I Feels Me Another Comic Book Rant a-Comin

Reading this insightful column triggered another spasm of postmodern stress disorder in yours truly.

The column compared and contrasted the excellent handling of certain themes in the anime MY HERO ACADEMIA versus the brain rot that has set in at DC and Marvel, where nothing matters because any comic character can be brought back from the dead, or ushered in from a parallel universe, or reset when the next round of now routine new reboots ramps up.

Now, in all fairness, I think any anime that has only a year or so of story telling under its belt has a bit of an advantage over Marvel or DC comic lines: it has not been going ever onward for 50 years.

For DC to avoid a rut or endless reboots or a multiverse solution to every problem takes more effort and imagination than a younger and more nimble story universe.

That said, I thought the column’s criticisms of the brainrot at Marvel are spot on. Marvel is not even trying to be imaginative and fend off the rut.

Marvel is addicted to temporary sales boosts garnered when the muggles hear about a new Political Correct character meant to shock the imaginary Victorians  all waggish Political Correctness is forever trying to shock. (Too bad the targets of the shock passed away a century ago.)

They have given up on story telling.

Hero stories are about agony, about overcoming failure, about getting up again when you have been knocked flat — Uncle Ben killed, born a hated mutant, home planet destroyed, parents shot in the alley behind the theater, exiled from Paradise Island, heart failure while captured by the enemy, shipwrecked on hellish island, car accident ruins brilliant surgeon career — need I go on?

Political Correctness is about treating certain people as mascots or pets and petting those people with endless affirmations of praise, but never praise that is earned. It is all about unconditional praise, and unearned reward. Or, worse, about getting praise for committing vices, usually sexual vices.

Well, gushing is not story telling. And flattering your mascots is impossible if the character has to suffer to grow.

And the praise always has to be taken AWAY from some ungood majority figure to be given to the mascot figure. It is not enough to have Marvel’s Valkyrie or Lady Sif kicking major Nordic butt, but Thor has to become Lady Thor.

It is not enough for James Rhodes to put on the armor and be Iron Man (for those of you old enough to remember Secret Wars). Nor is it enough for Pepper Potts to get her own suit of flying armor. Nope, Riri Williams has to put on the iconic suit and be Iron Man.

Iron Girl. Iron Afroamerican. Iron Twofer. Whatever. Who cares?

Falcon has actually always been a favorite character of mine, and so has Luke Cage, and so has (not ashamed to admit it) Night Thrasher. Not because they are Black, but because they are awesome.

Is Night Thrasher an absurd ripoff of Batman? Yes, so what? Batman is an absurd ripoff of The Shadow. He is a guy who is so hardcore that he goes out to fight supercriminals armed with nothing but his kick-but ninja skills and his — wait for it — razor edged bulletproof skateboard! Say what you will, the guy sasses off Juggernaut while armed with a skateboard. He’s got cajones.

And this was not some sidekick or whatnot. He was the leader of the team. What made him a good character was his attitude, not his powers. He was cut from the same dark cloth as the Punisher, and maybe once or twice he stepped over the line. (I also liked the design of his hightech ninja armor).

In the movie Falcon was twice as cool as in the comics — I like the winged jetpack and never liked the pet bird. He was even cool when Ant Man was kicking his butt.

But sticking Falcon into the Captain America suit, and calling him Cap? Why not just have him be Falcon?

Miles Morales? Really? Why not call him some other name, Electroshock, or whatever, and make him cool on his own, if you have what it takes to make him a cool character.

What does it take?

It takes an understanding of human emotion and the innate tragic insight into human nature.

Stan Lee, believe it or not, had it, and so did Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. It is a crucial mistake, a snob’s error, to think that illustrated stories aimed at a juvenile audience automatically lack a storyteller’s genius. Indeed, since juvenile stories need to be stripped down for an inexperienced audience to understand, some approach the elegant simplicity of mythology.

Superman is Hercules from Space; Aquaman is Neptune, and, in recent incarnations, complete with trident; Flash is Mercury and the first incarnation put Mercury’s winged cap on his head. Green Arrow is Robin Hood and dresses like him.

The Marvel pantheon mingles modern with mythic. Hulk is both Frankenstein’s Monster and Dr. Jekyll. The Thing is the Beast from Beauty and the Beast, with his monstrous outside and heart of gold. And Thor? Thor is Thor. He started as mythic from the get-go.

Spiderman suffers as much as Odysseus, and he even gets mocked and hated in his own home and workplace as Odysseus did when he returned disguised as a beggar. (But Spiderman is also more typical of the American ideal than any Old World mythical character: he is unique.)

Iron Man likewise is a New World mythic character. He is what technology makes the modern man: a superhuman and invincible power, but his heart, his life now depends on it, and traps him.

The understanding of human nature can reach down to characters previously bland and ignored, and give them the depth and charm to attract the reader. It is hard work, but it can be done.

Of of the least well known and well regarded characters in the entire Marvel pantheon was Rocket Raccoon. No one, except for the most hard core of hard core fans, knew what he was. (And I was a regular reader of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY back when you young whippersnappers where in knee pants). But the movie made him awesome. Now he is A-List. Everyone knows him.

You want good minority heroes? You want good heroines? If so, you would write them to be good.

But they do not want to make new character as true and heroic and sound as Iron Man, Captain America, Spiderman, Thor.

No. Political Correctness just wants to tear down, to slander, to mock, to destroy. Is is a philosophy of nihilism.

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