Blah Blah Blog – Evolve or Don’t

A post from my old Marvel blog responding to something John Byrne had posted over on his forum at the time.


Evolve or Don’t

April 28, 2007 | 1:00 AM | By Tom_Brevoort | In General

We all knew it would come to this eventually. I saw a bit of an interesting discussion excerpted from the John Byrne message board last night, which got me thinking. During the discourse, John gave a list of story elements he feels should not be used in writing stories about mainstream super hero characters. That list includes:

>Resurrections of characters whose deaths were
central to the lead character’s origin.

Deaths of characters because “there are no more
stories to tell.”

Revelations of previously unknown siblings (99.99%
of the time),

Revelations of “hidden agendas” in origin stories.

In general, retcons that turn central characters into
different people than we thought they were.

Marriages.

Births.

Divorces.

(Basically, any stories that create distinct “moments
in time”.)>

Now, John goes on to freely admit that he himself has produced stories that would fit many of these categories, but that, as he’s grown older and more seasoned, he sees these types of stories as a mistake. But this made me wonder: once you eliminate these elements and their derivatives from consideration, would there be any worthwhile stories left to tell?

Certainly, you could still do the typical 1950s stories about a gimmicky villain committing theme- or mystery-based crimes, or stories in which a hero safeguards the secret of his true identity or the status quo. And you could do general adventure yarns that wouldn’t materially affect the characters in any meaningful way, but simply provide an enjoyable thrill ride.

But to me, the most interesting aspect of the serialized types of stories that Marvel pioneered is the fact that the characters can grow and change over time–even though, every once in a while, a character grows in an ill-considered direction. I think a lot of the appeal for readers of long duration (and one of the aspects that makes a reader stick around for that length of time) is the fact that things aren’t absolutely static.

And ironically enough, the arena in which the paradigm John hints at is played out the most is in the Ultimate universe, which was designed from its inception to be a place where the “classic” status quos of its characters are maintained (so you’ll never see Peter Parker graduate high school, etc.) The Ultimate line has done quite well for itself despite the limitations (and admittedly, those limitations aren’t as severe as what John proposes.)

On another topic entirely, yesterday a question came up during our bantering in the office, and I want to throw it out to the larger audience to see what kinds of answers we get: who is the most famous person in the world today? It must be a living person, not a fictional entity or somebody who has died. Who is the most well-known individual on the planet today?

More later.

Tom B

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