Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Power internalization

I was going to say that Power Internalization is a pretty hot topic these days, but then I could only find the Absorbascon's post on the subject. Could've sworn that Snark Free Waters did something on it recently too...some blog did, anyway, I swear.

Okay, point: I don't totally mind power internalization, particularly in the DCU. F'r instance, Alan Scott's internalization of the Starheart makes pretty decent sense: the magic energy had affected him enough to imprint itself on his children, and he later totally internalized it when he became Sentinel. Then, in JSA we learn that he no longer really has a physical body, and that he is keeping himself alive through sheer willpower.

If ever you doubted who the most awesome Green Lantern was, doubt no more. Hal's Corps needed a special reservoir of backup power to keep the Lanterns alive in life-or-death situations, Kyle's power ran out the more he used it, but Alan Scott's body gave out before his ring did, and he still kept going.

Then, in the DCU, you've got that grand MacGuffin, the Metagene. Marvel came up with "Mutant" as an excuse for developing powers without a real origin, but DC did 'em one better. Take the basic concept of the Marvel mutants (superhuman abilities coded into the genetic structure), remove the major restrictions (Mutants develop during puberty; the Metagene can become active at any time, or may remain wholly inactive and recessive), and give it a couple of disbelief-suspending twists (the metagene tends to activate in times of stress or duress; the powers it bestows are typically linked to the way in which it is activated) to further ease the burden of origin-building, and you've got a universe with a built-in system of developing superpowers. What's more, it's hereditary.

So I can accept that Black Lightning internalized his electrical belt: he had the metagene, and it was activated by prolonged exposure or a specific exposure to his lightning belt. I can accept that Wally West's metagene, influenced by his idolization of Barry Allen and the conditions under which it was activated, gave him a connection to the speed force in that one-in-a-trillion accident. The mechanism of power internalization is built into the DC universe.

But what about the Marvel universe? In the Marvel universe, you usually get your powers from artifacts, magic, serums, the X-gene (or being a Mutant), or radiation. Or some combination of the above. Marvel doesn't have a metagene that can get activated as the plot necessitates. You don't see Falcon sprouting real wings, or Tony Stark suddenly developing the power to make his armor spontaneously appear on him. Captain America has never internalized his shield, though he did end up with that energy shield for awhile. In fact, I'm really hard-pressed to think of any Marvel examples of power internalization.

So, why begin the trend with Spider-Man?

That's right, this is another rant about organic web-shooters.

You know, I'll believe that irradiated spider venom will give a man spider-powers. I'll believe that a teenager can invent an advanced polymer of incredible strength, elasticity, and biodegradability, which can be stored in compressed canisters until it hardens upon hitting the air. I'll accept that he can invent bracelets to fire that fluid in directed, variable streams. What I find hard to accept is that some weird spider-serum would give him (conveniently) spinnerets exactly where the nozzles on his shooters were, shooting webbing that has the exact same properties as the stuff he developed himself. In the DCU, I might be able to accept that. I'd find it overly convenient and dumb, but I could accept it. But in the Marvel universe? No, that supersaturates my suspension of disbelief.

And then, in "Spider-Man: House of M," Peter is demonstrating for his son how he shoots his organic web-shooters (which he has for some reason in this universe, despite the fact that he never became a superhero and should never have fought the Queen who gave him the mutative serum thing), which is by tapping his palm twice, the same way he activated the original web-shooter mechanism. Even the mechanism for activating the spinnerets is the same? Come on! This is worse than Wolverine's bone claws; at least that was a semi-plausible retcon! This is just an overly convenient way to get Spider-Man more like his celluloid counterpart, and take away the most readily apparent sign of his intellect. Oh, and to give him Aquaman's powers, but with insects (despite the fact that he's an arachnid. Details, details...).

Someday, when I'm a bigshot comic writer, I'm going to write Spider-Man, and the first story I'm going to tell when they give me carte blanche with the Spider-verse is the one that gets rid of these ridiculous changes and brings Spidey back down to something that resembles earth. No more weird mysticism, no more New Avengers, no more cosmic threats, just Peter Parker as schoolteacher and freelance photographer, with a superheroic secret identity, a killer rogues gallery, and a host of problems both in and out of costume. I'd get him out after street crimes and normal human criminals and helping children and civilians and trying to get the city to respect him, all while working at a New York Public School, trying to help students get through the same problems that he had in High School. Maybe he'd even realize how far removed he is from the problems that plagued his teenage life, being a genius married to a supermodel these days.

But that's a ways off. Today, I guess I just get to grouse about how moronic these changes are, and how they really oughtn't work in the Marvel universe. Power internalization ain't a bad thing. I think it has fairly simplified Black Lightning and has made Alan Scott a more compelling, interesting character. When power internalization makes sense within the context of the character and the universe, when it adds to the character, it's not necessarily a bad thing. If handled poorly, sure, you end up with the Red Bee firing killer bees out of his fingertips or something.
But when the internalization is unnecessary, implausible, overly confusing, or damaging to the character, then you end up with short-lived Flash villain Replicant or Spider-Man's organic web-shooters. DC has given its characters an automatic plausibility quotient with the metagene, but Marvel has no such mechanism, leaving them with an extra hurdle to overcome. Marvel also seems to have fewer internalizations, and it appears that that, without the metagene, that hurdle is nigh-insurmountable.

If this is what passes for power internalization at Marvel, then I hope they continue the trend of not internalizing their characters' powers.

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1 comment:

Jon said...

Yeah, I was bitching about the very same thing a couple weeks ago. I didn't even factor for the metagene, honestly. That makes Black Lightning make more sense, but it still smacks of laziness in terms of origins.


The only Spider-Man I read is when he pops up in Marvel Team-Up or, like, She-Hulk. I didn't even know about the organic webshooters until they got a mention in Spider-Man/Human Torch. It's a silly idea.