This is an explanatory writeup of one of my Original Characters (OCs). Nothing here is necessarily related to a meaningful fiction you should recognise and is shared because I think my OCs are cool and it’s cool to talk about OCs you make.
“Is that her?”
“Yeah, the former sidekick of-“
“You know, don’t call her that.”
“But she was, until the incident,”
“Don’t mention that.”
“Why, what’s the worst that-“
“You know, maybe just stop talking.”
She’s not broken. She’s not wrong. She’s just not like you. Unburning is an angry young woman, in a way that sentence simply could not capture. Some heroes struggle to keep their power under control, and hers is the power of fire that burns as rage – where she becomes more angry, she becomes more powerful… and she recognises that seductive risk.
So, she keeps herself withdrawn. Careful. Quiet.
She knows when she’ll need to be loud.
“Oh, suuuure, it used to be all ‘poison apple’ and ‘cursed to be a frog’ but y’all don’t seem to remember when the time came to solve plagues and poxes, it was the witches that did that, jeeze. No respect.”
Hext. Just Hext. Once, a sidekick, now out on her own, she goes now by just Hext. She’s got that sly, not-quite-impressed college girlboss feel, like she’s free from some form of oversight, except her life and education has featured oh-so-much worse than textbooks. Running around beating up bad guys in her early teens, she’s done with living in a shadow, learned her lessons, and her former mentor… well…
… yeah, none of that, not no more. Bored with that.
If you’ve dealt with either Hext or Unburning, they were probably showing up as part of a group, showing up with the Young Spartans to get some work done. Hext, the glittering sparkle-witch, with powers that let her do deals and pacts, throwing magic around in long chains, was probably moving around fast, doing support and protecting people, healing wounds, and confusing enemies with illusions and summoned horrors. By contrast, there’s Unburning, who serves as a raw powerhouse: She does fire, and she does more fire, and she does enough fire. Unburning does intense enough fire to create pressure waves around her, vaporising craters into the ground around her, blasting lines of hot fire that rip through things, unchaining an energy within her that needs to be carefully controlled.
Hext, Edie Nosurname, is more likely to be seen on her own, normally: She’s fond of calling herself a meddler. Her abilities, her type of magic, is very flexible and versatile, even if it requires a lot of presence of mind to use. The way she describes it, there’s some kind of consent exchange with it – when she makes someone into a frog, some part of her asks some part of that person if they want to be a frog, and the trick is finding what part of them thinks it’s better to be a frog.
(Often, she points out, it’s the stomach.)
Unburning, Brandy Whitlock, on her own is much more likely to be on her own, at home, in her room, in the dark, reading black books with white text, or watching anime, or keeping her feelings in check. Sometimes she comes out and hangs with her friends in the Young Spartans, but everyone knows if Brandy’s near that doesn’t mean she wants to be involved: It means she wants to be near, and you respect that.
Power-wise, the pair operate like a classical pair of smart and flexible and dumb and powerful. When Unburning gets going, almost all her powers are just some expression of ‘burn more,’ which means she largely shows up to superhero moments and ideally, never does anything. She’s there to be the violent backup, the damage that everyone else in the Young Spartans hopes to not need.
The Young Spartans are a supergroup of former sidekick characters. They’re people who achieved majority and separated themselves in one way or another from their mentored past. Imagine a group of Nightwings and Speedies and – yes, it was probably inspired by the Outsiders, but less bitter. Well, some of them are less bitter. Hext was originally the angel-themed sidekick of the ‘good witch’ heroine Holly Wyrd, and separated when Holly became a megachurch’s support heroine, Holy Wyrd. Unburning by comparison used to be the sidekick of a Salem witch heroine known as Ms Red, who was using her powers to siphone off her sidekick’s powers, for her own good.
Neither are particularly happy with their former mentors, and there’s a reason you shouldn’t bring up ‘sidekick’ as a term around the Young Spartans. It’s a sore topic that people would rather you not.
This is two very different characters, who have had a lot of different representations across multiple versions of the game. Originally, they were made to relate to a mechanical idea, that already existed and then swapped around to different builds, then the game shut down. Now, on Homecoming, Hext is a dark/dark controller, with
- 45% defense to smashing, lethal, and ranged attacks, not counting Fade, which is permanent.
- 200% global recharge, which includes permanent hasten
- 45 second recharge on Howling Twilight, possibly the most powerful power in either set
And you can see her build here.
Unburning is a fire/rad blaster, with
- 45% to smashing, lethal and energy, and 32% defense to ranged attacks
- 205% global recharge, which means a nuke every 31 seconds
and you can see her build here.
There is something here that needs special mention though! I am actually a bit annoyed by how these characters are represented in the game, because thanks to years of playing them and time playing them in textual forms, I have had a lot of refinement for the way the game represents them, and since the mechanics refers to the way these characters work in the game that lets me play them…
Hext should be fat.
Look, I don’t make fat characters. I don’t do a good job of it. But ‘I don’t do a good job of it’ isn’t a good reason to avoid doing more of it. And Hext contrasts with Unburning, who is wiry and threatening, and meant to have more of a threatening aura. Over time, enough time writing her, and enough time writing her with people who were good at encouraging me to try different things, I know full well that ‘fat’ isn’t a bad word, and ‘fat’ isn’t a bad thing for a hero to be…
And so, Hext should be fat.
In game, she doesn’t look it. She doesn’t look like a rounded chubby lady with tum to go with her boobs and her hips. And sure there are other things, like how her hair should be more sparkly and have different sheets of colour in it, like a rainbow, and her makeup should be glittery and excessive and tasteless. But more than that: She should be fat. The system I have for representing her isn’t good at that, and I am not good at that, and that’s every reason to be unsatisfied and to instead hold to that detail. She’s fat and she’s cool and she’s fun and she’s pretty.
She’s also queer as hell, but I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever shown a non-queer character off here. Both of them are queer. It’s true of them and the whole of the Young Spartans.
The history of these two characters stretches back quite a way. Like, an unnecessarily long way, in fact, and it’s hard to talk about it without sounding like I’m mad at someone. I mean, I was mad at someone but largely now I just avoid them because I don’t want to feel that way again.
First things first, these characters didn’t always have the names Hext and Unburning. Unburning used to be named Brand when she was on Virtue, and Hext used to be known as Hex Ed, hence her surprisingly archaic name of Edith (and going by ‘Eddy’). But even then, before there, these two characters had different names as well. One was called Conspyre, and he was a demon boy I made for a supergroup that was looking to make an Avengers-style arrangement, and the other was a spooky dangerous monster-man named Carceri. These characters were both created for RP spaces, to share with people, and then, after setting up their story and getting them in those spaces, they were abandoned by their roleplay communities.
And I mean conspicuously! Like, one SG wanted me to set up a thing and do some work for them (earning in-game currency for the group). The group then, without me, had a conversation and all moved their characters over to a different group until I left the group I was in, whereupon they moved back. It wasn’t something I was all that wild about, but it also happened to me a few times, with different people. I definitely feel like The Weird Kid in a social space, where people didn’t want to deal with me that much and I don’t think that was as much on the other people as much as me being unable to handle/pick up on social cues.
Oh wait hang on, one of them had to bail on talking to me because a player she was playing with didn’t like me, personally, and told her not to talk to me any more. That was probably someone being an asshole.
Anyway, this happened to me … fairly frequently. Make a character, level them, get them involved and developed, put in social infrastructure work like wiki pages and explainers and whatnot, and then the other person ghosted me. Often, I’d help level the other person’s character, too*!
Sometimes it was the same person! Multiple times! And the result was I had this gaggle of characters that I considered ‘orphans.’ And then, in a fit of pique one day, I realised the only thing keeping these characters the way they were was an attachment to other people, and a sulkiness, so I got these characters all to 50, then made a new small supergroup for storing them. It was a kind of retirement for these characters, but I also liked them a lot. It was kinda, at the time of Live, a sort of assertion: These characters are now off-limits for your bullshit, they’re fixed, they have their story, if you want to talk to them or deal with them, it’s on my terms now. Which sounds nonsense when I say it, like, surely that should have been there from the start for most characters. With that new mindset, I rebuilt all these orphans into new characters to make characters who had a vibe I like, built on ideas I liked, concepts that I wanted to see in the City of Heroes universe. If I had so many ideas about how Superheroes should be, I should put my money where my mouth was and stop being afraid of designing ‘too many girls.’
That’s when I made the Young Spartans.
And I went pretty hard on it.
I made a logo for them, something that stood apart from other factions. I gave the group a centralising theme, which is where I got the idea of the former sidekicks. I liked the idea of that kind of vibe, of the ‘free from parental control’ weirdness, I liked the idea of people who didn’t have a normal adolescence getting to discover themselves in their early twenties (for some reason) and also what it meant to find other people who had gone through similar traumas to them (for some reason), and also really learning a lot about an alternate sexuality that was obvious to others when you weren’t keeping things contained to someone else’s aesthetic surveillance (for some reason). The Young Spartans formed around that structure as a sort of ‘what if the Teen Titans were also Weirdo Fundie Rumspringa.’
That’s where we got Hex Ed and Brand at first. I like Starfire, and I like Raven, and they’re both really cool characters from their source material, but a lot of how they work is meant to tie into their youth and comparative powerlessness. Also, back when I did this, like… jimminy, 2011? Good grief, that’s a number.
And that’s where these stories got coalesced. I wound up sharing these characters with a roleplaying group, G4, who got to do a lot of the roleplay that shaped them as personas, the kind of people they wound up being and also my particular snobbery of the ethics of superheroics. It also is where I baked out these two
And yeah, they’re girlfriends. Hext is dating a few other people as well. Brand has some datefriends too, but Brand is only interested in women while Hext is interested in everything. There have been other mentions of Young Spartans, since they wound up recruiting Tideward (because I had the Spartans already), and Burnwillow (a farmer alt that wound up becoming core to the game), and they’re probably dating in some complex arrangement there, too!
* I’m not blameless here, by the way; there are at least two characters of mine that someone else levelled while I was in a Bad Moods place and I never wound up playing them before the game went down, and that sucks, they don’t deserve that and I have tried to find and apologise to both of them since the collapse of the game.