Greetings, my mail-carrier carrion! Okay, that was a weird thing to call you. I absolutely promise I will not leave your corpses out to feed the horrifying scavengers — animal, human or mutant — that stalk this post-apocalyptic land. If it can be avoided. Hopefully. Look, I'll try. Let's just read some letters, okay?
The Zero Theory
Hey, Mr. Postman!
Are there any fictional characters you love in theory but (usually) can't get behind in practice? I'll give you an example.
I love the TMNT. I love them so hard. But I've been burned so, so many times.
[Inserts many thoughts about every single TMNT incarnation here – Ed.]
Any characters like this for you? They're really awesome...selectively.
Zach — I apologize for deleting your many fine, and totally legitimate thoughts on various TMNT cartoons, movies, comics, etc. I didn't want what is a very excellent question getting bogged down in TMNT minutia and arguments thereof. It probably will, but I had to try.
Let me let you in on one of the greatest secrets of nerd-dom — the truest love a nerd can have for a franchise is in theory.
I, for instance, love He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. If you ask me about either of the cartoons or any of the comics — or, frankly, any of the toylines — I can give you myriad reasons why they're all uniquely terrible. So in effect I love He-Man and yet I actively dislike virtually every He-Man product available. That's insane, right?
But that's what it is to love something in theory. Oh, it's easy to love something obviously great like Adventure Time, or something that has is universally recognized as quality like (certain portions of) Star Wars. But the He-Man I love is a version that exists only in my imagination, and one that will never possibly exist. In my head, Masters of the Universe is a Lord of the Rings-style epic of fantasy, science fiction, monsters, sorcerers, robots, war, violence, etc. In my fondest dreams, the Masters of the Universe toyline has incredibly detailed designs (like the 2002 toyline), but with great paint jobs, decent articulation, and in scale to each other (meaning that they're not all the same size).
In reality, none of these things exist, nor will they ever. NAnd every time someone tries — whether it be the new cartoon, the MOTU Classics toyline, or the recent DC comics (which have tried to be "grown-up" but have their own issues) — it inevitably falls short. Hell, no matter how close someone got, there's no way it could ever match the nebulous, platonic Masters of the Universe ideal I have in my imagination, meaning despite my love for the property, it will do nothing but disappoint me for the rest of my life.
Does this make me a tragic figure for loving something that can never be? No. It probably makes me an idiot. It definitely makes me a nerd.
P.S. — This phenomenon is the source of pretty much every Simpsons'-esque Comic Book Guy comment in existence.
In light of the recent kerfuffle over her redesigned costume, will there ever be a run on Wonder Woman, or to be frank, ANY portrayal of Wonder Woman that either satisfies a decent swath (60-70%) of fans or will cause the comic to sell at a top 10 level?
It seems that with every status quo in Wonder Woman, there is a large, very vocal group of folks that hate whatever the changes are made. even the recent Azzarello run, critically praised all over the reviewer internet, had it's detractors saying she wasn't compassionate and far too bloodthristy, and moreover did not sell at the rate a book of that critical praise sold.
With "slowly but surely" incremental progress being made to the portrayal of women in comics AND women creators in comics, will there ever be a day that we see a Wonder Woman that has a costume, personality, and creative team that will satisfy the masses? Esp. with her big screen portrayal coming up hot.
I doubt it. First, different people want many different things out of Wonder Woman. This is due to the fact that she's made out of so many different aspects. She's an ancient Greek Amazon! She's a star-spangled patriot! She's a feminist icon! She's a modern woman! She's a warrior! She's a spiritual mother of us all! She's a goddess! Arrgh! If not outright contradictory, many of these aspects do not mesh well with each other, which is why so many people have had so many wildly different takes on the world's greatest superheroine, even just in the last 10 years.
Second — and this is going to sound like I'm 80 years old and want people to get off my lawn — the internet gives everyone a voice, and people are 10 times more likely to talk about something they hate over something they like. Seeing as it's literally impossible to create a version of Wonder Woman that pleases everybody, there will always be someone who hates the hell out of her modern version, and is happy to let everyone know.
In the olden days, random people may have hated certain portrayals, characters, storylines, etc, but unless you physically talked to them, you could live a life of blissful ignorance, thinking everyone loved such-and-such as much as you. You no longer can. Even if 99% of the populace loves some new version of Wonder Woman, that remaining 1% will be incredibly vocal about how terrible she is, and you won't be able to avoid it. Now get off my lawn.
I enjoyed your write up about the problems with that Batgirl cover, but I've gotta ask: "Is the only sexism in this situation that Batgirl is crying and helpless, or is it also that no male super hero would ever be written as crying?"
Even at the risk of sounding like the "men are sexualized in comics too" crowd, isn't it kind of rough that no male super hero has a legitimate weakness in their character? Sure they have hubris, greed, and vengeance issues but those are always "I'm too good" problems. Never do we see Superman undone when he's about to die - unless someone else is in danger. Nor does Wolverine become paralyzed by centuries of PTSD when finally faced with mortality. They all just grit their teeth and fight anyways.
I tend to think it's fairly destructive to portray men as always strong and never wavering figures, and can be damaging especially when a guy finds himself in a moment of weakness like this, but our culture says "man-up" instead of looking vulnerable. Rather than avoid showing women as occasionally weak, maybe we should level the playing field and make men more human in our stories.
Sean — I disagree with a little bit of your premise, but first of all I want to thank you for arguing your point politely and quite rationally. I don't want to blow your mind, but that was certainly not always the case in response to last week's column.
The sexism of the infamous Batgirl cover is that she is portrayed as helpless in a way no male superhero ever would. And it sucks that Batgirl's weakness is both physical and emotional weakness — clearly evidenced by that cover — when a male superhero's weakness tends to be limited solely to obsession, which is actually usually portrayed as a strength anyways. (Also, please note how this slightly altered version of the cover above — where Batgirl is still captured, but not crying and still clearly ready to fight — makes all the difference.)
I see your point about this presenting an unrealistic ideal for men to live up to, but as you yourself noted that this falls uncomfortably near the "men are sexualized in comics too" argument, which isn't true. Men are drawn buff and muscled, but this isn't for female readers' benefit — it's because comics have their roots as wish fulfillment for boys and men. These heroes have emotional strength to match their physical strength, because that's what comic reader have generally wanted for the last 80 years. For most readers, seeing Wolverine break down and start crying every time he battles Sabretooth would be an amazing bummer.
The twist is this: Female audiences like the wish-fulfillment aspect of superhero comics too. They want to see heroes and exciting adventures and be entertained, and they want to see female superheroines kicking ass just as much as male audiences. If you're a female comic reader, the medium can already be an intimidating place, thanks to the horrible, horrible shitheads who think making comics that appeal to more than just them is a betrayal of the highest order. These people are selfish and awful, but that goes without saying.
Anyways, suffice it to say a Batman cover displaying him crying while the Joker caresses his face would freak most male comic readers out. It would make them uncomfortable, and they wouldn't buy it. The Batgirl #41 cover had the same unfortunate effect on female comic readers, with the added horror of referencing an admittedly iconic comics' moment where a beloved heroine was violently hurt and sexually abused, (i.e. The Killing Joke) which makes it much worse. Far too many parts of the industry and its fans already go out of their way to make women feel excluded from the medium — so anything that lessens this antagonism in any way is a good thing.
What are the chances that we actually come out of the Secret Wars with a retcon of One More Day and Peter actually happily married? It seems far more likely The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows will take place in a universe destroyed by the events of the Secret Wars.
I honestly have no clue what Marvel is doing with Secret Wars. I honestly don't.
If I had to place money — and I'm glad I don't — also my post-apocalyptic society uses Chuck E. Cheese coins as currency, so I don't know how that would fly — I'd guess that Spider-Man writer Dan Slott somehow convinced Marvel's Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada that Peter Parker should be married again. Quesada has very publicly hated Spidey's marriage, feeling that the core of the character was young, in high school, felt a bit isolated, and nerdy, but not adult. He's the primary reason "One More Day" exists.
"One More Day" might have been awful, but Quesada was not technically wrong. Certainly when Quesada was reading Spider-Man back in the '60s, Peter Parker was young and single, and thatt's a major portion of what made Spidey one of the most popular superheroes in the world. He was also the most relatable. Quesada thought Peter Parker's adulthood and marriage made him unrelatable to kids, and that's understandable.
The unfortunate thing is at the time "One More Day" erased Spidey's marriage, Peter had been married for 30 years. Thirty years! That's longer than Spidey had been single (1963-1987)! Most modern Spider-Man readers actually grew up with Peter married to Mary Jane, and if he was slightly less accessible, that was still their norm. So when Quesada mandated "One More Day" and retconned the marriage, they wigged out. In trying to make Spider-Man more appealing, he accidentally changed an aspect of Spider-Man that most readers had long ago accepted. The execution may have been terrible, but the intentions were pure.
I can't imagine that Marvel would risk pissing off the fans by bringing back the Spider-marraige and then taking it away. That seems like a terrible idea, because all it does is make fans miss the marriage more. So I'm guessing Slott convinced Quesada that the Spider-marriage had countless fans who still miss it, and for those who preferred a young Spidey, Miles Morales can ably fill this void. Secret Wars will undoubtedly bring Miles into the new combined universe, so Marvel will technically have it both ways. Can't beat that.
The latest episode of The Flash introduced (sorta) time travel. Admittedly, you've known time travel was coming since the pilot if you're a comic reader, and for several episodes if you're not. The first episode with time travel clearly laid the building blocks for next episode to be either a reset button episode where Barry takes care of the stuff he screwed up previously or he'll end up making everything worse because time travel.
Either way, the initial outing for time travel on this show is a terrible precedent as it currently stands. Time travel of the "let's go back to yesterday" variety means that from now until the end of the show, fans will get to ask, "why didn't Barry go back and do it again?" This seems like a bad turn for a show that has done a stupendous job of translating some Silver Age comic book insanity into an entertaining weekly show.
So I write to you to get your thoughts on this development. What do you think of the Flash's newfound time travel ability, and what it means for the future of the show?
The Flash was very careful to explain that Barry's timejump was inadvertent, and not something he can replicate whenever he wants. This may change in the future, but it probably shouldn't, because time travel robs all the tension and drama out of each and every story, because you know that it technically could be fixed if the Flash would just run a couple of hours into the past. Furthermore, if the show simply grants him the power to run through time, it'll have to find increasingly convoluted (and most likely dumb) reasons to say why he can't. If the Flash can't control it, then the show writers can use it sparingly. So hopefully The Flash will keep it mysterious, unexplained, and very, very infrequent. Otherwise the TV show will be about as screwed up as The Flash comics used to be.
Here's another bet from the ol' Postman — I'm guessing the season finale ends with the Flash fighting Reverse Flash in the past, battling over his mom, and then Barry returns to the present to discover he's changed the timeline. The CW will call this Flashpoint, and comics fans will freak out, although it will have nothing to do with the recent DC event that paved the way or the New 52. It'll just be a "The Flash accidentally created a different timeline" story.
Dear Postman of the future,
Please, please, please, please – tell me that some point within my lifetime the io9 comments get fixed? Many a time I've had to go through and dig out the unauthorized posts to read others opinions, wasting valuable seconds of my busy (I'm lying) life. Meanwhile, over on Io9's sister site, Gizmodo, all comments made are instantly visible to all.
So much great stuff by the fans of io9 gets missed by casual visitors. Give me hope.
Things are being worked on, but I know far better than to make you any promises. Let's just all cross our fingers.
Darkseid of the Moon
Dear Mr. Postman,
Back in the old "Super Friends" day, a running subplot was Darkseid's determination to make Wonder Woman his queen. Assuming such a thing actually happened, how would Darkseid get it on with the Amazon Princess? You're the right person to ask about this because a) you're a fantasy penis expert and b) you don't have to fear getting annihilated by Darkseid.
The Super Friends actually had the canon version of Darkseid's obsession with Wonder Woman. So, if Darkseid had managed to wed Wonder Woman, either through mind control or a shockingly clever proposal, the result would have been the same — the two would have slept in separate twin beds to prevent anyone from thinking they might ever physically touch each other, and one day an Apokalyptian stork would have delivered a horrible baby to their doorstep.
The resulting comic would of course have been called "Leave It to Orion."
Do you have questions about anything scifi, fantasy, superhero, or nerd-related? Email the firstname.lastname@example.org! No question too difficult, no question too dumb! Obviously!
Contact the author at email@example.com.