Tag Archives: Spider-Man

Why We Should Embrace Married Superheroes

renewvitrine-760x428

What is more emotionally satisfying than seeing someone you care about find happiness? Whether it’s a friend, a sibling, or even a celebrity you admire, don’t you feel a twinge of joy when you see them achieve something special? Unless you’re a cynic or a sociopath, you’ve probably had those feelings at least once in your life.

With those warm and fuzzy feelings inside, why shouldn’t that also extend to the iconic superheroes we know and love? When our favorite heroes finally get around to marrying the love of their life, it’s natural to want to cheer them on the same way we would cheer for our best friend as he and his bride do karaoke at the reception.

However, those tasked with building the canon seem to have an aversion to married superheroes. Just this past summer, that aversion was on full display. Two major superhero weddings were set up, one involving Kitty Pryde and Colossus in X-men Gold #30 and the other involving Batman and Catwoman in Batman #50.

Sadly, both events ended without tearful vows and a drunken toast, although one salvaged a matrimonial quickie at the last second. I’ve already broken down how one wedding just prolonged an already drawn out romance while the other denigrated the entire concept of romance, as a whole. Rather than bemoan those romantic misfirings, I’d like to step back and look at the bigger picture of married superheroes.

This is actually a controversial issue among fans of superhero comics and those who create them. I’ve been browsing comic book message boards for years. I can attest to just how much fans care when their favorite characters get married. They continue caring long after the wedding reception.

On the other side of the controversy, though, there are the creators that work for Marvel, DC, and their corporate overlords. They have a slightly different view of married superheroes and one that’s not nearly as sentimental. To say their views are complex is like saying a plumber has mixed opinions on food poisoning.

While many of those writing, editing, and producing superhero media are fans themselves, they often have to leave their fandom at the door. Companies like Marvel and DC Comics don’t pay them to write fan fiction. They pay them to tell stories that will sell, increase the value of their brand, and improve market share.

A writer or editor’s ability to do this is prone to many challenges. Fans, especially comic book fans, are notoriously fickle with their passions. If they see something they don’t like happening to a character they love, they’re pretty vocal about it. Just ask fans of Captain America, the Fantastic Four, or Cyclops of the X-men.

In that respect, I have some sympathy for the people responsible for handling beloved characters. They’re basically playing with someone else’s toys and getting paid for it. However, if they break those toys or damage them in any way, there can be hell to pay. Just look at the current situation with Star Wars.

That sympathy, though, only goes so far and I can’t extended to how some at Marvel and DC have approached marriage. DC Comics editor, Dan Dido, once went on record as saying that superheroes should not get married. Long-time Marvel editor and COO, Joe Quesda, even had to justify breaking up Spider-Man’s marriage to Mary Jane Watson by claiming that it “stabilized” Spider-Man too much.

Now in general, I try to be understanding and respectful when people hold positions that I disagree with. I’ve even tried to do that with hot-button issues like abortion, feminism, and organized religion. In this case though, I just have to call bullshit.

Claiming marriage does too much to stabilize a superhero is like saying ketchup makes food too red. It gives the impression that stability is somehow a liability with superheroes, as though they can only be interesting when their world is falling apart and they’re one stubbed toe away from a nervous breakdown.

It’s true that we superhero fans love seeing our favorite heroes fight back invading aliens, punch Nazis, and even take on renegade alien gods. However, it’s also true that we don’t expect or want that to be the only story that superheroes tell. We’re also interested in the lives they live outside their flashy costumes. It doesn’t just humanize them. It gives us more reasons to root for them.

Both Mr. Quesada and Mr. Dido try to make the case that part of being a hero involves sacrificing parts of their personal life in order to serve the greater good. There’s little doubt that being a hero comes at a price, as many of Batman’s former lovers can attest, but that doesn’t have to involve outright isolation.

It also doesn’t mean being a superhero makes a functioning marriage impossible, either. Yes, it’s a lot harder to be a loving spouse and a superhero, but I wouldn’t say it’s as daunting as battling planet-eating space gods or surviving a team-up with Deadpool. In fact, it can enhance their heroics in ways that go beyond romance.

I’m not the only one to make that point either. In wake of the recent wedding debacles by Marvel and DC, Comic Books Resources asked why publishers are so afraid of married superheroes. They cited the same excuses I did about heroes needing to sacrifice, but they also pointed out how these kinds of real-life, mundane events help people connect with these characters.

What the article didn’t get into is why this matters. Superman is a hero with god-like power who can move planets and create diamonds with his bare hands. He’s also married to Lois Lane and still has to put in the effort to make that marrage work, even when it becomes prone to complications.

Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four is among the smartest beings in the entire Marvel Universe. He creates thought projectors, flying cars, and personal robots without breaking a sweat. He too has to work hard to keep his marriage and family functioning, especially when a handsome Atlantean king keeps trying to sleep with his wife.

Then, there’s Spider-Man. I know I’ve brought him up a number of times and not always in a positive light, but what happened to him and his marriage is still one of the most controversial things that have ever happened in comics. In many ways, he embodies the ultimate flaw in the excuses to undercut married superheroes.

In the infamous story, One More Day, Spider-Man’s marriage to Mary Jane Watson wasn’t just undone. He actually made a deal with Mephisto, Marvel’s stand-in for the devil, to sacrifice his marriage in exchange for saving his Aunt May’s life. Considering his Aunt had told him just a few issues ago that she didn’t want to be saved, Spider-Man still went through with it.

To say fans were upset by that decision would be like saying the Hulk has a slight anger management problem. This act didn’t just undercut an iconic superhero romance. It essentially reverted Spider-Man back to the state of an immature loser who had barely grown up since high school.

Again, Marvel made plenty of excuses. Long-time Spider-Man writer, Dan Slott, claimed that Spider-Man has to remain within a particular status quo. He has to keep being this lovable loser who is always struggling to hold down a job, keep a girlfriend, and still be a hero. In order to keep that unique appeal he has, and all the merchendising money it makes, he can’t be married.

I understand that logic, but I still call bullshit. You know what happens to characters who never change, grow up, or evolve over time? It’s the same thing that happens to real people. They become boring and unlikable. In Spider-Man’s case, he becomes something worse. He becomes the guy who sold his marriage to the devil to save someone who didn’t even want to be saved. That’s not heroic. That’s just plain selfish.

That’s the price a superhero pays for remaining in a prepetually regressed state. I contend that price is far higher than any associated with the inherent difficulty of writing married characters. With Spider-Man, One More Day established that no matter what he did in his personal or heroic life, he would never change. He’d always end up sleeping on his Aunt May’s couch.

It doesn’t matter if he pursues a new romance. It doesn’t matter if he becomes a billionaire and runs his own company. A reader can just assume he’ll screw it all up somehow and end up right back where he started. It’s just hard to root for any character that keeps regressing like that.

It’s like rooting for a sports team that never wins. Even terrible teams can turn it around at some point. Yes, that includes the Cleveland Browns. If that team never wins, though, why even root in the first place?

This is why marriage is so vital to the growth and evolution of superheroes. When a hero gets married, it’s not just an excuse to have a big event full of superhero-themed cakes. It’s a culmination of a much larger story about love, growth, and strength. It takes a lot to make a marriage work and not all of it can be done with superpowers.

Therein lies the ultimate appeal, though. When a superhero gets married, they go from simply pursuing a relationship to actually making it work. They have to learn how to build a life with another person and become part of a larger family, something that cannot and should not be exclusive to the Fantastic Four.

It fundementally changes how superheroes approach their lives, in and out of costume. It adds new layers of complexity and intrigue. Yes, it’s considerably harder than telling stories about Superman rescuing Lois Lane from Lex Luthor’s evil clutches. That’s exactly what makes it more compelling.

I don’t doubt that Marvel and DC will continue making excuses about married superheroes. Whether or not their approach to the issue evolves remains to be seen. However, since they’re in the business of keeping their characters relevant, they will have an incentive to adapt these characters for changing times and maturing audiences.

Being the romantic I am, I believe love will eventually win out in the end because love is part of why we root for superheroes in the first place. Love isn’t just about being unselfish. It’s also about achieving something special after so much sacrifice. Fans of superheroes want to see them achieve the things they struggle for. It affirms that all those heroics have meaning and purpose.

Marriage doesn’t have to be the ultimate achievement for a superhero. It can be part of it, though. It doesn’t have to be an end. It can be a beginning, as well. Until Marvel and DC lets its heroes get to that point, though, those stories won’t get told and hearts will keep getting broken for all the wrong reasons.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes, Love Or Obsession, Marriage and Relationships, romance, superhero movies, X-men

Infinitely Astounding And Then Some: My Review Of “Avengers: Infinity War”

https3a2f2fblogs-images-forbes-com2fcurtissilver2ffiles2f20182f042favengers

We’ve heard it all our lives from parents, teachers, and cartoon characters. Good things come to those who wait. Patience is a virtue. If something is worth having, then taking your time and going through the process will make it that much more rewarding.

As impatient, overly energetic kids, we hated that. As adults, we still hate it to some extent. However, those inane words of wisdom have proven themselves valid time and again.

To some extent, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a been a decade-long exercise in patience. That patience has already paid off in so many ways with so many memorable moments, raising the bar for cinematic excellence every step of the way. After ten years of that process, though, how could it possibly vindicate all the patience?

Well, having seen “Avengers: Infinity War,” I’m comfortable saying that all the waiting, hype, and post-credits teasers was totally worth it. Never before has a movie come along that required so much build-up and so much connection from other films over such a lengthy period of time. Never before has a film franchise ever achieved such sustained, consistent success that has raked in billions for its Disney overlords.

By nearly every measure, “Avengers: Infinity War” is the culmination of all those efforts. It’s an effort that spans dozens of movies, made and re-birthed entire careers, and dared to tell the kind of story that required such a lengthy, elaborate process. It’s the kind of movie that, a decade ago, seemed impossible. Well, the impossible has been done and the results are nothing short of astounding.

Beyond the hype, setup, and process that went into making this movie, “Avengers: Infinity War” is a ride like no other. It’s not just about superheroes coming together to battle a common enemy. It’s not just about big battle scenes and witty quips between gods and talking raccoons. This is a movie with a powerful, impactful story that strikes so many emotional chords.

That may seem strange for a superhero movie, which have traditionally been big-budget spectacles meant to delight the inner child/fanboy in us all. The idea that a superhero movie could generate real drama and evoke powerful emotions almost seems like a subversion of the underlying appeal of the genre.

It’s for that reason that “Avengers: Infinity War” is so special. It doesn’t just build around the appeal of all these iconic characters, most of which are older than the actors and actresses playing them. It crafts a story that takes all the emotional stakes that had been set up in other movies and pushes them to the absolute limit.

The emotional journey that began in “Iron Man” and “The Avengers” comes to a head in a way that’s both definitive and powerful. There’s no more teasing surrounding Thanos, the Infinity Stones, and all the agendas surrounding them, many of which began in the earliest phases of the MCU. The stakes are clear, the threat is there, and the battles surrounding both are appropriately epic.

Beyond just the spectacle, though, “Avengers: Infinity War” succeeds in what might be the most important aspect for a movie of this scope and scale. The story and the high-octane clashes that fuel it all unfold in a way that makes the last decade of Marvel movies feel even more relevant.

Marvel big-wigs like Kevin Feige love to say it’s all connected. Well, “Avengers: Infinity War” strengthens those connections. Suddenly, the plots involving the infinity stones, going all the way back to “Captain America” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” matter that much more.

All those plots gain much greater weight as Thanos fights to retrieve all six stones. Now, all the triumphs and failures of these characters more weight. These characters we’ve been cheering for and connecting with now have to push themselves beyond their limits. The end result is an experience that hits as hard as a punch by the Hulk.

Beyond the connections created by the past ten years of Marvel movies, “Avengers: Infinity War” succeeds in another important way. It crafts the conflict around a powerful, compelling villain. After seeing the movie, I think most would agree that Thanos really steals the show and not just because Josh Brolin’s voice gives us all the right shivers.

It was probably the biggest challenge of this movie, beyond having to build it around a decade of overarching plot points. This movie needed to make Thanos more than just a daunting threat. It had to make him compelling. Given his colorful history in the comics, that was more challenging than most non-comic fans realize.

Thanos needed to be adapted, to some extent, in order for him to work. He couldn’t just be this mad, death-obsessed monster. In a universe that has birthed compelling villains like Loki and Erik Killmonger, he has to have some level of complexity. “Avengers: Infinity War” gives him more than any CGI-generated character could ever hope for.

It’s not just that Thanos is menacing, powerful, and able to subdue the Hulk. It’s that he has a clear, unambiguous motivation. He’s very overt about what he’s doing and why he’s doing it. What makes it all the more remarkable is that he finds a way to justify it that doesn’t come off as outright villainous. I would argue that he justifies his actions are better than any other villain in the MCU.

That doesn’t just make Thanos compelling, as both a character and a villain. It helps create moments that establish he’s not just some overwhelming force of evil. He’s a being who has feelings and emotions. Even in the comics, Thanos is a very emotion-driven character. The emotions, in this case, are directed towards something other than wanting to hook up with the living embodiment of death.

As menacing as Thanos is, though, he’s driven by his passions and those passions push him to the kinds of extremes that make all villains so dangerous. It’s not the same kind of greed and ego that makes Lex Luthor’s villainy so overt. As a result, the Avengers have to tap into their own passions to stop him.

This brings out the best in them as well. There are moments between Iron Man, Spider-Man, Vision, the Scarlet Witch, Starlord, Gamora, and Thor that really elevate the drama. There are moments of romance, building on romantic sub-plots from previous movies. There are moments of heart-wrenching loss, more so than any other Marvel movie to date. Most importantly, though, those moments carry weight and impact.

That, more than anything, is what makes “Avengers: Infinity War” a special cinematic experience that was worth waiting a decade for. To some extent, the movie makes clear that it needed those ten years to build up the drama and story. It also needed those ten years to make us, the audience, really care about all these characters. That way, when the final credits roll, we all feel the true breadth of that impact.

You could, in theory, still watch “Avengers: Infinity War” without having seen any other Marvel movie or superhero movie, in general. Even in that context, it’s still a great movie full of action, drama, and memorable moments featuring gods, super soldiers, and talking raccoons. However, without all the movies that came before it and all the connections from them, it just doesn’t carry the same weight.

If “Avengers: Infinity War” has any flaws, it’s that. To truly appreciate the impact of the movie, it’s necessary to know and somewhat care about the other movies in the MCU that helped set it up. Without that, the movie is just another spectacle. It’s still an amazing spectacle full of quality acting and stunning effects. It just relies so much on the foundation that other movies have crafted.

I’ve no problem saying that “Avengers: Infinity War” is one of the greatest superhero movies ever made. It may very well go onto become the highest-grossing superhero movie of all time. However, it’s not without flaws. They are very minor, but they are there.

If there’s one glaring flaw in this masterful superhero saga, though, it’s that the movie is clearly organized to be in two parts. Like “Kill Bill” or the latest “Star Wars” trilogy, the story is incomplete, by necessity. As a result, the ending feels abrupt. It’s still more impactful than gut punch by an army of Hulks, but it’s one of those endings that never comes off as an endpoint.

This movie is presented very much in the mold of “The Empire Strikes Back” in that it hits the heroes hard, allows the villains to make devastating gains, and really raises the stakes for the sequel. Just as that movie made you want to see Luke Skywalker battle Dearth Vader again, “Avengers: Infinity War” makes you want to see the Avengers take down Thanos.

There’s so many things to love about “Avengers: Infinity War” and what it managed to accomplish. It is definitely a historic achievement for movies and the superhero genre, as a whole. If I had to score it, I’d give it a 9.5 out of 10. It’s not perfect because it’s incomplete, but it’s as close to perfect as anything can get after ten years of build-up.

The wait was long and agonizing, but so worth it. The wait for “Avengers 4” will likely be agonizing as well, but Marvel Studios has made a glorious habit of rewarding such patience so I certainly don’t mind waiting. “Avengers: Infinity War” once again raised the bar. I look forward to seeing how Marvel and Disney raise it again.

4 Comments

Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes, Movie Reviews

The following is my review for Venomized #1 that I wrote for PopMatters. Enjoy!

The Poison and Perils of Symbiotic Plots in Marvel’s ‘Venomized #1’

Leave a comment

April 6, 2018 · 10:42 am

When Love (And Lust) Is Genuine

https://i1.wp.com/infinitehuman.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/DivineLove670X440-1.jpg

Does she love me?

Does she love you?

Is our love real?

Is the sex good?

Is the sex really that good?

Is this love the real deal?

These are all questions I’m sure everyone has asked themselves at some point. If not, then chances are you’ll ask yourselves these questions at some point in the future. Sometimes you may not even ask them with a completely sober mind and I’m not just talking about shots of tequila.

Love, lust, and everything in between is a beautiful thing. It’s one of the most powerful experiences we can have as human beings. In fact, according to research from MIT, being in love can produce a high similar to that of cocaine. In another life, maybe Pablo Escobar could’ve been the ultimate love guru. I guess we’ll never know.

I know I say it a lot, but it’s worth saying again, especially for a topic like this. We are a very social species. The human race thrived, despite bodies that were easily crushed by hungry bears, because we could collaborate and cooperate. We worked together, shared resources, and made beautiful love that resulted in more humans. Now, we’re the most dominant species on the planet. Bears just cannot make that claim.

As beautiful as it is, sometimes the answers to those questions are tragic, if not downright heartbreaking. It does happen. Sometimes the love two people have isn’t real. Sometimes the lust they feel is fake. Sometimes the sex is only a minor step above having someone watch while you masturbate. The challenge is finding out how to answer these questions.

I bring up this topic because I recently got into an interesting discussion with some people on a comic book message board. Now in general, I try to avoid most of the discussions on message boards. I’ve found that over 95 percent of them involve fans whining about the current situation in their favorite comics and how they hate it so much, but not enough to stop talking about it.

Every now and then, though, there will be a more meaningful conversation. I really enjoy being part of that conversation because it brings out some interesting perspectives. A lot of those perspectives can apply to real life, even in comics that involve clones, time travel, and poop jokes. Yes, I’m referring about Deadpool.

Specifically, the conversation I had involved a discussion about how genuine the love and romantic chemistry is between two particular characters. In this case, one of those characters was Spider-Man, whose romantic history is almost as vast as Wolverine’s. While I do criticize Spider-Man for being an incompetent hero, the man is still pretty good when it comes to getting laid. For that, I do respect him.

However, like a lot of comic book characters and real people, his love life is subject to a lot of variations. There are times when his emotions are not entirely sincere. By that, I mean he’s with someone because they’re there. That’s it. Then, there are times when he really does love someone, enough to marry them and make a deal with a devil with them. Like I said, there’s a lot of range with Spider-Man.

Sometimes it’s hard to make sense of these situations. Within the discussion I had, there were all sorts of conflicting opinions about just how sincere Spider-Man was and how much potential the relationship actually had. For every one person in the discussion, there were at least five different opinions, including my own.

Comic book fans are notoriously stubborn for how their characters are portrayed, but when it comes to our love lives, the stakes are a bit higher. In the discussion, I noticed a few common themes that set genuine love apart from the kind of love that end with Spider-Man getting his ass kicked by the Green Goblin.

One of those elements is luck. I know that doesn’t sound very romantic, but it’s an unavoidable function of life. Sometimes you’re in the right situation at the right time to take advantage of something, be it love or a winning lotto ticket. You can’t always control it, but it happens.

With respect to genuine love, though, luck plays a very specific role. If a relationship relies on luck to work, then that relationship is basically a reverse lottery. Over time, the odds just aren’t in anyone’s favor. The Law of Averages is both a harsh mistress and an outright sadomasochist. Spider-Man finds that out on a regular basis with how badly his relationships turn out, often due to forces he can’t control.

In addition to luck, there’s also the chemistry aspect. This is much sexier and much more romantic than luck. There’s no question about that. It’s also one of the hardest component to really nail down.

We all understand what romantic and sexual chemistry is to some extent. If two people are drawn together and struggle to keep their clothes on around each other, that’s a sign of pretty potent chemistry. Like real chemistry, though, some mixtures are more potent than others. Some are downright volatile.

If the chemistry is restricted to lust, then that’ll make for some hot sex. However, it won’t make for much else. Now I’ve got nothing against hot sex. It’s a wonderful part of being human. It can just be shallow and crude though. It can be a key ingredient for sexual chemistry, but it can’t be the only ingredient.

Add love to the mix and that’s where the potency shows. Genuine love complements one another. Genuine love involves two people cooperating, sacrificing, and sharing on a level that you just don’t do with a total stranger. Genuine love is usually equal for the most part. It’s rarer than hot sex, but beautiful. It even shows up in an X-men comic every now and then.

Lastly, one key element in genuine love involves reasons and excuses. I know this isn’t very sexy either, but it’s a necessary practical element of love. It can be either the glue or the napalm that binds/destroys a relationship.

Specifically, it deals with the how and why two people are involved in the first place. If they’re in an arranged marriage, which still happens a lot these days, then that’s a fairly unambiguous reason. If they’re together because they just don’t want to be alone, then that’s not much of a reason. That’s more of an excuse.

Sometimes Spider-Man is just with someone because they’re part of his life. They happen to cross paths with him both in and out of the mask. That’s often the case with characters like the Black Cat, whose about as genuine as a very hungry, very horny wolf. It rarely makes for a very genuine connection.

Sometimes two people start out as friends and the connection deepens. This often happens in a lot of teen movies and sitcoms, but it happens in real life too so it’s not entirely flawed like most movie tropes. That can sometimes be a solid foundation for genuine love.

There are also cases where two people are together purely for pragmatic reasons. A beautiful woman is with a man because he’s rich. A man is with a beautiful woman because she’s sexy. Sometimes people are just friends with benefits. That does happen and can work, despite what an Ashton Kutcher movie may claim.

That doesn’t mean pragmatism is necessarily genuine though. If two people are together because not being together would be too much work or too inconvenient, that’s not genuine. That’s just plain lazy. If two people are together because one has a great deal of leverage over the other, then that’s not genuine either. That’s exploitation.

Overall, there are a lot of components that go into a genuine romance and, without spoiling too much of the discussion I had, Spider-Man sucks at it. Characters like Superman, Wonder Woman, and even Starfire, to some extent, have a much better track record.

In the real world and throughout history, you’ll find plenty of examples of genuine love. They don’t always make for great stories or good erotica/romance, but that doesn’t make them any less genuine. In the end, genuine love combined with genuine lust makes for the best and sexiest connections. Not everyone can find it, but that’s what makes it so precious.

Leave a comment

Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights

How NOT To Market Comic Books: A Marvelous Cautionary Tale

Let’s face it. We all make mistakes. We all do dumb things. We’re all just one “reply all” button away from humiliating ourselves and undermine our entire professional career. One time, I accidentally washed my hair with shaving cream instead of shampoo. It made me feel pretty stupid, but at least it happened in the shower and in private.

It’s only when we make mistakes that become public shit storms that we really agonize over our mistakes. For most people, that’s difficult enough, but usually manageable, provided you avoid the “reply all” button and don’t watch porn at the office.

For celebrities, it’s like walking on egg shells on top of land mines on top of hungry lions. If Taylor Swift accidentally washed her hair with shaving cream and did it on camera, it would blow up Twitter and turn into a week-long national scandal. We envy a lot of things about celebrities, but nobody should envy that circus act.

https://i2.wp.com/akns-images.eonline.com/eol_images/Entire_Site/2015718/rs_560x415-150818105404-1024-taylor-swift-performance.jpg

Then, there are the non-celebrities who still find a way to make their minor mistake into a national shit storm. Taylor Swift doing something that blows up the internet is kind of an inevitability. A non-celebrity creating that kind of shit storm is an accomplishment.

A man named David Gabriel found that out the hard way last week. Who is David Gabriel, you ask? He’s not a celebrity. He’s not a pop star. He’s not even a famous internet meme. He’s the Vice President of sales at Marvel Comics, a company that’s very important to me as an admitted comic book fan.

It’s a job that’s probably much less glamorous than it sounds. He’s tasked with selling products that include iconic heroes, women dressed in skin-tight costumes, and talking raccoons. His products couldn’t sell themselves better without being laced with nicotine.

 

https://static.comicvine.com/uploads/original/14/145984/3419084-rocket_raccoon_by_crazymic-d64dqay.jpg

Despite this advantage, Mr. Gabriel’s job has been a lot tougher recently. Overall, Marvel’s sales and overall share of the comic book market has been declining for the past couple of years. That’s somewhat odd, given how Marvel’s movies have made more money than the gross national product of some countries.

Now the reasons for this decline are too numerous and too unsexy for me to cover in a single blog post or multiple blog posts, for that matter. The real story here comes back to David Gabriel, a man whose job it is to figure out why the company he works for isn’t swimming in a fresh pile of money every year.

What’s his explanation for the sales decline? Well, if you thought you’ve ever screwed up badly at your job, take a deep breath and put your feet up. You’re about to feel a lot better about yourself because this is what Mr. Gabriel said in an interview ICv2:

Now the million-dollar question.  Why did those tastes change?

I don’t know if that’s a question for me.  I think that’s a better question for retailers who are seeing all publishers.  What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity.  They didn’t want female characters out there.  That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not.  I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales.

We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against.  That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.

The bold parts are my doing because it’s the bold parts that got made David Gabriel the most hated, non-politician man on the internet for a week. Comic book fans, movie fans, and fans of people who publicly screw themselves all took the time to jump in and pile on a man who probably didn’t fully realize what he was saying.

https://i1.wp.com/www.kiddnation.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/foot-in-mouth-header.jpg

On the surface, the words themselves don’t mean much. Marvel made a push for greater diversity in its comics. I even covered some of the issues that came up during this push. That push didn’t work as well as they’d hoped. Compared to the efforts of DC Comics with their “Rebirth” initiative, there was a lot of room for improvement.

This is where Mr. Gabriel’s internal filter failed him. He looked at the situation, tried to make sense of it, and came up with something that indirectly insulted comic book fans and non-comic book fans alike. I get what he was trying to say, pointing out that the response to their diversity push wasn’t what Marvel had hoped. He just ended up saying way more, if not way too much.

Indirect or not, we’re living in an age where anything you say can and will be misconstrued as bigoted, sexist, racist, homophobic, or anything else associated with the republican party. With Mr. Gabriel’s comments, it didn’t take much for anyone with a Twitter feed to twist his words appropriately.

The implications are as apparent as they are misguided. Comic book fans don’t want diversity. They just want to read comics about the same old white guys who save beautiful women in bikinis that they’ve been reading since the Kennedy Administration. If a character is black, female, or does any that straight white men don’t approve of, then they’re not interested.

Again, that’s the implication. That’s not the actual substance of Mr. Gabriel’s words, but that doesn’t matter anymore. It doesn’t even matter if he meant something else entirely. The angry, politically correct whims of the internet and social media has spoken. David Gabriel and comic book fans are in league with the white male fascist order that’s intent on making the world one big sitcom from the 1950s.

That last part was sarcasm, by the way. I know it doesn’t take much to kick up a shit storm of outrage these days, but I feel like I have to cover my ass with an adamantium plate. There are too many people in the world who just can’t resist a good dose of whining.

Naturally, Mr. Gabriel’s remarks triggered a week-long sideshow where everyone weighed in to voice their outrage, even if they weren’t comic book fans. Most of the outrage was pretty standard. It can usually be boiled down to the following remarks:

“HOW DARE YOU ACCUSE OF US BIGOTRY!”

“HOW DARE YOU TRY TO SPEAK FOR ALL COMIC BOOK FANS!”

“HOW DARE YOU IMPLY THAT DIVERSITY IS A BAD THING!”

“HA! YOU ADMIT YOU’RE A RACIST, BIGOTED, HOMOPHOBE!”

No less than 95 percent of all reactions can be boiled down to something of that nature. One side claims the other is being a bigot/racist/insert-minority-hating-term-here. The other side claims Mr. Gabriel is wrong, stupid, and doesn’t speak for the majority of comic book fans. Somewhere in between the shit storm are just people who want to read awesome comics. They’re basically stuck smelling this stench.

I can already spoil how this is going to play out. The outrage will continue to be a controversy for a while. Then, something else will come along that’ll start another outrage-fueled shit-storm about racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. After that, David Gabriel will go back to being a nobody who wouldn’t be recognized if he had a two-foot cock plated in gold. I’m sure that day can’t come fast enough for him.

It’s not just human nature. It’s part of the system/flaws in marketing. People have very short attention spans. Unless it affects their livelihood, they get bored pretty easily. People are also very selective with their outrage. It doesn’t matter how asinine or misguided it is, even if it’s something as simple as a Halloween costume. Outrage is inherently irrational.

It’s an important, albeit bittersweet lesson for anyone looking to market anything in a day where we’re all just one offensive hashtag away from a really bad week. Since I’m trying to sell my own books and preparing to launch my first published book, it’s a lesson worth learning.

We don’t live in an age where a bad add or an off-hand remark can be swept under the rug or forgotten. We live in an age where everybody has a camera and a recorder in their pocket. We live in an age where anything you say or do can be misconstrued in any number of wholly ridiculous ways.

Whether you’re a straight white man working for Marvel or a black transgender lesbian working for BET, your words and actions can and well be skewed if you’re not careful. Professional trolls like Ann Coulter, Lena Dunham, Michael Moore, and Milo Yiannopoulos can get away with it. Most people trying to make a decent, honorable living can’t.

Now I believe that David Gabriel is as decent a person as the rest of us. I don’t think he believes that diversity is a bad thing in comic books or anything else in life. He just made the mistake of saying a certain sequence of words that evoked a knee-jerk reaction from a public that’s more and more sensitive to anything remotely bigoted, regardless of how valid that sentiment might be.

These are strange and volatile times. Today, the worst thing you can be is opposed to diversity. Marvel Comics is behind the curve, unfortunately, because so many of their iconic characters were created at a time when the market almost exclusively favored straight white men. They can’t undo that or the legacy that helped build their company, even if a new generation of politically correct hippies despise that.

If I could say one thing to David Gabriel, I would say, “Take a step back, open a cold beer, and just wait for everybody to get bored being upset with you.” Hell, I’d even buy him the beer.

Even as we forget about David Gabriel and what he said when he underestimated the internet’s capacity for outrage, there will be others like him who fall flat on their face in their effort to sell their products to a public that’ll jump at any reason to get outraged. It’s a challenge, and an annoying one at that, but it’s challenges that make us stronger.

That’s why I still have high hopes for the future of Marvel comics. It’s also why I have hopes for the future of my novels. I doubt I’ll sell anything as well as Marvel sells its comics, but if I can do that without generating misguided outrage, I’ll know I’ve done it right.

2 Comments

Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights

How To Be An Effective Superhero

This is a direct follow-up to my previous post about why modern superheroes are inherently incompetent and designed to stay that way. I felt I needed to scrutinize the cracks in the foundation, so to speak, before I get around to discussing the stuff build on top of it. That will help make the discussion in this post more relevant and concise.

Even without the context of my previous post, it’s not hard to understand or even acknowledge that so many superheroes are inept, irresponsible, and incompetent at their jobs. Their villains always escape. Their friends/lovers/parents always die/suffer. The world they want to better never changes. It’s a flaw in the system as much as it is an exercise in futility.

Now, I’d like to take a step back, acknowledge the forest from the trees, and offer a solution of sorts. As I’ve done with other issues, I don’t just like to point out flaws. I like to offer viable solutions. Those solutions may not be practical or possible at the moment, but I try to make sure that the concept is sound.

https://i1.wp.com/www.chapter3blog.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/super-hero-500x300.jpg

I’d like to apply that method to superheroes now. By that, I mean I’d like to create a guide of sorts that helps establish the tactics, strategies, and ethics of being a competent, effective superhero. I say this knowing that it could never work in any comic book or major movie. This is mostly just an exercise in the actual pragmatics of superheroes.

First off, let’s establish some guidelines for a prototypical hero that would utilize these tactics. In order for them to work, they have to meet a certain criteria. Here’s a quick list of what that may include:

  • The goal of the hero is to reduce crime, confront injustice, and undermine corruption

  • The hero has a concerted interest in protecting as many innocent people as possible

  • The strategy in question cannot rely on the use of certain superpowers, although the use of superpowers can help supplement the strategy

  • The strategy is equally usable by male, female, and alien characters

  • The hero in question is willing to operate in a manner outside the framework of traditional law enforcement

  • The hero in question is willing to cross a certain set of moral lines, but only to an extent

I’m sure there are other ways to refine and supplement this list, but for now, this is what I’ll use in devising my strategy. In order to ensure that its applicable, heroes like Batman, Spider-Man, and Daredevil must be equally capable of implementing it.

Keep in mind, though, that some heroes have goals that go beyond just administering justice. Characters like Superman and the X-men have other goals, some of which goes beyond justice. I’ll save those goals for another post. For now, I intend to focus on the traditional superhero goal of justice and countering evil.

https://leadershipspirit.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/hero-leaders.jpg?w=500

In order to formulate this strategy, it’s also important to acknowledge a few unpleasant truths that would make Superman and Captain America cry. By that, I mean that the strategy cannot, for practical means, rely heavily on ideals. This is supposed to apply to the real world and, unfortunately, the real world is extremely unforgiving when it comes to ideals. Just ask Bernie Sanders.

So if we’re going to create a strategy that operates in the real world, we must make sure it accounts for the eccentricities of human psychology. It must utilize caveman logic and pass the Simpson filter. It can’t be too concerned with the nuts and bolts of people and why they do the crazy things they do. It must focus exclusively on results.

Does your brain hurt yet? Are you wondering if I’m asking you to contemplate dry water, a one-handed clap, or a decent Fantastic Four movie? Bear with me because there is a strategy that checks all these boxes. It’s a strategy I came up with thanks to two books, “Freakanomics” and “How To Fail At Everything And Still Win Big.”

https://i0.wp.com/freakonomics.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Freakonomics-Paperback-298x450.jpg

I’ve read both these books over the past few years and I’m a big fan of their style. They dig deep into the hidden intricacies of how the world works and challenges readers to think about how doing things in new and novel ways. Seeing as how I have the kind of imagination that links robots with a dominatrix, they fit my unique mentality perfectly.

For the purposes of this discussion, I want to cite an article that the authors of “Freakanamics” wrote a number of years ago on terrorism. Basically, with a gross negligence to the high emotions that come with terrorism, the authors used their understanding of economics and human behavior to come up with the most cost-effective way to conduct terrorism. What they came up with was pretty damn terrifying.

My general view of the world is that simpler is better. My guess is that this thinking applies to terrorism as well. In that spirit, the best terrorist plan I have heard is one that my father thought up after the D.C. snipers created havoc in 2002. The basic idea is to arm 20 terrorists with rifles and cars, and arrange to have them begin shooting randomly at pre-set times all across the country. Big cities, little cities, suburbs, etc. Have them move around a lot. No one will know when and where the next attack will be. The chaos would be unbelievable, especially considering how few resources it would require of the terrorists. It would also be extremely hard to catch these guys. The damage wouldn’t be as extreme as detonating a nuclear bomb in New York City, of course; but it sure would be a lot easier to obtain a handful of guns than a nuclear weapon.

Think about that for a moment. If terrorists used a tactic like this, how much fear and dread would it inflict on our daily lives? If those terrorists were even marginally competent, then it would be even scarier. No matter what we did, we would dread that we would be a victim and it wouldn’t be entirely misguided.

This is where “How To Fail At Everything And Still Win Big” comes in. That book talks heavily about how stress and uncertainty affect people. It also teaches on how you can use that to your advantage. It makes painfully clear that the human brain is an irrational device with faulty wiring that hasn’t been updated in 200,000 years. If you’re going to influence it, then you might as well exploit those quirks.

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51sqVXNWHhL._SY445_QL70_.jpg

With these two principles in mind, we can formulate a strategy for our prospective superhero. If utilized, then the criminals, villains, and future threats they face will either be defeated, deterred, or nullified.


  • The hero operates in complete secrecy, working at night or under a different identity. If the hero uses a uniform, then that uniform must not be identifiable or have some sort of stealth feature

This first part of the strategy is simple and not entirely new. Characters like Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles utilize some form of stealth. They operate in the shadows and generally avoid being seen.

Some heroes are even more well-equipped than others. Characters like Solid Snake from the “Metal Gear Solid” video games utilize a stealth suit that utilizes camouflage. Characters like Mystique can shape-shift into looking like someone else. This makes it easier for them to utilize this tactic, but someone as resourceful as Batman could use it just as well.

However, there’s room for improvement.


  • The hero must not have an identifiable name or make themselves known to the media in any way or coordinate with the media. They must, at all costs, avoid creating an identifiable persona

This is where Batman, Spider-Man, and pretty much any hero with a publicly-known name fails. The issue isn’t the name itself. The issue is that by having a name and having some kind of media exposure, they create a tangible, identifiable target.

From a practical perspective, that’s a big problem. That means enemies, be they a mugger or Lex Luthor, have someone they can target and identify. Entire teams of enemies, like the Legion of Doom or the Sinister Six, can rally around a common enemy. That makes enemies stronger and no strategy can succeed with that.


  • The hero must conduct detailed surveillance on villains and criminals, know their crimes and how they connect with others, and focus on those who are high in rank and influence

This is another tactic that most heroes already use to some extent. Batman is probably the most well-known. He uses his detective skills to determine who is a threat, how big a threat they are, and how to go after them. Other heroes, like the Avengers or the Justice League, generally have some type of monitoring system to determine pending threats.

This strategy requires the kind of extensive intelligence and understanding that someone like Batman could appreciate. When Batman determines that someone is a big threat, he’s almost always right. Any hero using this strategy must have similar certainty. Knowing the threat is the first step towards actually defeating it. That’s just a basic rule of war.


  • The hero must defeat their villains/enemies/criminals by making them disappear without a trace, either by killing them and destroying the body or by sending them into a domain from which they can never escape

This is where the strategy conflicts with nearly every major hero, especially the Batmans and Supermans of the comic book world. For the most part, the heroes avoid killing. It’s seen as an ideal. Taking a life is seen as morally abhorrent and for good reason.

However, that moral absolution ends when those same villains, such as the Jokers and Green Goblins of the world, live on to torment again. Despite defeating these villains multiple times, the heroes never do anything to end them. They try and try to lock them away in a prison cell, but they just keep escaping. From a moral standpoint, the suffering those villains inflict is on the heroes’ shoulders.

For most heroes, this means killing is unavoidable. It’s the only sure-fire way to ensure that a villain is never a threat again. For more resourceful/powerful heroes, there are other options like shrinking them to the size of atoms like Ant Man or sending them into the far-distant future, as Superman did with Doomsday.

However, it’s not enough to just kill a villain or enemy in this instance. Superheroes have killed before. Some, like the Punisher, kill a lot, but it still backfires in the long run. Why is that? Well, that’s where the next part strategy comes in.


  • The hero must make sure that nobody knows the villains they kill or disappear are dead, must never take credit for their disappearance, and must do everything possible to disconnect themselves from the villain

This is where even the brutal tactics of the Punisher fail. It’s also where the Freakanomic strategy comes in. The problem with the Punisher’s harsh methods isn’t that they’re harsh or that they result in a lot of killing. The problem is that they give the villains another rallying cry.

The Punisher’s enemies knows he kills. The Punisher usually likes to make clear that he’s the one who killed their associates. While this may shock and horrify some of them, it also has the effect of rallying them against a common enemy. Whether someone is a criminal or a hero, giving your enemies a common threat to rally behind is always a bad idea.

This is why the Punisher’s methods often fail in the long run. Criminals may fear him, but they know he’s responsible. The threat they’re up against has a face. There is a target for them to direct their fear and anger. This means that the criminals and enemies of the hero know who to fight against and in the long run, that never works out for the hero.


  • The hero must make sure that the villains, their allies, and their enemies don’t know why others are disappearing and must never make themselves known. Most importantly, they must make sure the villains are free to make wrong, misguided decisions

Here is where the methods of Scott Adams intersect with “Freakanomics.” In “How To Fail At Everything And Still Win Big,” Adams constantly talks about how people are at the mercy of their caveman brains. When they’re uncertain or anxious about something, they’re prone to making bad decisions for bad reasons. Make too many of those decisions and you tend to doom yourself to failure.

With this method, the hero must make sure that the villain is free and able to keep making those decisions that will ensure they defeat themselves. This is why it’s so important to make sure that the villain never knows that the hero is even fighting against them. They can’t have a mask, a costume, or a symbol to rally against. If it’s one big unknown, then their irrational caveman brains will do the rest.

The Norman Osborns and Lex Luthors of the world will start making up their own targets, irrationally lashing out at what they think is the source of the threat. The hero, for the most part, just needs to sit back and watch it unfold. Let them attack their rivals, make new enemies, and falter under the pressure. So long as they don’t know who or what they’re fighting against, their paranoia will eventually work against them.

In the long run, the villains will lose. They’ll end up dead. They’ll get caught. Most importantly, from the hero’s perspective, they’ll never know who to blame or why. That’s a scary thought, even for a hardened criminal. Nothing scares people more than the unknown.


  • The hero must never seek any kind of recognition, adulation, or compensation for their deeds

This is the final part of the strategy and, arguably, the most important. The problem with characters like Batman and Superman are that they want to be symbols. They want to be recognized for their efforts. Practically speaking, that’s a mistake.

By being symbols, they give their enemies a clear target and something to rally around. No matter how good the hero is at their job, they still make themselves a target. No matter how many villains they defeat, more will emerge and more will know who to fight.

Remove that symbolism. Remove the recognition. Remove the masks, costumes, and iconography of a hero and suddenly, the world of villains is very scary. They don’t know who to fight. They just know that by doing what they do, they could disappear without a trace and never be heard from again.

That’s more terrifying than any torture or punishment because their caveman brains will fill in the blanks with the worst they can conjure.


This caps off my official perfect superhero strategy. To date, no hero in a comic book uses these tactics and for good reason. If it were a comic book, it wouldn’t be very interesting because the outcome would be too final. The hero would be too competent and that’s just not very interesting.

Remove the need for sales, lunch boxes, and porn parodies and imagine how this strategy could work. Say there’s a superhero that wants to take down organized crime. Say that hero has the power of Superman or the Flash. Using their abilities, they quickly locate the top level bosses and associates of these criminals and just make them disappear.

There’s no body. There’s no trace. There’s no police report. There’s no trial. They just disappear. Not knowing who to fight, the criminals start attacking others they think are responsible. When they don’t know who, they just pick random people they think are enemies.

https://spiceaddictionsupport.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/paranoid-delusions.jpeg

This makes them more enemies, both from other criminals and law enforcement. No matter what they do, anyone who becomes a boss just disappears and they don’t know why. As a result, nobody even wants to be a crime boss anymore. The organizations just collapse on their own. Criminals still disappear, ensuring even low-level criminals have an incentive to stop. In the long run, the hero accomplishes what they set out to do.

It works with criminals. It works with those who are corrupt. It exploits the quirks of human nature, but also relies on the traits that make us function as a species. Again, it’s a tactic that I doubt any major heroes with movie rights could ever use. However, if they really do care about results, then this is the best way to go. Spider-Man should take notes.

4 Comments

Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes

Why Spider-Man May Be The Most Incompetent Hero Of All Time

https://jackfisherbooks.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/4f8a2-1420239869401.png?w=500

Whenever I talk about comic books and superheroes on this blog, I generally try not to single one particular character out unless I’m trying to make a point. I find that singling out one too many characters is like pointing out all the plot holes in a Michael Bay movie. It just becomes too frustrating and futile in the long run.

That means if I’m going to dedicate a post to a character, it better be for a damn good reason. They must be a uniquely compelling sex-positive female character or a potential prelude for future female villains. Well, after talking about why most superheroes are incompetent by design, I feel compelled to single out one particular character who is, within this context, the worst offender.

That character isn’t some obscure, little-known sidekick from a bygone era either. In this case, the worst case of inept superheroes who take their incompetence to the next level is one of the most recognizable superheroes of the past 50 years. He’s had multiple movies, multiple cartoons, and multiple actors play him with varying degrees of success and/or failure.

Image result for Tobey Maguire Dancing gif

Yes, I’m talking about Spider-Man, also known as Peter Parker. He is, by far, the most recognizable and iconic of Stan Lee’s many creations. He’s also, by a ridiculous margin, the most profitable superhero in terms of merchandise sales. He makes enough money for Marvel every year for them to eat caviar every day off diamond-encrusted gold plates.

So why, then, is he so incompetent as a hero? Why is Marvel’s most iconic character a case study in how not to operate as a superhero? Well, some of it has to do with the built-in incompetence I mentioned before. Spider-Man can’t be too competent, otherwise his overall narrative just wouldn’t be as compelling and his toys wouldn’t sell.

However, compared to the many other orphaned heroes who get their powers through accident or tragedy, Spider-Man sets himself apart by not just screwing himself over, but also by undermining the very principles of power and responsibility that he espouses. That doesn’t just make him an incompetent hero. It just makes him misguided, albeit not on purpose.

So what exactly makes Spider-Man inept by both the standards of a superhero and the standards that he sets on himself? Well, that has everything to do with his tactics and how he goes about them. If you’ve ever read a Spider-Man comic, seen a Spider-Man movie, or watched a Spider-Man cartoon, you know those tactics well. It goes like this:

  • Someone commits a crime
  • Peter Parker springs into action, putting on his costume and mask
  • Spider-Man fights the criminal, making jokes and quips along the way
  • The criminal whines and complains about how he’s ruining their master plan
  • The fight plays out and Spider-Man wins
  • Spider-Man ties the criminal up with his webs for the police
  • Spider-Man goes back to being Peter Parker and uses the pictures he takes of himself to make a living

This is Spider-Man’s primary method for dealing with crime and irresponsibility. It is the primary structure of every major battle he’s ever fought, be it the Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus, or Venom. While he wins/survives many of those battles, and even goes onto marry a supermodel for a while, it’s only when you step back and scrutinize the larger picture that you see how he loses his war against irresponsibility.

First and foremost, it’s important to establish that Spider-Man is one of those heroes who doesn’t kill. Like Superman and Batman, he goes out of his way to prevent the loss of life, be it innocent life or that of his enemy. That’s an understandable position to take. Killing is one of those unambiguous moral lines and many superheroes define their heroics by respecting that line.

For Spider-Man, however, this moral stand against killing is a major liability and the catalyst for his ineptitude. Granted, it’s not intentional, but the byproducts are unavoidable and those close to him have suffered as a result. Just ask Gwen Stacy.

Now I’m not saying Spider-Man is directly responsible for such suffering. Like all heroes, his intentions are good. He wants to help people. He wants to save lives. The problem is that, with his tactics, he’s doomed to hurt far more people than he helps.

This is because his tactics essentially guarantee that he will be a target, his loved ones will suffer, and his enemies will become stronger as a result. This isn’t just because Spider-Man refuses to kill them, although that is part of it. It’s because of the very persona that Spider-Man creates that his efforts are so inept.

Spider-Man, unlike Batman or Daredevil, doesn’t present a very intimidating presence. He’s many things, but intimidating isn’t one of them. His costume isn’t that intimidating. He doesn’t operate in the shadows or anything. He’s actually a well-known public figure, thanks largely to his own efforts and those of his boss, the ultimate blowhard that is J. Jonah Jameson.

This is a huge problem because it ensures that Spider-Man’s presence isn’t considered a major threat or danger to his enemies. He’s more of an annoyance or inconvenience. Whether they’re the Green Goblin or a simple mugger, they know Spider-Man isn’t going to kill them. He’s not even going to seriously wound them. He’ll just fight them, tie them up, and give them over to the police.

Even for those without access to overpaid lawyers, that’s not so much a threat as it is a frustration. On top of that, Spider-Man doesn’t really have meaningful conversations that get people to rethink their choices. He’s just cracks jokes, makes lewd comments, and generally carries himself with the maturity of a 13-year-old. Granted, this is part of his charm as a character, but it also ensures his tactics are doomed to fail.

It’s one thing to anger and annoy an enemy in the heat of battle. That can work to a hero’s advantage. However, the problems with Spider-Man manifest after the battle is over.

By annoying and angering his enemies, all he does is give them more incentive to fight him and hurt those he cares about. On top of that, he wears a flashy, distinct costume that’s easily recognizable in both night and broad daylight. It’s also well-known, thanks to his own efforts at taking pictures of himself and selling them to a newspaper.

Even before the era of smart phones and Twitter hacks, that’s putting a pretty big target on his back. He makes himself an identifiable figure on which his enemies can focus on. Even if they don’t know his identity, they know the source of their frustration. Since Spider-Man doesn’t scare them, they have every possible reason to fight him.

To make matters even worse, he gives his enemies a common threat to rally against. Anyone who knows anything about social psychology, or has just been to a Taylor Swift concert, knows that nothing unites people better than a common cause. He doesn’t just make his enemies stronger as individuals. He makes them stronger as a team. How is that responsible?

In essence, Spider-Man doesn’t intimidate his villains, doesn’t do anything to deter their irresponsible decisions, and gives them a common enemy to really around. If being responsible is deterring the kind of criminals that killed his Uncle Ben, then he’s the most irresponsible hero of all time.

I’m not saying Spider-Man has to start killing like the Punisher. I’m saying that his own tactics undermine his goals. Now you could make a similar criticism to characters like Batman or Daredevil because they don’t kill and their enemies constantly escape to torment them. However, there is one key difference that sets them apart.

Batman and Daredevil, despite their gaudy costumes, are intimidating. In fact, intimidation is a key tactic of theirs. Batman said it himself in the early scenes of “Batman Begins.” He seeks to strike fear in those that prey on the fearful. In this sense, he does succeed.

You could make the argument that because of Batman’s presence, there people in Gotham City who choose not to enter a life of crime. The prospect of dealing with Batman is scary. Fear is a powerful deterrent. Only the truly deranged criminals dare to enter this life and take on Batman. In that context, it makes perfect sense that the kind of villains he faces are the exceedingly deranged kind.

Spider-Man can’t make that claim. He can’t claim that he scares or intimidates people into not choosing a life of crime. If anything, his tactics may annoy ordinary people who wouldn’t otherwise consider such a life, but try it anyways just to shut him up or make a name for themselves.

Every hero is different. Every hero has their own set of tactics, goals, and ideals. However, no hero is as inept, incompetent, or irresponsible as Spider-Man. So long as he keeps doing what he’s doing, and Marvel has a huge financial interest in never allowing it to change, he’ll continue emboldening his enemies while guaranteeing that everyone around him suffers.

It’s both an irony and a tragedy. In his efforts to be responsible with his powers, Spider-Man conducts himself in the most irresponsible way possible. Even if it’s indirect and unintentional, the results are the same. He can still call himself a hero because of his principles. He just can’t call himself a very competent hero.

8 Comments

Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes