Hello, Marvel Writers!
(Oh, boy. Here it comes!)
Yup, I’m back.
(Hide the story drafts! Call SHIELD!)
Sorry, that’s not going to work. Pay attention, everyone! Today’s subject is the rampant paranoia among fans.
(What? What does that mean?)
It means that we, the fans, are paranoid about our favorite heroes. You know what I am talking about – those days when the X-Men or the Avengers charge into a battle and, when they finally pull back, gasping for air, one of them does a headcount and finds someone is missing.
And then it turns out that the missing member of the team is on some infirmary table in the villain’s lair. Cue the villain of the day’s egotistical bragging and the torture of the captured hero.
Of course, the hero/heroine cannot die, or you will lose their audience. So the team comes to rescue them, they escape, or they are killed and ‘resurrected.’ Yippee, everybody’s safe….! Right?
Hmmm…. No, not so much.
These days I, for one, cannot relax after watching an Avenger/X-Man (or any other Marvel hero) get caught by, and then escape from, the bad guys. Several times a hero has been returned to their friends, or society at large, after being imprisoned by a villain only for something bad to happen when they get back.
Sometimes it is a few years before the hero snaps; runs amok; gets cloned; or starts acting on pre-programmed villain instructions. Eventually, one of these events will occur. Generally it is the snapping story line, where the hero retaliates against the villain, the team, or society because of the treatment they received on the table. The second most popular storyline is cloning.
Excuse me, but what exactly is the point of this? It has gotten to be so common a plot point that I am amazed any of the heroes can catch forty winks. If I was one of them, I would not be able to sleep at all for fear that one of the bad guys would grab me the minute I shut my eyes.
Honestly, fellow writers, this is too much. How are we or our heroes supposed to function with this fear weighing on our minds every time a new adventure occurs? It spoils the enjoyment we derive from watching our heroes work if we are always thinking, “Yeah, but Dr. Doom is going to grab [insert the hero of your choice here], experiment on him/her, and then this character will go berserk at some point in a future story.”
Was this the original point behind the heroes getting caught? No. The original ideas behind a hero getting caught are, I believe, as follows:
a) To add suspense to a particular story arc/start a story arc;
b) To prove the hero’s strength under pressure and pain;
c) To show how cunning and strong a seemingly flippant or shallow hero actually is;
d) To flesh out a new villain/hero by showing their motives/hidden virtues;
e) To prove how deluded a certain villain was and start a plot line where the heroes would eventually bring him down;
f) To bring a team into a tighter-knit group by having the teammates work to support the physically/emotionally injured hero;
g) To have a hero conquer his/her inner demons through their own strength of character after being a guinea pig or after being tortured.
These days, imprisoning and experimenting on our heroes is more reminiscent of people playing entomologists chasing down rare butterflies. Instead of following any one of the above possibilities thoroughly, as someone with any imagination would, you poke at our heroes with needles. I am more than a little tired of it. You should be, too.
Why? Because the more often you use these plots where the hero gets cloned or goes crazy, or somehow snaps at his/her team or at society itself, the more easily the lead up to such a story twist will be recognized. People will flick through the comic book and then put it back on the shelf, saying, “Seen it.” The more often you use this plot, the more bored the readers will become, and then sooner or later you will be out of business.
At which point our heroes will be stuck in literary limbo.
I don’t know about you, but I do not want to see that happen.
So how about pulling the pins out of our heroes and letting them get back to work, as full-fledged heroes who are secure in their self-knowledge, principles, and strength of will?
I am not saying that you should not test the above qualities in our heroes. By all means, do it. Just remember that there is a fine line between testing a character and breaking them.
The fact is that right now, you are breaking our heroes. A broken engine cannot always be repaired, fellow writers.
Neither can broken characters.
Mithril (A True Believer Caught in between Pandiculaton and Story Paranoia)