From the very beginning I knew I wanted four protagonists. A four piece band is very typical, and considering funk bands can be anywhere from three people to over twelve, I figured four was a nice, manageable group of characters. As was the way with groups of protagonists, each one needed their own distinct personality, and I felt the instruments lent to this particularly well.
Guitarists, particularly the successful ones, tend to be cocky bastards. They tend to get a lot of attention as they cam do solos and show off their abilities with a lot more flair and melody than, say, a bassist or drummer can. They also are quite commonly the front-man/woman of bands, which again leads to a surplus of confidence and willfulness. It makes sense, then, that my guitarist would be the core protagonist, the one who the player makes decisions through.
A bassist and drummer were very necessary as both instruments are absolutely core to funk. So they were a given. However the final musician took a while to settle on. Keyboards, horns, woodwind, and even organs were possibilities, and even after I did settle on horns I tried to work out which one. Thankfully it’s all set in a Cyberpunk setting, so I ended up deciding to make one guy an entire brass section. I also briefly considered giving Cat Daddy a keytar, but ended up tossing it because, as strange as it sounds with CyberFunk, it was too over the top. Too many utilities in an instrument and their tool gains more focus than their character. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve read about incredibly important and overly described swords that outshine their wielders. It’s not as cool as you think it is, fantasy authors!
So, the last yet incredibly important thing was names. Blaxploitation names are awesome. Not because they’re particularly creative, but because they’re descriptive. Names like Shaft and Super Fly and Foxy Brown. They indicate personalities as much as they give titles and names. Even The Mack. He’s not just Mack, he’s ‘The’ Mack. It shows importance, confidence, he’s the Mack that stands out from all the other Macks.
I needed similar names. Names that have personality wrapped up in their meaning, and show that they’re different enough and important enough to be called something other than just ‘Mack’.
So Cat Daddy was perfect for a female lead. Cat was a slang term basically meaning playa back in the 50s, but also conjures images of her being feline, feral and animalistic. Meanwhile Daddy shows she’s the boss, especially for a woman. For characters whose style comes from a time when sexism was rife, for her to have earned Daddy puts her not just in a masculine position but one of the highest. Both words evoke the right personality, while also using slang from the era. Couldn’t get much more spot on!
Looking to funk musicians and bands for inspiration, Chapster Groove became a mishmash of various different bits. Adding ‘ster’ on the end of words (e.g. funkster, drumster, kickster) were popular in the culture, while ‘chap’ was a name for someone who was a bit of a dandy; highly concerned with looking good. I also wanted him to be one of the best bassist ever, so just making his last name be Groove indicated it was what he was all about. His rhythm is so unmatched it’s in his name! Fun fact: Chapster didn’t start out speaking in rhyme! It was something I added to him half way through, and honestly I was terrified that I was awful at rhyme. I stuck with it though, and I’m pretty sure it came out okay.
Captain King was a character I wanted to be confident above all else. Utterly fearless, he’s willing to take on anything the hard way, because he knows he’s invincible. Perhaps not the brightest (as is the stereotype with drummers) he’s nonetheless an unstoppable force physically and mentally, and rallies the others when things look bad. So I decided he simply needed two honourifics. He’s not just a king among men, he’s a -captain- of the kings among men. He’s that great! And honestly it was so silly I had to keep it.
Fat Percentage definitely took the longest. I knew he’d be big since I wanted his size to reflect his ability with horns (like how opera singers tend to be bigger due to their powerful lungs and diaphragm). The tricky bit was his name and personality. I ended up going with ‘big hearted’, since while CD and CK were both fairly forceful, CG was pretty self interested, so I wanted someone to look out for those they were booting out of their way, and be the cautionary voice. I ended up going with Fat Percentage because they could call him Fats and reinforce that mental picture of him, and Percentage made me think of him as a portion of the Cyberfunkers. He was their heart and their melody, the lighter side of things, and beneath the bluster of the others he’s fairly integral to their balance.
The various other characters I’ll discuss in their scene commentary, but for now I’ll have a quick talk about the Combat Design!