Friday, December 30, 2005


The Marvel Vs. D.C. series exemplified something very basic that is wrong with comic books and comic book fans. There is a prevalent idea that a stronger character is one that can beat up other characters. This is absolutlely ridiculous. Take Batman and Superman for example. As the characters were first created, Superman could kill Batman in hundreds of ways before Batman could even consider fighting back, and yet Batman comics are often much better than Superman comics.

This demonstrates that the enjoyability of a character does not rely on physical strength alone, and that it is relative to the character's environment. Having Batman appear in the same comic as Superman was a mistake that comics have never quite recovered from. Some may say that their relationship worked because they each brought something different to the table - Batman was the brains and Superman was the muscle. However, it was well established in Superman comics that Superman was supposed to be super-intelligent - that is to say smarter than any mortal could naturally be - meaning that Batman didn't even have that going for him. To level the playing field, writers would provide Batman with impossible amounts of ludicrous gadgets, and it would get to the point when you wouldn't so much be watching Batman solve crimes as watching Batman watch his gadgets solve crimes. It quickly becomes apparent that anything Batman can do, Superman can do much more cheaply and easily. Then you realize that Superman could eliminate all crime in Gotham City on his lunch break and Batman could use the extra free time to get counseling and maybe come to terms with his parents' death thirty years ago that is somehow still ruining his life. Then you realize how ridiculous almost all superhero comics are, so you stop reading them for five or six years, but your friend Steffan gets you back into them, and a few years later you find yourself writing a Wonder Woman blog and you try to figure out where your life went wrong. Wait, what was I talking about again?

Oh yeah, Marvel Vs. D.C. What made the series worse was that the outcome was decided by the readers' votes. That means that in someone's mind, it made sense that the most popular character would be the one who could beat the less popular one up, which is what makes him a better character. To put that in perspective, I am a much bigger fan of Stephen Hawking than I am of Arnold Schwarzenegger, but I still have no illusion about who would win in a fight.

When you have a good mental image of the governor of California beating a wheelchair-bound physicist to a bloody pulp, you may understand what I mean when I say that many of the fights in Marvel Vs. D.C. never should have happened. One of these battles was between The Flash and Quicksilver. Somebody seems to have thought that we should see this fight. The only advantage that either has over a normal human is that they are both really fast. Quicksilver moves impossibly fast, but even at his fastest, he can't go faster than sound, whereas The Flash is faster than the speed of light. So not only is The Flash faster than Quicksilver, but The Flash routinely surpasses relativistic speeds, and since the writers generally don't understand relativistic physics, The Flash can pretty much do anything he wants.

Once you realize that The Flash can move faster than a neuron can fire, then you realize that every time The Flash has an opponent that has time to even formulate a thought or draw a breath, then The Flash is moving at such a small fraction of his top speed that for him, it must seem like he's hardly moving at all. Looking only at powers (I realize that superpowers should not be the only defining attribute of a character, but I think this post is long enough without going into characterizations), although Quicksilver is less powerful than The Flash, the lack of power makes him a better character. Once you've established that a character can move faster than his opponent can react, it doesn't even matter how much faster. Regardless, the result will be the same - the speedster will carry out his plan of attack before it has even registered in the opponent's mind that the speedster has moved. Having The Flash move as ridiculously fast as the speed of light only serves to underscore how poorly thought out the character is. You realize that once he reaches the escape velocity, he should just go shooting off the surface of the world. Then you wonder how he gets the energy to move that quickly. Then it dawns on you that you're trying to figure out the physics behind comic books and that you are a hopeless nerd and you hate yourself, so you stop writing in your stupid Wonder Woman blog to eat ice cream and cry.

At their best, comics should be considered as works of art and literature, and a discussion of literature is never enhanced by an understanding of who could beat up whom. That is why English professors rarely argue over whether Ophelia could beat Jay Gatsby in a fight (that and because it's so obvious that Gatsby could take Ophelia). Consider the following story that I just made up:

One time, I was at a comic shop, about to purchase a comic, while a rabid comics fan at the counter was going on about how great he thinks Wolverine is. "Wolverine is the coolest!" he raved. "Wolverine could beat up anybody! I bet he could beat up..." he glanced at the comic that I was buying, "...Supergirl!"
I retorted, "Well, Supergirl is a better developed and more relatable character than Wolverine."
The Wolverine fan considered this for a moment, then shot back, "Well, sure, but what if Wolverine was carrying kryptonite?"

My point is that in 1996, Marvel fought against D.C., I had a hissy fit, and it allowed the following picture of the X-Men's Storm wearing a Wonder Woman costume to see print:


Blogger JenIsFamous said...

This. Was. Fantastic.


12:13 PM  

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