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A Minor, Insignificant Question about Mainstream Comics from Abhay

Abhay Khosla

Dear Savage Critic readers,

I’m very sorry to bother, but an extremely minor and insignificant question about mainstream comics occurred to me the other day, one that’s been nagging at me, that I thought I’d put to you and request your assistance with. Extremely minor; extremely insignificant.  

I probably haven’t been paying as close attention to mainstream comics as some of you, and so some of you may be more knowledgeable on this topic than I am.  (Indeed, those less knowledgeable should be warned that there may be spoilers for comics you may want to read someday below).

I’m sure this is a question that’s already been asked elsewhere, already discussed at great length by my betters, so I apologize that this is likely well-trod ground. I’m a bit behind. Just a simple question for the more knowledgeable among you.

I was spending my free-time the other day the same way I imagine most you spend your free-time: idly day-dreaming about how awesome THE FLASH is right now, and how THE FLASH is better than all of the other comics, and how anyone who disagrees with that can SUCK IT.  You know:  normal thoughts for an adult person to be thinking with their brains.  (I just happen to be particularly enjoying THE FLASH at the moment, in a way that probably far exceeds any of that comic book’s actual merits.)

And so, as I’m reflecting upon THE FLASH— basking in its glory, some might say– my thoughts turned to what the book was like for me before the relaunch:  Not Good.

After the relaunch, DC let the book’s art team, Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, handle the writing. Neither gentleman being professional comic writers by trade, the two instead naively decided to tell a story about how (1) The Flash is a decent guy, (2) The Flash has the coolest powers, (3) The Flash has to face-down gnarly bad guys, and (4) making THE FLASH comics lets them draw/color super-cool things.  Mainstream comics usually aren’t about any of those four things because some writer’s busy showing off that they know things about, like, politics or whatever, instead; e.g., 2011 was the year where Captain America, Iron Man and Superman all had opinions about THE ECONOMY.

But that wasn’t what the comic was like before the relaunch.  No, before the relaunch, The Flash employed a comic writer and the couple issues I checked out in anticipation of our Roundtable discussion on FLASHPOINT, they weren’t as focused on those four things.

Instead, the comic writer was building towards his epic crossover, FLASHPOINT, built on the premise that “EVERYTHING YOU KNEW ABOUT THE FLASH’S MOM WAS WRONG.

The FLASHPOINT crossover included a BATMAN spin-off called BATMAN: KNIGHT OF VENGEANCE.  The premise of that comic was  “EVERYTHING YOU KNEW ABOUT BATMAN’S MOM WAS WRONG.

Both comics were  published contemporaneously with Marvel’s FEAR ITSELF crossover, which was about how “EVERYTHING YOU KNEW ABOUT THOR’S DAD WAS WRONG.”  (Uh: and also something about “escape”, apparently).

Which … and here’s where I show my ignorance, and mention comics I haven’t read…but this was published around the same time as the relaunch of ULTIMATE SPIDERMAN.  Which I’ve been told began with stories about how “EVERYTHING SPIDERMAN KNOWS ABOUT HIS DAD AND UNCLE IS WRONG.”

And published within the vicinity of a series called S*H*I*E*L*D*, which again I’ve been told is about how “EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT MISTER FANTASTIC’S DAD AND IRON MAN’S DADS IS WRONG.”

And in spitting distance of the highly publicized BATMAN R.I.P., which teased readers with the prospect that “EVERYTHING BATMAN KNOWS ABOUT HIS DAD IS WRONG.”

And spitting distance of the mystery of the Red Hulk– another comic I didn’t read, but the resolution of which was apparently that “EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT THE HULK’S WIFE’S DAD IS WRONG.

I mean, I know this isn’t the most unusual theme in fiction.  It’s been done before.  I have half a memory of a stretch of either John Byrne or Jerry Ordway’s SUPERMAN that concerned the mystery of whether Lex Luthor or Perry White had impregnated Perry White’s wife.  The way I remember it, Lex Luthor mistakenly thought you could get a girl pregnant from the mouth.  They were trying to make a point how Lex Luthor post-Crisis wasn’t a scientific genius anymore, but Jesus, that was a pretty extreme way of going about it, if you ask me.  My memories are pretty fuzzy, though, so I may be off on some of the minor details there.

That comic RUNAWAYS was well-liked– I suppose that was built on the same basic foundation of Parent Secrets.  Or I want to say that I heard YOUNG AVENGERS might have had similar ideas in it somewhere…?

So my questions:

1. Am I misremembering details of comics I’ve never read that I only half-heard about, or are mainstream comics especially fixated on this theme lately?

2.  If the latter, were comics equally fascinated with this theme in earlier periods?

My loose, under-educated and malnourished understanding of mainstream comics history bros is that, basically, you had the Obscure WW2-Era Bros whose themes were that evil can go fuck itself and that dudes be getting stabbed in the eyes; the 60’s Bros who cared a lot about people who were different being treated equally; the Acid-Stoner Bros, who cared about acid and skulls and just contemplating the concept of motherfucking infinity; the Punk Bros (followed by the Acid House Bros, though they arguably did their best work out of the mainstream, with obvious exceptions); the Crosshatch Bros, and then, the Movie Brat Bros, right? None of whom really struck me as being especially parent-oriented, thinking back on them.

Granted, in WATCHMEN, “EVERYTHING LAURIE JUPITER KNEW ABOUT HER MOM AND DAD WAS WRONG.”  They didn’t shy away from those themes.  But I don’t know that I’d especially call it a dominant feature of 80’s British Invasion superhero comics, either.

Did we shift into the Parent Bro Era of Comics at some point and I just didn’t notice?

3.  Is this a theme that’s meaningful to… anybody?  If I found out everything I knew about my parents was wrong, I’d be pretty bummed about it, I guess, but at the end of the day, I’d still have to make rent.  So.  I suppose it’s a powerful theme for little kids…?

4.  Also:  are comics outside of the mainstream, from Image, Vertigo, Oni, Boom, D&Q, Fantagraphics,etc., are those comics fixated on this theme too right now?

In one of the Appendixes of PAYING FOR IT, Chester Brown did theorize about a world where “EVERYTHING YOU KNEW ABOUT A GIRL YOU PAY FOR SEX’S MOM IS WRONG” (spoiler: you can also pay the mom for sex), but that doesn’t seem like the same thing.

Those are my questions. I apologize for those of you bored by these questions, as this has probably been discussed ad nauseam elsewhere.  Thank you in advance for your assistance, and Happy New Year.






33 Responses to “ A Minor, Insignificant Question about Mainstream Comics from Abhay ”

  1. It’s a change from the 60s and 70s when all the superheroes were orphans, and none of them knew anything about their parents at all. This is what they get for asking…

  2. So I started laughing out loud after “EVERYTHING YOU KNEW ABOUT THE FLASH’S MOM WAS WRONG.” and continued to laugh out loud through much of the post.
    We like to think of ourselves as living in enlightened times, but maybe all these professional comic writers had Moms and Dads that threw their comic books out. “Mom and Dad, I thought I knew you, but then you threw my comic books out!”
    I know my Dad still harbors a little resentment that his Mom threw out his “Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold” and “Human Torch Fights the Sub-mariner” and whatever other comics. And maybe if he just kept holding onto these comics, instead of getting interested in cars and girls, maybe today he would be a millionaire. And through eventual inheritance, maybe someday I would be a millionaire.
    Of course, if he just kept admiring his comic collection and never got interested in girls, perhaps I wouldn’t exist. So, you know, mixed feelings.

  3. Or … somebody introduced those few writers who are writing those countless series a second, new idea. They grew up with EVERYTHING YOU KNEW ABOUT HERO XY WAS WRONG. And in a flash of inspiration they knew how to make their mark. They may not have it in them to write the next classic which will still be sold twenty years from now, but this they could. EVERYHTING YOU KNEW ABOUT HERO XY´ MOM/DAD WAS WRONG. And it is not only ONE new idea, it is TWO. Enough material für at least 40 crossover-events.

  4. I think you can pretty much nail it down to coming from RIP – and like most things inspired by Morrison, it was a hell of a lot better when he did it.

  5. I think a lot of the problem is that no one knows what to do with these characters anymore, what their motivations should be. Revealing mysteries about parents at least motivates them to 1. pursue the truth, 2. deal with the repercussions, 3. confront their parents, and/or 4. strive to right the wrongs of their parents.

    But all of those have become cliches, and as someone else said, part of the initial appeal of these characters was that their parents weren’t in the picture at all.

  6. That seems to be the major thrust of both Fraction’s and Hickman’s comics seem very usually always focused on parent dynamics usually being Fathers and Sons.

  7. Right now, Dan Slott is kicking himself, because Spider-Man’s parents were already revealed to be super-spies decades ago, AND there was already a story where it turned out they were still alive but then they were actually robots. (AND they almost did the story where Aunt May was his birth mother but then they chickened out.)

    I think a couple of your examples are kind of stretching though (Flashpoint being an alternate reality, everything you know about everybody is wrong; and the Red Hulk thing — well, Ross has been a jerk who’s on Banner’s case since 1962, so I’m not sure having him turn into a big red guy is an “everything you knew was wrong” scenario.) But yeah, there’s probably something to this.

  8. Superheroes = Gods
    God = Dad
    Comics = Parents

    We can be cynical and say that comicbook writers are stunted manchildren selling tales to readers that are even more stunted. We can be literary and say that the Hero’s Journey requires one to move out from the shadow of one’s parents and become your own person, and being orphaned was just the quick way out. I am sure the truth is somewhere between the two.

    At the same time, I feel the political zeitgeist contains a lot more generational resentment. Maybe comics are just more intouch with concerns over Social Security than Hollywood. (Certainly novelists have been milking “You can’t go home again” since “Catcher”. And 80’s genre films at least we terribly afarid of their children.)

  9. A few thoughts:

    There’s a big difference between a new story beginning with a character discovering something (like RUNAWAYS) and an established title playing the “everything you know is wrong” card (like JUSTICE, or the Vision being declared to be the Human Torch).

    In the days when comics were very keen on continuity, there was a lot of “everything you know is wrong” because when writers wanted to change something, they felt obliged to explain it. That sort of thing has tailed off.

    Nowadays, I think it’s more a product of writers trying to find something new to do with the increasingly small range of characters and concepts that the market seems willing to support, and desperately hunting for new angles on old ideas.

  10. I will beat Jeff Lester to the punchline and say that if Mssrs Fraction and Johns had just gotten a few more hugs, modern comics would not exist. And this site would be preoccupied with discussing whether digital day and date will hurt Sugar and Spike’s sales, or whether the movie success of Wheelie and the Chopper bunch REALLY justifies a fourth spin off title, “Ultimate Astonishing Wheelie”

  11. @simmered, because RIP was so good? You must of read a different version than I did.

  12. “Superheroes = Gods
    God = Dad
    Comics = Parents

    I like this.

  13. It could be more that this is a generation of comic writers who grew up in an era where divorce is more prevalent leading to the “Daddy Issues” we see being presented.

    I noticed this a lot with Hickman’s writing. It seems he was writing three stories with the same time traveling dad who abandoned his son (Nathaniel Richards in FF, Night Machine in Shield, and plot of Red Wing).

  14. I know it’s tempting to lay this problem on the altar of some kinda crisis of maturity (c.f., EDDIPUS REXXX #523: “Eddipus Rexxx: Dark Vengeance of the Ultra-Dad, Part 2 of a 4-Part Graphic (and We Do Mean GRAPHIC) Novel-Thing” (Lee / Liefeld / Hackjob)).

    However, I suspect this has more to do with key creators coming of nerd-dom at an impressionable age when nothing could be more mind-blowing than SAY WHA–??? LUKE SKYWALKER’S DAD WAS *WHO*, NOW, WHAT?

    (*Spoiler Alert* — His Dad was Darkseid Vundabar, of the metallic moon/space stayshun Apokolabia which used its awesome Anti-Life beams to wipe out peaceful planets; and after Luke Moonrider discovered he was secretly Darthseid Vundabar’s son, he learned to use the Source and teamed up with rogue hero Scott Solo and his wookie Oberon to take down the Forces of Darkness. It’s all very mythic on the Zero’s Journey. Op. cit., Q.E.D., ergo, hence.)

    Like most things that look like Meaningful Cultural Patterns, it’s probably not the result of a Zeitgeistical Shift or some stirring in the Collective Unconscious but merely a conspiracy of rip-offs. Just like we’re inundated with fairy tale revivals now in cinema, television & bitter drinking sessions among Vertigo comicbook writers who know they started it all. Why this sudden Once Upon a Wave? Not because of some major kultural moment, a deep-seated confrontation with the myths of childhood, guh-blah-blah-blah-blah, but more because the Development Execs of Hollywood tend to be lazy-ass copycats. I mean, Sweet Jesus, Mother of Mambo, they still think twist endings are The Shit (TM) because they haven’t actually *READ* anything since the 8th fucking grade and therefore still regard O. Henry as *THE FIZZUCKING BIZZOMB.* (FUN LITERARY FACTOID: O. Henry was actually kind of a hack. See “Trademark Infringement of the Magi,” P. Arse, Citeman & Ann O’Tate, University of Fullcourt Press. )

    In other news, how can you write this whole piece about the Dark Sekrit of the Ultra-Dad and not bring up INVINCIBLE? For the love of God, Montressor. Yes… for the love of God.

  15. “… if Mssrs Fraction and Johns had just gotten a few more hugs, modern comics would not exist.”

    I laughed, Corey.

    1. I’d argue that Red Hulk is a different beast. Ross became the Red Hulk in his continuing quest to take down Incredible Hulk. It’s definitely a change for the character, but it doesn’t contradict or alter the character’s history. Additionally, the title Hulk (which is not about the original Hulk but is instead is about the Red Hulk (comics!)) is focused on how Ross’ transformation affects his own life; the affects on his daughter’s life haven’t been explored (yet; looks like Parker might be getting around to that with this weeks issue.)

    2. Maybe fascinated isn’t the right word, but let’s see if there are other titles where the EVERYTHING YOU KNEW ABOUT YOUR PARENTS IS WRONG theme is dealt with.

    The one that springs to mind immediately for me is Omega The Unknown:
    Not really the focus of the book, but it is an aspect of the plot.

    A good chunk of Peter David’s Incredible Hulk run dealt with Banner’s repressed memories about his father, so I’d mark that one as “sort of.”

    Hmm… Maybe there’s more?

    *Also could be included in the Parent Bro Era of Comics:

    X-Men: Deadly Genesis was essentially about how EVERYTHING YOU KNEW ABOUT PROFESSOR X IS WRONG, and he acts as a surrogate father to the members of the X-Men. Of course, that story was the first step in writing Professor X out of the X books, so…

    Invincible? I haven’t been reading it, but I’m pretty sure that EVERYTHING INVINCIBLE KNEW ABOUT HIS DAD WAS WRONG.

    3. It’s probably meaningful to people who are deeply involved in comic book continuity, but I can’t say that it gets me to pick up a comic that I’m not already reading.

    4. I don’t think this is happening too much with other publishers, but… I guess EVERYTHING BUDDY BRADLEY THOUGHT HE KNEW ABOUT HIS WIFE’S PARENTS WAS WRONG, but he didn’t really know anything about them so I don’t know if this still applies.

    I’m not sure that I’m done with question 2 though.


  17. Well fuck, when you get right down to it EVERYTHING SUPERMAN KNEW ABOUT HIS PARENTS WAS WRONG.

  18. Oh crap, I forgot about Invincible. I read that for a few issues after all the reaction of that reveal happened. I kept thinking “there’s probably something in Walking Dead” but …

    My memories of the color half of HATE have gotten so weak– I remember liking the black and white Seattle stuff more, not really getting it until I’d seen that stuff. I really should revisit Hate…

  19. Ok, so it’s not exactly a new plot in general in fiction.

    But.It’s a natural consequence of the particular dilemma that the Big 2 Superhero titles are in as regards continuity.

    You can’t really move the story forward easily in any Big 2 superhero comic. You can’t have the characters make dramatic decisions that will have long-term irreversible consequences. Whatever they do in their “present” will just be undone later. Not even because a later creator doesn’t like what you did, but because moving the story forward at some point advances the character towards middle-age, old age, death. If Spider-Man goes to college and then to graduate school and then becomes a professor and then gets tenure, or gets married and has children and has to move to New Jersey because of the schools, it’s not just that boymen get frustrated about reading about a grown-up, it’s that (rather like in life) there are things he can’t do any longer, stories that can’t be told, etc.

    So the only way to make dramatic developments happen that ‘stick’ and have meaning is to read them back into the character’s history, to do retrocontinuity. You can’t move Bruce Wayne towards death, so ok, tell us more about Thomas Wayne. Tell us that all the Waynes were something we didn’t think. Then the character in the present doesn’t have to move towards death, but he does have to change in light of the new information about his own history. It doesn’t have to be about DAD and MOM and DAD’s SISTER’s DENTIST’s SEX LIFE, of course. The most startling move of this kind ever was Moore on Swamp Thing–not EVERYTHING HE KNEW ABOUT HIS PARENTS but EVERYTHING HE KNEW ABOUT HIMSELF. Of course, Moore’s Swamp Thing then actually carried his story forward to new places, but the gambit obvious impressed everyone, even hacks, as making storytelling possible in an age of continuity fetish.

  20. Yes, Abhay, clearly you need more HATE in your life.

    Now that the cold meds have worn off, let me state this more succinctly: is it not possible that the Wave of Shocking Parental Revelations are a direct result of nerdish creators encountering that infamous “Luke, I am your father” moment in EMPIRE at a tender age? (A plot turn which itself is alleged by some to have been nicked from NEW GODS.)

    It was a deeply impactful moment for young nurdz everywhere and might have set a certain standard for some of the major creators who have been propagating this trend.

    I mean, it’s real easy to overthink this stuff… I remember a hysterical bit in Bill Warren’s exhaustive review of 1950s sci-fi flicks where he demonstrates that a whole slew of otherwise cryptic and mystifying motifs in “big bug” movies come from one simple fact — every single goddamn script was aping the key plot turns of THEM! Even in cases where it made no sense. THEM! was structured so that the reveal of the [*SPOILER ALERT*] Giant Ants was a surprise reveal — other movies copied this structure, even though they had titles like THE DEADLY MANTIS or THE GIANT EARWIG where any “suspense” or “reveal” was kinda kneecapped by the TITLE of the furshluggin’ thing.

  21. Doesn’t the primary driver behind all superhero fiction come from the idea that EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT EVERYTHING IS WRONG? Or at least everything about the laws of physics. The entire fantasy is based on looking at your life and thinking “WHAT IF EVERYTHING WAS DIFFERENT?”

    What if I could fly?
    What if I had power and money, could break the rules, and was in charge of my own destiny?
    What if my life was full of action, mystery and crazy secrets?
    And what if all of the above really is true, and I just don’t realize it???

    The easiest way to toss that last one at the main (usually young) character, is to have his/her parents reveal it.

    I wonder if, as comics readership ages, the characters themselves will be older when they experience their origin stories? Is there any pattern with Golden Age heroes having their origins at younger ages (a very young Bruce Wayne’s parents are murdered and baby Superman is rocketed away from Krypton)? Compared to many silver age heroes having their origins in the prime of their (forensic scientist, test pilot, weapons manufacturer, space explorer, etc.) career?

    Maybe soon we’ll see empty nesters sending their kids to college only to discover a nefarious plot the kids set in motion before they left?

  22. “Maybe soon we’ll see empty nesters sending their kids to college only to discover a nefarious plot the kids set in motion before they left?”

    I would totally buy this comic.

  23. Could J.K. Rowling share some of the blame? No wait come back, hear me out, remember once upon a time we all thought the Harry Potter books were about the adventures at Hogwarts of Harry Potter and his contemporaries, and then about halfway through the series whatever the present-day characters were up to started to seem like less of an actual plot and more of a means to find out stuff about Harry’s parents and *their* friends and all the things *they* did at school, and the theme of Big Important Plots Are About Parental Revelations might thus be floating in the air more than usual around the years when the last installments of the film series came out?

    (This line of thought about Harry Potter came from my vague recollections of an Andrew Rilstone post, btw, probably this one http://www.andrewrilstone.com/2007/08/harry-potter-and-qualified-recantation.html )

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m also happy to blame George Lucas as a matter of principle.

  24. I think Timothy Burke gets at the mechanics of it very well.

    How to tell stories where the heroes are emotionally invested without changing anything about the hero leads down a very well paved road.

    It’s basically become a choose your own adventure book with one choice.

    Now, Hulk (which I haven’t read) sounds at least surface compelling because it’s a mutation of the concept. Ross as a supporting character is dead. Ross as a protagonist has now started his cycle of viable story options. He goes from being a spoke in the Banner’s wheel to being the center of his own story wheel.

    A lot of people are doing a lot of very fine work in comics. Part of me just wonders if somewhere along the line the formula for creating good super hero comics became utterly damaged by corporate efforts at commodification. Then those companies further damaged it by tailoring said commodity for a dwindling audience that they themselves “dwindled” in an effort to be more efficient at making money.

  25. This site has the best comments bar none. I heard a guy on the bus say that so it’s quoted for truth.

    Also, hearing something is about “Fathers and Sons” the reader automatically assigns any story with unconscious and unearned cachet. Man, do modern comic writers like that trick. Someone says (in all probability, by pure coincidence, The Writer) something like, “FEAR ITSELF is about Fathers And Sons.” and…whoa, now…I’m already thinking this baby is gonna be like THE ROAD but with magic hammers! And the little people, too, because it’s about The ECONOMY! It is informed! The little people, oh, it’s the little people who hurt the worst when The Bad Economy Thing (note to Writer: research this bit)hits! Which is a bit odd because the little people are supposed to have a pot o’gold at the end of their rainbow. But…Fathers, Sons, Leprechauns, magic hammers! Cormac McCarthy, you didn’t try hard enough, you didn’t want it bad enough, Cormac McCarthy, you failed, Cormac McCarthy! Your hands are stained with Fail!

    (Tha “little people” thing feels familiar? Did I steal that? Have I been plagiarising the magnificent Abhay again? Will I spend this year being sued until I am turned inside out?)

    Dagnabbit, people, we gotsta wipe the stardust from our eyes and realise that just because something has fathers and sons in it, it doesn’t mean it’s *about* fathers and sons! ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN ain’t exakkerly John Irving! Not even John Irving read at a funereal pace by Robert Mitchum on Mogadon it ain’t.

    Now, I don’t know if it was the first instance of this particular idea but if it wasn’t the first I think it was the best: EVERYTHING ISAAC THOUGHT HE KNEW ABOUT ABRAHAM WAS WRONG! (I mean I’m assuming Isaac didn’t already suspect his Dad was a schizophrenic subject to auditory hallucinations with barely repressed infanticidal tendencies. If he did I think Isaac would have left home sooner.)

    When I came back from Polytechnic I found my Mom and Dad had thrown out all my comics. This is a *true fact*. Years in therapy have revealed that my refusal to actually achieve anything, to be a constant source of woe and fret and to selfishly allocate all my resources to collecting all those *exact* comics again has been a systematic act of revenge on them for their complete and utterly unforgivable act of betrayal. So I’m probably not the best person to be commenting on these issues.

    So, no, I don’t know. But I know that they have made a film about Margaret Thatcher and it isn’t a horror film? Oh God, EVERYTHING I KNEW ABOUT MARGARET THATCHER WAS WRONG!

  26. I have this extremely fuzzy memory of Harlan Ellison, in one of those columns he used to do– probably one buried in one of those Essential Ellison volumes somewhere– writing about how… Hemmingway or Kafka or Faulkner, one of those guys, said that all stories are about a man’s search for his own father. (It was a whole essay about how that quote made him feel; his father’s passing being a turning point with him).

    “Man’s search for his own father”– has a ring to it.

    At the end of some of those searches, though, it turns out that Dad thinks that Batman’s mom would be the Joker if the Flash’s mom didn’t die, or something…? I don’t know– Hemmingway, Kafka and/or Faulkner aren’t really around to explain that one.

  27. I’m surprised no one’s mentioned Wonder Woman yet.

  28. If only one of these superheroes had killed his father and married his mother, than we would have a Greek tragedy.

    But seriously, once you have children and you essentially become your father, things just get weird.

  29. Maybe the writers are young dads?

  30. You cant just have superheros fight bad guys anymore, every has to be super personal.

    But superhero can’t change, not really, and readers are aware of this fact.

    One obvious way to address this problem is EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT THEIR PARENTS IS WRONG. Its also probably part of why there are tonnes of evil secret organizations in comics, cos then EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT GOTHAM/WHATEVER IS WRONG.

  31. Late, as always.

    I think your questions have been answered adequately in aggregate above (and pretty well too), so I’ll just make some passing points:

    1. Star Wars had a detrimental effect on nerd culture (which now = all American culture) by making it too coherent. It seems like, circa 2012, everyone working in making stories was propelled outward by the same big bang, and as this recombined with other interests, it took a while for the “everyone’s got the same momma” effect to become noticeable, By the time of Lost (which is almost like the big crunch – the beautiful macaroni sculpture they built when everyone was so sick of mac and cheese they couldn’t stomach any more) the inbreeding was so obvious that everyone with half a critical brain cell was perpetually disgusted. So we can take the inbreeding effect as given.

    2. You have to be careful in unknotting this Venn diagram of tropes – I think your thing is an “everything you know about the basis of the character/backstory is wrong” mixed with “preternaturalness is a communicable disease, and your most intimate associations are at risk.” They coexist, but it affects the discussion as to how common the use of these tropes have been to note they exist separately (example first, Spder-Man wasn’t just bit by a radioactive spider, he this all was about some super-hindsight-bias-inducing spider god; example second, Colossus’ sister started out as a family token of innocence, but wound up as Satan’s process server, or something).

    3. The organizational instinct imposed by everyone reading McKee or whatever three act structure bullshit is partially responsible for the idea that they have to take everything that ever happened and make it curve back on itself. How can the Green Goblin not have been involved in Spider-Man’s origin? That’s crazy talk. I mean if you fight him, he must have done your girlfriend at some point. Name one Hollywood superhero movie where the first movie villain’s not involved in the origin sequence in some way.

    4. Some one mentioned David’s Hulk, which goes back to that one Mantlo story (right?), but it seems like the Byrne generation was the one that first got preoccupied by this. Lee just wanted to quip some banter while good artists did crazy stuff, Roy the boy wanted to bring in every other possible influence, but it was the next era, I think, that this stuff started in earnest as creators started to confront the “what now?” problem. Byrne started the “everything you know about Reed Richard’s dad” is wrong thing. Byrne dug up all the “everything you know about the Vision’s “dad” is wrong” in WC Avengers. The Richard and Mary Parker agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. thing was a few years after that. So was the Cable thing. The shenanigans of Wolverine/Sabertooth – who’s your daddy – ran through the era. Oh, and Corsair – tough to beat orphan (of 15 story years) finds out his father is a space pirate who has sex with a squirrel (that wasn’t Byrne, but I blame him anyway).

  32. “The Richard and Mary Parker agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. thing was a few years after that.”
    That one’s actually from back in 1968.

  33. You won’t believe this (or care) but not only are your right (about Richard, anyway), but that issue was published on the day I was born (Nov 5 1968, the day Elvis recorded If I Can Dream, the day Nixon was elected president the first time). Crap. In any event, it was a story totally ignored/forgotten until it was dredged back up in the mid 90’s. It found it’s time.

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