Friday, January 22, 2016

Suggestions Unboxed - Character Development Possibilities

Doug: Back in October we ran a post requesting ideas from our readers. We promised to run all of those suggestions at some point. While we've covered many of them, it's been a while since some of those thoughts graced our blog. Here's another one:

Martinex1: Here are two suggestions based on character development, both historically and potentially -- 
  • Worst plot developments ever (for me YJ hitting the Wasp) and how you would have changed it.
  • Comic team ups or relationships we would like to see (Beast and Tigra, Commander Rann and the Wasp, Fixer and Ultron). 


Anonymous said...

Worst plot development : Jean Grey didn't die in X-Men #137...also Wolverine and Spider-Man joined the Avengers.

Martinex1 said...

Colin, those are great examples. I should probably elaborate on the suggestions that I made initially.

For me, The Yellowjacket-Wasp debacle is just irredeemable. My enjoyment in the reading of comics, and perhaps that is part of my generational outlook, was in seeing heroism achieved. Even as a kid, I always understood that humanity has flaws and that everybody has weaknesses and everybody does bad things (in my mind at different levels). So, I liked that Marvel characters were flawed also; but again in my mind those flaws had to be at a certain level for the characters to still be labelled as “heroes”. There was a lowest acceptable rung in my opinion. So Hawkeye being a thief and being a showboater; I could accept his turn. Dr. Strange and his arrogance – no problem. Reed Richards and his emotional ineptitude and “all for knowledge” approach is actually a bit borderline for me, but I accept him as a hero. So when we get to Hank Pym hitting his wife, I have real trouble with that. And there are of course even more egregious examples than Hank. Wolverine is a killer; I struggle to root for him at all. Same with Punisher. Baron Zemo is in no way a hero (although I enjoyed Thunderbolts; I always knew he is a villain). In the world of comics, I guess I do want a clear line. Real life is troublesome enough; I don’t necessarily want “all” of that reflected in escapism reading.

Now here is where I put on my “fan fiction” hat and say that the way I would have rectified it all would have been recently during the Skrull Invasion storyline. I would have revealed that Hank had been a Skrull since the recruitment drive in Avengers 211. He was the first and longest embedded Skrull. And the aliens picked him because he was the most erratic character and would be the least suspected. Then you can return the original Hank, still with a certain level of strange behavior and a new history with adventures in space, to the Avengers. He is now a man out of time and it offers a whole new dynamic with Jan and the others. Done.

Another story that I wish I could change, but never would, is the Death of Captain Marvel. Mar-Vell was one of my favorite characters, probably because he was introduced to me early on. I did not like seeing him die. But that was a great story and I would not reverse it. As much as I’d like to see Mar-Vell again, I prefer him staying dead now.

As far as future team ups, I was wondering why we get the same old same old all the time. There are hundreds of characters that can be intermingled. Good writing can make even the strangest of bedfellows compelling. I think Power Man and Iron Fist proved that. I’d like to see more odd pairings and odd teams for new perspectives. Invisible Woman and the Wasp as spies. Johnny Storm, U.S. Agent, and Stingray thrust into WWII as a new Invaders. Some of the U-Foes joining the FF. Dr. Doom, Doc Ock, Dr. Druid, and Doc Savage open a clinic (just kidding)!

Stay warm and dry east coasters!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, bringing people back from the dead bothers me. Not always, but when it's a "classic" death I think bringing the character back waters it down too much and makes it meaningless. The example I'm thinking of is Norman Osborn; great death scene, it closed off the Gwen part of Peter's life, then they bring him back years just took all the impact out of the original story for me.

As for team-ups/relationships, I can't really think of any offhand. I think Marvel at least, teamed everyone up with everyone else in the 90s; Like some G-rated version of Rule 34: "If you can imagine it, there's a team-up of it."

Mike Wilson

Dr. Oyola said...

I want them to undo the undoing of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson's marriage.

I want Green Goblin to remain dead (I don't mind a string of also-rans taking up the guise of Hobgoblin, tho)

The original Clone Saga is ok with me b/c I grew up with it being history (and the clones all died anyway), but Maximum Clonage? Yuck.

The symbiote suit should have remained dead as well - no Venom, no Carnage.

Hmmm, this is all Spider-Man stuff.

A better handling of Black Goliath and (the original) Ms. Marvel (though I love Carol Danvers as Capt Marvel and the new Ms. Marvel).

Pat Henry said...

I dunno. The use of a Skrull to retcon Johnny's yucky story arc the post-Byrne FF always struck me as the equivalent of "Bobby's not dead! It was only a dream!" retcon in Dallas. Maybe more a more compelling story for Hank was that all that shrinking and expanding really did damage his brain—we certainly saw enough "uncontrolled side effect of my powers" from him over the years. That would give him reason to repent and perhaps quit the team for a while (in the classic Marvel style) while he improved the technology of his powers. It would be a mechanism that would allow Wasp (and us) to forgive and forget.

In terms of character development, line Dr. Oyola, I really liked the way they first handled the death of Aunt May, and they should have kept it that way. Beloved people die; you honor that, and move on. You don't make deals with the devil to unwind that. That's what evil or weak people do. Ick.

Edo Bosnar said...

As per Colin's comment, the biggie for me is also Jean Grey/Phoenix, i.e., she should have stayed dead. When Marvel decided to launch X-Factor with the original X-men, they should have followed a suggestion Chris Claremont had apparently made but which was rejected (or so he claimed in an interview I listened to a while back): Jean's place in the team could have been taken by her older sister, Sarah.
I also agree with Martinex about Hank/YJ, and pretty much everything Osvaldo said, but especially Carol Danvers. I really can't think of how that awful story in Avengers #200 can be elegantly rectified - like with Hank Pym as wife-beater, it simply shouldn't have happened. In my ideal world, Danvers would have been promoted to 'captain' after Mar-Vell's death many years ago. And on the subject of Carol Danvers (and as I mentioned a few days ago), I would have loved it if she and the Wasp had become BFFs in the Avengers.

William said...

I think that having Peter Parker marry MJ was a huge mistake. (A character destroying mistake).

However, since they did do it, they had the perfect opportunity to undo this obvious lapse in judgement just a few years later, during the Clone Sage. They could have simply made the MJ that Peter was married to a clone, and had her turn to dust (or something). Then it could turn out the real MJ was still alive somewhere, but wasn't really interested in becoming Mrs. Peter Parker.

They actually did that on the 90's Spider-Man cartoon. Showing that for once, the Hollywood creators knew what was better for a character than the comics people.

Comic-book characters do not, (and should not) age like the rest of us. Otherwise they eventually lose their appeal. (Unless you want to read about the adventures of 70-year old Batman).

A character like Peter Parker should remain eternally a young, down on his luck, single dude who moonlights as a friendly neighborhood superhero. That's who the character is, and that's why he became popular in the first place.

Having him become some old married man completely changed his entire personality and character, and pretty much ruined Spider-Man for me for good. And all the "magic divorces" in the world could never undo the damage that was already done.

The only way to really fix it would be to get a time-machine and go back and slap the idiot that came up with the stupid idea in the first place.

Humanbelly said...

I wonder if there's a distinction between RetCon and Plot Development, though? A RetCon kind of IS a type of Plot Development, I suppose-- but that seems to be a whole topic of its own, in a way. Mind you, my feelings about most of the retcon-based ones are right smack in line with everyone else's expressed above-!

But if we're going to look at straight-up plot up developments that weren't founded on un-believing what you'd previously been told was true (ala Hank slapping Jan and its subsequent consequences)---:

(In no particular order)

1) In issue #272 of The Incredible Hulk (Teammates, of COURSE that's where I'm gonna go first!), Bill Mantlo has Banner gain control of the Hulk's form while retaining his "own" mind. And, other than a very few rare instances, we never see "my" Hulk-- the deceptively simple, child-like, heart-on-his-sleeve Hulk-- ever again. He's gone forever. Oh, there were great, GREAT runs of that title for many years ahead, no question-- and a few pretty awful ones as well-- but the Silver Age/Bronze Age/Defenders Hulk was just. . . erased. He was a wonderfully unique person all his own-- but since his body was still bouncing around with a string of other personalities inhabiting it, his. . . abandonment? murder?. . . went unacknowledged. It was never ever the same for me after that issue.

2) We've brought this up before 'round here-- John Byrne deciding that our beloved Vision wasn't really a character, or even a person, in WCA-- and blithely shredding and discarding years of character and relationship development. Basically taking the Tin Man from Oz after he's found his heart, and running him through the car-crusher. Again, that has never been recovered been.

3) I'm encouraged that Osvaldo may indeed share my (generally unpopular) view on this: I was a major and unyielding fan of Peter & MJ's wedding and marriage. I know it was awfully hard to resolve with the greater fan base over time, and was tough for the writers to work with/around-- but I loved that kind of growth and risk. And was right smack in my own "this is the one!" relationship at the time. And then they ultimately had a baby a few years later (which, again, I thought was a TERRIFIC new direction to take-- talk about power/responsibility!). Annnnnd after months of build-up and preparation-- the baby is apparently stillborn and whisked out of the hospital by nefarious shadowy figures-- and is completely forgotten forever. I'm sorry-- but this was horrible. I get the whole argument for character status-quo to maintain the qualities that make him/her popular-- I really do-- but this was such a dreadful abandonment of character growth that it set back my investment in the character massively-- and again, it was never the same.

HB (Yeesh-- REEEEEEALLY hard to get enthused about shoveling 20" or so of drifted snow from the driveway tomorrow. And y'know-- for Snowmageddon and Snowpocalypse?-- the highway dept NEVER PLOWED OUR CUL DE SAC! We ultimately went out dug ourselves free as a disgruntled mass. . . )

Humanbelly said...

Ha! And there you are William, providing a perfect yin to my yang (or. . . vice-versa). We were likely typing at the very same time, in fact-- Nice! And I do recognize that The Wedding is a biggie for so many longtime fans. I rather expected it to be a top-three, even.


Edo Bosnar said...

Oh, by the way, since it wasn't directly stated in my comment above, I also liked the idea of Peter and Mary Jane being married - I don't think it necessarily ran against the essential nature of Spider-man.

pfgavigan said...


Strangely enough, I think the "Hank slapping Janet" was one of the best things that could have happened for either character, even if it was the result of unfortunate creative events.

Now this is my opinion and only my opinion so please don't think I'm disdaining what any of you might believe, but Henry Pym had absolutely no resonance for me before the incident. He always seemed like the first Avenger to be taken down in a fight, only in stories when someone had to do the science babble and Tony Stark was unavailable. He and Jan were constantly entering and leaving the team and, for me at least, neither their presence nor absence was much noted.

As for the Pym/Van Dyne relationship, I never could get past the feeling that Janet was introduced because there was a female shaped hole in Hank's solo stories and the creatives felt that they had to insert one. It also seemed to me that Janet was something of an adrenalin junkie, that she enjoyed being in the public eye, the adventures, the excitement far more than Hank ever did.

A Nineteen Sixties Paris Hilton? No, but there are parallels.

By the way, is Janet convincing Hank to marry her when he is experiencing a case of 'temporary schizophrenia' the equivalent of slipping someone a 'roofie'?

Anyway, separating the two characters allowed Marvel to expand upon their personalities. Jan Van Dyne became more and more popular as a single person than as part of a couple.

Hank, in the hands of a capable writer, is multi-layered, a man of talents who often is pressed to move above and beyond his limits. Unfortunately, he has also fallen victim of a series of less inspired scribes who immediately equate his character as a wife beater and can't see past that tag. And it is truly sad that this limited focus has become canonical over the years.

Like I said, all of this is my opinion. No more, no less. I'm certain that the very capable contributors here can make a very fine rebuttal to my arguments.



Redartz said...

Count this commenter as one among the group who applauded the Peter/Mary Jane marriage. Since first becoming hooked on the adventures of the web-spinning Mr. Parker, I was struck by how much actual change and growth he went through over the years (and his supporing cast, as well). Starting under Lee and Ditko, Peter evolved from a shy, awkward teen (much like me) to a more confident, yet still mishap-prone college student. He later graduated again, and went through the challenges of young adulthood (grad school vs. career, dealing with an aging and infirm parent figure, and so on- again, much like me). This continuing growth, despite the occasional backpedaling (clones, for example), set Peter Parker apart from so many other pop fictional characters. Thus, after so many years of dancing around the edges of their relationship, the decision of Peter and Mary Jane to marry struck me as not only desirable, but sensible and appropriate (and HB, I was becoming a newlywed at the same time period as well). All this said, the erasure of their marriage tops my list of character development I'd change.

PFG- you make a good case for your take on the Pyms. Jan really stepped out of the shadows as a result of those controversial storylines. That, at any rate, proved an upside to all of that...

The single storyline I'd change would be the death of Aunt May in ASM 400. That issue was a very solid story, with a deeply touching ending. Even with Ben Reilly appearing (in mourning, alone, outside as Peter, MJ and Anna Watson grieve at May's bedside), the last pages of this issue unfailingly bring a lump to my throat. The only minor quibble I had was the convenient coincidence of May's passing occuring in an anniversary issue, but the story was so good that this issue is negated. That issue should have stood as May's last, dignified, poignant departure.

Oh, and for all you easterners- good luck with the storm. We here along the Ohio got off with only about 7 inches of white stuff to shovel..

Anonymous said...

For the most part, bringing back characters from the dead like Jean Grey or Gwen Stacy is a really bad idea in my book. Unless it's really well written, those types of resurrections just seem like a cheap plot device; the only storyline which seemed to work was Ed Brubaker's resurrection of Bucky as the Winter Soldier.

As for Petey amd MJ's wedding, I personally never had a problem with them getting married; it just seemed to be the logical step in their evolution. While some might argue having Peter getting married would move him away as a character from what made him popular, I say why can't he have those same qualities as a married person?

I'd loved to have seen Hulk and Godzilla team up back in the 70s when Marvel had the comics rights to ol' Zilla; imagine if you will two green giants bent on destruction, oh the possibilties!

- Mike 'yin and yang' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Humanbelly said...

PFG, you captured many of the very same thoughts I had about Hank myself.
That whole very long arc- both before and after it's ugliest moment, when he hits Jan- is so very tough to read, but in itself is not at all badly done. And man, when you really go back and look at Hank's history closely-- it almost seems like there'd been a masterplan from the very beginning to prepare this character for exactly that sort of complete breakdown. It's uncanny. And that's what made the whole episode so difficult-- but not in itself "wrong" at all. What's wrong is the absolutely ham-handed, inconsistent, self-indulgent way the character was handled by inept writers much farther down the road.
Within the pages of the Avengers itself shortly after everything was resolved, and then even moreso (perhaps ridiculously moreso) in the pages of WCA by Steve Englehart, Hank redeemed himself and successfully made amends over the course of time with Janet. That's. . . a tall order, but kudos to the writers for seeing that Jan finding the ability to forgive (in the long run) once she felt sure of Hank's stability made her a much, much stronger person and character. This was good, and hopeful, and kind of quietly personal and realistic. The "bad" part of all of this is when Hank got a wife-beater tag attached to him very carelessly and frivolously by writers. . . who used other characters as their proxy to express this. It hopelessly cheapened everything we thought we'd learned, and put the reader at odds with the character for no reason whatsoever. . .


Humanbelly said...

Oh! The Team-up question!

Romance/relationship, in fact, that I've mentioned before: Wendell Vaughn (Quasar) and Monica Rambeaux (Photon, etc). The perfect couple-- both impossibly nice and good-natured. And I like the fact that she's probably just a touch more the dominant personality than he is. In fact, it could even trend a bit Blondie/Dagwood in the right hands.


Anonymous said...

HB, I'd be on board for Monica & Wendell.

I remember reading Exiles (2001 volume) and the character Nocturne was the daughter of Nightcrawler and Scarlet Witch. I could see that couple happening. If I could "ship" Kurt with anyone, it would be his one-time love interest Cerise. Alan Davis built them up nicely in Excalibur. It's too bad Cerise never caught on.

If I could undo any plot... I'd keep Sandman as a semi-hero. I like redemption arcs, and I think establishing Ben Grimm as a guy trying to set him straight worked really well. I'd also take back any Elektra appearance after Elektra Lives Again. Nothing done with her since has been of value.

- Mike Loughlin

William said...

HumanBelly (and others), the biggest problem with marrying Peter Parker off, is that it's an interesting plot development for about 5 years or so, and then the whole thing becomes stagnant again, with no room for growth whatsoever. Then you just have the status quo of married Spider-Man for 20 or 30 years. And you're right back where you started, except now you're really stuck in a rut you can't get out of.

I believe that if you want to read comic-books you have to accept the fact that the characters just can't grow and evolve like characters in a novel, or movie. If you want Spider-Man (and Batman and Superman, etc.) to remain viable properties for literally decades, you have to stop them aging at some point and just try to tell good stories using them as they are. They had no real problem doing that for nearly 30 years with Spider-Man/Peter Parker until they decided to marry him to MJ. When you make such a drastic change in character's long-standing status, then the passage of time becomes more obvious, and the longer it goes on, the worse it gets. Until you reach a point of true and utter stagnation. Then what do you do? In the case of Spider-Man, you first try to say that Peter Parker is a clone, and bring back the "real" (and single) Peter. Then when that doesn't work, you just say "Ahh, to hell with it" and undo it all with magic. (And we know how well that went over). So,as much as some people may have liked it, it was very short-sighted of the creators at the time to ever marry Pete and MJ in the first place. (IMHO)

I personally believe it is actually kind of selfish for us older readers to expect the characters to age and change as we do. For example - I started reading Spider-Man in the early to mid-70's, and at the time Peter Parker was a young adult, attending college and juggling school, girls, and work, while also moonlighting as Spider-Man. It was great stuff. I loved it. I loved everything about it, and for nearly 20 years or so, nothing really changed about Peter or his situation. He was still in college, he was still working at the Daily Bugle, he was still dating this girl or that, and he was still fighting crime as Spider-Man, etc. Then suddenly, they changed everything and had him get married. It just wasn't the same book anymore. And never would (or could) be the same again. That's a pretty big risk to take if you're Marvel. And I don't think it was a wise or fair one.

Here is my real problem I have with this whole thing. And why I think it is selfish to think it is a good idea. When I first discovered Spider-Man, I got experience what I consider the "real" Spider-Man. (The young, single, down on his luck, superhero with money problems, and girl problems, and boss problems, etc.) But the next kid kid who comes up behind me, has to read about a totally different version of Spider-Man. A Spider-Man/Peter Parker who is married to a super model, and expecting a baby, and living a very domestic life. Not as exciting or interesting a character anymore when he's not in costume. Also not as relatable to a 13-year old boy.

My point is, that since some fans desired to see the Spider-Man they grew up with change, and age as they did, they in effect denied the next kid that came along the same joy of discovering Spider-Man as he was intended to be experienced. A young, single, high-school, or college age guy who also happened to be the world's coolest superhero. That is what he was created to be. That's how he should have remained for future generations to enjoy. That's my 2 cents, and I'm sticking to it. Nuff said.

Redartz said...

William- you make some very good points, particularly regarding the new reader's experience at getting to know the character. I'm story driven, over the long haul. I enjoy tales of Peter and his exploits from many different eras, and for the most part have found the changes plausible and interesting. This said, I also see the reasons for periodically rebooting the series. Whether "Untold Tales", "Ultimate Spiderman" or the new "Spidey", they all serve as introductions to the character and his milieu (10 dollar word for today). Guess I see it as a repeating cycle, retelling and recycling a great hero for new generations by different creators...

pfgavigan said...


Part of the problem is the incredible weight of continuity that is placed upon the creatives nowadays. Back in the Bronze Age the toll of keeping the 'history' of a character straight was much less. Now, after several decades, it's nigh on impossible.

I see the attraction of the reboot. It makes sense to start over. That's what the Silver Age primarily was, especially at DC. The problem is that to do so successfully would require an editor in chief who would be willing to impose order upon the creatives, many who would and have demonstrated a reluctance to toe the company line. Several attempts at rebooting at DC have been compromised by writers who decided that they were going to do what they wanted and cowed the editorial staff into allowing it.

It would require a Shooter.



Martinex1 said...

I am not opposed to reboots. The nostalgic part of me wants the reboot to carry the same tone as the originals, but I understand it is not designed for me. If there is a reboot of Spider-Man I expect Peter to not be a cool, hip, insider. The down on his luck element was always part of his story. I actually liked his marriage, because I though Mary Jane was a good character, but I was also constantly aware that she was a super model and they had more steady income etc. That changed some of the drama. In modern stories, I believe Peter runs his own successful company. If that's true he is not the Parker I know. Hard to say if it's good or bad, just not my puny Parker.

Regarding YJ and the Wasp, I also appreciate the growth that was a result of the storyline, but personally the Pym character was tarnished. I think that the difference for me is that Pym was my favorite character when I was very young. Whether Ant-Man, Goliath, or Giant Man,he was my favorite. And YJ was the best of all. Not bland or weak at all in my young eyes. So when he went rogue, it impacted my enjoyment. I actually would have preferred if he went all the way and became a Super Villain; he would have been top tier with his insider knowledge of the Avengers, his super science, the Pym particles etc. I would have strangely accepted that more. I also think in the right hands,the Wasp could have developed into a strong character without that particular storyline. Roger Stern handled a fantastic reimagining of Jan during her stint as leader and I don't know if that could or could not have been accomplished without the previous storylines.

On a completely off topic note, did anybody see "Legends of Tomorrow", what did you think?

Redartz said...

Martinex1- yes, I saw "Legends of Tomorrow". Found it pretty good, and my wife liked it too! It is cool to see such characters as Hawkgirl and Vandal Savage so prominently featured in small-screen action. Plus, I really like Wentworth Miller's Leonard Snart. We actually are enjoying most of DC's television offerings, regularly catching Arrow, Flash and Gotham...

Dr. Oyola said...

See for me the "Spider-Man story" as we know it should end with the marriage, and someone else should take the mantle of Spider-Man (my vote is Miles Morales) with his own spin on the problems of being Spidey (but with Peter as a sometimes mentor) until May "Mayday" Parker (child of Peter and MJ) is old enough to become Spider-Girl (and then Spider-Woman).

I think serialized comics are great at providing multiple simultaneous versions and worlds (like pre-Crisis DC), so a PP/MJW marriage doesn't necessarily have to be the end of Spider-Man, it is just *an* end. For me the best Spider-Man stuff after the 80s was Busiek's awesome Untold Tales of Spider-Man, we can keep reading stories of the "old" Spider-Man because I don't think they need to fit together perfectly (b/c they CAN'T ever do that anyway).

Speaking of which, for those of you still willing to give modern comics a try, consider checking out the new Spidey series (it is on issue #2), which imagine a kind of modern pastiche Spider-Man in HS. I can't say the writing has found its footing yet, but the art is out of sight!

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