Saturday, May 28, 2016

But If They're All Imaginary Stories...

Doug: Unless you've been under a rock for the past few days, then you know that the Internet was on the verge of blowing up over this panel:

Doug: So that brings us to our weekend conversation, and it's really just a simple topic. If what Alan Moore posited in his introduction to "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?", that every piece of fiction that we read is just an imaginary story, then why do certain events, plot directions, characterizations, retcons, etc. get us all riled up? I've remarked many times that I've really, really enjoyed the Winter Soldier stories I've read and feel Bucky's revival was much better executed in print than the same plotline has played out in the MCU films. And just a couple of Mondays ago I told you that I felt basically the same way about a Toro revival. But I look at the panel above and just assume it's some stupid marketing ploy. Because if it was "real"... man, would I be ticked!


Humanbelly said...

Every time I think comics can't do anything to dishearten me any further, they prove that there's no characterization atrocity too low to stoop to, in order to grab that "shock" boost in sales.

I wonder if, somehow, this was inspired by Bill Cosby's meteoric fall? Deeply beloved, unassailable icon proves to have been a dreadfully bad guy the whole time that we knew him.

I hate this. To my core, I hate this. And I also sharply disagree with Alan Moore's rather simplistic "Ahhhhhh, it's all made up-- who cares, anyhow?" perspective. 'Cause that's just telling us that we're all rubes for buying and enjoying and surrendering to ANY story-telling of any sort--- including his. Cap as a Hydra agent is just impossibly bleak and nihilistic-- where on earth does one go with the character after that--??


Redartz said...

The first time I heard about this I thought " Stupid. Another stupid gimmick stunt to jack up sales, they already killed him off so this must be the next trick". After my initial disgust wore off, I settled into my more typical outlook: it means nothing. Comics from the Big Two these days are so frequently rebooted, reversed, upended. Characters 'die', and within a year are back again. Characters are replaced by new versions. Characters long dead return and prosper. "Spider-Gwen", anyone? The point is, I'm not saying some of these aren't entertaining stories. Some are good reads (I found the new Ms Marvel quite engaging, for example), I just don't see them as canon. Probably the last 10 years, at any rate, it's all been Moore's imaginary stories. Resetting the numbering on a given title implies that a book's history is no longer an issue to consider, it's all about capturing the current reader's attention.

Long story short; I'm not too bothered anymore. It's not the 'real' Cap, just the latest in a string of what if stories.

Anonymous said...

That's not really Captain America - it's an evil robot from the future or a clone or a Skrull or most likely a Cap from an alternative universe where he never had the little wings on his mask. But I don't get riled up at retcons, plot directions etc - ever since they brought back Jean Grey from the dead I just accept whatever changes are made because it IS imaginary.

Martinex1 said...

I understand the philosophical merit of discussing "is everything imaginary". That has been a cornerstone of science fiction for decades. Just yesterday I read an article about "perception and reality" and scientists trying to put a mathematical equation to reality to find commonality in perception. However, in my "reality" the argument doesn't matter much because it doesn't change the way I "feel".

And I think the same feelings can be applied to Moore's question. The line I see drawn is that all storytelling, whether in comics or just me relating a past event, is that despite the limitations of language, inherent exaggeration, metaphor, etc there has to be consistency for the story to be "good". Moore's own stories could be "good" because they followed an inherent logic and are consistent in that approach. Sure, they are imaginary in the broad sense but their coherency leads to their credence, And a good story can have meaning by expressing feelings or emotions inherent to the human condition. Just because it's from our creative minds doesn't mean that it's bad or that it cannot affect us.

Now to the Cap story... The part that irritates me is that in the media it is being quoted that Cap has been a Hydra agent from the beginning and that there are clues all along the way. I don't buy that. It is not consistent at all with what I know of Cap. This is where retrofitting events is irritating. However, if it ends up he has been brainwashed recently and has been on a bad path for a couple of months, I can at least accept that as a storyline. It is the consistency that has to be there.

Heck, the panel that Doug shares (Hail Hydra!) in and of itself could have appeared in one of Stan Lee's scripted books. I could easily see Stan using that type of panel as a cliffhanger. Frankly, I am not sure he didn't at some point. The difference I think is that Stan would have resolved it an issue or two. It would not have had a press release, it would not take a year or two to play out, it would not be an event, and it would not have shoehorned an inconsistent storytelling beat into the entire history of Cap. Consistency is key.

That's a long way of saying... The idea itself is not really that extreme for a comic book story, but I sense that the handling of that plot point is going to both exaggerated and weakly handled if they try to retro it into years of consistent storytelling.

J.A. Morris said...

I think it's stupid, but it's not something that makes me upset or angry.

Some fan blog (it may have been 13th Dimension) came up with a solution for fans when the comic companies do something silly like this:Make Your Own Continuity.

In other words, you can still read great stories like 'The Secret Empire Saga' and not think to yourself "yeah Cap beat Moonstone and Harderman, but he's a Hydra agent."

This is the same reason I'm not losing sleep of DC revealing the Joker's real name.

Edo Bosnar said...

Yeah, I saw this being talked about elsewhere online, and I find that I really can't get worked up about it. Seems like another lame marketing ploy, which will probably be 'fixed' or 're-retconned' or something, and since I don't follow any ongoing series anyway, it really doesn't affect me. In fact, J.A. sort of beat me to it with the "Make Your Own Continuity" point, but I was going to say I can ignore most of this stuff because it's not part of my "head canon," i.e., the stuff that's canon in my head no matter what may be going on in the 'real' world (and no, I did *not* coin that term).

Anonymous said...

I honestly don't know why everyone's getting upset (yet). There have been literally millions of fake out stories like this. It's mind control, or he's faking being a hydra agent, or he' being impersonated, etc. Most likely, it's going to end like one of those stories.

If they were being serious, it's a ridiculous story - not in the sense of 'comic book ridiculous', like the science behind the flash season finale, but ridiculous in that, if Captain America is a hydra agent, why is he coming out now. Why didn't he do a tunrcoat move in the dozens of other times he has foiled a hydra scheme to take over the world. Just one would have been during the Steranko run - where he foiled a plot to kill the Avengers (and Nick Fury). If he really has been a Hydra sleeper all along, surely he wouldn't have stopped that plot.

Redartz said...

Martinex1- excellent analysis, I tip my non- existant hat to you. Stan indeed could have done such a cliffhanger, and the story would have been worked through over a few issues. This whole story is, no doubt, meant to provoke exactly the attention it is getting. And they are trying to sell a few more books...and they probably will. Look at it this way- who would have thought we'd see the day when a storyline in a Captain America comic would make national news coverage?

Anonymous said...

I remember when it was all over the news that Superman got killed, and like a dope, I bought the dang issue. I didn't really think he was gonna stay dead, but I was curious.
I greet this latest gimmick with a yawn. I ain't spending five bucks on this! I can get beer with that money.

William said...

If I said it once, I've said it a thousand times - there is nothing I hate more than a stupid RETCON! Ahhg! I wish they would ban that kind of cheap storytelling already.

But since it doesn't look like that's going to happen, Redartz said pretty much exactly the way I look Marvel today. I basically consider everything that has come out from Marvel since around the turn of the century to be a "What If" story.

For me, ever since Marvel had John Byrne reboot Spider-Man in "Spider-Man Chapter One" (ala "Man of Steel"), that in effect pretty much created an alternate reality that was separate from the Marvel U's classic continuity. Then just a few short years ago Mephisto reset reality by creating another alternate universe in which Peter Parker and Mary Jane were never married. Thus causing the Marvel U to splinter off once again from the previous continuity. There have also been several other continuity altering resets like "Heroes Reborn" and "Marvel Now", etc.

So as far as I'm concerned, the Silver and Bronze Age continuity exists in it's own bubble that cannot be affected by current canon. (Such as the Gwen Stacy sleeping with Norman Osborn travesty, and the existence of The Sentry, and etc., etc.)

So to me, nothing that they say or do now has any relevance to the classic stuff because the Marvel that exists today is just an alternate reality that is totally a separate entity from the original Marvel Universe that was created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and many other people with real talent.

And if anyone says "No, it's still the same Universe." Then how would you explain the fact that if all along Captain America has been an evil, lying Hydra sleeper agent that he could also be the only mortal worthy enough to lift Thor's hammer? I don't think a magic Asgardian hammer could be fooled by clever lies.

Humanbelly said...

Oho--SOLID on that last point, William!


Martinex1 said...

Thor is part of Hydra too! Cut off a head and another Avenger joins! All a clever ruse! That is next month's headline.

Doug said...

Wait - was that Girl Thor or Boy Thor?

And doesn't that just sum up this second generation of gimmicks? We've "graduated" from foil covers, holograms, and double-sized flip books to gender-bending characters, meaningless deaths, and "it's been there all along". You know, sometimes when I'm on Twitter I'm slightly envious of those who still enjoy new comics. But then I come straight to the current price points and also how convoluted every character's history has become, and I'm thankful that I apply my hard-earned shekels to trades and hardcovers. I really am.


Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm just cynical, but I think everything's basically a marketing ploy nowadays; that's just the way consumerism works, I guess.

As for why people get so worked up about stuff, I suppose we just get so involved in the story that it feels real, so we actually feel outrage when something like this comes up. It's the same reason soap operas are so addictive, or why we cry at the end of Old Yeller, or get really worked up over a bad call during a football/baseball/hockey/basketball game.

Mike Wilson

Anonymous said...

When they stop respecting your intelligence, or start assuming you don't have any, it's time to say goodbye.
The recent trend towards intentional stupidity and know-nothingness in this country's political discourse alarms the hell outta me.

Karen said...

When Doug told me about this post, I responded that my first thought was, It sounded like another money-grabbing gimmick. But after doing some reading, I want to give Marvel a bit of leeway here. They've tried to keep Cap (the title) topical for years, and it sounds like currently Red Skull/Hydra are standing in for ISIS and trying to pull in disaffected youth. So I am sure whatever is happening with Cap is not permanent but part of this storyline that mirrors our current political situation. Sure, it's probably still mostly marketing-driven, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt about it. I'm sure there were outraged fans when Steve Englehart brought Watergate and Vietnam storylines into Cap in the 70s, and those turned out to be cornerstone works for the character. So who knows.

Anonymous said...

William summed it up pretty good. Whatever weird stuff they're doing now, it's got nothing to do with my old comics. I'm older than the guys that write this stuff, probably.
Summer's comin' and that's good classic comic readin' weather, so I will pay this no mind.
Well said, Bill.

BobC said...

I'm with you, Miss Karen. I am also with the others who can't manage to drum up any emotion other than boredom over this latest gimmick. Is this even supposed to be in the current CA title, which is actually The Falcon taking on the CA mantle? If it is, then all I can say is that IMO CA is the best written Marvel comic out there right now, now that New Avengers and Secret Wars are both over.

May I say something? It is definitely related. I was driving to work the other day and for some reason I tried to remember what plot twist happened in The Avengers that I, as a kid, couldn't wait for the next issue to find out what was going to happen? Do any of you remember Avengers 102 when The Reaper repeatedly offered the Vision the body of Simon Williams, which would in effect make the vision human, but the vision refused? On the last page, Reaper asks one last time if the Vision would trade SW's body in return for the Vision helping him kill the Avengers? The last panel was a fantastically drawn head shot (thanks, Rick Buckler) of The Vision, and he simply replies "Yes."

Talk about a cliff-hanger!!! I was totally WTF and couldn't wait to see why The Vision was betraying his friends!! Turns out he wasn't, Captain America was signalling him from behind to humor The Reaper until he was ready to knock him out, and all turned out well.

Anyway, this new single panel of Captain America saying "Hail Hydra" seems like the same exact plot twist. It might turn out to be a great plot twist made to look like something it is not. Sort of like when Black Widow in CA's Civil War looked like she was going to "sting" CA and/or Bucky, but she was actually stinging Black Panther.

The other huge cliff hanger I remember was when the Human Torch finally tracked down Crystal, and he was in a state of disbelief at what he was seeing! I couldn't wait to find out! As it was learned in the next issue, Crystal was in a relationship with Quicksilver! Didn't see that one coming!

Anyhow, maybe this "Hail Hydra" thang will be something interesting once it is all out in the open.

The Prowler said...

My first reaction, which I must admit almost left me speechless, bordered on a visceral, honestly, I can't even type....... I read through the comments twice, trying to ensure I was in a condition where I could put my feelings into words.

I'm typing this slowly because I want to be sure I am understanding the implication of what has been shared here today............

Redartz doesnt' have a HAT!?!

(Mmmbop, ba duba dop
Ba du bop, ba duba dop
Ba du bop, ba duba dop
Ba du, yeah
Mmmbop, ba duba dop
Ba du bop, ba du dop
Ba du bop, ba du dop
Ba du, yeah

Said oh yeah
In an mmmbop they're gone
Yeah yeah).

Anonymous said...

Hmm the first thing that popped into my head when I saw that panel was the phrase 'cheap marketing ploy'. I lump this together with the supposed death of Cap a while back - you know they're gonna resurrect him, and I suspect this Hydra storyline will blow over soon. It just goes to show ya, comic book companies these days will try any kind of shocking twist to established characters and stories all in a bid to attract readers.

Philosophically, I share William's view of these types of storylines - it's simply not canon to me. I consider these stories as a modern 'What if' or alternate universe type of story, sometimes entertaining but not what I feel lies in the true Marvel Universe.

- Mike 'hope my alternate universe self wins the lottery' from Trinidad & Tobago.

pfgavigan said...


Storm and fury signifying nothing.

But I'm going to tell you that I've enjoyed the comments here that have been across the spectrum, from disgust to boredom to cautious tolerance. Nearly every point seems well considered and reflective of the investment of time and interest that we have in the subject.

I find myself in agreement with Karen that Marvel is trying to keep (make) the good Captain a bit more topical. The problem, for me, is that every time something is made topical it is also rendered dated. I don't have much of a problem re-reading Lee/Kirby/Steranko/Colan efforts since the stories didn't linger too much on what was going on in the world as it formed more of the backdrop than the driving plot elements.

Once Lee left the book and younger writers took over it seemed, to me at least, that they wanted to make Cap more relevant. Consequently the stories seem more set in and defined by the now historical events of those years, IE the "Watergate/White House Suicide" saga.

But, as some of you have stated: "Don't worry, nothing lasts forever. Especially in comics."



Edo Bosnar said...

I just read a column about this whole fan kerfuffle at the Comics Should Be Good site, in which I learned that this is actually the cliffhanger ending of the first installment of a multi-issue story arc (which I did not know until that point - shows how up to speed I am). That puts the whole thing in a new light for me, and makes all of the fan (out)rage seem even sillier. In fact, the columnist (Greg Hatcher), responding to someone in the comments section, made this excellent point which I think should be broadcast far and wide among superhero fandom: "...the online hysteria is basically the equivalent of a Trekkie in 1967 telephoning all his friends halfway through Amok Time‘s premiere shrieking, “THEY KILLED CAPTAIN KIRK!!”

Anonymous said...

Exactly. Let's worry about real problems like President Trump starting World War 3.

Anonymous said...

Or even worse - Britain voting to leave the European Union on June 23rd. By the way, Edo - I wasn't sure if Croatia was in the EU or not so I just checked and you are, hooray. I hope we'll still be fellow members on June 24th :)

Doug said...

My particular "taking umbrage" with this situation is not the plotline itself - if we are to assume that Cap is an agent of Hydra. We reviewed a Tales of Suspense arc on this very blog where the Red Skull is able to temporarily turn Cap into a Nazi agent; it's been done before. What I don't like, as others have mentioned, is the whole "he's always been a sleeper agent and the clues have always been there" garbage. William mentioned the Sentry - this is sort of like that.

No, it's not so much that creators cannot be controversial or that Marvel cannot enlist people to tell new stories. That must happen. I'm just put off by the sensationalism of it all. Why in the world would you reveal material from the last scene, that as Edo said is supposed to be a cliffhanger ending? Money. And that's the sole reason: money (OK, and maybe shock value). Filed under "there's no such thing as bad publicity", Marvel is loving that earlier in the week this story was tweeted by CNN, the AP, ABCNews, the New York Times, et al. Loving it. And the creators who've continued to stir the pot online, such as Dan Slott, are loving it as well because they see this as their next golden goose.

Just tell me a story that flows with continuity. Everything does not have to be an Event.

Oh wait - I temporarily forgot that I agree with the many above who stand by the ending of canon somewhere around the mid-1980s. I am onboard with that.

Everything else is just an imaginary story.


William said...

If they had Cap brainwashed into being a Hydra agent right now, or even if he'd been that way for the past few years, like say after he came back from being "dead", or after the whole "Secret Invasion" thing (which would make sense in a way) that I wouldn't mind at all.

But for Marvel to say that the Cap we all know and love (and grew up reading) was a Hydra sleeper agent the entire time since he came out of the ice, well that is just beyond a terrible idea. It's like a total slap in the face to an entire generation (and then some) of readers. It's irresponsible storytelling, and very disrespectful to boot.

But then again, what more can one expect from the generation of fan-fiction writers that seems to be in charge of Marvel Comics these days. They have no reverence or respect for what came before them.

Humanbelly said...

Tangential thought that caught my fancy:

Surely Latveria would not be a member of the EU, would it? Or would it? No. . . no, Doom would never, ever cede the tiniest bit of control or authority over to any other governing body. I assume Latveria would remain a little postage-stamp version of North Korea, plonked down right there in the middle of Eastern Europe. . .


Dr. Oyola said...

I stand with Karen on this - a wait and see approach. I like a topical story. I don't mind a cliffhanger, and comics have ALWAYS had marketing gimmicks. Heck, every single Silver Age Superman, Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane cover was a marketing gimmick. The only difference now is the scope of the marketing (w/ USA Today printing a national story about it, etc).

Until very recently, Steve Rogers had lost the super soldier serum and was old. From my understanding a Cosmic Cube was used to give him back his youth and vigor - a Cosmic Cube! a reality-bending device that in the past the Red Skull has had his consciousness within, etc. . . This allows for Cap to both have been a sleeper agent "all along" and never having been one at all.

I find this a lot less problematic than undermining Sam Wilson as Captain America by bringing Steve back, and by having Sam be written so incompetently (and transformed in a werewolf) for so many issues that he hardly seems worthy of being Cap, which is troubling given the history of Black superheroes tending to have these limitations as written.

Doug said...

Earlier today, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (@holocaustmuseum) tweeted this:

Thanks to all our new donors who #SayNoToHYDRACap. Learn about the real heroes who liberated Europe from Nazism.

They then linked to this article:

I would say an opinion like that, grounded in the history, should carry a little weight. Even if this whole Hydra-Cap thing is just for marketing, something like that does resonate negatively with those steeped in the events and history of World War II and the Holocaust.

Let our heroes be heroes, please.


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