Unlike chocolate and peanut butter, reality and comic books don’t seem to work very well together. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like as soon as a comic book character gets hitched, he becomes incredibly dull. We’re expected to go from reading about a character who risks life and limb, to reading about about wedding plans, dinner parties, laundry, and even diaper choices. My life is quite filled with tedium already, do I really need to read about someone who has superpowers and does boring crap? No offense to the people in my life, (who I love dearly, for the most part), but my life can be incredibly tedious. It’s actually painfully dull at times, and I mean it, this is not hyperbole. Like most people, between getting up, taking care of myself, going to work, cleaning up, eating, going to sleep, and then doing it all over again, I am pretty often walking around practically in a partial coma. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy with my life, I truly enjoy it (again, for the most part). Even now, as I overhear my brother and my dad discuss mattress quality and purchasing (?), I’m acutely aware that my daily life is not filled with action and adventure, and I’m just fine with this.
The reason this is okay, is because I have all sorts of other interests, one of which is reading comics about people who do very exciting, dangerous things. I purposely read comics about these sort of people, who have lives that look exhausting to me, because I enjoy this fantasy. And it is a fantasy, which is how I want it to stay. I only need a certain amount of information about my superheroes, too much reality and it all falls apart. For example, if you actually had to wear spandex and leap off of buildings, imagine how often you’d have to do laundry. Those synthetic materials don’t breathe, you’d need a clean suit to change into for every day. So where do you go to buy 7 skin-tight, spandex suits with a custom pattern on them? How do you clean the suit? Since it’s custom made and would need hand-washing, you’d have to put aside an hour every evening to wash out the suit. That’s a lot of work, and that’s not even considering how you go about rescuing people without hurting yourself or getting arrested, which is a huge question. And what about the exhaustion – how would you go to your day job in the morning if you’d been up all night swinging from rooftops or flying about in your private jet. If you fly about in your private jet, do you get jetlag? Or do you just get that dry air feeling from the circulated air? And who cleans your private jet?
See, if you get too stuck into reality, the fantasy aspect of comic books goes right out the window. The above paragraph is the very boring, tedious, adult life, and no one wants to read that comic, at least I don’t, that’s for sure.
And yet for some reason, at some point, most superheroes go through an ill-advised period of something that (for want of a better term) I’m going to call reality exploration. They get married, or they have a baby, or they move house, or something happens, and suddenly they’re worrying about their normal lives. I don’t think I’m the only one who watched Rise of the Silver Surfer, and thought it should have been called “The Fantastic Four Plan a Wedding“. Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m all for marriage, but I have little or no interest in the unbelievable minutiae involved with planning a damn wedding, (no sane person does, that’s why wealthy people hire professionals to do it for them). Who thought that they should take four characters with incredible powers, and make us watch them fuss and hassle about something as normal and mundane as a wedding. Did anyone think we might like more time and budget given to the epic, planet-eating alien deity? No, they couldn’t because they ran out money because they spent it on a tacky, pretend wedding that no on cares about, so now Galactus is a cloud. Good job film-makers. Great priorities there.
Superman got married and now we’re meant to care about his relationship. No, sorry, I don’t care. I care about him leaping tall buildings in a single bound. Maybe that’s why Spider-Man got unmarried… And after having to read about him worrying about whether Mary-Jane would mind sharing the housework with Jarvis if they moved into the Avenger’s pad, I’m grateful for the retcon. Future Wolverine got hitched and had babies, but he had the decency to sod off on a journey and leave them to die. It’s horrible I know, but it made better reading than a book where he stays home, eats, sleeps, and basically has the same sort of life as everyone else – not very entertaining at all. Why do so many writers see marriage as an excuse to talk about the boring, mundane aspects of life? You never get Spider-Woman worrying that her tampon will leak, or Thor concerned that he might need dandruff shampoo, or Batman scared that he’ll get a pimple that his half-mask won’t cover… Single people are potentially just as dull as married ones, and yet somehow, no one ever writes about them that way.
It’s all well and good to try and give a character some depth, create a rich tapestry of life against which they can shine, and that sort of thing. But there are limits. I like my reality well enough, but I’d rather not read about it in my comic books.
Sonia Harris sleeps, eats, reads, writes, walks, talks, and does all sorts of other really dull stuff in San Francisco. You can mail her about your own tedious life at email@example.com.