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  Fictional Doubles

When I finished reading Good Omens for the first time, I realized right away that there were several other of my favorite fictional characters that very closely paralleled the characters of Crowley and Aziraphale. The thing is, the two best examples of each that I could find came from series that had nothing to do with the territory explored in Good Omens. Forget about angels, demons, and the Apocalypse - I found one ambiguously evil robot/hero's best friend in a science fiction cartoon spoof, and a reluctant world-saving book collector in a horror novel by Stephen King.

  Candidate for Demon:
  Bender the Ambiguously Evil Robot

Image: Bender, wearing his shades. Okay, so Bender isn't from a book having to do with the Apocalypse. But he does have a starring role in the brilliant American animated series Futurama, as the hapless hero's best friend, and an ambiguously evil fellow.

The parallels between Bender's personality and Crowley's personality are pretty strong. Bender is a self-proclaimed criminal whose apparent lack of empathy and disregard for ethics hides the fact that he is actually a sensitive, feeling being. He swears that he hates humans, but still clings almost desperately to his friendship with a human, Fry, as well as the belief that his human "mother," Mom, somehow loves him. Bender puts up a front to convince others that he has no feelings or morals, but still, little hints to the contrary leak through. Like in the pilot episode of Futurama, in which Bender confesses that he became depressed because he found out that the girders he was bending were being used for suicide booths.

There's one particular passage in Good Omens in which Crowley immediately reminds me of Bender.

Crowley's hands itched... He longed to steal a few radios, let down some tires, that sort of thing. He resisted it.
~ Crowley entering a parking lot full of new and classy cars
(p. 82)

That just seems like a very Bender moment to me.

Bender's hobbies, by the way, include watching television, smoking cigars, and stealing. Because he is a robot, his body requires a constant supply of fuel, that is, drinking liquor. When Bender becomes sober, his speech is slurred, his judgement is impaired, and he grows a beard of rust. Bender also seems to have an unusual interest in fine human food, and secretly dreams of being a famous chef, although this is difficult for a robot to do, since he has no actual sense of taste.

Bender is an ambitious criminal who overtly craves power, although his greatest inner fear is that he will end up unloved and unremembered by anyone. Within the overall cast of Futurama, he plays the role of the starring character's best friend, a robot who appears to be evil on the outside (and indeed, proclaims himself to be evil to the bone); but, deep down inside, Bender really does have a heart, and he does care about his human friends, especially Fry.

As Bender says to Fry in one memorable episode: "You know, Fry... Of all the friends I've had, you're the first."

Another telling Bender moment occurs in episode 3ACV20, titled "Godfellas." In this episode, Bender meets God.

God: Bender, being God isn't easy. If you do too much, people get dependent on you. And if you do nothing, they lose hope. You have to use a light touch, like a safecracker or a pickpocket.

Bender: Or a guy who burns down a bar for the insurance money!

God: Yes, if you make it look like an electrical thing. When you do things right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all.

God then proceeds to save Bender from facing an uncertain sort of doom. Bender then promptly turns around and reports to Fry and Leela, "You can't count on God for jack, he pretty much told me so himself!"

Why he's so NOT Crowley: I think the greatest difference between Bender and Crowley, personality-wise, is that Bender enjoys being a crude, slovenly, crass character, whereas Crowley pretends to be wealthy, sophisticated, and refined. Bender's number one saying is "Bite my shiny metal ass." I can't imagine Crowley ever using the word "ass," or especially asking anyone to ever bite him, on any part of his body. He's way too slick for such rude behavior.

Here are some descriptive screenshots of Bender, courtesy of Can't Get Enough Futurama:

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  Candidate for Angel: Calvin Tower

Series: The Dark Tower, a series of novels by the incomparable Stephen King (that has ended up tying into, if not entirely encompassing, all of his other works as well).

Profile: An eager collector (and reluctant seller) of used and rare books, Calvin Tower owns the bookstore "The Manhattan Restaurant of the Mind" in one (or perhaps many) possible versions of New York City. He is an aging, soft, and kindly gentleman, despite the fact that if you get to know him better, some unpleasant personality characteristics come to light. Yes, Mr. Tower is selfish in a way, yes, he only has one real friend (Aaron Deepneau), and no, he doesn't know how to have a normal conversation with another person, he just keeps talking about his therapist. He is at heart a well-meaning person, but he still has trouble seeing beyond his own narrow worldview, a view of a universe centered entirely around his book collection.

The creepy thing is, it might be TRUE that the entire universe (or multiple universes, actually) could be centered around Mr. Tower's book collection.

Parallels: Mr. Tower, of course, collects used and rare books. His specialty is books with mistakes and misprints within them. The only books in his store that he really wants to sell are the new ones and the children's books. He openly admits that he keeps the bookstore not for the purpose of making any money (it's a lost cause), but because he needs a place to house his collection, after all.

Mr. Tower is kind and sweet and friendly to anybody who strikes his fancy, but he can be unpleasantly distant (and bookish) at other times. When he is actually called upon to Save the World, his first and foremost concern is his book collection. He only agrees to help Roland and Eddie on their quest for the Dark Tower, provided that they will protect his book collection in return. Eddie thinks that this is an outrageously selfish (and narrow-minded) demand, but Roland in turn says that all things serve ka, even Mr. Tower. As it turns out, Mr. Tower's book collection might actually hold the keys to many multiple universes, so yes, even Mr. Tower's selfishness ends up serving a higher purpose, although he himself is hardly aware of it. This is much like the way that in Good Omens, Aziraphale's essentially selfish wish to keep enjoying the pleasures of the world drives him to actually end up Saving the World, and, in turn, to perhaps serve as an agent of an Ineffable Plan that he doesn't quite (want to) understand.

However, Mr. Tower can put aside his selfishness, and take stand for the sake of protecting others, when he really needs to. In Wolves of the Calla, Father Callahan relates the tale of how Tower and Deepneau saved him from murder at the hands of the Nazi Brothers, despite considerable risk to their own safety. Talk about a pair of good Samaritans... Although Tower would insist that he only did what needed to be done. Likewise, in Good Omens, at the very end, Aziraphale finally picks up a sword and prepares to take a stand against the Devil himself, despite the fact that he most likely won't survive the encounter, all for the sake of protecting a few innocent humans, who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Why he's not quite Aziraphale: Really, there are very few differences between the two. ^^;; Well, one obvious difference is that, although Aziraphale knows a lot more about the world around him than he lets on, Calvin Tower actually IS as oblivious as he seems. Aziraphale doesn't let the creepy men with thin watches bully him around. Calvin Tower, however, is utterly frightened and helpless when confronted with actual mafia goons.

  Candidate for Angel: Yomiko Readman

Image: Yomiko Readman! Series: Read or Die, a Japanese anime/manga franchise spanning one novel, two manga series, an OAV animated series, and a 26-episode TV anime series.

Profile: "The Last Literature Defense-Line of the United Kingdom" is the Section A Special Library Force, a quirky coalition of secret agents who save the world from megalomaniacal supervillians. Yomiko Readman, codenamed "The Paper," is a member of this group. In her "normal" life she lives in Japan, works as a substitute teacher, and reads voraciously.

Parallels: Immediately after the opening credits of the first episode of Read or Die, we are introduced to Yomiko as she wakes up one morning on her bed literally buried beneath a mountain of books. Yomiko's home in Tokyo is filled wall-to-wall with dusty piles of thousands of books. Yomiko collects whatever is interesting, old, or rare; in fact, the catalyst to the plot of the animated series is that Yomiko buys an antique copy of Die Unsterbliche Liebe, a book with Beethoven's last symphony scribbled in the margins.

Yomiko generally has a kind, gentle disposition. However, her speech is always astoundingly formal and polite, even to the point of anal-retentiveness. She even uses polite speech when addressing the main villains of the series or during the most suspenseful, action-packed sequences when a normal person would be more concerned with the fact that her life is on the line. Secondly, Yomiko has a hard time keeping her mind grounded in the present-day real world. Once she gets her nose buried in a book, she's oblivious to the world around her; likewise, she sometimes acts as though her thoughts, her speech, and her clothing are stuck forty years in the past. Remind you of someone...? Even though Yomiko is supposed to be "ethnically" Japanese, the anime and manga go out of their way to imbue her with stereotypically British personality traits.

Yomiko is soft-spoken, friendly, and too trusting at times. She tries very hard to do the right thing, but sometimes it just backfires. She always searches for that elusive spark of goodness in others, even when they seem to be nothing more than cold or heartless. And when push comes to shove, she can stand up for herself and fight to protect those she cares for. Yes, she can use a sword (of sorts). And, gosh darnit, that overcoat that she always wears is almost exactly what I mentally imagined Aziraphale wearing in the novel.

In the R.O.D. TV series, Yomiko also gangs up with a gang of fellow book-lovers and oddballs in order to rebel against her former bosses at the British Library, and sabotage their plans to essentially end our world and create another, better world from its ashes. Sound a little bit like someone we know?

Why she's so NOT Aziraphale: Human, mortal, female. For starters. The physical images of the two don't jive at all; I picture Aziraphale as a middle-aged or older gentleman, whereas Yomiko is a very young women. Other than the fabulous coat and possibly the glasses, they don't look alike.

Yomiko is also naive about quite a lot of things, like love and trust and human friendship; Aziraphale, despite his kind nature, is considerably more jaded in his outlook. He veers dangerously close to being cynical about human nature, although doesn't quite go as far as Crowley does, or at least never verbalizes his opinions about human beings the same way that Crowley does.

Yomiko is an innocent, childish character. That's why she's so loving and trusting. Aziraphale, however, is NOT an innocent in any meaningful sense. "Just because you're an angel doesn't mean that you have to be a fool" (page 40). Aziraphale's one and only true moment of trusting innocence comes near the very beginnings of history, when he gives away his flaming sword to Adam and Eve. The Aziraphale that readers meet in 1990 and later in 2001 is six thousand years older, wiser, and considerably more jaded. Well, living among human beings for six thousand years would do that to any angel. Aziraphale understands that humans have free will; he believes that humans are capable of good, but like Crowley, he's also seen that humans are capable of unspeakable evil. Although the book never gives any indication either way, I get the impression that Aziraphale doesn't trust easily, and he's more aware of the world around him than his charmingly antiquated mannerisms and unfamiliarity with pop culture would suggest. The only true parallel that Aziraphale has with Yomiko is that both are always willing to give the benefit of the doubt. "We were all God's creatures when you got down to it, even people like Crowley and the Antichrist..." (page 217).

Here are some screenshots of Yomiko, hugging books, being cute, and doing a few other things... Screenshots are courtesy of Yomiko's Library. Click on the thumbnail to view the full image.

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<--- Plant the Seeds // Slither Home --->

Important Note: Page numbers in reference to quotations from the book refer to the 1996 Ace mass-market paperback edition.     Disclaimer: Crowley, Aziraphale, and Good Omens are owned and copyrighted by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Excerpts and quotes from the novel Good Omens used throughout this site are reproduced without legal permission, for which I can only hang my head sheepishly and apologize. However, this is a FANSITE, meant in the name of fun, and not intended to make a profit. The lovely model in this site's header graphic is an endangered Eastern Indigo Snake, in a photograph courtesy of SeaWorld.org. Brushes used in the header graphic are courtesy of Paper Flowers.