Jul 12, 2016

“Unrealistic” Things That Don’t Seem That Unrealistic to Me

“Unrealistic” Things That Don’t Seem That Unrealistic to Me
Travis Hedge Coke

Everybody loves to nitpick. Nobody loves a nitpicker unless they’re picking nits we are with.

“Captain America would never be a shouty bully and condescend to other veterans, nor would Miss Marvel by ignorant of tactics,” is a criticism of a certain Captain America/Wolverine mini that I can get behind. “Cyclops would never cheat on his partner” isn’t, because I’ve seen him leave a wife and child for his high school sweetie, I’ve seen him psychically indulge with another woman a short time before marrying that sweetie, and his psychic dalliances with Emma while married to said sweetie (Jean! It’s Jean Grey!), so yeah; he does that. Sometimes, a character is acting out of character because they’re mind-controlled or it’s a ruse. Sometimes the set up is deliberately nonsensical because that’s the joke. Sometimes, it’s just badly written or the character is awkwardly, and poorly drawn, like Vicky Vale’s décolletage in parts of Bruce Wayne: The Return.

Here are some common nitpicks, that just don’t seem, to me, to be implausible.

1. 16 Million Mutants in Genosha

New York City has more than eight and a half million people in it. The Philippines has a hundred and two million people. Sixteen mil is not, in terms of a national population, a gigantic number.

There are, on average, twenty or more mutants just in a small school in upstate New York.

And, in New York City, in the mutant district, there’s, what, seven blocks of mutants? That’s not a lot of people. It just isn’t.

Now, most of these folks are dead or depowered now, anyway, even with the number that were brought back/re-mutanted/whatever, but even so. those numbers aren’t ridiculously large. Sixteen million people in your house is silly. Sixteen million people in a country… pretty small country.

2. Gotham’s Corrupt Infrastructure

I see longer-term comics readers, especially, get on Gotham and Batman and how can the city still be so corrupt, how can it still have corrupt politicians? Corrupt police? An inane prison and mental health system that put money, fame, and following tradition above effectiveness?

Where do you live, that these things seem unbelievable to you?

3. Dragon’s Crazy Life

Savage Dragon roughly serializes in real time. A year of issues, is more or less a year real time. And, it’s about a two-toed green alien dude with a fin on his head, living in an amped up superhero world.

Dragon's son, Malcolm, got three girls pregnant on the same night: his high school girlfriend,
his step-sister, and a villain, and tries to do right by all of them.

Once you’ve bought into it that far, why would it ever be weird to you that his life is a mad, complicated, sitcom drama of mutant gangs and space invasions and staklerish vigilantes? How does his daughter being kidnapped and brainwashed by an extradimensional dictator who looks like a kids toy seem out of bounds? Or that alternate reality versions of dead people show up through weird machines? That characters make stupid decisions in regards to sex with coworkers or friends during times of high stress or while grieving?

We all have crazy lives and we don’t even have flying dinosauroid aliens, that I know of.

4. Cathy’s Self-Loathing

For half a century of daily strips, Cathy Guisewite’s Cathy of Cathy freaked out over stuff in flop sweats and vocables. Not big dramas. Not world-ending nightmares. Not wars or earthquakes or continents on fire. Stuff. Calf-cramping shoes. Broken towel racks. That extra slice of cake you could have. How to talk to your boss. Who can be relied on to answer their phone, every time, not saying Hello, but telling you what an imposition your call is.

Cathy freaks a little every day, and this is seen as unreasonable and, also, unfathomable by some folks who, I suspect, aren’t looking that keenly into their own life and panics. We may not jet out sweat beads like a cartoon, but I’d wager glancing at your tummy after a meal and feeling like you’re going to get judged for how it’s distended is not limited to Guisewite’s cartoon of neuroses, which she did not want to name after herself and is not, really, either physically or autobiographically a match.

Cathy isn’t Cathy Guisewite. Cathy probably isn’t even “Cathy” all day and night long. Each strip is Cathy at, I’d wager, her most Cathylike. She’s us, in that one, brief moment we have almost every day, where we feel less-than or just stupid, or that we’re as complicit in the disaster of the everyday as much as the world at large is.

5. Kamui and Fuma’s Romance

X, the amazing breakthrough comic by CLAMP, probably will not ever finish. And, honestly, since the comic is about impossibly hard decisions and potential, it’s way better that way. But, one of the is it/isn’t it, will/won’t they bits is the parameters of the main characters’ relationship. Are they platonic besties who want to murder each other? Are they sexually attracted to one another, but not acting on it? Romantically linked? Brothers from other mothers?

Recently, CLAMP members have been asking people not to refer to them as friends, and making it explicit, in interviews that there is both a romantic/sexual angle to their relationship, but also that they know there is. This upset some fans, who prefer a could-go-either-way state, some who just don’t like guy-on-guy at all, and a few who feel like they can’t be a thing and be against each other with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

6. How Easy to Kill Dowling and Suskind

The evil power couple were built up as the secret lords of the Earth in Planetary, but from the very beginning there were cracks in the facade, that, ultimately, reveal how tentative and desperate their power was. They controlled world communications, finance, medicine, politics and technology, but primarily through lies and threats. They had super powers, but their power came from being and acting like a real world political actors. More powerful than lighting your head on fire or having an arsenal of bombs or orbiting death lasers, was that they had cooperation and complacency from all major Earth governments. There were no consequences, globally, for them, were they even caught or held on trial, etc.

There is nothing but genre-convenience that would lead us to believe they were superhumanly powerful enough to survive such a steep and dramatic fall, as that which ultimately did them in.

7. Everything Happens to Ataru

Rumiko Takahashi started Urusei Yatsura without intending a continuing, linear story, so the cast of crazy invaders, be they space aliens, final exam fairies, or dream-eaters come in waves and greater, and greater succession, while at the beginning, Ataru’s little town, his little home with his parents, relatively simple life with despairing semi-girlfriend, etc, was nowhere near the cosmology of wackiness it becomes, nor are there hints it would be so.

Stuff... just happens.

Rather than feeling that these increases in cosmic extra and ultraterrestrial characters is an increase in unlikelihood,  think that the seemingly simple, real-world nature early on is more reflective of Ataru’s own, simple, socially-myopic perspective. By the time he knows he’s the lead character in a comic, all bets pertaining to the likelihood of another alien or the statistical chance of another curse are meaningless. Three aliens kind of implies thousands or more. Being the lead in a piece of serial fiction, though, leaves the world open to whoever and whatever in any degree.

8. Superheroes Resurrected

You know why “DNR” exists, as a term and paperwork you fill out at hospitals? ‘Cause we all come from what could be “certain death” every time we don’t actually die and stay dead. This is a thing. Apparent death isn’t “death,” it’s clinically dead, or presumed dead, body went missing, there was a cover up… even the most popular, in fiction, proofs of death, that there is a body and that someone saw them in an afterlife… it’s an afterlife. If they are still walking, talking, and possibly playing slot machines, like in that Hercules event from Marvel, just how dead are we talking?

The guy in red is what "dead" looks like in superhero comics.

Nobody would do a story where superheroes admit that they’re out of touch because they sometimes fall into comas, but we that’s all these “and your people come back,” stories are, when it’s in the Marvel or DC universes. They’re whining about uppity coma patients or MIA combatants. Basically, they exist to make Rambo cry and go on a rampage.

9. Satchel Forgets Martha Stewart

There is a dog in Get Fuzzy, Satchel, whose primary characteristics are being good-natured and absentminded, both in the extreme. There’s a storyline wherein he forgets who Martha Stewart is while he’s attempting to raise money to help her, during her time as a political prisoner (or whatever happened). Fans, because fan comes from fanatic, went a little cuckoo since Satchel had, previously, been something of a devotee to Stewart, years before.

This is a cartoon dog. Whose primary characteristics are being good-natured and absentminded in the extreme.

We don’t need to argue it further.

10. Dr Strange says there’s no such thing as chaos magic

Doctor Strange should know there is both in the real world a system of beliefs and practices called chaos magic(k) and a practice in his own reality, the Marvel Universe, called chaos magic(k). So, how come he says it doesn’t exist when it comes to an over-powered and totally whacked out Scarlet Witch?

Propaganda in war-time?

Maybe, because of one the cardinal rules of magic, religion, and just plain dirty fighting, is to devalue your opponent’s philosophies, habits, and arsenal. That’s just smart mid-campaign campaigning.

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