Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Realism in Comic Books?

Yesterday the mail carrier delivered Mason's Marvel Adventures All-Ages SPIDER-MAN #52, "No Substitutes" (Mark Sumerak).

As usual, I brought it to school and Mason devoured it in the back seat. The nice thing about this routine? On the days I bring comics, Shawn and I can have a mostly-interruption free conversation about her day. Mostly because Mason will still sometimes blurt out with, "Shhhh, I'm trying to read!"

I ended up reading the issue myself, and I want to make one comment about it. First of all, I love the all-ages titles, and I'm only bummed that they stopped producing Fantastic Four All-Ages, because those were Mason's favorites. My theory? FF is too science fiction, even for comic books. I mean, they go into space on a regular basis. I'm not sure a lot of kids these days find that plausible... I mean, unlike, say radioactive spiders giving you super powers.

Anyway, in Spider-Man All Ages, Peter is still a high school teen at Mid-town High or wherever. In this issue, he's leaving the public library and, thanks to his Spidey-senses, stumbles across a secret cabal of villains (psuedo-"Hydra" types). Anyway, he accidentally leaves his biology report on at the scene of the crime after beating up the baddies, and picks up their top secret plans (conveniently in a similar manila file folder) instead. The next day, Peter is mortified to discover he doesn't have his homework. But thinks it's going to be okay when there's a substitute teacher, Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman to those in the know.) No, she comes down hard on him and puts him in detention, which Spidey is kind of grateful for because he's realized that maybe the bad guys might now know his secret identity thanks to his mix-up.

Little does he know that Spider-Woman has his biology report which she found at the scene, and she thinks he's an agent of not-Hydra. At any rate, adventures ensue and, of course, Spider-Man and Spider-Woman end up defeating the evil not-Hydra's plans to blow up Times Square.

The best part of this issue, however, is that the author, Sumerak, finally punches through one of those superhero tropes I hate. The trope (or maybe it's better defined as a crutch) is that people can spend all day with the alter ego of the superhero, talking to him/her, and somehow not recognize their mannerisms and/or voice behind the mask ten minutes later when the hero comes to their rescue. I roll with that because it's so common that I tell myself that the Marvel Universe is populated with people who either chose to ignore the obvious (in the case of Aunt May and MJ "denial isn't just a river in Egypt") or are merely, in the words of my favorite Lois & Clark episode, "galatically stupid."

In this issue, however, at the end when Spidey says he has to leave before the not-S.H.I.E.L.D agents arrive to debrief the heroes to protect his secret identity, Spider-Woman lets him ago with a "you've helped tremendously--" (then, after he's swung a good distance away she says in smaller letters, thus quieter,) "Mr. Parker."

And he never notices. I think it would have been even more awesome if she had just said "Thanks, Mr. Parker," and for him to go, "You're welcome" and zip away, and never notice that he'd answered to his real name, because don't you always figure that might happen some day? (And actually Bendis plays with that in the New Avengers when Daredevil accidentally calls Spider-Man "Peter" in front of Captain America and then stops and says, "Uh, you know Spider-Man is Peter Parker, right?")

I love stuff like that.

It's very Joss Whedon-esque. By that I mean, for a moment, it steps out of your "comfort zone" if you will and says, "why do we roll with that crutch/trope, anyway?" It makes you realize how much wider the world can be if you play with the established "rules."

It's a good lesson in writing, actually.


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Bill Henry said...

The above comment is spam, and I should probably delete it, but when a link takes you to a paragraph like the following, well . . . I'm still laughing.

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Bill Henry said...

What I was actually going to say before I got distracted is:

Sumerak is a great writer and a nice guy too. (I met him last year through MOC; he'll be returning for our 2009 show as well.) His all-ages work is very popular with my five-year-old nephew. You and Mason might also want to try Mark's Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius if you haven't already.

Jon said...

They do something similar in Invincible. Mark and his best friend are touring the local college campus and a monster attacks (naturally)and Mark has to run off and put on his costume during the chaos. After defeating the monster, he changes back and comes jogging up to his friend doing the whole classic Clark Kent thing: "Wow, is it over...?" And his friend just looks at him and says: "Why didn't you tell me you were a superhero?" Then he makes Mark take him flying Lois and Clark style.

Penhaligon said...

Yeah! I haven't read the all-ages, i follow ultimate spiderman ^_^ but it sounds cool. It does seem really stupid that MJ doesn't notice his voice at all when he's bandying about saving her all the time, but ah well...

Though there is that lovely moment of irony in the second movie in the bank, where Peter runs off to change into spiderman and fight Doc Ock, and the bank clerk goes "Wow, that boy of yours, he's a real hero" to Aunt May xD

Anonymous said...

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tate hallaway said...

What's up with all the spam when I post? I'm beginning to feel personally persecuted! At least this one was funny.

Mason has tried Franklin Richards: Son of a Genuis shorts... I didn't know there were whole books. Must... go... find!!

tate hallaway said...

Oh, yeah, and I meant to add to Penhagalion that, yes, I love when they do that kind of stuff too.

I have to admit I haven't tried many of the Ultimate titles outside of FF, which I wasn't all that impressed with. When zombies from an alternate dimention got involved even my suspenders of disbelief snapped a bit.

Jon said...

I wouldn't say that the Ultimate Universe is for kids. I think it got tagged as that at the beginning, but really it was just an updated, continuity free Universe.

Mason might find Ultimate Spider-man fun, and it is one of the most consistantly good and, at times, really funny series done in a long time (the issue where Peter has a prepared list of classic "you're so fat..." jokes for the Kingpin is fantastic), but otherwise, I'd say that the rest of the Ultimate titles (especially the Ultimates, even though it is awesome) is for the older crowd.

There's also some continuing Pixar adventures comics, like The Incredibles and Cars, that are supposed to be pretty good

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