- "So... why do people hate Alicorn OCs so much?"
- — User:Spike the Dragon
What a question. I am Grovyle, and I bid you welcome to the second blog in my Lecture Hall series. Today, I am talking about art, specifically the art form known as the "original character." Original characters, hereafter referred to as OCs, come in all shapes and sizes. They come in all races too, including the lofty Alicorn race.
Yet few races, if any, garner as much condemnation as Alicorn OCs.
Some users here wonder why this is so. Should we not love and tolerate? Is the Alicorn not a pony just like any other citizen of Equestria? Who gave this loser the power to criticize someone else's character? Why are wings and horns such a big deal? These questions must be answered if we are fully to understand the implications of the Alicorn OC, and answering them is exactly what I mean to do here.
According to thy works thou shalt be judged!
I must say this before I begin. When creating an OC, one ought to understand this fundamental truth: "Your OC will be judged, and so will you." One cannot force others to adore one's creation, nor can one silence those who scorn it. One must realize that criticism happens. There are some folks that do nitpick for the sake of being cutesy or simply irksome, but sincere criticism exists nonetheless. We all receive it, whether we like it or not.
An OC is a form of personal expression, but this does NOT make it immune to criticism.
We live in an era of sacred feelings. Too often we are told that wounding someone else's feelings is pure evil. Thus, let me make this clear: one's feelings for one's work do not improve its quality in the slightest.
Your feelings are in your head, not in your art. They will not stop anyone from identifying lousy art and calling it out as such. And if you are entitled to personal expression, then so are your critics.
Your OC and its heritage
Therefore, for the first fifty episodes of My Little Pony Friendship is Magic, including the entirety of the first season, the only Alicorns in the show were Princess Celestia and Princess Luna. These two characters literally bend the heavens to their will every day. In short, for the longest time—both in-universe and out-of-universe—all Alicorns were almost godly.
When making an OC, one must carefully consider the implications of its design. If the OC is an Alicorn, then it is an heir to the legacy of the two sisters. Heck, Cadance is their niece by adoption, so even the official writers figured out that introducing a new Alicorn out of the blue was a mistake.
There are three types of Alicorns, all of which fail in some different way.
- Some Alicorns are brought into being as relatives or pupils of the royal sisters. These characters are usually either unworthy of their power because they got it through blood or unworthy of the mantle because they pale in comparison to Twilight Sparkle, the real pupil. Both of these character types are unappealing, but the latter is especially doomed to failure. If the character is inferior to Twilight, then it has no reason to be an Alicorn like her. If the character somehow rivals or exceeds Twilight in wisdom, even though she spent sixty-five episodes and a multitude of comics learning and growing into a mature ruler, then the Alicorn is a Mary-Sue. It's hard to say which is worse. None of these Alicorns ever turn out good.
- Some Alicorns are brought into being as strangers who have no relation to the royal sisters. These characters fail because they are Alicorns for no reason aside from the writer's/artist's whim. If the character has no ties to the Alicorns who have been ruling Equestria for a millennium, then the character has no business being an Alicorn. It follows no decent logic. If you want your OC to be a pony with no relation to the rulers, then it should belong to one of the three races that do not rule Equestria.
- Some Alicorns are brought into being as ponies more ancient than even Celestia. These ones are a little rare, but they are out there. The chief problem with these "Primordial Alicorns" is that they always claim to possess power or wisdom greater than Celestia's. And how could they not, having been around for hundreds of years longer? The Primordial Alicorn should be avoided, especially as a ponysona, because it amounts to even greater godliness than being able to move the sun. If your ponysona is God, you should visit a shrink sometime.
Why the Combo is such a big deal
The Alicorn Combo is the application of the Pegasus trait, i.e. wings, and the unicorn trait, i.e. the horn, to a single character. All Alicorns sport the Combo. By definition, they have wings and a horn. This is what makes an Alicorn an Alicorn. All else is circumstantial. A pony with wings and a unicorn's horn is an ALICORN.
Here's the deal. Ponies do not naturally possess the Combo. If your character has been an Alicorn since birth, then stop right there. You need to try harder. There is no reason why a pony should be an Alicorn by accident. Twilight worked for three seasons to gain her wings. Your OC should be no luckier than our hero.
Now, on the most fundamental level, an Alicorn is just what I described—a pony with wings and a horn. Since we understand that normal ponies do not have the Combo, this breeds several problems.
- First off, the OC is automatically abnormal. You know about that ridiculous Eastern cliché whereby the main character always has the most vivid and flamboyant haircut of all time? We are talking about the same general idea here. One's OC should never appear to be destined for princesshood or equivalent greatness. Make no mistake, the Combo is not a scar either. Your OC is not Harry Potter, with or without dead parents. The trademark attribute of the princesses already holds its own glory.
- Secondly, the OC has the trademark attribute of the princesses. They have ruled for one thousand years and moved the heavens for just as long. No OC is worthy of their prestige. See the heritage spiel above for more info.
- Thirdly, the OC draws negative attention because almost any Alicorn OC could just as easily have been a Pegasus or a unicorn. The Combo is a sign of wisdom and glory. Ordinary wings and ordinary horns are not. If one's only justification for the Combo is personal satisfaction, then one's OC is no good. Feelings do not matter, remember?
"But I'm a nice guy!"
Too often I hear users saying that Alicorn OCs can be good if they have decent personalities. This is an almost categorical fallacy. Would you hit on a nice hunchback? If you were a hunchback, would you expect others to fall for you?
Appearances mean a LOT. They say more than one might suspect about personality. Moon Dancer looks like a nerd who has not bathed in weeks. Mayor Mare looks like a trustworthy grassroots politician. Discord looks like a walking incarnation of chaos. But moreover, first impressions can make or break a character. This applies to both visual and written art.
- No one can see your character's wisdom or inner strength in visual art. Just like your feelings, they are not factors here. Aesthetics are what matters. If your OC is an Alicorn, you have set the bar so unattainably high that no one will care to find out what the character has done to deserve it, or else they will cringe when they do find out. They will move on.
- No one will read your story if it stars an Alicorn. Even if yours is not a Mary-Sue, the Combo is a stigma. Avoid it at all costs. Keeping readers engaged is all about surprising them with the seemingly mundane.
Now, here's the real issue. Can Alicorns ever work? Many of you would say yes. There are certainly some popular Alicorn OCs, such as Nyx. So why can't anyone else's be just as good? To put it bluntly, it is almost impossible. Making an Alicorn exciting takes skill and careful planning. One has to be good at what one does.
But NEVER assume you are that good!
Certainly, all artists must take risks, but the Alicorn Combo is a pitfall for writers and drawers alike. Do not be so arrogant that you believe your OC is as meritorious as Twilight Sparkle. Do not be so pretentious as to think your self-insert can live up to the princesses' legacy. If your OC is an Alicorn, you will look bad.
Fixing a bad Alicorn
I once had an Alicorn OC. That is right. The author of this blog once created an original character with the big bad Combo. But guess what? I improved that character, and today I am proud to call him my own. Let us have a look at him as he was before and after his transformation.
Lord Spearmint (2013)
- Pointless noble title for personal satisfaction
- Nonsensical cutie mark (actual Time Gear, not even a stylized depiction)
- Fresh, tall, and handsome like the princesses
- THE COMBO
- Alicorn by birth
- General Zoi (a topic for another time)
- Personal emissary of Princess Celestia
- Unenlightened and undeserving of the princesses' prestige
- Looks like a pointy-eared Princess Luna
Mr. Spearmint (2015)
- Ordinary but appropriate title
- Appropriate cutie mark (stylized mint sprig resembling his boss's cutie mark)
- Older and sickly like an actually mortal curmudgeon
- Pegasus, albeit a lanky-looking one
- Few undeserved privileges
- Drawn without a Pony Maker
- Foreign Secretary
- Cold and bitter personality with a look reflecting these traits
- Looks a little like Cheese Sandwich
Tell me which version is more interesting.