The Toon 5some and the Elements of (Dark) Light
 
Written By Salim Al-Mumin

     When I first began writing my stories and building up my series well  over a decade ago, my cartoons and characters were intended to be little  different than many of the cartoons from the Silver Age of Animation  which spanned from the late 80's through to the early 2000s. I meant  for my series to be like the cherished cartoons I grew up with and that  still adore to this day. I remember I specifically wanted them to be a  blend of classic Warner Bros. and Disney cartoons with a vague hint of  crude maturity, but over the years as I've changed so too have my  stories and characters. In the beginning, my dreams were once innocent  and wholesome, but they've since turned DARK...or at least vaguely Eigengrau.  The stories of my series revolve around me and a troop of misfit  animal characters. Together I eventually christened us, "The Toon  5some". In these stories, my friends and I are supposed to be the  "Guardians of Light"; embodying the five "Elements of Light": Courage, Joy, Power, Harmony, and Dreams (don't accuse me of copying MLP! I've been working on this stuff since the early 2000's!)  However as the years have gone on and my perspectives have changed, my  stories have changed with me. Where once my friends and I were the "Guardians of Light"; embodying the five "Elements of Light", the light we guard and embody has since turned quite grey.
     In my stories each of my friends and I embody a specific spectrum of  light; some positive quality of the living soul. My feline friend,  Whiskers Alleycat is supposed to be the guardian and living embodiment  of Courage in our world of Oneiroia, and while Whiskers is indeed  a very daring and courageous cat; the driving force behind his brave  spirit might not only shock you, but may also bring you to tears. Those  who remember fondly Courage the Cowardly Dog may yet come understand  what I mean when I say that Whiskers might be looked upon as his  antithesis...but I'm getting ahead of myself. For you to truly  understand I must give a brief interlude into Whiskers's backstory.
     You see Whiskers did not have a pleasant kittenhood. He grew up in a  place called "The Southside Dump"; a massive landfill which is sorta  like the Detroit of Goonsburg (the city in which many of my stories take  place). Virtually every creature that lives in the Southside Dump is  feral and savage: the cats are feral, the dogs are feral, the rats are  rabid, and even the pigeons are force to be feared. Whiskers was just a  kitten but his young life was fraught with terror and pain for everyday I  vicious pack of dogs would harass and brutalize him for fun. Day after  day for nearly two years these mutts would torment poor Whiskers until  the frantic feline became a trembling ball of nerves and anxiety. He  became the proverbial "scaredy cat"! Not only was he frightened by his  own shadow, but even a gentle breeze or rustling of the trees would  cause his hair to stand up on end. Whiskers Alleycat (our world's living  embodiment of Courage) was, in fact, a craven coward.
     Are you starting to see the comparisons to Courage the Cowardly Dog?  But here's where the contrast comes into play...Whiskers, by no  surprise, did not like always being afraid. He hated being  afraid...being afraid made him angry, and the more afraid he was the  more angry he became until soon this became the norm. You see Whiskers  Alleycat is always afraid. He's still the same craven coward he was as a  kitten, but the one thing that scares him more than being afraid is  BEING AFRAID, and the more frightened he is the more angry he becomes  prompting him to savagely attack whatever it is that's frightened him  until that thing is no more, and here in lies the meaning behind what I  said relating to Whiskers being the antithesis to Courage the Cowardly  Dog...Courage found the strength to face his fears through  LOVE...Whiskers found the strength to face his through WRATH. His  courage is motivated by fury not compassion; such is the dark shadow  cast upon Whiskers's light alignment, but alas he is not the only one.
     In the world of Oneiroia, no one's spirit is more alight with joy and  merriment than the one and only, Ma-Caw, the birdbrain clown from the  Amazon, but through him we soon find that even the light of happiness  can cast a dismal shadow. Those who've been keeping up with my comics  and stories know well that Ma-Caw is a hyperactive whirlwind of wacky,  screwball antics, silly off-colour humor, and fits of wild manic  laughter. He's a very happy jovial character, but he's also an EXTREMELY  dangerous and unstable one as well. You see Ma-Caw's happy upbeat  demeanor is forever accompanied by a blissful detachment from reality  (such as it is in the world of Oneiroia). The whole world could be going  to Hell in a flaming go-cart and Ma-Caw would still be smiling and  laughing like he just swallowed a whole bottle of "happy pills"! He  would appear to have no ability to feel any emotion other than unbridled  joy. He is deliriously happy...literally. It is still uncertain whether  he cannot or just simply refuses to feel any emotion other than  happiness. He doesn't even seem to possess a sense of guilt or remorse.  This is an especially crucial detail as in addition to being a flying  din of crazed laughter and bad impressions he's also a chronic prankster  and a hyper-intelligent mad scientist.
    You certainly wouldn't  guess it from his madcap unruly demeanor, but Ma-Caw is a super-genius  inventor on par with other such cartoon intellectuals as Dexter from  "Dexter's Laboratory", Wile E. Coyote, Egon Spengler, Mr. Peabody, and  Gyro Gearloose. In his spare time (when he's not pulling absurd pranks  or just being generally silly), Ma-Caw loves to build off-the-wall  oddball devices and crazy contraptions. Some of his inventions have  practical functions while others serve to be little more than wacky gag  props, but most tend to violate the laws of physics and simple common  sense. However there are some which are just flat-out DANGEROUS with a  capital "D". The Plasma Sword and the De-Atomizer Ray, for example, (two  of my choice-weapons throughout certain chapters of my stories) are  extremely powerful weapons with the potential to annihilate life on a  planet-wide scale.
    The Plasma Sword is a lightsaber-esque weapon  with a retractable blade that radiates with such intense heat that it  transforms the immediate air around it into blazing-hot plasma (hence  the name). However the most dangerous thing about the Plasma Sword is  not the blade itself, but its power source; for inside the hilt of the  sword lies the sword's power core, a slender cylindrical super-advanced  battery where inside is withheld the immense destructive power of an  exploding star. Through a method of insane ludicrous science which  defies every principal of accepted physics, Ma-Caw managed to capture,  shrink, and contain an exploding star inside a small metal canister  specially-designed to simulate the visual effect of the event horizon on  objects being pulled into a black hole; therefore containing and  maintaining the energy of the dying star to power the weapon I use  regularly as my superhero persona, "The Caped Revenger". Not only is the  sword capable of discharging a minute (yet still insanely powerful)  fraction of this celestial energy with the mere push of a button, but,  as Ma-Caw himself has stated, should even the smallest fracture open in  the hull of the power cell the entire planet would be decimated in a  fiery explosion of "unflamable" proportions.
    The  De-Atomizer Ray is every bit as equally destructive! The De-Atomizer is a  power ray gun which unravels all matter on a molecular level literally  causing the protons, neutrons, and electrons of every atom to fly apart  like a tub of legos in a windstorm. On its lowest setting this device  can decimate a simple two-story house (with or without a matching white  picket fence); at full power it can unravel the molecules of an entire  planet; putting Marvin the Martian's explosive space modulator to shame  with only a fraction of the clean-up. The crazy birdbrain has even  invented a shrink ray that can shrink entire galaxies (that's how he  captured and shrunk the exploding star he used to create the Plasma  Sword's power cell). He creates these massively overpowered weapons of  absolute destruction without a shred of care or concern...and then  cheerfully hands them over to a recklessly irresponsible teenage  ego-maniac with a perky smile and a happy laugh...and as if that weren't  enough, Ma-Caw's zeal for pulling pranks on people is motivated largely  by the belief that simply because it makes him laugh it has to be funny  to everyone else too. He doesn't appear to understand that other people  aren't as privy to degrading pratfalls as he is. Indeed Ma-Caw is the  paramount paragon of joy in the world of Oneiroia, but his would appear  to be a blissful ignorance free from both consequence and sanity.
     Throughout the lore and history of my stories Pyro is a powerful and  ancient sorcerer; a great pillar of magick in the world of Oneiroia and  the guardian embodiment of the quintessential essence of Power,  but Pyro's tale is yet another that proves that great power always comes  at a terrible price...even when it is not actively sought after. As a  most interesting twist to such tales of power-mad lust, Pyro did not  rise to his position of arcane greatness through a desire for power, nor  even for conquest...it was love that found him the victim of magick's  allure; more specifically "love of the father".
    You see  Pyro was an orphan, lost and alone for most of his young life. For  hundreds of years he dwelt within the ancestral home of his elusive and  ancient race, the Chameleon Dragons, but alas the rest of his kind had  long vanished without a trace leaving him the last remaining member of  his clan; alone in a world that shunned and neglected him. The other  ancient dragons rejected him because of his heritage, for the Chameleon  Dragons were seen as outsiders with strange customs and beliefs. Poor  Pyro was left the unfortunate victim of prideful bias and hateful  ignorance, but this deadly cocktail would eventually return to haunt his  tormentors, for Pyro would come to find a "friend" in the evil  sorcerer, Splight. The dark mage became a mentor and teacher to the  young dragon, and in time Pyro came to look upon Splight as the father  he had never known, but Hell hath no pain like a heart that's been  betrayed.
    The terrible truth that Pyro came to learn is that  Splight was only using him. Splight had plans to conquer the world and  rule all the magickal kingdoms of the land, but he could not accomplish  this task as long as the wise and powerful Dragon Elders lived and  breathed. He needed the aid of his own dragon to slay them; a far  younger dragon, well-trained in the dark ways of the Damned Arts; which  was the only reason he adopted Pyro as his pupil and ward, but once  Pyro's usefulness to him was fulfilled he planned to kill the young  dragon so that none could ever hope to oppose his power. Enraged, Pyro  engaged his former master in a gruesome combat eventually acquiring a  bittersweet victory which left Splight eternally scarred and Pyro  heart-broken and hateful.
    You see Pyro's true power does not come  from his magic, but from his will to endure even after everything he  loved was taken from him in a manner both cruel and unthinkable. Damned  for the crimes he committed in the service of former master, Pyro lived  alone as an outcast in a world full of creatures that feared and hated  him. For over 10,000 years he lived that way...one can only imagine the  strength it takes to bear such a merciless fate, and THAT is why Pyro  became Oneiroia's "Guardian of Power"; for only a great and mighty soul can withstand such heart-wrenching guilt weighted by such soul-crushing isolation.
     Jake's story is much similar to Pyro's in terms of neglect and  alienation. In many ways, he's just like Casper...if Casper were a snake  instead of a ghost. A kind and loving soul is Jake, but cursed is he by  the fact that he was born as a serpent. Cursed and condemned by a world  that fears him for his outward shell, Jake has wandered the world  looking for people who could look past their fears; see him not with  their eyes but with their hearts, and love him for the beauty that lies  within; not fear him for the nature of his scaly race.
    Also  similar to Pyro, Jake's wisdom and undaunting sense of inner peace comes  from his will to endure despite the hardship he has faced, but where  Pyro's will was directed inward toward self-preservation, Jake directs  his outward. In the face of all opposition he lets the love in his heart  shine to serve as a beacon to all. For all the hatred and pain the  world throws his way he loves all the more; for only the loving patience  of thoughtful understanding can balance out the hateful despair of  fearful ignorance. Jake's way is love, but true love is very seldom  reciprocal; such is the hellish torment this poor serpent constantly  endures. This is why Jake became the symbol of loving Harmony in  the world of Oneiroia. Not only does he suffer pain to maintain balance  in his own heart, but he suffers to bring balance to all that he sees  and interacts with.
    We've told the dark tale behind the 5some  friends lofty alignments, but perhaps the darkest tale has yet to be  told. For that we turn our attention to the self-proclaimed leader of  this frat pack of toons, the puckish Peter Pan himself...Jamal S.  Jackson (my personal avatar in this world of cartoonish fancy). Jamal is  the guardian and living embodiment of Dreams in the world of  Oneiroia..."The Boy of Dreams" as he's boastfully declared himself. At  first inspection, one might imagine it is because of his wily wit, wild  imagination, and willful free spirit...and it is, but that is merely one  side of the coin. The other side hides a far darker reality. You see  unlike his friends, Jamal is fully aware that the world of Oneiroia is a  fabricated reality. He is fully conscious of the fact that they are all  cartoon characters in a cartoon world, and furthermore he's fully aware  that his subconscious will controls all that happens. It is quite  literally HIS dreamland where he is God and his will is law! He knows he  is the phantasmal manifestation of a schizophrenic lonely and depressed  adult man-child from the tired world of man actively dreaming Oneiroia  into existence; a man-child who (from early childhood) damned the world  he was born into and vowed to created his own where he could be happy  and live a life full of wondrous adventure.
    This explains why  he's always so gun-ho with every wild madcap adventure he and his  friends face. It's because the day-to-day life of his real-world  counterpart is so bland and uneventful, and because he knows its all  just a dream where all events are subject to his subconscious desire;  meaning that he, nor those he loves, can ever truly be harmed or perish.  He gets to live a life of adventure and death-defying danger without an  once of any real risk. It's a dream where he can do and be whatever he  wants because he wants. Jamal is Oneiroia's avatar of dreams and  fantasy, but he also embodies careless self-indulgence and unbridled  desire; such is often the dark side to wishful self-fulfillment, but of  course this story still manages to grow a shade or two darker still.  
     So enamored by fantasy was Jamal's real-world counterpart until  throughout his life in the tangible world of men he never really felt  truly real even there. All life both in and outside of his dream world  felt like a vague mirage and everything he experienced was like a  fabricated illusion that never felt truly "real" to any lasting degree.  Even his own thoughts felt like echoes reverbrating through an endless  empty void. His own existence, everything he'd every known, felt like a  hallucination to him. Is it really any wonder then that he came to  identify himself by dreams; eventually christening himself "the BOY of Dreams"?  Jamal and his corporeal creator are a portrait of delusional  detachment; a willful desire to abandon reality and consequence to live  free in a childlike fantasy of nonsensical adventure and cartoonish  glee.
    But before you go denouncing Jamal as an "assoholic  bastard"; damning his friends by facilitating their suffrage in order to  build a fantasy world for himself, consider this...the world of  Oneiroia is a world that Jamal is actively dreaming, and therefore  everything in that world is a byproduct or symbol representative of some  fractured portion of his fevered psyche...that includes his friends.  Whiskers represents his repressed fear and aggression, Ma-Caw embodies  his ingenuity coupled with his desire to be happy in the face of all  opposition, Pyro and Jake's backstories are born out of his resentment  for the world and the all the years of social alienation he has been  subjected to. In particular, Jake represents Jamal's desire to  contribute to and be accepted by society; while Pyro represents his  bitter scorn at being denied that. Jamal has not been sparred a tragic  backstory within his own escapist fantasy. His backstory is hidden in  their backstories, for their stories are his story told through a veil  of illusion and fairytale fancy. The other members of the 5some are the  ghostly apparitions of his tortured young mind trying to find peace  throughout years of abuse, neglect, isolation.
    Even his ghostly  girlfriend, Adilia, is a byproduct of his mind's turbulent unrest. She  represents his desire to be loved paired with his adoration for the  otherworldly as well as his own inner femininity. Douglas too is another  phantasmal psychic phantom. Much like Whiskers mirrors Jamal's  repressed fear and anger, Douglas sprang forth from his repressed  sexuality and the stunted maturation of his carnal mind. And yes, even  OPN the Jackal-Bat is a manifestation of Jamal's desires. OPN is the  phantasmagorical embodiment of Jamal's own imagination and artistic  passion, and it is by no small accident that OPN's cherished form is a  mishmash of a jackal and a bat; for both creatures bear symbolic  associations to the things Jamal is most enamored by. The bat represents  the night and the nether-regions of the Spirit World; that darkened  veil where dreams and illusion reign over all; while the jackal  represents death; the threshold through which Jamal longs to travel in  order to exit the mundane world of man forever and dream eternally in  the comfort of his surreal haven. Jamal is the "Guardian of Dreams"  because he lives in his dreams. He is ruled by his dreams! He looks at  the world through kaleidoscope stained-glasses, and tries to live life  through his imagination. He rejects the world he was born in to live a  life of fanciful adventure in a reality of his own making; longing only  to indulge in thrills and splendors the likes of which he could never  know in the dreary realm of men. He commands the power of dreams because  he denies his waking life to willingly chase after a fantasy. He's a  dreamchaser, aloof from reality; chasing his puerile desires throughout a  cloud of make-believe.
    I guess if there's any type of lesson  that people are meant to take from the story behind my stories, it's  that even light casts a shadow. Nothing is wholly pure. In the end, good  and evil, and order too are not but illusions. All of creation is but a  puppet show wherein we are all at the mercy of the raging seas of a  chaotic cacophony...but that's just my own personal take on it. Make up  your own interpretations...as I'm sure you will.