Friday, August 14, 2015

Comic Book Cliches and Annoying Phrases

Doug: I took a few hours to myself Tuesday as school is set to resume Monday -- actually, I've been in meetings off and on since Wednesday a week ago. I just felt like I needed to recharge with a little comics reading. I started off with Amazing Spider-Man #s 116-118 for no other reason that I'd never read them before. Pretty random selection. I was actually surprised to see that those three issues were a re-working of The Spectacular Spider-Man #1 (1968), the black and white magazine that is perhaps better known for its second and final issue. In ASM #116 Spidey is attacked by a ten-foot monster of a man who calls himself the Smasher. In the course of the brouhaha, Spidey uttered a phrase that sent a chill down my spine. And not because it made me nervous. It was due to the cliched nature of the line that I about couldn't stand it. It was... "No one that big can be so fast!" Of course, that reminded me of it's close cousin, uttered by the lovely Janet Pym, "I've never seen anyone move that fast!"

Doug: In both cases our speakers had spent a fair amount of time around Quicksilver, not to mention other characters who could bring it pretty good. So in each of these situations, I'm not buying it. So today your charge is to come up with more examples of the sort of hyperbole of which I write, but also to mention those annoying catchphrases uttered by our favorite heroes, heroines, and super-baddies. Merciful Minerva, let's get this rolling!


Humanbelly said...

Hubristic Villain Rant #412:

"As you can see, (hero-name here), those (ropes/chains/energy shackles/other restraints) are made of (fill in trendy new material or tech), which even your vaunted (strength/power/intellect/other) cannot HOPE to overcome. BWAHAHAHAHAHAAA!"

You saw this one a LOT throughout the Trimpe run on the Hulk, in fact, and there was rarely a time when ol' Greenskin didn't finally manage to bust right out of it. Hulk #114-- Mandarin has. . . energy shackles that are powered by the Hulk's, uhm, own strength (??); "unbearably painful" to try to break out of. He does so, of course, when Betty comes into the picture. Hulk #115-#117-- Leader has an unbreakable plasticene material that he uses as both a cell and a cocoon. Ultimately, he busts out w/ Betty's encouragement. Except, for us Hulk fans this became less a tiresome cliche' than it was a grin-inducing trope. "Oh, you poor misguided villain", we'd think, "you have NO IDEA who you're dealing with-!"

One that I don't have specific cites for, but remember distinctly from reading through a lot of Stan's Silver Age work many years ago was a ridiculous reliance on female characters' making life-and-death split-second choices in the following fashion: "Only moments until the Goobertron explodes! Which (switch/door/button/panel/other) do I choose? I. . . I don't know why, but for some reason I feel it must be. . . THIS one!!!" (Goobertron deactivates). This has never failed to drive me banana-boats.


Edo Bosnar said...

I know I've come across entire blog entries, etc. in the past dedicated to Chris Claremont's various literary tics and catchphrases. Several that I began to find noticeable even as a young comics reader included his frequent use of phrases like "with all my heart" and "body and soul" whenever two lovers (like Scott and Jean) were whispering sweet nothings in each other's ears.
Another thing I recall about Claremont is that during his run on Marvel Team-up he had Spider-man use the Yiddish term "meshuggeneh" a few times at least, which I found odd. Was this really such a common phrase in New York?

Otherwise, by all objective criteria, Beast's use of the phrase "Oh my stars and garters!" should be annoying, but for some reason I always found it amusing.

Gary said...

The worst is Claremont's writing. You don't notice as much if you read each comic monthly, but if you read a hand full in a

"focused totality of my telepathic powers"
"I'm near invulnerable when ah'm blastin'"
"You're mine body and soul"
"I got better"
"I'm the best there is at what I do"
"welcome to the X-Men, I hope you survive the experience"

The Psylocke one especially grated on me in the early 90's. It was SO over used.

Anonymous said...

"Not a hoax! Not a dream! Not an imaginary story!"

Except, as Alan Moore said, "Aren't they all?"

Anyways, aren't they basically saying, "This story is important, unlike our other stories which are total cop-outs"??

Ugh; never liked that phrase...

Humanbelly said...

Oh man, Gary-- great call on Claremont's writing. The one that drove me NUTS, which he tended to rely on more and more as a way to add the illusion of "depth" to his writing, was the use of a-- what would you call it?-- a circular, self-perpetuating simile-? I don't have a specific one in mind, but they tended to sound very much like--

"My love for you is as uplifting as it is undying." Or-
"Their scheme for world domination is as flawed as it is doomed to fail." Or--
"His courage was as subtle as it was limitless."

That sort of look-what-clever-wordsmith-I-think-I-am baloney (which could be uttered by ANY character) never failed to take me right out of the moment. And it had such an inherently smug tone that it always made me vaguely dislike whomever was speaking it.

Nah, his whole writing style, where every character was at pretty much the same level of hardened-yet-sensitive, deep-yet-flip, taciturn-yet-with-WAY-too-much-to-say, became over the years kind of cliche' category all its own, y'know? Yeesh.

A similar one that's always stuck in my head: "My advice, freely given, must also be freely accepted." GGGNRGGHH! Say--WHAT? What the heck does that even MEAN?? If you give me unwanted advice, I still have to accept it because. . . you gave it without my asking for it-? (Ohhhh, don't get me started on Claremont once his considerable talents were consumed by apparent ego. . . )


J.A. Morris said...

My favorite recurring Claremont phrase:

"No quarter asked, none given."

Here's a collection of panels that feature "No quarter...":

And don't forget these:
"I love you!"
"And I, you."

"If we adopt our foes methods, how then are we any better than they?"

Those phrases are grammatically correct, but no one talks like that.

In fairness to Claremont, I generally love his over-the-top purple prose narration. I'm reading a reprint book of Bronze Age Iron Fist stories right now, you better believe Claremont's narration is fantastically melodramatic.

MattComix said...

"Everything You Know Is Wrong!"

"This Issue Someone Dies!"

But honestly for me the most annoying phrases in comics come from interviews with the creators instead of the material. "Dark and edgy." "Post 9/11 world" "Changing the superhero paradigm." "Grounded" "This is not your daddy's ____ (insert time honored character or franchise here)"

SteveDoesComics said...

Villain's Lackey: "He's out cold, boss. Now you can kill him."
Villain: "Kill him now? No, that would be too easy. Instead, I shall chain/strap/tie him to a scientifically unfeasible device and wait until he's regained consciousness and then I'll stand there, telling him how infallible my plans are and how he has no chance of survival, thus giving him all the time he needs in which to escape and therefore defeat me."

Reed Richards: "Ben, Johhny, we're facing the deadliest peril imaginable but I didn't want to say so in front of Sue, in case she got hysterical."

Marvel Super-Hero #1: "I desperately need the help of Marvel Super-Hero #2 but can't be bothered to explain that to him. Instead, I'll punch him repeatedly in the face for five pages, until we both realise we've made a terrible mistake and team up to tackle the true threat."

ColinBray said...

Not a precise cliche but it might as well have been:

"Shoot down the SHIELD heli-carrier? They couldn't hit an elephant from this dist---"

Humanbelly said...

I guess the "hype" cliches are almost a whole genre of their own, aren't they?

I do usually have to just grit my teeth and forge ahead when a new character or villain or hero is introduced, and to save time we go right to the inevitable, "All those years ago, and yet I remember it as if it were only yesterday. . . " lead-in to their origin spiel. It's a tough row to hoe for the writer, 'cause it's absolutely necessary, and there are only so many ways or variations to approach it in an efficient manner. But I don't think there's a character in the MU who hasn't remembered their origin "as if it were only yesterday" at some point. Man, I can't even remember yesterday as if it were only yesterday. . .


William said...

I write a lot of Action Figure comics, and they are almost always set in the Bronz-Age era. So, I use a lot of those same cliches myself, to emulate the style of the times. It's actually quite a lot of fun, and one of the things I find endearing about classic comics.

I know I've used the "I can't believe someone so big can move that fast!" And on a lot of my covers I have the hero looking at some unseen foe and uttering "No! Not you! It can't be!" Or some variation of that.

I find cliches work like a kind of shorthand. So, immediately the reader knows that what they are reading is supposed to evoke a certain sense of nostalgia. That this is a classic comic.

William said...

Concerning my previous post - here are a couple of example of what I'm talking about.

Dougie said...

My favourite Claremont Cliche is "transcendent joy" but since it sounds such a nice thing, it seems harsh to mock it.
His "British" dialect used to grate on me: the ubiquitous "luv", for example. I used to think he had an absolutely hopeless grasp of Scottish accents until I moved to Moray five years ago, where people really do speak like Rahne Sinclair. However, after forty years, I still have no idea what Moria McTaggart meant by "bredu".

Edo Bosnar said...

William, your covers reminded me of this cover from Marvel Two-in-One.

Anonymous said...

The most irritating that I can recall were all Claremont-isms from my early X-Men days! Therefore I LOVED the parody done in E-Man of the Dark Albatross Saga by Martin Pasko and Joe Staton! They nailed just about all of it!
Generally not much bugs me, but THE number one annoyance in modern comics is "We need to talk" or some variant thereof.

MikeS said...

Superman in the 60's - "how ironic!"

Anonymous said...

I find myself using some comic book "expressions" when I type or text....especially "GOTTA" and "WANNA"

I miss super-heroes using catch phrases, especially the "foreign" characters like Colossus (Tovarish) and Nightcrawler (mein freund,) etc...

I'm having trouble thinking of one that annoyed me...I guess when I was a kid, I didn't like "NUFF SAID!" I just didn't get it, having NEVER heard that phrase in normal speech. But I admit, I'm nostalgiac for "Nuff Said", as it reflects the best time for comic books, IMHO.


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