Monday, July 21, 2014

Why is My Girl Power Series Better Than Marvel and DC? Permanence!

Recently Marvel announced two "shocking" changes.  The first is that there will be a new, female Thor replacing the male character.  And Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon, will be taking over as Captain America for Steve Rogers.  And for many comic book fans--and those like me who are only somewhat interested in comic books--there was a large collective yawn.  Why?  Because they've pulled these gimmicks so many times before.

  • Like remember in the early 90s when Superman "died" at the hands of Doomsday?  And then he came back to life.
  • Or remember a year or two later when Bruce Wayne was "crippled" by Bane and replaced by Jean-Paul Valley?  And then Bruce Wayne came back.
  • Or hey, remember when Bruce Wayne "died" like 15 years later and Dick Grayson became Batman?  And then Bruce Wayne came back.
  • Or remember when Jason Todd's Robin "died" in the '80s?  Or when Damian Wayne's Robin "died" last year?  One came back years ago and the other just now came back from the dead, at least temporarily.
  • Or remember when Hal Jordan went crazy and stopped being a Green Lantern?  And then he came back, though it took a while.
  • Or remember in "Crisis on Infinite Earths" when Barry Allen's Flash "died"?   And then he came back, though it took a while.
  • Or remember when Steve Rogers "died" thanks to an assassin and Bucky Barnes (the Winter Soldier) took over as Captain America?  And then Steve Rogers came back.
  • Or remember when Dr. Octopus switched brains with Peter Parker and became Spider-Man?  And then Peter Parker came back.
  • Or remember when Hercules took up being Thor?  (I didn't but Rusty Webb read that recently and I read his Goodreads review.)  And Thor eventually came back--I assume.
  • Or remember that "Thor" started out as just some dude named Dr. Donald Blake who found a magic hammer in Norway?  Many people do not, but it's true!
  • Or remember when Wolverine "died"?  Well no because it won't happen for like 2 months.  But then he'll come back!

You see the pattern, right?  They make these big changes, get people all excited and whipped into a frenzy and then after six months or a year or so they go back to the status quo.  There was even a hilarious parody on Robot Chicken's second DC Comics Special where Batman is eulogizing Green Arrow and then stops and says, "I can't do this anymore!  We all know he's going to come back!"

I'm sure some, like Tony Laplume, would point out there are a few instances where a character has died and actually stayed dead--so far.  Like the original Captain Marvel (Marvel version) and Peter Parker in the "Ultimate" universe.  (I think.)  But mostly there's always a correction back to the status quo because the status quo is at heart what people want, even when they claim they don't.  Remember that old Simpsons episode where people are bored with Itchy & Scratchy and so they introduce "Poochy" but everyone hates Poochy so they kill him off?  (Incidentally he didn't stay dead.)  That pretty much summarizes the comic book universe in general.  We claim to get bored with Superman or Batman or Captain America, but if they get "killed" or "replaced" then we get all pissed off about it until the status quo returns...and then we get bored again after a while.  Since the comic book companies like money, they love to milk this and so what better way than going on popular shows like "The View" and "Colbert Report" and advertising massive (temporary) changes?  But these changes won't stick, which may be good or bad depending on how well-done the titles actually are.

Contrast that to my Girl Power universe, where there are actual consequences.  Spoiler alert:  of the four male superheroes who get turned into female superheroes, only 1 ever becomes a man again.  There's no lame reset button where everything just goes back to the status quo.  No one travels back in time.  Clones do appear in the second book, but they're male clones.  No magic amulets or any of that.  Even the one who becomes a man again is not the exact same, and things are kind of different for the rest of his family too.

I guess the luxury when you're only writing 3 books (plus some short stories) is that you don't have to feed that cycle where you need 12 issues (or more) a year.  Thus it's hard for people to get bored.  And it's easy to keep the changes you make permanent.  Will they be permanent?  Yes!  Why?  Because that's what the characters want.  After going through all they go through, they don't want the status quo.  I mean the one gets married to a man and has a child; you think she wants to go back to being a man again?  And another also ends up getting married to a man and thus sees little reason to going back to how things used to be.  And even the one who seems she would most want to go back decides her new status quo is a lot better than her old status quo.

Wouldn't it be nice if we, the comic book buyers, voted with our dollars that way to decide we want to keep the new status quo for once?  But we won't, so when the "real" Thor and Captain America return we will of course go out and fuel the gimmick cycle once more.

'Nuff said.

5 comments:

  1. Comic books have always been gimmicky like this. It's like a soap opera, really. You could easily skip reading years worth of issues, come back to it and not miss much. But hey, that's what makes them fun!

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  2. I don't think you are necessarily being fair to comic books. The stories in comic books for real die-hards aren't so much about a particular character as they are about the artist drawing them and about the writer penning the stories. For example, I really enjoyed it when Spiderman was being done by McFarlane. Or I loved it when Perez remade Wonder Woman. Basically when a new writer or a new artist takes over, they can and sometimes do remake or reset a character in order to tell a story. That's why comics shouldn't really be read chronologically as much as they should be appreciated in slices and story arcs.

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  3. A woman is going to play Thor....that sounds like a disaster. I have nothing against their being a female character like Thor, but not actually being Thor. Gimmicks can go too far and then everyone sighs.

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  4. Michael's right, and you're right: comics should be willing to grow and move on, but the idea that they're just telling story arcs is probably correct overall. If you ignore the marketing -- the fact that they've invested billions in Peter Parker being Spider-Man, for example -- it kind of makes sense: tell a story about Spider-Man, and then let someone else tell a story.

    It does take away from the dramatic impact, though, if things are never permanent. I don't read comics much, so I only just learned that Doc Ock is no longer Spider-Man, through this post. That's disappointing, since I thought that storyline was good.

    Thor as a woman seems like it might be interesting, if they actually make the character being a woman matter. I doubt they will, though.

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  5. They used to say the only permanently dead in comics were Bucky and Uncle Ben. That was the standard.
    Then they brought Bucky back. It took half a century, but they did it.

    Now, I'm waiting for it to turn out that Uncle Ben has been some kind of Moriarty-like super villain, who faked his own death, all along and has just been toying with Peter all this time.
    Oh, man, now I want to write that story!

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