Alas, this fake mailman has reached the end of his post-apocalyptic road. But for this final installment, it’s a Giant-Sized Edition of “Postal Apocalypse”—although you guys packed my mailbag so full that I still couldn’t answer all of them! (I tried. Seriously, guys, this is really long.) Enjoy, my brilliant, beautiful business envelopes.
Somhairle the Summer Strider:
Mr. Rob Bricken,
I’ve been a commenter, fan, and sometimes critic for a very long time. I got my first GMG account back in ‘09, I’ve gone through a few, and have read your work from Day Uno on here and have now followed you to your new job elsewhere. I want to thank you for your hard work, even though I have been very critical in the past (not that it probably came to your attention, I am just one of the many on here).
So here’s my question to you for this last mailbag: Of all the years you’ve worked on this site from contributor to head editor, what was your favorite year of work and what do you think your biggest accomplishment/standout feature was?
Ooh, a super self-indulgent question right off the bat? Don’t mind if I do! My favorite year was probably 2014, when both Charlie Jane and Annalee were here, and I was still as much writer as editor. Still, 2017-18 are tied at a very close second for the wonderful people I worked with, the vast majority of which are still running the site and doing it marvelously.
As for my favorite works, I’m going to give you two, and then try to sneak a couple of others in there, too. Although I’m pleased with my Batman v Superman and Star Trek Into Darkness FAQs, my favorite humor piece I wrote here was this:
The astonishing wrongness of the movie, from top to bottom, was just so complete that I had an abundance of things to make fun of, especially how Pa Kent tried to impart the lesson of the importance of letting children die horribly to his adopted son.
My favorite, more serious essay was the piece I wrote after seeing The Last Jedi:
I always thought it was obnoxious when writers say stuff like “I was merely a conduit, and the words flowed through me,” but that’s exactly what happened to me with that piece. I knew I was going to write something about the movie after seeing it, but wasn’t exactly sure what. My wife and I were watching TV, and I went to get a soda when suddenly the first line of the piece came to me. I’ve been writing long enough that when that happens, you write it down before you lose it. So I did…and then the next line came to me. And the next. And the next. An hour later my wife came to check on me because I had never come back, and all I could do was apologize and tell her I had to write right now, because I did. I couldn’t make myself stop. Whether you liked it or not (or never bothered to check it out) I believe the result is the most-read piece I’ve ever done at io9.
And no apologies for criticizing me; you’re hardly alone. I read all of it, so I can learn from my mistakes, but I’m also confident enough to ignore them to write what I feel is right. Also, it genuinely delights me when people hate my work so much they go out of their way to let me know.
The Last Force Awakens a Jedi
I have been reading reports that J.J. Abrams is going to attempt to “correct” some things about The Last Jedi in Episode 9. One of the obvious ones would be giving Rey a new lineage. What do you think needs to be “fixed” to bring the trilogy together? I really think the biggest mistake Disney made was not having one person in charge of the entire trilogy story. Its like they didn’t have a plan other then “Star Wars” = “All the Moneys.”
I’m on record of liking both the Star Wars sequels, despite personal issues (see above), and I still think that The Last Jedi is and will continue to be a ground-breaking inspiration for the franchise, even if Abrams walks back some of Rian Johnson’s ideas. That said, it is completely goddamned baffling that there was no overarching story whatsoever planned for the complete trilogy.
Admittedly, this is 100 percent what George Lucas did with the original trilogy—he didn’t even know Leia was Luke’s sister until after The Empire Strikes Back—and it worked out fine for them and the millions of kids who grew up loving them. And honestly, I bet the kids who are growing up now and loving the sequel trilogy are going to be just as fine with them as my generation was with the original. So I don’t think Lucasfilm needed to make a firm plan just to appease the adult Star Wars fanbase, I just think that’s an unnecessarily risky decision when making a movie trilogy you’re hoping will make three billion dollars.
But I got off track, so back to what Episode IX needs to tie the trilogy together: Not much, really. We don’t need Rey’s origin to be retconned, although I’m sure Abrams had his own idea of who Rey’s parents were when making The Force Awakens, and might well use it. We don’t need Snoke to somehow come back to be the final Big Bad, although that might happen, too. We definitely don’t need Rey to restart the Jedi order, because the Jedi suck and have been terrible at their job of protecting the galaxy for multiple generations, but there’s a decent chance of that happening, too. All we really need is a final confrontation between Rey and Kylo Ren, and then the Resistance and the First Order.
Personally, what I’d like is some answers to the mysteries raised by The Force Awakens, like what the deal is with the Knights of Ren. I really want to know how Maz Kanata got Luke’s lightsaber. I would also very much like to know if the vision Ray had in TFA held any secrets about her history, although I’m also fine with the answer being “no.”
And while I don’t need Rey’s origin actually retconned, I wouldn’t mind if there were some explanation why Han and Leia kept giving her weird looks as if they suspected she might be someone specific. But then again I also wouldn’t mind if it turned out she was part of a secret program started by the Emperor that continued even after his death to create a powerful Force user that could be turned to the Dark Side using genetic material from Luke Skywalker’s severed hand from The Empire Strikes Back.
Greetings future overlord of the apocalypse!
Sooner or later Doctor Doom will be making an appearance as a big bad in the MCU. The problem is that his entire existence and descent is into villainy is inextricably tied into his rivalry with Reed Richards. You could conceivably have a Mister Fantastic without Doom, but you couldn’t do it the other way around, because Doom has to be brought through the F4. Sure, they could cheat and make Doom an old college roommate of Tony Stark or Hank Pym, but then it isn’t really the same character anymore. That is much more of a Fox or Sony move, not the move of a company that respects its source material.
The second part of this equation is the issue of bringing in the F4. They are the founding fathers of the Marvel Universe, every major storyline flows through them one way or another. Having them there from the beginning even without powers yet, only makes one wonder, where the hell has Reed been? We are talking about a guy that makes Tony Stark look like a C student.
How would you solve this quandary?
I have to disagree with the main part of your thesis, that Doom can’t be brought into the MCU without the Fantastic Four. Yes, his origin in the comics completely ties to him to Reed Richards, and sets him on the path to becoming evil and putting on a suit of armor full time, but origins can be updated, and sometimes they need to be. Doom’s origin absolutely needs to be.
This is because there are two very different Doctors Doom: The first is the brilliant, evil despot who rules an entire country with a metal-enclosed fist, and then there’s the dipshit at college who burned his face off because he wanted to get a better grade than another dude in his science class. That ridiculousness was fine in the much goofier, freewheeling comics of the ‘60s (rest in peace, Stan), but it doesn’t work now. The idea of seeing someone who’s supposed to become one of the Marvel universe’s most powerful and threatening villains taking Chemistry 201 in college is bad enough, but having something so minor as a messed-up face be the reason he turns to evil just makes him a doofus.
You can have the awesome super-villain we all want to finally see in a movie, or you can have something else, like a proto-Elon Musk of the 2005 Fantastic Four movie, or whatever the hell Toby Kebbell was supposed to be in F4nt4stic F44r, but you can’t have both.
Luckily, Doom doesn’t need to have his origin tied to Reed or the Fantastic Four. Marvel can have Doom start out as the dictator with the badass armored suit. He can make his first appearance in Avengers 5 for all it matters; there’s nothing really wrong with having Latveria be a reclusive kingdom with a mysterious ruler, as Black Panther pretty adroitly showed. As long as Doom reveals himself to the world by making his first attempt to conquer it, you don’t need more of an explanation for where he’s been. If you want him to make his debut in a Fantastic Four movie, that’s still fine, and you can have him suffer his first defeat at Reed Richards’ stretchy hands, and thus his hatred is born.
Speaking of making debuts, asking where the MCU’s Reed Richards has been all his time is like asking where Spider-Man was prior to Captain America: Civil War, or where Hank Pym’s been for the last several decades. Not everybody knows everybody, and there’s nothing that says the Fantastic Four actually need to be the first heroes on the scene. Have them set in the modern MCU, have the first thing they do is get themselves bombarded with cosmic rays to acquire their powers, and you’re one. Besides, Captain Marvel has that “previously existed but no one knew” position covered already anyway.
My question: can a popular franchise, one owned by a big corporation like WB or Disney, ever live up to the potential of its fictional “world,” or does the need to appeal to as many people as possible dilute the product? Do we as “super fans” have to accept a certain level of disappointment from the major franchises, just because they are major franchises? Thanks!
A delightful question! You are correct that companies will always try to make the most popular and most lucrative parts of their franchises appeal to be largest possible fanbase, as they are trying to make the most money possible, and this is how the most money is made. For Disney, this means the Star Wars and Marvel movies are resolutely PG-13 (but once you get to comics and books and such, the financial stakes are lower, and creators can experiment more). Now, this doesn’t necessarily preclude the movies from experimenting some—Rogue One is basically a super-depressing war movie—but those experiments are still done with the goal of reaching the largest audience possible.
However, imagine Disney went and made a super-niche Star Wars movie that holds maximum appeal for you personally—like, say, an R-rated movie all about Darth Vader hunting down and slaughtering all the Jedi remaining after Revenge of the Sith. Even if that sounds like the greatest movie in the world to you, you are almost certainly going to feel like it’s “diluted” to some degree.
This is because your perfect R-rated Jedi-bloodbath movie only exists in your head, and the people making the film aren’t trying to make it. They’re trying to make the perfect R-rated Jedi-bloodbath movie that exists in their heads, and your movie and theirs are not the same (and this isn’t even counting the million problems and issues that can prevent filmmakers from achieving their vision, or the very real possibility of them messing things up). Every difference from your ideal movie is going to feel like a dilution. Now multiply that by every fan who’s dying for a Jedi-bloodbath film, who each have their own version of their perfect movie.
There are very, very few things in this world that you will consider perfect, so cherish them when you come across them. Just remember what’s perfect to you isn’t necessarily perfect to anyone else. If it was, then more people would understand that the 2008 Speed Racer movie is a masterpiece.
It’s All Downhill From Here
Hola Postman! Greetings from the Jundland Wastes.
It seems that whenever we revisit our favorite characters after a long absence (Deckard, the Skywalkers, Kevin Flynn) we find that just after we left them everything went right into the crapper.
While I am looking forward to the new Star Trek Picard show, I worry that when we greet him again on his new show we will find most of his friends are dead, he’s living alone on Ceti Alpha V and his only friend is a sadly malfunctioning robot dog.
What you’re forgetting is that Blade Runner 2049, The Last Jedi, and Tron Legacy aren’t about Deckard, Luke, and Flynn—they’re about a younger generation: Agent K, Rey, and, uh…Son of Flynn. They’re the heroes, which means they need to be the ones to defeat evil/solve the problem/makes things better, which means the older characters have to be unable to do those things themselves. This is how generational stories always work; if the hero lives long enough, they have to let something get screwed up, because otherwise there’s nothing for a new hero to take care of.
As far as we know, the new Picard series is going to be about Picard, meaning he’s still the hero. And that means there’s no real reason for him to have fallen on hard times like those other characters you mentioned. Besides, the utopian bent of Star Trek would suggest that while he’ll have some problems to deal with, his life since The New Generation will have been more or less fine.
However. The idea of our childhood heroes having their accomplishments destroyed and their lives turned to shit has a certain…resonance right now in modern culture, so I’d put my money on the malfunctioning robot dog.
The Duck Knight
Dear Mr. Postman,
My immediate thought upon reading that this was going to be the last column for the foreseeable future was: Bruce Wayne and Scrooge McDuck go to war. Each has access to every technology, every outlandish skill or trick, and of course every single cent we’ve ever seen them use or be associated with (so anything from, say, Darkwing Duck goes for Scrooge, and any Kryptonian tech Bruce can beg, borrow, or steal goes for him). Who wins?
And just because this is my first time writing in, I’m going for a second question: Malcolm Reynolds meets Jack Harkness. Buds for life or bitter enemies?
Here’s exactly how the fight between Batman and Scrooge McDuck would go: It’s a long battle that ends in a draw and then they team up when it’s revealed they were tricked into fighting by the Joker and Magica DeSpell.
The meeting between Firefly’s Mal and Jack depends on whether Jack is the fun-loving version from Doctor Who or the more sober-minded Jack from the darker series Torchwood. If it’s Who Jack, he thinks Mal is great while Mal is very annoyed by his sunny, devil-may-care attitude; if it’s Torchwood Jack, he and Mal initially don’t like each other, begrudgingly partner up, and then develop a mutual respect for each other. In either scenario, Jack wants to have sex with Mal.
Hey, how do super-strong heroes have such big muscles? I need to go to the gym and lift lots of heavy weights to make my muscles bigger. (It works!) But it’s the resistance that does this. That is, if the weights were light and easy to lift, my muscles wouldn’t be stretched and they wouldn’t grow. (Metaphorically, that is. Really they get torn.) But in the comics, super-strong heroes pretty much always have incredibly big muscles despite the fact that their strength is innate.
Take Superman. What can he possibly be lifting on a regular basis to keep himself so cut? And what about terrestrial heroes like Spider-Man? He’s got the proportionate strength of a spider, but isn’t his secret identity something of a nerd? Yet he too also always looks amazing in his spandex. I work out five times a week and I would still kill a baby yak to get a figure as tight as that guy’s. How are these ‘heroes’ doing it? What is their secret?
Well, reverse-engineer it: As you said, these heroes are innately super-strong, and strength is produced by muscles, therefore the super-strength manifests itself as muscles. If that’s not a good enough answer for you, and I don’t really know that it should be, remember this. Super-strong heroes are always getting cardio by beating up bad guys, and weight training by lifting and throwing things like cars and giant robots around. They work out a fair amount, they just don’t do it at the gym.
Amazingly Spectacularly Baffling
We now live in a world where a pretty bad Venom movie is an undeniable financial success. This practically guarantees that we won’t see Venom in the MCU anytime soon. But will Venom’s success embolden Sony? Will they pull Spidey out of the MCU and give their own Spider-Man movies another shot as soon as their current deal with Marvel to use Spidey in the MCU expires? We’re finally going to get Fantastic Four and the X-Men and we might lose our favorite web-head.
I’m going to be completely honest with you: In my six years of being a fake mailman in the post-apocalypse, nothing has ever baffled me more than what Sony has done with Spider-Man. I can imagine a scenario where Sony somehow thinks it’ll make more money by licensing the character back and letting Marvel Studios make his films as opposed to trying to make them itself, but I can’t for the life of me comprehend why Sony seems to have completely given up its rights to make live-action movies with Spidey in them entirely when it could have let Marvel borrow the character while retaining the ability to make some Spider-movies.
It’s even more insane given that Sony clearly already was thinking about making a Spider-Man cinematic universe when it made the Disney deal. A SCU only makes sense with Spidey at its center because he’s the only who ties all these ancillary characters together. Even the ability to have Tom Holland make a short cameo or two would help ridiculous films about people like Morbius the Living Vampire, Black Cat, and—shudder—Silver Sable mean anything to mass audiences.
Sony might very well take Spidey back after its deal with Marvel Studios ends, but for now, I don’t know what would be different enough to change its mind from when it decided to gave the web-slinger away. I mean, Venom did just fine without Spider-Man in it, so to the company, there’s no need for Sony homecoming.
Sorry, folks. Even fake mailmen have their limits.
1. What did Autobots transform into before they encountered human automobiles?
2. Why are Star Trek: TNG’s phasers shaped like dildos?
3. Do lightsabers need recharging, like phones?
4. Why are you going away?
1) Mostly like a cross between a shitty version of a Tron lightcycle and a four-door station wagon.
2) TNG phasers don’t look like dildos, so I am concerned about what you think a dildo is.
3) According to modern canon, they run on power cells which can be depleted, though since it’s a small, focused beam of energy I’m under the impression that they last a long while.
4) Keep reading...
Reboots Are Made for Walkin’
Here, in the late stages of capitalism, we live in an era of weaponized nostalgia. I ask you, fictitious postman of the not-so-far future, if you could pick a forgotten cartoon of the ‘80s or ‘90s that should get a reboot, but never will, which show would it be? For bonus points, how would this mainstream re-imagining go terribly wrong, or astonishingly right?
My pick would be the 1980s sci-fi transhuman western cartoon series, The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers
Normally I would instantly pick Masters of the Universe here, because I’m such a fan, but it’s a very problematic series to reboot because it’s such a crazy grab-bag of characters and ideas and styles it’s really easy to mess it up...although I suspect that if She-Ra and the Princesses of Power does well (and I think it will), a He-Man reboot won’t be too far behind. If they keep the same DreamWorks Animation folks making it and find a showrunner on the level of She-Ra’s Noelle Stevenson, it should be very solid.
But you said “forgotten.” I’ll pick the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, which was...hoo boy. A new version should ditch all the characters and just tell a story in one of the RPG’s various worlds, but even if it kept those knuckleknobs there’s still a near-infinite amount of room for improvement that I’d be willing to check it out. Please, someone put a mind flayer on Saturday morning TV.
Playing With a Full Holodeck
Using only characters from the movies or the different TV series, build your best Star Trek officer crew. The open positions are: captain, first officer, science, engineering, two helmsmen, medical, security. For fun; who’s running the bar?
I’ve never been the biggest Trek guy, so my choices are based more out of personal preference and/or a bit of research from the Star Trek wiki. As you’ll see, I definitely have a soft spot for The Original Series crew, but I also tried to mix it up. Assuming by a second helmsmen you mean the Navigation Officer, and adding Communications Officer…
- Captain: Kirk, although I fully admit Picard would be a smarter choice
- First Officer and Helmsman: Number One from the original Star Trek pilot, because she deserves the screentime if not an actual name
- Science Officer: Stamets from Discovery
- Chief Engineer: TNG’s Geordi La Forge
- Communications Officer: Uhura
- Navigator: Chekhov but from the J.J. Abrams movies, because Anton Yelchin was great and I love the idea of a young genius getting to drive a giant spaceship
- Ship Doctor: Bones McCoy
- Chief of Security: Tuvok from Voyager
- Bartender: Scotty, obviously.
Dear Mr. Postman,
Say in five years time, the MCU starts sagging under its own weight. (I mean, how many Avengers films can they make after they finish with Thanos?) Do you think there might be some deal to make a crossover MCU/DCEU movie series? It would make a ton of money for both studios involved, fans would geek out on Superman vs Hulk, and it could potentially make both franchises popular again for the coming decade. Pipe dream, or possibility?
This will never happen unless two conditions are met. The first is that the same company owns both sets of characters, which would presumably be the entertainment Sarlacc pit that is Disney. The second is that the Marvel and DC superhero films are so in the crapper that they’re desperate enough to hope the spectacle of combing the two universes will get viewers interested again.
If Warner Bros. doesn’t improve its track record, I imagine it would be open to hooking up with Marvel to have its sweet success rub off on them, but Marvel’s making too much with its own franchise to even think about diluting it with the less fiscally popular DC heroes. Look, the very best superhero movie earns max about a billion dollars. Combining Marvel and DC wouldn’t suddenly earn them two billion dollars. they’d still make one, and then be forced to split the profits.
It all comes down to what makes companies the most money, guys. Almost every single time. Including the insane Sony Spider-Man deal, whatever the hell that is.
Do You Believe in Magic
Considering that Spider-man: Far from Home will feature Mysterio as the bad guy, do you see Marvel adding Dr. Strange to the movie? It would make a lot of sense to do so as Mysterio is also a mystical, magical sort of character and Spidey has often paired with Dr. Strange in the comics.
Nah. Mysterio would be zero threat if Doctor Strange were involved because his magic could see through all the villain’s man-made tricks and illusions instantly, so the movie would be about three minutes long. I don’t know if Spidey will take the time to knock on Strange’s door for help in Far From Home, but if he does I am confident the Doctor will be out.
Kamala Khan Job
What’s the next Iron Man? I.e., what’s the next third-tier superhero to get their own movie that will be a massive success and change the game?
If by third-tier, you mean “character which the general public is not yet aware but might actually get a major motion picture,” and I believe you do, you have to go with the comic book heroes that are popular in the world of comic book fans. As such, I suspect Ms. Marvel is a major candidate for Marvel’s Phase Four.
Before you guys ask, and since I won’t be around to answer it later, here’s how Ms. Marvel can be introduced into the MCU, and very easily:
1) Captain Marvel does some amazing shit in Infinity War.
2) Captain Marvel’s badassery is evident to the world, and a young girl named Kamala Khan becomes a fangirl.
3) Kamala is exposed to something that gives her superpowers.
4) She saves an old man who asks her what her name is. She starts audibly trying to think of names that include “Marvel” in it, in honor of her hero, but can’t decide.
5) Since he isn’t getting an answer, based on her mutterings, the old man says, “Thank you, Miss Marvel,” calling her “miss” because he’s old and old-fashioned. “Excuse me, that’s Ms. Marvel, sir!” Kamala tells him. The end.
There’s no previous Ms. Marvel that needs to exist, and no reason to bring up the Inhumans, either, even if they use Terrigen Mist as part of her origin. That doesn’t have to come from a giant Mist bomb; she can just encounter it, maybe when a SHIELD truck carrying a canister of it is attacked and crashes in front of her and it cracks open, Daredevil style.
As for DC, surely some Warner Bros. executive has decided Lobo is the closest character DC has to a Deadpool that also has some popularity with nerds. WB wants that some of that sweet, sweet Deadpool money so bad, you guys.
The Post Office Is Closing
Mr. Futuristic Postman,
I’ve always wondered, what happened to you after the end of your biography as written down by David Brin in his book The Postman?
I vanished while trying to expand the fledgling postal service to Texas. No clues to my fate were found The attempts to rebuild the United States by uniting the various communities that remained in post-apocalyptic America through postal service-based opportunities broke down as soon as the giant, irradiated scorpion-ducks arrived. The postmen I inspired kept delivering the mail, though, because catalogs come back in a big way. So, a mixed bag, is what I’m saying.
The Post Office Is Now Closed
Bunches of You:
Why are you abandoning us?
Aw, don’t make me sad, you amalgamation of people who sent in a letter asking this but in a less pitiful way.
Here’s the deal. When I stepped down as editor, I said that I wanted to return to writing, and that maybe I’d even try to write a book. I’ve certainly gotten back to writing, and it’s been great, but with my column at Medium and “Postal Apocalypse,” I’ve been busier than I thought I’d be. (It probably doesn’t sound like much, but both of these take me a long time to do.) So when Medium has asked me to become one of its exclusive columnists, I said yes. Beyond being flattering, it’s a good deal for me for a lot of reasons, including that I’d be able to devote a lot of time to trying to write a book…and now I actually have an idea for one.
For the time being, though, if you’d like to keep reading things written by Rob Bricken, just head over to my “Nerd Processor” column at Medium every Thursday. Also, somehow I’m still going to be recapping The Walking Dead here at io9, because apparently I cannot and will never escape them. [Ed’s Note: Muahahahahaha!]
As for “Postal Apocalypse,” well, now it’s time for me to set my tattered mailbag down for the foreseeable future. But after that, who knows what may happen? Thank you all for reading and sending me questions, for all these years, and putting up with all my many absences (including this one). You guys are the best, and I hope you won’t forget the fake mailman who opened your mail and answered it himself instead of delivering it like he was supposed to.