The greatest tidal wave of Internet outrage has come from DC's new contest - and while asking artists to draw Harley Quinn naked and suicidal is definitely not the worst item on the company's social sensitivity rap sheet, it's really not helping. (Next up: Batman sobbing helplessly as he masturbates to a Leave It to Beaver rerun! Ha-HAAaaaaa!)
The second wave of the PR shit-nami has come as DC vetoed Batwoman's marriage to her long-term partner - while being careful to articulate that they are not objecting to lesbian superhero marriage, but superhero marriage across the board. (And yes, dear reader: even Aquaman.)
Which brings us, rather retroactively, to A Lee Martinez's latest post. He calls it Continuing Drama vs. The Dreaded Third Act, and opens with this:
(I highly recommend clicking over to read the whole thing - it's a humdinger of a thesis.)
For all the publicity it's garnering at the moment, DC's weird, regressive Peter-Panning just shines a brighter spotlight on an issue that's been endemic to franchise fiction pretty much since the get-go: namely, that you've set up a system that pits your brand against your story - and the brand wins every time.
Would it be interesting to see Spider-Man get his Act Three? It certainly was back when they called it The Incredibles.
But if we actually let Spider-Man grow and change as a character, we'd eventually run out of Spider-Man stories to tell - and Happily Ever After does not sell comic books, action figures, or kids' underoos.
So we have to keep the machine going. Superman and James Bond and Dr. Who have been so calcified by time and money that their adventures will never, ever end - we'll just keep swapping out their puppeteers as needed. And the more closely a supporting character orbits that fixed heroic center of their universe, the less they will be allowed to change. (Killing off Squid-Boy? No problem. But Jean Grey just can't stay dead.)
That is the part that sticks in my craw. When you know going into the story that the good guy can't achieve final victory OR die trying - that the Earth will not get blown up, or stay blown up if it does - that any substantial growth the hero has to do already happened back in his origin story - it feels like... well, kind of like how my good buddy Ike probably feels when he bumps up against the aquarium wall. You know, like the story should be moving you forward into consequences, costs, changes, fallout - but there's something artificial holding you back. (Or in the case of mainstream comics' chronic retconjuration, letting you move forward and then teleporting you back.)
|It's like some kind of invisible force field...!|
Not that we shouldn't ask for our favorite series to become more progressive, more inclusive.
Just that if they seem to be terminally stuck in the 1960s, it's because that's where they came from... and if they seem to be hell-bent on staying there, we might ought to quit spending so much energy ranting and begging and shaming them to move forward, and start putting our love and money into series that already have.
I hear Image Comics is lovely this time of year.
He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion.