Friday, March 09, 2007

The "Thing" about comic books

IF THIS POST is supposed to be about Captain America’s recent "death," why is there a picture of “the Thing” up here? The answer will become clear as you read on!

If Captain America were a real person, the world would be mourning the news of his recent death in the comics right now. But no one is truly mourning. Nobody seems to be taking this the way a real death would be treated. “But Cap isn't real!” you cry. Very true, but you miss the point. If Cap's fictional “death” is unimportant, doesn't that mean his fictional “life” was unimportant?

Listen to this quote from the E-online Web page:

"This is the end of Steve Rogers, the meat-and-potatoes guy from 1941," (Marvel publisher Dan) Buckley told the wire service. "But Captain America is a costume, and there are other people who could take it over."

“Captain America is a costume.” It reminds me of a line by Iron Man's alter ego, Tony Stark. “Anybody who wears the armor is Iron Man.”

“Captain America is a costume.” That's the attitude these guys have toward these icons. Anyone can do it! Now if ANYONE can leap tall buildings in a single bound – then what makes Superman so super? I'm reminded of the movie “The Incredibles.” If everyone has super-powers, then doesn't that mean that NO ONE does?!

From a business perspective, why should they expect folks to keep buying comic books if it really doesn't matter what happens to the characters? Would you keep watching a show if you didn't really care about the characters – if you knew that whatever happened to them ultimately didn't matter? Hey, if I could come back from the dead, I wouldn't expect anyone to worry too much about my own well-being!

“Captain America is a costume.” With an attitude like that, it's no wonder that these characters are not treated like real people. But they should be. We seem to be turning away from realistic psychological characters in favor of graphic violence. The early Marvel comics featuring characters struggling with personal “real-life” issues don't seem to hold much sway with the current comic book crowd.

Let me tell you the story of my friend Benjamin J. Grimm. You know him better as “The Thing.” To put it mildly, the Thing has lived a rough life. You probably already know about his troubled youth and his exposure to cosmic rays, but let me tell you about what happened to him in just a three-year (or so) time span.

1. He and his friends get kidnapped and taken to a faraway planet and are forced to do battle with a bunch of super-villains. (“Marvel Super-heroes Secret Wars”)

2. After the battles, he decides to stay on the planet to sort things out in his life. While there, he meets an attractive woman and goes through various (G-rated) adventures with her. He is torn by his love for Alicia, his original girlfriend back on earth. But he is later attacked by HIMSELF – the original Ben Grimm, who was somehow psychologically cut off from “The Thing.” He wins the battle, but his attractive girlfriend ends up dying. (“The Thing,” issues 11-24)

3. He returns to Earth to learn that his best friend has stolen the heart of Alicia, his original girlfriend! He gets into a huge argument and (pardon the pun) storms out of the Fantastic Four.

4. He lives as a recluse for a time, then suddenly has to endure a painful physical change into a different kind of “thing.” His solo comic book series ends with him crawling away moaning something like, “Goodbye, cruel world!”

5. About a year later, he is back to his original form as the Thing, and back in the Fantastic Four! He even becomes best man at his old girlfriend's wedding!

You can read a better-written account of all this at the site below:

Now if all of these things happened to a regular person, he would be an emotional wreck! I know that “to forgive is divine,” but for all that crap to happen to somebody without any kind of leftover emotional pain is just too ridiculous to believe. It's easier to believe in “The Thing” than it is to believe that anyone could endure all of this and bounce back none the worse for wear.

And that's the issue here. If people in comics aren't allowed to go through realistic emotional growth, then it makes them seem, well. . .like a cartoon. It's no coincidence that “Fantastic Four 300” pretty much marks the end of my “golden age” of comics. At that point, what more can you say? Apparently you can get beat up and attacked by virtually everybody, and your best friends can betray you, and you're still supposed to go on as if nothing happened.

No thanks. We need to be allowed to grow a little sometimes. You shouldn’t be surprised if someone leaves you after you abuse them.

So don't worry too much about Cap's death. Besides, it seems they'll be making a movie about him pretty soon. So even the folks at Marvel agree. You can die, and it doesn't really matter. When Stan Lee dies, it's no problem. He's just a “suit” anyway. Somebody else will be able to take his place. Right?

Right? . . .

You disagree? Well, then maybe you've outgrown comic books, too.


Blogging friend Fred Hembeck knows what I’m talking about. This is a link to a comic strip of his that shows why it’s a good idea not to take comics too seriously.

My personal “best picture” of the past year would have to be “Phantom of the Opera,” which I saw for the first time and fell in love with immediately. It’s such a great story that I don’t feel there’s much that can be done to improve it. That’s why I was a bit taken aback by the news that there may be a sequel in the works!


Andrew Lloyd Webber "99.9% Sure" for Phantom Sequel!

Tony Award-winning composer and producer Andrew Lloyd Webber speaks in his latest video blog about his return to the Paris Opera House with a sequel to The Phantom of the Opera. He notes that the sequel would follow ideas developed with Frederick Forsyth, who release a sequel to the show in novel form The Phantom of Manhattan in 1999. Webber goes on to say that "there are various things in the plotting that I'm not happy with, but I think that I solved them." Forsyth is said to be "away at the moment" but Webber is hopeful that they'll be able to work it out upon his return since he's "pretty buzzed up about it."

Wow, talk about mixed feelings. Many people on the Phantom message board (link below) don’t like the idea at all, and I can understand why. “Phantom” is a very complete story. There doesn’t seem to be any need for a sequel. It’s sort of like making a sequel to “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.” While it may be possible, it just doesn’t seem necessary.

Not only that, sequels to classics don’t always go over very well. You’ve all seen the 1939 classic, “The Wizard of Oz,” but have you seen “Return to Oz?” No? Hmm. Well, how about “Journey Back to Oz?” No? Hmmmmm. Well, there’s the sequel to “Gone with the Wind.” It’s called “Scarlett.” Did you see the TV movie? No? Hmmmmmmm. Well, did you at least read the book? No? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

There was a musical sequel to “Annie.“ You didn’t see that one either, did you? I could go on “Hmming,” but you get the idea.

However, sequels are not always bad. It’s possible that another moving and powerful story could be told about the Phantom. It’s possible that the new play (assuming it is made) could be something good. Let’s reserve our judgment for now and go on with our lives. If it’s a great play, hooray! If it’s not - well, we still have the first one. :)

Here’s the great Phantom message board where I first heard about this:

If you’ve never seen the 2004 movie, please do! It’s one of my favorites, and you can read about it here: