Celebrating the 40th anniversary of Return of the Jedi

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Post By
Nitz the Bloody

In Reply To
Unstable Molecule

Location: Calgary, AB Canada
Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 3,114
Subj: Nostalgia's Limits
Posted: Thu May 07, 2009 at 01:32:54 am EDT (Viewed 207 times)
Reply Subj: When bad characterization becomes the norm
Posted: Wed May 06, 2009 at 06:55:49 pm EDT (Viewed 333 times)

Previous Post

I've been coming to the slow realization that "bad characterization" is subjective. I've been reading comics for about 25 years, and many of the characterizations I loved in my youth have changed dramatically in the past 10 - 15 years. In other words, what I would consider bad characterization is in fact the only characterization that newer readers know.

Here's a list of a few prominent examples:

1. Doctor Doom. A lot of the cardinal rules that I grew up with are falling by the wayside with the good doctor. From "Doom calls no one Master!" to Doom has had a secret master all these years. From "Whoever sees Doom's true face shall perish!" to the Sentry ripping off his mask and throwing him in prison, resulting in two guards chuckling about how hideous Doom's face is. From "Doom is above such mortal concerns as desire for the fairer sex!" to Doom having a (maskless) affair with Morgana Le Fay and imagining Emma Frost and (ahem) Loki as his sex slaves.

2. Monica Rambeau. Introduced as a strong, confident, capable black woman whose character wasn't even remotely about her gender or race - it was just great that she had those qualities in additon to everything else. Her natural strength and leadership allowed her to lead the Avengers as well as Captain America ever did. She brought dignity and grace to her role in the Avengers. I haven't been a big reader of NextWave or Black Panther, but I've read that she was an annoying blowhard in the former and insecure/incompetent in the latter.

3. The Wasp (Janet Van Dyne). In her glory days, she lead the team through the mansion seige storyline, emerging victorious. She wasn't the best leader of the Avengers by any means, but she was portrayed as a tough leader who could weather anything. But in later years she's been portrayed as someone who would jump in to bed with Hawkeye to spite her ex-husband; someone who's ditzy enough to drunkenly tip the Scarlet Witch over the edge about her dead children, etc.

4. Hawkeye (Clint Barton). In his WCA days, his "Avengers Don't Kill" attitude nearly cost him his marriage. Now he's killing skrulls by the dozen. Frankly I think the darkness of the costume is pulling him down. It's hard to be grim when your costume is blue and purple. ;\-\)

5. Spider-man. Making deals with the devil. Conducts himself more like Howard the Duck than Spider-man on the New Avengers.

And for all these examples, I think newer readers will consider the recent characterization as the true characterization. It's hard to say they're wrong when these newer characterizations have been persisting for years or even decades.

Any other characters that suit this syndrome?

Many of those examples aren't examples of the new writers mangling the characters, but of the old writers not realizing their mistakes, the old fans running with those mistakes because of familiarity, and the new writers without the blinders of attachment writing the characters as they really are ( as opposed to idealizing them. Despite the nostalgia attached to the old comics, they were just as capable of and proven to dumb story moves. To whit...

-- Dr. Doom has a functional reproductive system under his metal suit, has shown interest in the opposite sex with Valeria*, and it is not a stretch to believe that he would have urges and try to fulfil them.

-- Monica Rambeau was dignified and graceful to the point of being bland and uninteresting; she came across as the stereotypical Model Minority character, the character who's acceptable for their race because they never call attention to it. Ellis' NextWave characterization made her interesting by taking a goody-two-shoes persona and making it that of a self-righteous has-been. It worked very well in the context.

-- The Wasp never had any qualities even remotely approaching those required of an Avengers leader, and never showed any strategic acumen beyond somehow managing to allow her team to survive. Her first years were as little more than a ditz; the problem wasn't modern writers making her a ditz, but the 80's and 90's writers thinking she could be anything more after two decades of ditziness.

-- The absolutist stance Clint Barton took against his wife killing the man who kidnapped, drugged, and raped her was profoundly dumb; even a staunch pacifist would ideally be able to forgive. That he's become less whiny about getting his hands dirty seems inevitable, especially in the case of the Skrulls invading the entire world ( exceptions made for heat-of-battle situations ).

-- You have a point that Spider-Man has been ruined, but the rest were cases where the original material had faults, and the modern writers pointing it out.

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