A Comic Book Entry: Super-selfish Super-geniuses

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On to the snark!

There’s a trope in comics I ran across called “Cut Lex Luthor a Check.”  The idea is that if someone paid a genius like Lex Luthor, or his counterpart Dr. Doom, enough money for their world-destroying devices (which with a little tinkering could be world-saving devices), they would have no need to be supervillains anymore.  Of course, they are supervillains, and so money holds no power over them although they hold a LOT of power over money (however, this may work on lesser supervillains such as the Tinkerer).  As Princess from “Powerpuff Girls” said, “I have the greatest superpower of all!  Cold hard cash!”  When the incarnation of evil agrees, you know you’re on to something.

But here’s where a problem comes into the internal logic of a comic book universe.  Marvel and DC are populated with hero geniuses.  Batman, Mr. Fantastic, and Iron Man are probably the most famous.  Now, Batman and Iron Man are pretty much on the same level of genius and use their genius in pretty much the same way.  Mr. Fantastic is a special case.  So, yes, Batman and Iron Man own technology companies and horde the best stuff for themselves to fight crime and alien invasions and pretty much whatever the writers think would be awesome at the time (apparently rule 1 of DC is – everything is awesome with Batman; the Marvel parallel [although not quite relevant in this discussion] is – everything is awesome with Wolverine).  Both heroes have enough wealth to make King Solomon blush.  The problems?

1) Iron Man – He’s been very careful NOT to let his weapon designs get into the hands of people he doesn’t personally trust.  Many of his comics are centered around someone stealing the plans for his armor or the actual armor and him going and beating the snot out of them to get it back. He’s invaded foreign sovereign nations and stolen his armor back from the US government on more than one occasion (and yet not tried for treason; go figure).  I get it; he doesn’t want it to fall into the wrong hands (his recovering alcoholic hands are fine, however).  I’ll give Tony credit for creating the Mandroid armor, although like some countries, he sold the third-rate stuff instead of the top of the line stuff.  And of course he made a huge profit from the deal, so it’s not as though it was completely altruistic.  But the man is a weapons’ dealer. Still, I’m surprised at how few commercial/civilian applications the Iron Man technology has been used for.  His armors run on compact, nearly limitless energy sources.  How in the world could that not be marketable and imminently useful?  Okay, yes that’s what Tony is up to in the movies, but the comic book version has going on 50 years to develop clean energy sources, and that Tony was written right through the oil crisis of the 1970s.  He’s devoted to national security, right?  His technology could make the county energy independent within a few decades (I allow him some time to scale up and work on getting costs down).  Or maybe some applications of those force fields would be useful.  How great would it be if instead of a car popping an airbag it popped a force field that absorbed all kinetic energy?  Or maybe he could have worked for more advances in the medical field, since that’s what the armor was originally designed for?  Imagine if Stark Industries went into the field of prosthetics.  But no.  I’ll give Tony a slight pass for being a selfish bastard with his technology since he pretty much is a selfish bastard, but I’m surprised all his high-minded friends and fellow superheroes don’t push him to be a little more generous.

2) Batman – he also has access to advanced technology he keeps to himself.  Now, his stuff isn’t going to revolutionize the army (actually, it might), but imagine what it could do for the Gotham City PD. Gotham City is a terrible place to live, even by fictional standards.  I’d rather live in Sunnydale than Gotham City.  It’s like a circle of Hell Dante didn’t get around to describing because it was so awful. Ostensibly based on New York City, Gotham is pretty much an amalgam of the bad part of every city ever.  There is no part of Gotham City that is not a ghetto as far as I can tell.  Your choices of neighborhood are like choosing between Hell’s Kitchen in NYC, or the South Side of Chicago.  One Bat cannot patrol the whole city, leaving Gotham’s finest to do their best.  And they just have the same lousy gear of any police department, probably worse considering Gotham seems to be in a budget crunch.  So the Gotham City PD is underpaid, under-equipped, and under-staffed.  But Batman, who has a bunch of variations of Bat-armor which keeps him from getting a Bat-sucking-chest-wound when shot, isn’t sharing.  Why not?  Couldn’t Wayne Tech make some money from manufacturing advanced armored vests?  The military would certainly buy them and that would help the troops.  Any police force that could afford awesome armor would probably buy it too.  So Gotham City is broke.  Bruce Wayne is supposed to be a philanthropist; he could just donate a whole bunch of gear to the Gotham CPD because he’s just that kind of guy.  It doesn’t have to be gear he developed; just the good stuff that’s already available would make a huge difference for the poor cops of the GCPD who are forced to fight slightly super-powered psychopaths without so much as a SWAT team.  Or he could buy out and re-build Arkham to the kind of place the inmates aren’t escaping from every other week.  Or better yet, use his money to run for city government and then be able to actually make changes to the budget and staffing which would benefit the PD for years.

I give Batman less of a pass than Iron Man.  He’s not supposed to be a selfish bastard.  He’s supposed to be self-sacrificing for the good of the masses (such good as may be found in such a wretched hive of scum and villainy).  He’s selfless!  And yet his answer to the woes of the Gotham City PD is to dress up like a nocturnal mammal, beat up some muggers, and catch the Joker.  Sure, catching the Joker is important, but how many other people could be helped if the GCPD was properly outfitted and staffed?  If he wanted Batman to always be the city savior, he could outsource the Batman image and make a corps of Batmen (which I think is where the comic was going pre-reboot).  Heck, when Darkwing Duck ran into some money, the first thing he did was create a Darkwing Corps!

3) And the case of Mr. Fantastic is a special one.  This falls in with a trope I saw called, “Reed Richards is Useless.”  This is a man who can build six impossible things before breakfast.  His experiment on cosmic radiation was an utter failure but had the significant side-effect of creating the most powerful superhero team in the Marvel universe.  For the comics Mr. Fantastic has invented: time-travel, travel to other dimensions, travel to parallel universes, travel to the Microverse, travel to the Macroverse, travel to alien worlds, giant robots, laser weapons, and the list goes on and on.  Even when he’s not inventing things to start and/or end adventures, the inventions he makes in his spare time for personal reasons are outrageously advanced technology.  He gave his wife a ring with a universe in it for their anniversary.  Every year on their anniversary he takes her back in time to a restaurant so they can watch their first meeting. This is a man who could run rings around Iron Man and Batman in the invention department.  He could have invented limitless, clean energy in an afternoon.  He could have cured cancer before lunchtime.  He could have solved global warming and cleaned up all pollution before putting his kids to bed.  In theory, he’s got people who know his abilities and should be asking him to create free energy and cure cancer and clean up the planet.  Instead, he builds awesome hovercars and jets and portals and weapons and never shares with anyone ever.  What a selfish bastard indeed.  Some hero.

These geniuses could revolutionize their relative universes in significant ways, but by and large do not.  Why?  Well, unfortunately, that’s narrative convention.  If there actually was a Bat-corps, or if Iron Man’s compact energy sources were commercialized, a lot of conflict that Batman and Iron Man were involved in would disappear.  What would Batman do if the criminals of Gotham actually stayed in Arkham?  What would Iron Man do if his armor didn’t end up in the hands of his enemies?  What if Mr. Fantastic actually cured cancer and created free energy and gave everyone hovercars (yes, some of this overlaps with what Iron Man can do but Mr. Fantastic is a lot faster)?  There would be nothing for anyone to do.  Well, that’s not entirely true, but a lot of conflict would be resolved, especially for Batman, since he spends a lot of time trolling for muggers.  Many problems of the world would be resolved and in regards to Mr. Fantastic, solved on a global scale within a week or two.  As heroes, they ought to share their technology.  But as characters who need conflict, they can’t.  This results in holes in their characters which writers have to write around, which is difficult, and results in Mr. Fantastic inventing something that is totally awesome and then promptly forgetting he made the thing after adventure is over with.  By that logic, Mr. Fantastic has a closet full of world-saving devices that are just gathering dust.  And by that logic, Iron Man and Batman are jerks for not sharing their technology.

Alas, I have no solution to this problem.  But it is kind of a constant glaring plothole that a man who can build a high-tech energy source in a cave with scrap won’t commercialize it, that a man who devotes his entire existence to protecting a festering cesspool of a city won’t help outfit the local police department, or that that a man who can invent time travel and dimensional travel and anything else just utterly fails to turn his attention to pressing global matters of energy supply, cancer, and pollution.  Unfortunately, it’s a glaring plothole that will probably never go away.

A Comic Book Entry: Why Comic Book Writers Should Think Like GMs

This is a response to three issues I’ve noticed in comics relating to power level:
1) Power creep – We’ve all seen it.  Consider Wolverine (as discussed in “My Love/Hate Relationship with Wolverine”).  In the beginning, he could heal from injuries in days to weeks that would put a normal human in traction for months.  For anyone who’s ever broken their arm and had to learn to use their other hand or broken a leg or ankle and learn to walk on crutches, such a healing factor is a darn nice superpower and probably one you wish you had at the time.  Now, he can be thrown out of a skyscraper and be completely recovered in an hour.  He’s hardly the only one.  Popular heroes and villains seem to experience power creep more than lesser known characters.

2) “Strong as s/he needs to be” – this is when a character has such a vaguely defined power that they are suddenly a lot stronger/tougher than they ever have been before.  Iron Fist is an example of this.  He is a skilled martial artist who, through his abilities learned in K’un Lun, can focus his powers to enable him to punch something very hard on desperate occasions (hence the title “Iron Fist”).  Sometimes this is just once a day to take out the big boss and sometimes it is enough to enable him to take out a practical army of armored battle suits.  This situation usually occurs when writers have painted themselves into corners and can’t figure a better way out.

3) Deus ex machina powers – This is when a character suddenly develops a brand new, high level power via a poorly explained plot device, a la Emma Frost’s diamond armor.  This usually occurs when writers have painted themselves into corners and can’t figure a better way out (As I recall, Emma Frost had just been presumably squished to death).  This can also occur when writers think it’s cool.  Superman is a great example of this.  He has acquired flight, ice breath, laser beam eyes, and I don’t know what else over the years.

My solution – it would benefit writers to occasionally think of their stories and characters like characters in a role-playing game with the writer as the gamemaster (or Storyteller, or Dungeon Master, or Judge, depending on the specifics of the system).  Not to get bogged down in the details, a role-playing game basically works like this: each player has a character with defined vital statistics, skills, and/or powers.  The GM is a neutral party that creates a world for the players and makes up challenges for them.  Sometimes this is monsters to fight or puzzles to solve.  When players are successful, they earn points that eventually allow them to improve their vital statistics, skills, and/or powers.  The role-playing part comes in people being allowed to pretend they’re superheroes (Marvel Superheroes is actually a old RPG) or mages or cyborgs or whatnot.

So, you are thinking, what does this have to do with writing a comic book, in which the writer has complete control of all the characters (as opposed to a GM who only has control of the situation; the other players control their characters)?  It is the job of a GM to create a balanced game and challenges that are appropriate not just to the vital statistics/skills/powers of one team member, but the whole team.  It is easy for a writer to fall into one of the three power issues listed above, but very hard for a GM for the following reasons.

1) Power creep:
It is difficult for power creep to become a problem in a role-playing game as long as the GM is paying attention.  Part of this is of course that a game has rules which does allow for power growth along specific and defined paths.  All power comes with a price, and not in an ominous sense, but a pragmatic one.  Players must succeed in a certain number of challenges to improve their vital statistics/skills/powers.  This only makes sense.  In the real world, just because someone wants a BS in Biology doesn’t mean that printing out a diploma means they have the knowledge.  In the real world, if someone wants to bench press 200 pounds, they don’t just wake up one morning able to do that.  Improvement takes time and effort and intermediate steps.  When GMs (and writers) forget that, the whole balance of the team (see 3) and the balance of the world is thrown off.  Actually, it’s worse with writers.

2) “Strong as s/he needs to be”:
A game works by how well the rules are written.  Some games allow more flexibility than others, but in general a character can’t be stronger than their vital statistics/skills/powers.  Now, a player may use those vital statistics/skills/powers in a novel way that solves a problem that might otherwise be beyond their power level, but that’s not the same as a 98-lb weakling suddenly being able to bench-press a taxi.  There are some examples of a weak character defeating a strong enemy without this power issue in the comics.  Rick Jones can’t take a hit from the Hulk (frankly, few can).  However, due to other skills (empathy, knowing the Hulk, etc.), he can calm the Hulk down and ultimately defeat him while others who are much stronger, like Thor, could not defeat the Hulk.  However, Thor does not have the same skill set.

3) Deus ex machina power:
This assumes, of course, said power is awesome.  Something like vampirism certainly brings a whole host of new powers, but in general a whole host of new problems as well.  A GM who just gave out a totally awesome high-level power to a player would be turned on by the rest of the players (“You don’t have to kill him; just make his knees bend the wrong way”).  There would have to be a very compelling story reason for it, and the GM would be forced to re-balance the party challenges, which is pretty difficult.  Take the original Avengers for example.  Iron Man, Ant Man, Wasp, Captain America were fairly bad-ass (ok, not really Ant Man and the Wasp, but anyway).  But Thor is a god.  Many of the early stories involve Thor proving he’s not just a god in name, but actually a god with all the power one would expect.  Add to that the Hulk, who can hold his own with Thor.  It is difficult to have a villain who is a credible threat to all members of such a team.  Any villain who can fight Iron Man/Ant Man/Wasp/Cap is going to get his rear end handed to him by Thor and/or the Hulk.  Likewise, a villain who is a credible threat to the Hulk or Thor is going to leave the other four as nothing more than bloody smears on the landscape.  I realize this is not actually what happened in the early comics, but Stan Lee/Jack Kirby had to work around that inherent power differential.  It’s not easy to do.  If my Google-fu is to be believed, Chris Claremont ended up with this problem with the Phoenix.  The idea was to create a female equal to Thor.  The problem with this was pretty obvious and that was what partially lead to Jean’s demise.

Ultimately the goal of a GM is to have a balanced world and if they want to upset that balance, they need a really compelling story reason.  And here is where writers really get themselves trouble when they fall into the three power issues.  Comic book writers work in a collaborative universe.  They share the same characters.  For example, Writer 1 decides that since Mockingbird is the only normal human on the New Avengers that she needs superpowers, and writes that into the story.  Now Mockingbird is nearly as physically strong and tough as Ariel (Jessica Jones).  Well, Writer 2 wanted to feature a mini-series with Mockingbird and Hawkeye fighting HYDRA agents.  Now Writer 2 must contend with Mockingbird’s new powers which, let’s face it, will allow her to wipe the floor with HYDRA agents before Hawkeye gets off two shots.  However, if Writer 2 increases the power level of the enemy to fight the new Mockingbird, Hawkeye stands a good chance of getting killed.  And what’s done is hard to undo since a character’s power creep is often tied to their popularity.  I.e., would anyone really like it Wolverine’s power levels went back to those in the original comics?  Probably not.  This becomes more problematic with villains, since good villains are harder to find than good heroes.  My prime example of this is Norman Osborn, who was first seen tangling with Spider-man in the 60s and last seen (by me anyway) catching a punch from Luke Cage (who himself has had power creep so badly he can actually fight the Thing), throwing Luke Cage into the air like a toy, and flying under his own power.  At this point, I can’t see how he could be just a Spider-man villain again; he’s just too over-powered for Spidey.

I do understand why Mockingbird got superpowers.  It’s really difficult to balance the power threat when one member of the group is so much more vulnerable than the others.  Trying to shore up that inherent physical weakness sometimes creates its own problems.  Frankly, many JLAs fall apart for me because the team is so outrageously super-powered – Superman, Martian Manhunter, the Flash, Green Lantern (pick one; even that jerk Gardener is dangerously powerful), Wonder Woman, Aquaman (in his latest incarnation), and…Batman.  I get it; he’s Batman.  I love Batman as much as the next person, but it seems just unbelievable he should always be the one to save the day when compared to the virtual gods  he’s surrounded by (Wonder Woman may actually be a goddess).  Sure, he’s a detective and tactical genius.  Not to blaspheme the Bat, but it’s sort of like any issue in which Superman is saved by Jimmy Olsen.  It works once in awhile, but if it happened every issue, people would wonder how super Superman really is.  It’s just really, really hard to keep writing situations in which the skills and talents of a “normal” human  trump god-like power.

The upshot is this – if writers thought more like GMs, they wouldn’t increase a character’s power or give a character a new power “just because it’s cool” or because they really like that character.  They also couldn’t have the weakest character consistently saving the team.  Such actions throw off the world balance if not for the writer who bestowed the powers, but for the other writers who have to deal with the consequences.  And frankly, we readers do notice that.  Collaborative writing is hard enough, but it would help if writers thought a little more like GMs about the long-term effects of their story arcs.

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.

A Comic Book Entry – That Dweam Within a Dweam

If you don’t know what movie I’m referencing, shame on you.  Go see it.  It’s classic.  But in case you have no idea what this refers to, it refers to mwarriage, er, marriage.  Specifically, the awful ways comic books handle marriage.

It pretty much goes without saying that every superhero/heroine is such an emotional wreck of a human being that they should never attempt anything resembling a normal romantic relationship with anyone ever.  This rant is not about how terrible the people in comic books marriages are (which they tend to be, for the above mentioned reason).  This rant is to show that the people involved in the creation of comic books just don’t seem to know how to handle it.  Here’s a sad fact – any given character is more likely to die than get married.  More than that, any given character is more likely to die twice than get married.  It’s like writers understand marriage is this special event they only want characters to go through once, recent terrible retcons notwithstanding.  Oddly, divorce is not very common in comic books.  As I recollect, a marriage is equally likely to end in a retcon or a divorce.  Consider that – writers feel it’s easier to re-write a universe to get rid of marriage than just have the characters divorce.  Pardon me if I say that seems like pretty lazy writing.  Let’s see, you could write arcs worth of character development, or one lousy arc that just hits the reset button.  Time is money, so go with resetNo one will notice…

Despite all this, characters do get married.  It seems to be narrative convention that if a couple has been together long enough, writers start to feel pressure that maybe it’s time the characters took the next step in their relationship.  In this case, art imitates life.  When characters do end up married, those who write/edit the comics seem to feel this is some sort of terminal disease that they need to cure the character of and they tend to do it in the worst way possible.  It’s as though they feel that marriage stagnates their characters (not to mention the idea of having children).  After all, writers come and go but marriage is forever.  Maybe writers do feel legitimately shackled by this relationship they would never have written into the comic to begin with and are annoyed they aren’t allowed to explore the drama of getting their favorite couple together.  Maybe from a drama perspective it’s harder to stick a wife in a refrigerator than “just” a girlfriend.  Now, I’m not saying every character needs to get hitched.  For example, it wouldn’t work to pair off Tony Stark.  But it is ridiculous how badly marriages are written, even in the context of everyone involved in them being horribly broken people.

Henry Pym and Janet van Dyne – This power couple is not the worst example of how marriage is treated in comics.  If you know anything about them, you should find the previous sentence frightening.  Frankly, in re-reading the Avenger tradebacks it’s clear that Henry and Janet were not well matched.  He was suffering from anxiety over his first wife’s death, and she was flighty, self-centered and as far as I can tell only interested in a scientist like Pym due to some sort of Electra complex.  She pursued Henry, he rejected her.  They only got married because Henry ended up with dissociative identity disorder after an experiment went wrong and she took advantage of it.  I.e., when Henry married Janet, basically he didn’t know who he was at the time.  So there we go – marriage based on deception and manipulation.  The situation only deteriorated from there to culminate in Henry’s complete mental breakdown, wife-beating, divorce, and getting thrown out of the Avengers.  So why did the writers feel compelled to write the marriage like this?  Sure, superheroes aren’t really allowed any happiness, but given everything the Avengers have to deal with on a day-to-day basis (Kang the Conquerer, alien invasions, Dr. Doom, Kang again but a Kang from before they first met Kang…), why add so much dark drama to something to their marriage?  Did the writers feel their only choices once the characters got hitched was to either ignore it or ruin it?

Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson – The appeal of Peter Parker is that even though he’s a decently awesome superhero, he’s still an everyman we can relate to.  We know that even though he does his best, the universe is still going to kick him in the nuts because the universe thinks it’s funny (and we do too).  This results in whining and self-pity that is as much a trademark of Spider-man as witty banter.  But in the one break he ever got in his life (excepting the superpowers), and after a string of relationships that ran the gamut from “hilarious rom-com hijinks” to “unspeakably tragic,” he manages to marry the girl of his dreams.  Bonus that the girl of his dreams just happens to be a lingerie model.  Good for you, tiger, you hit the jackpot.  He didn’t deserve her and he was a terrible husband, but she had an even greater superpower than spider-powers – she could pull him out of a bout of whining and self-pity.  For that, I think we were all grateful to MJ.  But apparently someone who controls Spider-man’s universe thought that Peter Parker would be much more interesting as a swingin’ single than as a happily married man, despite the fact fans had bought this whole marriage thing for nigh on twenty years or so.  Let’s be honest, given the target demographic of comics, having a main character who happens to be a totally hot lingerie model is not a bad thing.  While it is true that all the women in Peter Parker’s life except Aunt May are unrealistically hot (so much so an incarnation of the Chameleon even remarked on this when he took over Peter’s life), was there ever a time that Peter Parker was a swingin’ single?  I mean besides when he is literally a swingin’ single.  As noted before, his relationships tended to be disasters.  But marriage is boring, so the Powers that Be decreed It Shall Be Undone, and thus it was erased from existence through a deal with the devil (well, Mephisto; same thing).  When fans were upset, Marvel’s response was not to reinstate the marriage, but just re-write why it was erased from existence.  Yes, because ruining a beloved superhero’s life again in the same way but with a different reason makes it all better.

Clark Kent and Lois LaneThey seemed to work pretty well as a couple, once Superman, who can lift mountains, found enough bravery to ask Lois out (although there are some pretty terrible examples of what-ifs in the 60s).  They dated for what, fifty, sixty years before the writers finally let them get together?  Why wait so long?  Sure, there were other women competing for Superman’s heart, but if Wonder Woman couldn’t win him over, then you knew his love for Lois was pretty darn solid.  I suppose maybe the writers were just waiting to time it to sell the maximum amount of comic books.  After all, your flagship character only gets married once (generally).  As noted above, characters die more often than get married.  Superman from Earth-Two managed to get hitched to Lois from Earth-Two before Kal-El.  But finally, at long last, Clark and Lois get hitched.  Mazel tov.  Until DC reboots their whole damn universe in an effort to attract new readership.  Amongst the many (to me) poorly thought out changes – Clark Kent is no longer married to Lois Lane.  What is the point of this?  They’ve already been married.  The outcome of the outrage can only end in two ways (and this ties in with Peter Parker/MJ above):
1) Narrative convention and screaming fandom dictates the couple get back together anyway, so an effort to create drama becomes just another rehash of a story we’ve already seen.
2) Writers defy narrative convention and the couple does not get back together.  This leads to a series of presumably dramatic and doomed relationships which results in whining.  Because I totally want to read more whining about Clark Kent trying to get a date and how no one can understand what it’s like to be him.

Scott Summers and Jean Grey – Oi, where to start.  It actually took a long time for these two to get together, despite being in the comics from the very beginning. Their relationship has been plagued with what seems to me often pointless drama.  Jean got understandably a little paranoid about marrying Scott after the mess with his first wife (see the following; as bad as this marriage turned out, the first was was worse) and meeting two of their adult children from most likely alternate timelines not to mention knowing that bastard Sinister was interfering in Scott’s life from the very beginning.  Also, the whole thing with Scott not telling her about the first marriage.  See below.  Anyway, in a pleasant twist, Jean proposes to Scott.  My hope was finally the relentless Good Girl-Bad Boy drama with Wolverine would go away.  I was wrong.  So wrong.  I would think knowing that Sinister was stalking the Summers’ line would be enough to guarantee they would never be happy and that plenty of drama would ensue.  Nope.  Instead the writers continue the relentless Good Girl-Bad Boy drama with Wolverine.  Worse still, they decide to take it up a notch, because one stupid love triangle despite having married characters isn’t enough.  Enter the newly ninja-ed up Psylocke and suddenly Scott’s making googly eyes at the other telepath.  Then to cement the ridiculousness, the writers split the teams up in the worst way possible – Scott and Psylocke on one team, and Jean and Wolverine on the other.  Why?  I can only assume this was the only way they could figure out how to get some drama out of that marriage; they thought they had to wreck it.  And eventually that marriage was completely wrecked.  I think part of the problem was that they finally resolved that damned Good Girl-Bad Boy conflict with Jean and Wolverine deciding to *gasp* be adults and not act on their feelings considering she was married and all.  Somewhere in there, Emma Frost manages to change her alignment to “good.”  In a completely implausible storyline which involves several people doing the exact opposite of sensible, rational action, Scott ends up in a psychic affair with another telepath.  It goes badly for all parties.  In the end, Jean is dead, and a mere three days after she’s buried, Emma Frost flings her heaving and improbably barely clad breasts at Scott and they make out on Jean’s grave.  Yep, no respect for marriage or the dead.  Frankly the most stable Scott and Jean’s marriage ever was (as far as the writers/editors not screwing around with them) was when they spent twelve years in an Apocalyptic future raising Scott and Madelyne’s son Cable.

Scott Summers and Madelyne Pryor – Yes, Scott Summers is on my list twice.  So after the Phoenix Saga Jean died and Scott was understandably disraught.  Then he happens to meet a green-eyed redhead just about Jean’s age named Madelyne Pryor.  In a very short time, even by comic book standards, he’s married to Madelyne and has a baby boy to boot.  At this point I guess the writers/editors figured the only thing to do was either have Scott hang up his visor and get a real job to support his family or they could wreck that marriage.  From I’ve read, the lead writer of the Scott-Madelyne marriage actually expected to go with option 1 – Scott would settle down and leave the X-men.  In this case I suppose the marriage fell prey to a stronger narrative convention – nothing can ever really change ever.  So instead the writers went with option two and they managed to make Scott Summers, the Boy Scout, into the world’s biggest douche-bag.  Upon hearing a rumor that Jean might possibly not be totally dead, he abandons his wife and baby without so much as a note to find Jean.  Ok, so maybe we can forgive him since it was obvious he wasn’t over Jean when he married Madelyne.  Jean is alive, and he completely neglects to tell her he’s already married!  Jean finds out and she’s the one to tell him to go back to them.  When he checks in with his wife he finds the house burned to the ground, his wife and child missing, no bodies in the wreckage, and a calling card from the Marauders.  His response, “Well, that sucks.”  And then he goes back to Jean.  Not long after, Madelyne and the baby are found safe and sound by another team of X-men although this is not relayed to Scott and Jean until much later.  The situation, as you may imagine, turns out badly for all parties.

Reed Richards and Sue Storm – You may protest that they have been married and stayed married for a very long time (comics time).  Well, this was a marriage that like of Henry Pym and Janet van Dyne, and started off in a kind of bad way.  Reed was older than Sue by a few years, and using her money to go into space.  Early FF comics have him dismissing her opinions, ordering her around, and basically behaving like a misogynist bastard.  Despite this, they get married.  And even had children, which brought about a lot of drama.  Of course, Franklin is a god, but hey, these things happen.  Sue nearly divorced Reed when he shut down Franklin’s powers but they reconciled.  Sue nearly divorced him again after that whole Civil War mess.  The second child would have ended the universe and was never born.  And finally the third child is only three and easily as smart as Reed Richards.  But they’re still married.  And that’s part of the reason I get annoyed at how marriages are treated by many writers/editors – the exception shows that marriages don’t have to be terribly written.

The best writing of any married characters, or hell any characters in a relationship, is when it’s written honestly.  The writing is at its worse when there is such contrived drama like love triangles or crazy cloning sagas or totally out-of-character moves.  And at least in the case of Reed Richards, numerous what-ifs and lots of hints and allegations and at least one storyline in Universe 616, marriage is the only thing that keeps him from being Dr. Doom.  Seriously.  There is a whole cabal of alternate universe Reed Richards’ who all got together to improve the universe, whether the universe liked it or not (I.e., they had turned into Dr. Doom).  The common thread amongst these parallel Reeds?  No Sue.  For whatever reason, either Sue died or left, none of the Reeds were married.  Reed needs someone (I know this may not need to be his wife, but in this case it is) to listen to his plans and say to him, “Reed, you realize that depriving all of humanity of their free will is wrong, don’t you?”  And this has to be someone he’ll listen to and reply, “You’re right.  I’d better scrap that plan.”  Hell, in alternative universes where Reed dies and Doom marries Sue, Doom’s if not a good guy at least not a bad guy.  Writers can do better.  Right now I’m enjoying the writing of the marriage of Luke Cage to Jessica Jones and how they’re dealing with being Avengers and parents of an adorable little girl, even though the situation is deteriorating rapidly.  But it’s being written like two adults (albeit under extreme circumstances) acting like adults in a bad situation.  Wow, is that so much to ask?  Or is it just a matter of time before Jessica starts flirting with Wolverine?  I sincerely hope not.

A Comic Book Entry – A vs X: A Meta Perspective

Introduction and Re-cap Pages:
Deadpool: Hello readers!  As your official meta Marvel representative…
Tippy-Toe: Ahem.
Deadpool: Yeah, yeah, besides Squirrel Girl and her pets who totally did not defeat that jerk Thanos.  Anyway, I’m here to add some much needed honesty and perspective to this whole A vs X storyline, which, as the blogger who is hosting us assured you, will be lame.  Also, let me introduce Ambush Bug…
Bug: Hello!
Deadpool: Who is, I’m told, the official meta DC representative, whatever that means, and that he’s probably crazier than I am.
Bug: I am not.  I just have a higher rank in my hyper-reality awareness power than you do.
Deadpool: Yep, crazier than me.  Anyway, we’re here to present to you a ‘what really should have happened’ scenario of this whole A vs X storyline in a way that mimics but doesn’t violate any copyright of Cracked.com’s “10 times shorter and 100 times more honest” series or the website “How It Should Have Ended.”  Have I covered all the legal mumbo-jumbo?
Bug: Well, using us may be a copyright violation as well, but for now, let’s say yes.
Deadpool: Rock on.  So I’m going to assume you readers out there know what’s going on with this storyline…
Bug: What if there are new readers?
Deadpool: I guess, but do we have time for this?
Bug: Hmmm, that’s a good point.  Let’s refer readers to the blog on “Fridge Logic vs Chomper Logic” and “Re-boot.”  For those who don’t want to go back and read those blogs, which they should, the whole fight between the Avengers and the X-men is because Phoenix is coming back to Earth.
Deadpool: Also because Cyclops has turned into a complete sociopathic jack-ass.
Bug: Shouldn’t that make you like him more?
Deadpool:  Nah.  He lacks that certain je ne sais quoi to be a likeable sociopathic jack-ass.
Bug:  That’s fair.  Anyway, here we’re going to present to you our take on how this really should be happening.
Deadpool: And totally isn’t.  Really, we should stop reading, because it’s lame, but it’s also like picking a scab.  We know we shouldn’t do it, but we do anyway, especially when it heals over so fast…
Bug: Eww, stop that.
Deadpool: Oh, right.  So here’s what should have happened from the beginning.  Avengers, assemble!
Bug: So how long have you wanted to say that?
Deadpool: You have no idea.

Avengers Mansion:
Captain America – I’ve called this all hands meeting of everyone who’s ever been an Avenger with any power to tell you about the greatest threat we’ve ever faced – the Phoenix force.
Storm & Wolverine – Uh-oh.
Cap – It’s some sort of cosmic parasite that latches on to a human host and destroys everything in its wake.
Storm & Wolverine – Er, not exactly.
Cap – Nova is currently in medical bay because he pushed himself too hard to warn us about this thing.  But don’t worry, we’re going to stop it.
Storm & Wolverine – -start snickering in a deranged fashion-
Cap – Ok, and so Tony here has come up with some ideas…
Storm & Wolverine – -laugh harder-
Iron Fist – And also I just found out about this prophecy in Kun-lun about the return of the Phoenix.
Storm & Wolverine – -crack up-
Cap – Would you two care to explain to the rest of the class what’s so funny?
Storm – First, please explain about this prophecy about the return of the Phoenix?
Iron Fist – Yes, the wise masters say that the Phoenix will one day return…please stop giggling… and only the dragon and Phoenix can save the world…what is so funny?

Off-panel Side-bar:
Bug: I’d like to interject here a moment.
Deadpool: Dude, it’s like your thing.
Bug: I have no problem with tweaking a mythos.  The exact nature of the Green Lantern power source and origin has been tweaked many times over the years to add depth and interest…
Deadpool: And explain that lame weakness to yellow thing.
Bug: …and that.  Not everything has been entirely successful, but now the current explanation of several Corps on an emotional spectrum of the universe adds to the overall folklore and mythology.
Deadpool: And it adds six more colors to their costume options!  Ooo, look, there’s a cute little kitty in a cute little red costume.  Here, kitty kitty!
Bug: Wade, don’t!
Dex-starr: Rrrawwrrr!!!!
Deadpool: Owwww, oh my god what is wrong with this cat!?!?!  Owwwww the pain….
Bug: It’s a good thing you can’t die.
Deadpool: You say that because you don’t know how much this hurts.  So this is better how?
Bug: It sure made my day.  So yes, now there are seven Lantern Corps of varying abilities and complexity.  The end result is a more interesting Green Lantern mythos.
Deadpool: And those Star Sapphires are totally hot!
Bug: …and that.  The point is, the tweaking has been written such that it doesn’t feel completely like a shoehorned effort to stuff something new into the continuity…
Deadpool: Boom!
Bug: …that really doesn’t belong.  Now, the original Phoenix borrowed heavily from Middle Eastern mythology, as it should, but in this case, mixing Middle Eastern and quasi-Eastern mythology just feels like shoehorning.  Now, I’ll admit sometimes there are two things that are perfectly fine individually that don’t seem like they would go together, but do.  Like oil and vinegar, or chocolate and peanut butter…
Deadpool: Or Cable and Deadpool!
Bug: Sure, if you say so.  But this feels heavy-handed.  It’s like trying to combine smoked salmon and grape jelly.  Sure, both go great on a bagel, but would you put them together on a bagel?
Deadpool: I might.
Bug: Would a sane person?
Deadpool: Probably not.  So what Ambush Bug is saying is that this feels like a cheap excuse to get two teams that generally have nothing to do with each other into a big all out brawl.
Bug:  In short, yes.  Anyway, back to the assembled Avengers.

Avengers Mansion:
Iron Fist – Seriously, what is so funny about an ancient mystical city’s prophecy about the return of the Phoenix and end of the world?
Wolverine –  Yer mystics are a little late.
Iron Fist – What?
Wolverine – Yeah, Phoenix has returned mebbe ten times.
Storm – It hasn’t been that many.
Wolverine – You sure?
Storm – Well, Jean was originally possessed soon after our team was assembled.  She continued on the team in that state for a few years before the events that triggered her transformation into Dark Phoenix.  At that time she technically left Earth and destroyed a sun.  By the way, Mr. Stark, I hope you took that into your calculations on how to stop the Phoenix force.
Iron Man – Er…
Wolverine – Ok, so yer sayin’ when Jean came back from destroying the sun and the alien battle fleets…
Iron Man – Er…
Wolverine – See that, was one return.
Storm – I suppose it could be construed as such.  Now, we both know Jean killed herself on the moon.  Soon after that, the bird was cited back on Earth.
Wolverine – Right, so two returns right there.
Storm – Yes, but that was just the Phoenix trying to return Jean’s memories to it and instead it got Madelyne.
Wolverine – That’s fair.  But it could be what made Madelyne so powerful was the part of the Phoenix force.  We know when Jean absorbed Madelyne’s memories, she also absorbed memories of the Phoenix.
Storm – I’m not sure that was a return so much as multiple-personality disorder.
Spider-man – Um, if I ask who this Madelyne person is, will I regret it?
Storm & Wolverine – Yes!
Spider-man – Right, shutting up again.
Storm – I will grant you after that Rachel Summers entered this world, which was definitely a return.
Wolverine – See, can’t argue with that.
Cap – Who?
Wolverine – That is a long, long story.
Deadpool: If I walk, the movie will be over.
Bug: Really, a Mel Brooks reference now?
Deadpool: Dude, he’s a comic genius.
Storm – Suffice to say that Rachel Summers was a bearer of the Phoenix force.  She claimed to have inherited the power from her mother, who was Jean Grey in another universe.
Cap – *blink blink* I have no response to that.
Spider-man – There is no response to that kind of crazy.
Wolverine – So Rachel’s entry into this universe was a return of the Phoenix force.  I know.  I kept the girl from blowin’ up New York.  Twice.
Iron Fist – Well, that’s bad, but that’s not destroy the universe bad.  Maybe that’s the return the prophecy talked about…
Wolverine – Rachel bitch-slapped Galactus and had to be talked down from destroyin’ him.  Does that count as universe destroying bad?
Iron Fist – Er…
Spider-man – Hey, I’m concerned about the blowing up New York bad.  I mean, isn’t that bad enough?
Wolverine – Hey, Tony, how does something that can bitch-slap Galactus figure into your plan?
Iron Man – Er…
Storm – So Rachel’s original entry could be considered a return of the Phoenix force.  After Rachel’s adventures in space, she returned to Earth much more powerful, which could also be considered a return.  I’ll say we’re at six returns.
Wolverine – Sure it’s not seven?
Storm – Well, Rachel eventually left again for some sort of time-traveling adventure I don’t understand where she died.  However, Rachel Grey entered our world, without the Phoenix force as such, but claiming to have once been the bearer and also the daughter of Scott Summers and Jean Grey from another universe.
Spider-man – I was going to ask, and then decided it’s probably better if the rest of us aren’t subjected to an explanation.
Wolverine – That’s the first smart thing you’ve said all day.
Iron Fist – If she didn’t have the Phoenix force, it doesn’t count.  Clearly the prophecy means the return of the Phoenix as Jean Grey…
Wolverine – Yeah, that happened like a few years ago.
Iron Fist – What?
Wolverine – Yeah.  Some crazy Shi’ar were followin’ the remnants of the Phoenix back to Earth where it woke up this kid Quintin and was lookin’ for a new body.  We tried to stop it but it didn’t work.
Iron Man – I’m going to put it in a box!
Spider-man – Wait, that’s your plan?
Iron Man – Believe me, nothing could get out of this containment field.  We consulted all the experts.  It even has psi-dampeners.
Storm – Professor Xavier, the most powerful telepath in the world, put in psi-blocks in Jean’s mind, personally.  Every hour.  That worked for about three days.
Iron Man – Er…
Wolverine – And we consulted experts on our box too, because you know, we’ve dealt with this before.  We were going to get the Phoenix to possess Emma Frost and put in a container so it could never escape.  You see how well that worked out.
Iron Man – Um, my box is better?
Wolverine – Riiiiight.
Iron Fist – What does this have to do with Jean Grey?
Wolverine – So we realized we couldn’t contain the Phoenix about the time these crazy Shi’ar showed up and decided to turn the Earth into a black hole using some kind of bomb thing.
Cap – What?!?!
Wolverine – Jean Grey resurrected herself, yanked the Phoenix force out of Emma, slapped it around, told it what was what, undid the black hole bomb, and sent it back wherever the Phoenix is supposed to be, and then went back to dead.
Spider-man – The circle of life, X-man style.
Storm – That’s clearly a return, and as Jean Grey.
Iron Fist – That is hard to argue with…
Wolverine – Then somethin’ weird happened with it and the Cuckoos, so it came back even after that.
Bug: Wade, stop staring at Storm’s chest!  She’s a married woman.
Deadpool: Not in my dreams.
Bug: Why do I even bother?
Storm – I still don’t think that’s ten returns.
Wolverine – I’m sure we’ve forgotten somethin’.  But anyway.  You need to talk to yer mystical muckity-mucks about this prophecy thing and you better figure out what yer goin’ to do against Phoenix.
Cap – I’m sure we can figure something out.
Wolverine – Yeah, why don’t you ask Nova about that, when he wakes up.  If you won’t listen to us, at least listen to him.
Cap – Surely there is a way to stop this.
Storm – You can’t do it.  Phoenix will stop herself and there is precious little you can do otherwise.
Cap – But we’re the Avengers!
Wolverine – Have you heard of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard?  She beat all of them.
Cap – We have Thor!
Thor – Verily.
Storm – *sigh* Perhaps an analogy.  Thor, could you kill Captain America?
Thor – I would never…
Storm – Thunder god, I’m not asking if you would, I’m asking if you could and if there was anything Captain America could do to stop you.
Thor – No mortal can stop Thor!
Storm – Thank you.  Captain, this Quintin child Wolverine mentioned.  If you represent the power level of the Avengers, this child is Thor.  Now, Quintin was dead.  When Logan said Phoenix woke Quintin up, he meant that Phoenix resurrected him.  Think about that.  This Phoenix is powerful enough to resurrect someone as powerful as Thor.  Quintin did not suit her needs, so she killed him again.  This Phoenix could resurrect and kill a being like Thor at her whim.  What do you think you and the Avengers are going to do?
Cap – Stay out of this and hope for the best.
Storm – Exactly.
Iron Fist – And I’m going to have some words with the old masters about their prophecies.  This is ridiculous.

Wrap-Up Panels:
Bug: And there you go.  All conflict avoided because the two people who actually had first-hand knowledge of the situation spoke up at the appropriate time and made their point effectively.
Deadpool: Yeah, but who doesn’t want to see the X-men and Avengers fight it out?
Bug: That’s the only reason this storyline exists!  It doesn’t make logical sense.
Deadpool: You are talking to the wrong guy about logical sense.
Bug: You’re right.  This is all about sales, no matter how ridiculous the premise is, or who tortured the mythology becomes.  I still don’t think this will change the ending.
Deadpool: You mean martyr equals more mutants again?
Bug: Yep.  My powers allow me to see when writers have painted themselves into corners.
Deadpool: I guess readers aren’t supposed to notice that.
Bug: I guess not, but many do.  That’s why we’re talking about this now.  And the only way out of that corner is to bust down the walls and let the structure collapse.
Deadpool: I like breaking walls.  Especially fourth walls.
Bug: That’s a great segue-way.
Deadpool: What about a scooter?
Bug: Anyway, that’s what we think should have happened if anyone was going to respect continuity.
Deadpool: Boom!
Bug: And that’s all folks!

A Comic Book Entry – Tyrant-in-Chief, Part 2

First, I would like to direct blog readers to my Smashwords link.  I’ve just published a short story (and it’s totally free!) to try to further interest people in my writing, and maybe get people to buy my novel (only $0.99!).  Also, if you like me, please go to my Facebook page and make it official (also in the links).

Ok, shameless self-promotion is now done.  On with the snark!

I really don’t have a set number of rules I would enforce as the Tyrant-in-Chief, but here are a few more for your reading enjoyment.  These, by the way, are solely rules regarding the writing.  Rules regarding illustrations are an entirely different rant.

The last rant ended with character death not being allowed for various reasons (also I have a loooong post on that very subject as well).  From that follows:

Rule 5) Certain ways of cheating death with not be accepted.
Rule 5a) No clones or lookalike robots.
Exception 5a) If character has a long history of making clones or lookalike robots (I.e. Doombots), then that is an acceptable mechanism for cheating death.
Rule 5b) No mistaken diagnosis of death.
Exception 5b) If the character has a power/ability that actually makes it difficult to tell if they are dead, that’s acceptable.
Rule 5c) No accidental transference to another dimension.
Exception 5c) If the character was actually involved in an accident with a machine/person that could possibly cause such an effect, that might be acceptable (however, apparently after being shot in the chest with a gun, Captain America somehow ended up in another dimension).

Rule 6) I really can’t believe I have to spell this out (and yet, I can), but comic books are NOT softcore pornography.  Ok, some are, and some are hardcore, but they are clearly labeled as such.  Mainstream comics should not be.  This also ties in for rules for artists, but if the writers didn’t write certain situations, the artists would have nothing to illustrate.  Now, see, readers do think about these sorts of things.  Humans are kind of perverts that way.  When Reed Richards has the power to be infinitely flexible and any size he wants, well, there are certain obvious thoughts that arise (no pun intended) concerning his relationship with his wife.  I don’t object to mentioning sex because it is part of human relationships.  But I think a casual cut scene or off-handed remark is fine.  I really don’t need to be treated to Catwoman banging Batman on a roof, or a tiny naked Ultimate Henry Pym walking up Janet’s bare chest covered in certain bodily fluids (hint, not saliva).  Yes, we all think about that, but I see no benefit to making it as obvious on the page as one can without actually writing/drawing porn.  I mean, unless the industry only wants to sell comics to adolescents.  If you want porn, buy porn.  If you want to see your favorite superheroes in pornographic situations, well, that’s what the internet is for.

Rule 7) Certain plots will not be accepted.  They have been overdone to the point of hackneyed.  Be creative, people.
Rule 7a) No clones.  The first Spider-man clone story was kind of cool.  The fourth Spider-man clone story was just stupid.
Exception 7a) A really good clone story with a character that’s never had it done before may possibly be allowed, but it had better be damn good.  Exception to the exception – no clone stories for Spider-man, period.
Rule 7b) No deus ex machina.  Internal logic must remain consistent (continuity – boom).  This means no I mean NO retroactive continuity.
Exception 7b) There is no exception to this rule.  If you can’t save your story without something implausible and inconsistent, you shouldn’t have written it and I as the editor shouldn’t have allowed it.

Rule 8) Don’t allow writers to write something just because, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…?”  The classic example to me of a victim of “wouldn’t it be cool if…?” syndrome is Psylocke.  Her character started out a British supermodel/secret Interpol spy telepathic mutant.  How cool is that already?  But at some point in the 80s, the writers who got their hands on the X-men titles said to themselves, “wouldn’t it be cool if the team had a kick-ass ninja?”  So they tried to figure out how to get a ninja on the team, and one of them looked at Psylocke and said, “wouldn’t it be cooler if the team had a kick-ass telepathic ninja?”  The reality-altering mechanism, to be fair, was already in place in the story, but the writers used it to change a British telepathic supermodel/spy into an Asian telepathic ninja (literally; she had a new body).
Exception 8) The only exception to this is if the writer can wow me, as the tyrant-in-chief.  I would not have allowed Psylocke to end up as an Asian ninja.  However, at least the writers used a mechanism they already had in place (yes it was literally a deus ex machina), and tried make it consistent with internal logic.

Rule 9) Character development is allowed.  Character derailment is not allowed.  Chris Claremont was allowed to do this probably more than he should have been with the new X-men.  Some of the stories he wrote were almost more of a “what if” than a mainstream as he seemed to be trying on characteristics on his characters for fit.  He created them, so I guess he was allowed a lot of leeway in how they developed (also, his stuff sold when Marvel was really hurting).  This ties in actually with Rule 7.  Writers think, “wouldn’t it be cool if X was a bad guy?” or “wouldn’t it be cool if Y was a good guy?” and go with it.  No, that’s character assassination.  A character that is a good guy for 30 years of comics does not just up and turn bad guy (also see the rule about no clones).  A character that is a bad guy for 30 years of comics does not just give it up for righteousness.  Likewise, this applies to other character traits.  A character who is known for being a nice guy does not turn into a jerk-ass overnight, nor does the jerk-ass suddenly become a nice guy.
Exception 9) There are no exceptions to this.  A character whose moral make-up is more gray than black or white can change sides without disrupting continuity (Hawkeye switching sides was fine).  Trying to switch a character whose moral make-up is more black or white can be done, but it has to be done gradually (I.e. development/evolution, not assassination).  Even the gradual transition of Emma Frost from White Queen/villainess to White Queen/X-man through the device of her students and the Gen-X comics was not badly done (it was not well done either).  It was perhaps a little short, but comic time is weird anyway.  The writers took existing elements (her school) and used that to soften her character (although I won’t say turn her into a good guy as such based on pretty much everything that happened once she was an actual X-man).  But Cyclops turning into a total jerk-ass following the House of M was badly done and much too sudden.  He threw Bobby out of the mansion – a guy he’s know since he was literally sixteen years old, a guy who is more of a little brother to him than his own actual brother!  ARGH!  When Wolverine has become disgusted by Cyclops’ actions and Magneto is telling him, “You remind me of me,” well, I think that says it all.  That’s some serious character derailment.

Ok, enough for now.  More rules will be forthcoming as I think of them.

A Comic Book Entry – Reboot

First, a little addendum. In my ranting on the inevitable resurrection of comic book characters, I theorized the death of Johnny Storm was a ploy to re-start the FF with low and less intimidating issue numbers.  My friend with the subscription informed this didn’t actually happen, which leaves me somewhat confused.  I can only guess it was a ploy to get readers hooked on the whole “Future Foundation” storylines before re-introducing the FF.

Ok, on to today’s rant, but I’m starting with a shout-out to the fabulous itsjustsomerandomguy on YouTube.  He seems to share a lot of opinions I do with some of the awful ways comic books are treated (he HATES the retcon of Spider-man’s marriage).  His current storyline (Zero Hour) very much expresses how I feel about re-boots and is frankly quite brilliant.

Here’s the thing – I HATE comic book re-boots.  I really do.  They never really work out.  Both DC and Marvel have tried this in various forms over the years with I think minimal success.  Whether it’s Superboy-Prime punching reality, or Magneto almost literally nuking the Ultimates universe, the re-boots never seem to last very long.  If the companies are lucky, the re-boots last long enough to pick up a few new readers without completely alienating their old readers.  Outside of the ridiculous cosmic gymnastics writers go through to explain a re-boot, here are the two main problems with a re-booted universe –

1) They changed it; now it sucks
2) They didn’t change it; it still sucks

I will explain.

In the instance of problem 1, the writers change the origin and/or powers and/or personality of a well-known character.  I’m sure this is done so the writers can say, “This isn’t the Well-Known Superhero you used to know!” as though this is a great thing.  I’m sure the writers think this is a great thing or they wouldn’t to do it.  It gives them the freedom to put their own spin on a well-known character without all those years of history to take into account.  It’s a clean slate, a fresh start, and there will be a lot of long time fans who will hate this.  They like those characters just they way they are.  That’s why they are long time fans.  Why make Wonder Woman into an Amazonian refugee with no memory of her home and powers?  I don’t know, but someone at DC thought that was a great idea.  It’s not as though there isn’t precedent for such re-boots.  In the 70s, Wonder Woman was re-imagined as an ass-kicking kung-fu master.  But you know what?  That 70s kung-fu master Wonder Woman disappeared, as did amnesia Wonder Woman.  There are some things fan expect to happen, and when the writers don’t have those events occur, they get upset.  Do you think the Ultimates X-men could have not done a Phoenix storyline?  No, they couldn’t.

In the instance of problem 2, the writers really don’t change much about a character’s origin and/or powers and/or personality.  What they do instead is re-tell the old stories but with their own spin.  This is frustrating for long time fans in a completely different way.  They already know how events are going to unfold, and they get frustrated waiting for said events to happen or are frustrated with the spin the writer is putting on the story.  For example, in DC’s rebooted universe, Sinistro is currently part of the Green Lantern Corps.  Anyone with a passing familiarity with the mythos of the original universe knows exactly how this is going to turn out (spoiler alert – it’s going to end badly).  The details may be different, but the end result is the same.  So for many fans, a reboot is annoying because they have to wait for certain events of the rebooted universe to play out before anything new happens.  It’s not quite like a re-run; it’s more like an OVA.

DC is gamely trying this experiment again.  I expect it will fail, as every other re-boot has failed before.  And here’s my take on this – a re-boot can actually work, but the comic book companies do it wrong.  The reason it never works is because they start over with the same characters and then run into problem 1 and/or 2.  The companies are never brave enough to really start over in which they only problem they would run into is 1.  Marvel is frustrating the hell out of me right now and I’d love to re-boot that universe properly.

First, I will explain why Marvel is frustrating, and I will see if I’m right about the unfolding of events in five months or so.  I have already expressed frustration at the New Avengers because people are not behaving in a logical manner (I.e., choosing to fight the Dark Avengers instead of just outright arresting convicted felon/escaped convict Norman Osborn).  In other words: chomper logic.  The next big event is the Avengers vs the X-men over the return of Phoenix.  This incurs yet more annoying chomper logic and frankly is the result of a previous mini re-boot called “House of M” (in which the writers/editors said, “Whoops, there are too many mutants in the world and it’s painted us into a corner about them being a persecuted minority; what can we do to get out of this?  I know!  A mini re-boot via a deus ex machina!”).  Hope Summers is, I think, the reincarnation of Jean Grey, and supposed to be the Messiah of mutant-kind.  Cyclops has gone so far around the bend that when Magneto said, “Hey, you sound a lot like me,” and Emma Frost said, “This is a bad idea,” which are two giant red warning flags, he totally ignored them.  The Avengers are trying to stop the Phoenix and the X-men are trying to use the Phoenix to save mutants.  This is chomper logic on so many levels.  Iron Man is talking about building a box to contain the Phoenix force.  Cyclops is talking about controlling it.  And Wolverine says nothing.  He was there at the time of the original Phoenix saga.  Why doesn’t he pull Captain America aside and tell him to keep the Avengers out of the way and tell him exactly what he saw the Phoenix do?  Phoenix single-handedly beat the entire Shi’ar Imperial Guard.  Phoenix destroyed a sun.  Phoenix destroyed at least one Shi’ar battle fleet.  In the Endsong mini-series, Phoenix undid a black hole.  The only thing that ever stopped Phoenix was Jean Grey.  So exactly what the hell do the X-men or the Avengers think they’re going to do?  So I predict three or four issues of pointless fighting which will end when Hope accepts the Phoenix force and then promptly kills herself (as Messiahs tend to die) but allows new mutants to be born into the world again, thus saving the mutant race (I.e, the writers/editors said, “Whoops, there are now too few mutants and we’ve painted ourselves into a corner about them being the next evolutionary step; what can we get out of this?  I know!  A mini re-boot via a deus ex machina!”).  It’s supposed to be awesome, but it will only be lame.  If you just want to see your favorite characters fight each other due to an incredibly contrived and unbelievable premise, get a video game (I.e. Marvel Vs Capcom or DC vs Mortal Kombat).

My idea is that Chris Claremont had the right idea back in the 70s – let the characters move on.  Unfortunately, any time someone is brave enough to actually try this, it seems a re-boot inevitably follows.  For example, Bruce Wayne was finally retired as Batman.  It made sense; he’s in his late 40s or early 50s.  That kind of life has got to be incredibly physically difficult.  How many times has Bruce Wayne had bones bruised or broken?  His body just can’t take that kind of punishment for so long.  It made sense that finally Dick Grayson would take over.  I was glad to see some progress in the universe.  But it was not to last.  The re-boot set everything back to just the way it was, and now we’re back to problem 1 and/or 2.  So here’s how you re-boot properly (in my not humble at all opinion):
1) This is not an alternative universe.  This is THE universe.  Comics effected by the re-boot stop publishing.  New comics start.  No Ultimates.  No 2099.  No New Universe.  No Universe-893.  This is the new paradigm.
2) No ridiculous world-changing explanations for how the reboot occurred.  Use the hand wave of, “The world has always been like this.”  This saves the embarrassment of punching reality.
3) Start in the modern day (or close to it).
4) Take the original 60s Marvel characters and figure out their ages when they were introduced.  Peter Parker was 15 or 16.  Johnny Storm was 15 or 16.  Rick Jones was 16 or 17.  Scott Summers was 17. This provides a baseline for the new timeline.
5) Time-jump.  I would start the universe somewhere between 2010 and 2015.  Characters who were between 15 and 18 when the universe started (I.e, the 60s), would now be 44 years old.  Why not make them their actual age?  Well, assuming Peter Parker was 16 in 1964 (I think that’s when he was introduced), makes him born in 1948, so he would be currently 64 years old.  That’s a little bit older than I would want for the reboot, which I will explain in a minute.
6) The characters would be the same, but different.  How?  That’s why I would want Peter Parker to only be about 44.  Here’s the example – there would be an Amazing Spider-man, but it would be the son of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson, Benjamin Parker (do you really think Peter would give his son any other name?).  If Peter’s about 44, assuming he and MJ had a kid in his late 20s, then that makes the new Spider-man about 16 years old.  New readers can then start on the brand-new adventures of a teenage Spider-man without trying to learn all of Peter Parker’s history.  Long-time readers don’t have to deal with yet another re-tread of Peter Parker, or a writer wrecking all the stories they already know and love.
7) The universe retains continuity.  The new characters would be logical extensions of the state of the universe at the point of the time jump.  If any writers want to fill in what happened between 30-something single Peter Parker and 44 year-old married father Peter Parker, they can do so with mini-series.  Peter Parker can still have some things to do in the comics, but it’ll be new stories if he is.
8) Some comics will continue pretty much unchanged, like “Thor.”  He’s practically immortal and what happens in Asgard doesn’t necessarily have a lot to do with Earth anyway.
9) Characters will age and move on and die.  The problem of course is that action in the comics takes place in a weird extended time frame anyway.  An arc of two months can take one full year of comics. But it also implied that the characters do get some down-time.  The comic re-cap page should just make note of time passing, and if anything of note happens, it gets a mini-series.

This would give the writers freedom to actually try to do something different, but still retain the familiarity of the old universe.  This would finally allow a comic book universe to be dynamic.  That’s really the problem with comic books universe.  The real world moves on, but the characters never do.  They really don’t age, and nothing really changes in the universe.  Someone needs to be brave enough to allow the universe to be dynamic.  I would be grateful if there was a proper re-boot that start up a truly dynamic universe.  I don’t think I’m alone in that opinion either.