There’s some pretty big news in the comics world this week and in case you haven’t heard about it, I just want you to mentally steel yourself before you read the next sentence:
(this is where you do your mental-steeling)
Some fictional characters are being altered in ways that are neither novel nor (likely) permanent, for the sake of telling stories that will be slightly different rather than exactly the same way they have been for thirty, forty, or fifty years.
Specifically: starting in October, Thor, a fictional celestial being who can fly through outerspace at physics-defying speed, control all weather phenomena, and has a telepathic relationship with a morally-judgemental hammer, will be portrayed on the page as…a female version of same. Also, Captain America, a one hundred year old man with the ability to make a metal disc the size of a manhole cover bounce an unlimited number of times before returning to its original starting position at its starting velocity, will be replaced by the man who has been his assistant and sidekick since 1969. This comes after Captain America was replaced by his previous sidekick, also nearly one hundred years old, who spent the years between 1945 and 2005 as a cryogenically preserved superweapon with a robot arm who served the USSR — a storyline which, by the way, everyone loved. Only, this new guy Sam Wilson, he’s (wait for it) not a white guy with blonde hair.
Needless to say, there has been backlash. Thanks to The Internet, any time any event of any type occurs, there are people who will make very horrible sexist, racist, and otherwise -ist comments about it. This time around, I was heartened to see that the backlash-to-the-backlash, people coming to the defense of Marvel’s decision to include more women and persons of color in its core titles (albeit as fictional characters, not as real life employed creators because that would have actual consequences in the actual world) was so much louder than the initial backlash that the initial backlash essentially disappeared. Which I guess means there are more people out there in the world who are sane and level-headed than there are total bigots who can’t fully distinguish comics from reality. And that’s a good thing.
Super Special Bonus Feature: When Reboots DO Go Wrong
So Thor’s going to be a woman and Çap’s going to be the Falcon and that’s fine. But there have definitely been a few times that Marvel and DC have gone too far in their attempts to update classic characters. Here are five of them:
1995: Also known as Pirate Wolverine, this is what happened after Magneto ripped all of the adamantium out of Wolverine’s body (which was pretty awesome). For reasons that were totally unclear, this caused Wolverine to start smelling worse, walk around with a horrible ape-like posture, speak in barely legible chicken scratch, and wear a tattered zorro mask. Most worryingly, it almost made Logan’s nose appear to disappear completely into his face, not unlike that of an adorable pug.
Guy Gardner: Terminator, Mixologist, Pro-Wrestler?
1994: Guy Gardner, whose bowl haircut was the funniest thing about the very funny Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League International, became much less funny (at least less intentionally funny) when he lost his Lantern ring and had to look abroad for a new superpower. He found it when he drank from a chalice full of Warrior Water (not kidding) which gave him the ability to shapeshift his body parts into any type of weapon, T2 style (not kidding), because of previously-unmentioned alien DNA that was implanted in his ancient ancestors (not kidding), which inspired him to not only return to crimefighting but to open a Planet Hollywood-esque superhero theme bar* (nope, not kidding) called….Warriors (STILL NOT KIDDING BUT MAYBE ACTUALLY DYING BECAUSE MY BRAIN JUST EXPLODED ALL OVER THIS WIKIPEDIA ARTICLE).
Superman: Reign of the SuperMullets
1993: Much ballyhooed to this day, the reports of Superman’s death were, to borrow a turn of phrase, “greatly exaggerated.” After being savagely beaten for seven whole issues by Doomsday, Superman didn’t die so much as go into a Kryptonian Kush Coma, emerging just a few short issues later as the same ‘ol Man of Steel. Albeit with one very significant difference: a beautifully flowing Kentucky Waterfall, all business up front with a rockin’ party bus ’round back, a mane like a Triple Crown winning champion….that is to say, a thick’n’hearty jet black man mullet. Frankly, I’m surprised it took Clark Kent so long to update his ‘do. After all, look what it did for these icons of style:
New 52/Arkham Asylum Harley Quinn
1998: I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something about the sadomasichistic-nymphomaniac-undead-juggalo-schoolgirl look that Harley Quinn has been wearing lately just seems off.
Superman 2: Electric Boogaloo
I basically don’t think people should care what happens to comic book characters. I mean, if you really don’t like the new direction they’re taking with Thor, there are more than 500 issues of the previous version of Thor already so you can just read those (watch out, though, he also turns into a frog and a horse-lookin’ alien a few times). But don’t mess with Superman. Superman is a really, really boring superhero, but he’s kind of great as a mythological figure representing the age of American prosperity and the pursuit of truth, justice, and the ability to wear your underwear on the outside if you want. Go ahead and give him a stupid mullet, a canine sidekick, a love affair with Wonder Woman, a kind of different origin story, or a movie in which he plays the role of Goku in Dragonball Z: The Frieza Saga. But don’t turn him into a bolt of blue lightning. Because that, that my friend, is Fucking Stupid.
*I would rank Warriors somewhere between Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon and Cyberdelia on the list of Fictional Bars You Must Drink at Before You Die: