Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Avengers’

As everybody who is not living at the bottom of the sea knows, we have an election in about a month.* And along with most of my fellow citizens, I plan to vote.

Wait–let me rephrase. Along with many of my fellow citizens, I plan to vote. Whether “most” will is a matter of speculation. If you do plan to vote, you can skip this post. But for any of you out there who plan not to vote, I have a story to tell you.

When I was a child, back in the Middle Ages, we of the nerdish persuasion eagerly awaited the new fall line-up of TV shows, because every year there was one (sometimes a couple) that qualified as SF or fantasy. Usually it stunk, but it was what we had, so we watched. Then, in 1966, something changed. We didn’t know it then…in fact, it didn’t actually change for some years, but the seed was planted. In 1966, Star Trek premiered.

Star Trek was one of the first intelligent SF shows on TV, along with The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. It lasted two years, but was not on the network’s schedule for a third season. Fans got into an uproar, there was a famous letter-writing campaign, and a third season was granted. Then Star Trek went away.

For nearly ten years, we were back in that pre-Trek desert. SF was once more a ghetto. Then magic struck, this time in the form of Star Wars. Suddenly SF wasn’t so geeky; millions enjoyed it who weren’t SF fans. In the years since, our field has grown to the point where now there is an entire channel devoted to SF and fantasy (and wrestling, which really fits better than you’d think). But none of this would have happened without Star Wars, and Star Wars would not have happened without Star Trek.

So what does this have to do with the election? Just this. Nerdism is so pervasive that you could probably find more people who can tell you why Captain America should be allowed to lecture the NYPD on crowd safety than can tell you what Mike Pence said about the border fence a few nights ago. Nerds are no longer in a ghetto. Everyone is now a nerd. We’ve won.

And how did we win? By a small group of like-minded individuals demonstrating for what they wanted. Although it appeared at first they only won a small, limited victory, they ended up taking over the world. Not just the comic book world, or the Star Trek world, but the real world. Where things cost real money and the movies create real jobs.

Now how long do you think it would take to affect change if you started in the real world? If fantasy can affect reality, how would real votes affect reality? Your vote doesn’t count? It isn’t enough? If Star Trek fans had thought that, we wouldn’t have Star Wars or the Marvel Cinematic Universe–both of which are worth billions.

Think your vote won’t matter? Small actions have big consequences. I won’t say, “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.” But I will say, “If you don’t vote, you can’t help make your dreams come true.”

*Those people at the bottom of the sea are, I will admit, probably happier than we are.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Recently I talked about how the Superman movie “Man of Steel” had totally blown the the character by having Superman kill his fellow Kryptonian, Zod. (Sorry if that was a spoiler.) The main thrust is that the only thing keeping Superman from taking over the Earth (and maybe a good chunk of the universe) is his Midwestern-raised, strict moral code. Really, the only thing stopping a guy that powerful is himself. And now that he’s crossed that bridge, there isn’t any coming back to the other side.

But there is never so great an affront to a famous fictional character so great that someone cannot make it bigger. They screwed up Atticus Finch, but at least that was written by the author (if never meant to be released). They messed up Superman, but you can argue the morality of what he did, and how it was an extreme measure that he will not be forced to repeat, and that, while a betrayal of the character, it would only affect him going forward; it does not touch his past. He is still the man he was.

Alas, as I said, there is always a way to make things worse. And this latest travesty comes from a surprising source. Marvel has managed to achieve a goal that would have been unthinkable ten years ago: It has made Captain America arguably more popular than Superman. And then it made a misstep that would have been unthinkable ten days ago: It announced that everything you think you know, everything you have ever read, everything you have ever believed about Captain America (morally speaking the Superman of the Marvel universe), is wrong. Not only is Captain America not the fine, upstanding, patriotic symbol of freedom we were always told he was, he’s actually a villain.

Seriously?

It is common for long-running fictional franchises to throw in a major curveball every few years to try to keep things fresh. Usually, you “kill” the hero, or give him (or her) a new love interest, move him to a new city, etc. And it has become all-too-popular in recent years to re-boot characters or even entire universes to shake up storylines and give new fans an entry point. DC has done it so many times they’re now re-booting their re-boots.

But to take a once-second tier character, pump up  his popularity  by orders of magnitude through a series of blockbuster movies, and then tell the world that he was never the guy they thought he was, but was actually working for the other side all the time? Are you nuts? Captain America has beaten the Red Skull so many times you wonder why the Skull even bothers to show up for work. And I’m supposed to believe that they’re on the same side?

That’s like saying Superman has secretly been on Lex Luthor’s payroll since 1939. Or that Bruce Wayne has been playing Batman and the Joker for fifty years. It is more than a complete misunderstanding of the character, it is a punch in the gut to every kid who ever shelled out 10 cents or 25 cents or $1.25 to read one of his adventures–not to mention the millions who shelled out $12 or more to see his movies. This isn’t a joke; it’s a sick joke.

Now, I am more familiar than most with the idea that nothing in comics is permanent. If they can come up with a way to explain how Krypton never exploded, they will. So this, too, will pass. It may not even be real. But it could have serious long-term effects. First, if this is not some kind of undercover deal Cap is on, all of his established fans are going to leave. This isn’t what they signed on for. Second, the new fans–well, why would anyone start buying Captain America now? He’s a bad guy. And how long can they maintain that storyline? How long will people watch him not fight the Red Skull, or lie to the Avengers?

People change. Characters change. But “change” is not the same as, “Ha ha. Fooled you. Uncle Ben faked his death for the insurance money. And Aunt May was in on it.”

You can fool all of the people some of the time. That’s why mysteries are so popular. But in the end you have to play fair, not change the rules to suit your conclusion. Rewriting a 70-year-old character’s entire life to wipe out the reason why people have bought into it for so long? It’s not fair. It’s not right. All it’s going to do is make your fans say, “You know, now that I think about it, ‘Man of Steel’ wasn’t so bad…”

#SFWApro

Read Full Post »

Vampires. Ghouls. Zombies. Donald Trump.

Sexy vampires. Sexy ghouls. Sexy zombies. Sexy–oh no, not going there.

This is the time of year that boys and girls, men and women of all ages dress up like their favorite fantasy (or fantastical) characters: the kids for candy, the adults for parties. And everyone does it; no matter how much they eschew fantasy and make-believe the rest of the year, virtually everyone dresses up, or has, or caters to those who do.

Why then, do people who have no trouble making themselves into something they are not have so much trouble reading about something that isn’t? Why are SF and fantasy still looked down on–except on Halloween, when horror gets a pass? And it’s not like people don’t like this stuff. How many of the top-grossing films are SF or fantasy? How many TV series? How long have commercials used fantasy trappings to sell cars and soap? It’s the books that are suffering.

Is it reading? Because a lot of today’s young adults grew up on Harry Potter, so they have read for pleasure. Was Harry Potter simply an anomaly, accepted because it was popular, like a Kardashian?

Maybe it’s the conventions. Maybe all those pictures of kids dressed up like anime characters and Batman and female Thors are giving the field a bad rep. Hey, I’ve got news for you–they’re only doing in July what you’ll be doing in October…

Yes, SF and fantasy are more popular than ever, if you go by movies and TV. But while it’s quite normal to see adults in Avengers t-shirts, ask one of them if he reads the stuff. Any SF, not just comics. Because he probably doesn’t. Reading this stuff is for kids, or grown-ups living in their parents’ basement. (Okay, most kids today come back to live in their parents’ basement, but that’s not the point.)

It’s well-known that fantasy thrives in times of economic turmoil, which explains why it’s so popular today. But other than Harry Potter and the Avengers and Star Wars, it’s still not considered grown-up entertainment. We who know the field know this is ridiculous. We’re past ray-guns and BEMs and Mars Needs Women. We deal with climate change and gender roles and politics. We write romances and mysteries and westerns. We just throw in a few aliens now and then.

Do we need better marketing? Do we need more Lucases and Rowlings and Spielbergs? Or should we simply be thankful for our gains and go on thinking we know something other people don’t know?

It should not be difficult to get other folks to read what we like, just to see if they like it too. I mean, if people will accept this current crop of presidential candidates, they’ll swallow anything.

Read Full Post »