspiration. Minus the freezing up after Goose's death.

There is little in the source material about any romantic inclinations Chance might be harboring. His flirting with Callie in Season 1 could be construed as merely a decoy to throw her off the scent of his alter ego, given that in his guise as T-Bone, he is strictly professional with the Deputy Mayor. In Season 2, he spends more time interacting with Lieutenant Feral, awarding the shekat Enforcer a great deal of respect that he does not pass on to her uncle. He is as willing to work with her in active crisis situations (Caverns of Horror) as he is in going about an investigation (Razor's Edge). In both scenarios, one could infer that the bonds only go as deep as friendship and camaraderie, or that they might eventually go deeper. His bond with Jake appears, on the surface, to be one of brothers in arms, the best friend you're willing to put your life on the line for, and to fight beside. In truth, his most open romantic affiliation is with Turmoil the sky pirate, but the true depth of his feelings may never be truly known, as there is but one episode to base a conclusion on. (Especially given that it was originally going to be Feral that Turmoil tried to turn to her side in that episode until the execs nixed the idea!)

The show itself offers no direct evidence in any particular direction, leaving romance open to interpretation, and usually, a source of great debate. What is very clear in how he acts is that, for Chance, the mission will always come first. He is never paralyzed by his feelings into inaction; when Jake tries to defuse Dark Kat's bomb during its descent, Chance is able to fly on and attack Dark Kat's ship. When Callie and Jake are trapped inside a skyscraper overtaken by Viper's plant monsters, he is able to fly out to MASA to pick up an enormous drum of supercooled rocket propellant. Completing the mission, protecting his city is always his main focus and motivation. It could be construed that perhaps Chance's first love is Megakat City...and the second is the Turbokat.

As for what to avoid with Chance: His psych profile and past actions indicate that Chance will never freeze up or be unable to determine what is the best course of action. He may defer to Razor for ideas, but he will never be at a loss himself. This sense of self-assurance is too strongly tied to his self-image as a pilot and as a hero, with roots that stretch back to his childhood. He does what he does with no expectation of compensation; the gratitude, support, and loyalty of the average Megakat katizen is enough reward for him. Additionally, we never see Chance 'losing himself' to rage or violence. For Chance to truly break would require him to fail so completely that his self-given, unspoken vow of being Megakat City's protector would become moot. He would likely weather the deaths of his friends and allies with sadness, as he started to with Jake and Dark Kat's bomb, but he would never quit. He might just become a little grumpier in the process. However, since destroying Megakat City--permanently--is a poor choice of plotline, this situation will likely never come into play. Lastly, like his partner, Chance knows when to escalate a situation. He only deploys lethal force against truly monstrous threats; even Dark Kat and Hard Drive were only captured when they framed him and Razor. It is rare he will rely on anything more than nonlethal armaments, and even then, it is usually a matter of last resort, when all other options have been exhausted.

The Next Posting: Jake "Razor" Clawson

Re: Writing Good SWAT Kats Fanfiction: Staying In Character

Posted: Sun Jan 29, 2017 5:13 pm
by Kooshmeister
Pretty interesting analysis. Keep it up. :)

Re: Writing Good SWAT Kats Fanfiction: Staying In Character

Posted: Sun Jan 29, 2017 10:57 pm
by EricoBard

Jacob/Jake "Razor" Clawson- Unlike his partner, Jake's background is much less defined. He may or may not be a Megakat City native, and he has no particular accent compared to other notable figures. His history only really begins with his presence in the Enforcers, where he flew with hotshot pilot Chance Furlong as his CSO, or Combat Systems Officer. Their working relationship as Enforcers, and later as hidden vigilantes, served to prove the old mantra that opposites attract.

Limited in their weapons manufacturing by the tools and supplies available to them at the Megakat City Salvage Yard/Enforcers Boneyard, Jake adapted by designing customized missiles which did not require the usual high explosives equipped on standard military projectiles. As a result, the bulk of the Turbokat's armaments, while ruthlessly effective, are typically nonlethal and specialized to the task at hand, from the Megavolt Missile to short out energy shields to the more ubiquitous grapple capable Octopus Missile. The sheer volume of the SWAT Kats' available weapons cache and the Turbokat's sizable payload bay allows them to adapt to nearly every situation they might face in a mission, so much so that at a distance, it seems as though they have a "Missile of the Week."

Of the two former Enforcers, Jake is considered to be not only the "Sure Shot", but also the technical brains. Jake is the one responsible for the design of their weapons, ranging from the multipurpose Glovatrixes to the menace of the skies, the heavily modified F-14 Tomkat which they named the Turbokat. While a capable pilot in his own right, Jake prefers to fly in the rear seat, ensuring that their missile shots are precise and that they rarely miss. The amount of technical skill he possesses allowed him to later retrofit the 2nd Turbokat with sub-orbital rocket boosters and a "Speed of Heat" overdrive that enclosed the cockpit within an extra layer of shielding that negated the need for customized pressure suits typically used in high altitude craft such as the SR-71 say nothing of the radar scrambling module that kept the Enforcers from tracking the Turbokat, or the once-used and then quickly removed Dimensional Radar. And for other missions, he designed gear ranging from the single seater and double seater Cyclotron, the hover-capable Ejector Seats, Delta Packs, the Thunder Truck, the Turbomole, the Hoverkat, and the weapons-equipped Jetskis (With silent running mode). As Jake said regarding the inclusion of the Turbokat's third and most powerful middle engine in the episode "Night of the Dark Kat", "It's amazing what you can find in a salvage yard, eh Chance?"

Jake tends to be more withdrawn and laid back than his larger partner. The cherry red/brown furred slender tom offers less boisterous conversation than Chance, especially when on call as tow operators or when working in the garage. His shy nature becomes far less pronounced once he puts on the mask; when on a mission and in the field, his ability to focus on the task at hand makes those who see him at work begin to think that he's nothing but business. In his free time, when he isn't training or designing new tech for their work as vigilantes, Jake is known to enjoy watching late night comedy such as David Litterbin, which is considerably more highbrow than the Scaredy-Kat cartoons that Chance favors.

Jake can look at the small picture more easily than Chance. Bemoaning having to drive out on the county roads for a tow job after an exciting mission as their alter egos, Chance is quickly, but gently reprimanded by Jake, who tells him, "It may not be glamorous, Chance, but there's an old lady stuck in a ditch out here who's depending on us." Thus, Jake keeps Chance grounded, reminding him that they serve Megakat City in more than just one way and that even as tow drivers and car repairmen, they can be heroes.

While Jake has a more sedate approach to day to day life, he is no less driven than his partner to be the best; in fact, their natural competitiveness is likely what is responsible for their success as vigilantes. He's more than happy to get into contests with Chance, be it in the centrifuge for G-LOC training, hostage and scenario engagements in the reflex room, hand to hand sparring and CQC...or even the occasional Mondo Chili Pepper eat-off. It may be possible that their ongoing contests serve as a pressure relief valve, keeping the SWAT Kats fit not only physically, but mentally as well.

Unlike his partner, Jacob is less likely to come out on top in a battle of fisticuffs or in an old-fashioned street brawl, thanks to his slender build. He makes up for this by maintaining his skills in the martial arts, outclassing even Chance at demolishing cinder blocks with karate chops...and on two occasions, he has used chops and flying kicks to either free himself from a stone sarcophagus or to drop a stalactite on a mutated scorpion deep underground. While lacking in outright brute strength, Razor is nonetheless able to, with a small boost from Chance, leap up approximately 30-50 feet in the air to head level with the giant mummies of Katchu-Picchu to land precise kicks on their crystal faceplates, indicating a high degree of agility and Olympian level athletic ability. Like his partner, his crime-fighting alter ego's name takes a page from how he fights. Chance, or T-Bone, is raw force. Jake took the name Razor, better to reflect his precision in both ground combat, as well as his eagle-eyed aim at the Turbokat's weapons panel. He is also more likely to look for elements in his surroundings to offer him a tactical advantage, to see solutions to seemingly unstoppable opponents that frequently boggles the mind of his partner (Such as using a Sonic Boom to stop a transformed Rex Shard, or killing the Turbokat's engines to defeat a heat-seeking "Relentless" missile). Nothing sums up his penchant for wild notions quite so well as his famous quote, "I've got an idea so crazy it HAS to work!"

He spends more time out of the Turbokat cockpit on missions than his partner, due to the fact that T-Bone has to fly the jet. This could imply that Razor is the better driver in wheeled vehicles; he has also successfully manned an enormous kat-mech designed for outer space operations in a high-rise Godzilla styled face-off with the Metallikats in the episode "Metal Urgency". His smaller size makes him ideal for covert missions, such as when he infiltrated the Megakat Tower office building to rescue Deputy Mayor Briggs during Dr. Viper's hostile "Plantimal" takeover, and was successful in retrieving Callie and getting them both to safety...along with discovering the vital clue to the biological terror's weakness.

Unlike his partner, Jake can be more easily shaken by events. The entire premise of the episode "Razor's Edge" in Season 2 was his crisis of self-confidence after one of his Octopus Missiles went off target and caused an abandoned warehouse to explode and collapse, seemingly injuring two elderly bystanders out for an evening walk. Fearful of harming anyone else in the same way, his hesitation proved to be a liability in later operations chasing the same bogey. After discovering that it was all a ruse set up by Dark Kat to rattle the SWAT Kats and hopefully get them off of his back for a time, Razor rejoined his partner and put an end to the terrorist's most recent scheme. Resurgent and back to his old self, Razor emerged stronger from the incident, but it exposed a critical weakness in his psyche that had been hinted at previously; his need for perfection.

Nobody is harder on Jake than himself, and he's always trying to stay in top form. This pathological need for excellence can be best explained by his quote in the episode, "When Strikes Mutilor." After dueling with the titular alien villain to save the ship and the planet's water from destruction, he is congratulated by T-Bone for making a great shot, plugging the blaster cannon of the antagonist with one missile out of a pack of seemingly dozens. Razor counters by removing his oxygen mask, wincing, and retorting, "LOUSY shot. I'll be buffing out the dings for weeks!" Referring to the surface scouring and pitting suffered by the Turbokat in the engagement.

This desire for self-excellence and constant self-improvement, as well as his mechanical and analytical genius on and off of the field, all points towards a deep-rooted psychological desire for control in his world and life. Denied the life as an Enforcer, and the possible future careers that might have followed a distinguished military service, Jake controls what he can. Chance is driven to be a hero, and has wanted to be nothing else his entire life. Jacob is more mutable; He seems to forever be trying to show himself and others just how great he really is, what he's capable of. It was Jake who suggested that they build their own jet and get back in the fight as vigilantes, an idea which Chance eventually got on board with given his own heroic tendencies. Jake may also enjoy the life of a hero, but there is a strong possibility that his own service might have a link to his subconscious insecurities and desires for acknowledgement. Thus, while he may not be extroverted egomaniac that his partner is, Jake's own ego also defines him in less obvious ways. Again, if one compares Razor to T-Bone by the means of opposites, Razor could be considered the one who tends to overthink problems when allowed the time to do so...a clear difference from Chance's more impulsive tendencies.

Like Chance, Jacob has had only one heavily circumstantial romantic interest; that being Queen Callista of Megalith City, Deputy Mayor Callie Briggs' ancestor. This could be due to the fact that she looked on him with great favor as the hero of legend after he drew out the dragon sword from its pedestal, and he was lulled into the role of a chivalrous knight for a time. Chance was quick to reel him back in to reality after he mooned for too long a time, and they returned to their own age after dealing a first blow to the Pastmaster as he rode atop his dragon. Beyond Callista, there are no further episodes which indicate any other torches he might be carrying; most of Jake's on screen time is spent either hard at work or hard at training. Thus, as with Chance, the original writers of the show have opted to leave it something of an open-ended question, leaving it to the fans to decide.

As for what to avoid with Jake: His subconscious desires for control and perfection do NOT appear in any overt aspect of his interactions with others, save for stopping Chance from doing something rash to suggest a different approach to a problem or threat. While he may not appreciate his partner's "Shortcuts" and television preferences, they aren't things we see him willing to get in a fight over, so it is unlikely he'd go full bore control freak. Like Chance, Razor's first response is always the nonlethal one; He attempted to anesthetize and net the mutated scorpion in "Caverns of Horror" first before calling up more lethal tools. Prospective writers might consider Jake the serious one of the pair, given that Chance is more outgoing and boisterous and definitely laughs more, but it is important to note that Jake isn't a hardliner devoid of a sense of humor. He smiles often enough; it's just rare he finds something funny enough to laugh at. Attempts to turn Jake "Grimdark" akin to Batman should be avoided to reflect this fact.

The Next Posting: Enforcers Commander Ulysses Feral

Re: Writing Good SWAT Kats Fanfiction: Staying In Character

Posted: Mon Jan 30, 2017 6:40 am
by Prettyshadowj26
Keep it up Keep it up I like it :D

Re: Writing Good SWAT Kats Fanfiction: Staying In Character

Posted: Mon Jan 30, 2017 6:54 pm
by Rusakov
Ooh, Feral! That could come in handy if I start working on my fanfic of him again. :P

Re: Writing Good SWAT Kats Fanfiction: Staying In Character

Posted: Wed Feb 01, 2017 1:19 am
by EricoBard

Commander Ulysses Feral- Before the SWAT Kats, Megakat City had a different group of defenders; The Enforcers. Part police force and part military coalition, The Enforcers swear an oath to serve and protect the citizens of Megakat City and their property from threats both domestic and foreign. At the head of this expansive and expensive pseudo-military police force is Commander Ulysses Feral, a tall and broad-shouldered kat with a military buzz cut, a stern scowl, and a commanding presence.

In the show, Feral is usually treated as a foil to the SWAT Kats; a humorous distraction and polar opposite to their attitudes and methods. It is unwise to underestimate him, however. Feral is a highly capable soldier and officer. He is qualified to fly Enforcer jets and helicopters, and to drive Enforcer tanks and patrol vehicles. Feral prefers to lead his men at the front of an attack as opposed to coordinating from the rear. When the need arises, he isn't afraid to go undercover and put himself in the line of fire, as evidenced when he dressed up as a fisherman to sneak into the island fishery in "Katastrophe." Nor is he afraid to charge a target head-on with his laser pistol blazing as he did in "The Deadly Pyramid."

"The Enforcers will handle this!" In his role as the leader of the Enforcers, Feral stands as the epitome of law and order operated under a strict set of policies and protocols. The living representation of a 'by the book', stiff-collared leader, Feral clearly hails from an older generation of combat tactics where the only proper response to a threat is escalation and overwhelming force. Against more low-level criminals, this can be effective, but against the super-criminals that started to plague Megakat City in the wake of Dark Kat's rise to prominence, it is usually a costly, and ineffective, reaction. "Bring me chopper backup!" Is his famous one-liner, and it is rare that he goes an episode without snapping off some variant of it. Underneath it all is Feral's belief that The Enforcers are Megakat City's true defenders, that it is not only their job, but their sacred mission to keep the metropolis safe. Every time the SWAT Kats appear to solve the crisis at hand or to catch a particularly elusive criminal is a black mark against his worldview, and he does not tolerate it well. Especially when, during some incidents like Viper's Megakat Tower takeover, he finds his hands tied by the orders of the Mayor.

Throughout Season 1, he's quick to blame them for when an arrest goes wrong and to try and capture them or put out warrants for their arrest. The arrival of his niece, Lieutenant Felina Feral in Season 2, changes him some, 'humanizes' him, so to speak. It could also be the effect of the SWAT Kats working with him to save the Mayor and Deputy Mayor during Katastrophe that led to a slight cessation in hostilities, even if he continues to grumble and complain in public. Even as he insists on The Enforcers remaining the dominant force, he is more willing to look the other way when the two vigilantes decide to fly in and save the day.

The qualities that most define Feral would be Pride and Honor. Behind his bluster and his agitation, Feral is a kat with a singular perspective and approach. The Lawful Good counterpoint to the SWAT Kats' less controlled mayhem, he expects his Enforcers to adhere to his code of ethics, and to operate under the same rules and guidelines that he does. There are two ways of doing things: The wrong way, and his way. Even with all the respect he has for his gung-ho niece, he still occasionally considers reprimanding her for her inability to follow orders, a suitable punishment under most uniform codes of military justice, but one that he constantly shelves because "She's the best Enforcer I've got...and my brother would never speak to me again." Regardless, he remains too proud to change his ways, heedless of the cost. And there is a cost.

Feral's adherence to his doctrine of 'overwhelming response' typically results in at least three damaged Enforcers vehicles and aircraft per episode, with the resulting casualties never explicitly declared, but inferred to carry just as heavy a cost. Every damaged and ruined vehicle ends up in the Megakat City Salvage Yard, which also doubles as the Enforcers "Boneyard", a dumping ground for wrecked and outdated jets and other equipment. As head of the Enforcers, Feral likely also has a role in requesting and spending funds from the city on behalf of equipping his soldiers. As with his casualties, the exact cost is never officially stated, but it must be exorbitantly high, given that a typical jet or helicopter runs in the millions of dollars to produce.

His Pride and Honor have a reverse to the coin aside from ineffective stubbornness, however. In one of the defining moments of his career at the end of the episode "Metal Urgency", Feral is staring down Mac and Molly Metallikat with a custom device created by Professor Hackle to neutralize their processes and put them offline. In an attempt to barter for their lives, the two disembodied heads beg Feral to not deactivate them in exchange for a secret which Feral would have, on any other given day, traded his right arm for; the real identities of the SWAT Kats. Feral waits for about two heartbeats, then scowls and rebuffs them. "I don't deal with scum." He puts them offline immediately after. This action catches Deputy Mayor Briggs completely off guard, given the strength of his hatred for the two vigilantes. He shakes off her surprise, gruffly adding that he "Didn't want to owe those two hoods anything." For as much as Feral dislikes the SWAT Kats, there is a line that he will not cross. He will not barter and trade with murderers and thieves, no matter what for. The price will always be too high.

While non-canonical, in an early draft of "Cry Turmoil", it was not Chance, but Commander Feral who was supposed to be captured and seduced by the sky pirate. As explained by the writers in interviews years after the fact, he would have played along with joining her until her defeat at the hands of the SWAT Kats became inevitable, and only then would he have said that he was stringing her along. Of course, whether he was speaking the truth in this alternative telling of the story or was merely covering his fall from grace is something that would have been left up for interpretation. While this would have been another very pivotal moment in his career, it would have nonetheless contradicted his earlier statements and actions. Of course, it is likely that some amount of time passed between Season 1 and Season 2; enough, perhaps, for Feral to not only begin to stop seeing the SWAT Kats as his most dangerous threat, but maybe enough to also cause the proud and stubborn commander to begin to lose faith in his worldview after having the SWAT Kats continue to succeed, and replace the organization he'd spent a lifetime serving in and then leading. Still, as stated earlier, this particular draft of "Cry Turmoil" is non-canonical, and while it presents interesting ideas that might be used in a story, they are nonetheless inconsistent with Feral's words and actions in the rest of the series.

Feral has no obvious romantic affiliations, nor does his character lend itself to fostering such attachments. Feral's personality and life are too closely tied to the Enforcers; He stands as the epitome of someone who is 'married to his work.' He is never seen off-duty or in civilian clothing, and the most undressed he has ever been was a moment when he was sitting at his desk out of his coat, filling out paperwork.

What to Avoid with Commander Feral: To reiterate from the alternative plotline of "Cry Turmoil": While Feral may become livid with the losses that the Enforcers take in defending Megakat City, how the mayor prevents him from doing his job the way he would prefer, and the successes of the SWAT Kats in doing what he and his well trained, well equipped miniature army cannot; Feral has too much pride in himself, in his Enforcers, and in his city to ever betray it. An analysis of his psych profile do not paint a portrait of a kat who has the potential to 'go off the reservation' as it were, and turn into an enemy agent against all he holds dear. He is much more likely to, as so many warriors and veteran police officers have before him, retire in disgust and wash his hands of the mess. That is, if the job doesn't kill him first. To reflect this, stories where Feral joins forces with supervillains, or becomes one himself, should be avoided. His fate seems more inevitably to be a slow decline in old age and retirement, or to go up against something so dangerous that his usual style of 'leading from the front lines' costs him his life.

Re: Writing Good SWAT Kats Fanfiction: Staying In Character

Posted: Wed Feb 01, 2017 12:16 pm
by EricoBard

Deputy Mayor Calico "Callie" Briggs- Public service is typically a thankless job, with low pay and high accountability. A public servant in Megakat City faces additional troubles, and few work as hard, or burn quite as much midnight oil as the deputy mayor of Megakat City, a young blond queen named Calico Briggs.

"Callie" as she prefers to be called, serves under Mayor Manx as his right hand. In practice, this means that he usually shoves off the bulk of his paperwork of mayoring onto her desk so the nine term official can focus on what matters most to him; hobnobbing, going to fundraising banquets, and practicing his golf game. The result of this is that Callie is a very competent civilian leader well aware of the ins and outs of how to run Megakat City effectively. This sometimes puts her in harm's way, especially when the Metallikats are involved. When she tells them that it wasn't Manx who denied their paroles, but her, she is unafraid to put a little added force behind it. "That's right sister! And I'd do it again in a heartbeat!"

Every effective vigilante needs a support network, which includes someone of authority that can notify them when problems crop up. Callie carries a palm-sized triangular communicator in her purse which puts her in touch with the SWAT Kats: The signal can be received at the Salvage Yard, the underground hangar, and while they're in their tow truck and the Turbokat. As a result, they are never out of reach when she needs to call on them. Throughout the show, it is never specifically stated when the SWAT Kats gave her the remote communicator, though the common assumption is sometime in their early days of donning the masks.

On occasion, Callie is treated as the 'damsel in distress', with a threat to her well being serving as the catalyst for the vigilantes to fly into action. However, this betrays her true strength and abilities. When Dark Kat and Hard Drive teamed up to frame the SWAT Kats, it was Callie who was not only willing to give them the benefit of the doubt in spite of strong circumstantial evidence, but who also saved their lives by hurling a heavy moneybag to knock Dark Kat's weapon out of his hands. She was also of some assistance to Razor during Viper's hostile takeover of Megakat Towers as well...even if she did start off by braining him with a fire extinguisher.

Callie may lack the training that the SWAT Kats and Lieutenant Feral possess, but she is portrayed consistently as a strong female not inclined to freeze up or start fainting when things go wrong. On occasion, she is responsible for protecting the mayor himself from danger as well. It is likely that this character trait was the reason that the SWAT Kats selected her as their contact on the inside; she is level-headed enough to know when they are needed.

Callie is on the record as being the SWAT Kats' strongest supporter within the Megakat City government. She has the wisdom to see that they are needed, and that they can achieve what the Enforcers cannot; quick and rapid resolution of a problem. When Feral snarled and asked the sky what the two vigilantes were doing, she snapped back at him, "Your job, Feral." Even the SWAT Kats' penchant for devastation doesn't faze her; the lives of the city's katizens are always more important. Buildings can be replaced, lives cannot. Given how many city-threatening events they have averted, her faith is certainly well placed.

She isn't all business, though. There is a softer, friendlier side to her that gives her personality great depth. Her sense of humor is quick to relieve tension after the problem of the week is resolved, telling the SWAT Kats after capturing Dark Kat and Hard Drive that "We'd better get all this money back to city hall, or I don't get paid this week." Similarly, while she carries a great deal of frustration regarding her job, she defuses it by exacting small tokens of recompense. "One of the perks of being deputy mayor..." She sometimes slyly says, regardless of her reality. And after the SWAT Kats ended the threat of the Pastmaster and Katchu-Picchu, she remarked in regards to her possible willingness to marry the 'little troll' that "Let's just say I'm awfully glad I didn't have to make good on my offer." The SWAT Kats mean a great deal to her, and her rash declaration made in an attempt to preserve them shows a line of steel in her ability to self-sacrifice for the greater good that is commendable and too often missing in those who seek out positions of authority.

Callie could just have easily turned out less noble and more self-serving under different circumstances; In the episode "The Dark Side of the SWAT Kats", she is still Deputy Mayor, but more ruthless, working alongside the Dark SWAT Kats and Dark Kat as well. Even though we can dismiss this episode as an alternate reality/evil twin episode which nearly show gravitates toward at some point, the lack of an explanation for why she and the vigilantes went evil in that reality has provided a great deal of 'wiggle room' for fanfiction authors to explore. Based on her psych profile, it is likely that they all started out on the same page; she a young first time political appointee drowning under the weight of a thankless job, them recently dishonorably discharged Enforcers stuck in a dead end job for the rest of their lives. Without the SWAT Kats stepping up and showing her that there were some kats in the city willing to stand up and put themselves at risk to help others, she could have quite easily become disillusioned. The fate of Calico Briggs, for better or worse, seems to be tied to that of the two vigilantes.

That does not mean that she knows who they are. She does not interact with the vigilante's real life counterparts that often in the course of the show. On the most evident occasion, she merely goes to drop off her aging car again and tolerates Chance's flirting before departing with a sly wave at the quieter, slimmer tom and the teasing words of, "Bye, Jake." In another episode, as the SWAT Kats are driving her car to escape the Enforcers, T-Bone compliments the smoothness of the ride and the power under the hood. "I know a couple of great mechanics." She says with a smile, to which T-Bone deflects by telling Razor that he wished the Turbokat ran as smoothly. She shows no clear signs of knowing who they are behind the mask in the course of the show, nor is she concerned by it. The SWAT Kats are there to protect the city when the Enforcers can't; who they are is a moot issue. She also has enough brains to perhaps realize that knowing who they are would be a liability, given how on the record she is in support of them. The SWAT Kats also must have reached the same conclusion.

In terms of possible romantic affiliations, Calico Briggs is a wide open book. She befriends the SWAT Kats, but never seems to care about one more than the other. When when she flirts with Jake after dropping off her car, it is likely she did it only to deflate Chance's ego a little after the brawnier tom came on so strongly. She could be straight, she could have same sex tendencies. It is never implied, and thus, open for interpretation and debate.

What to Avoid with Callie Briggs: While the brief delve into an alternate reality might be tempting to fall on more strongly, it is important to note that this is more important as a measure of her inner strength and ability, and less in terms of what she is most likely to do. In the mainline reality, the SWAT Kats are a force for good, and the symbol that restored her faith in the city and its residents and their ability to overcome problems. She will never turn against them, or sell them out. Calico is a strong queen who is willing to stand up and fight, in her own way, for the city. She is not weak, or feeble. She is a civilian doing the best she can with the tools at her disposal. Perhaps some day, she will gain more tools, become more capable. That is growth and change, which is natural. Above everything else, Callie should be allowed the dynamism and charisma which are her hallmarks; she is a female in power, and no mold truly defines her.

Re: Writing Good SWAT Kats Fanfiction: Staying In Character

Posted: Wed Feb 01, 2017 1:00 pm
by Kooshmeister
I really love your breakdown of Feral. It was excellent. It's amazing how we, as fans, have come a long with with regards to him; as a kid, I couldn't stand him, and my old prejudices returned when I started watching the show again in '97 and in '00 or thereabouts after another short break from it, but as I've grown older, I've really changed my stance on him, and he's become one of my favorite good guys.