The iFanboy Letter Column – 06/18/2010


Friday means many things to many people. For some, Friday means movie night. For others, Friday means pure unbridled hedonism. For some, it’s both. For others, neither.

At iFanboy, Friday means it’s letter column time.

You write. We answer. Very simple.

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I’ve noticed that The Punisher has three full length, live action movies, all three movies staring a different lead. The Punisher was even the first Marvel character to get a full-length movie (excluding Howard the Duck).

Now I must admit I am a Punisher fan, in fact he very well may be my favorite Marvel character. And all three have had things I didn’t like about them, but could at least sit and watch.

So to recap:

Why can’t they make more than one Punisher movie in a “series”?

Why was The Punisher the first character (other than “Howard the Duck”) to get a movie? Is it just because he is the closest character to a “normal” action movie hero?

Sean from Lewiston, Maine

The reason why here hasn’t been a series of Punisher films like other films starring Marvel characters is best summed up thusly:

Punisher (1989) –  Released straight to video.
The Punisher (2004) – Total Worldwide Box Office Gross: $54,700,105
Punisher: War Zone (2008) – Total Worldwide Box Office Gross: $10,100,036

And that’s why you won’t be seeing a series of Punisher films anytime soon — and why you haven’t seen any sequels — they’ve all been sizable failures.

As for your second question I can only speculate but it seems to me that in 1989 when special effects still weren’t quite ready to showcase superheroes on he silver screen they way they really need to be, The Punisher was a “superhero” that could be convincingly portrayed on screen. As you said, he was no different than any action movie that was made at the time.

Fun Fact: When I started high school I had to write an essay to gage my writing ability and see if I needed to be placed in the basic writing class or the advanced writing class and the subject of my essay was the travesty of not putting a skull on Dolph Lundgren’s chest in the first Punisher movie.

Yeah, I know.

Conor Kilpatrick

 


I realize that as the decades go on, the origin stories of a lot of Marvel Heroes (Punisher, Iron Man, etc) need to be updated to keep them youthful and relevant for our times. Okay, but what about Magneto?

Magneto’s story is tied to the Holocaust and the concentration camps during World War II. We are now in 2010. The Master of Magnetism is quite old, even if he survived those horrors as a child. This is a very powerful origin, but by the time we come to 2020, you’d have to scratch your head a bit about how Magneto can still be a threat- and that extends to Professor X as well.

Professor X and Magneto’s histories are tied, making them similar in age to each other. I know that age is relative in the Marvel U, and you can fudge the numbers. However, age is still relevant. If it’s not relevant, then Apocalypse or Wolverine’s lifespans would not be a big worth noting either.

So, shouldn’t Professor X and Magneto just fade away, or is there a way to keep the characters in the MU without making them feel like they are too old to participate in it?

Vichus S.

You make an excellent point. Normally in comics we ignore the concept of time and age, because at the rate of publication of comics and the questionable time that passes within the world of comics, it’s best to just not worry about this sort of thing. But, we’re comics fans and examining details like this and trying to make things “make sense” in the real world is a natural thing. I do it all the time, so I don’t blame you for asking the question.

It’s also interesting in that if you were to ask someone at Marvel this question, say at a panel at a con, they’d probably make a joke and tell you not to worry about it. And yet we’ve seen characters like The Punisher and Iron Man get their origins tweaked so that they make sense in our day and age now, as you mentioned. So obviously someone cares.

Magneto is a unique character in that the establishment of him as Jewish and being present in the concentration camps during World War II is so specific to his character and origin. You can’t slide that concept to a conflict that occurred more recently, he’s fixed being based in the 1940s. Now, if he was a child in World War II around 10 years old that would make Magneto in his 80s, and even if he’s the master of magnetism, no way he’s holding his own against Wolverine.

But let’s not forget that these are Marvel comics, and in Marvel comics wacky stuff happens all the time. Like say for instance in the pages of The Defenders #16 (1974), when Alpha the Ultimate Mutant de-aged Magneto to infancy. And then in 1977, Eric the Red restored Magneto to “the prime of his life”, probably about his late 20s/early 30s, which would would make him in his 50s around now (assuming comics transpire in real time), then Magneto becomes believable as a character and his age.

Now this doesn’t address Professor Xavier, who is documented as fighting in the Korean War, and while he’s been cured and paralyzed again numerous times, I don’t believe Xavier has been de-aged, which means that he’s become quite an old man.

And so your question about Magneto and Xavier fading away to avoid age is a good one, and one that I think that the X-Men writers are indeed addressing (slowly). Magneto is clearly not as powerful as he once was and Xavier has been gradually pushed to the side, giving way to the rise of Cyclops as the X-Men’s leader. So I do think that they’re somewhat addressing this, but I don’t see the X-Men as a line of books existing without Xavier or Magneto involved in some way, shape or form. It will take a creative writer to balance the need of those characters to be present while acknowledging their age and potential affects based on their age.

So ultimately, the advice of “don’t worry about it” is probably worth taking, but I’ll be honest, even I think about these sort of things. I just can’t fight the need for it all to “make sense,” and it probably never will make sense, but that’s what makes it so much fun, right?

Ron Richards


I often hear you argue about the idea of continuity. You say that story is the most important thing. I do agree with you, but the two don’t have to be separate. Why can’t we have both? If Marvel wants to do an alternate timeline story they could just make an off brand universe similar to DC’s Elseworlds and tell whatever story they want to tell without screwing up continuity.

I think the reason why comics will always be a wacky fringe media is because it doesn’t take itself seriously enough when it comes to continuity. It’s like a soap opera. Soap Opera’s tell engaging stories, but when someone actually tells you the entire story, it turns a lot of people off because the continuity just doesn’t make sense. If you take it one episode at a time it works. Soap Opera’s don’t really have a choice as to how they handle their continuity because they are locked to certain things.

Comics however have the opportunity to just make a new title, or a one shot, or a whole different label, or create a new character with the same abilities as the one you were looking at making a story about. There is just no good excuse to screw up comic book continuity.

Rishard

I hear you. I understand you. I think you make sense. I don’t agree with you on any of these points.

For one thing continuity is already screwed up. It simply can’t make sense. In order to not go insane, current writers and editors much ignore at least some of what came before. Batman came out in the 30’s. To have complete and real continuity, all those stories would have to count. But instead, the writers pick and choose parts of those stories and disregard others. They do that because it would not make sense otherwise. This is, in my mind, the correct course of action. If we’re talking about a story making sense in the present tense, then yes, continuity should be heeded, but in terms of years and years, and decades of ongoing story no one could ever really make complete sense of, a lot of readers miss out on the chance to enjoy stories because they’re so very clenched up about some irrelevant “error” in continuity. Now, if you’re reading three books that all feature the same character, and are supposed to take place at the same time, then yes, there should be some continuity of character between them, but I don’t care if one artist draws his watch on a different wrist than the other.

You might think it’s the lack of continuity that keeps people from taking comics seriously, but I’d say it’s got a lot more to do with the tights and adolescent male power fantasies. Ask anyone on the street what it is that makes comics silly, and you’re not going to hear anyone say “continuity” because no one knows what that actually is, other than comics fans.

You say there’s no excuse to screw up continuity. But if that was true, we’d still be dealing with a giant family of Spider-Clones, and Batman would be using a walker. A perfect excuse to mess with continuity is Hawkman. As my partner Conor says, just get rid of that crap. Stop going back to it. Start over, and forget the stuff that already happened. It’s not helping anything.

The thing is, at the end of the day, you’re going to find things that don’t make sense. You just are. There’s too much history and too many chefs in the kitchen, and things are going to be mixed up. If I’m an editor or a writer, I’m going to concentrate on telling a good story first, because that’s the thing that’s going to sell books, and get you more work. If you’re continually stuck by these hitches in ancient (not to mention fictional) history so that you’re ham strung, and always trying to explain how something works, rather than just telling the story, then the continuity is ruining your story, and not enhancing it. Spinning off 9 more alternate stories is only going to result in 9 more continuities, and we’ll all just get more confused than we were at the beginning.

Josh Flanagan

Comments

  1. Didn’t they clone Professor X body after being infected by the brood and therefore "de-age" him to a younger time with his clone body.

  2. I like that "tights and adolescent male power fantasies" is written in such close proximity to a picture of Hawkman.  instead of typing out those words, you could have just drawn a big arrow and said "THIS"

  3. It’s weird when, of 3 characters, the nazi is the least strange one there.

  4. Another point relating to the craziness of including ALL continuity is Superman and his ever increasing array of powers. HE HAD THE POWER OF SUPER-KISSES! He used it to impress Lois at a Christmas party

  5. I have enough trouble keeping up with my own real life continuity…

  6. Xavier and Magneto have both been clones and de-aged and rebooted so many times, their age doesn’t really factor in at this point. 

  7. Regarding continuity, we also have to take into consideration that for decades, the majority of comic readers were only involved in the hobby for a relatively short time – perhaps a decade or less – before moving on to more *ahem* "grown-up" pursuits.  There was no need to care about continuity because no one remembered it anyway.  Now, however, with the advent of essentials and podcasts like Tom vs. the Flash, people are more aware of the entire history of a character. 

    People complain they can’t get into a new series if there is too much back history the way it is – if we had to include every little detail, we would never be able to draw in new readers.  I think both big companies are doing a great job lately of keeping the feel of the classic books of our youth while still keeping things accessible.  (fingers crossed for the return of the satellite era JLA soon)

  8. The 2nd Punisher movie was only good because of Thomas Jane. Very underrated actor in my opinion that held the movie together which was kinda lame, where another actor would have sunk it.

  9. Good stuff.

    Yeah, I think that Magneto having been in WWII is the single biggest monkey-wrench that’s thrown into Marvel’s sliding continuity. Usually it’s a good idea to play fast and loose with history in order to better suit the logistics of the fictional universe, but with Magneto…having been through the holocaust adds a LOT to the character. 

    I know that in the past they have shifted "war" backstories (making the Punisher having been through the Gulf War, not Vietnam, or something), so maybe they could have Magneto live through a Soviet concentration gulag a few decades after WWII? It’s certainly no bigger of a time/place shift than pretending that Vietnam and the Middle East are the same. But I doubt it will happen since writers these days thinks bad history = Nazis and only Nazis and never anything that might not be right-wing.

  10. @grandemts You are correct. They never specifically said if the clone was younger, but since it’s Shi’Ar technology, we can assume that it’s at least close to physically perfect. So yeah, Magneto in WW2 and Xavier in Korea have been rendered completely without issue in the (616) Marvel Universe.

    And actually, Ron, Magneto is *absolutely* as powerful as he ever was. That’s how he was able to rescue Kitty Pryde. The fact that doing it kicked his ass just makes the point of how difficult it was. 🙂 It was something that, literally, no one else could do.

  11. Arrrggghhh (@Arrrggghhh) says:

    I think continuity is important – and when it’s done well – it creates some of the most memorable stories. To me, the best writers are those who show respect and knowledge to the stories that came before them and build upon that history. Geoff Johns, Alan Moore and Brian Bendis immediately come to mind.

    A story like Brad Meltzer’s Identity Crisis is a great example where a writer respected and showed his knowledge of the characters he grew up with. It brought back so many memories of the Justice League from my own childhood. At the same time – it also altered the relationships of many characters and generated events that are still being felt today.
     
    Writers who tend to downplay continuity — altering history, personalities and relationships — have created some of the worst comics I have ever read and have often forced me to drop favored titles. Few have caused me to scream out loud to the heavens. (Tom DeFalco’s Fantastic Four, Sean McKeever’s Teen Titans and almost anything penned by Chuck Austin.)

    No continuity = ignorance = bad comics.
    Just my 2 cents . . . 

  12. Re: "I think the reason why comics will always be a wacky fringe media is because it doesn’t take itself seriously enough when it comes to continuity."

    The are all sorts of reasons why comic could be seen as a wacky fringe media, such as only being sold in speciality stores (for the most part), lack of widespread advertising, lack of diversity in genres (yes, there are lots of good indy books, but still incredibly limited when compared to superhero stuff), etc. But even then I think adhering to continuity as strictly as comics do today is only hurting them.

    Take the X-men Seond Coming crossover for instance. To my (limited knowledge) this is following up from an X-men event where a new mutant when this was suppose to be impossible. Which is in turn following up from an event where someone made it impossibel for mutants to be born again. Looking over the whole thing I kinda see how this could all fit together into some long epic story and I keep hearing on the podcast that Second Coming is a truely glorious crossover. However given that its rellying on readers emotional connection to those earlier stories, it doesnt really feel like this story was ment for guys like me who havtn read X-men before. If your loving Second Coming thats great, but its just not looking that appealing to this outsider.

    Heroic Age’s big hook is that its different to how comics have been over the past fews years, Brightest Day is a big sequal to Blackest Night which itself was suppose to be following up from the War of Light stuff. DC and Marvel clearly care a lot about their continuity, but doing so makes it look like its really hard to get into their comics.

    Doesn’t mean comics are in trouble, but they could certainly be doing a lot better.

  13. I like it if DC and Marvel respect their recent continuity, but I’ll take the good story anytime. For example, I’m totally sick of Hawkman’s continuity being ‘fixed’ – all DC has to do is decide which Hawkman they’re using, say ‘this is the chap from outer space’ and tell a new story. Don’t address Thanagarian spies, or previous lives, or links to The Dreaming. Just focus on the now and give us something new. involving a big smart guy with wings and a mace

  14. Arrrggghhh (@Arrrggghhh) says:

    @Mart: I agree that at this point – I no longer care about the Hawkman multi-history.
    Give us Carter Hall, start telling new stories and stop killing Hawkman for at least a few years.

    It looks like Johns is going to try and fix the Hawks in Brightest Day.
    I get the sense that he’s probably going to try to "explain" the whole mess with the bone portal recently seen in Brightest Day #3 & #4. At least, if someone is going to try and explain it all – better that its Johns than someone else.

  15. @Arrrggghhh: It wouldn’t be the first time Johns tried to fix Hawkman. He wrote his solo series for a while.

  16. Continuity isn’t really a big an issue for me considering i’m a new reader. I care more about what is going on with the character today than in the past. I don’t need to know their history because I couldn’t afford to by the major characters to buy all the trades anyway, plus there is huge chunks of issues not collected in alot of longstanding characters’ series. Also I look at each new team of artistics/writers as a certain take on the character or a story. It’s just Brian Michael Bendis’ version of a character or Morrison’s version of a character. It’s simply their take on it and it doesn’t have to connnect for me if it on its own is its own story. 

  17. @josh: yeah, he looks pretty normal.

  18. @Conor: Wasn’t it Johns’ run on JSA that introduced the Hawks’ Hath-Set curse (death if they become a couple) and their eternal resurrections throughout time? I thought that kinda explained the various Hawkman histories . . . but it still is so confusing . . . 
    I could easily ignore Hawkworld – just think of that as an Elseworld series.
    My biggest problem is this: the current Hawkman in Brightest Day is Carter Hall – so he’s the Golden Age hero who is the reincarnation of the Egyptian prince, correct? So does the Thanagarian Hawkman, Kator Hol, still exist?
    And why does the Carter Hall, the American archaeologist, have Thanagarian Nth metal items?

  19. @Arrrggghhh: Your entire comment is why they should just wipe the Hawkman slate clean and start over.

  20. @Conor I agree that Hawkman needs to be wiped out.  Really the more that Johns tries to pull Silver Age stuff back to current continuity, the more confusing it gets.  As much as I hate Crisis events, DC needs to do a BND for the entire company.  Reset all of the characters and not have to have Earth 2-9-33 crap and bring Ted Kord back while their at it.  But that won’t happen cause Geoff Johns hates Ted.