|Seriously, this happened to Hitler like every|
other week. You don't even want to know
what Unknown Soldier did to his ass!
Sorry for the lack of updates here. Been a bit busy with the Thanksgiving holiday and stuff. I want to talk about something I've been thinking about for a while here and the recent X-Men: First Class movie really cemented it into my head. One of the biggest problems in comics these days is trying to find relevance in these characters. The Punisher has trouble working if he's not just a really pissed off veteran from Vietnam, and as time goes on, even being really generous, he's got to be at least 60. Captain America got frozen in WWII, and let's be honest, as much as I loved that movie, bringing Cap to the present has always been the tricky part of his origin. (It IS rather silly.) Especially when a character's origin is tied into a specific event in time, as it moves on, you either have to keep retconning stuff or start ignoring it. And while some characters like Iron Man is rather easy to do this with (Prisoner of the VietCong? No, we meant Northern Afghani Terrorists!), some like Batwoman, who's origin is so directly tied into the now-defunct 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy of the Armed Services... In about a decade, that origin is going to be needing some retconning.
While there's certainly characters that never get updated in time and they stay period pieces. (Get to them in a minute.) Some should just take a note and not "update with the times." Take James Bond... It's kinda hard to write a story about a British super spy these days. After all, the nations we're most likely spying on are also the countries in the international market that we're trying to sell the movie to. And really, the Post-Cold War 007 films have been very weaksauce to say the least. And really, there's no real reason for them to be so. They change actors all the time, there's no real reason to not make them period pieces. Any attempts to update him, you end up, if you're lucky, with a copy of Splinter Cell or Jason Bourne. And even then, it's hard to pull that off, because if you get a lazy production team, you end up making movies about Bond fighting Ted Turner or a second rate SPECTRE wannabe. Let's be honest... James Bond needs the Russians. But for now, let's focus on comic book characters here.
As I mention, many characters are influenced from the zeitgeist of the period they were created in. However, that doesn't mean that their particular creation period is the most suitable for them. After all, Superman was really created in 1938, but a lot of the notions that we associate with him were elements of the Eisenhower era of the 50s. The Fantastic Four really does seem right at home in that Pre-Space Race Era of the early 60s, where you can get all funky and psychedelic with Kirby Krackle concepts like Blastarr of the Negative Zone and the Silver Surfer. Spider-Man was created in the 1960s, but he really hit his stride in the 1970s with the Death of Gwen Stacy. (And really, some of Mary-Jane's fashion senses could only have come from the 70s!) Though the first team of X-Men were created as a commentary on the Civil Rights movement, the later team with it's more worldly characters seem more in tune with the Apartheid events of South Africa in the 1970-80s with Marvel's island nation of Genosha. And of course with Captain America, as much as I love Steve... The 'man out of time' story will never be as interesting as the 'man who punched Hitler'.
Am I saying that no character should EVER age? No, not at all. In fact, it's the aging of these characters that makes them so endearing. If Batman just stayed in the 1930s, we would have never gotten Nightwing, Batgirl and Robin (any of them!) or even such endearing villains like the Riddler, Bane and Harley Quinn. If the X-Men only stayed in the 1960s, we would have never gotten the later X-Teams, with Wolverine, Rogue and Havok. And if Superman stayed in the 40s, he would never have gotten to the 1950s, where most people consider his most iconic period to be. But sometimes, there are some characters that no matter how hard they try... They just don't seem to make a lot of sense in contemporary times. Luke Cage (with the most awesome super-hero name ever of 'Power Man') with his partner and friend, Iron Fist fit seamlessly into the 1970s Post-Vietnam War era, fighting a bunch of jive-turkeys like A.I.M. But today, they just come across as awkward and seems somewhat out of place. I mean, I like some of those Jim Shooter era heroes... I just don't know if I like them how they are today. I'm not saying that a character should never been taken out of his or her established time period... I'm just saying that it's an option that shouldn't be taken off the table. Recently DC relaunched their entire universe. (It was kind of low-key. You might not have heard of it. :P ) Seriously, I can't help but to think they might have missed a real opportunity here to really expand their books and universe. What if most of their books were period pieces? Instead of trying to make Wonder Woman seem less silly today, just place her in WWII throwing tanks at the Nazis, along side the Blackhawks and Sgt. Rock. Or maybe not even going that far. Instead of re-writing Superman's marriage and history, just place him in an nondescript 'timeless' era akin to the 1950's. One of the reasons I think Batman's 1990's cartoon show worked so well was that before the style revamp for Kids' WB, you could make a real argument that the show took place in a Great Depression period. The football players still wore those old leather helmets used before 1940, the mobsters still used Thompson machine guns and all the vehicles looked like Model B Fords. Sure Batman's gear was high-tech, but even his stuff was very retro in it's technology. It felt like a period piece. But I'm not saying all super-heroes need to be massive period pieces, but there are some characters that maybe, just need to stay in their time period.
|This is Kato vs. Robin from the 60's Batman TV show|
crossover. It was awesome. Rogen never had a chance.
If you're not a comic book fan, then try to imagine updating someone like the Lone Ranger into the Modern Day. Does Tonto become a female Native American? Do they ride around on motorcycles? Is he basically Walker Texas Ranger in a mask? Do they use tasers and pepper spray instead of shooting the guns out of the hands? On top of that, a lot of people don't realize that the character the Green Hornet is actually the Lone Ranger's nephew's son. (John Reid... Britt Reid. Also, they had the same creators. Makes a hell of a lot of sense.) And that's another character that's best to remain a period piece and truly forget that the horrible Seth Rogen piece of shit film ever existed. Every time they try to bring Tarzan into modern times, it's a disaster... And don't get me started on the Phantom. (I'm still seething about the SyFy movie.)
Okay, I admit, we can't really stick Superman, Batman and the X-Men in a time bubble and leave them there, but perhaps that “timeless” feel I mentioned earlier could be an option? Matt Wagner did two Batman stories called Dark Moon Rising. (Batman and the Monster Men and Batman and the Mad Monk.) They both took place in Batman's second year. But the way the book was handled, the art and style... Outside of a few anachronisms, it could easily have felt like it was 1940. It was just a really well done comic series. (Though the Mad Monk did slip a bit toward the end, I do easily recommend them. I'll probably talk about them at a future date.)
In the end, we have no problem accepting that some characters are just forever part of a time period... But why can't we do the same for certain comic characters? Why are they exempt from this? Do we think we can't accept a period piece?
I have never accepted that.
And nor should you.