Game of Thrones: HBO. Postal Apocalypse logo by Jim Cooke.

Hello, my admirable addressees! Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will prevent me from fulfilling my duty, which is non-existent, because I am a fake mailman. This week: Should Captain America be considered a supervillain? How does Batman do anything if he never eats? And how do you teach someone all nerds aren’t like the weirdos from The Big Bang Theory?



Art by Darrell K. Sweet.

Wheel of Fortune

Francisco M.:

Greetings dear postman.

How is the weather in the Waste? I hope is not as bad as in the Blasted Lands. Anyway, do you have any idea when will we have any news concerning the adaptation of Wheel of Time? Is it even a good idea?

I mean, I love the series, but considering that barely over 2 years have passed in between the 14 books, wouldn’t it present a greater difficulty when casting the actors? How would you present the looming madness in rand and the weaves of the One Power?

Please, postman, soothe our worries and may you always find water and shade.

There are myriad problems with a live-action adaptation of Robert Jordan’s very large The Wheel of Time series, the first and foremost of which is this: Hollywood does not trust true fantasy.

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By this, I mean movies or TV shows where Earth isn’t a factor in some way—your Star Wars, your Lord of the Rings, your Game of Thrones, etc. It’s as if they feel that unless people know Earth still exists in the universe, unless kids are whisked away from there, or humanity had its origins there, or that it’s just somewhere around the corner in case people need to see it, audiences could not possibly be invested in the fantasy aspect, and their attentions will become untethered and wander off to watch something sensible like NCIS: New Orleans instead.

After the success of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, you may think this is insane on Hollywood’s part, and it may be. But I and the rest of the io9 staff were trying to think of live-action movies and TV shows that truly had no connection to our real Earth, and besides those three we came up with Warcraft, Willow, Krull, The Golden Compass (kind of fudging it), The Dark Crystal, that Shannara Chronicles show, and maybe Legend? That’s so, so few. And Lord of the Rings has been one of the perennially best-selling book series of all time for decades, and it still took Hollywood over 60 years before it made a real attempt at adapting it. Now that’s insane. It’s not impossible that once Game of Thrones goes off the air, another network or maybe even a movie studio will try to fill the very small niche with another major fantasy series, but think about how huge GoT is right now, and yet how virtually no one is scrambling to try to copycat its success.

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But if somehow this changes, if I may be so bold, there may be better options than The Wheel of Time? I personally didn’t find it epic as much as sprawling, indulgent, and needlessly overcomplicated. I’ve said this many times, so I’ve almost certainly written it in “Postal Apocalypse” at least once, but I stopped reading The Wheel of Time after I realized I was reading multiple books hundreds of pages long yet virtually nothing was happening. Also, I found Jordan’s two awful types of female characters troubling even in the far less woke days of the early ‘90s. I will fully admit my beloved Belgariad has some regressive ideas about women—mainly that they all desperately want to be married and have babies—but I always felt it was written out of benign cluelessness. Jordan’s female characters felt like they were written out of animosity, that Jordan had been snubbed by the cheerleaders in high school or something, and he decided to make all his female characters completely terrible in retaliation.

On the plus side, if Hollywood nixes The Wheel of Time’s filler, that’s like five, six books worth of material it needs to adapt, tops.



Batman: Brave and the Bold: DC/WB Animation.

Bats in the Pantry

Nick:

Dear Mr. Postman,

One thing I notice pretty much anytime I pick up a Batman comic is that the dude doesn’t eat. Alfred is always trying to get him to eat, and it’s always, “Later, Alfred,” or, “I don’t have time to eat there’s too much crime fighting to be done, quit wasting my time with nutrition.” Something to that effect. (In a recent Detective Comics, Alfred goes so far as to say Bruce really must have liked the salmon he made him because he actually ate three whole bites).

Meanwhile, Batman is buff as fuck. But in reality, if a dude went that hard all the time on so few calories, he’d look more like Christian Bale in The Machinist than in Batman Begins. There is definitely no way he’d be able to maintain that amount of muscle mass and fight crime at all hours of the night without packing away at least 2-4k calories a day. My question to you is: what’s going on here? Does Batman have a high-tech Bat-IV in his utility belt that keeps him constantly nourished? Is he on Soylent? A fan of carbo-loading? Or does he just take all of his meals when he’s out being Bruce Wayne during the day?

Normally, I wouldn’t think twice about this sort of thing (cuz, y’know, comic books), but recent writers have made Batman’s refusal to eat the delicious meals Alfred prepares for such him a consistent part of his character for a while now that I’m starting to get concerned.

Bruce Wayne has been known to eat food—in deeply socially unacceptable ways—but there’s no way the millionaire playboy is sitting down to three squares a day. But you’re right, Batman would need a lot of nutrition and calories to maintain his physique, let alone fight crime all night, every night.

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While it’s not been proven in the comics, I suspect that, like most things, Batman has figured out the most efficient, least enjoyable manner of procuring said nutrition, likely in the form of large, bland vitamins and protein shakes that probably taste actively terrible, because Batman hates happiness, especially his own. I have no doubt that Alfred would still continually try to get Master Bruce to eat some real food, but Batman has no time for actual meals other than perhaps a bite or two every few months. And that’s likely purely for Alfred’s satisfaction.



Image: CBS.

Big Bang, You’re Dead

Annoyed Comics Geek:

Hi Mr. Postman,

Perhaps being from the post-Apocalyptic future, you might have some far-future wisdom to impart. How do you convince someone who watches “The Big Bang Theory” regularly that its presentation of nerd-dom is badly off-base? What can I point to that laughs with nerd-dom without trading in “get a life” stereotypes?

People don’t watch sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory to expand their mind. They want their preconceptions to be confirmed and played to, and they want their version of what reality looks like reinforced, so they feel comfortable and safe.

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Thus The Big Bang Theory, a show which boldly says all nerds are 1) socially awkward, 2) highly intelligent about math and science but utterly unable to comprehend other humans, and 3) love childish things to the point of obsession. This used to also include 4) unable to attract women, but in the show’s infinite longevity, that actually had to be nixed to move things (very slightly) forward.

My point is trying to convince people who love The Big Bang Theory that the show is not an accurate representation of nerds is an uphill battle. Especially since the moment you rattle off a science fact, do a mildly difficult math problem, or mention a comic/toy/video game/superhero/etc., they’ll feel the stereotype and their convictions have been completely justified.

So it’s all about subverting those expectations. Having a committed relationship with someone who does not clearly fit into their supposition of nerd archetype is arguably your best bet. Pointing out whenever you don’t like a nerdy thing (“Actually, I don’t like superheroes at all. More of a scifi person myself!”) would likely throw a wrench in the works. Failing to do semi-difficult math might work, but that sort of situation doesn’t really come up that often.

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Short version: You know their expectations. You’ve got to subvert them, as much as you can, as often as you can. They may not ever get it, but they sure as hell won’t if you don’t show them the reality they’re not interested in discovering.



Cap Your Hands Say Yeah

Zoom:

Hi Postman,

So alliterator and myself got in a bit of a ruffle in the comments about whether Steve Rogers is considered a supervillain currently. I contend that because of his long history or heroics he would have to commit an atrocity of his own free volition (not under his current mind control or whatever). Which of course would make the character completely irredeemable which is likely not Marvel’s intent. What do you think? When does a hero playing villain turn into them being an actual supervillain?

You don’t need to overthink it. Captain America is currently 100 percent a supervillain. But he’s has been turned into a supervillain by outside forces—namely Red Skull with part of a reality-altering Cosmic Cube that is currently also a little girl, because comics. He’s not really any more at fault than any other hero mind-controlled by a villain, e.g. Bucky/Winter Soldier.

Captain America is not truly evil. There’s some semantics here in that because Red Skull literally changed reality so yes, Cap is technically choosing of his own volition to be evil, but that’s just a technicality—Cap didn’t choose to choose evil. He was artificially turned into a supervillain, and his life as a secret Hydra agent is an aberration from true reality. Unless you think the original status quo is never going to be reinstated, and Marvel has really decided to make its most heroic superhero evil for the next 50 years, Captain America is still essentially a hero at his core.

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Reality—real reality—would have to be returned, and Red Skull’s unnatural changes to reality removed, so that we know Cap truly has free agency and then he would have to do something evil for him to be actually evil. He has to choose supervillainy himself, not because Red Skull used a magic little cube girl to make him choose evil.

Short version: Captain America is a hero who is currently a supervillain because of a bad guy’s trick. He’ll get better.



Magneto School

Mat:

Greetings from slightly pre-apocalyptic 2017!

The recent outcry over the variant cover that had Magneto as a Hydra agent got me wondering about the character’s origin. Originally he was listed as having been born in the late 1920s which would make him at least 88. Even if he was born right before the last concentration camp was liberated in 1945, he would be 72.

Most comic book characters don’t have to be tied to a specific time frame for their origin and some that do have a reason why they’re still young in the present day (such as Captain America being frozen for decades). To the best of my knowledge, Magneto doesn’t have anything keeping him from aging normally. Will we reach a point where Marvel decides to change his origin story to account for the time gap? Or will they just hand wave it away and continue to depict him as late middle aged despite pushing 100?

You’re exactly right in that Magneto, unlike most comic book characters, has an origin so closely linked to a specific, historical event in the past, and it’s so recognized and so wholly integral to his character that it can’t be fudged like everyone else. Eric Lehnsherr was imprisoned by the Nazis at a concentration camp during World War II; his persecution as a Jew directly informs his feelings and decisions about the persecution of mutants, which is arguably his defining characteristic, even more than Magneto’s powers.

Eventually, though, someone’s going to want to write a Magneto story that addresses his youth again, and it’s going to strain even comic book credulity to imagine that a person who is at present 50 (approximately) was once imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. At that point there are only two options: 1) come up with a good alternative origin for Magneto that at least comes close to measuring up the original, or 2) not write the story, and leave Magneto’s timeline swept under the rug. I have no doubt someone can figure out a new origin—there are a ton of great comic book writers nowadays—but again, Magneto’s origin is so well-known and so integral to his character that Marvel will wait until the last possible minute to figure something new out.

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But that’s still a bit in the future. Remember, even the movies—far more scrutinized than the comics—fudge timelines ruthlessly. Tony Stark cannot possibly be more than 45 in the MCU right now (although he’s more likely supposed to be 35), making him born in 1972, but his dad was hanging out with Captain America and Agent Carter during World War II. This means Howard was born by 1915 at the latest. It’s not impossible that Howard Stark would have a kid when he was 57, but during Tony’s “flashback” scene in Civil War—when he was approximately 18, making it 1990—we can all recognize Howard was not 75 years old there.


Why wouldn’t you ask a strange fake mailman on the internet for his advice? Send your questions, concerns, arguments that need settling, and whatever else to postman@io9.com.