a comics rant, in lieu of writing

I’m sitting here (wasted and wounded at this old piano / trying hard to capture the moment, this morning I don’t know, ’cause a bottle of vodka’s still lodged in my head / some blond gave me nightmares, I think that she’s still in my bed) staring at the computer, with just enough brain to feel stuffy and nasty and not enough to get myself started typing. So once more with the blog entry just so I’m typing something. With any luck it’ll get me focused on words instead of solitaire.

I have this scene I can’t quite remember from one of the X-Men comics stuck in my head. It’s after Cyclops has gotten melded with Apocalypse and he’s struggling with this dark side that’s questionably Cyke, and he’s gone out to get tanked and Wolvie’s gone after him. They have this conversation–well, Wolvie does–about how Cyclops has these amazing women that the rest of them would pretty much kill for more or less constantly throwing themselves at him (this is during the beginning of the Emma Frost affair) and Cyclops just never really sees them. The other scene that’s stuck in my head is after Jean’s latest death, when Wolvie’s furious with Scott for moving on so fast, and Scott says, “What am I *supposed* to do? This is the third time I’ve buried her. How long do you want me to hang on?” That latter bit is one of the rare moments I’ve genuinely liked Cyclops. (The other that comes to mind is immediately after Age of Apocalypse where they’re stuck in the middle of the Australian Outback with the Acolytes and they run into Ayers Rock or whatever it’s called and the Acolytes say, “Jesus, we’re going to have to go around this thing,” and Cyke, who is not having a good day, says, “Hasn’t anybody ever told you the shortest distance between two points is a straight line?” and blows through two miles of solid stone with one blast, leaving the Acolytes going, “Holy $h!t!”)

I have no idea what this has to do with anything. It’s just what’s going on in my tired little head right now. I suppose a bit of it is from Russ imploring–or ordering–people recently to give up the crap comics they’ve been reading and buying out of habit since long after there were any decent stories or heart left to them. The X-Men generally fall under that heading, sadly. Even Ted quit buying them after they brought Colossus back, undoing the only meaningful death I’d ever read in Marvel comics.

I guess the sad thing is I think there’s still something to do with those characters and stories. I think there’s resolution to be had–which is probably part of my problem; I do like stories with resolution, and ongoing comics aren’t exactly set up for ending the conflict and angst between characters, much like soap operas–and character depths to be plumbed. DC, which has a somewhat stronger hold on the idea of canon and not retconning things than Marvel does, consequently has a much more cohesive universe in which it’s easier to tell stories. Pity it’s not DC characters who hold my heart (the holy trinity aside, and even they’re not as beloved as the X-Men). It’s not the DC universe I want to grab by the throat, rattle around and straighten up because I love its characters. It’s the Marvel universe.

I mean, no secret that one of my ambitions is to write X-Men comics. I just can’t figure out how the hell I’d get things straightened out. They’re in the midst of another retcon right now, where they’ve undone the mutant population explosion that Grant Morrison did (generally speaking I don’t believe Grant Morrison ought to be allowed near comic books. I realize them are fightin’ words, but I just don’t like his stories.), which I’m in favor of, because I didn’t think the population explosion was in keeping with the inherent *idea* of the X-Men, which is that these are people who represent whatever particular frustrated minority you want them to. They are, in essence, every kid who ever felt like he didn’t fit in, and that’s why despite all the screwups and mistakes I still love the characters, even if they’ve buggered the delivery beyond words.

The problem, the real problem, is that no matter how many retcons, reboots, and game overs they do, Marvel doesn’t stick by its own word. DC did the Infinite Earths or whatever it was in the 80s and got their spinoffs under control. Marvel is more like every single, if not issue, at least storyline, spins into one of those possible alternate universes where a different choice makes a whole different world. Nobody knows what the real story is anymore. Ted and I were discussing that a couple days ago. During Morrison’s run, Chris Claremont was writing Xtreme X-Men, which Ted commented didn’t seem like it fit into the canon. To me, it seemed like the only thing that *was* canon; everything else belonged to some bizarre alternate universe that didn’t fit into the X-Universe.

So how, as a writer, would you deal with that? In a way they’ve dealt with it by starting the Ultimate universe. Complete reboot, start all over again, no 40 years of history to have to try to fit in with, same characters reinterpreted surprisingly well in many cases. It’s a good universe, although I haven’t read the last year or so’s worth of comics, ’cause they lost me with the Polaris/Magneto storyline. Still, in general, a good universe. But it’s not the original X-universe.

The best way to deal with it would be to kill off a lot of characters and strip the original universe back down to just a few titles, making it tight-knit again. That, of course, spawns death matches over who lives and who dies, but even that could be dealt with if Marvel could be trusted to leave the dead alone. I will make one exception to this: Jean Grey. You do not name a character Phoenix and expect her to stay dead. (And, see, I think there’s a nice Wolverine/Phoenix story in that, because no, frankly, I can’t blame Scott for moving on, but Wolvie can afford to wait. He’s got time. I think you could do something nice with that. I think Marvel *won’t*, but I think you *could*.)

Who would I spare? Eh. No surprise I’d spare Rogue, because she’s my favorite (and yes, I do see the inherent problem with saving the faves). Gambit, for similar reasons, though I do think they’re both good characters. Wolvie, Jean, Scott, Storm (though I don’t particularly like those last two), Kitty, _I’d_ like to bring Pete Wisdom back (though I have a vague idea somebody did already), but I’d rather leave the dead to rest. Jubilee, who has a lot of potential that got shot to shit with GenX. I don’t know who else, right now. Emma Frost, perhaps, because she’s worthy of the conflict she brings to the X-Men. Kurt, although that’s another character whose history they’ve buggered enough it makes me just want to throw everything since the end of AoA out and start all over again (though I guess that’s sort of what the House of M storyline’s done, with retcons going even further back than that: Bobby, for example, doesn’t have his powers anymore. But I mean, who believes they’re going to leave _Iceman_ without his powers? Show of hands? Yeah. That’s what I thought. And that’s the problem. (Besides, it would’ve been far more interesting to remove Hank’s powers, because he’s never believed his intellect was part of his mutant gift, and it’d be a considerably better story for him to wake up one day and look: normal physique, just what he’s always wanted–and normal *brain*, which would come as a really unpleasant shock.)). Anyway, the point is unless Marvel was actually willing to agree to a canonic history, you could never *fix* the mess they’ve made. Somehow I don’t think I’m going to be the one to convince them of their folly, though I’d sure run it up the flagpole.

Meantime, I keep reading their stories, even when they make me crazy, because if I ever do get to write the X-Men, I’m going to need to know what’s been going on. Otherwise I think you end up with Grant Morrison, taking the world off in a direction violently different enough that the only way to deal with it is, you got it, with yet another retcon.

Right. I just hit 4 pages on Word with this, so I’m kinda thinkin’ it’s time to stop ranting or futuretripping or wisting or whatever I’m doing over the X-Men and do some actual work instead.

miles to Mount Doom: 320.5


  1. Wisdom’s back in the new Excalibur. Where he and Kitty are trying to sort out the fact that they may still have feelings for one another.

    And I think Emma did something wacky to Bobby, and he’s all icy again. But it was a cliffhanger and I haven’t read the latest issue.

    Personally, I’d go back to the original five and throw in a few extras for good measure. And I’d leave Mags dead, because they could perfectly well come up with a new badguy.

    I ‘spect they want to have lots of characters because that means lots of books. But I bet they’d sell almost as many books if they had *good stories* again.

  2. Angie

    I keep wondering if I care at all about X-men, apart from the Ultimate storyline (though I’m behind, as I only buy trades), and I still don’t know. I was delighted to see Kitty return in Astonishing, but didn’t know how to feel about Colossus in same (as I wasn’t reading during the whole Legacy thing, I just learned, “Oh, Piotr’s dead”).

    I felt exactly the same about what I read of Morrison’s New line, kind of a “buh? this is canon?” feeling through the whole thing. Fun, but unbelievable.

    I can’t really keep up with much anymore, money and spacewise (three shelves are near-to-bursting with trade paperbacks), and am only buying Catwoman and Birds of Prey monthly (Powers comes out in trade so quickly), and even those are in question of late, but it would feel, well, weird and wrong not to have any monthly titles after so long, y’know? Food for thought, nonetheless.

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