Marvel NO: Redux

Amazing how a few days’ rest (and in my case, sickness) can generate perspective on things that seemed so very important in the moment. That’s not to say I feel regret. What I wrote about Avengers Arena last week is precisely how I felt. None of it is untrue.

That said, if I accused Dennis Hopeless of speaking in a way that belied his desire to truly appeal to readers, it must also be said that I wrote in a way that belied my desire to make him (or anyone at Marvel) care. Yes, nestled deeply in the first portion of my first blog was the personal backstory leading to my outrage — but these were hardly the letters of an adoring fan begging for mercy. This was war.

A war, of course, which could not hope to be won.

I’ve seen a great many mishandlings of licenses in the past which had me up in arms. I alluded earlier to being a huge fan of Deadpool, and yesterday a friend reminded me of that character’s “appearance” in the Wolverine movie a few years back, wherein the “Merc[enary] with a Mouth” was quite literally stripped of his capacity to speak. Naturally this stripped him of any capacity for winning new Deadpool fans through the film, and likely diminished the chances for a true Deadpool film to emerge (despite those wonderful Ryan Reynolds rumors).

And then there’s that whole Spider-Man 3 existing thing…

I suppose the point is that Marvel has disappointed me many times over in various ways, sometimes small, sometimes more dire. They’ve never really gone quite so far as this (after all, even Deadpool returned at the end of Wolverine). Perhaps someday they will go further. And it will always bother me, because unlike most deaths — which are at least part of a greater purpose — these have been sectioned off in their own self-contained arc that has no bearing on anything else. If X-23 had died in Civil War, or AvX, or whatever, that at least would have been collateral of something beyond her. But here, if she dies, the only reason is so that she’ll be dead. The “how” doesn’t really matter.

Of course, this is a premature funeral. She hasn’t actually been killed yet. The series hasn’t ended. Now, I’m not going to have some false sense of hope that my original conceptions of the series were wrong, as I don’t think they were, and I’d hate to go through the depression cycle twice. That said, the heaviness of the first time was undoubtedly exacerbated by reading Heart of Darkness and viewing Apocalypse Now at the same time; there’s only so much weightiness a person can put up with. When it’s all said and done, if (or when) this character I care so much about is actually dead, I’ll have already mourned her. If she’s not dead, all the more cause for celebration. Heck, maybe I’ll go back and consider reading Arena.

Then again, maybe not. Maybe I’ll get lucky with my favorite but the rest of the characters really will have been sacrificed meaninglessly. In that case I maintain the solidarity I suggested in my earlier words. Even if everything I and others are assuming about this series is wrong, Marvel must at least be indicted for such misleading promotion. Happily that’s a far lest grievous offense. In my excitement I would probably give them a bye.

Meanwhile, though, I’ve been cautioned by several folks to either not flat-out stop reading Marvel, or to do so only insomuch as my money can better be spent on other stories in the medium. Both sides have made valid points. I’ll tackle the second first, as it leads into the former.

Despite more or less constant shallow exposure, I have never truly been immersed in the overall medium of comic books. Only now am I truly appreciating its capacity as an art form, both in the traditional sense, as the pencils and coloring of these books have a vibrancy rarely found outside the medium (or in such abundance), as well as in the abstract: a story told more in image than in word, but relying equally on both. As a commodity, individual books are short and expensive, but their posterity as a collector’s item remains valid. The books that I took care of from my childhood are still intact more than fifteen years later, many in the same condition as when I first picked them off the rack.

I’ll admit to having been guilty of affinity for popular culture for far too much of my life. Even now, for reasons beyond my capacity for description, I find myself recoiling a bit at the suggestion of “indie” anything, be it film, game, music, or, yes, comic. Why I’d prefer sugarcoated, watered-down trash to the slightly-unpolished but truly unique, I can’t say. But often I do. Even when every person who talks to me is swearing I’ll find an experience worthwhile, I tend to shrug it off in favor of the known quantity. It’s a thing I’m making an effort to change about myself.

The funny thing is, I can usually point to the capacity to trust the known quantity as a reason for not taking risks on the other stuff. But here, I think, is the perfect example of how that isn’t true: Marvel, the mainstream, high-profile provider, actually has a track record of hurting and disregarding me. It’s another of those abusive relationships I talked about a couple weeks back. And just as with the others — Gamestop, Bethesda, etc. — there comes a point when you look at it and have to decide who’s getting hurt by you walking out, and where the morality really plays into it.

Marvel is, as X-23 ought to be, impervious. They’re not going anywhere, and my decision to support or rail against them isn’t, at the end of the day, accomplishing anything at all against them.

But, long before the actions of individuals move the corporate giant, they will affect legions of smaller individuals, the talented writers and artists who happen to be working at the moment under the Marvel umbrella. Obviously in the case of Hopeless, that’s precisely the effect I’m hoping for. But a blind boycott of all Marvel titles does nothing more to hurt Hopeless (or, more profitably for everyone, change his mind), and in the meantime it does nothing to help people who are not Hopeless to get the recognition and promotion they deserve.

So, going forward, I suppose you could say I plan to seek out talent and read based on that, regardless of what emblem is on the upper-lefthand corner of the book and, if possible, regardless of which characters are on the pages. To cite a somewhat mainstream example, there are plenty who only read Runaways for Joss Whedon’s run on the series. To the extent that that makes sense, I’ll pursue it. If I find myself utterly lost, I’ll reevaluate. And I imagine that pursuing talent over notoriety will lead me further into independent territory than I’ve previously ventured, which is fine so long as, absent the resources of a major publishing house, the writing and art I find are still of the sort that please me.

This whole little fiasco (which I’m sure has seemed a much bigger deal to me than to any of you) has opened my eyes to a truth about myself I’m rather uncomfortable with, and a broader understanding of relationships in general. I cited abuse almost (though not quite, as that’d be insensitive, but almost) nonchalantly in my discussion of corporate/consumer ties. Perhaps it took having actual emotions bound up in the affair to show me just how apt that metaphor was; how, in fact, perhaps it is not a metaphor at all, but merely a description.

The world was appalled at Chris Brown for what he did to Rihanna, and after a high-profile split most people were on her side. But for reasons that continue to dumbfound the world at large, she remained on good terms with him, spoke out in his defense, and now they are back together despite no indications that he has changed or aptly repented for what he did. Somehow, despite the fact that the relationship has brought her suffering, she continues to believe that whatever she’s getting from Chris is worth dealing with the heartache.

Here I am, having teetered on the edge of actual — that is, clinical (and I know the signs, because I’ve been there before) — depression because of what Marvel is doing. I’ve had, comparatively, the highest-profile split I could have. And yet rather than saying “good riddance” and moving along, I find myself actually wishing I’d said nothing, glancing through the proverbial store window at the latest Spider-Man or Deadpool stories, and knowing deep down that I’ve already given up. Everything I said last week was true, and that’s not enough to keep me caring.

So what, right? This is no great moral victory or loss. I think we can all roll our eyes a bit and say, “well, that just happened,” and then a month from now I’ll be talking about this great thing Chris Yost is doing in Scarlet Spider, and none of us will think twice about it.

But that insight, into real abuse — into the irrational force that drives women and men back, time and again, into the arms of people who actually hurt them and make them truly miserable, despite promises to themselves and others of “never again.” I once, to my shame, considered that kind of behavior weak. Comic books, of all things, taught me I’m no better. I’ve, if nothing else, a new-found respect for the strength it takes to truly overcome abuse.

My resentment of Marvel has lingered for almost a week now. I can only pray my appreciation for this new perspective lasts longer.

Since, you know, it actually matters.

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