Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Teddy Bear With A Halo

There's no questioning that most of the stories I have conceived throughout my life were inspired by motion pictures, novels, and of course, video games. They are elements that have stuck with me like wall putty for eons, and I have been molded into the figure I am today because I was taken to the "impossible" and back through these motion pictures, novels, and video games. There is just something about them that fills my blood with a pleasant feeling, a feeling of overwhelming nostalgia and fantasy, and because of them, I have been pushed to tell stories of my very own, stories I hope will help me in the future when I take storytelling and creating into a career. But the more I ponder on the matter, and the more I observe what I have done in the past, I come to realize, in many ways, that this is what I was put upon the Earth to do. Some of us are put on the Earth to become politicians, mechanics, plumbers, and graphic designers, but I believe that my stronghold is through the art of storytelling and letting my brain spill out into the real world, making my thoughts touchable for the whole world to decipher. And no matter where the waves take me, I can have the stories I have incepted in the past to give me an extra kick when I need it. I can have the tales I have put together throughout my early life to guide me through the right tunnel and help me realize that anything is possible. The "impossible" is possible.

Why am I jibber jabbing about all this? Well, this past week, these last two weeks I should say, have left me in a state of bitterness. As I struggled to create the tale that kickstarts what I like to call the "Zurnverse" (a series of stories and fantasies taking part in the same continuity) and make it into something that can be enjoyed by the many, I dug into my memory lane and pulled out some old stories and illustrations I have done throughout the years. It's interesting looking upon all this old material, for it allows me to see what kind of person I was then and what kind of person I am now. Of course, as a kid (a kid in the 13-16 age frame), my imagination was just starting to reach it's tippity top, and I couldn't help but conjure up stories about jedi knights, man eating boys (I'll talk about that one some other time), old crones running soda factories, time traveling brothers, and even stories about young school boys traveling to India and fighting giant stone statues. It's uncanny how many stories I had stashed away in my bedroom, I surely couldn't believe it when I pulled them out and polished them off the other day. But of all the stories I have brought into this world, one of them sticks out like a monkey in a banana pudding factory. One of them has been the cream of the crop in my mind ever since I first came up with it one night before I went to bed in the early 2000s. It's been an intriguing tale that continues to intrigue me to this very day. And believe it or no, it's all about a teddy bear with a halo.

I guess I better explain a little bit more before I bite further into the pie. You see, way back in the early 2000s, way back before the first Harry Potter film and the first Lord of the Rings film, my uncle gave us a disc for Christmas, a disc featuring roms of famous arcade games and platformers (I also should note that the video game in my memories, Wonder Boy, was upon this disc). For hours and hours without stop, my brother and I would sit there at the computer and cramp our fingers playing the games upon the disc. We played titles like Konami's X-Men, Konami's Simpsons arcade game, Wonder Boy, the Three Stooges arcade game (the one with the creepy voices) and even classics like Dig Dug and Donkey Kong. But there was one game on the disc that was forever burned into my retinas, and it's a rather silly, but funny title with a lot of heart. Looking back on the game a decade later, it really sends me back to the computer desk at my old house, playing the game like it was the best thing since cinnamon pretzels. The game was called Yam! Yam? and even after a decade, it's still an interesting little overhead view game with challenging puzzle solving and brain teasing strategy. Some may say the game is tripe compared to today's mass shooters and sci-fi army fighting games, but it was the inspiration for me to create a tale of a teddy bear with a halo, and it was something that got me hooked on drawing cartoons and interesting little bear critters with beautiful castles and magical swords. All I can say is that my little creature, interestingly named Yam Yam Ambers, was about to reach the line paper sketchbooks (yeh, that's what I made a lot of my stories in back in the day).

I doodled the curious little fellow one evening before I hit the hay, turning him from a bland, generic bear into a bear with a halo and wings. You could just simply call him "Angel Bear". But Yam Yam's tales were just beginning, and along with the curious fellow, I drew up some friends of his. He had a brother who was a rabbit, a rabbit named Dil (obviously named after the little brother from Rugrats). He had a school teacher and mentor, a school teacher and mentor named Homer Funny who taught potions and chemistry (he's almost like a nice, pleasant version of Severus Snape). Last but not least, there was a dragon, a female dragon named Harriet, who just so happened to be Yam Yam's pet. I'm not quite sure where she came from, but I think she was inspired by the female dragon in Shrek. Over the next few months, Yam Yam's tale grew rapidly, and I slowly found myself deeply immersed in his wondrous sci-fi fantasy universe. After the release of the first Harry Potter film, I was motivated to give Yam Yam a magical wand or magical apparatus to fight with and more characters entered the universe I was diligently creating throughout the weeks and weekends. There was the king and queen, who ruled over the world Yam Yam lived in, which was oddly named the Kingdom of Death. As I recall, I created a backstory and explained why the kingdom was called the Kingdom of Death. It was named after a young wizard named Johno Death, who sacrificed his life to safe the kingdom from a deadly threat. In his honor, the kingdom was renamed the Kingdom of Death, although it's a rather odd name for a kingdom if you ask me. It almost sounds like the kingdom is full of dead people or something. Lord knows where I came up with the name for that one.

Getting back to the characters, there was a half man half cyborg dude called Darktongue Bings, who had spikes growing out of his head. If memory serves me right, he was Homer Funny's cousin and was a few years older than Yam Yam. There was the cute little brother to Yam Yam ingeniously named Yinky, who had a square halo instead of the round one Yam Yam had. There was also Yam Yam's arch rival from school, Clinton Bare. He's kind of like Draco Malfoy, only less sinister and lacking the combed down blonde hair. But you can't have a protagonist without an antagonist, and boy, did Yam Yam have a bunch of them. He had a villainous tyrant come after him by the name of Cornelius Evilus, who gathered up an army of mutants to help him in his hunt for Yam Yam. Later on in the story, he is revealed to be Yam Yam's biological father. There was an adversary entitled Melt Man. Can you guess what his ability was? HE COULD MELT. Bet you weren't expecting that! Then there was an intergalactic alien dude, an underwater fish head, a man with the ability to shoot spikes from his body, and Yam Yam's biggest foe of them all,  Uno. I'm going to come right out now and say that he was named after the card game of the same name. As a kid who was trying to come up with a name for his hero's villain, I curiously stumbled upon a Uno card one day and decided that's exactly what the villain should be aptly named. Little did I know at the time that Uno meant "one" in Spanish.

Uno, who's real name was James Richo, was the evil sorcerer trying to take over Yam Yam's school, Kingdom of Death Elementary. Yam Yam encounters Uno many times throughout his travels and at one point, even takes a shard of glass from a broken mirror and slashes Uno across the face several times, horribly scarring and disfiguring him. Uno is driven to the point of great insanity and at many times, comes close to finishing Yam Yam, even putting the ones he loves in danger. But Yam Yam, through his swift acts of will, always proves victorious and Uno is defeated, that is until he finds a way to rise to power again. At one point, if memory serves me right, he assassinates the king and queen of the Kingdom of Death, and he takes over the kingdom himself as emperor. Pretty hardcore stuff for a tale a child wrote. It makes me wonder at times what kind of twisted mind I had as a kid. Obviously, most of this was inspired by Harry Potter and X-Men, two of my favorite franchises at the time, but it's interesting to see how more original the story got as it progressed. I probably made 20 or more Yam Yam stories before moving onto other projects. I would even take some of my Pokemon figurines and act out the stories I cooked up, pretending Pikachu was Yam Yam, humming my own music like it was an actual movie and doing all the voices for the characters I was fancying.

While Yam Yam has had plenty of adventures throughout the years, his story was pretty much straight forward. Every year, when Yam Yam went to school, some ghastly force would arise and try and terrorize the ground he walked upon. Luckily, he and his friends worked together to stop the evil on several occasions, going everywhere from the outer depths of space, the dark dark forest, and the cold chilling waters where the fish headed dude ruled. And instead of taking a Hogwarts Express to school, Yam Yam and his brother Dil took a flying bus, a massive double decker with wings. In each section of the bus, there was a television set, a video game console, and all the snacks you could ever eat. I distinctly remember that Yam Yam's favorite was peppermint jelly beans. One year, while Yam Yam was at KofD Elementary, he was selected by politicians to perform in an intergalactic competition, fighting space aliens, flying in hover cars, and making his way through a deadly labyrinth with a gnarly trash compactor (one that would surely put the one on the Death Star to shame). He even fell in love with a sheep named Shelley, and the two eventually got married and had a son. At some point or another, Yam Yam injures his eye (possibly in a fight with Cornelius Evilus) and is forced to wear and eyepatch, but that doesn't stop him from training his son for the upcoming fight against the newly resurrected Uno, whom he eventually comes to defeat once and for all. Yam Yam also looses his mentor, Homer Funny and his brother Dil in Evilus' reign, but eventually forms a good relationship with Homer's cousin Darktongue. Just like many heroes throughout pop media, Yam Yam has evolved from a rambunctious, wild fellow to a dignified, optimistic warrior willing to stop all the retched who terrorize what he cherishes.

And isn't it fascinating to see how far I have come throughout the years. I have gone from making stories about teddy bears with halos to stories about vampire hunters, galactic dictators, green skinned mutants from the future, a planet inhabited by toons, and a ninja vigilante of the night. It's so satisfying to me knowing that I have created such an epic story like Yam Yam's and even if I haven't discussed all the elements surrounding his biography (I HAVEN'T EVEN SCRATCHED THE SURFACE), it is certainly a sweet treat to row my boat through the memory tunnel and have a look at a magnificent fairy tale I conceived nearly a decade ago. Hopefully, I can have a look at this greatness again in the near future, but for now, I'm going to move on to many other grand and glorious things, make the stories of my dreams. In many ways, I can think to myself and say that it was Yam Yam, the teddy bear with the halo that started it all.

Maybe the little fellow can make a cameo in my first book.

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