LNH/META: How to Write Haiku Gorilla and WikiBoy
milos_parker at yahoo.com
Wed May 10 22:13:34 PDT 2006
Haiku Gorilla and WikiBoy are two of my most
popular recent creations, and some authors have
expressed interest in using them in some of their own
stories. This has me tickled pink.
Their popularity results, I think, from a purity of
concept and a simplicity of personality: they are gag
characters, less complex than the three-dimensional
ones that are the mark of classical "good writing".
At the same time, there are a couple of traps the
unsuspecting writer might fall into, which might
result from a misunderstanding of the basic character
And so, I present the official
HOW TO WRITE HAIKU GORILLA & WIKIBOY!
WikiBoy was created in October of 2005, first
appearing in the ALT.RIDERS FOX.NET SPECIAL. This
appearance, however, is very different from the
WikiBoy we know and love: in that story, he appears as
a bi-polar sort of robot, an artificial being at the
mercy of an "edit war".
I was still groping for a character concept at this
time, and it wasn't until the next month-- November's
LEGION OF NET.HEROES Vol. 2 # 11-- that I had figured
the character out. That story, and his appearances in
the MASTER BLASTER specials SUPER BOWL SPECIAL and
INSUFFICIENT POSTAGE, pretty clearly states his
personality and the capacity in which he usually
appears: namely, the recipient of vast abuse and
WikiBoy is not a robot or artificial being (though
he can be retconned, or "edited" into one) but a human
being with the ability to have his powers,
personality, appearance, and history edited and
changed, initially by any person but now by any member
of the Legion only.
Often, this editing results in his abuse. In one
story, he is given AIDS and retconned into a serial
rapist. In another, he becomes a cat-girl just before
bumping into Self-Righteous Preacher, and a black man
before bumping into the racist Softcentre. He spouts
breasts, is cloned, killed, resurrected, and (more
than once) transformed into a magical vending machine.
This basic gag is similar in many respects to the
cartoon "Duck Amuck", in which Daffy finds himself at
the mercy of an animator; WikiBoy's plight is
indicative of that of fictional characters in general,
especially those characters written by many authors
with conflicting viewpoints.
However, this can lead to the misconception that
WikiBoy is basically a blank slate. That he has no
personality. And this is actually a shallow
understanding of the character's core concept.
WikiBoy does have a personality. He doesn't mean
anyone any harm and accepts his suffering passively
for the most part. He's a bit of a sad sack and prone
to melancholy; at the same time, this self-pity is
tempered by not being too perturbed by change.
This is his core personality, his identity, his
soul. The humour of the character comes from the
contrast between his core personality and his outward
personality: from the tension between who he really is
and who the authors want him to be.
In WEB OF MAINSTREAM MAN # 1, for example,
Mainstream Man edits WikiBoy to be more cheerful and
happy-go-lucky. WikiBoy begins to tap dance elegantly
and, with a broad smile on his face, muses on how much
he hates his life.
In this example, he has the outer trappings of
being happy-go-lucky, but _inside_ he is quite upset.
That's a far cry from "he has no personality", and the
perspective WikiWriter must understand this: it's a
key part of the gag.
The other key part is, again, suffering. WikiBoy
is often treated (both by other characters and his
author) as an object to be tormented or used. Even
when he is not being abused or having heinous crimes
retconned into his history, he is still used as a
weapon, as a thing, by his fellow Legionnaires.
Part of this also stems from the nature of
WikiBoy's powers: he cannot edit himself, revert any
edits made to himself, or even suggest particular
edits, and so his usefulness is solely dependent upon
the creativity of his comrades. Often, though, the
two things are tied together: in the Master Blaster
Super Bowl Special, for example, Master Blaster
catapults WikiBoy through the air and towards an
enemy, editing him into a heavy vending machine that
crushes said enemy. Thus he is used as a weapon in
combat (killing the villain) and is
objectified/humiliated (vending machine).
Now, the natural question is, why does WikiBoy put
up with all this abuse? And the answer to the
question is that WikiBoy has a passive personality
(which one would have to if they hope to survive
possessing his peculiar powers). He would never, ever
seek revenge on someone; it's not in his nature. The
answer to the answer to the question (which is really
a question in and of itself) is, what if WikiBoy was
edited into someone who would seek revenge?
Technically, someone could do that... but the
answer's no. It would be a violation of the
character's essential nature. And while the gags come
from the disconnect between his basic nature and the
actions/attitudes he is forced (through editing) to
exhibit, I think a vengeful WikiBoy would be taking it
too far. It also violates the basic nature of the
suffering gag, which is that he suffers passively,
almost Christ-like. If you're going to heap suffering
on someone, it's not nearly as much fun if they get
you back for it.
Is this a cop-out of sorts? Call it that if you
like, but them's the rules.
WikiBoy is reserved, but useable with permission;
however, I don't see a problem with someone using him
in a cameo appearance or for a quick gag. (If I don't
trust you with my people, and you'll know if I don't,
it's better that you ask even for a cameo.)
Now, one last essential thing about the LNHer
Anyone Can Edit: the rule of the game is, nothing
sticks. It's assumed that any trouble that might
befall him might be reverted between your story and
the next one he appears in. Some might find this
constricting; I look at it as an opportunity for a
writer to go balls-out crazy with the character.
Haiku Gorilla first appeared in JUST IMAGINE SAXON
BRENTON PRESENTS THE RACCIES... AGAIN! # 2 (January
2006), and is killed in that very issue. He was a
throw-away character, intended to tie JUST IMAGINE 2
in with APES MONTH, and that was that: like WikiBoy,
it wasn't until I had a month (and in this case, a
couple of months) to really think about the character.
He made another appearance in the RACCCAFE QUEST
add-on (which is, of course, out of continuity) and
in Adrian McClure's additions to JUST IMAGINE 2. It
was at this time that my beloved wife suggested I do a
regular series about Haiku Gorilla, in haiku form, and
thus a legend was born. :-)
Haiku Gorilla's origin story is told in HAIKU
GORILLA ADVENTURES # 3-64 (with ANNUAL # 1 providing a
moment of reflection). He was a research ape at a
language study laboratory designed to teach the
primates sign language; unable to grasp sign language,
the ape who would become Haiku Gorilla is ostracized.
One of the doctors, Jane Goodle, doesn't give up on
him, and they have an affair. When they are caught,
she is fired and disgraced. In his anguish, our hero
speaks. In haiku.
He becomes celebrated and is even given a mate, but
she's no Jane. He escapes and tries to seek her out.
The Institute hires outside agent Briefcase-Eater Lad
to apprehend the gorilla. Just as they're about to
tussle at Jane's house, BEL falls to the floor,
crippled by a severe case of diarrhea, resulting from
digesting some horse physic.
Jane reveals that she is married, and that Haiku
Gorilla is not the first animal she's gone to bed
with. Crushed, he wanders Net.ropolis, coming to stay
at the Park, and contemplates his future.
As HAIKU GORILLA # 65-123 tells us, he becomes a
sage figure, dispensing advice-- but only if the
question is posed in the form of a haiku. After
restoring the Ultimate Ninja's confidence in himself,
he accepts the Ninja's invite to tea.
Briefcase-Eater Lad, hired by the Church of the
Miracle Pooch to obtain a duplicate of the pinecone
from hell that was used in the attempt to save
Cauliflower (see: CAULIFLOWER THE CHRISTMAS MIRACLE
POOCH # 3 & 4-- well, actually, see # 1 & 2 also), has
pretended to reform and joins the Legion. He dupes
Pants Rabbit Lad into leading him into the Hall of
Lost Heroes and he tries to make off with the
Haiku Gorilla, having arrived for tea, confronts
BEL. Just as battle is about to begin, BEL again
crumples to the floor: this time, it's because he's
contracted crabs from Pants Rabbit Lad. The Ninja
asks Haiku Gorilla to join the LNH, and the simian
accepts. The celebration is overshadowed by the
suicide of Pants Rabbit Lad.
"Well, that's great Tom, but what do
Briefcase-Eater Lad and Pants Rabbit Lad have to do
with Haiku Gorilla?" Well, I'll tell you. :-)
Like WikiBoy, Haiku Gorilla is a passive character.
He is not a gorilla of action, but rather one of
contemplation. One major difference between the two,
though, is one of luck. WikiBoy's luck is rotten.
Haiku Gorilla seems protected by karma.
Though both storylines (and probably future
storylines) lead to a confrontation with archnemesis
Briefcase-Eater Lad (Jamie, can I make BEL his
archnemesis?), just as battle is about to be joined,
Briefcase-Eater Lad is taken out of commission as a
result of his own misdeeds. He steals someone's
briefcase only to discover it's stuffed with horse
physic; he befriends (and betrays) Pants Rabbit Lad
and is responsible for his later suicide, and so he
contracts crabs (an instance of karmic vengeance
_before_ the deed incurring said vengeance).
Besides the moral dimension, this also preserves
the purity of the concept: Haiku Gorilla is a
nonviolent character. Events seem to conspire to keep
Haiku Gorilla from sullying his paws and his
contemplative nature with violence.
Writers using Haiku Gorilla should approach him one
of two ways: one is as a general dispenser of advice
and wisdom; the other is as an action hero who never
sees any action.
Because he is such a passive and in some ways
one-dimensional character, Haiku Gorilla works best in
a supporting capacity. The stories in his own title
are not so much about Haiku Gorilla as they are about
other people. He might appear to say something of
dubious profundity or to show up just before a villain
receives their comeuppance, but he does not take
action and as a result shouldn't really be at the
center of any particular story (not even his own).
When he does act, he has been driven by an extreme
and is primarily reactive: take, for example, his
escape from the Institute and search for Jane. Even
his act of speech is a reaction to his loss, not
something he did of his own initiative.
He's not really an American character. Yes, he was
created by an American and resides in a fictional
America, but he is not an American character insomuch
as American characters have goals and set about
achieving them. He's much more Eastern/Buddhist in
his acceptance of status quo and calm; it should be
noted that WikiBoy also possesses a philosophical
interpretation, if perhaps less overtly than Haiku
Gorilla and certainly less pretentious. :-)
Now, as for the actual writing of Haiku Gorilla's
A haiku is a three-line poem of Japanese origin,
consisting of seventeen syllables arranged in a
five-seven-five configuration. Haikus typically
depict two distinct images, and _must_ possess a kigo,
or season word.
Kigo can be as overt as spring, summer, autumn,
winter. All four seasons have a number of kigo
typically assigned to them: winter, for example, can
be represented by snow, or cold, or dead trees; spring
brings up cherry blossoms, et cetera. Modern kigo
include words like Christmas or Easter. The Wikipedia
article, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Kigo is
very helpful in finding kigo.
Kigo are employed typically to be concise. That's
no reason why you can't be a little more creative with
it, though. For example, in HAIKU GORILLA ADVENTURES
He drops the briefcase
"Talk!" Jane's gun demands for her
cornered cunning fox
I used "fox". This certainly denotes something from
nature, but the fox itself does not have any readily
apparent season connected with it. I use woodland
animals myself to denote spring or the transition
between winter and spring. Is this 100 % accurate, is
it proper kigo? Probably not. But when I think fox
(or any woodland creature) I'm not thinking summer or
In HAIKU GORILLA ADVENTURES # 37,
Plunger not working
flooded city abandoned
a bird in the Bush
I use flooding (and other natural disasters) to
represent autumn (dying). In HAIKU GORILLA ADVENTURES
# 35 (part, along with 36 and the quoted 37 of the
acclaimed "Diarrhea Trilogy"),
Two-ply quilted love
aching puckering pink rose
a courtesy flush
I use "aching puckering pink rose" as both a Spring
kigo (flowers typically associated with Spring) and as
a reference to Briefcase-Eater Lad's anus. The point
is, you can be creative. :-)
Now, as to the ape himself.
Stylistically, when Haiku Gorilla speaks, the lines
are generally not capitalized, nor is there usually
" five syllable line
followed of course by seven
ribbon in the wind "
as opposed to:
"Five syllable line,
followed, of course, by seven.
Ribbon in the wind!"
I also try not have his lines overlap like this
" the sunshine bathes my
fur as I ponder my life
among the sweet thorns "
but rather have each line be a distinct image or
" sunshine bathes my fur
I ponder my existence
sweet treacherous thorns "
Note that proper nouns are the exception to the
capitalization rule, and that Haiku Gorilla does not
speak in complete sentences. Typically, I prefer for
the kigo to occupy the last line, especially when
you're using him humorously. This is because the kigo
is something of a punch-line, and at times, a
The rule of thumb when you're using him in a
serious capacity is that the kigo should in some
poetic way be related to the lines preceding it. But
when you're trying to be humorous, I think the more
tangential the perceived relationship is, the funnier
it is. Look at some of Arthur Spitzer's in his
TALKING GORILLA SMACKDOWN 2006 (punctuation and
capitalization edited by me):
" why should we fight, friend?
violence never solves feuds
the duck sucks flowers "
This is a perfect example of a kigo that has nothing
to do with the subject matter.
" wait! this is insane!
there is no reason for this!
nuts are for chipmunks "
And that is a perfect example of a kigo that ties in
nicely with the subject of the preceding lines; a
serious kigo. :-)
Haiku as an art form often sounds more profound
than it really is, and I think that some of the
Gorilla's advice, while basically sound, suffers from
the form in which it is dispensed. At the same time,
even if his advice is dubious, it would not be funny
if another character commented on how dubious the
advice was. It would be far funnier if the other
characters all nod their heads at the great wisdom
contained within his seventeen syllables.
Remember, again, that Haiku Gorilla only answers
questions posed to him in the form of haiku. Feel
free, like WikiBoy, to use him in a cameo/gag
position; if you want to do a larger story, then you
should contact me first. The HAIKU GORILLA series is
required reading for this character and, really, it'll
take you like ten minutes to read a hundred issues.
Anyway, that's my advice on these two characters of
(C) COPYRIGHT 2006 TOM RUSSELL
Director of MILOS, LIFE AND TIMES OF A DREAMER
Limited autographed dvds now on sale, directly from the filmmaker
"In the beginning, Milos seems to have no clue how to relate
to anyone. He is quizzical, leaving the viewer questioning
-- Ryan M. Niemiec, co-author of MOVIES AND MENTAL ILLNESS
"If a comic book, book, movie or novel is not somebody's fantasy
then who wrote it and to whom does it appeal to? In order for a
shared universe to have a widespread appeal, it has to appeal on
a primal level. If somebody says superhero comics are just 'wish
fulfillment' then he needs to explain what is entertainment that
doesn't satisfy our wishes and what satisfaction at all you can get
from it." -- Dr. Martin Phipps
Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around
More information about the racc