Species Representation in Neopian Comics
I have been an avid reader of the Neopian Times since I first joined Neopets, many years ago. I'm not sure what it is that draws so many people every week; maybe it's the wealth of tips and tricks straight from the mouths (err... keyboards) of fellow Neopians, maybe it's the excitement of reading a story woven from the imagination of a budding writer, maybe it's the fun of catching up on the latest news. Cynical minded people may say that it's because there's no other news outlet in Neopia. These people are to be ignored.
For me, and I'm sure many others, there is one section in particular that captures my interest. No, not the advertisements. I am of course referring to the comics section.
Holy Kau you guys I love the comics section.
Maybe it comes from being an aspiring artist myself, but there's something about it that's just so enticing. Like a slice of Neopet's birthday cake found on the floor, it is impossible to pass by.
However, reading something for so long and so often, you can't help but notice... things. Certain trends that are hard to ignore. Fellow comic readers, do you ever notice that some species tend to be a bit over-enthusiastically represented compared to others? That some species tend to pop up a bit too often to go unnoticed? I have noticed these things.
Now, I'm not one to try and write a whole article based on a mere suspicion. So I have taken the liberty of finding out some numbers to back up my theory, as numbers are a solid foundation for any article. Before we get onto anything quite as thrilling as numbers, I will first outline the model I used to collect my data. Those allergic to boring nerds are advised to look away now.
Starting from Issue 597 (the latest issue as of writing), working backwards through issues, I trawled through each and every comic until I had a sample of 350 Neopet characters used. I did not count background characters, nor did I count official Neopets characters, as they do not represent the userbase's use of Neopet species. No character was counted twice, even if they appeared in separate issues. It took approximately 3 hours. I had one (1) coffee and at least four (4) breaks to laugh at bad puns.
Now, dear readers, I will present my findings to you.
- The most commonly used species was the Aisha, which represented 33 out of 350 characters surveyed, or 9.4%
- The second most commonly used species was the Xweetok, which represented 22 out of 350 characters surveyed, or 6.2%
- The third most commonly used species was the Kacheek, which represented 21 out of 350 characters surveyed, or 6%
- Both the Elephante and the Tonu were not represented in the 350 characters surveyed at all
- The Tuskaninny, Ruki, Quiggle, Nimmo, Moehog and Koi were only represented once each (0.3% each)
Any surprises? Any suspicions confirmed regarding Aisha world domination? I'm certain someone is cowering in fear as we speak, warding off the Aisha overlords.
This shows us some interesting things. Jokes aside, Aishas won by a landslide. I'm surprised, honestly, because they're not even in the top 10 of popular Neopets; in fact they come at a rather lackluster 20th place! We can't chalk up this victory to it simply being that more owners are likely to own an Aisha.
In fact, let's cross-examine some more figures with those in the popularity list. The most popularly created pet is the Shoyru, accounting for 6.2% of all created Neopets. In my survey, they were the 7th most commonly used species, and accounted for 4% of all characters. Certainly nothing to sniff at, but it's not quite as impressive as their popularity standings. Still, they represent a reasonable chunk of the characters surveyed, so there must be some correlation between popularity overall and utilization in comics, right?
To an extent, sure, but it's certainly not clear-cut. The second most popular Neopet is the Kacheek, which accounts for 6.1% of Neopets created, and, as you have already been informed, are third most popular of characters used in comics (only missing out on second by one, to boot). The percentage is nearly exactly the same as well. Mystery solved, then, you might think.
Well, no, not quite. You see, the third most popular Neopet created is the Kougra, representing 5.5% of Neopets created. Therefore, you'd expect them to represent a reasonable percentage of characters used. Sadly, Kougra fans, it is not to be. They represent only a meager 1.7% of characters surveyed; not even a third the amount of Kacheeks.
And let us not be distracted by only the top end of the scale. Common knowledge is that Krawks have the dubious honor of the Wooden Spoon Award for least created species. Now, thanks to morphing potions and what have you there are probably a few more running around than that, but it's reasonable to assume they're not exactly a majority. Officially, they represent 0.0% (Krawks are an illusion, you see) of all Neopets. However, my survey shows they represent around 2.6% of characters used in comics which, while not worth breaking out the borovan for, is certainly more than nothing. Even accounting for all those morphed or transformed by strange glowing plushies, that's still an awful lot more than would be expected. It's more than the third most popular pet on the site.
Spare a thought for the poor ignored Tonus and Elephantes, who got no representation at all. Tonus are a miserable 48th in species popularity, representing only 0.2% of all Neopets created. However, bear in mind that they are limited edition, and can only be rarely created anyway. The popularity rankings do not, as stated previously, take into account morphed or otherwise transformed pets. It is not unreasonable to say that there are likely slightly more Tonus in existence than the popularity page would have us believe. They are also still ranked above pets that gained at least some representation.
Elephantes are ranked at 29th place in popularity. Much better than the Tonu, but Elephantes don't have the excuse of being limited edition, so it is to be expected. They represent 1.3% of Neopets created, which I don't think is too shabby, and certainly makes them worthy of a character or two to show off. Aspiring comic writers, take note.
I'm sure some of you were expecting me to get onto this particular pet eventually. Ah, the Draik, arguably the most coveted pet in existence, sitting at only one from the bottom of the popularity rankings. The official pet popularity ranking tells us they represent a mere hundredth of a percent of all Neopets created. But – get ready for this – they actually represent 3.1% of characters used in comics. This is what scientists would term super nuts, you guys.
We have now established that a Neopet's apparent popularity is not necessarily proportionate to how often they are used in comics as characters. So, what exactly does decide who is used and who is not?
Let's think for a moment. What exactly are comics? A collection of pictures and words, usually. More often than not a character's species does not affect the joke, so it's probably not down to a species' comedy potential. But a character's species always affects the visuals, no matter how simplified they are. Therefore, I present that a character's species is chosen, at least partially, based on perceived aesthetic appeal.
Obviously what someone considers nice to look at is not universal. Far, far from it, no matter what some people would have you believe. However, certain traits are generally considered more appealing than others, and that is what we shall examine today, dear weewoos.
Take the Aisha. It's a cute little kitty cat. Who doesn't like cute little kitty cats? Only terrible people, like Sloth or Lord Kass or Lawyerbot. Its got stubby paws, a sweet, round, smiling face, scrunched up eyes and two big goofy antennae-looking ears. It even comes with an accessory, no purchase required. It is the archetypical cutesy cat character, which I'm sure you are aware has quite wide appeal. Most of all, though, it's simple. Simple means easy to draw in an appealing way, which is a wonderful gift to an inexperienced artist. Why bother with drawing an Elephante, which isn't as universally appealing, and therefore requires more effort to look nice to the general populace, when you can do an Aisha in half the time and have it look twice as good?
They also have something of an air of mystery to them. We know they have some kind of innate magical ability, but what kind? How powerful? An excellent catalyst for the imagination. They are the only species that can be painted Alien, which also makes them more desirable through the element of exclusivity and uniqueness, which is highly valued trait in the creative community.
Kacheeks and Xweetoks too work on the principle of cute and simple. Xweetoks also have the added appeal of being relatively new to the site, and are still something of a novelty to some. Kacheeks have an opposite but equally strong attraction to them; they are one of the oldest species, and invoke a sense of nostalgia for many users. Heck, I always saw them as something of a mascot for the website, and they're certainly one of the most recognizable Neopets.
Draiks and Shoyrus are obviously based on dragons. Dragons are exotic and exciting, the Draik especially so, due to its aforementioned rarity. They exhibit our typical cute traits too; big eyes and rounded faces. I'd certainly argue that the Shoyru is a simple character as well, though the Draik I always found a little more complicated, but certainly nothing out of reach. But what about the Scorchio? Well, the Scorchio represented only 0.6% of characters surveyed, so the dragon appeal certainly isn't all there is to it. The Scorchio is a bit more rough-and-tumble looking than the doe eyed Shoyru or the delicate Draik, and they have a head crest and a few other details to remember so that they look both appealing and recognizable. Again, it comes down to our cute and simple rule.
Let's go back to our poor Tonus and Elephantes. Now I've always liked Elephantes myself, especially with their post-customisation redraws, but how many people would say their favourite animal is an elephant vs those who would say a cat or a squirrel, or even a dragon? They're also a bit on the chunky side, which I find rather charming, personally, but I feel this is another rant for another day. What I'm saying is that most people wouldn't think of an Elephante as a cute little darling perfect for their new comic.
Unlike the Elephante, I can't really muster up much indignation over this one. Tonus are pretty ugly, let's be real here. They've got big feet, a big nose with a horn coming out of it, appear to be mostly hairless and look as if they have been clonked on the head with a mallet in an old cartoon. Even in their official art they don't look that great. They're also a pain to draw, with all their details and odd shapes, and it all adds up to create an antithesis to our Aishas; something that is both unappealing and hard to draw.
I also think that the popularity of a species in comics is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Someone sees a nice looking Aisha character in someone's comic and gets inspired, thinking, 'ooh, maybe I should have an Aisha in my comic, since they look so pretty!' Then they do, and someone else sees their nice looking Aisha character, and so on and so forth. Meanwhile the Tonus and Elephantes are left in the dust, with nary a representative in sight.
To conclude, dear friends, I implore you to think of those species that are left ignored. Why not try to include a Tonu in your fancy new comic series? 'But Zombie!', you cry, 'didn't you just say that Tonus are ugly and gross?' Well, yes, but who ever said that your character has to be cute? I certainly didn't. They could make a really interesting character, and a fun challenge for you to step out of your comfort zone and try drawing something different. I would definitely appreciate it, as would the Tonus of Neopia. Do it for them. Inspire someone's passionate love for the traditionally unappealing. I believe in you.