We each have our own ways of dealing with loss. Whenever things are really circling the drain, you hear a lot about the Kübler-Ross stages of grief, but personally I find them woefully incomplete. Yes, I’m sure all of her steps are certainly in there, but somewhere between Anger and Bargaining the good doctor forgot a couple of my personal favorites which always get me through the hard times, namely Blame and Random Scapegoating.
Last week, it came to light that Marvel’s Captain Britain and MI-13 was being canceled as of issue #15. This was one of my favorite series of the last year, so naturally I was crestfallen, but the Denial stage would have been hard to pull off. There had already been one false rumor about the book going down for the count a couple of months ago, and although I don’t read sales figures anymore I did notice that nobody exactly responded to that rumor by crying, “What? That’s ridiculous.” It seemed like a plausible thing to have happen, even if you’re not like me, a pessimist who secretly believes he has the psychic juju to kill a book just by liking it. Basically, this time Acceptance was my starting place.
For some reason, though, when I heard about the cancellation the very first thing I did was head to the Twitterverse and say to no one in particular, “Knowing that Captain Britain is canceled but Deadpool has two books and a miniseries makes me want to shake someone by the shoulders hard.”
What did Deadpool have to do with anything? Blame and Random Scapegoating.
I have it in for Deadpool. He is an imaginary person, and he has never harmed me due to his fictionality, but just knowing he’s out there Deadpooling around gets on my nerves if I think about it too long. I suspect Deadpool is responsible for most traffic jams and rained-out baseball games. Back when I had a newborn, I’d periodically have to get up for a 2:00 a.m. feeding, stub my toe hard on the nightstand in the darkness of night, and in my pain cry out, “Gaahh! F***ing Deadpool.”
I don’t know what to tell you. I can’t explain it. Except I’m going to try and explain it right now.
Deadpool is far from the only “character” who gets under my skin like this; he is simply the valedictorian for an entire class, almost all of whom sprung up somewhere with an “X-” in its name back in the nineties. Deadpool. Bishop. Cable. Stryfe. Gambit.
Oh, Gambit. When I look at you, I see blank paper.
All of these characters have fans. Smart fans. Fans with taste. When I look at them, though, all I see is a mishmash of pouches and kneepads. What do any of their names have to do with anything? Isn’t a gambit the move where you sacrifice your pawn? Walk me through how we get from there to energy cards.
And what a spectacular power that is, by the way. Gambit has it; Bishop apparently has it. It seems like there was a whole spate of characters during this era who had the power of Something Something Energy, which sounds a lot like the power to help a writer meet a deadline with only ten minutes to spare.
“Get this, chief: his name will be Word Salad– we’ll just call him that until I open the dictionary to a random page and point to his actual name, pausing to change any i’s in the word to y’s– and his power will be… that he… oh, let’s stick with ‘absorbs energy and blasts out energy blasts.’”
“Okay, but what kind of blasting energy will he blast? Electro-magnetic? Heat?”
“Pink! Pink is an energy.”
Even as I say these hurtful things, I know they are the fruits of an unacceptable prejudice. A good writer, given the raw material and enough freedom, can perform alchemy and create a golden story out of even these leaden ciphers. 80% of the world’s useless x-characters have been safely quarantined in Cable for the last several months; this should be great because it’s keeping them out of books I care about, but instead it’s great because they’ve somehow made Cable into a book I care about. Duane Swierczynski has some kind of unholy gift; this is the first time I can remember Bishop ever serving a purpose, the first time I can remember anyone giving his convoluted time travel backstory any meaning. As interesting as District X was, I spent no small amount of time flipping its pages, watching Bishop write parking tickets and groaning, “You are from the future! Know something!” And Cable? Hell, even the people who created Cable didn’t know or care anything about Cable, and now look at him. He’s gone from this guy who, I guess, had the power of holding a redwood-sized gun with one hand to being this later-years Clint Eastwood character with real vulnerability and a mission that is completely relatable. The axiom that you hear so often really is true: there are no bad characters except for Gambit, only bad writers.
So, where does that leave poor, awful Deadpool? If every character is a good story just waiting to happen, and I know this intellectually, why is there no power in the world that can stop me from hating his stupid, stupid face? It’s not like I haven’t read a Deadpool issue or ten in my attempts to understand the fervor of his fanbase. The King had an album back in the day called 50000000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong, and I always think those words when someone insists that his book is the Greatest Evahhh for the four hundredth time. No matter how hard I try, I always close the book thinking, “They can, though! All 50000000 of them can.”
I just can’t take the cutesy-poo self-referential zaniness from the hilarious amoral cancer-deformed serial killer. (What is it with comics and cancer that makes you look like a bubbling burn victim? SEE ALSO: Warren Ellis’ Ruins, the best argument ever made against the optic nerve.) Let me see if I can guess what happens in this issue: a faceless character who never stops wisecracking like an evil Spider-Man with no Peter Parker goes Deadpooling around on a mission not even he cares about, because caring about things isn’t cool. The end.
Also, about those jokes: just having the character say, “I know I am in a comic book; I talk to myself in captions” does not constitute comedy all by itself. That’s some autopilot stuff, right there. Perhaps while Deadpool is breaking the fourth wall, he can reach through and accept this phone call from a 1983 Mad magazine, which would kindly like its style back. Afterwards, perhaps he can place a call to She-Hulk to find out how it’s done.
If I just haven’t been exposed to the Great American Deadpool Story, by all means point the way. But before you come for me, Deadpool people, please understand that I am completely aware that a lot of this is irrational. The heart has reasons which reason knows not of. You must have characters like this. You’ve probably said, “Oh, my God, if I hear one more of those ______ people yammering about how good _____ is, I am going to put my head through a plate glass window.” You may have even said it about Captain Britain. Not everything can be for everyone. Taste is subjective and not always controllable. Please keep that in mind before the comments fill to the brim with bile. I can’t help it. I have it in for Deadpool.
Jim Mroczkowski almost made it a year here at iFanboy; it’s a shame it had to end like this. Unfollow him at Twitter or send an emotional e-mail, whatever feels right.