This week’s Postal Apocalypse has some of my favorite questions ever, so let me go ahead and dump my metaphorical mailbag on the metaphorical floor so a genuinely fake but otherwise metaphorical mailman can really read some real letters. This week: Why X-wings actually aren’t called X-wings, what would have happened if Thanos had snapped his fingers twice, and more.
Would Batman stop being Batman if he took depression medication?
He…I…wow. Good question.
It’s also a tricky question, because there’s being temporarily depressed about something that’s happened, and then capital-D Depression, which can be treated with medicine or therapy or both. Obviously, while every hero in the DC universe knows that Batman is an unhappy, obsessive, paranoid person, directly addressing the Dark Knight’s mental health as something that could be dealt with in ways other than punching criminals every night takes things to a much more profoundly tragic level.
Robin. S. Rosenberg, author of What’s the Matter with Batman? An Unauthorized Clinical Look Under the Mask of the Caped Crusader, posited that Batman suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Antisocial Personality Disorder in addition to depression. I’m not a mental health expert, but it’s possible that these may be reasonable diagnoses for a kid who experienced the unimaginable trauma of watching his parents get murdered in front of him.
Having been diagnosed with depression myself, I feel evaluating mental health issues is such a tricky, delicate thing that I, not a professional in that field, hesitate to do it, even for a thought exercise dealing with a fictional superhero. Everyone’s depression is unique. But therapy and medication can help some people, and I think there is a Batman story out there—an Elseworlds tale, most likely—where someone gets Bruce Wayne the help he needs, and he finds some measure of peace, and maybe even happiness. Now, that could mean he no longer feels the driving need to fight crime personally, and put himself directly in harm’s way every night. But it could also mean that he might choose to be Batman because he wants to help make a difference in the world, and not because he feels he has to, which admittedly would make him a lot more like the rest of the world’s superheroes.
This was a great question. Thanks, Char!
Hello, Apocalyptic Postman
I’ve been a fan of Star Wars (like probably most of your readers) since I was a wee-lad in the ‘80s. I’ve always approached the more fantastical elements with a hardcore suspension of disbelief.
However, one thing that has irked me later in my life has been the names of these ships. Specifically the X and Y-wings. I’m assuming these ships are named after their appearance, however in the universe of Star Wars, people don’t use the English alphabet. And the Galactic Basic version of X and Y look nothing alike their English counterparts.
My question to you would be, are there any other explanations as to how these ships got their names? Am I really just overthinking it and I should group their names into the same category as ships exploding in space and aliens with British accents?
Overthinking is how nerds roll. It’s cool, dude.
Remember, Star Wars movies are being translated for us. They take place in a galaxy far, far away, etc., so obviously they’re not speaking modern English. The Galactic Basic Standard (a.k.a. Aurabesh) alphabet proves that.
So “X-wing” and “Y-wing” are names that have been changed for our understanding. Now, forgive me a small, incredibly jury-rigged selection of GBS:
As Josh remarked, the GBS symbols for X and Y look nothing like the ships. Also, “Xesh-wing” and “Yirt-wing” sound dumb.
Here’s what I posit: In the galaxy of Star Wars, what we call the Y-wing is actually called the “Vev-wing,” because the letter “Vev” actually looks like the shape of the ship. There’s no direct visual equivalent for X in GBS, but I’m betting the X-wing is “Trill-wing,” as it seems like the best approximation for the starfighter to me, while the A-wing is very likely the “Xesh-wing” since it’s a good match for the wedge-shaped ship. (If anyone wants to have a go at figuring out the B-wing, have at it. )
A while ago I read an article about Vertigo comics and one of the things that piqued my curiosity was the fact that all the comics under that imprint were creator-owned. How does a comic publisher stay in business that way? Could Marvel and DC operate that way and still be the giants that they are?
Creator-owned doesn’t mean the publisher gets nothing. A lot of the cash you pay for a creator-owned comic still goes to the publisher, largely to pay for the material and printing costs, but also profit. Sometimes—many times, I suspect—the publisher may get more money than the creator. No major company is making comics with the plan of making its content creators rich, but breaking even itself. The big benefit of owning your own comic idea is that you get to decide the story entirely yourself, and, just as importantly, you’re the one who gets the cash if someone wants to license your creation for a movie or show or cartoon or toys or whatever.
But Marvel and DC couldn’t be what they are today—and as big as they are—if their comics were creator-owned. Think about it this way: Say Stan Lee and Steve Ditko weren’t full-time Marvel employees in 1962, but instead had an idea for a hero called Spider-Man, and Marvel agreed to publish it. He’s a hit, everyone makes a lot of money. But what if Marvel wanted Spider-Man to drop in on the Fantastic Four? Or have a Secret War of some sort? Marvel would need to contact Lee and Ditko, and the creators of the Fantastic Four, and everyone else who created these heroes to get their approval first. That’s a lot of work, probably a lot of cash to pay out, and there’s still very little chance everyone would approve the idea—which means the Avengers, the Justice League, or any kind of shared universe (comics, cinematic, or otherwise) would not exist as we know them, assuming they existed at all. And that’s just for the relatively low-key world of comics; for TV shows or movies, when the stakes are in the tens of millions? It would be even more difficult to get everyone to sign off.
While Marvel and DC would almost certainly survive, a huge part of what helped make them so popular was the fact that Batman and Superman could hang out, or that the Avengers could run afoul of the X-Men—making the publishers’ comics much bigger as the sum of their parts. We’d also probably still get cartoons and TV shows and live-action movies with these characters—and maybe some of them would likely have come sooner, but there’s no guarantee any of them would be any better. It’s nice to think of creators as having uncompromising visions and a demanded level of quality over adaptations of their work, but that’s not a given—and even the noblest character-creators need a paycheck now and again.
There have been a lot of creators leaving the Big Two to pursue projects they can own, especially in this day and age when any excellent comic has a good chance of optioned. As a result, Marvel and DC have gotten more into allowing a few creator-owned projects (although I wouldn’t be surprised if these contracts didn’t state that they also got a slice of the live-action adaptation profit pie). Certainly, the companies aren’t going to go out of business anytime soon, thanks to the insanely popular, lucrative characters they do own.
The Great Escape
Dear Postman of the Apokalypse,
It has been truly a while since last I heard your name. As I sit here collecting the stories of those who have recently passed, I can’t help but think of your own.
Tell me, what are the stories that help you through the raw and the bleak, and why do they speak to you so?
I tell you what: These days I’m in a real kick of rereading the books I loved when I was a teen. I’ve gone through most of David Eddings’ fantasy work, and am currently rereading Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, both of which are fun although absolutely cringe-worthy in many, many ways. I’m also in the middle of Ursula K. Le Quin’s wonderful Earthsea novels, which are a delight that only get better as they age. I marathon-ed my way through every single Sherlock Holmes story and novel Arthur Conan Doyle ever put to paper (although I admittedly do this every few years anyway) and the pulp mysteries of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Whatever allows me some time to escape from the present, and that gives me the nostalgic happiness of returning to a book that I loved.
Also? I’m super-into kids’ cartoons. Well, I’ve always been into kids’ cartoons, but watching a story where morality exists and goodness and virtue are reworded is intensely appreciated nowadays. I am currently watching Steven Universe (always), the new DuckTales, and the anime series My Hero Academia (which is certainly slow at first, but is a lot of fun). I just finished Adventure Time, natch, and Gravity Falls just wrecked me with its greatness. In my queue: Rewatching the entirety of the Batman and Superman animated series from the ‘90s.
I highly suggest thinking about the stories that made you happy in the past, and take a return tour to them. It helps.
Hurts, Don’t It
I was watching Jessica Jones last night and there was a scene in which Jessica punches a hole in the wall of a jail cell, and this superficially injures her hand. It got me thinking, even though she doesn’t have the invulnerability of Luke Cage, her bones, muscles and other tissues have to have greatly enhanced durability over non-super-powered humans, right? Similarly, Spider-Man isn’t bulletproof like Superman is, but he does regularly perform feats of strength that would cause his bones to shatter, his arms to tear themselves out of their sockets, etc.
What do you think about this, and why isn’t a bigger deal made of it?
You’re very much correct: super-strength and invulnerability are two completely separate powers, and one does not beget the other. I mean, professional weightlifters aren’t any more impervious to bullets than you or I are. Spidey may be able to lift a metal girder over his head, but his many, many, many beatings by supervillains should have left him dead several hundred times over. Conversely, even though Luke Cage’s skin is bullet-proof, that doesn’t actually mean he should be super-strong. And if it did, he should still be susceptible to physics—a car that hits him should send him flying, not stop cold as if it hit a rock wall.
That said, a super-strong superhero who spent most of their time in the hospital because their bones and flesh can’t match their muscles would make for a poor story. It’s the kind of mundane realism that would disrupt the storytelling for no benefit, and no one really wants that.
If Thanos had snapped his fingers twice would that have killed off the remaining 50% of living beings or would it have just removed 50% of the remaining 50%?
The Infinity Gauntlet doesn’t have settings. It’s not stuck on “Kill half the universe,” and snapping your fingers while wearing it isn’t the specific way to trigger mass murder. He could have given a big thumbs-up and wiped out half the universe just the same.
So the second snap could do whatever the hell Thanos wanted it to: Kill another half of the remaining people in the universe, kill all the remaining people entirely, resurrect his army of generic alien monsters, or even given himself a new helmet so his dumb head stopped looking like a California Raisin.
I need some more letters! Have a nerdy question? Need advice? Want a mystery or argument solved? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org, please! As always, no question too difficult or dumb. (Probably.)