Posted by: Jeff Lester on March 30, 2009
Because I follow several of the Alert Nerd people on Twitter, I had the head’s up about their “what’s your Scott & Jean?” event they were planning for March 30th. Unfortunately, because I’m still a waster with terrible time management skills and the world’s worst book to re-draft, I didn’t realize that March 30th would somehow end up being, y’know, today.
I think the question is relatively comprehensible to yr. average comics geek. As Sarah puts it in Alert Nerd’s master post:
Said phrase means, essentially, “That is my geek sacred cow, the one topic I cannot discuss rationally because it makes me too insane/angry/scary-eyed.”
So what’s my geek sacred cow? Let’s find out together shall we? After the jump.
Being the “Raised on ’70s Marvel” geezer that I am, my list of geek sacred cows back during that time would’ve been something like:
(1) Bucky stays dead;
(2) Gwen Stacy stays dead;
(3) Uncle Ben stays dead;
(4) Howard The Duck does not wear pants, and wears a hat too small for his head.
In the ’80s, I think I would’ve added the following to the list:
(1) Jean Grey stays dead;
(2) Nobody but Frank Miller writes Elektra;
(3) You never learn Wolverine’s origin;
(4) You can’t break up Nightwing and Starfire (Hey, my entry point into DC was Wolfman & Perez’s Teen Titans).
In fact, this may have been the true joy of being a young comic book geek: stepping out each fine morning and looking out an entire herd of geek sacred cows happily grazing before you–nobody but Kirk will command the Enterprise; the Man From Atlantis will never remember his origin; in the end, Godzilla never loses; you can’t have a Planet of the Apes movie without Roddy McDowall; you never see the Human Fly’s face. There’s something thrilling about coming down from Mount Sinai with those two tablets of shall-nots and will-nots. Every parent will tell you about the phase their kid goes through where their response to everything is ‘no!’ But there’s also something satisfying about these rules because you learn them, basically on your own. Unless you’re reading a John Byrne comic, nobody would ever say, ‘Reed can never cure Ben! Iron Fist will always love Misty Knight! Scott will only love Jean!’ They’re the things you learn on your own–that’s why they’re so powerful, something so similar to sacred.
But over time, as you get older, you watch most of your sacred cows get a bolt in their brain, hung upside down and bled, cut into parts. Then you are offered the chance to plunk down some cash so you can bite into that extra-thick and juicy hamburger formerly known as your sacred cow. And some of us bite deep into that burger just so we can complain knowledgeably about what a horrible waste, a sacrilege, a defilement of the divine, the burger’s production is. And some of us realize the sacred cows were never grazing in our pasture, and we either stay because we like the view, or we split.
Or, you know, every so often, in mid-self-righteous mouthful,we find ourselves going, ‘this is one damn tasty burger.’ I was not a big fan of bringing Bucky back, but god-damned if Brubaker didn’t grill that shit up and serve it to me with thick-sliced onions and a side of bacon. I was incredibly annoyed at how lame ‘One More Day’ was, but on the next-to-last page, I was a little bummed Gwen Stacy wasn’t right there next to Harry Osborn–as long as you’re gonna defile the church, people, fornicate on the altar, not in the pews.
Now, it may be that I have some list of geek sacred cows that I am hiding from you–that I am, in fact, hiding from myself, so that I don’t have to worry about saying them out loud and having today’s writers go, ‘Wow. That would blow everybody’s mind if it turned out that Dick Grayson was gay, wouldn’t it? Hmmm…’
Because in a marketplace that caters exclusively to the disciples, sacrilege sells. If you can sell the sacrilege in a way that stays true to the characters, then you’ve got a pretty good future in this business. But if you can’t? Find the cow, man. Find it and kill it.
But I came to this meme to honor it, not to bury it. I’ll give you two Scott & Jeans, in fact: a bugbear and a meta-bugbear, either of which I’ll happily argue about until the [WARNING: STOP TALKING ABOUT FUCKING COWS!]… new comics come in.
Scott & Jean Number One: Lois Lane and Superman and Clark Kent must always be a love triangle.
Why? Because apart from his constant inherent goodness (which is only interesting now because no other hero is considered constantly, inherently good–fifty years ago, that was par for the course) it is the only fucking interesting thing about Superman, that’s why. Nearly every other single interesting thing about Superman (Kandor, weird ‘L.L.’ fixation, lost civilization of Krypton, the Legion) is an odd external facet, some little idea that stuck and crystallized in a really interesting way.
But the fact that Lois loves Superman and Clark loves Lois, but Lois doesn’t love Clark the way she loves Superman and so therefore Superman can’t love Lois the way she loves him, comes from Superman/Clark himself, and not from any external geegaw or fifth-dimensional whatsit or from being exposed to some rare strain of Kryptonite that makes him peevish or capricious. You can spend a lot of time and energy thinking about why this weird dynamic exists (and believe me, I have) and you’ll never get to the heart of it, but you can, like an actor, pick a reason that makes sense to you and craft stories that suggest your explanation.
The bizarre love triangle (or maybe it’s better to say Bizarro love triangle, since it’s not a triangle at all) is not only tied to the internal drama of the lead character and multivalent, it’s also real. (In fact, it’s better than real–it’s super-real, in that “a wheel is a leg” kind of way.) Remember that person who liked you enough to hook up with you (repeatedly, even!) but always had some weirdo explanation as to why they couldn’t be with you? Remember that person who adored you, and you realized all you had to do was adore them back and everything would be fine, but there was something–the way they slouched or the way they laughed, or your unrequieted love for someone else, or the fact that you were still five years away from realizing you were an emotionally damaged alcoholic who had to keep everyone at arm’s length? Sometimes, later on, you figure out why things didn’t happen, or maybe you never do and you think of that person–not so much the one who got away as the one you let go–and you accept it because that’s the way things are, you guess: Lois loves Superman and Clark loves Lois, but Lois doesn’t love Clark the way she loves Superman and so therefore Superman can’t love Lois the way she loves him.
Scott & Jean Number Two (the meta-bugbear): Continuity matters.
Continuity is a noose. Continuity is a trap. I believe that, I really do. It’s one thing to have continuity for five years or ten years in your superhero universe–maybe you can split your Earths in two, and you can double that. But it’s like entropy–sooner or later it gets you. At a certain point, it renders the system useless as every transaction in the closed system is made and no other transaction can be made. A noose. A trap.
But even though I know that, continuity matters to me–without it, the idea that what happens now matters to what happens next, and what happened last month is important to what’s happening now. The noose of continuity is what has raised superhero comics to such spectacularly successful heights. More and more, I enjoy the craft of a fine done-in-one, but that’s because there aren’t that many continuity driven stories I enjoy these days–maybe because I’m not personally invested in them, since there’s either a good chance they’ll be undone in the next two years or because they ignore some piece of former continuity, or the continuity they had to wipe in order for the story they had to have happen. But as much as I enjoy sitting around high on the drug of my choice reading Bob Haney Brave & The Bold showcases (and I’m enjoying it these days probably more than I should), I totally would’ve ditched comics when I was twelve or fourteen or seventeen if that’s all there had been to it.
I wish I had somewhere further to go with this point from there, but I don’t think I do. This is where I have to remember that those cows don’t belong to me–they belong to the guy next door, the one who assures me the cows are sacred to him, too. (You know, the guy running the slaughterhouse.) He’s gotta make a living, or he closes up shop and there are no more cows. [HOW THE HELL DID I END UP ON THE FUCKING COWS AGAIN? STOP, STOP, STOP.] Maybe this is why I’m more vegetarian these days–18 volumes of Urasawa’s Japanese mushrooms; Jaime and Gilbert’s strange burrito joint with the tear-summoning hot sauce; stranged aged cheeses from the ’40s and ’50s. I dunno.
And, anyway, the stupid settlement says that Howard has to wear pants, so what are ya going to do, right?