A Movie Entry – Coming Distractions 2017

I don’t go to see movies very often, but I am subjected to numerous trailers. So this entry is about movies that in theory I should be excited to see but can only muster a disinterested, “Meh,” at best.

Continue reading A Movie Entry – Coming Distractions 2017

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Storytelling Failures – X-Men Origins: Wolverine

As should be obvious from the fifteen-minute version, I didn’t care for this movie too much.  But now I’m going to explain why.

Continue reading Storytelling Failures – X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Fifteen-minute Movie: X-men

or, “‘M’ for ‘Mediocre'”
or, “Really, the Best Scenes are Between Xavier and Magneto”

Poland 1944 (We All Know What That Means…):
[[sad people are being marched along and a young Eric Lensherr is separated from his parents]]

Li’l Eric – Noooooo!!!!  [[a metal gate bends ominously until the jackbooted thugs knock him unconscious]]

Jackbooted Thug 1 – Did anyone else see that?  Because that was freaky!  No one?  Okay, well, I guess it’s fine.

Mississippi (nowish):
Marie (Rogue) – One day I’m going to travel.

Boy – Wow, what kind of accent is that?

Rogue – Um, Southern?

Boy – It’s a good thing you got that Oscar before anyone asked you to do a Southern accent.  Hugh Jackman is Australian and he has a better accent than you do.

Rogue – Just shut up and kiss me already. [[she puts him in a coma and freaks out]]

Senate:
Jean Grey – There are going to be more mutants in the future and they are not dangerous nor deserve to be subject to unreasonable prejudice.

Kelly – Blah blah blah unnecessary bias.  Mutants are dangerous and we should license them just like guns.  What if they can read our minds or something?

Xavier/Jean – Oh, hey, look at the time.  I have a thing.

[[Xavier follows a mysterious old man in a fedora down the empty hallways]]

Xavier – Eric, please don’t go to war with the humans.

Magneto – Charles, as your friend of many years, I’m warning you not to get in my way.

Podunk, Canada:
Trucker – Okay, kid, here’s the end of the line.  Good luck.

[[Rogue witnesses a surely illegal cage fight with the mysterious and handsome loner called Logan (Wolverine)]]

Wolverine – I just want a beer and I want to ignore the clearly underage kid making moony eyes at me.

Losing Fighter – Dude, you owe me money.

Wolverine – You are an idiot.  [[Rogue screams when the guy pulls a knife on him; Logan returns the favor, of sorts]]  *snnkkk*  You call that a knife?  This is a knife!

Bartender – Get out of my bar, freak!

Wolverine – Is it really a good idea to call a man with blades in his hands a freak?  I mean, I obviously am, but are you sure you want to bring attention it?  [[slices off shotgun]]  You’re all idiots.  [[leaves]]

[[Later he discovers Rogue stowing away in his camper which is surprising that his super-senses didn’t hear her get in or smell her in the back]]

Wolverine – Get out.

Rogue – I think despite your rough demeanor you’re not actually going to leave me in the snow to die of exposure.

Wolverine – Damn it.

Rogue – Also, don’t touch my skin.  Bad things happen to people when they touch me.

Wolverine – Kid, you’re an underage runaway; I am so, so not touching you.

[[They promptly get into a car accident which shows off Wolverine’s healing factor but traps Rogue in the camper which somehow catches on fire]]

Rogue – I’m stuck!

Wolverine – It turns out extracting people from cars is something I am eminently qualified to do what with these knives in my hands.

Sabretooth – Except I’m totally going to take you down.  Raaawwwrrr!!

Wolverine – Wait, wait, aren’t you going to say something like, ‘Long time no see,” or, “Hey, how are things going old friend” or something else to indicate you know who I am and then I say, “what are you talking about” to indicate I don’t know who you are and therefore establish we have some kind of hidden past?

Sabretooth – Why would I do that?

Wolverine – Um, foreshadowing, or reference to the comic book?

Sabretooth – Nah.  [[thus starts a fight between Wolverine and Sabretooth which is interrupted by Storm and Cyclops and no, the movie never does explain how everyone happened to end up in the same place at the same time]]

Magneto’s Lair:
Sabretooth – So, that sucked.

Magneto – You suck.  Did you get the mutant?

Sabretooth – No, but I got some dog tags, somehow.

Magneto – Well, fine, we’ll just keep moving along with the plan.

Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters:
[[Jean is tending to Wolverine in the medi-bay when he abruptly wakes up and attacks her; she smartly lets him get away and locks the door behind him; Wolverine acquires a hoodie for no particularly good reason and Xavier mentally messes around with him until he finds Xavier’s office]]

Xavier – Hello, Logan.

Wolverine – What the hell is going on here?

Xavier – My people saved you and the girl and will protect both of you from Magneto and Sabretooth.  I’ll introduce everyone.  That’s Storm and Cyclops and Jean Grey.

Wolverine – The redhead is hot, but this is stupid and I am so leaving.

Xavier – Or I could help you recover your memories.  Here, watch the montage of mutant students learning to use their powers and being accepted. [[obligatory learning montage and Rogue meets a cool guy (ha), Bobby (Iceman)]]  Now, as we tour the paramilitary training part of the mansion…

Wolverine – Wait, what?  I thought you said this was a school.  Doesn’t also giving your students paramilitary training contradict your mission of peace?

Xavier – Just go with it.  Moving on, I will relate exposition regarding my relationship with Magneto, in case the audience somehow missed the connection between the young boy at the beginning of the movie and the old guy I was talking to in the Senate.

Senator’s Helicopter:
Kelly – Blah blah I’m totally a prejudiced jerk and totally justify all of Magneto’s concerns. [[his aide turns into a blue-skinned totally hot chick]]  Um, what the hell is going on?

Mystique – You’re a [expletive], and unobservant since your pilot is obviously a green-skinned freak. [[knocks him out cold and kidnaps him]]

X-Mansion:
Wolverine – So, Jeannie, it’s obvious you totally dig me.  That’s cool, because I dig you too.

Jean – Honestly. [[runs some tests on him and discovers his metal skeleton]]  So his powerset is actually healing and recovery and then someone did this to him.

Xavier – Wow, well, that’s pretty incredible.  But I’m starting to wonder if Magneto was actually after him.  I will not follow up with that thought until much later.

Magneto’s Lair:
[[Toad freaks out Senator Kelly because why the hell not?]]

Kelly – This only proves me right, you know.

Magneto – Eh, I don’t see it that way.  Now sit right here while I do something incredibly noticeable that no one notices with no immediately discernible effect.

X-Mansion:
Wolverine – I’m still hitting on you.

Jean – I’m dating Scott.

Wolverine – He’s a dick.

Jean – You’re only known him for like, four hours.  Why are you so mean to him?

Wolverine – Because Good Girls dig Bad Boys.

Jean – Damn you and your insidious use of tropes.

Scott – So, am I interrupting?

Jean – No.  We’re all fine here. [[leaves]]

Wolverine – I’m totally hitting on your girl.

Scott – Yeah, I knew that.  I don’t like you because you’re hitting on my girl!

Wolverine – Yeah, that pretty much sums up several decades of comic history.  Moving on.

X-Mansion (Later):
[[Wolverine is having a nightmare and for an entirely unexplained reason Rogue gets up to check on him and he stabs her when he wakes up (however, she doesn’t bleed); the only way either of them can think of to help her is for Rogue to take his healing powers, which everyone witnesses]]

Wolverine – Um, for the record, she came into my room.  Okay, is everyone clear on that?  I had nothing to do with her being in my room.

Magneto’s Lair:
[[Senator Kelly turns into some kind of jellyfish thing maybe and slides through his bars]]

Kelly – What did you do to me?

Magneto – I made you into a mutant so good luck with your escape attempt.  Sucker!

X-Mansion:
Bobby – You stole a mutant’s power.  You need to leave.

Rogue – Oh, I’m sorry.  I’ll go.

[[Bobby reveals himself to be Mystique]]

Mystique – Wow, it’s a good thing there isn’t an enormously powerful psychic around to notice a new mind entering his school…

Wolverine – Rogue’s gone.

Xavier – Ah, good, time for the exposition and montage for the use of Cerebro.  Pretty cool, huh?  Storm, Cyclops, you go get her.  Wolverine, you stay here because we know Magneto’s after you.

Wolverine – Dude, you are really bad at reading minds if you can’t figure out what I’m about to do. [[promptly steals Cyclops’ motorcycle and heads out; by the way, is it really a good idea to push odd buttons on strange vehicles?]]

[[And Mystique totally hacks Cerebro later without the enormously powerful telepath (we’re talking Shift freakin’ X powers; we’re talking “most powerful telepath in the world;” we’re talking “was just in Cerebro like ten minutes ago and therefore connected to every mind on the planet”) noticing!!!]]

Train Station:
Rogue – I steal people’s powers and they stay in my head.  It freaks me out.

Wolverine – Go back to the school.  It’s better there.

Rogue – Wow, you have a really soft heart underneath that gruff and handsome exterior.

Wolverine – None of that.  This is strictly a surrogate father situation.

[[Cue Sabretooth and Toad crashing the train station and Cyclops losing his visor and nearly destroying the place]]

Magneto – Right, now for my entrance.

Wolverine – Raarrrgh!!! [[stops in mid-air]]  Unh?

Magneto – You wouldn’t happen to have a metal skeleton, would you?

Wolverine – Er…

Magneto – And I am the Master of Magnetism, and apparently adamantium is magnetic.

Wolverine – I’m so #$&%ed.

Magneto – I didn’t want you any way.  I wanted the girl.  Alright, let’s blow this joint.

Sabretooth – No.

Magneto – Xavier, are you mind controlling my minions?

Sabretooth – Duh.  Like I’m going to be out in the open so you can kill me with shrapnel.

Magneto – Well, you let me go or I kill all these people.

Sabretooth – Damn it. [[Xavier releases control]]  Hey, that was weird, right?

X-Mansion:
Wolverine – What the hell, mind-reading dude?  You said he was after me!

Xavier – Magneto’s helmet blocks my telepathy.

Wolverine – Yeah, but Sabretooth, Toad, and Rogue aren’t wearing that helmet so why can’t you find them?  You have a machine that connects you to every mind on the planet!

Xavier – Um.  You know, that’s really never explained.  Huh.  I guess we’ll need a convenient plot device to discern Magneto’s plan.

Wolverine – You guys suck.  I’m going to find Rogue myself.  Because I’m a bad-ass loner.  [[Senator Kelly collapses on the doorstep before he can leave]]  Um, a little help here?

Xavier – Hey, a convenient plot device to discern Magneto’s plan.  Okay, so he’s going to turn everyone into mutants, except that will kill everyone.  But why does he want Rogue?

Cyclops – I’m going state the obvious…

Wolverine – And I’ll put it all together.  He’s going to use Rogue to power his machine.

[[Senator Kelly dissolves into water as Storm watches, and her entrance breaks up the impeding argument between Wolverine and Cyclops; unfortunately Xavier’s use of the hacked Cerebro leaves him unconscious]]

Jean – Time for me to do something that has been explicitly stated as very dangerous for me to do. [[uses Cerebro while Scott freaks out; luckily she does not go insane (yet) and figures out where Magneto is going]]

Ellis Island:
Rogue – Are you going to kill me?

Magneto – Yes, but to prove a point, so it’s all good.

Rogue – Yeah, I don’t agree with that all.

X-Mansion:
Cyclops – So here’s the battle plan montage.

Wolverine – Lame!  And your costumes are lame.

Cyclops – We’ve got a jet.

Wolverine – Okay, that is a sweet ride.

Cyclops – *frosty sigh*  You hit on my girl and you’re not a team player.  Swell.  Just swell.

Ellis Island:
Cyclops – We need to get to the torch.

[[the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants attacks; somehow Mystique makes metal claws and does not bleed profusely when the real Wolverine cuts them off]]

Toad – Hey, in case you missed it, I played Darth Maul in “Phantom Menace.”  Look at me remove the bar from this out-of-order elevator and trap Storm in a small space.  Too bad I don’t read the comics or I would know that’s a seriously bad idea.

Wolverine – So, I’m getting beat up by the blue chick?

Mystique – I know, right?  And it’s totally hot.

Wolverine – Yeah, it kind of is.  At least I’m not getting my metal ass kicked by Toad.

Jean/Storm/Cyclops – Gee, thanks.

Storm – [[busts out of the elevator]]  I will proceed to dispose of Toad with some of the worst dialogue ever uttered in a movie.  Believe it or not, I go on to win an Oscar.

[[Wolverine finally takes down Mystique by stabbing her in the gut which again does not bleed at all; they proceed to the top of the statue only to get captured by Magneto]]

Jean – Your machine kills people.  Senator Kelly is dead.

Magneto – Yeah, I don’t believe you.  I’m just trying to save mutantkind.

Wolverine – You’re an hypocritical ass.  If you really were that righteous, you wouldn’t be killing an innocent girl.

Magneto – Okay, so you all can die now.  [[leaves]]

[[Wolverine manages to cut himself out of the metal restraints even though from the angle he would have been trying to stab through his own shoulder-blades, which wouldn’t have worked because they are adamantium too; but anyway he gets into a brawl with Sabretooth while Magneto enacts his plan; in the end the fight is ended by a well-timed blast from Cyclops that sends Sabretooth sailing into the next county]]

Wolverine – Part of me is thinking maybe I shouldn’t be such a dick to you when I have seen the damage you can do when you want to.  But then again, I’m a bad-ass loner so I’ll continue to be a dick to you.  Save Rogue.

Cyclops – For reasons, I can’t.

Wolverine – Then send me up to that machine and I’ll do it. [[Storm and Jean do so]]

Magneto – Damn it, I’m not going to let you do that. [[puts up a magnetic force field]]

Wolverine – Wait a damn minute!  Rogue touched me for less than thirty seconds and I was out for hours.  You shoved every bit of power into her that you could and you’ve already got your power back!  What the hell?

Magneto – Yeah, sucks to be you.

Cyclops – Luckily I’m a really good shot when the plot demands. [[shoots Magneto allowing Wolverine to blow up the machine]]

Wolverine – Rogue!  Wake up!  [[touches her and finally she starts to drain his power which for an entirely unexplained reason causes him to un-heal all the wounds he has already healed up!  Which is totally stupid.  Meanwhile, Rogue’s only side-effect is a white streak in her hair]]

X-Mansion:
Xavier – Did I miss anything?

Jean – Only everything.  And Wolverine’s in bad shape.

Wolverine – [[wakes up]]  So, I’m still hitting on you.

Jean – Well, obviously you’re healed up now.  Rogue has a crush on you.

Wolverine – Yeah, well, I have a crush on someone else.

Jean – And this won’t be awkward or problematic at all.

X-Mansion (later):
Xavier – There’s an abandoned military base called Alkali Base if you insist on running off and doing your loner thing.

Wolverine – It’s what I do.

Storm – It’s nice of the news to show us that Mystique managed to escape and has taken Senator Kelly’s place.

Plastic Prison:
[[Xavier and Magneto are playing chess]]

Magneto – You know one day that law will pass and they’ll come for your children.

Xavier – I pity the fools who go to a school of super-powered children looking for trouble.

Magneto – Yeah, that does seem like a bad idea, actually.  But it’s going to be the plot of the sequel, you know.

Xavier – I know.  So let’s wrap this up and get to that sequel.

-fade-out-

A Comic Book Entry – Thoughts on Villainy Part 3: Superweapons

So my recent read of USM got me thinking more about the consequences and logistics of being a villain in a comic book universe, which lead to this conclusion – sentient superweapons will always betray you.

This applies to heroes or villains and in pretty much every single case I can think of, the aforementioned superweapon went out of control and betrayed their creator(s), but I don’t know everything about the comic book universes, so perhaps someone’s superweapon didn’t betray them.  So I’ll amend my statement a bit and say sentient superweapons are 99% likely to betray you.  Those are still really poor odds.  My examples are primarily from Marvel, but I’m sure those who follow DC can provide numerous examples.

So, as a comic book villain, you may think that what you really need to give you an edge is a superweapon.  After all, your enemies have awesome powers, and in the arms race of taking over the world, you need awesomer powers on your side.  Now, robots are all well and good but do tend to have this tendency of being tricked or having their programming overwhelmed or simply aren’t up to the task at hand (programming can only go so far).  So, you start to think to yourself, maybe you should develop a sentient superweapon that can think for itself, although not too much of course, and will be better able to handle your enemies.  At this point, you have two options – fully sentient artificial intelligence or biological intelligence.  Obviously there will be failsafes.  What could possibly go wrong?

Oh, my mad scientist friends, so very, very much.  In fact, in nearly every case a genius built a superweapon (even in cases where the genius is not actually evil), said superweapon went completely out of control, betrayed the genius that created it, and nearly killed the genius to boot.

Fully Sentient A.I.
At first glance, this seems like the sensible choice.  A robot can be built with any number of failsafes and in theory should limit a fully sentient artificial intelligence, even one that can learn on its own.

1) Ultron.  Honestly, that should be enough said, and Ultron was built by a good guy! (more or less).  So think about that, villains.  If a good guy (more or less) makes an android as terrible as Ultron, what hope do you have?  While I am not clear exactly what Henry Pym’s purpose was in developing Ultron (and the tangled continuity and the fact Ultron made everyone forget his original creation may mean even the writers don’t really know), once Ultron became sentient, bad things happened.  Sure, the Avengers have defeated Ultron, eventually, for a little while, until it came back even tougher and worse than before.
2) Jocasta/Vision/Victor Mancha/Alkhema – proof that even evil masterminds’ fully sentient superweapons turn on them, and that even an evil masterminds like Ultron can’t program in sufficient failsafes.
3) Master Mold – the Sentinel maker that got in its deranged mind that the greatest threat to humanity was not in fact mutants but humans themselves.  That was a bad day for its human creators.
4) Iron Man’s rogue suit – The Iron Man suits aren’t meant to be sentient, and that’s smart of Tony.  But there’s a story in which a suit accidentally gains sentience and promptly turns on its creator like a jealous jilted ex-lover.  It’s pretty skeevy, really.  Also, another hero’s technology that backfires horribly.
5) Doombot – Even Dr. Doom can’t escape this problem.  One of his many Doombots gained sentience (I’ll give Vic props for not programming in sentience in the first place) and decided it was really Dr. Doom and tried to destroy the real Dr. Doom.

Take notes, villains, because generally the heroes are cut a little more slack than you are.  So if Avengers end up with their superweapons turning on them, you are probably not going to escape that fate.

Biological Intelligence:
Okay, so creating a fully sentient artificial intelligence clearly has some issues (has no one ever heard of the Three Laws of Robotics?), so perhaps using a biological intelligence may work better.  Of course, sometimes this involves unwilling test subjects and brainwashing, but hey, it’s the results that matter.  For those of you keeping track, the first three examples of why not to do this are all products of various governments.

1) Captain America – This is the best case: a volunteer test subject.  Yes, even that paragon of virtue is a superweapon that has on occasion turned against his creator (the U.S. Government).  He mostly works for the U.S. government, except when they ask him to do things against his principles and then he turns against them.
2) Wolverine – yeah, so that worked well…  Take away a person’s memories, brainwash them, make them indestructible and then they escape.  Honorable mention goes to Wolverine’s teammates Maverick, Sabretooth, and Silver Fox, who all also turned against the Canadian government.
3) Omega Red – It’s not just the U.S. and Canadian governments who lost control of a superweapon.  The Soviets ended up having to fight against Omega Red and put him in cryogenic stasis because he was just too dangerous.  Maybe taking a mutant who could generate a “death field” and making him hard to kill and giving him extra weapons was not a good idea.

So you’re thinking the problem is starting with someone who already has personality.  Maybe the key to biological intelligence is completely home-grown clones.  Yeah, that doesn’t really turn out any better…

4) Adam Warlock (or, Him) – The Enclaves‘s experiment in creating a perfect human being.  It absolutely worked except Adam took one look at his obviously inferior creators and made a break for it, and the Enclave was in no position to actually stop their superweapon.  Oops, back to the drawing board.
5) Her (or, Kismet) – The Enclave”s second experiment in creating a perfect human being, which also absolutely worked (why wouldn’t it; it worked the first time).  Adam’s distaff counterpart was kept in check for slightly longer but eventually turned on her obviously inferior creators and escaped.
6) X-23 – a female clone of Wolverine.  What could be awesomer!  And brainwashed and traumatized and programmed to kill.  Until, of course, X-23 completely snapped and turned against her creators.  Which, you know, is exactly what happened with Wolverine.  Apparently someone did not do their research.

Okay, okay, but surely someone with sufficient genius could just make this work instead of teams of researchers who are almost certainly going to screw something up.

7) Nate Grey – in an alternate hell universe in which Sinister was allowed to do exactly what he always wanted, which was to create a being powerful enough to kill Apocalypse for him, he created a minor god.  Sure enough, Nate figured out what his creator was all about (as though the name wasn’t a dead giveaway), turned on his creator and actually killed him.
8) Mister SinisterApocalypse has been tinkering with biological weapons since he figured out how to do so.  He experimented on Sinister, which worked out great, until Sinister realized Apocalypse was totally serious about destroying the world if necessary, which Sinister was absolutely not going to allow to happen because that’s where he keeps his stuff.  So he turned against Apocalypse and for most of their following relationship, Apocalypse made it clear he was only letting Sinister live as long as he was more useful than treacherous.
9) Archangel – Hey, speaking of Apocalypse’s creations, remember Death?  Poor Warren Worthington was turned into one of Apocalypse’s Horsemen, but thanks to the X-men, he broke free of the brainwashing and turned against his creator.
10) Cloak and Dagger (Ulti-verse version) – they were just introduced, so I’m not entirely certain what happened to the Roxxon lab when their brand-new powers manifested, but since they had been essentially kidnapped and experimented on against their will, I’m guessing Very Bad Things.

So maybe you’re thinking, “Well, humans are just bad at this,” I’d like to point out at the Kree created the Inhumans, who eventually turned against the Overmind, took over the Kree empire, and killed thousands and thousands of Kree in the process.  Pretty much every genius and every attempt is batting exactly zero for creations not turning on them.  And the only two creators I can think of who were not really bothered in any way were Apocalypse and Dr. Doom.  Dr. Doom wasn’t bothered because he actually put in working failsafes in his Doombot and destroyed it.  Apocalypse wasn’t bothered because a) he’s insane and b) he is pretty much nigh unkillable by his creations.

So where does this leave you?  You still have no superweapon, and several cautionary examples against creating one.  Well, there is one other option…  yourself.

This may explain the propensity of super-geniuses to test out their crazy superweapon formulas/nanotech/procedure/whatever on themselves.  Because A.I.s can’t be trusted, and other people can’t be trusted, so the only person who can be trusted with superpowers is themselves.  After all, the genius can’t turn on themselves.  Side-effects, of course, may include physical deformities, mental instability, physical degeneration, continuous mutation, insanity, and death.  The smart genius would want to test such a formula/procedure on someone else, but if it works, well, you’ve just created a superweapon that is absolutely, positively going to turn on you.

In other words, if you want a superweapon, you’d better be the superweapon, and you’d better get the formula/procedure right the first time.  Because if you don’t, that’s another problem.

A Comic Book Entry – Because Batman, That’s Why!

Or, “because Wolverine, that’s why,” if we’re talking about the Marvel universe.

This ranting has been spawned by a pleasant series of comments from a reader (hello Lunar Archivist!) who knows much more about the DC Universe than I do, and helps shore up my gaps in knowledge.  This also ties in with my rants about soft retcons and origin stories.

To the point – there has been a trend in comics, especially since the gritty ’90s, to give all characters old and new the same kind of backstory.  And that backstory must be, in a word, “dark.”  The Dark Age of Comics had its place, and dark characters have their place, but as I have said before, Darkier and Edgier just does not work for everyone.  Batman’s origin was always dark and that’s fine.  Wolverine’s origin was always shrouded in mystery and dark too and that’s fine.  It works for Batman and Wolverine.  But because those two characters are the poster children for Writer’s Favorite, apparently someone got the idea that if other characters were more like Batman and Wolverine, they would be more appealing to the reading audience (and thus sell more comics).

I hear you say, “That’s astoundingly cynical.”  Then again…Once upon a time, Barry Allen wanted to help people so he went into forensic science and joined the police department.  He had a healthy family life with two living parents!  He was also a fan of Jay Garrick, the Justice Society of America’s Flash.  And one day, there was an accident and Barry Allen became the new Flash.  He was literally an ascended fanboy, and that’s pretty cool.  But when it was decided after a long period of absence that Barry Allen would be the definitive new Flash in the New 52, that kind of origin just wouldn’t do.  So instead his nemesis is responsible for the death of his mother and his father is framed for the murder.  And instead of going into law enforcement out of a genuine desire to help people, he becomes a superhero to save his father, which he fails to do as his father dies in prison leaving him guilt-stricken for the rest of his life over his failure to save his parents.  That sounds suspiciously Batman-esque to me.

What was wrong with the ascended fanboy origin?  What was wrong with keeping Wally West as Flash when Barry Allen had died in 1985 and so there’s a whole generation of readers who’ve just been told their Flash is not the real Flash?

I’d better stop there or I’ll rant on DC in general.

I like the idea of an ascended fanboy.  In a universe so full of superheroes, is it any wonder so many people would want to be superheroes themselves?  Aren’t superheroes supposed to be an inspiration?  Shouldn’t people seek to emulate them to the best of their abilities?  A dark and tortured past is just unnecessary.  In fact, a major part of Superman’s backstory (unless that changed again) is that he had a normal, happy, and stable childhood (except for the destruction of his planet).  The Kents took in the little alien and raised him on down-home, good-old fashioned farm-livin’ and it worked out great.  That upbringing is part of keeps Superman from just saying, “Screw this, I’m taking over now,” and doing so.

Comics must have drama.  Origin stories provide drama.  But not everyone has to start out such a tortured soul.  The life of a superhero is going to bring about nothing but pain and misery.  The most happy-go-lucky superhero is probably going to face unimaginable terror and hopeless odds.  We all know how the future is going to go, so why not give them a break and let them have a normal past?  Why not even use that past as a source of strength instead yet another notch on the superhero’s angst belt?  To quote Lunar Archivist – “I’m just at a complete loss to understand why DC has this need to have every hero’s origin and existence built upon the corpses of their families and friends and have everyone behave like a complete dick or douchebag.”

DC: Because Batman!  That’s why!

Lunar Archivist – “Seriously, are nice people that repulsive or difficult to associate within this day and age?”

Marvel: Wolverine!

To the editors of Marvel and DC – please, please, please stop this.  Please.  I love Batman and Wolverine as much as the next fan, but I am so tired of new characters that are little more than cheap knock-offs or everyone getting the Darkier and Edgier treatment just because it works so well on Batman/Wolverine.  Frankly so much Dark and Edgy makes me a little tired of Batman/Wolverine.  There’s nothing wrong with a superhero with a normal past.  Superheroes with normal pasts are actually relatable.  Superheroes that are not Dark and Edgy are acceptable.  Seriously.  Please stop making everyone and everything Batman/Wolverine.

A Comic Book Entry – My Love/Hate Relationship With Wolverine

But first, some shameless self-promotion!  I have many likes on this blog and that makes me happy.  But I also have a Facebook page (the address is under the “links” tab) and I have only four likes and that makes me quite sad.  So if you like my blog, please go like my Facebook page as well.  Also, there is a coupon for my novel good through June 22 so you can get it absolutely positively totally completely free.

Right, on to the ranting!

Wolverine is the little mutant that could.  When introduced by Chris Claremont in 1975, the X-men team had a small problem.  It was ethnically diverse, but powerwise less diverse.  So it came down to the death of an X-man and it was between Warpath and Wolverine.  Well, one of the people involved was partial to Canadians and it was deemed too many characters already had super-strength and speed, and at that point none had a healing factor and wicked claws, so Warpath had to go.  Wolverine was this close to getting the axe but survived past the second issue to define the term “bad-ass” in the Marvel lexicon.  Many decades later, a popular internet blogger said something to the effect of, “I stopped reading X-men when Wolverine started appearing on the covers of comics he technically wasn’t in.”

To say that Wolverine became enormously popular is an understatement.  I’m not even going to pretend I know the whole history of the comics that came out featuring or starring Wolverine.  I’m not a Wolverine expert.  Wolverine’s main character trait appears to be that he’s a bad-ass with a sensitive side that is most often expressed in a tendency to practically adopt stray teenage girls as his daughter (this could also be read as creepy depending on your interpretation, especially considering how many of those girls end up with an Electra complex, and I’m not talking about Daredevil‘s on again-off again love interest).  He’s been there, done that, met everyone, especially as his popularity grew and suddenly he was retconned into all sorts of places, particularly WWII.  His time with the X-men was mostly as the Bad Boy foil to Cyclops’ Boy Scout.  Remember, I’ve already said I don’t think that was a bad thing (see previous blog post “Cyclops is Not Wolverine, And That’s Not a Problem“).  Wolverine has gotten much love in other media.  The 90s X-men was fairly faithful to the comics in spirit and often in story.  I think the voice actor was actually Canadian and I thought it worked very well.  Hugh Jackman, while Australian, made a fabulous Wolverine, although the actual Wolverine movie was fairly lame.  Later cartoons even put Wolverine’s name in the title and made him the head of the team, not Cyclops.  Or if you look at the evolution of the “X-men” movie posters, he goes from background to foreground because he’s that darn popular.  He’s on so many teams currently he quipped in the New Avengers that his mutant power is actually multi-tasking.

So why do I love Wolverine?  For the same reasons pretty much everyone else does.  He’s a bad-ass.  He plays by his own rules, takes no prisoners, rebels against the man.  He’s the Bad Boy and yet works for the side of righteousness.  He has some sort of literal animal magnetism that attracts all the women in the immediate vicinity, and yet he’s not a complete dick as evidenced by his soft spot for semi-orphans.  He also gets a pass on some of his more psychotic behavior because his mind was so screwed with during the Weapon X program.  He’s uncouth and hard-living because his life has been hard.  He has had so many girlfriends die on him, or turn into his enemies, he’s probably lost count (and probably doesn’t even remember them all).  He goes on despite pain, because while he can heal, healing still hurts.  He’s got a long and potentially interesting past writers can work with, which I’m sure on the writing level makes him very popular.  He can hold his own with just about any opponent, and if not, he can take punishment like a champ.  Gosh darn it, he’s scrappy.  He may be the very definition of scrappy.

But why do I hate Wolverine?  Because he almost takes the definition of scrappy to “Scrappy Doo.”  Despite a long backstory, his character is not interesting enough to justify his ubiquitous presence in the Marvel universe.  Also, one of the longest running stories in which he was involved in was to me one of the most over-dramatic and ridiculous ones.  I refer, of course, to the love triangle with Jean Grey.  Oh, I read the tradebacks.  I understand, I suppose, why Jean would be interested in the Bad BoyIt’s practically narrative convention.  What drove me bonkers was that so many writers had difficulty handling that relationship properly.  I would have had Jean outright break up with Cyclops to date Wolverine outright and then realize that’s a terrible idea.  You know, have the characters behave like mature adults about their relationship(s).  Instead, readers were treated to years and years of what boils down to this:

Cyclops – I don’t like you because you’re a Bad Boy!  And also because you’re hitting on my girlfriend!
Wolverine – I don’t like you because you’re a Boy Scout!  And your girlfriend totally wants to date me!
Jean – Yes, I mean no!  Of course not!  I’m dating Cyclops!
Cyclops – You stay away from my girl!
Jean – Hey, you don’t own me!  I can date whoever I want!
Cyclops – But we’re dating!  Do you want to break up with me?
Jean – Of course not!  But I could if I wanted.
Wolverine – You know you want me, babe.
Cyclops – I don’t like you because you’re a Bad Boy!  And also because you’re hitting on my girlfriend!
Wolverine – I don’t like you because you’re a Boy Scout!  And your girlfriend totally wants to date me!

Ad nauseum.  Or, to put it more succinctly – Jean!  Scott!  Jean!  Prof. Xavier!  Logan!  Uh!

There was a lot I didn’t like about the Ultimates universe, but at least the whole Scott/Jean/Wolverine love triangle was handled upfront (more or less) and honestly (more or less).  Still, one bad relationship does not mean I should hate Wolverine.  Although I should point out I find Wolverine’s overpowering sexiness to be somewhat unbelievable.  The key thing to remember is that Wolverine in the comics is not actually Hugh Jackman.  Wolverine is 5’2”, broad and hairy.  Most women in comics are about 5’6” or 5’8” and most men are about 6′.  Wolverine is short.  Logically, if his arms and chest are as hairy as often drawn, his back and legs should be too.  I also imagine he probably doesn’t smell so good either considering he’s quite animistic (and sweaty) and also smokes cigars, and cheap cigars at that.  I suppose there are people who would find a short, very hairy, smelly man to be sexy, but somehow I doubt everyone would (as all the women in the comics seem to).  So I think his irresistible sexiness is about as exaggerated as his personality.  Also, although it’s not Wolverine’s fault, his popularity has spawned a lot of knock-offs, and I for one am tired of writers who think it’s a great new idea to introduce yet another character with a healing factor and claws.

I am also annoyed that Wolverine’s power levels have gone from “tough, but scrappy and able to survive more than an ordinary  person” to “nigh unkillable.”  Once upon a time when Wolverine got the snot beaten out of him, it took days to weeks for him to recover from those kind of injuries (whereas a normal person would be in traction for months).  In his more recent incarnation, Spider-man chucked him out of a skyscraper and not only did he survive, but he was fully healed less than an hour later.  He’s nearly had his head cut off and survived.  Then again, power creep is a bigger issue than just Wolverine (see rant on Tyrant-in-Chief).

Basically, I love Wolverine because he’s Marvel’s paragon bad-ass Bad Boy.  But I hate Wolverine because he’s Marvel’s paragon bad-ass Bad Boy, which means all writers want him in their comics even if he really doesn’t belong there.  He’s overdone and it’s tiresome, like a certain puppy that just won’t shut up.  I really don’t want to see Wolverine actually turn into Scrappy Doo, but I’d love him better if there was less of him.

A Comic Book Entry – Cyclops is not Wolverine, and That’s Not a Problem

I feel bad for Cyclops. It’s hard to be the upstanding, righteous, Boy Scout character. Just ask Captain America, who is pretty much not allowed to be anything else. In the movies, it was even worse. You don’t even need to see the movies; just look at the movie posters. For the poster for X-men, Cyclops is at the top in the front, and Wolverine is at the bottom. By the movie poster for X-men 3, Cyclops is second from the back and Wolverine is standing in the front. That’s pretty much sums up the relationship of Cyclops to Wolverine since Wolverine was introduced way back when.

I understand the problem, as it’s something of a reflection of what our society values. Bad Boys are always more interesting than Boy Scouts. Women are attracted to Bad Boys, and guys want to be Bad Boys. Who’s more popular, Luke Skywalker or Han Solo? Exactly. So poor Cyclops was at a huge disadvantage when Wolverine was introduced. Then Wolverine makes the moves on Jean, who reciprocates because of the rule of Bad Boys, and much drama ensued. Of course, in real life, such relationships seldom work out. Jeff Foxworthy had a bit about this phenomena. He was commenting about how these women’s magazines had articles about “How to Win a Bad Man,” “How to Make a Bad Man into a Good Man,” and so on. His punchline was that when a woman actually married a bad man, she ended up on an episode of “Cops” with the bad man being dragged out of the trailer and her yelling, “You lock him up this time!” He is, of course, quite right.

But comics are not real life, so the extra drama is generally seen as a good thing. From a writing standpoint, when dealing with a group dynamic, it’s good to have the Boy Scout and the Bad Boy. One can be played off the other in situations, as in the best writing Cyclops and Wolverine were. Wolverine wanted to break the rules and do things his way even if that way was morally ambiguous or worse, and Cyclops wanted to play by the rules and do things the right way. The X-men, of course, are not the only example of this. How many fights did Captain America get into with Hawkeye? How many times did Superman and Batman clash over the best way to handle a situation? But the set up of Boy Scout versus Bad Boy is all fine and good. But unfortunately popular opinion favors the Bad Boy to the exclusion of the Boy Scout. However, popular opinion doesn’t seem to realize that if the Boy Scout is no longer there, than the Bad Boy loses some character as well. It’s hard to rebel if there’s no authority to rebel against. It’s hard to break the rules if there are no rules to begin with.

Despite this, my feeling is that the writers and/or fans and/or Boardroom level and/or a combination of all of the above got annoyed that Cyclops was not Wolverine, especially in the last fifteen years. Instead of embracing this as a necessary dramatic component of writing a group comic, efforts were made to make Cyclops into more of a Bad Boy. I am very unkeen on this whole process and consider a lot of the writing more character assassination than character development and it’s gone way too far. Some characters lend themselves better to being made darker and edgier than others, and Cyclops is not one of them.

To be fair, in the past Cyclops has had some shining moments of douche-baggery and somehow managed to regain Boy Scout status, although it involved the new writers essentially saying, “Please ignore this thing that happened because we are.” The most outstanding moment of inexcusable actions was when the original X-Factor comic was started. Cyclops was married at the time and just had a baby. On the mere rumor that Jean Grey might possibly be alive he left his wife and baby saying that he was going to “see about a friend,” not about his ex-girlfriend. When he came back to check on them, the house had been burnt to the ground by the Marauders, who practically left a calling card. So, what did our Boy Scout do? He went back to X-Factor, told them his family was dead, and that was that. He didn’t check the house for bodies. He didn’t go after the Marauders. And when the X-men told him that his family survived, not only did he not go back to Madelyne and his baby son, but he didn’t even tell Jean. Frankly, after all that, I can’t blame Madelyne for trying to kill him during the Inferno. Also, I will admit Jean doesn’t look very good through all that because she didn’t kick him in the junk right then and there for being a total douche-bag. Wolverine was disgusted by his actions. When the Bad Boy is digusted by how morally depraved the Boy Scout is acting, that should say something, damn it. X-men writers, you ought to be ashamed of yourselves. I’ll just say after that I skipped more than a few X-men and X-factor comics.

I have an idea as to how to save the character, and I do think it would work, but I don’t think anyone is truly invested in doing so because Cyclops is not Wolverine. This process of trying to turn Cyclops into Wolverine has advanced to the point that Cyclops and Wolverine have practically switched roles. Wolverine is running a school for mutants, and Cyclops organized a team to take out mutant-haters by any means necessary, including killing them. What the hell happened? The defining moment of douche-baggery in recent comics is, to me, and the moment I decided that the X-men were dead to me, and the moment I decided to not renew my subscription, was the issue after the whole “House of M” storyline when Cyclops threw all the non-mutants out of the mansion. That’s right, he threw them out, even though many of them had no place else to go. He threw out Robert Drake (Iceman), a person he had known since they were teenagers, a person he’s been on a team with since the X-men were born, a person who is in many ways more of his little brother than his actual little brother Alex. And he just threw him out without a second thought. I should note too that awfulness of this incident was compounded by the fact Wolverine didn’t punch Cyclops out for turning out Jubilee, or that Beast, who also has known Bobby since forever, just let Cyclops do this awful, awful thing.

What the hell, hero? Seriously, what the hell? If only the people involved had just let Cyclops be a Boy Scout and made their peace with that, the writing would have been so much better, and I might still have a subscription.