Greetings and salutations my... uh... greeters/saluters. Sorry last week’s mailbag got briefly lost in the mail (the irony!) but here’s an extra-large one to make up for it, including whether WB could “Rebirth” the DCMU, who should star in Marvel’s Suicide Squad, and how you can recognize if a woman is in a refrigerator (comics metaphorically-speaking). Enjoy!


Let It Snow

Dana G.:

Didn’t you feel like Littlefinger showing up at the battle to save everyone’s asses without Jon Snow’s knowledge they were going to be there a bit of a large plot gaffe? I mean, if Sansa made a deal with Littlefinger, which we were led to believe in a previous episode, it might have occurred to her to mention that to her brother. Maybe even delay the start of the battle until the reinforcements got there. It was kind of a blemish on what otherwise was clearly the best episode of the season.

Since the reason for her silence isn’t explained (or even alluded to) on the show, it is a bit of a plot hole, although I don’t think it’s quite as egregious as you may believe.

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First and foremost, I don’t think Sansa trusts Littlefinger at all, nor should she. She’ll ask for his help out of necessity, but she knows even if Baelish says yes, she can’t 100% trust his soldiers will arrive in time for the battle, or at all. Neither she nor Jon could have or should have made plans based on the possibility that Littlefinger would actually support them, regardless if he said they would.

Moreover, if Sansa actually told Jon about these troops, he would very likely refuse to accept help from Littlefinger and/or the Eyrie anyway because he doesn’t trust them. He knows there’d be some kind of price to pay for their help. He wouldn’t enter into that bargain willingly, and then Littlefinger would have no reason to stop by and Jon and his troops would all be dead. By going behind his back, Sansa prevented Jon from having the chance to nobly turn down Littlefinger’s help, and that’s absolutely what saved his life and the life of his men.

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Besides, even if Sansa had told Jon and Jon had accepted Petyr Baelish’s help with open arms and a big hug, there’s still literally no way that the Eyrie soldiers wouldn’t have somehow waited until the last possible second to assist Jon and his forces. Oh, they’d have reasonable excuses for their delays, but the more decimated Jon’s army ended up, the more powerful Littlefinger ends up is in comparison. At the moment he’s got the biggest army in the North, and the lord of Winterfell owes him big. That’s the result he wanted, and it was the result he was going to make happen one way or another.

In fact, I think it’s not insane to speculate that Littlefinger possibly gave Rickon to the Umbers to give to Ramsay, all to force Jon into attacking Winterfell. Littlefinger may even have written “the pink letter,” too. Now the Starks have Winterfell, but the North is even more vulnerable than it was before. The person who has most benefitted from the battle for Winterfell is Littlefinger—and nine times out of 10 if he’s the one benefitting from a situation, he’s probably the one who set it up, too.


Raiding the Fridge

M. Hayes,

Hello Postman,

Being surrounded as you are by death in the postal apocalypse, I have a question regarding fictional deaths and “fridging.” Starting from a discussion of whether Lois Lane’s death at the beginning of “Injustice” is fridging or not, I started to get the feeling that the term is freely applied to any time a female character dies. I completely agree that fridging as a trope is used too often and too easily as a narrative device, but many stories that I enjoy and consider quite good, such as Injustice and Berserk, use it to some extent, and i’m uncomfortable dismissing them based on that alone.

In your opinion, what keeps a character death, female or otherwise, from being a fridge death? Do they have to fight back somehow, or have some agency in how they die/suffer injury/etc.?

Aw, this is a great question. Unfortunately, it’s not a super-easy one to explain succinctly because it’s not a definition that lends itself to absolutes. There are Women in Refrigerators and Women who are Not in Refrigerators, but there’s a spectrum between the two poles.

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When Gail Simone first coined the phrase in 1999, it was “inspired” by the gruesome murder of Green Lantern Kyle Rayner’s girlfriend, who was literally stuffed into a fridge by the villain Major Force. It’s kind of the ur-example of the trope, so as close to a total “Woman in Refrigerator” you can get. There are several qualities that make it the Ur-Woman in Fridge, the main one being that her death served no narrative purpose except to make the male hero slightly angrier than usual at a villain he was already angry with.

Alexandra DeWitt wasn’t much of a character anyways—in the ‘90s, girlfriends of superheroes rarely were—but to kill her just to “raise the stakes” for a fight between Green Lantern and a villain no one really gave a shit about is presenting already poor female characters at their most disposable. The brutality makes it even more awful. The sole reason Alexandra’s corpse was literally stuffed into a fridge was as an “incentive” to justify conflict between two male characters.

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This isn’t to say that no female characters or heroes’ loved ones can ever die in fiction, or that they can’t be used as motivations in stories. But by god, if you’re a writer who’s going to do this, make sure they’re actual, three-dimensional characters and not just lazy plot devices. Also try to make sure that they aren’t being brutalized or dying merely to add “oomph” to a story about men. A good (horrible) example of this is the Joker shooting Batgirl in The Killing Joke. Batgirl was certainly a well-established character in 1988, but her paralysis and sexual assault is used in the book solely to distinguish another Batman/Joker story from the million other Batman/Joker stories. In a way, it was worse that such a beloved character was literally and figuratively crippled just to serve as a footnote in yet another Batman/Joker tale. It was great that writers like Kim Yale helped Barbara Gordon reclaim this bit of awfulness by turning her into Oracle, but that doesn’t retroactively justify the awfulness of the scene in The Killing Joke.

Now as for Lois Lane’s death in Injustice: It’s definitely horrible and brutal, so there’s a real, Women-in-Fridge grotesquery about it. However, it’s used as part of a moment that redefines everything about Superman’s character for the entire story. He doesn’t just kill Joker in revenge and then move on, rendering Lois’ death meaningless. Her death affects every aspect of the entire comic—the characters, the setting, everything. The horror of it means something, or at least tries to mean something.

Also, I think it helps that Injustice is an Elseworlds tale, making it “unofficial.” We know the real Lois Lane is fine and kicking ass in the main DC universe, so her death here isn’t as impactful or as upsetting. But if Lois died like this in the main DCU I would fully expect people to be furious. I certainly would be. That said, if you still found it as unpleasant as Alexandra DeWitt’s demise, I don’t begrudge that of you.


The (Dr.) Manhattan Project

Sp33df0rc3:

Mr Postman, the last few weeks have been a whirlwind for DC fans. Rebirth has brought some cautious optimism back to the comics, and Geoff Johns has been placed in a more central role to guide the movies creatively.

Everyone is talking about the fact that Watchmen are now going to be in the dcu proper, and it struck me that in doing this, Geoff Johns has done something potentially genius. Based on what I’ve read about behind the scenes creative decisions at Marvel, my understanding — and this is what I want to check with you — is that once a character appears in the comics, they can be appear in those films.

So my question is two-fold: Did Geoff Johns make the Watchmen characters fair game to appear in the movies? Would he actually go so far as to use them?

It could probably shake out that after the current slate of movies, if they needed to recast or anything, they could basically adapt Rebirth and blame Watchmen for the murderverse. Geoff Johns seems to have built his career as one big fuck you to Alan Moore — so would he be crazy enough to try this? Just a thought.

Nah. DC/WB owns the movie rights to Watchmen just like they do Superman, Batman, and the rest. They could start work on Justice League V. Watchmen tomorrow and no one could stop them—especially not Alan Moore, who would have done everything in his power to stop basically every Watchmen project after 1990, had he any say.

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The reason Marvel has this strange clause (or loophole, or however you want to view it) is because that time it was broke in the ‘90s and had to sell movie rights to its various characters to keep afloat. Now, we can’t see the contracts, so we can’t know for sure, but we can be reasonably certain that for all intents and purposes Fox owns the X-Men and everything “mutant” in the Marvel universe. There are only very few exceptions, such as Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch; they are exceptions solely because they spent decades doing double-duty as both X-Men characters and Avengers. This is how Marvel Studios could include them as Avengers in Age of Ultron, just as long as no one said the m-word.

But that’s a very rare exception, and again, it was because being mutants and Avengers were practically 50/50 parts of their characters’ identities for nearly 30 years. Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman were members of the Avengers for a short bit in 1989; does that mean Marvel Studios could include them in Infinity War? No, because 50 years of comics history and common sense dictates that they’re solely part of the Fantastic Four. I imagine the contracts even have language to that effect. And even though Dr. Doom has menaced the entire Marvel universe, he’s still considered the Fantastic Four’s primary villain, so he’s restricted to that group as well.

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Even if the contracts don’t specify Fox owning total control of certain characters and teams (and I’m betting they do), if Marvel tried to use a “technically they were in Avengers, so…” argument to justify including a major X-Man in one of their movies, Fox would almost certainly sue. There would be a huge trial and the judge would have to listen to hours and hours of comics trivia to determine whether, say, Beast is intrinsically a member of the Avengers and the X-Men, or an X-Man who’s periodically been an Avenger. It would cost both Marvel and Fox a ton of money, piss off a major business partner, and for what? So Beast can pal around with Tony Stark and Bruce Banner? Okay, that doesn’t actually sound that bad, but it’s still not worth the hassle.

All that said, the Watchmen will never enter the DC Cinematic Murderverse, even if the movies continue to suffer the same grim-dark disease as the New 52 comics. And it’s not just because it would be immensely baffling to mass audiences. The 2009 Watchmen movie cost $130 million to make, earned $185 million worldwide, but also had a massive marketing budget. It probably made a bit of profit, but not much. Remember, if these big budget comic movies aren’t major successes, they’re practically failures. Warner Bros. will try putting the Legion of Super Pets onscreen before it calls in the Watchmen to save the DCMU.


Waynes on the Brain

CJFox:

Dear Mr Postman, why is it that people seem so outraged by movies redoing Batman and Spiderman’s origin stories but they never even mention the fact that Superman’s origin has been done just as much.

Is it just because Mr & Mrs Wayne and Uncle Ben were murdered while Jor-El and Lara happened to die in a “Natural Disaster”?

Does the fact that there was not an individual doing the killing, make their deaths (and for that matter the deaths of ALL the other Kryptonians) more acceptable to view again and again?

Is it that there is just as much outrage over redoing Superman origin stories, is it just that those individuals are less vocal?

People are less vocal because repeating Superman’s origin isn’t as annoying. Yes, it is definitely somewhat annoying—I know I wasn’t the only one complaining Man of Steel was redoing his origin story instead of showing us something new—but at least the Kents are major, long-term forces in Superman’s life, and differences do arise. Sometimes the Kents continue to help and support Clark long into his career as Superman. Sometimes Pa Kent dies and Clark has to deal with it. Sometimes Pa Kent tells Superman that he should have let a school bus full of children sink into a lake, resulting in dozens of deaths. There’s room for nuance.

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Here’s the difference with Batman’s origin: It is always the goddamn same.

It takes about 60 seconds to tell, and there is zero room for nuance. So every time it gets put on screen, it’s the same goddamned thing: A family leaves a theater, they go down an alley, gunman mugs them, shoots the parents, pearls fall, mugger runs, boy cries, the end.

If you’ve seen it once—and thanks to the 1989 Batman movie, Batman Begins, Batman v Superman, and all 900 Batman cartoons and god knows how many comics, pretty much everyone on the planet has seen it at least once—you never need to see it again. But DC/WB keeps including it, as if audiences were still somehow puzzled why a rich dude would spend his nights dressed as a bat and punching criminals in the face.

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It’s just a waste of time. So when we finally got a movie where Batman and Superman are on-screen together, and instead of giving us more of that, which we’ve never seen before in a live-action movie, we had to sit through Batman’s origin story again?! Yeah, that’s annoying as hell.


Winter Soldiers On

Andrew C.:

With all the care and planning that went into the first four seasons of Game of Thrones (5th season was pointless crap). The plotting and pacing that made it one of the best shows ever, am I the only one that feels like I’m seeing the cliff notes version of the rest of the story.

And whats with Jon Snow getting the Aragon treatment. They killed the boy to get bigger emo boy. He needs Sansa to tell him Ramsey needs to be stopped.

I find it hard to believe GRRM is that involved in the show anymore with the quality of the dialogue. It’s become mundane.

I actually agree with you that the shift from the show’s steady pace during the first five seasons to the breakneck madness of the sixth season has been… jarring. But it’s also been exciting! This may feel a bit too quick in comparison, but I’d argue the last two seasons are equally guilty of being a bit slow, as the show tried to take its time in hopes that George R.R. Martin would get The Winds of Winter out and avoid some of the complaints and consternation they’ve been dealing with this season.

I would also remind you that the more quickly (efficiently might be a better word) the show gets done, the less it will cannibalize from the books, allowing them to be even more of a unique experience. That’s only a good thing for fans who have been worried the show will “ruin” the novels.

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As for the dialogue, I actually had this same sense beginning a couple of seasons ago as the series began to drift from the source material a bit, but I’m honestly not sure it’s not just psychosomatic—that we’re judging the new material more harshly because we know it’s not technically by GRRM. Honestly, he only wrote one episode per season; yes, he had to stop a year or two ago, but David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, and Bryan Cogman have always done the bulk of the episodes, and that hasn’t changed. It’s possible GRRM no longer has the time to give as many notes on the scripts as he would like, but it’s not like he was ever rewriting all the dialogue himself.

Plus, I’ll hold up that Jaime/Edmure scene from a couple of week’s ago to any of the show’s great character moments. Neither Jaime nor Edmure are particularly sophisticated, so their language isn’t ornate, but it’s still effective and fantastically acted. Basically, I’m not convinced there’s been a downgrade, and I think I need to rewatch the series from the beginning to know. That said, I’d love to hear people weigh in down in the comments.


Man Loves Squad Kills

Psylent1:

If you were doing Suicide Squad, but with Marvel characters and villains, who would you chose?

Okay. Let’s say that like DC’s Suicide Squad, these have to be villains that aren’t powerful enough to instantly escape Amanda Waller’s program, so no Loki or Doctor Doom or bad guys of that level. They can be crazy, but not so crazy they’d rather die than follow orders. Because otherwise the Squad just doesn’t work.

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These villains also need to be skilled at killing people, or otherwise why bother. And I would also think that they need to be a very odd assortment of characters, because forcing these bad guys who have nothing in common with each other is half the fun. With all that in mind:

Venom or Carnage—Either of these guys seem like a natural fit. The Venom symbiote has actually been working with Flash Thompson as a soldier for a while now, so it’s probably picked up a few combat skills beyond just eating people’s heads

Sabretooth—Evil Wolverine knock-off? Of course you’d want him on the team.

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Lady Bullseye—The team’s most efficient killer, but with more storytelling potential than regular Bullseye.

Mystique—Shape-changing skills a huge plus in the field, plus she’s had plenty of combat and espionage experience.

Psycho-Man—THE WILD CARD.

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Abomination—Pure muscle.

Dracula—Hear me out! He’d give the team its supernatural edge, which is huge. Also, he has enough weaknesses/issues that he could ostensibly be controlled by an evil government organization. Also, I love it when Dracula hangs out with the larger Marvel universe. He always seems so irritated that in the world of Marvel he’s less the embodiment of evil and more just a run-of-the-mill supervillain.


I’m low on letters again! Please send your questions, concerns, arguments that need settling, pleas for advice, or whatever the heck you want to postman@io9.com!