Image: HBO

Hello, folks! Remember how I thought I was going to turn in a mail column last week after working 10 days in a row, most of which were spent covering the San Diego Comic-Con? Oh, to be so young and naive again. Hopefully this week makes up for it by answering why Fantastic Four movies don’t and can’t work in the modern superhero movie era, if it’s possible to worry about Jodie Whittaker’s new Doctor Who without being a sexist, and more.


Final Round of the Game

Robert E.:

The last few weeks I’ve felt like the uncool kid who doesn’t have anyone sitting by him for lunch, or the employee who got snubbed for after-hours drinks. The truly sad part is that this is an isolation of my own creation. Namely, I’m a big fan of the Game of Thrones books, but I’m passing on the TV show for now.

Hear me out — it’s not that I’m a complete snob that pretentiously rails against the boob tube or such. I understand that it’s a great series, and I’m eagerly looking forward to watching it one day. However, I began reading the books well over a decade ago. I fell in love with the complex world, massive cast and brutal politics, and I want to close the world the same way. Though the show is quality, it’s different. Translating a book to a TV show inherently changes things due to budget, casting, writing, executive whims and just the nature of going from words to images. I want to be able to read the final books and close out that version of Westeros before embracing — and, I’m sure, enjoying — another version.

Am I a complete idiot for doing so? Of course there’s the well-known frustration that comes with the great, bearded glacier writing his excellent work at a very slow pace. But on top of that, it’s getting harder and harder to avoid things that are probably spoilers for the books. Thanks to headlines and article summaries I’ll never know the true experience of discovering the secret behind Hodor’s name on the page, and thanks to things like “Bran’s a jerk now!” and “ooooh, this actor now has some free time!” I’m afraid I’ll pretty much have absorbed the basic skeleton of the future books by pop culture osmosis.

Should I hold out or should I give up and try to juggle two Westeroses?

You’re not an idiot for wanting to wait to watch the TV show before you finish the books, but trying to remain free of information from a storyline whose TV adaptation is one of the most popular, talked-about series in the world is a losing proposition.

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If you’re checking nerd news sites like io9, you are going to read headlines that discuss the show and will inevitably reveal details about the future of the series, especially as time goes on and major moments and plot points transform into “things that are essentially known by the bulk of the populace.” But Game of Thrones is so popular and it’s entered the zeitgeist so much that just about anyplace on the internet could let a Game of Thrones detail slip—a meme of Jon Snow fighting the Night King on one of Dany’s dragons (theoretically) could show up in the comments thread of some cooking website.

The show is so popular that you almost totally have to bury your head in the sand to truly avoid all spoilers, and that’s not close to feasible in this day and age, unless you were already thinking about moving to a small logging community with no cellphone service… and you refused to watch TV… and then ran away whenever you suspected one of your fellow lumberjacks might be approaching the topic. Actually, that’s not feasible at all, and if you thought it was difficult to avoid spoilers now, the show has basically entered its final act. Everyone is going to be talking about what just happened on Game of Thrones, all the time. (Case in point: There are some Game of Thrones spoilers below.)

And then: The Winds of Winter isn’t coming out until late 2018 or early 2019 at the very earliest (and let’s not pretend that’s set in stone), after the final season of Game of Thrones ends. Assuming GRRM can finish the series with only one more book, A Dream of Spring, (and doesn’t split it into two more volumes, as I suspect he will), and then, if Martin burns through the pages of the final volume like a locomotive, that final book will be coming in 2021. At its most optimistically. Extremely optimistically.

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So why choose the impossible task of trying to dodge spoilers for one of the most popular shows of the decade for four (or six, or eight, or etc.) more years? Spare yourself a lot of grief and watch the show. And remember, it’s not like showrunners Weiss and Benioff have The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring in their hands and are straight-up filming them. They are ending the stories based on what they’ve done with the show so far, including the changes they’ve already made, with some help and clues from GRRM. Yes, the show will spoil (and has spoiled) a few key moments from the upcoming books for us, because narratively speaking the show has adapted the source material so faithfully that sometimes the stories of the book characters and the TV characters have to end the same way.

But George R.R. Martin isn’t going to sit around and turn the last two books of A Song and Ice and Fire into a novelization of the final two seasons of Game of Thrones. He has his own end in mind, his own versions of the major scenes everyone’s been looking for, and don’t forget, he’s still got more balls in the air than the show ever had. (Aegon, anyone?) All of those things are going to affect his story in ways the show never dreamed of.

The books will be different enough from the show that it will still be satisfying to read them, even after you’ve watched the final episode of the show. It’s not dumb to keep waiting, but I think you’re going to save yourself a lot of grief if you give in.



Image: BBC

To Who It May Concern

Anonymous:

This is a potentiality hand grenade in the room, so if you don’t answer, I’ll understand. Is it possible to have Incoming Doctor Fear without being a woman hater?

I’ve been watching Doctor Who for a very, very long time, and I have never taken to the incoming Doctor straight away. Colin was too smarmy, Sylvester was too goofy, all I remember of Paul was that I hated Alien 3, Christopher was too edgy, David was too Scottish, Matt was too young and had terrible hair, and Peter was too un-Doctorlike. All of those opinions I’ve turned around and enjoyed the hell out of. Yes, even Colin and Sylvester.

But suddenly if I show any inclination of “Geeze, I don’t like the new Doctor”, I’m instantly a misogynist. Is there a way to have Incoming Doctor Fear without looking sexist?

Let me answer your last question first: Is there a way to have Incoming
Doctor Fear without looking sexist? Yes. “I’m worried that Jodie Whittaker may not be right for the Doctor because [reason]; however, I have no problem with the idea for a female Doctor, and here are several female actors who I think would be better suited for the role than Whittaker.”

See, simply saying you don’t like the new Doctor doesn’t make you a misogynist, but remember, this is the exact same thing that the misogynists who believe a fictional alien should never be played by a woman are saying, so the burden is on you to separate yourself from that crowd. Give a good, solid reason for why you’re worried Whittaker will make a bad Doctor that has nothing to do with her gender—but make sure that you have other specific female actors in mind, and good reasons for preferring them over Whittaker. (Sadly, it’s too common to hear “I’d like a woman for that [insert job], just not that woman.” It’s an excuse people give, sometimes unconsciously, when they would prefer no women have the job at all.)

But I have to ask: What is your fear about Jodie Whittaker?

Your reasons for disliking the other actors before they made their first appearance are all superficial: smarmy, goofy, bad hair, starred in Alien 3, etc. None of them are particularly good reasons to worry, which why I think you got over them all so quickly. And I’m having a hard time imagining what your concern about Whittaker is that doesn’t have to do with her gender. Do you think she had bad hair? Does her performance in Broadchurch make you worry she’s going to be overwrought in Doctor Who? Does she have a personality trait is un-Doctor-like?

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Because the only notable trait about her hair is that it has a feminine cut. Her role in Broadchurch was as a mother whose son has been murdered, which obviously demands an emotional performance, but there’s no reason to think Whittaker will play the Doctor in the same manner. As for personality traits, you have to be so, so careful here—there are a host of negative words people use almost solely to describe women’s personalities: bossy, shrill, bitchy, ditzy, and many, many more. So if you think Whittaker’s problem is one of those, then, honestly, that is sexist.

Perhaps the most important thing here, though, you ended up liking every single one of those Doctors anyway, as you yourself said. Maybe… don’t worry about Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor until you’ve had a chance to see her? Based on the empirical evidence, chances are you’re going to like her. So why spend your time and energy making complaints that sound exactly like the complaints of all the many assholes out there whose masculinity is threatened by a woman suddenly getting a job men have held for 54 years, when by all evidence you’re almost certainly going to end up loving her anyway?



Image: Marvel. Fantastic Four By John Byrne Omnibus cover art by John Byrne.

Four-Way Stop

Moji:

A simple question: why do Fantastic Four movies suck?

Three film adaptations of the team have been released, and none of them were any good. There’s also the 1994 Corman one, which was never intended to be any good. The comic was transformative for the industry when first released, and is consistently popular. The family dynamic combined with far-out super science makes for one of my favorite Marvel properties. The characters are interesting and well-defined, they’ve got some of the richest stories in Marvel’s archives, and Doctor Doom is one of the greatest comic villains ever made. And yet, the movies are all steaming piles.

Why can’t Hollywood give us a good Fantastic Four movie?

Because the story types that kids were perfectly fine with in the ‘60s and ‘70s cannot—or rather, will not—be replicated by the modern Hollywood movie industry.

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The Fantastic Four comics are, at their heart, about a family. Even before Reed and Sue had Franklin in 1968 it was about a family, and their familial relationships were what made them stand out from all the other superheroes. Stories about families were a genre unto themselves in the ‘60s and ’70—Lost in Space, The Waltons, Swiss Family Robinson—and parents and their kids would all watch them together. It was “all ages” entertainment, and I don’t mean “all ages” as we know and use it today, where it means a comic or movie or show is safe for little kids to see and no one above the age of seven would have even the slightest interest in it; I mean “all ages” in that it entertains all ages at once.

But times and have changed and tastes have changed, and now the primary consumers of comics and comics-related media are teens and young adults, who do not want family entertainment. They don’t want kid stuff, and they’re sure as hell not interested in stories about two parents raising a toddler, even if they’re making frequent trips to alternate dimensions.

Obviously, Hollywood only cares about superheroes in terms of movies, and specifically movies that can be targeted to those teens and young adults. Teens and adults like superheroes, but they don’t want stories about families. But the Fantastic Four is about a family of superheroes. I imagine you see the paradox here?

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Ignore the Roger Corman film, because it wasn’t a film, it was a tax write-off. Fox assumed teens would be so excited for another superhero franchise that they could put the Fantastic Four onscreen more or less as-is, but that meant a movie with incredibly square heroes (in addition to its other problems). For F4nt4stic F44r, or however dumb way they titled it, Fox realized the FF as they were in the comics didn’t work for the modern audiences they were trying to reach. So they turned the FF into late teens/early 20-somethings and tried to make sure they felt more like bros hanging out than a family… not realizing that at that point they were unrecognizable as the Fantastic Four. Paradox!

You can’t put an accurate version of the Fantastic Four onscreen and expect to get the same crowds or box office as a Spider-Man: Homecoming, and you can’t change the Fantastic Four to be more interesting to the modern superhero movie demographic without losing what makes the Fantastic Four special. Maybe someday someone will figure out the key, but it won’t be within the next decade.

Before anyone comes at me screaming “The Invincibles!!!!” yeah, I know that was a very profitable Pixar movie enjoyed by young kids, adults, and even some teens. Logic dictates that Fox should just make something like that movie but with the Fantastic Four, but logic doesn’t work like that in Hollywood. Let me give you the chain of decision-making: “We at Fox know superhero movies are hot; 2) they are hot because they appeal to this huge group of teens and early 20-somethings who love spending their income on these movies; 3) Fantastic Four is a superhero franchise; 4) a FF movie must appeal to the traditional superhero demographic to maximize profits; even if 4a) we have a great deal of proof suggesting that doesn’t work in the slightest.”



Image: HBO

Targaryen Family Matters

Michael M.:

Postman,

Maybe in the time between my commenting on Rob’s recap of S7E2 of Game of Thrones and when you read this in the future someone will have responded to my comment (sucks to be in the greys), but since in the future you know what happens, when does everyone find out Jon’s relationship to Dany (or at least when do the two of them realize it). I think it will be in the S7 finale, but curious as to your thoughts.

Well, had you asked me before season seven began, I would have said that the finale episode this year would end with Jon’s discovery of who his parents are, because it’s such a massive revelation for every character (other than Bran). But now that the show is hurtling towards the finish line at what seems like top speed, and Jon has not only gotten a letter from Tyrion inviting him to Dragonstone, but has also already arrived there and is having conversations with Dany, he could be back at Winterfell as early as next episode! And Bran will be waiting there with knowledge of his true parentage, and there’s no reason for Bran to wait to tell Jon unless there’s some sort of mumbo-jumbo “It’s not time for you to know yet!” Three-Eyed Raven nonsense. I mean, I can’t imagine Bran needing to leave before Jon gets back. Where would he even go?

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It’s still such a major moment and game-changer (pun both intended and not intended) that I’d still bet that it’ll be in episode six or seven, but I will not be shocked to lose my money if it happens in episodes four or five.



Image: DC. Green Lantern: Mosaic #2 art by Cully Hammer and Dan Panosian.

Too Easy Bein’ Green

Keith M.:

Which heroes wouldn’t be chosen for the Green Lantern Corps?

None. There are no heroes, no matter how terrible, that wouldn’t have been accepted into the Green Lantern Corps at one point or another. Don’t believe me? Well, here are some of the people the Green Lantern Corps have accepted as members:

  • Jimmy Olsen
  • Harley Quinn
  • A squirrel
  • Arisia, an underage girl who used her power ring to age herself up to barely legal status so she could have sex with Hal Jordan
  • Hal Jordan, a man who had sex with the aforementioned minor after she used her power ring to forcibly increase her physical age but not her emotional age
  • G’nort, an incompetent dog-man alien who literally got his ring through nepotism
  • A plant who carried her seed daughter around in a fanny pack
  • A smallpox virus
  • A man with the most transparently evil mustache in the galaxy
  • A man with the most transparently evil mustache in the galaxy again after he was kicked out once for being too evil and had spent years and years trying to murder Green Lanterns

What I’m saying is that standards are lax (because the Guardians are terrible). If you have the potential to fight more evil than a squirrel—regardless of how evil you are—you’re in.

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Send me those burning questions, nagging mysteries, desperate pleas for advice, and everything else to postman@io9.com. See you soon!