May 14, 2014

Comic Book Truths – Sometimes You Have To Shut Up And Color

Comic Book Truths – Sometimes You Have To Shut Up And Color
Ben Smith

In my never-ending Fox Mulder-like obsession with the truths buried underneath the grimy underbelly of society, I’ve learned a few things. The first thing, is that none of that statement is actually true, I’ve never cared all that much about such things. The second thing, is that sometimes as an older superhero comic book fan, you just have to accept certain in-universe things as true, or else the whole house of cards comes tumbling down.

There’s a certain contingent of fans (usually anonymously online, usually desperately lonely) that actually get angry about the conceits that don’t make any logical sense in comics. Please don’t confuse me or what I’m about to write with those fans. This is written purely out of love and fun, and not out of a compelling need to deconstruct a hobby that frustrates me for its lack of ability to entertain me anymore (again, desperately lonely). Some things in fiction you just have to accept as fact and move on.

With that dirty little business out of the way, we come to the crux of my narrative today. It is my goal to explore the top accepted in-universe truths of the superhero comic book genre, that should in no way be truths based on any real world deductive reasoning. Some of these have been suggested by actual readers (and by readers, I mean people that I know that I asked for suggestions). To that end, below are some of my favorite illogical superhero truths.


I’m sure someone will point out that one time in that one issue where it was, but for general purposes, this remains a truth in the Marvel universe. I understand the reason for why this is maintained by the writers and editors that have worked for Marvel, because Captain America needs to maintain that illusion of being special. He needs to be the only one that ever received the super soldier formula locked in Reinstein/Erskine’s brain. Cap’s physical abilities are only an illusion of special in that case, as in the comics he’s merely the peak of human capability, something a hundred other non-powered characters like Daredevil and Punisher also are. What makes Steve Rogers special as a character is who he is, and his leadership abilities, and the serum merely gave him the physical capability to capitalize on that. What really makes this conceit illogical for me though, is that a character like Reed Richards or Hank Pym are incapable of reverse engineering this formula. Considering everything they have accomplished in the history of Marvel as super-scientists, and with a live sample, I’m pretty sure they could do it. I’m going to go ahead and invalidate everything I just wrote by assuming the answer is that they don’t consider it a priority.


Again, this one is pretty simple to figure out why, because if you permanently cure The Thing then he’s no longer in the Fantastic Four, or he loses the built-in angst of being able to control his transformations. This one has even had some explanations over the years, such as Ben not actually psychologically wanting to be cured, or that his DNA is irrevocably altered. I also know that Reed, based on his other accomplishments, should be able to figure it out. At the very least they could clone his human body and transfer his mind into it, and I just came up with that as I’m typing this.


Look, nobody is as big a Dr. Doom fan as I am. Nobody. If you think you are, we can sort that out by crossbow if needed, but my spot at the top of the Doom fandom list will remain intact, even with an arrow in my sternum. There is a common character trait maintained that Doom is a man of honor, and that if he gives you his word he will honor it. To a certain degree, this is true, in that there have been a few stories where he promises a character something and then follows through on it no matter how little it might benefit him. This goes toward adding that illusion of regality he must maintain as supreme monarch of Latveria. It’s also one very small trait of honor in a man that has also kidnapped children, launched buildings into space, murdered innocents, and taken over the world. So maybe we’re focusing on the wrong little details in the case of someone being considered honorable.


As with most of these, this truth is no great mystery. The Joker is likely the most famous villain in comics so he cannot permanently die, or else he won’t be able to appear in more comics that wind up selling a lot. They’ve come up with some reasons Batman or Gordon don’t just kill this lunatic that are serviceable enough. For instance, if Batman kills the Joker, it blurs the line of what is acceptable for him as a vigilante in his war on crime. Or, that Gordon himself will have to take Batman down for crossing that line. All are decent enough to continue that suspension of disbelief required for comics, but don’t really hold up to any real serious examination. There is absolutely no one in Gotham, or the larger DC universe, that is going to take a second look if the Joker wound up dead. Gordon’s wife was murdered by the Joker, so even if he is the by-the-book super cop (which is false in of itself, since he openly supports a vigilante) I can’t imagine he’s going to put a whole lot of effort into that investigation. And the idea that the Batman would suddenly lose all perspective on what is right or wrong based on this one act is ridiculous. The Joker is incapable of rehabilitation, or of being sufficiently locked away. He will get out and murder people again and again, so keeping him alive is practically negligence at this point.


Mutants are hated and feared because they’re seen as this evolutionary progression, and that human beings will become extinct. Or is that they all have powers and are considerably dangerous? Or is it because they’re sometimes disfigured “freaks”? All of the above, maybe. The actuality is that most of the X-Men are physically perfect human specimens, that have cool powers like being able to fly, read minds, or heal from any wound. They often live in a state of relative comfort, either in a lavish mansion, or even their own island for a time. Most of them have no trouble finding someone to love or, at worst, hook up with. Even Rogue, who will kill you if she touches you for too long. Sure, an organization might send some Sentinels to come kill them from time to time, but that’s really not all that different from Norman Osborn periodically trying to kill Spider-Man. There’s not even any reason for Magneto to be all that worried about a mutant vs human war. They would win easily! As far as scary powers in the eyes of the public, I’ve never really understood the reason why mutants are all that more scary than an Asgardian Thunder God, or the Fantastic Four. The Human Torch lights himself on fire! I know this is all true because we’re told its true, and it’s the main narrative hook of the X-Men, the analogy of being born different, but it really doesn’t hold up if you think about it.


I know a lot of people really get off on the idea of Batman hooking up with Catwoman or Talia, but there’s really no way he should let either of them continue to operate besides that they’re smoking hot. I know in the case of Catwoman it’s often explained as a level of scale, but there’s really should be no exceptions in Batman’s quest for justice. Petty crimes often domino into bigger crimes after all. Then again, she’s really hot so I have no problem letting this one slide either.


A couple different things for ‘ole JJJ. First, I find it more than a little unreasonable that for someone that has been saved as many times by Spider-Man as Jonah has, and especially considering that the root cause of his hatred is jealousy, that he would still continue to harbor such outright hostility towards him. But I can chalk that up to Jonah being a very unreasonable character. Next, I have no idea why Jameson is not serving time in a penitentiary. It is public knowledge that he funded the experimentation on a human being that led to the creation of the Scorpion, a reoccurring supervillain that has caused much damage and destruction (and probably death) to the city of New York. I’m not positive its public knowledge he created the Spider Slayers too (and The Fly too, I believe) but that’s right up there in line with the Scorpion. Also, Jameson has to be the most biased newsman in pre-Fox News history (just a joke people, I have no interest in politics and never watch the news). With as many stories that have been retracted over the years, why would anyone still buy the Daily Bugle?


Chemical imbalance or not, Namor’s done some really awful things to New York. That may be a good excuse to explain way why you yelled at a co-worker one day, but it’s a little less sufficient for explaining why you flooded New York City, presumably killing thousands. (On that note, destruction caused by anti-hero characters like Namor and Hulk not resulting in any civilian deaths should get its own entry, but it won’t because I’m tired.) On the escalation scale, selfless champion of justice to attempted mass murder is too drastic a difference.


Batman has been around long enough to see at least two teenage Robins age to roughly their mid-20s, and yet he still remains relatively the same age. Best not to think too hard about this one or else the whole tapestry unravels.


This one actually sparked a bit of debate amongst those aforementioned friends. I’m a part of the camp that no amount of hunching or mannerism changes is going to hide the fact that these two men look EXACTLY ALIKE. I can understand if you’re the average Joe on the street that doesn’t know Clark and doesn’t get to spend up-close time with Superman, but there’s really no way that Clark should be able to sit in a room of journalists who all spend a fair amount of time interacting with Superman, and this not be noticed. You can go with the Byrne-ism of Superman constantly vibrating his face so that he can’t be recognized, or that nobody would even think Superman spends time being someone else, and those work well enough for me to read the books. But if we’re really sitting down and getting to brass tacks, there is no way nobody at the Planet doesn’t figure that out. Unless they know and just aren’t saying, like Joe Robertson.

Like I said before, I’m not the type of reader that needs or even wants real world logic in my superhero comics. As long as a story is able to maintain its own internal logic, that’s good enough for me. These are just some of the more fun things to debate with fellow geeks that love the medium as much as I do. Nothing listed here is every going to prevent me from reading a story and enjoying it. It should be the same for you, but if it’s not, maybe it’s time to consider that moving on thing we talked about before.

Feel free to comment below with your favorite illogical truths. Until next time!

1 comment:

karinations said...

Logic aside, at the end of the issue If I was entertained by the story then I believe satisfaction was achieved. That's all I'm looking for these days.

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