Tag Archives: fed up

Caught

The Wasp

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. 

Sincerely,

Mithril (A True Believer Caught in between Pandiculaton and Story Paranoia)

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Uncontrolled Chaos

250px-Age-of-ultron-01

Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art. – Leonardo da Vinci

Hello, Marvel Writers!

Age of Ultron is finally complete – oh, wait.  Now time and space are going to explode unless Henry Pym figures out whatever miscalculation he made and fixes it.

But with time and space starting to fall apart, that still leaves a lot of room for our heroes to get thrown into the drainage system by having them go up against threats from parallel universes.  Some universes are going to have bad guys our heroes have beaten come knocking on their doors (and likely, a lot of these alternate heroes are going to lose to these bad guys miserably).   All this will occur while our Avengers, FF, X-Men, etc., have to deal with bad and good guys they’ve never heard of who are angry as heck over having their universes cracked open.

How do you keep everything straight, fellow writers?  The way the Marvel Universe(s) are splintering up, I’m surprised that none of you have suffered a mental breakdown yourselves.

What exactly is the point of running our heroes full-tilt until they break?  Back when the comics started, Spidey, Iron Man, and the others all had days where as soon as they walked in the front door, they had to dash out the back and suit up again.  That was fine.  Everyone inside and outside of fiction has days where it seems like they can’t catch a moment of relaxation.

But to have things this chaotic nearly 24/7 for everybody is just too much.  It’s too much for me, for a start.  The television shows and movies are less complicated than the comic book story arcs of the past twenty years.  They are also a heck of a lot more enjoyable – and yes, I said that about animated television shows, which are typically for young children.  That’s how bad, how plain trashy, the comics have become.

So, why do this?  I have some theories.  Let me run them by you:

You’re doing this because “People want what’s next.”  I have to admit, there are stories in the comics where I put one down and I want more almost instantly.  I have days like that for a lot of different good fiction.

This, however, is more of the same.  This is more of the same running pell-mell through the streets, more war-between-heroes (although this usually takes the form of verbal abuse of teammates), more the-world-is-going-to-end-and-it’s-all-our-fault stupidity.

What I want more of when I read about my favorite Marvel heroes is camaraderie, battle-bond banter, and good old-fashioned flattening of the villains.  Age of Ultron has none of that, and neither do the arcs preceding it.  I won’t be holding my breath for the pattern to change any time in the next few days/months/years.  So no, you don’t get to see me go as blue as Nightcrawler.

Another theory I have relates to the-world-is-going-to-end-and-it’s-all-our-fault theme.  This has been on the Marvel menu since at least the early nineties.  People thought when the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve of 1999/2000 that Ragnarock would erupt.

The calendar reads summer of 2013 and the planet’s still spinning.  I think the Marvel Universe can stop collapsing now, don’t you?

On the other hand, I would say that you enjoy seeing the X-Men or the Avengers always threatening to slice each other to pieces.  After all, why should heroes be friends?  Many of them have limitless (or nearly limitless) power.  Why hold it back?  Why should Cyclops always be a goody two-shoes?  Why shouldn’t the Hulk get to go on a rampage across an entire planet?

Hmm, I don’t know.  Maybe because the Hulk is not the monster that everyone wants to believe he is?  Maybe because Cyke is a natural good guy?  Maybe because “With great power comes great responsibility”?  Throwing power around wantonly is about as irresponsible as you can get.

You want my honest opinion, fellow writers?  I think that you are doing this because you are trying to make a statement about the world we live in.  What statement is that?  The-world-is-going-to end-and it’s-all-our-fault?  If these stories don’t change it will be.  Stories are what give people hope for a brighter, better future.  Where was the hope in Age of Ultron?  Where’s the hope at its end?  Please enlighten me, because all I see in the story is nothing.  Nil.  Nada.  Zip.

There is nothing hopeful in Disassembled.  There is only pain in Civil War and Avengers vs. X-Men.  What’s the point?  To tell us we’re all evil and deserve death?  To tell us that we’re parasites worth no more thought than any insect?

That is not the purpose of any legitimate story.  As previously stated, that is not the Purpose of Heroes.

The purpose of both stories and heroes is to remind us that we are worth something.  The purpose is to remind us that we always have a choice, we always have a chance.  That there is always a way out or that there will always be sunshine after the storm.  As bad as things get there will always, always, be something better when the trouble is over.

Yeah, maybe more trouble will crop up immediately after the first is gone.  Does that mean we should give up?  No.  It means ‘sailing by ash breeze,’ or rowing forward until we catch the wind.

There is always a way to win.  Heroes and stories are reminders of that.  Without those reminders, the world gets that much duller.

So the choice is yours, fellow writers.  Are you going to keep running our heroes until they break, the way that a truck’s engine will during a sled pull when the weight is too much?  Or are you going to give everybody, heroes and fans alike, some real hope?

It’s up to you.  Because “Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.”  We’re the admirers.  You are the artists.  For crying out loud, start behaving like artists!!!

Sincerely,

Mithril (A Frustrated True Believer)

Age of Despair

Assemble!

Hello, Marvel Writers!

As you know, in my last letters, I have asked continuously why certain things have been done. Why the heroes have made oddball decisions; why they’ve been torn apart and rebuilt; why they have lost all common sense. I am now leaving the so-called ‘Why Phase’ behind. Now I am going to supply my own answers to the why. If I’m wrong, feel free to correct me.

But I don’t believe I am wrong, fellow writers. Here are my answers:

The reason that you disassembled the Avengers in the story arc by the same name was the same reason that DC attempted to kill Superman. Heroes weren’t heroes, or clear cut good guys, in anyone’s opinion anymore. They couldn’t be trusted to stand for righteousness and the greater good. If no one in reality could, then why ‘spare’ the superheroes and heroines of your fiction?

Iron Man disbanded the Avengers because he had been in the worst, most heart wrenching battle of his life. No one could make him stay. Once he quit the others would follow, albeit reluctantly, since he was one of the pillars of the team. Oh, and those times he had quit the team previously, when he was having a seriously rough day? Those were the times when Cap (or someone else) led the Avengers until Tony felt up to coming back or he was desperately needed. No one would remember those incidents. Disassembled would make them forget.

You decided that having Mockingbird divorce Hawkeye and sending the archer on a dating spree afterward would be fine. After all, thousands of other people do it. So why should this be different in the fictional world?

And as for all the other romances and implied flings, it’s no secret that Hawkeye was an incurable flirt prior to marrying Bobbi. No one would care if he dated Echo and Spider-Woman. He’d already had a fling with Moonstone, after all. There’s not much farther one could fall after that.

At least Echo and Spider-Woman fight on the side of the Avengers. That was a small consolation. And I mean very small.

Some of you might say, “What about Cap? He hasn’t gone into the drain pipe along with a lot of other characters.” That’s an easy enough question to answer. Cap’s nearly incorruptible as a character; if anyone tried, there would be a massive outcry from the fans. You can kill almost everyone else in the Marvel Universe twenty times over and turn them insane as a result, and no one will complain too loudly.

But if you lay a finger on Cap’s character, or try to pervert him in any overt way, ninety percent of Marvelites will have a tantrum fit to rock the world. So since he’s as nearly untouchable spirit-wise as a character can be, the only things left to do to him are physical: death, shape change (with unnecessary disgusting results), and a rest period. And even that has to be temporary. Otherwise, Marvelites rise in a furor and you lose their business.

As for the X-Men, since Wolverine has become popular over the past few years, the best way to make the X-Men comics sell better was to give him a more prominent role on the team. The most important part of any team is the position of leader. Cyclops was everyone’s idea of the X-Men’s best field commander; especially when the Professor somehow divorced himself from his principles (he’s dead now, too, so it would be hard to change that). On top of this, Magneto had (finally) been reformed and saw things the way the X-Men did.

But that robbed the X-Men of their greatest nemesis. Well, since you wanted Wolverine in the spotlight and needed a new archenemy, why not kill two birds with one stone, and have Cyclops turn away from his responsibilities to take Magneto’s place as the most dangerous mutant alive?

Except, given her history, Jean wouldn’t stand for such a decision on Scott’s part. So she ended up dead – until she was needed at some point in a typical apocalyptic X-Men future. Still, this left Cyclops without a partner. The partner would have to be telepathic to continue the dynamic fans were familiar with when Jean and Cyke were still together. That left the cold-hearted, ever shifty Emma Frost to be Scott Summers’ next partner prior to his downward spiral. It’s beginning to look more and more like a perfect match the farther down the road Cyke goes, too.

Then there were the wars between heroes, starting first with Civil War and heading into Round Two with Avengers vs. X-Men. Fans have speculated for years about which heroes are more powerful than others. So far, I’d say the Hulk outdoes everybody; the next strongest would be Thor (though he has had a lot of punishment from the Hulk previously). Ben Grimm would come in a solid third (no pun intended).

So who would win in battle between each other, Cap or Iron Man? Hawkeye or the Wasp? The Thing or Namor (who does NOT qualify as a mutant)? Wolverine or Cyclops?

The Marvel Universe was torn up to answer these inane, inconsequential questions. If people wanted to see which heroes are stronger than which, it would have been better to do what Legolas and Gimli did in The Lord of the Rings; have a contest to see who could take down more bad guys faster, better, etc. There’s also the idea of ‘play fights,’ where camaraderie is at the heart of the duel. There wouldn’t be any real need for the Hulk or Thor to hold back in such a fight; it would just be pure fun for the two of them. That would be better than watching great allies and, more often than not, great friends, trying to knife each other or blast the other to atoms.

As for bringing back the Phoenix Force and writing up another Summers’ child (is she Jean’s and Cyke’s daughter, or is she Cyclops’ and someone else’s? I still don’t have that straight) as a so-called ‘Phoenix Messiah,’ that was just to get the ball rolling for another superhero war. This one was to answer the question of whether it was the X-Men or the Avengers who were the stronger team. Considering the X-Men were split nearly down the middle, it wouldn’t be hard to have the outcome be the Avengers. (On a side note, naming the ‘Phoenix Messiah’ Hope was a lame idea. Rachel and Nathaniel Summers are stronger names.)

You disbanded the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D. because spy stories were ‘so last century.’ SHIELD may not be high in anyone’s esteem for its espionage work, but it was the eyes and ears for several of the heroes and several of the teams. Without the agency, the heroes are left flying as blind and deaf as a plane with no radar and a dead radio. Any information that SHIELD could give them about their enemies or potential threats is now gone. Any villain they capture is no longer taken care of by the moderately able organization (it is hard to imprison determined super villains, after all).

Of course, I’m sure you didn’t really mean to do that. Just the price of literary trends, after all; reason is always first under the bus.

Then there are the Marvel Zombies and Ultimate lines. The zombies were to capitalize on the undead mania that swept the world during the nineties and early twenty-first century. And while it is still going today, it has lost some momentum. I hope it runs completely out of steam; I’m fed up with it. Same plots, same endings, same hopeless situation for the protagonists in every story. And, oh yeah, everybody dies at the end. How BORING.

The Ultimate series was written to exploit the heroes hitherto non-existent ‘Dark Sides.’ You couldn’t use the ‘mainstream’ comics for this; there was too much history for the heroes there. If they all suddenly turned into psychotic flirts and murderers, fans would be furious (rightly so) and retaliate. So a spin-off series was devised for the ‘Ultimate’ stories, which are the equivalent of mad scientists cooking up monstrosities in the basement of a dark, dank castle. Every Ultimate version of a Marvel character is as gross and perverted as Igor and the monster of Frankenstein legend.

So, am I right about these answers to the ‘Why,’ fellow writers? I think I am.

This is a crime all the way through. The heroes do not deserve this; we, the fans and readers-in-passing, do not deserve this negative nonsense shoved down our throats in nearly every issue. Heroes are not meant to have ‘dark sides’ that can explode at the flip of some invisible switch at your fingertips, which makes you cackle with glee. We’re not laughing at the changes the switch shows off. Neither should you, and this is why.

When you drop a hammer, do you need to watch it to know it falls? When it rains, do you go out with a watering can and pour water on the flowers in your garden? When you write, do you use a spoon to put down the words?

When a hammer falls, it makes a noise on contact with the ground. When it rains, the flowers are being watered. When one writes, they use a pen, pencil, or a keyboard.

Heroes are like hammers, heroes are like the rain, and heroes do not change their attitudes or beliefs for anyone or anything. Sometimes their allegiance changes, yes; but only when the organization they gave it to is no longer worthy of their loyalty.

Heroes have doubts. Heroes have flaws. Heroes get into disagreements with each other. They have tempers. They make mistakes. But they do not become psychotic killers at the drop of a hat; they do not attempt to kill the friends and teammates who have saved their lives countless times in countless different scenarios.

Heroes do not have spontaneous flings that stop almost as fast as they start. If they fall for someone, something really drastic has to happen to change their mind about them. Caring is not an on/off switch or a toy to a hero.

Heroes are grounded in the principles of right and they have what the bad guys don’t have.

They have people in their lives that they care about: wives, husbands, children, siblings, friends, girlfriends/boyfriends, fiancés, colleagues, parents, etc. They see ordinary people struggling who care about their families and friends, too. And since they have the power to help them, they fight the villains who would make the struggle worse for these everyday people.

The villains don’t have that. When was the last time Dr. Doom, Apocalypse, Kang, Mr. Sinister, or any of the other villains, truly cared about anyone but themselves? If they did, even for a little while, they would have stopped trying to take over the world or stopped trying to destroy it. Even when they said they loved someone, they didn’t stop their plans. They went ahead with them. That’s what makes them evil.

It is this foundation in the principles of right that makes heroes good.

This is how and why fans, readers, and viewers connect with Marvel Heroes. This is what makes the characters great.

And this is what you have been ripping out of them for the past twenty years.

Sincerely,

Mithril (An Angry True Believer)