Blah Blah Blog – More on How Far Is Too Far

A follow-up post from my old Marvel blog concerning when a character or series diverges too far away from what made it work in the first place.

Another big, busy day today–but I promised you all some content today, and I will not disappoint.

So let’s talk a little more about “How Far Is Too Far.” A couple people voiced some opinions and responses a day or two back that should lead the discussion into interesting areas.

>You’re basically saying “Unless a move instantly brings the sales of a character’s book crashing down [since that would be the sky falling], it’s not too far.” Myself, I would say the standard should be a little stricter than that. Telling Wolverine’s origin has unquestionably made him less mysterious. Doing an ongoing series about his origins even more so. Sales haven’t crashed, but is he a less compelling character for it? I think many people would say so, especially since his unknown background was one of the things that made him unique among superheroes. >

No, I’m not saying that this is a binary condition, and that only the most extreme reactions are possible. But I am saying that I don’t worry at all about any reactions beyond the extremes, because good stories will always win out. You say that telling Wolverine’s origin has made him less mysterious. Perhaps–but is that a bad thing? I think that the material revealed in ORIGIN opens up avenues for new stories. Whether those stories are good or bad depends on the skills of the people telling them. But holding dogmatically to a scenario in which you can never truly reveal anything important about Wolverine’s mysterious past (though you can tease it to death ad infinitum) isn’t a healthy place for the character long term either. People are interested in the mystery because they want to know the answer. The point at which they figure out that they’ll never know the answer is the point at which they stop investing their time and energy into the character and the books. The trick is for every revelation or reversal of this nature to open up avenues for new stories thereafter.

>In regards to the Green Goblin, I agree 100%. That was a pretty foolish move, one that did rob the original story of it’s meaning and impact. Much like the return of Aunt May ruined the fabulous J M Dematties story in which she died. >

You know, left to my own devices, I wouldn’t have done either of these stories (nor would I have done the story in which Aunt May died, for that matter.) But I also think that, in both cases, a greater good of some kind was served. In the case of the Green Goblin, Norman’s return gave Spider-Man back his ultimate villain. No matter how many other guys you put in a Goblin costume, none of them were the equal of the genuine article–none of them have the history. And I think the Marvel Universe has been enriched by Norman’s presence over the last decade, even though I wish it hadn’t been necessary to overturn that original story in the first place. Likewise, I think the role of Aunt May in the Spidey mythos is an important one. Marc DeMatteis’ story was great, but I think it did lasting damage to the series in the long term–it subtracted elements and story possibilities, rather than adding them. So the story that brought Aunt May back was almost nonsensical, but it was a necessary evil in order to gain access to those story possibilities again. And certainly, JMS has made great use of having Aunt May in Spidey’s life. That’s the trade-off.

>I believe that Wolverine’s memory return has also served to cheapen the character. The Wolverine Origins series has to be one of the most frustrating books that I have ever encountered. It’s whole premise is “oh wait, there’s another Big Secret around the corner, just buy ONE more issue.” There is no satisfaction in any of the Big Secrets and nothing of quality really happens. The character is not being truly enriched and advanced. >

In this case, though, your problem isn’t with the change in Wolverine’s status quo–that he now remembers everything that’s happened to him in his life–but in the follow-up stories that are being crafted.

>They first hooked up in Byrne’s run while the Thing was away on the Secret Wars planet, and they got married in #300.>

I think the real mistake here was in having them get married. Johnny and Alicia becoming an item was an interesting twist on the classic set-ups, and led interesting places. But once you married them, you cemented that relationship into a static place, and made the Torch older and more “adult” by necessity, and that robbed him of some of the essential elements of his character.

(Also, for the record, Lyja is not Johnny’s ex-wife, not in any legal or moral sense. She married him posing as somebody else, under false pretenses. No church or court in the land would consider them married in any genuine sense of the term.)

>Isn’t “Elektra Lives Again” out of continuity, though? As I understand it, Elektra’s in-continuity return happened in either D.G. Chichester’s “Daredevil” run or in the “Elektra: Root of Evil” (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, Elektra fans and DD faithful)>

No, Frank brought Elektra back to life at the end of his original run, in DAREDEVIL #190, wherein we see the resurrected Elektra, now clad in the white version of her costume, scaling a mountain.

Okay, today is also Wednesday, which means it’s time for the Brevoort office selection of the week. We’ve got a number of titles in stores today, but there’s really little choice from my point of view as to what the Marvel Heroes Hotpick of the Week has to be–and that’s DOCTOR STRANGE: THE OATH #1. Brian Vaughan presents a vision of Doc that’s grounded in reality and stems from the background of the character. It’s simultaneously classic and fresh. And Marcos Martin’s artwork channels the strengths of a David Mazzucchelli while still doing its own thing. Seriously, this is one of the best comics to come out of my office in many months, and I couldn’t be happier with it. So if you’ve got an extra three bucks to spare–the Doctor is in!

More later.

Tom B

6 thoughts on “Blah Blah Blog – More on How Far Is Too Far

  1. “No matter how many other guys you put in a Goblin costume, none of them were the equal of the genuine article–none of them have the history.” Substitute “Goblin” w/ a hero name, & this echoes other arguments. One answer is that you create new history. It wasn’t history in ’64. It became history, historic, memorable, because of the reaction of readers. Do it again. “House of Ideas”, right?


    1. Yes, I can understand the argument for resurrecting Aunt May but the book survived more than two decades without Norman. He ain’t indispensable. And I never really liked much of what they did with him after that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. While I take your point about mysteries, I don’t think they do all need to be solved. DC’s Black Orchid was far more interesting as a hero of completely unknown secrets (and the guessing games that resulted) than the origin Gaiman gave her (I don’t think any origin would have worked). Giving the Phantom Stranger an official origin, ditto. But that’s something to judge on a case-by-case basis — I certainly wouldn’t make it a blanket principle.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Agreed on the Phontom Stranger. His 80s “Secret Origns” issue offered multiples.

    Though I did like Gaiman’s “Black Orchid” a lot. It opened up dozens if story possibilities, since she can imitate any human skin tone, any ethnicity.

    He wrote something about when a DC editor asked him if there was a character he’d like to write, the answer confused the editor. DC didn’t have a “Black Hawk Kid”. 😅 Based on Neil ‘s English accent. Lol


  4. So Hank Pym and Janet Van Dybe were never legally married? I know there are different details but my mind went right to lucky Jan not having to pay any alimony!


    1. Yes the fact her big issue in marrying Hank while he’s completely delusional is “So it’s legal even if he’s using the pseudonym Yellowjacket” is nuts. But a lot of that issue is nuts.


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