A Comic Book Entry – Tyrant-in-Chief Part 3

Further musings on being the editor in chief of a comic book company.

But first, I did forget to mention the movie my last blog titled referenced.  Funnily enough, if you type the words “That dweam within a dweam” into Google, the first hit is a YouTube clip from the very movie – The Princess Bride.  “She gets kidnapped.  He gets killed.  But it all ends up okay.”  Classic.

Anyway, on to just a few more rules with looooong explanations.  Enjoy!

Rule 10) Limit power creep.  Many characters, especially the very first Marvel characters, started out as street fighter level characters and have evolved into city-leveling powerhouses.  DC did this too.  Originally Superman couldn’t actually fly, he could just “leap tall buildings in a single bound,” he couldn’t match Flash in a race but was “faster than a speeding bullet,” he couldn’t throw a mountain but was “more powerful than a locomotive.”  This is the nature of comic books and shared universes – powers drift, sometimes increasing, sometimes decreasing.  Generally popular characters have the most increases in powers.  In some instances, there are logical, continuity-consistent reasons.  All of the X-men went to a school, and early comics showed some of their training sequences.  Some have just been around so long they’ve just gotten really good at using their powers (I.e. the Invisible Woman).  Some started out with really lame powers and the writers quickly gave them a few new powers or tricks to make them less lame (I.e. the Invisible Woman).  But sometimes the characters get new powers, or ridiculously adept at the ones they have, and somehow become practical Supermen even though they started out Jimmy Olsen and the justification for this is flimsy at best.  One example of a new power with flimsy justification is Emma Frost.  It’s transparently obvious the only reason she ended up with diamond armor (and she started in as a telepath!) as tough as Colossus is because Colossus had recently died and the writers didn’t want to lose the X-men’s indestructible tank.  Can you imagine the fan backlash if all the telepaths were dead on the team and suddenly Colossus ended up with telepathy?  Of course that wouldn’t happen; that’s stupid.  And another example of not only new powers but also original power creep is Psylocke.  Besides the whole telepathic supermodel/spy turned telepathic ninja assassin, at one point she spontaneously developed telekinesis (which makes more sense than a new physical power but the high level it started at doesn’t make sense).

Exception 10) There’s really no exception to this.  Powers should develop, but at a rate that makes some sense (you do not have a character go from strong enough to bench press a 1000 pounds to bench-pressing 5000 pounds in a week).  New powers can be introduced, but in a way that makes sense instead of just a deus ex machina by the writers (almost every instance of someone getting a new power is in fact that).  A character whose power is strictly physical needs a damn good reason to sudden develop telepathy or energy emission, and vice versa.  Also, the power introduced better not be because of “wouldn’t it be cool if” syndrome, as already discussed.  For a non-Psylocke example, my current theory as to why Jubilee is a vampire is because her character fell victim to that thinking (“Vampires are cool! And really popular!”).  And if it isn’t obvious, that storyline did not wow me (it un-wowed me, in fact) and I would not have allowed it as tyrant-in-chief.  I am only grateful she’s not actually sparkly in the sunlight.

Rule 11) If one team is engaged in a world-changing event, provide an explanation as to why other teams are not involved.

Exception 11) There is no exception to this rule.  If the Avengers are fighting off an alien invasion, the X-men and Fantastic Four (or Future Foundation or whatever the heck the team is called these days) may not necessarily get involved, but if it’s the type of invasion that has aliens marching in the streets of NYC, there had better be a damn good reason the X-men and FF aren’t there.  Many of the teams’ internal logic already has a reason (I.e. X-men do illegal stuff, the Avengers do sanctioned stuff).  However, in a recent issue of the FF, the world is being invaded by a hundred thousand aliens but there’s nothing in the New Avengers.  Likewise, the New Avengers are dealing with another alien invasion force but there’s not a peep of that in the FF.  That is simply not acceptable.  Anything world-threatening that doesn’t involve all hands on deck better have a good reason and had better get at least a mention in the other books.

Rule 12) Dramatic convenience does not trump internal story logic.  One example of this was in the early 90s when the writers decided to cause dramatic tension by having the newly ninja-ed Psylocke hit on the nearly married Cyclops.  This was stupid enough, but when the teams split up, there was no logic to putting Cyclops and Psylocke on one team and Jean and Wolverine on the other.  The only possible reason was the dramatic convenience of overlapping love triangles (I.e. Cyclops/Jean/Wolverine and Cyclops/Jean/Psylocke).  Also, in more recent stories, the way in which Cyclops and Emma got together was also pretty contrived.  Another example of this was a more recent comic in which vampires were overrunning San Francisco and Cyclops’ brilliant plan to stop this was put in a phone call to Dr. Strange, wait five minutes, get all impatient, and then decide to let the X-men handle it by resurrecting Dracula to kick the other vampires’ asses.  This makes no sense on so many levels.  The X-men have little experience with magic and have been known to work with more experienced people if the need calls for it.  Plus, as a tactician and strategist, why in the world would Cyclops decide the way to stop one madman is bring in another?  But the writers couldn’t figure out another way to get their story going, so they trumped internal story logic to make Cyclops a tactical idiot.  Nice.

Exception 12) There is no exception to this rule.  Comics are inherently a cross between fantasy, sci-fi, folklore, and soap operas.  If a writer can’t create drama within the internal story logic, they have no business being a writer.  Readers know better.

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S. J. Drew is an aspiring writer who finally entered the blogosphere to shamelessly promote that writing (as evidenced by the title of the blog). Whether or not this works remains to be seen, but S. J. hopes you are at least entertained. And if you're actually reading this, that's probably a good sign.

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