Have you ever gone through your oldest papers, all the mediocre drawings and the dumb Pokémon fanfiction you made when you were 10-12 years old (which you still have, of course, because deep down you knew you’d never want to get rid of them)—all the assorted monster drawings you doodled in school, and been surprised to find a collection you barely even remembered? A literal collection—titled, themed, stacked and stapled together, featuring a wholly original cast of characters with names and artwork and biographies?
A world you almost completely forgot you had ever created… but clearly, it must have mattered to you a lot, once upon a time—after all, why else would you have written so much cringe-worthy backstory for this “epic” monster war saga?
That, roughly, is my modern day experience with rediscovering my file folder for Master Men.
Okay, first of all, WOW. This is just laughably bad in all the right ways for me to enjoy it now as a completely garbage story that’s still hella endearing anyway because it came from my dumbass child brain. I mean, look at that backstory! It just goes on and ON! And it’s all so absurd!
All the armies of the world team up into a Mega-Army, which then splits up because the leaders wanted peace but the “creatures” didn’t? After centuries of war, humans go extinct and there’s a “final battle,” and then 500 years later there’s ANOTHER “final war”??? Fucking incredible.
And the creatures themselves… Ahahaha their names, just look at their names. Honestly, I think most of these designs aren’t half bad, all things considered. We have a wall climbing fox with suction cup hands, an old hunchback bird with no legs, some kind of sea creature with a body that I sincerely doubt is hydrodynamic, and… Okay, Land Lymph kinda sucks; it’s just a turtle with multiple tentacles for its tail.
But then we have Trentily, which is just totally weird in an awesome way! Asymmetrical torso, big floppy ears, short stubby arms with long blades at the ends, weird floating ribbons from its back—and note that this is LONG before Sylveon was ever a twinkle in Game Freak’s eye, so I came up with those ribbons MYSELF.
As for the second page of creature designs, well… It looks like I drew all those on another day, when I was feeling much less inspired.
Behold. Let it never be said that I ran away from my shameful embarrassing past. For, today, on August 3rd, 2023, I have shared with the world that I once drew a monster cow with a spiked ball tail and radioactive-eyes, and named it Macky Moo-Moo.
Dial Trial is also pretty inspired. It’s an angry hypnosis-themed bird, with hypnotic spiral wheels for feet (all cycling around an even larger hypnotic spiral wheel, no less). But Squizintl? That’s just a smiling eel. Alanen? That’s just Aipom. And Slash…
SLASH is the birdlike leader of the army promoting peace. His long legs make him one of the fastest creatures. His musclized feather arm is perfect for quick slaps to a foe. The other arm has one long sharp sword-like claw used for cutting. This creature’s stare is amazing at intimidating any enemy.
Hahahaha remember I said I wrote biographies for everyone? These bios are a goldmine of Axe Cop-esque juvenile writing. I love this shit.
Child me tried so hard to be serious about all of this, with a literal 20+ page packet starting with the world backstory, then the mini-portraits of everyone, followed by full-page drawings plus bio paragraphs. But then you read one of those bio paragraphs and… lmao. Just lmao. It’s Baby’s First Character Description all the way down, folks.
LAND LYMPH is a creature that looks like a type of turtle, but its shell is harder than pre-melted diamond. Its long ribbon-like tails wrap up opponents, so it can then attack by rolling over them or by stomping with its ton-heavy legs. Once this creature gets raged, it is nearly impossible to get away alive.
TRENTILY, the once smart and peaceful creature, is now the leader of the doom army. It seems not to have a brain anymore, and it pokes enemies stupidly with its sharp claws. The ribbons attached to its ears can get longer and wrap others up. It has a strange liquid covering its legs that is poisonous to touch.
OLD SQUAWK is perhaps the oldest soldier in the war. Since it lost its legs, it now goes around on a hovering pad with spikes on the bottom. It attacks by scratching with its claws, biting with its beak, or landing on opponents with its spiked hover pad.
And then, in what I can only assume was my first attempt in my life at creating lore for a deeper plot, I included this incredible bit, word for word:
Who was the one that brainwashed TRENTILY to restart chaos and war? Who is the TRUE ENEMY?
DEMON ZICH was created in a laboratory by humans who still wanted Earth for themselves. Its foxlike structure gives him enhanced hearing and smell. It has sharp claws and spiked feet. Strong muscles in its legs enable it to jump extremely high and let it run fast. This creature was created with no conscience so it kills to no limit.
Honestly, the fact that Demon Zich’s backstory is a clear ripoff of Mewtwo from Pokémon isn’t even all that embarrassing to me.
What’s embarrassing is that I then went on to reuse that same ripoff backstory for the main villain of the fantasy novel I wrote around the same time, Chronicles of Yabachi: Orbs from the Core. But that, quite literally, is a story for another day.
You might think, with all these characters made and the stage set for me to tell their story, that I’d actually… y’know, tell their story. Write a plot for the modern day characters of the Master Men universe. (And, honestly, why did I even name it that? There’s no masters and there’s no men.) Maybe even figure out which side is going to win the war, like I did for the (lol again) backstory war, which ended when Pookle’s army was defeated.
But nope! Instead, I made an entire second batch of characters, this time for the backstory war itself!
It’s a well known trope that fantasy authors can risk getting too caught up in the history of their universe, and end up going deeper and deeper into prequel territory instead of ever moving forward with the timeline. The fact that I somehow fell into that pattern too, as an 11 year old just drawing monsters with the flimsiest of plot threads around them, is the funniest shit to me.
EXPLEICH is the powerful leader of the good army that protects. His long spider legs make him slow, but his power makes up for that. Large spikes line his back and small spikes cover his elephant-like trunk. All of his spikes can shoot small dart-spikes in battle. The sharp claws on his arms have magnets that he took from a weak POOKLE. He can withdraw these magnets at his own will so that he can punch with his arms.
POOKLE is the nasty leader of the bad army. It used to have magnet-claws, but they were stolen by the leader of the good army. It controls electricity and zaps anything it touches. The brain pod runs on electricity and needs much protection.
SNAKEOLASETH has betrayed both armies at least twice, so everyone thinks of him as an enemy. He is all right with that because he has a death ray gun, a powerful blaster that obliterates everything it hits. Since he walks very slow, he uses his wings to glide short distances a few feet above ground. While spikes cover his entire body, only the ones on his slashing arm are meant for attacking.
“He is all right with that because he has a death ray gun” is one of the most ascendant sentences I have ever written, and is 90% of the reason I decided to put any of this in blog post form.
Master Men may not have amounted to much in the grand scheme of my life, but it’s still an absolutely delightful time capsule of childhood creativity. The artwork, the writing style, the creature names… Everything about this just screams innocence and naivety and—above all—passion. And that, regardless of the quality, has made it a joy to re-experience.