Saturday, 6 October 2012

How Strange Can A Itsy Bitsy Superhero Be? One Last Look At Hank Pym And His Disturbing Search For A Sidekick And Lover

Reader, be warned. This piece was originally intended to be part of one final look at the early career of poor Hank Pym. It's a post which will now appear, to my surprise as much as yours, in a coming ebook, as part of a completely rewritten piece on Ant-Man and the Wasp. But the following discussion of a number of panels from Tales To Astonish #44 doesn't belong there, and so, should you have one of those wearisome dead moments in your day to kill, here's one last look at the origin of the Wasp and the strangeness which surrounds it. With its strong suggestions of secret conspiracies and profound psychological instability, TOA#44 does suggest that Hank Pym was the victim of serious psychological problems long before Jim Shooter portrayed him as a wife-beating, nervous breakdown-bearing ex-Avenger. In fact, it seems that Shooter's much-criticised decision to turn Pym from fragile-minded superhero into disordered pariah was far more sensible and well-founded than some - such as my shameful self - were willing to concede.

As we've discussed before, the Henry Pym of Tales To Astonish #44 is suddenly revealed to have had a previously unmentioned - and cruelly murdered - wife in his past. Having physically and mentally collapsed when he'd heard the news of her assassination some years ago, Pym appears to have barely begun to learn how to cope with her when he first meets Janet Van Dyne. 
Having introduced the reader to Pym's tragic memories of Maria Pym, Stan Lee's plot then brings  the young Janet Van Dyne into play, who arrives in the company of her father, Dr Vernon Van Dyne. Her appearance immediately inspires Pym to think of her as the spitting image of his dead, though - as youcan  see - they don't look at all similar. In these and other panels, Maria and Janet are revealed to not only look dissimilar, but to have quite different body types and manners. In fact, they're nothing like each other beyond the fact that they're both woman. It's not the first sign that Pym's not thinking clearly in the comic, but it is the first time we can notice that he's not just depressed, but obsessed too. There's a clearly worrying moment when Pym thinks to himself; "So much like Maria. If she were not such a child ...". Within minutes of meeting her, and without the slightest sense of who she is as an individual, Pym's becoming lost in some rather strange thoughts and feelings for a grown man.
Yet there's something distinctly odd about Doctor Van Dyne apparently spontaneous visit to Pym's home too. Van Dyne claims to be seeking his help with a project to communicate with other worlds. This is a clearly ludicrous business, given that Pym's specialisms are in entirely different fields. It's an extremely odd business. Why would Van Dyne arrive on such a fool's errand, and why would he bring his bored daughter with him if he was intending to talk shop with Pym?
Immediately after visiting Pym, Doctor Van Dyne returns to his home and is killed by an alien criminal. Finding his daughter shocked and vowing vengeance, Pym decides - with no other preparation at all - that Janet Van Dyne should become his partner in crime. It's not a decision that's he's apparently thought through, and he's certainly no interest in what her feelings on the matter might be. At a moment in which she's fundamentally traumatised, and in the absence of any independent support and advice for her at all, Pym decides to share the most secret, intimate details of his life while effectively bullying her into doing as he's suggesting.
It's a process of indoctrination which continues with Pym melodramatically exposing himself in his costume and declaring "I need a partner  ... and I have chosen her". It's not in any way an admirable business, and it raises two possibilities where Pym's psychological well-being is concerned. Either he's practically out of control, behaving impulsively and unethically, or he already knows something of Janet Van Dyne's nature and potential. I'd put my money on the former, and yet, there is the possibility that Janet's father and Henry Pym weren't strangers at all. A playful reading of the story might lead to the suspicion that the two Doctors had known each other before, and that the possibility of Janet Van Dyne becoming Pym's sidekick had been raised between the two. Was the visit of Doctor Van Dyne part of a plan between the two men? Was Dr Van Dyne considering a career as a superhero's sidekick for his daughter?
Pym's manic determination to co-opt Janet Van Dyne as his collaborator leads to him actually operating upon her, injecting "specialised cells" into her and creating her ability to grow both antennae and wings when she shrinks. Informed consent to the process can't be said to have been obtained, and there's no evidence at all that Pym had ever performed the procedure upon anyone else before. So, to all that askew sexual and romantic desire, and in the context of the difference between the two of them in terms of age, authority and power, Pym seems to be performing illegal medical procedures too. If he did know something of Janet prior to their official meeting - perhaps he'd been lent some of her DNA by her father? - than he'd at least have been able to prepare something of this operation. One way or the other, he seems entirely unconcerned with her rights at all.
It's hard to cap the previous caption for its sense of a deeply disturbed and deluded man driven to fulfil his own fantasies, but this one actually beats it. Because what we discover is that Pym has a costume for Van Dyne waiting for her. Regardless of how she'd answered his offer of superherodom, Pym had already knocked out a natty set of togs for a prospective female partner. There's something deeply worrying about the idea that Pym had designed and produced a costume for a female sidekick long before co-opting Janet Van Dyne into the role. The design's clearly only appropriate for a woman, which means that Pym had already decided that someone with two XX chromosomes was going to end up as the Wasp. What the story suggests to us is a spur of the moment business is actually part of a long-term plan on Pym's part. He's developed the super-science, prepared a specific medical procedure, and even darned a girl-friendly costume too. Whether Pym is aware that he's done this, and whether it was all set up as part of a secret arrangement between himself and Janet Van Dyne's father, is impossible to tell. But he's certainly carefully prepared for the arrival of a female crime-fighting partner, and that raises the spectre that the lovelorn Pym has also been looking for a partner in the more intimate aspect of his life too. After all, why only seek a female sidekick if it's just a matter of serving the greater good that's been concerning him?
Elsewhere, there's evidence that Pym is hiding an entirely befuddled mind under a rather desperate, authoritarian personality. In the above panel, for example, we might forgive the Wasp for missing the obvious. She has just gone from socialite to grieving daughter to super-heroine in swift order. Yet Pym ought to have noticed that a slow-moving army of ants wouldn't be needed to "carry the (alien-killing) rifle" across town. After all, Pym could just grow to full size, tuck the rifle under his arm and take it to where the alien waits.
But then Pym - for all his desire to present himself as a calm, controlled authority figure - seems utterly confused by his new responsibilities. The above panel occurs after the two diminutive super-people have already faced down and been chased off by their alien opponent. Yet Pym had not only taken the entirely untrained Van Dyne into battle, but forgotten to explain the most basic aspects of her new super-powers. This is, it seems, either a deeply stupid or - far more likely - a profoundly disordered men. He's not only pressurised a deeply vulnerable young woman into dubious experiments and life-threatening conflict, which is clearly an unacceptable business. He's also chosen an impressionable teenager who he believes resembles his own much-loved, deeply-missed wife too. As such, it's impossible to believe that Pym hasn't been manoeuvring the two of them into an affair as well as a crime-alliance. My money's on him having done so unconsciously, but the whole process is endlessly more disturbing than it at first appears. Which, of course, is a huge part of its fascination.
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48 comments:

  1. One thing that always confounded me about the TTA Ant-Man stories was their insistence of having Ant-Man do practically everything at ant size, even when it impeded his own work. Granted, there's not much of a reason for an ant-sized hero if he grows to full size to punch out a bad guy--but if time is of the essence, and you only have minutes before a bad guy returns or otherwise puts his evil plan into action, do you make your preparations and move no faster than, well, an ant--or do you grow to your full size and get the same things done in a matter of seconds? Do you let yourself be washed down a drain by a bad guy firing a hose at you--or does it occur to you to, you know, grow an inch or two to avoid it?

    And good grief, Dr. Pym--if you retain much of your full-size strength when ant-sized, why take the time to summon an army of ants to slowwwwwly lift and move a shotgun and ammo when you and the Wasp can just pick them up and carry them?

    Part of Hank Pym's problem may have been his almost dogged persistence in making an ant-sized adventurer stand out more in terms of capability, when he perhaps should have simply used his size-changing advantages in much the same way as the "Dr. Pym" character in West Coast Avengers.

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    1. Hello Comicsfan:- You're quite right, the ant-sized convention makes little sense. Why should Pym fire himself out of a mini-cannon to hurtle across the city when his super-science could just make him a jet pack, and a jet pack built for a normal sized man either. Of course, the stories weren't meant to make sense, just entertain, and yet part of the way to keep them fresh for older readers is to approach them - if you will - cynically. What was going on with Pym?

      Perhaps one explanation for his problem recognising how he might alter his size could be the fact that it was Maria's own comment about ants that inspired him to be a hero. For a man so obviously obsessed with his dead wife, the very idea of holding to how he interpreted her comments might have been vitally important. Pym never thought of being anything other than ant sized because Maria had never said anything to suggest that. Of course, once Janet is on the scene, Pym quickly starts developing his powers, becoming Giant-Man and constantly developing his agility and strength. At which point, we may see the typical anxiety of the older man involved with the far younger woman/girl manifetsing itself.

      Or not, of course :)

      The Dr Pym character - as developed by Steve Englehart - was the best shot Marvel ever commissioned to square the circle that's Pym. Englehart gave him a power-set that worked, a mission that recognised Pym's limitations, and a story in which he recognised and worked through his problems. Building on Roger Sterns fine work with the character in Avengers 227-30 - or so - it was a fascinating take on the character. I've seen aspects of it reappearing in the Slott and Gage stories over the past half a decade or so. I must find collections of those issues and see how well Pym comes out of the process.

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    2. Quite a good point about Pym's take on his power vis-à-vis Maria and Jan.

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    3. Of course, the real catalyst for Hank to become Giant-Man was joining the Avengers, particularly when his new teammates were all powerhouses -- Hulk, Thor and Iron Man (and it was only about a month or so later that Tony Stark revised his armor to the sleeker, crimson & gold version; hmmm, ya think he was subconsciously trying to impress the lovely Janet Van Dyne???).

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    4. hello Fred:- Whether the hypothesis concerning Pym's mental health problems is accepted or not, I don't think your point about the Avengers is hard to deny. I prefer to believe that Pym's sense of inferiority compared to his new fellows combined with his strange, powerful feelings for Jan led to his absurd, and dangerous, attempts to become more and more physically powerful.

      As for Stark ... well, the man's a hound, isn't he?

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  2. Hank Pym is such a peculiar character. So deeply conflicted, so pychotic...so utterly confused. He COULD pick up that shotgun and carry it his own little self, but he just seems to really really like ordering those ants around.

    Of course Jan has her OWN problems. Such as tricking a schizophrenic into marriage, but that's another whole can of worms.
    And congratulations on writing a book!

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    1. Hello Sally:- You're right! He's invented a way of shrinking and by golly he's going to do everything at that scale! Poor Hank, but what a fascinating bloke he is.

      You're quite right about Jan. As always, my instinct is to leap to her defense. It's hard not to see her as a person who was treated appallingly by Pym, no matter what excuse his fragile psychology lends him. Yet she was an experienced Avenger and a grown woman by the time of their marriage. It doesn't, shall we say, look good for her.

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  3. The panel where Hanks gives Janet her power via the "specialised cells" is even creepier from a modern perspective when you realize that he's making her wear what looks like a gimp mask during the procedure.

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    1. Hello Knightsky:- I know! I wondered whether I should say that, but I thought I might be over-egging the pudding, as my grand'ma used to say. But you're right and I should've mentioned it :) It looks really, really bad from the perspective of 2012, doesn't it?

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  4. Looking at those early stories again in my Essentials, I used to get the distinct vibe that there was a 'teacher/pupil' relationship between Hank and Jan. Its kind of a pity that, just as much as I love them as a romantic couple, the writer couldnt have continued with the scientist/student thing. Over the years the age difference seems to have faded away and I often think of them as the same age roughly.
    Regarding his recruiting Jan as the Wasp - I did get the feeling her father had 'arranged' for her to meet Hank, though for me purely as a prospective rommantic partner for him [I agree he and Pym mustve known each other from before] than as a superhero. Pym cant have been all that loner-obsessed though, as having a sidekick invariably suggests he mustve known he needed help fighting crime, that he couldnt do it all himself. Its curious how he injects her with his potions, giving her a kind of independence unlike himself who relied on his ants and size-changing pills. And later he gives her her Wasp's Sting [which alternated between a sharp 'needle' that only scratched, and a low-pressure air-gun] which again suggests he dosent mind her having a weapon, unlike himself. Although he wants to be in charge, he dosent resent her having these unique abilities he doesnt have. I do think tho that he had a tendency to make it all up as he went along, and didnt often think things through, a tendency that went along during his Tales To Astonish run which amounted to him spending a sizeable amount of time searching for solutions; something which has been remarkably consistent for his character over the years.
    I cant help but love Hank and Jan. They remind me of those old film stars Troy Donahue and Natalie Wood.

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    1. Hello Karl:- There are moments when I'm charmed by Hank and Jan too. The story in which they take a holiday to the Greek Islands - a strange thing for a teacher/mentor and student to do, when he knows she's a terrible crush on him - is a particularly winning one, in that they banter and cooperate in a way that evokes a mild but enjoyable screwball comedy. Yet even then, the problems in their relationship are there; what are they doing there together? What does Pym think he's doing?

      Since we're just playfully reading between the lines, your interpretation is - of course - just as valid as mine. I think it holds together nicely. Pym as a habitual improviser, Van Dyne's father as a matchmaker. It's not where I find my own take on the story going, but the fun's in the difference between your take and mine for me. I find the picture of them as a psychologically challenged and challenging couple to be a compelling one. But that's just me :)

      And it's a good point you make about the age difference between the two fading away as the years have passed. It seems substantial in TTA #44. Not quite Bogart/Hepburn in Sabrina, mind you, but significant enough.

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  5. Hi Colin:

    What is it about the shrinking hero archetype that encourages obsessive, dysfunctional attachments to their love interests?

    The story of Hank Pym, Maria Pym and Janet Van Dyne is an extremely troubling one. I don't think that I had fully pieced it together before reading your article. Jack Kirby and Don Heck did an outstanding job on the art. The protective hand on Janet's shoulder from Dr. Van Dyne when she meets our protagonist suggests your theory might not be too far off. The demure pose of Janet as she returns and the melodramatic way that Hank Pym removes his robe (!) reinforce an arranged marriage subtext.

    Poor Janet Van Dyne was in for an especially bizarre and upsetting "wedding night". As Knightsky points out, the gimp mask takes the whole sorry business to another level. Not only does it add a S&M subtext, but it hides her face! That makes it easier for Hank Pym to imagine that his new female partner is his late wife. That extends to Janet's new costume obscures more of her appearance than almost any female superhero of comparable vintage.

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    1. Hello Dean:- It's wonderful how these old stories often end up suggesting things - with the passing of time - which was never, and never could have been, intended. But in teasing out these contradictions, there is a chance to ask questions about what was taken for granted then and what is now. I find the idea that Janet's father was introducing her as a potential marriage partner FAR more disturbing than if she were being proposed for a career as a crime-fighter. Both ideas are disturbing, mind you, and yet the idea of the father who thinks his daughter might be a good love-match for good old world-fampus Hank Pym .... that gives me the shivers, although it's a compelling idea and one from which a host of interesting and relevant stories might come. The moments you mention are certainly compelling markers. Ech.

      Now I'd utterly missed the idea of Jan's identity being buried in the mask and costume. That's an inspiring if again creepy idea. It did always seem to me that Pym was forcing her into a version of feminity, into an identity which comforted him without challenging him. The fact that he appears to be doing this without any conscious control of his behaviour and intent is enthralling. His pain appears extreme and touching, and yet it's impossible to feel anything of sympathy towards him when compared to Janet Van Dyne. Whatever reading is taken of this story, she's treated despicably from beginning to end.

      Your theory about Janet's costume is an interesting one, because it's notable that her own creativity manifests itself in the following stories in costume-design and making. Perhaps that's her unconscious mind beginning to fight back about the fact that her identity has been determined upon her?

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    2. The superhero genre and the horror genre are not so very far away from one another, are they?

      The early Marvels get a lot of credit for bringing the monster aesthetic into superhero comics, but I would argue it was there from the very beginning. The cover of ACTION COMICS #1 was all about terror. Batman took that aspect even further. I am hard pressed to think of a Golden Age A-lister who is not a half-step away from being a monster. The innovation was Julius Schwartz expunging those elements to make comics more kid-friendly.

      What Lee, Kirby and Ditko were doing was diluting the horror of these stories by decompressing them. It easy to miss how terrible many of these are when they are spread over several issues. Their real innovation was the insight that almost anyone seems heroic when opposed by someone worse. It is a generational insight. Stalin doesn't seem so bad when you are fighting Hitler. Once Hitler is gone, Stalin becomes pretty terrifying.

      The founding Marvel generation is well populated with bastards. The successful ones were opposed by someone who was similar, but vastly worse. Reed Richards fatherly style looks pretty good compared to Dr. Doom (or even Namor). Professor X is a less awful authority figure than Magneto. Peter Parker is incredibly selfish, but at least he is no Norman Osborne.

      Poor Hank Pym is unopposed in his deviance.

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    3. Hello Dean:- I think that business of horror is an inescapable part of the superbook. Firstly, the superhero is - in appearance & ability - an undoubted expression of difference, and that makes it a perfect sub-genre for the problems associated with that to be discussed. Secondly, the kind of physical changes which are associated with the superhero touch not just on prejudice, but on absolutely fundamental fears of physical change, of transformations which can't be chosen, directed or controlled. The early Marvels did this particularly well, and the establishment of a UNIVERSE and a class of superheroes undercut that. When the superhero was a symbol of unease as well as aspiration, it carried a power which it doesn't when becoming a superperson is so very much more gravy than suffering.

      I'll have to take time to think through your Golden Age A-Lister point. Do you mean from the perspective of today or in the terms of the culture of the time? Surely you're not accusing Captain Marvel of being anything other than sunny? But I wouldn't challenge the idea that early, big-cheese super-folks drew off the pulps and presented brute force and terror as the sole solution to problems. Superman, Batman, The Torch, Subby ....

      And again, I'd rather that was up-front than we often see in today's books, where many - though not all - creators seem convinced that they're discussing characters which are behaving ethically even when they're clearly not. The earliest super-books did the same, and yet the transgressions there were so obvious and out-there that the books were at least lacking in piousness. Today's books often seem as stupid-headed as those earliest takes, and yet they're wrapped up in pseudo-sophistication and avoidance. I think there should be horror there when folks are violently taking the law into their own hands. The very idea is a horrific one. It's a sign that the social contract has shattered. Only a culture that's forgotten what the collapse of such would mean can afford to take such an idea lightly. (Or an audience of kids in the 40s, 50s and 60s who can't possibly know better.)

      There are few characters in the early MU who aren't terrible people. You're right. Richards and his criminal negligence and impulsivity. Xavier and the same. Stark's irresponsibility and Cold War bigotry. Banner still dragging himself into work even when he knew he could change into the Hulk. These aren't, shall we say, unconditionally admirable people.

      Only Doctor Strange was a grown up. Not just physically an adult, but a grown up too. No wonder he didn't tend to hang out with the rest of New York's super-people.

      (There's a case to be made for Don Blake, but that's such a complicated business, and anyway, he wasn't actually a person as such! It's easy to be consistently virtuous when you're a false personality.)

      No, Hank's not alone in his problems. And in many ways, I find him more sympathetic than the MU's other elder statesmen. Richards and - especially - Xavier should have been locked up and locked up for a very long time indeed.

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    4. Time changes and our heroes change with it... The horror surely takes a huge part in every hero tale. Most ancient Greek heroes were conceived trough rapes. And then faced with terrible nightmares. Most Marvel heroes are conceived by the ever fearful chance and have to face the never ending need to give some meaning to a world they never made.Face the horror is an inseparable part of the Hero motif.

      At Marvel powers always worked as a potential psychological if not physical treat to the people who got it. The fact that they have to face inner terror as much they face outer dangers is part of what make them so compelling.

      As Colin said, "there should be horror there when folks are violently taking the law into their own hands. The very idea is a horrific one. It's a sign that the social contract has shattered. Only a culture that's forgotten what the collapse of such would mean can afford to take such an idea lightly". I believe though that this taste of danger that always raised at the end of every classic Marvel comic is the very reason for their heroism. Their characters were all problematic and it was clear that their lives would - in many cases - improve much if they quit their superheroic business.
      But they struggle with fate and hopelessly try to give a meaning to their lives. And facing that all reliable horror, they raise the question: what should i do with this?

      As we read these stories today two main things pop to mind: 1 - Marvel heroes always emerge from confronting a fortuitous happening with an urge to give an ethical meaning to it by doing good with the tools they have earned (by intellect or chance); 2- the question is raised and answered by a set of ethical values that always may be seem as questionable (Richards and Stark will always be too rational, and will misread people feelings. Peter Parker never got the big picture too well etc.). So the good they're doing may not be seemed as Good by someone else.
      It always seemed to me that at Marvel heroism mean good intentions (that may as as well pave your way to hell) and search for redemption.
      Often, Marvel heroes don't really know what they're doing -which is a very disturbing idea - but they are really, really trying and risking their lives and souls for the sake of whatever they believe is good.
      Hank Pym tries to put his broken mind together and save the day. It does not make him an example, of course, but we surely can sympathize with him and hope this poor man will find some peace.

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    5. Hi Colin:

      I think that you are exactly right about the source of the power of the superhero narrative and why it has largely fallen apart in its native medium. As they have progressed from individuals to a set of communities to a social class, the excesses of the individual superhero have become less forgivable. As a lonely, broken man, Hank Pym elicits some sympathy despite his horrific actions. It is a very different business when he is a member of an elite organization that has unchecked power over the rest of us.

      My Golden Age remark needs some rephrasing. What I should have said is that every Golden Age A-Lister comes from a place of horror. Not all of them remain there for very long, but they all touch that thread. Billy Batson looks like a boy heading for a very bad end before he says his magic word. Eel O'Brien undergoes a pretty terrible physical transformation. The Green Lantern caused the death of everyone it came in contact with before Alan Scott. The Amazon retreat to Paradise Island after being betrayed, conquered and raped by the army of Hercules.

      In his earliest appearances, Superman himself is not so different than Jason from the Friday the 13th movies, or the Terminator. He has a mission that makes sense in his own mind and no human force can stop him. He unilaterally decides that a death row inmate is innocent and forces his way into the home of Governor to demand a pardon. It is a straight forward rejection of the social contract. The underlying belief is that the system is so monstrously unequal that any action to balance the scales is justified.

      If I had to pinpoint the flaw in modern comics, then I would suggest it is the desire to retain appearance of dealing with the politics of difference while appealing to an audience that wants nothing of the sort. Look at the treatment of the so-called "geek girls" as an example. You could scarcely imagine an easier difference to accommodate. Male communities that do not find a way to make allowances for women tend to die off over time for a variety of very obvious reasons. Therefore, the ground rule for making a male dominated community more female-friendly are nearly universally known. Plus, women almost inevitably bring more to the table than they take off.

      And yet, the comics community has managed to do almost everything wrong since large numbers of female fans started coming out the proverbial closet in the early 21st century.

      What seems to interest the fan community is the idea of difference as a justification for reprehensible behavior. Marketing exclusively to that audience inevitably morally fuzzy at best.

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    6. Hello Dean:- It’s hard to forgive the class of super-people their often reprehensible behaviour, isn’t it? Not just because of the excessive privileges which the individual heroes have in such a situation, but also because of the negative light it throws on the class as a whole. The idea of group responsibility seems to often pass the super-people by. The Sentry should have been in full-time medical care rather than an Avenger on active duty, Wolverine in jail, and so on. Every single citizen of Utopia was culpable for the gross violations of human rights and international law committed by Cyclop’s regime etc etc As you say, “What seems to interest the fan community is the idea of difference as a justification for reprehensible behaviour”. I’m far more interested in the degree to which difference and disagreement doesn’t justify the same, and I very, very strongly suspect that you’re the same.

      “My Golden Age remark needs some rephrasing. What I should have said is that every Golden Age A-Lister comes from a place of horror. Not all of them remain there for very long, but they all touch that thread. Billy Batson looks like a boy heading for a very bad end before he says his magic word. Eel O'Brien undergoes a pretty terrible physical transformation. The Green Lantern caused the death of everyone it came in contact with before Alan Scott. The Amazon retreat to Paradise Island after being betrayed, conquered and raped by the army of Hercules.”

      A splendid point. That sound you hear is the penny dropping. Superman with the death of two sets of parents, Batman with the death of one. Cap with the murder of his creator, the Spectre with the appalling murder of his mortal self … And the further the stories moved from that tragedy – for my money – the less powerful they became. You can literally feel the later Batman stories come to life again when they return to situations such as his parent’s murder and Joe Chill.

      Or to put it another way; you’re absolutely right.

      “ Male communities that do not find a way to make allowances for women tend to die off over time for a variety of very obvious reasons. Therefore, the ground rule for making a male dominated community more female-friendly are nearly universally known. Plus, women almost inevitably bring more to the table than they take off.”

      The refusal – the desperate refusal – of the rump to accept anything other than the uber-masculine is, as you say, a self-destructive act. But I don’t think they care.

      And the New 52 strategy does seem to have created a stable situation in the marketplace where a relatively small number of blokes can keep buying the same story over and over again. Well, that’s not true; the stories have a habit of becoming more and more bloody and angst-ridden. As always, thank heavens for the creators who break with the cycle …

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    7. Hello Thomaz:- I'm sorry your reply is down here. I left your comment until last and then found that I couldn't post a reply until here. I hope you catch this reply and don't think I've ignored you.

      “Hank Pym tries to put his broken mind together and save the day. It does not make him an example, of course, but we surely can sympathize with him and hope this poor man will find some peace.”

      I would agree. But my sympathy for Hank ends where his problems start distorting JVD’s life-chances. That doesn’t mean my sympathy for him dissolves. But it does mean that I can’t see a great deal of his behaviour in anything other than a critical light. Yet I will of course concede that there’s a difference between Hank and a chauvinist of the period, or indeed any period. If Hank really is as ill as he seems here, and if he really doesn’t know what he’s doing, then he needs therapy rather than the stocks.

      “Face the horror is an inseparable part of the Hero motif … At Marvel powers always worked as a potential psychological if not physical treat to the people who got it. The fact that they have to face inner terror as much they face outer dangers is part of what make them so compelling."

      I entirely agree. And that’s why the ill-framing of that horror, and its cheapening as melodramatic angst, is such a shame. Because when the horror is well-used – such as with Daredevil and Loki in 2012’s comics – it works exceptionally well.

      “Often, Marvel heroes don't really know what they're doing -which is a very disturbing idea - but they are really, really trying and risking their lives and souls for the sake of whatever they believe is good.”

      I would - again! - entirely agree. It’s exactly as it should be. What worries me is when they appear to be ignorant of basic morality and the law, and/or when they do terrible things and get either immediately forgiven or even rewarded for it. That’s when they start to stand as representatives not of typical folks, but as anti-social individuals.

      Which I of course know you'd not be sympathetic to either.

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    8. Ya know in considering Dean's comments about the monstrosity of many of the top Golden Age heroes, that particularly applies to Sub-Mariner and the Human Torch, who each killed people in their initial stories. As for Captain America, well he did take a young boy into combat with him. I'm sure Kirby & Simon and their fans didn't think there was anything odd about that in 1941, but when Kirby & Lee brought him back in 1964, it turns out Bucky was killed while on a mission with Cap (never mind the post-Bronze age revision!), giving Cap a heavy dose of guilt to go with his Rip Van Winkle complex.
      Anyone think Cap might have had even more reason to feel guilt over Bucky's fate than Spider-Man did about Uncle Ben?

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    9. Hello Fred:- It's something worth considering, isn't it? Cap's guilt seems to have obviously part of an overwhelming measure of PTSD. He was certainly Bucky's commanding officer as well as friend and mentor, so his sense of guilt was unavoidable. If we're talking about the back-story as it held in 64, then the question is all about how Bucky ended up with the state's clearance to be gallivanting around the war on official missions. It's to be assummed that Bucky was assessed and passed as suitable for service. And by the time he and Bucky ended up on that rocket, Bucky was certainly old enough to be an enlisted man anyway.

      I think Spider-Man quite rightly bears the guilt for Ben's death. The Cap of 64 might feel responsible for Bucky's end, but I suspect that Barnes would've chosen that life and that end, and his experience was a far more interesting, rewarding and autonomous one at Cap's side than it would have been in any of America's armed forces.

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    10. Very true, Colin, and if we pretend that Bucky was, say, 14 in early 1941 and thus 18 by early 1945, we might imagine that perhaps Bucky became the equivalent of an actual soldier (rather than a camp mascot) in early '44, albeit one assigned to go on missions with Cap. Either way, as much an adult as Hawkeye, Pietro & Wanda when Cap took charge of them in 1965. But then, because Bucky was just a "kid" when he teamed up with Cap, Cap would have likely always thought of Bucky as a kid even as he grew into adulthood. Of course, in the actual comics of 1945, Bucky was eternally about 13 while these days Bucky was an adult all along and in 1965 Cap had about 40 more years to go before he was de-iced. Ah, the wonder of funny book fantasies!

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    11. Hello Fred:- The mind starts to sag with the meta of it all, doesn't it? That's why an elegant solution to continuity problems is always welcome. The way that Brubaker reinvented Bucky Barnes was, to take one example you've touched upon, a brilliant way of squaring a whole series of circles.

      If only all the attempts to sort out continuity were as smartly done ...

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  6. You never know, Colin - Hank may have prepared female AND male costumes in a variety of sizes and colourways.

    Could it be that the male costume was black and yellow and if a chap was chosen, 'the gentleman's name is 'Yellowjacket'? That'd explain how Hank made himself over so quickly post-breakdown.

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    1. Hello Martin:- You're quite right, of course, Hank might have had a series of identities. It would certainly explain how Pym's identity of Yellowjacket later appeared overnight, as you say?

      I think I prefer the more psychologically twisted explanation. But then, your take doesn't take anything away from how JVD was treated, so it wouldn't leave a story that didn't have nice twisted edges.

      And it strikes me that the old "What If" could've featured an interesting tale; What If Ant-Man Had Been Joined By Yellowjacket Instead Of The Wasp"? I think it would have to be a tear-jerker, with Pym dying nobly at the end and JVP becoming the Wasp at the end to partner Yellowjacket instead.

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  7. Gimp mask nothing! That's Hank eroticising Jan as a human ant ...

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    1. Hello Mart:- And congratulations! Because that's a more disturbing take on Pym than I could ever come up with.

      It actually makes every single Ant Man story unreadable. The horror, the horror ...

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  8. Just a quick seconding of the recommendation of the Season One Ant-Man book, it's good work - pacey, entertaining and addresses some of the problems tat have been identified by yourself and the Too Busy Brains Trust. It doesn't get as far as taking on Jan, sadly, so we don't see what Tom DeFalco would have done there, but Horacio Gominguez does make Maria look Jan-nish. Anyway, I shall leave it to you to read the book ...

    Basically, it's a neat reworking of the Hank Pym origin, and would work nicely as current canon.

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    1. Hello Martin:- I've had some bad experiences with the Season One books. The art has been far better than the stories that I've come across, but as a package, what I've read has been profoundly under-whelming and a great waste of an opportunity. (Having writers who don't seem to understand comics on a basic level on some of the books certainly didn't help.) Nor can I say that I'm a fan of Tom DeFalco's writing at the moment. Yet several good eggs that I really do trust have said jump, and so jump I shall :)

      Into the anthill etc etc ....

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  9. I wonder if this is a case of the "Marvel Method" working some extra wackiness. The idea that Janet looks like Maria, that Janet is a teenager, that's only in the words.

    Rescripting those pages, you could make Janet his age and the elder Van Dyne's sister. Change her dialogue to make her more into the idea of becoming the Wasp, maybe even make it her idea. Maybe when she visits Pym, she admits she knew who he was all along, and the weird open-robe reveal scene is him confirming her suspicions. You could de-creepify it quite a bit.

    Didn't Professor X have inappropriate feelings towards young Jean Grey in the Stan-scripted X-Men issues? Yeah...

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    1. Hello Harvey:- I too had the same suspicion, but Marvel scholar Nick Caputo assures me that these early tales were done full-script. Which means that either Stan cranked up Hartley's dialogue when the pages came in or - understandably, given the mass of work they were doing - Kirby and Heck missed that detail. Whatever, I'm glad they did :)

      You're quite right that a touch of script-doctoring could have got rid of a great deal of the most outstanding problems with the material. (Hank could have already have been training Janet for some kind of physical task/ Perhaps she'd been ill and he'd been developing methods to help her get well. That would mean the experiments were consensual and part of a long-established process.) I'm sure that's there's a good reason to be had for the ants carrying the rifle across NYC. Mind you, I can't think of one ...

      I can just hear Professor X whining about that Jean Grey business; ONE THOUGHT BALLOON! ONE THOUGHT BALLOON AND THEY NEVER LET IT GO!!!!

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  10. Perhaps Pym was dreamily concocting the Wasp as his partner as though Maria were still alive, imagining to himself what powers he'd give her, what costume she'd wear, etc. Being so focused on this side project, when Jan walked into his life she was instantly "like Maria" and the perfect candidate for Maria's costume and powers. And why explain Jan's powers to her? In his mind, he'd already been on a dozen adventures with Maria as the Wasp.

    Some lonely people have cats; some have ants.

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    1. Hello Michael:- It is impossible not to sympathise with this Hank Pym, isn't it? It's hard not to consider him to be an impossibly broken man. That doesn't mean that his behaviour re: Jan seems, in the light of 2012, anything other than unfair and regrettable, to say the very least. But it's hard not to see him as a man who was shattered by his wife's death, and who never even realised how broken he'd become.

      "And why explain Jan's powers to her? In his mind, he'd already been on a dozen adventures with Maria as the Wasp."

      That's heart-breaking, Michael. That's absolutely heart-breaking ....

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  11. The early Pym stories explain his later breakdowns, his Yellowjacket personality, and even his hitting Jan. He made her everything she was, and she had the gall to suggest he was crazy or wrong or not perfect?!?! Good thing they never had kids!

    My favorite bit of Pym craziness, though, is his soliloquy inside the Vision in one of the Thomas/ Adams issues. "Have you ever heard an ant scream?" Maybe the funniest awful purple prose in the history of the genre, it's all the proof I need that Pym wasn't all there.

    - Mike Loughlin

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    1. Hello Mike:- It seems that we're all agreed; Jim Shooter's Hank isn't as inexplicable and indefensible as fandom has so often argued! Well, I've changed my mind on just about everything else, so I might as well accept I've changed here too :)

      You're right about that Kree/Skrull War moment. It is somewhat ... rich. Mind you, Hank had shown what might be regarded as extreme sentimentality towards his ants before. There's a story early in his time with the Wasp in which a particular ant does defending him and there are tears shed. Hank obviously invested a degree of empathy in his relationship with ants which most folks would consider ... misguided.

      Still, that tale does end on a lovely Don Heck panel showing Jan sympathising with Pym's sense of loss. It's a beautiful moment, even if everyone involved is somewhat ... confused about their own thoughts and experiences.

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  12. I've never actually read this story, but even knowing the basics (isn't Janet even supposed to be half Pym's age?) that shot of her with her head in Pym's contraption is borderline horrifying -- what else could he have been doing but injecting something into her brain.

    I know a lot of stuff has been done with Pym and Jan's relationship and all of that, but has anyone ever addressed the any of the terrible subtext behind this on panel -- Jan loses both her parents, gets "taken in" but a much older man who she makes repeated attempts to seduce until finally wearing him down and finally marries him (but only after he has a nervous breakdown and believes he's a completely different person).

    Anyway, I also like the idea that Pym designed the Yellowjacket costume as the male equivalent of the Wasp outfit. Someone should make that canon and even throw in the idea he asked Bill Foster to wear it but was turned down. Why not, you know?

    Have a good day.
    G Morrow

    tdsacomic.com

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    1. Hello G Morrow:- Working out how much older Pym was than Jan is almost impossible. If a body wants to argue that Pym was a prodigy who graduated at 15 and married at 18, it might only be a few years that lies between them. Mind you, just a few years can make all the difference, and that's especially true when Pym would have had years as a superhero, world-class scientist, and widower under his belt. But my money's on his being a decade older at least. And as you say, that makes the whole business of his experimenting on her feeling all the more sinister,

      Has anyone discussed the subtext of this particular story? I don't know. I know I'm keenly aware that I've probably done too much of that over the past month. But I did find the story fascinating, and the more I dug, the deeper the disquiet went. I always assume that whatever I'm discussing about the old Marvels has been done to death elsewhere, but I'm not aware of where else this material has been discussed in this light. I fear I should know, I'm sure there's lots of stuff out there, and in the comics too, but it's passed me by.

      And if we're all developing several alternative histories for Pym, then why not the Yellowjacket spin you suggest? Mind you, it still makes a touch sad to even think of Bill Foster, a terrific hero of colour killed off for cheap, passing effect in Civil War ...

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  13. Hello again Colin,

    I've thoroughly enjoyed these ant-man pieces of yours and the comments on this particular thread have been nothing less than superb.

    I'm in love with some of the above alt-readings of Ant-Man & Wasp's origins, particularly the your idea that Dr Van Dyne had intended to set up his bored daughter Janet as Ant-Man's assistant and Michael Hoskins' idea that Pym intended Maria to be his Wasp and desperately used Janet as her substitute.

    There's something desperately sad about a man who feels more at home amongst the insects than amongst his own kind - yet even his beloved ants can't satisfy the base longing for a romantic companion. Imagine Pym's unconfined joy at seeing the beautiful Janet, gladly shrunken down to his own micro-world and flying above it on her new Wasp-wings. After everything that's happened to him is there any wonder that he didn't pause to question his new happy circumstances? Vengeance for Dr Van Dyne gave Pym a renewed purpose and someone to share his maligned brilliance. For the Wasp, Pym became a surrogate father and man-of-her-dreams at the same time and gave her vengeance and a hitherto undreamed-of level of excitement. Yet as Marvel's history played itself out and eventually came to show - pausing the music only revealed the sound of gears grinding beneath the merry-go-round.

    "Today's books often seem as stupid-headed as those earliest takes, and yet they're wrapped up in pseudo-sophistication and avoidance. I think there should be horror there when folks are violently taking the law into their own hands. The very idea is a horrific one. It's a sign that the social contract has shattered."

    This is sorely lacking from virtually all the superbooks which harbour any pretence of realism. I take the view that it's fine to throw the emotional consequences of your characters actions to the wind so long as you don't expect your comic to be taken seriously - and with so many cape comics practically scream "Please! I'm serious! I'm meaningful! Take me seriously! PLEASE!" at their readers it becomes harder not to dismiss them outright.

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    1. Hello Ed:- Thank you for such kind words. I was very hesitant to post the above, feeling I'd been to this particular well too often. Of course, it's just a blog, but I didn't want to seem to be flogging this particular horse. But folks have been very generous in their ideas, and I'm so pleased I did put the panels up. If I hadn't, I'd not have had the pleasure of reading all these different takes on this odd and touching old tale.

      And that very much goes for your contributions too. Your suggestion of how Pym might well have felt at seeing JVD in her superheroic guise adds an extra dimension to that scene. (I'm beginning to believe that I should NEVER read an old tale without having the chance to experience how others view the same story.)

      It is possible - as I've done - to regret that the "vengeance" aspects of JVD's story was never played out. (It's all hypotheticals, of course; the time wasn't ready for that.) But another take is one suggested by your words above. The loss of that potential can also be seen as a terrible sadness, because with it comes the loss of all the hope that JVD felt when that transference occured. As you say, the sound of the gears grinding under the merry-go-round ...

      On your point about that pernicious over-seriousness; have you read the new Uncanny Avengers. I won't spoil its conclusion, but it's a prime example of an entirely ridiculous business being played all too seriously. What a shame. What a waste of a wonderfully absurd sub-genre, capable by its very nature of being touching and out-there all at the same time.

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    2. I suppose the mere fact that we're able to spin all of this wonder out of Ant-Man suggest that there's something inherently fascinating about the character. Whether by design or accident Marvel created something truly unique in Pym/AM.

      I was (un)fortunate enough to be able borrow a friends copy of UA #1. It's pretty dire fare and epitomises a lot of what I dislike about the current Marvel output. It's far too decompressed and compounds this with the "IM A SERIOUS STORY, THERE'S NO IRONY HERE" tone that gives me license to reject its pompous and self-aggrandising 'heroes' and the dubious morality they seem to advocate.

      Shock moments are a staple of the modern cape comic and credit to Remender for thinking up an image that is truly abhorrent. I'm sure that's the effect he was going for so kudos to him - but it's not for me. I can handle some pretty horrific stuff (Warren Ellis's gore-tastic No Hero for example) but there's no heart or meaning to UA #1's shock/horror moment, it's purposeless beyond the immediate reaction, and I'm glad I didn't have to pay to see it.

      A thought just occurred to me: Remender's writing reminds me of Claremont's melodrama but with the violence turned up to 11 and very little of CC's moral sensitivity.

      "entirely ridiculous business being played all too seriously. What a shame. What a waste of a wonderfully absurd sub-genre, capable by its very nature of being touching and out-there all at the same time."

      Indeed, indeed, indeed. Again I'm not against seriousness or shocking/horrible sub-genre cape comics but when it demands a serious reaction it also invites serious thought - and when there's nothing beneath the surface I don't see the point. In a world where the-thing-I-shall-not-spoil can happen the whole brightly costumed aesthetic becomes ludicrous at best, yet somehow it's played straighter than The Sopranos. Glory has gore, personal horror and shock moments up to the eyeballs but at least it fully commits to the sub-genre of superheroism that it's trying to be.

      By way of contrast have you seen Mike Allred's Madman series? I've been reading the first three trade collections (chronologically speaking) recently and I've loved every minute. It's absurd, weird, scary, heart-warming and basically the complete opposite of the Uncanny Avengers. Everything's drawn in a retro/pop style and it's got some genuine emotional resonance.

      In fact, now that I mention Allred I should also point out that he's working with Matt Fraction on the new FF/Future Foundation comic - a comic which features none other than Ant Man! Sadly its not the Pym Ant-Man, I think it's the dastardly Scott Lang, but this and the Gillen/McKelvie Young Avengers look like the most promising and genuinely different things to come out of the oddly branded Marvel NOW.

      Also on the subject of Marvel NOW... have you seen Slott's plans for Spider-Man? Dear oh dear...

      http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/2012/10/10/superior-spider-man-comic-book-series/1624319/

      As an afterthought here's the Gillen/McKelvie YA interview: http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=41439

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    3. Hello Ed:- You're right, UA was so woefully lacking in irony. Or any form of humour that I can recall. What a wearisome business, and that's especially true when you've got that RIDICULOUS last page which it's almost impossible not to present with just a touch of a tongue in the cheek.

      Though Marvel did succeed in avoiding any sense of fun.

      I often get furious, deletable comments from - it seems - blokes who adore the grim and loathe anything but. Well done, comics industry, for targetting such an inflexible niche so successfully. Mind you, I'm not sure where comics can go in order to give that niche the things it demands. Less and less irony, less and less depth, more and more faux-seriousness. The industry often behaves just like one of Steve Bell's self-lancing boils.

      As you say, it's mostly grimness for the grimness of it all. If it had a purpose, then fine. Who could argue. But the association of the grim with sophistication regardness of the work's meaning ... Oh, dear.

      I've never been able to get the range of Madman. I've always enjoyed it, and in particular the art. But I struggle to feel anything about it beyond its affability and retro-Pop-Kirby charms. But then, it's been ... crikey, a decade since I read anything of the title. And I've changed my opinions of just about everything else in the period since. I suspect I missed that emotional resonance, I look forward to discovering it.

      Isn't Scott Lang still dead? It was a daft death, but the whole THEY'RE-ALIVE-AGAIN process wears me out. Prof X will be back eventually. After all, he's returned before.

      I do find myself interested in that new FF title. Fraction's work does seem far closer to my own highly subjective and dubious taste these days, and I do - as I said - always enjoy Allred's pages. Of course, Young Avengers is the title that sounds the most promising from the Now line.

      As for Superior Spidey ... Well, it doesn't sound to my taste. Still, fingers crossed. It might be anything but a desperate, hollow 90s-style attempt to attract column inches and casual readers. It doesn't look good, but .... fingers crossed, fingers crossed.

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  14. It's that lamentable lack of fun, self-awareness and irony that kills a lot of Big Two comics for me.

    As for Madman it might just be me but I think the emotive impact - at least relative to most cape comics - comes from the disruptive moments within its overall zany pop tone. Sudden injections of grotesque, doubt or some other form of pathos into that brightly coloured world packs more of a punch with me than more grimness and more seriousness in an relentlessly grim and overly serious comic. But that's just me I guess, it could simply be the novelty of it (compared to what I'm used to) at work.

    I can't say I was aware that Scott Lang was dead, probably an omission of memory on my part - but like you said, Marvel death isn't actually death.

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    1. Hello Ed:- Well, whatever you do, don't read the new Joker crossover which begins in Batman #13. I haven't got beyond that Rump-thrilling prospect, but it's bleaker-than-bleak for bleakness sake. Truly unpleasant stuff. As far as I can see, it's viciousness for no other purpose beyond the sheer nastiness of it all. As unacceptable as it is to a great many folks, this is one example of the emperor's new clothes that I'll not be applauding.

      I do understand exactly your point about Madman. It is indeed, for want of another word, FUN. I find myself more and more drawn since your last comment to the sight of the great big Madman collection ... I fear I may fail to resist the temptation ...

      Scott Lang may well not be dead. It was as stupid a decision as the rest of that look-at-me reboot of the Avengers. I''ve often read folks arguing that the Avengers has been turned into a phenomenal success by BMB's work. And it's true. But that doesn't mean that the only way to attain that success was the road taken.

      Scott Lan

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    2. Oh my no, I've no intention of reading it. Perhaps out of a morbid curiosity I'll borrow a copy at some point down the line but as much as I admire Capullo's talents Synder's horror-grit-macho-Batman just doesn't do it for me.

      I remember reading somewhere that Alan Moore's regret for what he did in The Killing Joke wasn't just about the infamous "cripple the bitch" incident: He was ashamed that he wrote a story which said nothing about humanity, ideas or the world at large - the only things we can learn from TKJ are about Batman and his relationship to the Joker. I doubt we'll see anything different in 'Death of the Family'.

      This probably sounds a bit pretentious but I think that's why I don't get on with most Batman stories, because the only thing they're about is Batman himself, or how he relates to his villains, or a fictional city. Batman is a feedback loop of isolated self-significance - except in a few rare cases - and because I don't automatically care about Bats there's nothing for me there unless either he's being used by someone with something to say (like Frank Miller, even though I don't agree with his message or beliefs) or Batman is being used in a FUN way.

      You can extrapolate Moore's Big Regret outward across much of fiction in general and use it as a kind of literary depth-gauge. The events witnesses in an episode of soaps like Neighbours or Eastenders might give people enjoyment - and that's why I shouldn't begrudge anyone their Bat-comics, just as I have no right to tell the girl I live with not to watch her soaps - but any resemblance to the real world is fleeting and there's nothing of worth for us to learn there. That said, it would feel a bit irksome if half of my peers all started raving about how the last year's worth of Emmerdale episodes was on a par with The Sopranos or The Wire - and I think that's where much of my frustration with contemporary Big Two Comics (and Batman in particular) comes from.

      As for BMB's success with Avengers I dug out the early trades I've got of his run and I realised how much I actually enjoyed it before it lost its way, back when it wasn't so smug and self-satisfied as it is now and before became the new-normal template for Marvel's output. The plots were fresh and felt compelling to me. Regardless, I think the lesson should have been "writing compelling stories for your major characters and remembering to advertise them a bit = bigger audience" instead of the "decompressed, posturing and joyless soap opera = success" template that many cape comics seem to follow today.

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    3. Hello Ed:- Normally, I'd agree with your reasons for not reading that Batman issue. But there are times when a new spin on an old, tiresome theme is well worth experiencing, even though it's a miserable experience. The new Joker tale is everything you say about the least edifying kind of Batman tale; it is indeed all about that "feedback loop if isolated self-significance", which is a splendid phrase. But added to that is the blokeish longing for a touch of unpleasant transgression that prods the story along. How unpleasant can a superbook be? That seems to be the sole motor of the take. I can't see what the comic is about beyond getting the audience all tingly about torture, psych-murder and so on. There's a closed feedback loop between creators and audience too. Which is all very well. Why shouldn't folks who like this kind of thing have this kind of thing to enjoy? But what a shame it's "the" Batman, and that there's no viable alternative.

      Decompressed, posturing and joyless soap opera = success .... is an interesting way of putting it. Can we add,where a great many current superbooks are concerned, a blokeish adoration of hyper-violence and uber-masculinity?

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  15. I'll give the Snyder/Capullo-Joker a read, but it's pretty low down my ever growing list of 'to read' comics. It's tough enough to keep up with the stuff I buy and the stuff I regularly review, let alone finding time for a comic that I'm not particularly keen on reading! I might have to ask around friends to borrow it or speed-read a copy at my LCS next time I pop in.

    "Decompressed, posturing and joyless soap opera = success .... is an interesting way of putting it. Can we add,where a great many current superbooks are concerned, a blokeish adoration of hyper-violence and uber-masculinity?"

    I think that's safe to say, yes. Obviously it goes without saying that I wouldn't want to take those comics away from the people who enjoy them - it's just that I have very little interest in comics that don't offer me more than that. I also think it might be a good idea if Marvel/DC put more effort into selling comics that were a bit less alienating to wider audiences and tried to court younger readers with alternative distribution models but that's another story...

    I think the feedback loop thing is something a lot of Big Two comics rely upon, and it's a losing game because it depends on people already an emotional investment in the characters involved for the drama to work instead of giving us reasons to care. It's one thing to have moments that reward long term fans and it's another thing altogether when the drama depends upon reference to esoteric comics lore. That’s another major problem with UA #1 and the shock/schlock ending - if you're a new reader why would you care whose brain it is? How would you understand anything that happens (or rather: happened elsewhere and is discussed) in UA if you've not read AvX? The simple answer is that UA is not at all intended for those people.

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    1. Hello Ed:- Actually, the truth is, beyond my desire to keep up with what's happening - or not - in the sub-genre, you're not missing anything at all with the JOKER-PSYCHOPATH STORY.

      I'm absolutely with you on the matter of blokeish comics for blokeish minded readers. Why not? There's nothing wrong and a great deal right with serving such a niche. If nothing else, it's revenue that the industry could do with. Or at least, revenue which doesn't come in through licensing. But as you say, why the blah-blah don't the Big Two make a greater effort to sell to folks beyond the blokeish tendency? I suppose there's a host of explanations, for a lack of corporate funding to complacency, and different folks will have different mixes of motivations. But it's a stupid business.

      I find the lack of interest in new readers to be a baffling and arrogant business. There's a world of difference between producing dull books which patronise new readers and simply welcoming a broader audience to a comic that's meaningful to those beyond the Rump. Marvel Now obviously wasn't intended to welcome in - as you say - anyone beyond recently lapsed comic readers. A shame.

      It's certainly getting harder and harder to care, I fear. Beyond the few good books, it's obvious that the creators are marking out a line that says; RUMP ONLY. Oh, well ...

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