Discussion about magic and how it was handled throughout the series
Given that Ben 10 was a show based upon aliens first and foremost, it was rather interesting to see the creators bravely shake up the status quo by introducing magic into the series. Our first glimpse at a sorcerer was Hex in the OS episode "Lucky Girl". Honestly he was badass and gave the protagonists a new challenge due to his ability to tap into this mysterious mystical power. It just added another layer to this growing universe. This was further done by introducing Hex's niece Charmcaster into the series, who served as a direct rival to Gwen in the episodes which she made an appearance in ("Tough Luck" and "A Change of Face").
At the centre of all of this was Gwen. Every episode involving magic shifted the focus to her rather than Ben, and after taking Charmcaster's spellbook at the end of "A change of Face", she begins to learn magic herself and become an active combatant just as much as Ben and Max. Which was awesome. This was done in quite a sensible manner as well, with Gwen initially struggling to grasp magic resulting in a number of mishaps, but then becoming more proficient to the point where she can hold her own in a duel against Charmcaster at the end of the series. I'll also say that the magic in the original series was very creative, with a combination of elemental magic, mind tricks, magical artifacts and so many other diverse uses for magic. We even got to see her future self who armed with the Charms of Bezel, was now a master sorceress.
When Alien Force came around, Gwen's powers were noticeably different. She was no longer saying incantations out loud or using a spellbook, and while both of these could be attributed to a far increased proficiency in magic, her powers did not have that much scope and variation anymore. They were basically limited to mana blasts, Green Lantern-esque constructs, life signature tracking and mana shields which apparently had the same durability as glass. And for some reason her magic was pink rather than blue now. There's nothing inherently wrong with her using these powers but the variety just isn't there if these are what she always relies on. In the episode "What are little girls made of?", this was explained to be because Gwen and Ben's grandmother Verdona was apparently an alien known as an Anodite, and passed her powers onto Gwen. I'll be honest, this was far and away my least favourite episode of Alien Force S1-2 for two reasons. Firstly, because it completely retconned magic out of existence (at least for a while) because it was explicitly stated that there was no such thing as magic and that Gwen's powers were entirely Anodite based. That's a blatant retcon because we very clearly saw Gwen as well as Charmcaster and Hex use magic in the original series. It is also important to note that the future Gwendolyn Tennyson whom we saw in the OS was very clearly using magic and no Anodite powers. If Verdona was still meant to exist, she would've found Gwen and told her about her Anodite heritage, or else Gwen would've probably figured out herself as her Anodite powers manifested. My second reason for not liking this episode is because making Gwen an Anodite just takes away her relatability because really, she was a regular girl (albeit quite gifted intellectually) who learned magic through hard work, and with her Anodite heritage now being the source of her powers and, it doesn't feel right. The Anodite plotpoint was an attempt to give Gwen relevancy in Alien Force but fell flat because it took away one of the most interesting things about her.
There are a ton of criticisms to be made of Alien Force Season 3, but one of the things I think was for the better was them unretconning the Anodite retcon just enough to allow magic to exist again. Gwen being an Anodite was now the reason for her early magical proficiency rather than the sole source of her powers which was a bit better but my point about it taking away the value of Gwen's hard work still stands. It was cool to see Charmcaster again, as well as to see Gwen using actual spells again. However she still mostly used her Anodite based powers with the range of her spells being very limited and exclusively using pink aesthetics. Still though, it was a step up.
I feel that Ultimate Alien Season 1 was the peak of Gwen's magic in the UAF era. Although her regular powers were still preferred, she did use a lot more magic in this season. However the creativity still wasn't completely there, and it felt that she mostly only did very specific spells to solve very specific problems, but I still appreciated her using magic. Charmcaster continued to appear and use magic and the introduction of Ledgerdomain was actually pretty cool and finally something which added to the magical side of the Universe.
Omniverse tried to bring back magic by increasing Gwen's use of it in conjunction with her other powers. They never once mentioned Anodites as well as making giving Gwen a partial Anodite transformation which could be interpreted as a magical buff. I appreciate this but unfortunately Gwen didn't appear much, and she didn't do all that much whenever she was in battle which sorta sucked, though I guess they had to nerf her because of how powerful her Anodite form was in UAF. They also tried expanding on magical lore by having Charmcaster and Legerdomain appear again as well as introducing Bezel, the creator of the charms named after him. He was unfortunately a bit of a buffoon whom you couldn't take seriously.
Overall I think that the original series handled the mystery and uniqueness of magic the best and it was chucked out of the window in the sequel series in favour of explaining everything away as aliens. While Omniverse did try and rectify this they couldn't do much without completely rewriting everything about Anodites in UAF. Personally, what I would've done is show Gwen progressing on her journey to becoming a master sorceress like the future Gwndolyn whom we saw in the original series. I totally understand the concerns that a magical system is not easy to implement at all, and I certainly don't support magic becoming completely balance-breaking and broken either. However with some effort, that can be done. I read a book series a number of years ago called Skulduggery Pleasant where magic is the core of the story, and although it is a book series rather than an animated series, film or comic, I still think that the idea can work. The idea in Skulduggery Pleasant is that there are lots of magical disciplines, from elemental magic to teleportation to symbol magic to necromancy. Young sorcerers are capable of doing all of these with enough practice (albeit not very proficiently), but there comes an age where they go through what is known as "The Surge" after which their magic can only be used in one main discipline and thus is the way in which the author of the series prevented most sorcerers from becoming too powerful by learning a spell for everything.
Now that's just one example of how you can implement magic into a universe without make it balance-breaking, and I believe that something similar could've been done with Ben 10. Perhaps teenage Gwen could have a fatigue limit when it comes to spellcasting explaining why she doesn't just use magic to sort every problem. Maybe wielding all the Charms of Bezel grants a sorcerer access to a wide range of powers without so much of a limit which explains why future Gwendolyn is quite powerful. Perhaps some magicians like Hex could have their power mainly tied to a magical object (eg. Hex's staff) which leaves them far weaker if that object is destroyed. Heck, even Anodites could be implemented but perhaps more as an expression of a spellcaster's magical soul rather than an alien species, almost a "Super Saiyan" form for magic users which buffs their power but takes a physical toll on them. Magic can work in harmony with the science-fiction and alien universe of Ben 10 if approached in the right waynd I wish that its importance was continued throughout the series.
@coreofthesun I wouldn't mind Anodites existing in the Ben 10 universe but making Gwen half Anodite was certainly a big no for me. It was unnecessary and ended up causing more harm than good. While I do appreciate that Omniverse tried to bring back magic, Gwen still being half Anodite irked me. I recall some years back, people said that the Anodite explanation was necessary because Gwen became too good at magic in the Original Series and therefore an explanation needed to be created to justify that. As you stated though, Gwen actually did struggle with magic when she first started using it. It took her time and effort and making mistakes to get better at it. And yeah, she was able to eventually get good enough at magic to allow her to hold her ground against Charmcaster. From what I recall, she didn't beat Charmcaster though. I think their little duel was at a stalemate before it got interrupted. This is just a thing about Gwen in general. She's not good at everything right off the bat. She works hard to be good at the things that she is good at.
I despise Omniverse's version of Bezel. The Charms of Bezel are supposed to be some of the most powerful magical artifacts in the Ben 10 universe and that's the character that created them. Bezel is one of the many examples that proves one of Omniverse's biggest criticisms. There's too much of a focus on comedy. A lot of things were done for laughs and more often this undermined a lot of elements of Omniverse. The way that Bezel was handled felt like a disservice to Bezel, the charms, and magic overall. I don't know if you've seen it or not but I recently posted a newly finished commission of Little Moments' version of Bezel. If you haven't, here's the link to it. I say LM's version of Bezel is just far FAR better than the one that we got in Omniverse.
Speaking of Little Moments, I like how they handled magic in the Ben 10 universe. There's a lot of really interesting stuff about magic that was done and I say the LM writers handled magic in Ben 10 a lot better than the people behind the sequel shows. There's a lot of interesting changes and additions made in LM. Professor Paradox is no longer science-based but instead magic-based. Ascalon is now a straight up magic sword instead of a technologically advanced sword made by Azmuth. There's a power spectrum where the color of one's magic aura helped determine how powerful they are (set in the order of a rainbow, with red being the weakest and violet being the strongest). Etc. I really like it.
@coreofthesun Another thing worth noting as well is your suggestion of Hex being reliant on the Staff of Ages in order to be powerful. As I stated, in the Little Moments continuity, the color of one's magic aura determined how powerful they were with the power spectrum being in the order of a rainbow, with red being the weakest and violet being the strongest. Hex's aura is red in the Original Series, which means that in LM, Hex would be among the weakest of magic users. I think this is a good way of summing up why Hex is so reliant on using the Staff of Ages and is so adamant on getting the Charms of Bezel. In LM, Hex isn't actually a powerful sorcerer. Experienced, but not powerful. Therefore, he needs to rely on magical artifacts to be powerful.
Also, magic users don't really seem to be restricted to the color of their aura. Gwen, LM Bezel, and The Knight (from LM: The Sorceress and The Knight) all had their auras changed to the more powerful colors as a result of them improving their magic capabilities. I guess that kind of parallels your suggestion of Anodites being more like a Super Saiyan form for magic users.
@Tactical-Ochoa Interesting. I was thinking along those lines as well - the more capable a sorcerer is, the less they’ll need to rely on artifacts, which explains why Gwen and Charmcaster are pretty capable of doing magic by themselves as well as Hex’s constant longing for the Charms of Bezel. The colour of the auras is a nice detail - and could actually explain really well why Gwen’s powers changed from blue to violet. The only thing is that future Gwen is shown using primarily yellow/golden coloured magic (at least in the OS future). I would also like to see diverse and different branches of magic which I think would be pretty cool.
An alternative Anodite idea is to have them as magical beings residing in Legerdomain. That would make far more sense than them being aliens and I believe that this would be a good compromise to keep Anodites in the universe at the same time as not diminishing the magic side of the universe.
I can’t help but feel that UA blew the chance to have a magic-focused storyline heavily involving Gwen in the Diagon arc. George was the only interesting character in that arc and it is true that the LM version of him is better, as well as Ascalon being a magical sword which is way better than it being technologically advanced.
@coreofthesun In The Sorceress and The Knight, Bezel's aura at one point changed to gold because of the Charms of Bezel.
That was an idea that I had as well. I think Anodites could work quite well as inhabitants of Ledgerdomain. LM does have mentions of Anodites. They're supposedly like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. Stories about them are told but no one knows for sure if they exist or not and no sightings of them have been confirmed.
Ugh, the Diagon arc. George was certainly an interesting part of that arc, but the arc overall was just boring and anticlimactic. I would argue that The Liar was a better Diagon than Diagon himself. I'm really intrigued to see what the writers do with The Knight next. Ascalon was certainly an interesting element in the LM universe as well. The way that it was portrayed made it feel like it was a sentient being in and of itself. I think the same goes for the Charms of Bezel and Keystone of Bezel as well.
@Tactical-Ochoa The Diagon arc is my least favourite arc of UA (and probably the whole franchise) for many reasons but did have some potential. I think that George was moderately interesting but the entire arc was just poorly executed and boring. I didn't really feel that intimidated by Diagon and he felt really generic. I thought that it would've been an interesting plot twist if the Diagon was actually just a trapped and scared creature and that George was actually the villain all along. Yet overall I'd rather forget the Diagon arc.
I think that there are lots of different ways to approach magic in a sensible way without making it an easy way for the main characters to solve everything. I would've actually liked to see a few more alien sorcerers. The closest that we got to that was Adwaitya in Ultimate Alien.
In the original series if Ben read those magic spells from charmcaster's book. He'd be able to pull off some magic powers because this was before they introduced Anodites in Alien Force. I am thinking of what sort of combination Ben can make with magic spells and his aliens.
KineceleranGirl last edited by
@npzman I do remember Charmcaster mentioning that Ben had a magical aura of sorts as well, meaning that he could be a sorcerer with enough practice in theory, but something tells me that he’d get way too impatient to bother with the slow learning curve of magic lol.