Blah Blah Blog – How Far is Too Far?

An entry from my Marvel blog of days gone by talking about the resiliency of the characters and determining which aspects of them are up for grabs and mutable, and which are inviolate. It’s still a pretty good question.

How Far is Too Far?

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

How far is too far?

This is a question that we in the storytelling business ask ourselves all the time–especially when it comes to serial storytelling of the sort practiced at Marvel. How far is too far? Are there some stories that should not be told?

I’m not speaking of stories with dicey subject matter–of course a Fantastic Four incest storyline would be unacceptable. No, I’m talking more about the canon of the characters as it pertains to future stories. There are imaginary storytelling boundaries that we erect for ourselves, certain truths that we hold to be self-evident. But are they, really? Or is that simply comfort talking?

I mean, we told the origin of Wolverine, when everybody thought that would ruin the character forevermore–and the sky did not fall. Jean Grey came back from the dead, as did Elektra, as did Norman Osborn, as did Bucky. And the sky, she is still up there. Spider-Man got married. Sky, still blue.

So what are the boundaries? There are story ideas that immediately make my toes curl, and yet I’ve got to constantly analyze why my toes react in this way, and if that reaction is valid. By the same token, there are times when we look in the rear view mirror and realize that we’ve gone too far in one direction or another–could those occasions have been avoided with more or greater self-examination?

And in the end, the characters really only exist to entertain us. So long as they fulfill that function, does it matter if the Human Torch marries Alicia Masters? Or if the Torch isn’t a member, but a cute flying robot is? Or if it’s not a space flight into cosmic rays that gives the team their powers but instead they’re on board a space station? Or experimenting with teleportation? Everybody’s got their own feelings–and I’ve seen creators who are radicals on one story idea being arch-conservatives on another. So who is right?

How far is too far?

More later.

Tom B

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6 thoughts on “Blah Blah Blog – How Far is Too Far?

  1. Good question! I never did think Spider-man getting married was a good idea and still don’t to this day, but as the character slowly lost it’s interest for me after Stan left the writing duties I guess it’s a bit of a moot point. I think the Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborne affair went too far because it just seemed to sully her legacy and what it brought to the book. It seemed to turn something that was romantic and wonderful with a heart breaking ending into something cheap and sordid and lessened the legacy at the same time. I guess some people will stoop to any level to sell a book for a quick buck and shame on all involved IMHO. But as you say, life goes on and we’re still here – the book still sells and will continue to do so.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hydra Cap was too far. Having an evil, “other” Steve Rogers take over the USA? Please. You guys and your bowling pins. Set em up, knock em down, then reset like nothing happened.

    Fans are encouraged to get swept up in order to buy every title, every tie-in and spin-off. But then we’re written off as too passionate or raking it too seriously (“it’s only comics, get over it”) when an event or twist fails and we revolt.

    You can do world take overs on alternate earth’s, like rhe Squadron Supreme. Experiments in world size laboratories. Hydra Cap could be been handled that way. “What If…”

    But not in the main MU, which used to be sold to us as “our universe”, the world outside our window. I even think large scale alien invasions are too far. Anything that would actually be on, or surpass the scale of 9/11.


  3. I know the fundamentals and the concept of “getting the character” are ephemeral at best to describe, but I do feel that when the character ceases to be anything like their previous incarnations, the concept has gone too far. I’m sure there are plenty of ways to contradict what I’m describing, but for me, an example would be if after someone murders Aunt May in cold blood, Spidey begins a killing spree firing extra-dense web bullets out of his webshooters and even brandishing a gun and eventually turn into a Spider-Punisher and continuing his rampage indefinitely. MAYBE I could see him lash out and kill someone in the event of Aunt May or MJ’s death, but even if that occurred, I could see Spidey plagued with the guilt for years and not just turn into a stone cold murderer forever after.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. God, yeah, I remember that too (unfortunately). Aunt May used to be so frail that she could have a heart attack and die at any time – that, along with Spidey keeping his identity a secret, was a mainstay, but now we have May donning a suit and not even a palpitation. But I still bought and read them…

      Liked by 1 person

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