I just read the news that Marvel, the comic book company, is planning to end the Marvel Universe (all of them) as we know it in 2015 with their Secret Wars mini-series. I admit that I have long loved the idea of superheroes as they provide a particular means for telling fantastic stories. I have long loved characters like Spider-Man, Thor, Captain America, the Hulk and Iron Man because I identify with them on some level (notice there are no DC comic book characters on my short list, which is not to say I’ve never enjoyed DC comics). But I stopped reading comic books years ago as comic book writers and other story tellers started going in for reboots more often as they apparently became displeased with what they’ve tried to give readers. As I lamented some time ago, why can’t the story ever be the story? I became particularly enraged by these storytelling misfires when the movie Spider-Man 3 re-wrote the story of Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben’s death for absolutely no good reason. With Marvel’s latest news – which DC Comics has already tried with mixed results several times – I am enraged again.
As is ever the case, story tellers often begin a story with no ending in mind and this is perhaps the most cardinal sin in all of writing, regardless of the medium. As it pertains to comic books, it’s as if writers take on a hero, change a few of their previously essential plot points in order to get readers interested enough to buy the hero’s latest adventures and coast until the hero’s readership dies off (again). This is the essence of what Marvel is trying to do this year, but on a grand scale. Their hopes for destroying all their comic universes and combining all those universe’s best elements are ambitious to say the least, only you can’t help but wonder what is going to happen as soon as the editors decide, you know, we don’t like what we’ve done. Cue the reboot and find a way to undo what we did with Secret Wars back in 2015! You don’t need a crystal ball to figure this one’s a’ comin’. It’s like placing a bet on whether Wolverine, Marvel’s most popular character who was killed off in 2014, will ever be seen again. I’m sure Secret Wars will rectify that mistake.
I am quite sick of it. You don’t see anyone re-writing The Lord of the Rings or see Peter Jackson deviating too much from the original book’s lore in his LOTR movies because the story was written right the first time. (Which immediately makes me wonder how long before 50 Shades of Grey gets rebooted. Oh, wait, that was already a reboot of Twilight. Sigh.) I am seriously pleading with comic book writers to decide on what they want to do with a character, from start to finish, and be proud of what they’ve written, so proud that they don’t want their stories altered. Constantly altering characters deprives their stories of any impact, as demonstrated by Peter Parker regaining his secret identity despite the events of Marvel’s Civil War mini-series. I want to be able to feel that the things that happen to a character, although I know they are fictional, are real and that it matters and will be remembered. Am I asking too much?
The current state of comic books would be enough to make the government in Orson Welles’ 1984 proud.