It has been a crazy few months for Marvel Comics properties and just comic geekdom in general.
Fans lost it when Fox confirmed that Michael B Jordan would be Johnny Storm and those same fans demanded an explanation as to how that works. Which is funny considering this is coming from a community that needs no explanation on how a humanoid can fly, crawl up walls or ‘be prepared for everything’, yet simple proven science eludes them. If that wasn’t enough, Marvel decided to kill Wolverine and then this week Thor will be taken on in a female form and Captain America’s boots will be filled in by a Black man.
If there was a collective shit that could literally be lost by the internet, many regional DPWs would be calling in for international disaster relief.
Predictably, many of the forums and groups that have discussed these changes usually follows a pattern of 1. A thread which can stretch as long as 100 to 500 comments including 2. Someone saying ‘why does this have to change? just leave the character alone and stop being lazy!” followed by 3. “OMG!! Stop the pandering which then is followed by a question of 4. What is wrong with the change and how can you judge something before you read it along with 5. Who cares it’s all about sales and eventually it will change back and if your attention stays with these discussions long enough someone eventually will troll the thread and then the racists and sexists will be called out and then pandemonium ensues.
Now…let’s ask ourselves. What are we getting wrong with having a lot of these discussions?
- Fear of change – the most common element I have seen in many of these arguments is that someone will ALWAYS say that ‘this isn’t the XYZ character I grew up on!”. And you know what? You are right. But, guess what. If you are over the age of 15, 20, or 30, 10 times out of 10, that character ‘you grew up on’ isn’t the same character you grew up on. HA! But it’s amazing how many people argue on that point when a sweeping physical change to their character is made. Let’s note that these characters ‘don’t belong’ to any of us so unless you are willing to create your character and a universe, it belongs to all of us. Something a friend of mine brought up this week and this is part of the reason why a lot of us are resistant to change not only in comics but in comic book movies as well. Iconic relativity. When we get so used to a set of characters and their surroundings that any changes not in line with what we are used to occurs in a jarring manner we immediately rail against it. People who vehemently rail against Man of Steel is a good example especially those who argue that the ‘old’ Superman movies were better regardless of how flawed those older movies are compared to now.
- Antipathy of the Change because it will revert back – Actually I put blame on comic book companies for this. Because we are so used to a certain status quo, when changes are made one of the first things that many of us (including myself) will say is, ‘It doesn’t matter because it won’t last. And usually that is the case. No matter how well written something is, because fans aren’t big on change, the Big Two don’t have balls big enough to make then stick and always caving in to keep fans. A great example was Superior Spider-Man. Dan Slott’s work was a master stroke but as predicted, that change which had so many people bent out of shape because ‘it wasn’t their Peter Parker’ was returned right on time with the movie. And yes, I said it. The Big Two does not have enough balls to see a progression through. Look at when Dick Grayson became Batman or any other monumental changes happened in comics. In most cases rather than seeing stories through they were changed because the Big Two let sales dictate their direction. It’s understandable, but seriously, some of these characters have stayed stagnant for 70+ years and as much as I hear people while and complain about instead of making Johnny Storm black or Thor a woman, create a new character, I don’t see these same people supporting new characters when they come about. How many of these people supported Static? Obviously not enough since the book was cancelled in less than a year.
- No understanding of history – This is my one pet peeve about people who rail against change. if you have been around long enough, you saw who created a lot of these characters and the fact that these characters emulated the times that we lived in. So being that 50 to 60 years ago, white males dominated the comic scene, why is it so hard for comic geeks (in a community that claims to be accepting of all who are different) to let comic characters of today become a mirror of the times that we live in? It may seem like pandering but let’s be real. It’s hard to sell someone on a series of comics or movies or anything when they see nothing of themselves in those stories. So yeah, count me as one of those that are ok with Sam Wilson becoming Cap if even for a short while. But the problem is still much deeper as people of color and other sexes still have yet to make a serious dent into the employ of Marvel or DC which is why we don’t get to see those new characters come about that some of you think will end this problem of your favorite characters getting some color or changing sex.
- Judging before you read – My friend Brandy said something that was very much on point today:
“I really wish people would just shut up and read a few issues of something before they decide they’re not going to like it. Because it’s not that either Thor or Cap are being changed. Other characters are picking up the mantle because for whatever reason, they can no longer continue at present. It’s not female Thor, it’s him being unworthy to wield Mjolnir and someone picking up his slack. It’s not Cap magically changing ethnicities, it’s someone close to him taking over because the idea of a Captain America means something and holds importance. It’s not a black Steve Rogers. It’s still Sam Wilson”
This goes back into everything that I said. Comic geeks are so afraid of change that they condemn stories before they give them a chance and then when they come about and are gone, some wish they still had them. I know a few people that still wish that Bruce Wayne stayed dead just a little longer or that Bucky still wielded that shield but sometimes, we have to realize, we and our dollars along with our fear are to blame. We have to understand that everything cannot always stay the same in comics yet they do. We have become a vocal many that fear progression so much to the point that we have scared comic companies to do our will and get mad when they try to think outside of the box. We are the same ones complaining that they are just pandering to get an audience and while we may quit Marvel today and go to DC tomorrow, some of you will be right back next week. Some of you guys out here really confuse me. Why? because some of the same ones who complain about comics keeps re-treading the same stories and need to change are the same ones that bitch and moan when a change is being made to shake things up. Please, either shit or get off the toilet and wash your hands please!
I think the biggest problem is as I have said, we are afraid to let go of not only our characters but of our imaginations. Honestly look at what comic companies have done. Marvel created an Ultimates universe where if you didn’t want ‘your’ original 616 characters messed with, you had a new sandbox with different rules over change and most of you stopped supporting it which is why pretty soon there won’t BE an Ultimates universe as it collapses into the 616. DC gave you Earth 2 for that same reason. There have been ‘What If’ books, Elseworlds and Max books that have tried to show a lot of you that progression and different rules can be applied but the support for these efforts have stuttered.
Stop being afraid of progression.
A current comic where the son of Superman IS Superman
Batman WAS Terry McGinnis or Damien Wayne
Spider-man stayed married and had a girl who…whoops YEAH WE DID THAT DIDN’T WE!!!!
Thor does eventually become the All-Father
Wonder Woman passes the lasso on to Donna Troy and DONNA takes the mantle
Wolverine and Bucky STAYED DEAD
Storm and Black Panther had children and they ALL got their own comics (heck you want to create some new characters and also slow down minority characters taking over your ‘so called’ traditional roles, hook those two up and let them have some kids. It worked for the Fantastic Four!)
CHARACTER DEATHS WERE PERMANENT. CHARACTER AGING WAS PERMANENT
Now just imagine all of these things happening because comic creators made a a de facto rule that progression had to happen and reboots would stop being used to get out of crummy story situations.
Let me pause a sec while some of you lose it again trying to imagine such a thing happening…
Meanwhile digest what Tom Brevoort had to say about this change and why some of US need to change as well:
“While Sam shares many of Steve’s beliefs in a general sense, he’s also a very different person with a very different background. He didn’t grow up in the 1930s, he’s a modern day man in touch with the problems of the 21st Century. For most of his professional life, Sam has worked as a social worker, so he’s seen the worst of urban society up close, and how crime, poverty, lack of social structure and opportunity can affect the community. So he’s got perhaps a greater focus on the plight of the common man, and perhaps a greater empathy for the underprivileged than maybe even Steve himself. He’s also not a military man, so he’s more apt to be instinctively skeptical of any situation that calls for just following orders. Sam, like Steve, will be led by his personal morality and beliefs as to what is right and what is wrong—and where his beliefs may differ in their shading from those of the previous Cap are where the interesting stories will be found.”
Most of us have forgotten that most importantly, comic characters are SYMBOLS. Regardless as to who is under the mask, carries a hammer or has a life dissimilar to our own, there is something to that character that we all find relatable and occasionally those characters need to change as WE change. Someone commented that there is only ‘One Cap’ to me today. Captain America has been a symbol that has changed through out time and has also been the mantle worn by more than one. There has been a time even that Steve Rogers himself went without being Captain America which indeed shown that change happens because our changes happen as well so the characters becomes what is most needed by people of this day and age. Let’s be real, captain America punchin’ ‘those dirty gooks’ doesn’t play well today, right?
Progression in comics will only happen when comic geeks give up the notion that these characters ‘belong to them’ and should never change. We are still stuck in a cycle where some of the same stories have been told and retold and in a larger frame nothing is different but these are different times we live in and it’s way past time that our comics reflect the times we live in…unless what some of you are saying that the times we live in should still be dominated by the same ones who created the characters 50, 60 and 70 years ago.
So those of you still flipping out over these changes, let it go. You don’t need an explanation every time as to why a character is being changed. Either support the book, buy another or if you got the guts, create your own just the way you like it. And if you like the change, SUPPORT IT. Because if it was good, when it goes back to the same status quo, it may be a long time before you see something like this ever again.