Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Co-opted Livejournal meme #2256

Taking part in a livejournal meme! I like memes. :-) (Co-opted from lurkerwithout who gave me the letter "B")

5 Characters Meme
1. Comment on this post.
2. I will give you a letter.
3. Think of 5 fictional characters and post their names and your comments on these characters in your LJ.

Or blog, as the case may be. My livejournal is remarkably boring. :-)

So five characters that come to mind beginning with the letter "B"...

1) Bruce Wayne: obvious for any comic fan, I'd reckon. :-) I have a weird love/hate thing with Batman. I like the idea of Batman, I suppose, more than I like the actuality. I mean, I appreciate the place he fills in the DCU and certainly would not want to see the JLA without him, but I find I don't much care about him as a character.

Initially I wanted to argue that he's predictable, as it doesn't matter really what's going on, nine times out of ten, you know Batman's going to glower and do something badass. But honestly, in comics, everyone's predictable. And I've never been able to hold habitual badassery (how's that for a coined phrase?) against a character.

In the end, I suppose it's just that when I think of Batman, I think of him more like a force of nature than a character. He's just so BATMAN. I'm not particularly interested in his internal conflict in the same way that I don't care about the existential angst of a hurricane. What IS interesting to me is the way that the characters around him react, do they run out of his way? Or do they face the storm head on? That's when I find Batman interesting. Essentially I like him best as a catalyst for the other characters.

2) Bucky Barnes: It's probably no surprise that I love Bucky Barnes. I particularly like how Brubaker took an impossible idea: resurrecting one of the two staple dead characters in the otherwise resurrection tilt-a-whirl of the Marvel universe, and made it making it utterly ridiculous. There's just something so quintessentially comics about the whole thing.

Seriously, how do you resurrect Cap's kid sidekick who died in a bomb explosion over the Atlantic toward the end of the war? Make him a brainwashed, cryogenically frozen, soviet-assassin! Oh! And make him a cyborg to boot!

In what other genre would that even work? Except maybe a soap opera.

I like Bucky as Captain America too, though I don't think it's a permanent change. And to be fair, I'm glad it's not. I love Bucky as a character. There are few characters that will clothesline a purse-snatcher in the middle of their well-deserved angst sessions. But I do think he lacks some quintessential element of conflict to make a good long-term Captain America, which is that love/hate relationship with the laws and the government. If/when the Government does something Bucky doesn't agree with, there isn't going to be any sort of intense contemplation and character struggle possibly culminating in some ill-advised wardrobe change (Seriously, Steve, v-neck open to the navel is not a good look for any man). Bucky's a pragmatist. He'll just do what he wants anyway.

That said, I'm enjoying his run as Captain America because I think it shows interesting things about his character and about Steve's in abstentia. It's also interesting to see the lasting effects that the role has on him and what, if anything, he'll end up taking away from it when he's done.

Ideally, I want to see Bucky end up the leader/mentor to the Young Avengers. Mostly because that would be awesome. Also, they could use guidance and he's got the advantage of basically being the first "Young Avenger" so to speak.

3. Barbara Gordon. I'm one of those fans that argues ferociously against Barbara Gordon ever becoming Batgirl again. This isn't to say that I've really got any opinion about whether she should remain paralyzed or not. I think that the character is a strong character either way. I just get really annoyed at the argument that she was better as Batgirl.

I suppose in the end, it's a militant feminist fanaticism at work that is utterly irrational for me. But the thing is, I can never believe that she was better as Batgirl, because Batgirl is a role that was patterned after another, a male, superhero. Batgirl was inherently subordinate to Batman. And whether or not it was an intentional choice or not, by patterning herself after Batman, Batgirl was essentially agreeing to play by Batman's rules and not her own.

That's also why I was satisfied immensely by the end of Andersen Gabrych's Batgirl series. I thought that it was particularly appropriate that Shiva holds up Cassandra's belt and asks her how many of the gadgets were her own invention. The answer was none, of course. Gadgets weren't Cassandra's way. They weren't what she was good at. And throughout the series, Cassandra had been forcing herself into a mold devised by Bruce Wayne rather than truly embracing what she can do for herself.

For example, her guilt over killing in the past is understandable, but the lengths to which she allowed Batman's own judgment of her actions to effect her self-worth was unhealthy to the extreme. Batman is defined by his trauma, and by embracing his path, Cassandra was also in a position where she had to be defined by the killing rather than at least making attempts to deal with it. And really, even if I hand-wave Bruce somehow NOT spending a good chunk of his vast sum of money getting experts examining the girl's brain to help her possibly overcome whatever brain damage exists to keep her illiterate, I can't excuse that Batman implicitly allowed his own aversion to therapy to not ever really consider getting that poor girl some psychiatric help. If ANYONE deserves to be able to sit with a non-judgmental figure in a nice comfy room, even if she doesn't ever actually talk, for a few hours, it's Cassandra Cain.

I was really annoyed that DC seemed to have a different reading of the end of Batgirl than I did. *I* thought Cassandra was walking away because she had accepted herself, where she came from, and who her parents were, and was finally going to find out who that was for herself and not defined by the terms of some borderline psychotic in a bat-suit. Apparently DC read this as embracing her inner psycho or something. Oh well. Sometimes that happens.

And let's not get started on poor Helena's stint as Batgirl. The one thing that always got me is that somehow in the process of being fired the costume that she designed herself ended up with her replacement. Admittedly, that may have been more Barbara's decision than Bruce's, I honestly don't remember. But either way, apparently taking on a role like Batgirl apparently involves ceding design copyrights to the organization when you're fired.

Ultimately, I vastly prefer Barbara in the role that she created, she defined, and that she has no obligation to answer to anyone else beyond any other superhero in the DCU. (Translation: Superman looks disapproving and Batman probably glowers and says something cutting, but ultimately you're still your own damn authority, thank you.)

4. Belle from Beauty and the Beast: It's weird. I always tend to hear from other girls my age how Belle is pretty much the best disney princess (barring Mulan, who I've never counted on the basis that she's legitimately awesome and that just seems like stacking the deck.) I did like that she had brown hair and eyes, like me, and liked to read, like me, but to be honest, I never found Belle any more proactive than any of the other princesses. She goes to the castle out of martyrdom and falls in love, because, well, let's face it, the Beast was awesome. She does have the advantage of not wanting marriage I suppose, but in the end, I always found her a bit bland.

I suppose if asked to pick a favorite of the "traditional" princesses, I'd have to go with Ariel. She was childish, immature, and gave up the awesomeness of being a mermaid for the boringness of being a human, sure, but at least it was her decision. She's the one who went to the sea witch. She's the one who made the terribly risky bargain. And she really didn't do it for the prince either. As much as she thought she loved him, I've always thought that she did it because of her father's betrayal. His destruction of her treasures was possibly the single most monstrous thing I'd ever seen a "good" parent in a Disney fairy-tale do. At six, I was traumatized.

I do have a fondness for Aurora too, but I admit, she's really not much, if any, more proactive than Cinderella or Snow White. The advantage for Aurora was how beautiful that movie was, Maleficent's sheer Maleficent-ness, and the fact that unlike any of the fairy tales that came before, Sleeping Beauty actually managed to make Philip into a character in his own right. Snow White or Cinderella's princes were cardboard cut outs who possibly didn't even have a name, how utterly dull would happily ever after with them be? But Philip was such an awesome guy that I was happy for Aurora at the end. It's the core rule of romance novels at work, the key to a good romance novel is in your hero. If the reader can't fall in love, at least a little, with your hero, it doesn't matter how well written the rest is, it's going to, in the end, fall flat as a stone.

She also had the best dress. But I'm irrationally irritated that despite the fact that the most iconic images of Aurora involved the dress being blue, stupid Disney constantly puts her modern "Disney Princess" incarnation in pink!

The blue is much prettier!

5) Crap, I'm utterly drawing a blank on "B" characters. I guess I'll go with Ben Grimm. You know, to be honest, Ben's probably my least favorite of the Fantastic Four. I mean, when he's not angsting about his appearance, he's a fun character and I like him a lot. He certainly gets the best lines and some of his story arcs are far and beyond the best in the bunch. But it seems like whenever the writers are at a loss of something new to do with him, he's back to going on and on about how he's a rock monster.

Yes, that does kind of suck, but honestly, compared to the kind of shit that tends to happen to other folks in the Marvel Universe, a physical transformation strikes me as having gotten off a bit lucky. Besides, no one forced him to fly that shuttle.

I admit freely that the Fantastic Four movie is a guilty pleasure. It's not very good, in a lot of ways, though the extended cut does manage to smooth out the most jarring parts of the narrative and make the character development make more sense. But I'm never going to claim it was a good movie. There was one thing I thought the F4 movie did really well.

They cured Ben Grimm. Okay, it was temporary, okay, he went back in to save his friends. But they cured him. And when he went back in there, that was his choice and his willing sacrifice. Theoretically they can build another machine in the future if he really wants it, but by giving him that proactive step, they've taken from Ben a lot of the angst factor. He's not a monster. He's a hero. It frees up the movie version of the character's potential to explore the other, more appealing, aspects of his character.


I think I broke the rules somewhere or other in this whole spiel. I can't help it, I'm very fond of digression. :-)


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