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Thursday, April 13, 2006

My First Comic Experience

For First Comic Week:

I honestly can't remember my first comic, though I have the vague recollection of being a Fantastc Four issue picked up at a flea market. The only scene I really recall from it was Johnny Storm, in college, getting heckled by some students and finally losing it, his head bursting into flame.

I wasn't really into comics at the time. At all. But I remember finding that scene interesting. Especially how he berated himself afterwards for his lack of control. I mean, here was a hero who not only had no secret identity, thus having no sanctuary from anyone with a grudge against their hero form. I remember also being intrigued by the unique pressure having weird powers would cause. The responsibility that even hot-tempered and impulsive characters have to restrain themselves around other, weaker people.

That scene did more to highlight the issue of power and responsibility for me than any stupid web-slinger's catch phrase.

I think it's also why in general, I tend to like a lot of the uptight, restrained characters. Scott Summers is my favorite X-Man, for reasons that seem to be shared by no one else. :-) But I admire him because while he's as flawed as any of the others, he has to keep himself to a higher standard. It's easy, I think, to be the cool rebel like Wolverine. To bitch about the boss and lash out at authority. All the guy fans admire your freedom and take-no-shit attitude and the girls (well, the straight girls) fantasize about being the one to awaken your romantic side.

But see, Wolverine can do that because the others don't depend on him to be anything else. He's pointed in a direction and let loose.

When you're the responsible one, you can't do that. Because people depend on you and if you fail them, bad things happen. And look at powers for a second, Wolverine can be so unrestrained because his powers are effectively passive. His healing power isn't going to hurt anyone else, and his claws, while deadly, still have to get controlled by his damn arm.

But characters like Scott, like Ororo, like Jean. Characters with powers that react to their emotional state or *can't* be controlled by any means but iron restraint and ruby quartz glasses. Well, they can't afford to be like Wolverine. If they were, well, we've seen Dark Phoenix (before the clone retcon) and Ororo lose their minds. We've seen Cyclops, without glasses or visor, keeping his eyes clenched very tight so not even a glimmer gets out to hurt someone. And if you've ever tried to keep your eyes clenched shut like that, you know. It *hurts*. A lot.

I love comics that explore what it really means to be powerful and have to hold back. Like in Supergirl 5, the saving grace of that series was Clark telling Kara (s) that because he developed his powers in a place where he could seriously have hurt people, he *always* held back. And had for all his life. And then he does the smackdown. And it's awesome.

The Lanterns are good for this too. Even the ones you wouldn't expect. One of the first Guy Gardner related stories I read was a JLA crossover (Which I was reading for the Blue Beetle), where one moment, Guy Gardner was being his usual jerk self and trying to take over, and the next...he'd killed a bad guy. And then caused a great deal of havoc. The entire Justice League barely kept him contained. With some help from a ragged looking Guy Gardner. Who reveals that basically this guy is him without the restraint. Which causes skepticism in the others...but he's right. The evil Guy Gardner *is* him without restraint, without some subtle bit of humanity that the original maintained. It's really does make one take a closer look at the character.

Circle of Fire had a similar element, with Oblivion wreaking havoc from Kyle Rayner's subconscious. He took out the *Justice League* man. With his repressed emotions. It's a failed attempt at control but interesting nonetheless. Kyle's temper is pretty formidable, but he's never lost control of his abilities. He even takes off his ring now when he sleeps, because unlike every other Lantern, his powers work while subconscious.

Even the initial Superboy/Superboy fight in IC tied into this for me. Like almost everyone else I was getting really impatient with Conner to get up and *do* something already. I was starting to really dislike his inactivity after Luthor had taken control. I sympathized but wanted to scream "Get over it!". But when seeing the sheer lack of restraint of Superboy Prime. His inability to control himself, to slow down, to consider truly the people around him... Well, it made me a lot more sympathetic to Conner. He might have been sitting on his ass...but he was doing it in a dumb attempt to not be that guy. In contrast, I didn't pity Superboy Prime at all. The first death might have been an accident, but the moment he saw that and *didn't* *stop*, I lost any sympathy I had for him.

(And for the record, I think there was way too many parallels between Conner's death and Clark's, up to and including slightly crazy genius type trying to clone them. I think in much the same way that Clark came back with a mullet to find a little clone of him flying around and wreaking havoc, Connor's gonna find a clone of *him*-sorta- wreaking havoc itself. Maybe without the mullet though.)

This amazes me really, because I'd never thought of it before. But it really does all tie into that *one* single scene I read way, way back when. Even though I wouldn't start reading comics with any real interest until January of 2005...many, many years later.

That's so bizarre.


  • At April 13, 2006 8:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The 3ish "Untold Legend of the Batman" (circa '84 aprox.), all 3 had full page collections of b&w gollden age covers plus batcave and utility belt blueprints. It was the best bat-clan origin mini let alone story I've ever read.

    I still have the end of the hook line in my head, "...Now at last it can be told! I was barely 5 & I'm still a hardcore Bat-fan :-)

  • At April 13, 2006 10:02 AM, Blogger CalvinPitt said…

    You make a good point about Wolverine, and it was something that was touched on in a stretch around #220 or so in Uncanny X-Men.

    Storm was de-powered and gone. Magneto was somewhere else, same with Xavier and Cyclops. Wolverine was leader by default. And you see him berating himself for not keep a tighter rein on things. He tries to not just go nuts, because he wants to keep an eye on his teammates, many who are relative rookies.

    It was pretty interesting.

  • At April 13, 2006 12:01 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    green: Awesome. :-)

    calvin: You know, that sounds like a Wolverine I could actually start getting into (compared to the token ati-authority rip things apart guy they shove on all the teams).

    It's a shame they didn't leave him like that for a while.

  • At April 13, 2006 12:50 PM, Blogger Jon said…

    Cyclops is my favorite X-Man because his stupid variant on the Dragon Uppercut is amazing in Marvel Super Heroes Vs Street Fighter.

    Yep, that's all it takes to keep me happy. A decent seven-hit combo.

    (Well, and the fact that he yells "I DID IT!" when he wins. It's just so damn cute.)

  • At April 13, 2006 1:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The 3rd season of X-MEN on Fox had an episode in which Logan uses brains to take down FOH & creeds "normal" son Meanwhile Hank goes PRIMAL nuts after the girl he's given sight to(& fallen for) is kidnaped. Jubilee speaks for us..."Wolverine using his head & Beast goin' crazy(shocked)

    Kal have you ever thought how similar Scott & Guy are1.comanders 2. brain damage @ some point. 3. red hear 4.the way energy comes from thier respective projecters ( eye/ring) & power lvl of said energy. 5.Both are jock/teacher 6. both like motorcycles
    mind blowing huh? aznd yes I have an insanely good memory:-)

  • At April 13, 2006 2:14 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    jon: aww, that sounds *adorable*.

    Sadly, I *suck* at fighting games, so I can't share the love.

    green: ...I hadn't considered that. Ow. My poor brain.

  • At April 13, 2006 2:57 PM, Blogger Ferrous Buller said…

    For my part, I can't remember what were the first comic books I read - quite possibly an old Superman compilation I still have - but one of the first to make a strong impression on me was the Chris Claremont / Frank Miller Wolverine mini-series back in the mid-80s (IIRC). Rather than the usual superhero nonsense - apologies to the spandex lovers in the crowd :-) - it was basically a martial-arts drama, a tale of personal honor and conflicting codes of conduct, which was thankfully largely free of the "exotic Far East" character of far too many Western takes on Asia.

    And it made Logan sympathetic, because he wasn't just the angry "Screw the Man!" loner, he was a man struggling to control his own violent impulses, his savage nature. And it was the first superhero comic I read which, well, wasn't really a superhero comic.

    Plus, y'know, ninjas before they jumped the shark. :-)

  • At April 13, 2006 3:52 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    There was a time before Ninjas had jumped the shark?! *gasp*

    (I admit though, as an East Asian Language/Culture major, I'd be a lot more forgiveable if it seemed like any comic or book writer actually seemed to understand what ninja *were*. Hmph. :-P)

  • At April 13, 2006 8:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hoorah for a Scott Summers fan. People always do give that poor guy the short end of the stick, don't they? I mean, wuld you think a guy so normally in control and determined to keep that control over his 'charges' so to speak, would let all this Sentinel nonsense through without some looking into?

  • At April 13, 2006 8:37 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    carla: Yeah, it seems half the time writers don't know what to do with him. Stan Lee's original version, even teenage, mooning dramatically over Jean, and in ghastly ghastly clothing had an interesting mix of clueless, overwhelmed kid and sarcastic, devious plan-guy. (I actually liked Jean back then more too. She was the token girl, but she had some personality too). But it seems like a lot of other writers are too quick to dismiss them as bland window dressing/uptight authority figure and den mother. It's a shame. Scott at least gets to keep some of his formidability, but Jean suffered horribly. I was shocked by how much I *liked* her in the early original-5 stuff.

  • At April 13, 2006 9:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    mix of clueless, overwhelmed kid and sarcastic, devious plan-guy.

    And thus, we get X-Men Movie Scott. I thought the actor did a great job at making the Guy in Charge likeable, which is a very important factor for being a GUY IN CHARGE. If he was such a stick-in-the-mud, why would anyone follow him?

    And yeah, poor Jean. She didn't make the movie jump as well as Cyclops did IMHO, since they went right for the 'who's she going to sleep with?' route despite having changed the character into a doctor. Not that there's anything wrong with being a fashion model and rooming with Misty Knight. =)

  • At April 13, 2006 9:39 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I think the problem with Jean was that they were trying too hard to push Wolverine as a viable love interest. Thing about the comics, is that it was always clear that as long as both Jean and Scott were alive, no one could really supplant one in the other's regard. She was *attracted* to Logan, might have even slept with him under the right circumstances, but if there ever was a choice, she'd never choose him over Scott.

    But the movie needed romantic tension. So they cast a much older woman to be Jean, to make her more viable with Logan and to create distance with Scott. I love Famke Janssen, but I'd have preferred seeing her as a Moira MacTaggart character. Where she could be sexy and have chemistry with Patrick Stewart. Which she's done before really, really well.

    By making Logan a real contender they pretty much reduced Jean to the archetypal hot girl torn between the exciting hero and the stable boring guy. Which was a shame, given the caliber of actress they cast.


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