Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Okay, so Betacandy and Ragnell have both posted about the "Kincaid Effect".

Basically, to sum up the post, the "Kincaid Effect" refers to a female character that starts off cool but then has her characterization change rapidly to accomodate a male character and his storyline. This includes unlikely romance. (The name refers to Jill Hennessey's character on Law and Order).

I was trying to think of examples of the Kincaid Effect in comics, and honestly, I'm gratified to realize that I find them very hard to recollect. The closest I can think of is possibly (in my opinion) Storm and Black Panther or when Babs and Dick get together. And even then, those cases are pretty mild as Storm and Babs are still pretty awesome. In general I tend to enjoy comic book romances for however long they last.

I can think of an example of a reverse "Kincaid Effect" though. At least for me. I'd imagine it'd be a "Kincaid Effect" for anyone who liked the character already. That's Kitty Pryde in Warren Ellis's Excalibur. I'll be honest, the last time I liked Kitty Pryde I was eight years old, and mostly just liked her name.

I've posted before my dislike for the character and her l33t hacker/ninja/ballerina/dragon-holding/genius chess player/whateverness. I'm not gonna get into it again. I know lots of folks like the character for a lot of perfectly good reasons, but she annoys the crap out of me.

In Excalibur...she didn't. Well, initially she did. But sometime around the middle of the series, she changed for me. I wasn't sure what it is, but she was suddenly being written in a way that I actually liked. The l33t ninja/child prodigy elements were toned down. The story focused on her as a genius hacker who was smart and a good fighter, but didn't seem gratuitous about it.

Even more interestingly to me, she was, for the first time that I could remember, being portrayed as an actual adult rather than teenage jailbait. And the cause of this was pretty obvious. The adjustment to her portrayal came about coincidently around the time that a new mutant, an ex Black Air operative with a snarky sense of humor and a smoking habit.

There's no way Kitty as she was originally characterized would be compatible with Pete Wisdom as a couple. For one thing, the age difference wouldn't work. For another, Pete was the sort of character to want his lover to be an equal partner, one who could fight back and bicker and had a will/mind of her own. Kitty-as-she-was may have been precocious but she was much too young.

It really is a "Kincaid Effect". Kitty's entire personality changed and she ended up dating a guy she'd probably never have considered before. However for me, it was a really really GOOD effect. I liked Kitty-as-an-adult. I liked her personality and wit. I liked her relationship, and I was always annoyed with the manner in which it ended. (I knew it wouldn't last, but I'd have liked the breakup to fit their characterizations more).

Now she's back to normal though, which makes me sad that this wasn't a Kincaid Effect that stuck.


  • At April 10, 2007 10:09 AM, Blogger Unknown said…

    My favorite "Kincaid Effect" was what I call "Bulked Up, Evil and Talking." It involves what was done to the character of Jericho in the Teen Titans. As I recall, that was still Marv & George, not a creative team change, so it made the shift in characterization very internally inconsistent for me. For the record, I only count "internal consistency" in a shared universe within one creative team's run on a book; I think it's patently unfair to judge otherwise.

  • At April 10, 2007 11:18 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    I think that She-Hulk's latest escapade where she marries Man-Wolf was definitely a version of the Kincaid Effect. Fortunately it seems to have only been the result of mind control, and she's back to normal.

    I've rather enjoyed Kitty over in Astonishing, where she has been competent and smart without being so bloody perfect.

    Ragnell refereed to the relationship between Guy and Ice as being a reverse one, HE changed for Her, which is unnusual in comics. I agreed with her analysis, and would also like to add that when Guy and Fire got together, they didn't do the personality change either, at the time and context, it made perfect sense. Didn't last too long, but was still fun.

  • At April 10, 2007 12:34 PM, Blogger Seth T. Hahne said…

    Hey. Don't hate on Magical Princess Kitty Meow-Meow :P

  • At April 10, 2007 12:44 PM, Blogger Seth T. Hahne said…

    p.s. the whole Wolverine/Mariko thing was one of your reverse Kinkaids too.

    Where do you categorize things like Felicia wanting to "go straight" for Spider-Man. Or even Mary Jane's settling down from party maven to marry puny Parker. In a way, they're instances of personality subversion for a love interest, but in another way, it's kind of like growing up. And really, who of us haven't been willing to sacrifice some non-essential portion of ourselves in the quest for love.

    In considering Spider-Man, I was thinking about why its the women who will sacrifice their former lives to be with him rather than otherwise. It's tempting to call foul but when you consider that the only thing Peter Parker actually has that he can sacrifice for a relationship is Spider-Man. And he's done that several times over the years, but in the end, it's hard to have a book called Spider-Man without, well, Spider-Man. And so, the women will continue to make the sacrifices so Marvel can sell books.

    It's all so heartless *sniff*

  • At April 10, 2007 1:27 PM, Blogger googum said…

    Man, the Warren Ellis Excalibur issues are some of my favorite comics ever, but nothing stuck from those. And it wasn't just Kitty, everybody got cooler in that run.

    I'm mildly surprised Claremont didn't retcon the whole series back to issue #30-something...

  • At April 10, 2007 2:39 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Elayne: I have to disagree with you. I think it's very fair to judge the internal consistency of a character through writing runs. Because otherwise, there is no point to using a pre-existing character to begin with as opposed to an original character.

    I'm not saying each writer has to take exactly the same perspective on the character or go the same direction, but there does need to be enough recognizeable qualities to the character. If something is off, like Batman killing someone or throwing someone a surprise party, there should be a good reason why.

    Besides, the biggest reason I think it's fair to hold the idea of "internal consistency" to the characters through many creative teams is because really, DC and Marvel have done a decent job doing that since the inception of their characters. They're not always the same as they were when they started, but the growth and development is logical and makes sense, and barring a few renegade writers, the character tends to read consistently throughout.

    (Besides, most of the reason I like my favorite characters come from the way the character's development flows organically throughout the decades. If I kept to looking at each creator's run as a seperate entity, the characters themselves would lose a lot of appeal.)

    Sally: I'm not sure I completely agree. Guy did change the most visibly, but I think Ice changed a bit too. She became a bit more willing to stand up for herself and put her foot down.

    I think She-Hulk's escapade's a good example though, even if it WAS mind-control and thus explained.

    the Dane: I don't classify those as Kincaid effects because I believe those characters were created for those developments. Basically so that they could change and become involved with Peter. In the case of the Kincaid effect, I usually believe it's limited to characters created independently of the character they're wrapped around.

    googum: Well, New Excalibur isn't bad, so I guess he liked it too. :-)

  • At April 10, 2007 11:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm a Spider-nerd, so I have to comment on this one :)

    In a way, they're instances of personality subversion for a love interest, but in another way, it's kind of like growing up. And really, who of us haven't been willing to sacrifice some non-essential portion of ourselves in the quest for love.

    Particularly in the case of MJ, it was very much a growing up. Gwen's death broke Peter, to not put too fine a point on it, but it also forced MJ into a bit of introspection. Her party girl persona was her running from her own problems and demons at home. She couldn't give Peter the, what, shoulder to cry on? support? he needed without growing up a little. And Peter had to grow up and learn to lean on someone else instead of stewing in his own grief.

    The trick, of course, is that losing Gwen hurt MJ, too, and her party persona wasn't up to dealing with that.

    That's best shown in this page right here, for which I will love Gerry Conway forever. This is the part where MJ makes her decision to be there for one of her best friends, and at the same time, to come out of that post-high school party thing. (I love this page.) It's sacrifice, but the kind that enriches both sides.

    (Sorry for the tangent, kalinara. I just love Spider-Man and Peter and MJ's relationship!)

  • At April 11, 2007 1:23 PM, Blogger Zaratustra said…

    I presume I'm the only person that read Storm's origin issue where she spends like, two years doing god knows what with T'Challa in the savanna while he 'becomes a man'.

  • At April 11, 2007 3:44 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Zaratustra: In Storm's case I wasn't referring to the couple itself, just the changes in her character afterward. (No offense meant to Hudlin, his style's just not to my taste. I'm looking forward to different writers' takes.)

  • At April 11, 2007 9:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I followed the link from my stats and was pleasantly surprised to find someone had read that post! :D I don't read comics, but I hope no one minds if I interject a little something:

    If love causes both partners to change, this can be the essence of a great romance.

    If love causes one very flawed partner to change for the better, that too is awesome.

    What I object to is when a woman we like falls for a a very dull or obnoxious male character just because TPTB want to toss in a romance or think it will make us like him. In time, she may actually change to become Someone Who Would Like That Loser, or our awareness alone of the inexplicable relationship will cause us to doubt what we thought we knew of her.

    I don't mean this as "correcting" any comments here, because it's all good by me. I just liked the conversation here and wanted to throw that in. Thanks! :)


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