Thursday, May 23, 2013

Discuss: All-Powerful Weapons


17 comments:

david_b said...

I know when I was a wee youngster, first thrusted into the Marvel Universe back in '73, the Cosmic Cube in the hands of the Skull was kinda scary to ponder in the TOS story reprints.

Later on I collected the early Cap issues (114-119)..:

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_rLV-ZuNPwJ4/SpdpFnFDcFI/AAAAAAAAFL0/YYPyb2rka1Q/s400/captain_america114_20.jpg


What could stand against him..?

'Course we found out his sloppiness and ego defeated him in the end, but Kirby sure knew how to stir quite good yarn about the possibilities. And later Modok and AIM succeeded in destroying the Cube (one of many times...).

Then it HAD it surface in Mar-Vell's pages with Thanos (still reading the TPB now..), very forboding at the time.. Still wish they would have 'stayed hokey' and called it the Cube in the Avengers movie, but eh, it's all good.

Doug said...

Hokey?

I watched a few minutes of the Green Lantern movie on HBO last night. I saw the scene where the helicopter is about to crash, and to save all of the people below GL encases the chopper in a gigantic Matchbox car and even sets it rolling on a green version of the famous orange snap-together tracks. Seriously...

Doug

J.A. Morris said...

I'm not a big fan of them. I find that the less often they're used, the better. The Infinity Gems weren't joined together more than 2-3 times when I read comics, which made it rare & special. Cosmic Cube showed up more than that, but never wore out its welcome. Same goes for the Ultimate Nullifier.

As for the Power Ring, that's one reason why I've never been a big fan of Green Lantern in any iteration. Whether it's Jordan, Stewart or Rayner, he's just "guy with weapon". Same reason I've never gotten into solo Iron Man stories beyond an issue here & there.

Speaking of rings, that's another reason the Mandarin has never meant much to me either.

themiddlespaces said...

My favorite is the Ultimate Nullifier (and have long wanted a cigarette lighter shaped like it).

My old college friends and I have a joke we use to defuse anger or annoyance regarding being willing to use the ultimate nullifier in that moment out of spite. ;)

We'd often discuss that infamous first meet up between the FF and Galactus and whether Reed Richards would have really pulled the trigger. I say he would have, because if he were bluffing Galactus would have been able to tell since he can look into the hearts of men.

William said...

I've never really liked stories all that much about "All-Powerful Weapons" because they never really make much sense to me.

For example, if you are the very evil Red Skull or Thanos and you possess either the Cosmic Cube or the equally powerful Infinity Gauntlet, then you would win-- end of story. Because according to the description of the these devices, they give whoever wields them the ultimate power of a god. Thus, anything they think of will instantly become reality. They can, with but a thought, alter time, or remake the universe in their own image. Furthermore they can "wish" anyone out of existence they choose, such as The Avengers, The Fantastic Four, or any other annoying superhero who might stand in their way.

So, what I don't understand is why they wouldn't just go ahead and do that very thing right off the bat? But no, instead they stand around making speeches about how all-powerful they now are, and then maybe whip up a monster or two out of thin air to battle said heroes, when they could just destroy them all in the blink of an eye.

In stories like these, the writer uses the excuse that the villain at hand wants to toy with his enemies before he obliterates them, but said villain never seems to get around to it. The villain always procrastinates long enough for the heroes to find some farfetched way to defeat them.

When a writer uses a Deus Ex Machina device like a Cosmic Cube or an Infinity Gauntlet, they pretty much paint themselves into a corner, then must come up with some unrealistic way to get themselves out of it. I am of the mind that, as a writer, you shouldn't even come up with weapons like these, because there is no plausible way for the heroes to actually prevail. I mean, you can make a really really super powerful weapon, but there should always be some kind of limitation. A back door of sorts that the clever hero can exploit and win the day against overwhelming odds. (But not truly impossible odds).

The Green Lantern power rings are a good example of this. They are extremely powerful, but they have their limitations. The wielder can create anything they can think of, but they can't alter time, wish people out of existence, or reshape reality. If someone were to possess a device that would allow them to do all of those things without limitation, then they would quite literally be unstoppable. Thus, it would make for a really short story. (About one page I'd say).

And lastly, speaking of Deus Ex Machina plot twists-- the end of the original Galactus Trilogy was a textbook example of that kind of storytelling. The "Ultimate Nullifier" might just as well have been named the "Ultimate Easy Out Plot Device". :)

Redartz said...

Another such device was the "Evil Eye", courtesy of Prester John back in Fantastic Four 54. The eye, of course, played an integral part in the classic Avengers/Defenders war. It may not have the notoriety of the Cube, but Dormammu did some serious damage with it.

As William noted, such powerful devices need some Achilles heel ; at least the Eye had a reverse switch...

MattComix said...

I think the trick to all of these is that while the weapon may be all powerful, the user is not.

Plus, magic be it mystic or cosmic should not equal doanything powers. There still need to rules and limitations that govern its use. The "It's magic, it doesn't have to make sense!" mentality.

The Lantern ring is a good example because it works on will power but there are many x factors that can happen with someones will and their ability to properly focus it into the ring.

It shouldn't be the kind of thing where just anybody can pick it up and start making giant boxing gloves.

Karen said...

Matt makes an excellent point.If the user is flawed, no matter how good the weapon is, something can go wrong. I think Jim Starlin said that's why Thanos was always beaten: he always planted the seeds of his own destruction. He just couldn't help himself.

Garett said...

The Joker was given ultimate power to shape reality in the Batman vs Hulk book, and at first he enjoyed it, but then found there were too many possibilities for his mad mind and it burned him out.

ChrisPV said...

I would think that having sudden access to omnipotence would really jack with your perceptions. Yeah, the Skull is suddenly immune to the laws of cause and effect. But for decades he's been living that way. His brain is wired to think if X then Y. It would take a lot of time for someone to be able to think if X then fish.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I've always had a soft spot for GL's power ring even though it's not on par with the reality altering powers of the Cosmic Cube. I think it was described as 'the most powerful weapon in the universe' in either the animated series or the comics (heck,maybe both), can't remember exactly where. I also like the fact that its main weakness isn't yellow - its the willpower (or lack thereof) of the wearer.



- Mike 'my main weakness is food' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Anonymous said...

I thought William brought up some good points, some of which I've wondered about myself. If you suddenly got your hands on the soul gems or the cosmic cube, and declared yourself God, and granted yourself complete and total awareness, how could you possibly be defeated? We've seen this scenario played out again and again. And to agree with William, I think its too often been contrived...a big build-up, and a dumb little anti-climactic ending based on some obscure detail.
I think I know the answer...if I suddenly got my hands on say, the cosmic cube, the last thing I would want to do is to surrender my selfish individuality in order to become one with the universe...I would probably start thinking about settling some scores. It's not a nice thing to think about but...What's the use of ultimate power if you're not you, but once you get it, are you really you anymore? People are defined by their limitations, and my guess is that neither Thanos or the Red Skull were ready to lose their own individuality, no matter how bad or corrupted they were.

Anonymous said...

To complete my thought, once you become God, you're not you anymore. It's a big responsibility. It's hard to let go of yourself, whether due to death, change, enlightenment, sobriety, reincarnation, or even the fantasy of godhood.

Anthony said...

Although it doesn't qualify as an all powerful weapon the power cosmic changed Korvac into Michael. He changed from someone trying to conquer the universe into someone trying to make our universe a utopia. At least in the original story. He is not all powerful yet but he is more than a match for the Avengers. His demise makes sense because as powerful as he is he realizes the coming conflict with beings like Eternity will wreck the universe and destroy what he was trying to build. I think the Korvac Saga is a good example of this type of story done right.

Rip Jagger said...

I liked the Cosmic Cube stories because while it was an all-powerful weapon the threat was always diminished by the inherent weakness of the hand that held it. The Red Skull might hold the Cube, but his miserable character overcome by pettiness and hate would always be his downfall despite the potential. That's a neat cautionary tale for a mere comic book yarn.

Rip Off

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it always comes down to human frailty, doesn't it. Whether the apple from the garden of Eden, or Prometheus giving the art of fire to mankind, at some point knowledge and power become a burden. Has anyone noticed how presidents in this country leave office stooped with grey hair?
I think maybe ultimate power, the ability to mete out justice as you see fit...that's a heavy bag to haul. I remember during the infamous D.C. Zero hour miniseries, Green Arrow quoting somebody..."power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.' Maybe the Red Skull, Thanos, and Korvac showed some restraint and wanted to get defeated before things got too far.

Roygbiv666 said...

@William:
"So, what I don't understand is why they wouldn't just go ahead and do that very thing right off the bat? But no, instead they stand around making speeches about how all-powerful they now are, and then maybe whip up a monster or two out of thin air to battle said heroes, when they could just destroy them all in the blink of an eye."

Well, in real life I suppose you would. But if you're a megalomaniacal comic book supervillain, it's part of your job description to make speeches about how awesome you are and so forth. ;-)

I'll take a Power Ring (and battery) any day of the week.

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