Saturday, August 12, 2006

Things I want to see more of in comics

Just as the title says, these are things that I don't see enough of, or have never seen at all, which ought to be far more prominent. Let's just jump right in.

Peter Parker's feelings of inadequacy
Mary Jane Watson-Parker has issues. I've seen her as a struggling actress, a struggling supermodel, a model struggling to be recognized as an actress and to be seen as more than just a hot body, a woman struggling with addiction, a wife struggling with her husband's demanding career, a daughter struggling with abusive parents, and a victim struggling with a vague violation by Venom. In all of these cases, invariably she comes back to either a worry that Peter will not accept or understand her, or comfort in the knowledge that he loves her and will be there for her.
What I don't often see is the other side of the story. Sure, MJ's got some emotional baggage and issues with affection which cause some measure of insecurity in her relationship, but what about Peter? Peter Parker was a high school dweeb who never made it with the ladies 'til a spider bit him near the wrist (okay, okay, no more song parodies), he had a few flings, and more drama than most high school dweebs ever manage to work up, but he never really stopped being a guilt-ridden awkward wallflower. We see with decent regularity Peter musing about how lucky he is to have such a wonderful wife. What we don't see is the feelings of inadequacy he ought to have, at least once in awhile. Sure, he's a superhero, but he's a dorky high school teacher and photographer, and he's married to a moderately successful supermodel actress. Where are the thought bubbles that say "how'd I pull that off?" and "I don't deserve her" and all that?
I'm not saying that I think Peter should doubt his relationship, or that there should be unnecessary drama between the two. I'm saying as a high school dweeb that these are thoughts that float through a dweeb's mind when he's with a wonderful significant other. Spider-powers or not, you never totally get over being the guy at the dance without a date, or a dance, or dancing talent. Peter loves MJ, and MJ loves Peter, and that shouldn't change. But, as much as Peter ought to thank his lucky stars that he's with such a wonderful, beautiful woman, the natural corrolary is wondering if he's worthy enough to maintain such a relationship, if he's not dragging her down or holding her back or making her unnecessarily unhappy. I'm sure that Peter wants, above all things, to make MJ happy, and he knows that there's the possibility that accomplishing that task means setting her free.
And that's a story that can't be told with a single Peter Parker, thank you very much Joe Quesada.

Superman smiling
Strangely enough, Superman isn't Spider-Man (I know this comes as a surprise to you, Chuck Austen). Superman should, at the end of the day, enjoy his life. He has two good jobs doing things that he loves, he has a loving family, a wonderful wife, and the most super friends in the universe. He's beloved by the whole world, but he can still head out to the farm and till a field in the peace and quiet.
Despite all this, it's not often that you see Superman smiling. Thanks to Kurt Busiek and the other folks involved with the wonderful Superman comics of late, this has changed somewhat. I hope the change remains around for awhile. Sure, stern looks and angry-silhouette-with-glowing-red-eyes have their place in Superman stories too. But, when he's just flying around or saving kittens or sliding into bed at the end of the night, he ought to be grinning.
Because for Superman, life is swell.

CSI Batman
Ever notice that the World's Greatest Detective's usual idea of detective-ing involves little more than hanging some thug up from a half-constructed building by his ankles, and forcing the information out of him? Yeah, me too. While that makes for a cool visual and whatnot, used as frequently as it is, it makes Batman look fairly inept at the thing he's supposedly best at. Let's have less dangling and more detecting. You know, looking for clues, picking up trace evidence, running things though the Bat-computer, that sort of thing. It may not be visually stunning, but after awhile, neither is the same-old, same-old intimidation.
Come on, Batman, show us your mad skills.

Magneto vs. Nazis
I've got an upcoming post about Marvel villains, and this kind of spun out of that line of thinking. Magneto was held in the concentration camp at Auschwitz. His experiences there have really shaped his quest to assert Mutant superiority over the human race. He saw a group of humans, the Nazis, imprison him for being part of the "inferior" Jewish race. As an adult he seeks a child's revenge, asserting his race as superior and his former oppressors as inferior, except that he equates the Nazis with all humans, and takes "homo sapiens superior" as his race.
That being said, it's still the Nazis who imprisoned him and killed his family. And if there's one thing the Marvel Universe has in abundance, it's Nazis. One would think that, despite his desire to wipe out all of humanity, he'd have a special hatred reserved for Hitler's followers. Has Magneto really gone forty-plus years without teaming up with (off the top of my head) the Red Skull, Baron Zemo, Baron Strucker, Arnim Zola, or the Hate Monger? If he has met up with Marvel's Nazis, why are any of them still alive? I want to see Magneto beating the Red Skull--not with magnetic powers, mind you, but with his bare fists, desperately pummeling him for the suffering he endured. And I want Captain America to be watching, and completely at a loss as to which one he should help.
And that's an X-Men book, or an Avengers book, I'd actually buy.


CalvinPitt said...

Regarding Spider-Man, I recall a few times earlier in JMS' run where Peter would reflect on how lucky he is, and how much he loves Mary Jane, and wants to protect her, etc.

Of course, then JMS went completely off the rails, and now if Peter does any internal monolouging about women, it's always about how Gwen was his one true love and he misses her and this other b.s. I'm really sick of that. When I started reading Spider-Man (back in the DeFalco/Frenz and Peter David years) you never heard about Gwen. Peter wss with MJ, he loved her, he was happy. Or as happy as Peter ever gets.

What was wrong with that, Marvel?

As for Magneto vs. Nazis, Dave Campbell reviewed a Captain America comic from after "Acts of Vengeance" where Magneto confronts the Red Skull, wanting to know if he's the same one who worked with those damn Nazis. He is, and Mags chases him down. He doesn't pummel him, rather he leaves him in what looks like a storage cellar. The door won't open from the inside, and there's no ladder to reach it anyway. No light, no food, no way for Skull to call for help, just water to last for however long Magneto decides to leave him there.

I highly recommend finding the review, I don't do it justice.

Richard said...

I agree with everything you said.

Sadly, there have been times when Magneto did appear with the Red Skull and didn't kill him. We must assume Magneto was simply biding his time and waiting for the right moment to turn on his secret enemy...but that's an after-the-fact rationalization.

On a related note, there was a bit way back in Invaders issues 32 and 33 that absolutely delighted me, and I've never cared that it doesn't quite work with the flexible chronology of the Marvel universe. To wit: the Nazis are trying to bring Thor into our world to fight on the German side, and helping in this task we see a lab assistant with a completely bandaged face. At a crucial moment, this lab assistant sabotages the experiment and foils the plan...explaining that underneath his bandages, he's a Gypsy. He was there because he needed to see their equipment for his own purposes, but would never allow the Nazis to succeed. As he makes his escape, said lab assistant gets in a thought balloon to the effect that "The world hasn't heard the last of...Victor Von Doom!"

Now that's a righteous "fuck yeah" moment!

I'm also more than a little fond of the scene in the undeservedly obscure Big Town miniseries where a group of neo-Nazi "Odinists" organized by the Red Skull get served by Thor, who tells them "My father wouldn't have a single one of you join him in Valhalla!" Ooh, burn!

Your Obedient Serpent said...

CSI Batman. Sigh.

I grew up reading comics in the '70s, and, yes, the Bat-Panels that stand out from that era -- and thus define the Bat in my mind -- are where he pulls tweezers and test tubes from his Utility Belt to take samples and analyze them in the Batcave.

Five years of CSI topping the ratings with THREE DIFFERENT SHOWS, and DC hasn't figured out that there's a MARKET for this stuff?

I blame lazy writers. Bat-Thug Being Macho is easier to write than The World's Greatest Detective being smart and methodical.

The Bun said...

Everyone knows that I don't read comics unless Tom shoves them into my grubby little hands, She-Hulk being the exception, but seriously? CSI Batman would make a comic geek out of me.

Anonymous said...

Hey, sorry to post anonymously, but I don't have a blogger account (yet) and I don't feel like signing up for one for such a trivial post... but my name is Eric and I sell comics (I sell to TJ, even).

Everyone who bemoans the lack of detectiving in Batman, you gotta read Paul Dini's issues of Detective Comics post-haste. Only two are out, so it wouldn't be hard to catch up. Trust me, they bring the DETECTIVE back to Batman.

I'm honestly surprised no one has read those yet... are we perhaps too jaded to try new series?

Tom Foss said...

I picked up both of them, but I haven't had the chance to read them yet. I had a vague feeling that that might be the case.

Also, if you click the "other" button in the comment section here, you can post under your own name without having a blogger account, anonymous comic merchant :).

Anonymous said...

But, all your suggestions make sense, are entertaining, and fit the characters perfectly.

Why would they do that?

Spider Man: Peter Parker is way too busy being cloned, visiting alien planets, and worshipping spider-gods to have normal human emotions or act as an audience stand-in anymore.

Batman: Stars in Detective Comics and is nicknamed the World's Greatest Detective. What this means is that he has thought through all the possible ways to kill Superman.

Magneto: No way do Captain America and the Sub-Mariner team up with him to hunt Nazis or neo-Nazis. There is no inherent tension in that story, no rich character development possibilities, and no possibilities for three awesome M.U. players to totally wreck a colorful, popular enemy. Magneto and Captain America should also never fight because they have the exact same perspective on World War II and Cap never carries anything metal.

Anonymous said...

There was a backstory in Classic X-Men or something, with Magneto spending his pre-terrorist young adulthood hunting Nazis.

Also, I like the tensions inherent in Magneto's disconnect. He's a cynic that thinks humans will inevitably turn against mutants out of fear and envy, sinking to the same level of savagery as the Nazi death camps he experienced as a child, so he set's out to protect his people by -- conguering the world and setting mutants up as the master race, which of course encourages humans to hate and fear mutants.

Now what is Xavier's problem? He's spent however many years doing well nothing to actually promote peaceful coexistence between mutants and homo sapiens.

Anonymous said...

Despite all this, it's not often that you see Superman smiling. Thanks to Kurt Busiek and the other folks involved with the wonderful Superman comics of late, this has changed somewhat. I hope the change remains around for awhile.

Absolutely! I'm also thrilled with Busiek's take on Superman...after I'd almost given up that anyone knew how to write the character anymore. The last five to six years have been rough ones, with Superman alternating between a sulky hand-wringer or Anger Death-Bot with the glowing Terminator eyes.

Now, finally, someone with some real range as a writer shows up to save the day. Just in time.

Great blog, by the way. The title is perfect.

Anonymous said...

Magneto vs. Nazis

I'll take two, please. Hell, even an alternate sketch cover too.