Greetings, my fantastic friends! (finger guns) Don’t worry, not all the questions in this week’s mailbag are about a certain fantastic flop, although there are a few; I guess that’s what I get for not doing a FAQ. But I also try to solve one of Star Wars’s weirdest, nerdiest mysteries—why the hell is C-3PO programmed for “human-cyborg relations”?


To Infinity and Beyond

James K.:

So I know this is obviously far off but with the recent release of Ant-man and Civil war coming out I was wondering what’s Marvel going to do after Infinity War? Starting with the Avengers it seems like the entire MCU has been building up to this big event, so where do they go once it’s over?

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I’m not sure exactly, but it’s not like Marvel is close to running out of event storylines or world-threatening villains. The Red Skull could pop back up (presumably played by someone other than Hugo Weaving). There was a rumor for a while that there was a real Mandarin running around the MCU. Dr. Strange’s foe Dormammu is basically Satan, so he makes for a reasonable antagonist for the Avengers and their allies. Frankly, I’d put my money on some form of the Masters of Evil—or basically some kind of team of villains that will take on Marvel’s good guys.

A bad guy team-up could lead into a movie adaptation of Acts of Vengeance, where a bunch of villains basically switch archenemies in hopes of having more success. It could also be used for an adaptation of Avengers Under Siege, in which the Masters of Evil take over Stark Tower and basically kick the Avengers’ collective asses.

If I were a betting man, though, I would place money that Secret Invasion will be the main Avengers movie after Infinity War settles down. Marvel has clearly been enjoying adapting their more recent events for their movies—Civil War, Age of Ultron, etc.—and Secret Invasion, where the Skrulls infiltrate the superhero community, seems like it would be different enough from the intergalactic battle royale that will be Infinity War that is wouldn’t feel repetitive.

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Or maybe by that point Fox will have screwed up the second Fantastic Four movie so badly that they’ll actually sell the movie rights back to Marvel—or at least let them rent Galactus for a healthy fee.


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Cross It Off

Geonn C.:

Everyone is talking about how FF was supposed to create a shared universe with the by-all-accounts-successful X-Men movies. But how could that be possible? FF is set in modern day, and X-Men is still in the 80s. Would the series have skipped ahead 30 years? And if everyone on the team (Beast, Cyclops, Storm) are in their twenties during Apocalypse, they’d be in their 50s when they finally meet teen Reed and his fantastic floppers. And if the X-Men ARE going for a post-Apocalypse reboot, why is it assumed it would be as successful as Singer’s version?

I’m just wondering why, even if FF had been successful, anyone thought tying the two worlds together would have been the next logical step. Just because the same company owned both franchises, regardless of how the individual stories worked?

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It wasn’t about logic. It was, as it almost always is, about cash. Marvel Studios team up for a movie, make a zillion dollars; Fox also wants to make a zillion dollars, and if all it takes it a team-up movie, well, then all the superheroes Fox has (the X-Men and Fantastic Four) are going to team up as well, by god.

To be fair, it would hardly have been impossible to get the FF and the X-Men together. The Fantastic Four have done a fair amount of time-traveling in their day, and a second movie could have featured Reed Richards trying to crack that since, you know, his other inter-dimensional project turned out so well. Or maybe the X-Men of the ‘80s could be thrown 30 years into the future at the end of X-Men: Apocalypse by whatever wacky maguffin Apocalypse is inevitably threatening the world with.

There is also the distinct possibility that no one gave any thought as to how such a crossover would be possible, and the Fox executives just announced it was happening because they wanted it to happen. Leave the how for the people who aren’t full of cocaine.

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Threepio’s Company

Dan:

You no doubt recall from Star Wars that C3PO introduces himself with the phrase “human cyborg relations”. What the heck is he talking about?

Many of the characters in the films are not human, and none of the cyborgs need any help relating with anything. As far as I can tell, most of these people speak the same language and don’t need a translator. Even if they didn’t know “Galactic Basic” or whatever, it has nothing to do with them being cyborgs.

Besides, it’s R2D2 who actually interfaces with the computers wherever they go. People like Luke do talk to R2 and it seems he can understand us, he just can’t talk back with anything besides beeps. And they just guesstimate what he is saying based on how the beeps sound I think, except for C3PO who speaks astromech. But guess who is not there helping? 3PO. Even when Luke is in his X-Wing the computer screen shows what R2 is saying exactly, because he’s outside in space where Luke can’t hear him — plus he is plugged directly into the computer so it can be specific — no extra bot needed.

The only example I can come up with of Threepio doing any interpreting for a human with his six billion languages is with the Ewoks, but they’re obviously not cyborgs either. So what’s the deal?? Thanks and keep up the good work, it’s a fun column!

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Okay, the reality is that it was one of those times George Lucas wrote down something science fiction-y because it sounded cool even though he had no idea what he was talking about. It was just like Han’s line about making the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. You shouldn’t think too much about it.

But since thinking too much about it is what I’m here for, let’s go! The best way to think about it is that C-3PO is a protocol droid essentially, with a specialty in human-cyborg relations. Besides translation, he’s also there to advise on cultures and etiquette, making sure people doesn’t use the wrong fork at dinner or accidentally do something that is a deadly insult on such-and-such planet. When we meet him, he’s on Princess Leia’s ship while she’s on a diplomatic mission to somewhere, so it makes total sense for her to bring a protocol droid.

As for “human-cyborg relations,” that’s trickier to explain away. The best thing to do is just assume cyborg is another word for droids and doesn’t mean what we consider cyborgs, i.e. humans with robotic parts in them. After all, “droids” clearly means “all robots” in the Star Wars world, it’s not a major leap to assume “cyborg” means something else, too.

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So if C-3PO’s specialty as a protocol droid is talking to other droids that perhaps don’t communicate in the basic language of the Star Wars universe, then it makes a ton of sense for him to be partnered with Artoo—which, by the way, he does interpret for on more than a few occasions, especially in A New Hope. And Artoo is mainly involved with accessing computers, which are non-sentient in Star Wars, so there’s no overlap there.

The biggest question is why a 10-year-old slave on Tatooine would bother to build a protocol and etiquette droid in the first place. To that, I can only answer that Anakin thought pretty girls were angels and hated sand. He was a total weirdo. Why not build a protocol droid?


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Meet Your Doom

Guy from the Present:

Dear Mister Postman, I appreciate you taking a break from collecting dirty water and mutant rats to answer my question about comic book movies forgotten long before you were born.

Why exactly can’t any movie studio get Dr. Doom *right*? We’ve had 3 attempts (including a reboot (and no i’m not counting the Corman one)), and none of them have come close to being satisfying. Fox has even done great comic villains before- both versions of Magneto, Liv Schrieber’s Sabretooth, Dr. Octopus.

Just what is it about Dr. Doom, the greatest comic book villain of all time, that prevents him from being faithfully portrayed in movies?

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The problem is that the Fantastic Four movie screenwriters really want Doom to be tied to the FF’s origin, which inevitably means bringing him board the event that gave them their superpowers. The reason they want this is because they feel that the first FF movie has to be their origin story, and the move has to utilize Doctor Doom, since he’s their greatest, most iconic villain. This makes sense, right?

So if you’re writing an origin story about the FF and are compelled to use Doctor Doom, you need a reason for Doom to be hanging around the heroes and a reason for them to fall into conflict. The comic book version of Doom—an evil dictator of a foreign country—is very tough. Why would that guy be hanging with the FF? Why would the FF be working with a known bad guy? It’s much easier to turn Doom into a billionaire who funds Reed Richards’ project, or another scientist working with Reed; by ditching Doom’s iconic armor and giving him powers in the same event that gives the FF their powers, that gives the FF a responsibility to stop Doom, setting up the movie’s conflict.

It’s much, much more efficient storytelling. But it also turns Doctor Doom into a completely different character than the one we actually want to see, the character that has become Marvel’s greatest villain.

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To be fair to all the movie people trying this, Marvel had the exact same problem. In the original ‘60s comics, Reed and Doom went to college together, Doom was making some kind of machine that would let him talk to his dead mom, Reed looked over at it and saw it was messed up and told Doom. Doom, being an arrogant ass told Richards he was an arrogant ass, turned on his machine, and blew up part of his face. It was only then that he went back to Latveria, put on his big suit of armor, and became the ass-kicking Dr. Doom we know.

This Doom origin story is as dumb as the one in the 2005 Fantastic Four and the 2015 movie, but the comics had plenty of time to turn Doom from a pissy scientist who lived in Reed’s dorm to the power-mad scientist wizard dictator who all know and love.


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Dead and Snikting It

Rob in the Hat:

Hail, O Ersatz Postal Drone of the Impending Apocalypse! I hope the radioactive vampire gerbils have not been bothering you too much at night.

The other night, I was thinking about Marvel Zombies, particularly Wolverine. We see him all decayed and rotten, but he has that healing factor. Since the zombie superheroes still have their powers, wouldn’t his heal up his body? Would he even “die” and become a zombie in the first place?

Apologies if you have answered this question before, but it did keep me up for a good 15 minutes thinking about it.

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Well, the zombie virus in Marvel Zombies is an alien virus, so all the normal rules are thrown out the window. About all you can say is that the Marvel zombies are clearly dead, as their bodies are decomposing, and that includes Wolverine. Clearly, the virus killed him like it killed the others, at which point his healing factor—which is basically a normal biological function of the body, just amped up to insane levels—shut down like most of his other bodily functions.


Do you have questions about anything scifi, fantasy, superhero, or nerd-related? Email the postman@io9.com! No question too difficult, no question too dumb! Obviously!

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