Tag Archives: X-men

How To NOT Screw Up The Deadpool Cartoon

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I thought about doing a post on this sooner. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, I got so caught up in talking about the prospect of a second sexual revolution that it kind of slipped my mind. For a subject that involves Deadpool, superhero comics, and a large potential for toilet humor, that’s quite a feat.

Then, as I gave it more thought, it became clear that this was something I had to do. I just couldn’t call myself a fan or an aspiring writer if I just let something like this fall to the wayside. I already set the precedent by doing it with “X-men Dark Phoenix.” Now, I’m doing it with Deadpool. Okay, that came out wrong…or did it? Sorry, I just couldn’t resist.

As I mentioned earlier this week, with a huge grin on my face and a boner in my pants, Deadpool is getting his own cartoon in 2018. After crushing any and all expectations at the box office, raking in $783 million despite an R-rating and a lot of dick jokes, how could Fox resist? That kind of money will be a lot of chimichangas.

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Deadpool will be joining FXX, a network that airs shows and cartoons that are distinctly not Disney. With shows like “Archer” and “The Americans,” this is a network that would’ve made Walt Disney faint, but he’d probably still watch. I’ve yet to meet anyone who can’t get some entertainment value out of “The Americans.”

It’s a network that isn’t afraid of raunchy humor and that’s a good thing too because Deadpool is nothing but raunchy. This is a man who tried to have sex with a female incarnation of death and flirts with Spider-Man. There’s just no way a guy like him could operate under Disney’s kid-friendly policies.

By all accounts, Deadpool has everything going for him. He has a successful movie, a fitting network, and Ryan Reynolds’ sex appeal. He couldn’t be in a better position without being in a hot tub at the Playboy Mansion. Even so, I’m not going to assume too much. Fox still has a mixed legacy when it comes to maximizing the X-men’s potential. I don’t want to keep reminding them of “Wolverine Origins,” but I will if I have to.

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In that spirit, I’m going to do for the Deadpool cartoon what I did for the upcoming “X-men: Dark Phoenix” movie. Namely, I’m going to make a short list of how to ensure this cartoon doesn’t suck.

Don’t get me wrong. I want this cartoon to be awesome. I want it to be every bit as awesome as the movie. However, I’ve learned through experience that establishing a floor is less frustrating than setting a high bar. By pointing out the pot-holes in a road, it’s easier to find your own path.

Deadpool, being the eccentric, walking poop joke that he is, can’t rely too heavily on guidance and standards. Between his style and his limited attention span, micromanaging might as well be his kryptonite. So with that in mind, here’s a short list of ways to not screw up the Deadpool cartoon.


Tip #1: Embrace Deadpool’s Crude Humor

This is actually a lesson Fox already learned the hard way. I know I said I didn’t want to keep reminding everyone of “Wolverine Origins,” but in this case it’s unavoidable. That movie had many problems, but the way it treated Deadpool, turning him into “Barakapool” as X-men fans call him, was at the top of the list.

While the movie was, at its core, a Wolverine movie, it completely robbed Deadpool of all his crazy quirks and crude humor. There were no dick jokes, gratuitous blood splatters, or inappropriate references to outdated pop culture memes. The movie tried way too hard to be PG-13 and that meant giving Deadpool the FCC treatment.

Naturally, it didn’t go over well. “Wolverine Origins” is widely regarded as the worst X-men movie of all time, so much so that Hugh Jackman almost quit the movie entirely. Conversely, “Deadpool” is widely praised as being the best X-men movie of all time and a big part of that success came from embracing Deadpool’s crude humor.

He’s quirky, erratic, crude, violent, and horny. He’s also fun, heroic, likable, and honorable when he needs to be. The movie captured all of these traits and didn’t give a damn if it meant an R-rating. It still worked beautifully and that’s what the cartoon needs to embody.


Tip #2: Craft Stories That Appeal To Adults (For The Most Part)

There was a time when comics, as a whole, were associated with kids. That time wasn’t too long ago either. When I was a kid, cartoons featuring comic characters were geared towards kids. The X-men, Spider-Man, Batman, and the Justice League were all branded as kids shows and that was their primary audience for the most part. Given the billions in merchandising these properties generate, that strategy clearly worked.

However, the kids who grew up loving those cartoons aren’t kids anymore. Their adults and the demographics have shifted considerably, creating large swaths of older consumers who seek more adult-themed material. With “My Little Pony” being the exception, the market is trending towards more adult stories.

At the moment, the comics featuring Deadpool and other major X-men characters are fairly mature. They aren’t exactly “Game of Thrones,” but they do address real-world issues that can make for some pretty iconic stories, some of which end up being big-budget blockbuster movies.

The cartoons, however, are not that mature. They’re the only part of the superhero marketing machine that hasn’t matured. There cartoons out there for Spider-Man and the Avengers, but they are so watered down and so censored in their plot that they’re unwatchable to any fan over the age of 7.

Deadpool can finally break that mold. Deadpool is already on a network that has adult cartoons like “Archer.” While Deadpool has shown up in other cartoons, he’s never been able to be his rude, crude self. This cartoon needs give him that chance. They need to let him joke about dicks, breasts, poop, and everything in between. That’s the only way to capture the true essence of Deadpool.


Tip #3: Keep The Cast Small And Stay Focused On Deadpool

This is an easy trap to fall into with any show, animated or otherwise. Every successful show needs a strong supporting cast. Sometimes, that cast can be pretty damn big. Just look at all the supporting characters “The Simpsons” have gained over the years.

Deadpool may be unique in his love of dick jokes and Mexican food, but he’s had a solid supporting cast throughout his history. Most notably, he’s been closely associated with other established X-men characters like Cable, as well as certain superhero teams like X-Force.

These are all elements that could fit into a cartoon more effectively than the movie. It was a running joke with the movie on how low the budget was. At $58 million, it cost $17 million less than the first X-men movie and that’s in 2000 dollars. It couldn’t have too large a cast because it just didn’t have the money.

As a result, the movie made every character count. With animation, however, there’s more flexibility. Fox could utilize even the most obscure X-men characters, like Doop. Given the sheer size of the X-men mythos, the temptation will definitely be there to throw in as many characters as possible into this cartoon.

Fox needs to resist that temptation as best it can. It needs to focus solely on Deadpool and only a handful of supporting characters. If the number of characters in the cast ever exceeds the number of fingers on both hands, then the cast is too bloated. This isn’t an X-men cartoon that focuses on a team. It’s a Deadpool cartoon that focuses on Deadpool. That should be a given, but it’s still worth belaboring.


Tip #4: Break The 4th Wall, But Don’t SHATTER It

It’s one of Deadpool’s most defining traits, more so than his iconic costume or love of tacos. He constantly breaks the fourth wall. For those of you who don’t know fancy Hollywood jargon, that means he talks to the audience. He knows he’s a comic book character. He understands he’s part of a show and he embraces it.

He did it in the movie on multiple occasions, but not in “Wolverine Origins.” The critical and box office reception of both should tell you everything you need to know about how important this is. It’s one of Deadpool’s most defining traits and any cartoon has to include that.

However, like any defining trait, it can be overdone. Like Spider-Man’s origin story, something can be done to death. It can even totally derail the story. The “Ultimate Spider-Man” cartoon did a lot of fourth wall breaking early on and it made the stories insufferable at times.

In the comics, Deadpool’s fourth wall breaking is only sprinkled in every now and then. It’s usually an aside, never seriously affecting the flow of the story. It’s usually just a good way to throw in some extra laughs. That’s the approach the cartoon should use. Let Deadpool be Deadpool. Let him break the fourth wall. Just don’t let him break it to the point where it undermines the story.


There you have it. Like my list for the Dark Phoenix movie, I’ve no expectations that anyone from Fox or Marvel will ever read this list, let alone take it seriously. This is just me, an aspiring erotica/romance writer and die-hard X-men fan, articulating my hopes and dreads.

Between this cartoon and “X-men: Dark Phoenix,” 2018 is going to be an exciting year for me. I hope it exceeds my expectations, but I’ll settle for it not sucking. These days, when there are way too many things that can go wrong behind the scenes, that’s probably the healthiest mindset to have. If I can draw inspiration from it all and craft some quality erotica/romance along the way, then that’ll just be extra hot sauce on the chimichangas.

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New Deadpool Cartoon Announced (And Why It Matters)

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In addition to being an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I have a fairly diverse set of interests. I talk about many of them on this blog. I love superhero comics, superhero movies, futuristic technology, and activities that involve nudity. I like to explore these topics because the world is a diverse and sexy place. I want this blog to reflect that, as well as entertain/titillate.

So when news emerges that involves superhero comics and a potential for entertainment/titillation, expect me to mention it at some point. When that news involves someone like Deadpool, a character who has built his entire appeal on that and dick jokes, you can pretty much set your watch to it.

I’ve talked about Deadpool many times before. I’m not the only one either. Deadpool is the new golden boy for Fox, Marvel, and the entire superhero genre. He was once a niche character with an especially loyal set of fans and cos-players. Then, former sexiest man alive, Ryan Reynolds, made Deadpool the hottest thing in spandex not named Jennifer Lawrence.

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The Deadpool movie wasn’t just a game-changer. It dropped a metric ton of napalm on the game, blew it up with C4, and roasted marshmallows over the entrails while strippers danced in the background. If that sounds crazy, then congratulations. You now have some insight into why Deadpool is so appealing.

The first Deadpool movie completely shocked the established superhero genre, grossing $783 million on a $58 million budget. At a time when many superhero movies need budgets of at least $250 million to be taken seriously, that’s not just impressive. That’s downright jarring.

The fact that Deadpool did this while being rated R, complete with exposed breasts and Ryan Reynold’s jerking off with a stuffed unicorn, makes it all the more astonishing. It proved that superhero movies could be mature, sexy, and appealing. It also proved they can be extremely profitable and nothing speaks louder in the entertainment industry than money. Why else would Disney have made fivePirates of the Caribbean” movies?

The impact is still being felt, but it’s already starting to show. Just this year, Fox proved that Deadpool’s success was not a fluke. The R-rated “Logan” movie made $606 million on a $97 million budget while generated critical acclaim. Once can be an anomaly. Twice is the beginning of a trend.

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In an effort to continue that trend, Fox and Marvel announced this past week that they will be making a Deadpool animated series for the FXX network. That’s the same network that hosts such kid-unfriendly shows like “Archer” and “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.” There couldn’t be a more appropriate home is what I’m saying.

Now, this news might not seem like a big deal to non-comic fans. Deadpool had a successful movie, making Fox and Marvel a boatload of money. With a sequel already in the works, why not capitalize on his popularity with a cartoon? It sounds like a normal money grab by big corporate media giants who are never satisfied with merely having a few pools of money to swim in.

There’s no doubt that’s part of the dynamic here, but there are far larger implications, some of which might have an impact on erotica/romance. Bear with me, here, because this is where I try to gaze into a crystal ball and not throw up. Since I haven’t won the lottery or predicted the Super Bowl yet, assume my ability for foresight is limited.

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Earlier this year, I talked about the success of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie, as well as the challenges associated with creating quality erotica/romance. Some of these challenges aren’t insurmountable, but they are daunting. The success of “Game of Thrones” might be nudging public attitudes to some extent, but only to a point.

Since Hollywood is too damn impatient when it comes to exploiting a market, I speculated that animation might actually be the key to future erotica/romance. It effectively circumvents many of those daunting challenges I mentioned. Cartoon characters don’t get too testy when you ask them to take their clothes off.

With a Deadpool cartoon being on FXX, there’s a lot more potential for raunchy sexiness. We already see it in shows like “Archer,” which doesn’t shy away from the kind of crude humor that is usually reserved for “South Park.” Unlike “Archer,” though, Deadpool has more brand recognition. He generates far more attention and not just because he’s been known to cross dress every now and then.

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Deadpool will be entering a market that’s ripe for growth. Adult-themed animation has been around for years, but has never been more than a niche market. That might be changing just in time for Deadpool.

In recent years, shows like “Archer” have inspired other shows like “Rick and Morty,” gaining more than just a cult following. These shows get away with plots and humor that would never make it past the network executives who are routinely terrified of getting a call from the FCC. By being animated, they can push the proverbial envelope in ways that go far beyond an exposed nipple.

Deadpool doesn’t stop at nipples, though. He’s a character who married a succubus and flirted with Spider-Man. He does things that made the kid-friendly executives at Disney faint. With a cartoon, they can even do things that Ryan Reynolds would never agree to and he’s the guy who agreed to do “R.I.P.D.

The potential that a Deadpool cartoon has cannot be understated. He can do more than just create another hit cartoon for a network that already has a few under their belt. He can foster a new audience that’s hungry for more mature animation.

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Between the success of movies like “Fifty Shades of Grey” and TV shows like “Rick and Morty,” Deadpool is coming along at the best possible time. By creating a larger audience, it’ll let the big wigs at major media studios that audiences do want sexier content. They want media that’s fun, sexy, and not afraid of showing a few nipples every now and then.

There will always be a place for kid-friendly cartoons, but animation need not be a medium that appeals to one segment of the population. There are many more people out there who want sexier material and they don’t need to whine to their parents for money to buy it.

A Deadpool cartoon definitely has plenty of appeal, especially to those who enjoyed the sex and violence of the movie. It has everything it needs to be success. However, it’s the implications of that success that may have far sexier implications.

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes, Jack Fisher's Insights, Uncategorized

How To NOT Screw Up X-men: Dark Phoenix

If you’ve been following this blog in any capacity over the past year, then you know I love comic books and superheroes. I try to work them into many topics, from effective superhero tactics to sexy female heroes who are uniquely sex positive. Assume, for the future, that if there’s sexy topic that can be related to comics, then I’ll find a way to discuss it.

In addition, those who follow this blog also know that I have a special affinity for the X-men. I tend to cite them more than most, whether it’s discussing a romance among equals, the future of female villains, or candidates for UN Ambassadorship. Again, I’ll use any possible excuse in any sexy topic to cite them again. I’m both a passionate erotica/romance writer and a passionate fan. I make no apologies for that.

So when some major news regarding superhero movies, particularly X-men movies, comes up, I’m going to discuss it. I may even belabor it. I know that may not be the reason some people visit the blog of an aspiring erotica/romance writer, but superhero movies, especially those involving the X-men, are important to me.

Keep in mind, the X-men also have characters like Emma Frost so that means there’s plenty of opportunities for sex appeal. This news, in particular, has its share of sexy and romantic connotations so it is relevant for erotica/romance fans. If you need proof, I have just two words for you: Sophie Turner.

I’ll give “Game of Thrones” fans a second to hide their boner. I’ll give X-men fans another because some of them, myself included, are still buzzing at her limited, but spectacular performance in “X-men: Apocalypse.” Other than Ryan Reynolds, the sexy piece of man meat who brought Deadpool to life, Ms. Turner may very well hold the key to the future of the X-men movies.

This is because late last month, Fox announced its slate of X-men movies for 2018. To say they’re a little ambitious would be like saying Beyoncé’s ass is only somewhat sexy.

Whereas we only got one X-men movie this year with “Logan,” 2018 will bring us three movies. While “Deadpool 2” is sure to generate plenty of interest and dick jokes, it’s “X-men: Dark Phoenix” that will likely determine the fate and future of the X-men movies. Other than Sophie Turner’s sex appeal, there’s a lot of uncertainty about that effort.

That’s because “X-men: Dark Phoenix” isn’t just attempting something bold. The Phoenix Saga it’s based on is, by far, the most iconic and acclaimed X-men story of all time. Talk to any X-men fan in any capacity and most of them will agree. The Phoenix Saga is the gold-encrusted adamantium standard by which all X-men stories are measured. It also happens to be the story that Fox woefully botched once before.

It’s true and it still gives X-men fans nightmares to this day. Back in 2006, Fox attempted to tell the story of the Phoenix in “X-men: The Last Stand.” The end results were so poorly received that they ended up erasing it completely from the timeline in 2014’s “X-men: Days of Future Past.” Yes, it really was that bad.

I could do multiple blog posts on why the movie was so terrible. In fact, I already did one that covered the nauseatingly awful love triangle involving Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Wolverine. However, that was just one in a long list of unforgivable crimes that “X-men: The Last Stand” committed.

Chief among those crimes, for X-men fans, was how it handled the Phoenix sub-plot. The mere fact that it was a sub-plot was a huge problem. As I said before, the Phoenix Saga is the most iconic, respected, and beloved X-men story of all time. To treat it as a goddamn sub-plot, while wasting the acting talent and sex appeal of Famke Janssen, is both tragic and infuriating.

Beyond just relegating it to a sub-plot, “X-men: The Last Stand” basically looked over all the major themes of the Phoenix Saga and basically threw them out like expired milk. The Phoenix Saga is a story built around love, humanity, untamed power, and sacrifice. “X-men: The Last Stand” had none of that. It only used the Phoenix as a way to make Wolverine get all whiny about a woman he barely knew. That’s it.

The handling of the Phoenix was so bad that longtime X-men producer, Simon Kinberg, admitted earlier this year that they screwed up. Think about that for a moment. A big-time Hollywood producer, someone with unlimited access to blowjobs and cocaine, admitted a mistake. He didn’t make an excuse, as so many people in power tend to do. He owned his mistake. For that, Mr. Kinberg earns my respect.

I also believe that Mr. Kinberg does not want to go down in history as the man who botched the most beloved X-men story of all time. That kind of reputation can permanently destroy his credibility among a vocal audience. Just ask Joel Shumacher how nasty it can get.

Moreover, Mr. Kinberg already has the resources he needs to make a Phoenix Saga work. He laid the groundwork with “X-men: Apocalypse” by having Sophie Turner shine more in one scene than Famke Jannsen ever could through three movies. He also has an immensely-talented actress in Ms. Turner to bring out the passion and drama that is so vital to the Phoenix Saga.

In other words, Mr. Kinberg and the powers that be at Fox have no excuses this time. They didn’t have any last time with “X-men: The Last Stand,” but the stakes were lower then. The market for superhero movies is going to be very crowded in 2018. Having already screwed up the Fantastic Four, they need to show they can learn from their mistakes.

Being the passionate comic book fan and X-men fan that I am, I want to help in whatever way I can. Given that I’m an aspiring erotica/romance writer with precisely zero influence on anything outside this blog, that’s not saying much. I don’t expect anyone from Fox to ever read this blog or know about me. The most I can do is just put the information out there so I can say I did what I could.

With that in mind, I’m not going to offer a wish list on what must occur in a “X-men: Dark Phoenix “movie. If you base the value of a movie or comic book on something specific, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment.

Instead, it’s better to lay out what to avoid, thereby allowing some creative flexibility along the way. No matter how passionate a fan you are, it’s important to be somewhat flexible. Otherwise, you’ll just find yourself among fans whining about how Finn Jones is too white play Iron Fist.

So for X-men fans, comic fans, and superhero fans in general, here’s my list of tips on how to avoid botching the Phoenix Saga again. I write this hoping that the people at Fox understand that X-men fans are a forgiving bunch, but messing up the most iconic story in X-men history twice would be pushing it.


Tip #1: Embrace AND Unleash The Passion

This should be the most obvious, but it somehow slipped everyone’s mind in “X-men: The Last Stand” so it’s worth putting at the top of the list and belaboring to no end. At the core of the Phoenix Saga, which is also its greatest appeal, is the passion behind the story.

It is, in essence, a story about overwhelming power guided by overwhelming passions. Within the story, Jean Grey is possessed by a cosmic entity known as the Phoenix Force, which pushes her psychic powers to the limit, beyond, and into the depths of space. That’s not an exaggeration either. She actually goes into space with this power.

Now doing that in a movie would be tricky, but Jean doesn’t have to go into space to realize the theme here. She just has to get a chance to emote and lament about the sheer breadth of this power. Her passions are what drive it. They create the huge, emotional spectacle that helped make the Phoenix Saga so iconic.

Famke Jannsen never got a chance to do much in “X-men: The Last Stand.” In fact, all she really did was stand around, look deadpanned, and that’s about it. She never even flashed any Phoenix-like symbolism, which is pretty pathetic since Fox managed to squeeze it in with “X-men: Apocalypse.” A Phoenix Saga with flat emotions is like sandwich without bread. You just can’t have one without the other.


Tip #2: Make Any Sacrifice Feel Genuine

This is somewhat unique to the Phoenix Saga mythos in general. In addition to overwhelming passion and immense power, sacrifice is at the core of what makes a the Phoenix Saga so iconic among X-men fans. In the end, Jean Grey makes a heroic sacrifice for her friends, the world, and the man she loves. It’s one of the most emotional, dramatic moments in the history of comics.

Again, “X-men: The Last Stand” found a way to completely screw this up. In fact, saying they screwed up would be too polite because they didn’t just undermine this critical moment in X-men lore. They did the exact opposite.

Jean Grey does not make any sacrifice in “X-men: The Last Stand.” What she does is basically an act of pure cowardice. She doesn’t heroically sacrifice herself to save the ones she loves. She makes someone else kill her, specifically Wolverine. She doesn’t beg him. She makes him. There’s nothing heroic about that. Hell, that’s a dick move, even by Wolverine standards.

For any Phoenix Saga to work, there needs to be some sort of sacrifice along the way. That sacrifice also has to be genuine, dramatic, and heartfelt. That’s what makes it so endearing. Nobody ever felt any kind of endearment to a coward. Since the X-men are superheroes and all, there’s no room for that kind of cowardice.


Tip #3: Embrace And Expand The Cyclops/Jean Romance

I’ve talked about this romance on multiple occasions and for good reason. It is, by far, the most important, iconic romance in the history of X-men. The romance of Cyclops and Jean Grey goes all the way back to the earliest days of the X-men, as created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. It’s a romance that has resulted marriage, death, resurrection, and multiple children. You won’t find many romances with this kind of depth.

Unfortunately, nobody who saw the original X-men movies ever would’ve suspected as such. Those movies gave the impression that the romance only existed to cock-block Wolverine and Jean Grey only existed to be a piece of ass for him to achieve. The love triangle is toxic enough in the comics, but the movies took it to a level so egregious that both the X-men fan and erotica/romance fan in me wants to vomit violently.

There’s no real depth between Wolverine and Jean Grey, especially in the movies. There is, however, a powerful and important dynamic between Cyclops and Jean Grey. Theirs is a uniquely balanced romance, one where they both stand together in ways that isn’t typical of superhero movies or romance movies in general. They’re both heroes. They share in one another’s struggles and burdens.

Most importantly, though, they complement each other. They inspire one another to be better. That’s what we saw, at least in a limited capacity, in “X-men: Apocalypse.” That movie didn’t just thrust them together and proclaim that they’re star-crossed lovers. They actually laid a foundation for a deeper connection. By the end of that movie, it was easy to see a romance between them blossoming.

In the comics, the Cyclops/Jean romance was central to the Phoenix Saga. Their romance was a catalyst for so much of the drama that to remove it is to remove a critical element of what makes the story work.

X-men: The Last Stand” tried to work around it by thrusting Wolverine into the role of Jean’s love interest. That failed miserably though because again, there was never a single goddamn reason for anyone to believe or accept that there was any meaningful chemistry with them.

It was the history and extent of Cyclops and Jean Grey’s romance that made the Phoenix Saga so meaningful in the comics. At one point in the story, they even talked about getting married. A deep, passionate romance is what helped make the Phoenix Saga so impactful on so many levels.

That kind of romance can’t be forced. “X-men: The Last Stand” tried and failed miserably. A Dark Phoenix movie cannot make that same mistake again. The foundation is already there thanks to “X-men: Apocalypse.” The Dark Phoenix movie just has to crank up the passion. Sophie Turner’s sex appeal will do the rest.


Tip #4: Make The Phoenix The Primary Plot

After what I said earlier about how “X-men: The Last Stand” treated the Phoenix Saga, this should be a no-brainer. Then again, the sheer stupidity of circumventing the Cyclops/Jean Grey relationship in the first three movies should’ve been a no-brainer too so I’m not going to assume too much here.

The Phoenix Saga is too dramatic, too iconic, and too emotional a story to relegate to a sub-plot. “X-men: The Last Stand” tried and failed so miserably that no one could really blame Jean Grey for wanting to die in the end. Fox and Mr. Kinberg cannot let that happen again. The X-men, Jean Grey, and the Phoenix Saga deserve better.

From the moment the opening credits begin to the moment the generic 90s grunge music plays at the end, Jean Grey and the Phoenix Force should be the central focus. There can certainly be plenty of sub-plots, as there always are in every superhero movie. However, the Phoenix Saga must take priority. If it doesn’t tie into that story in a meaningful way, then it should be tabled for another movie.

The Phoenix Saga is a big enough story to carry the whole movie. In the comics, it unfolded over the course of several years, diverting into plenty of sub-plots along the way. A movie doesn’t have that kind of flexibility, but it still has plenty of time to set up and execute the drama that makes the Phoenix Saga so endearing.

Movies are plenty capable of creating that level of drama. Movies like “Titanic” and “Terminator 2” are able to do it all within a cohesive narrative. More than anything else, the Phoenix Saga should feel complete by the end of the movie. Other sub-plots can linger for sequels, but the Phoenix Saga must get first dibs.


Tip #5: Introduce New Villains And Tie Them Into The Phoenix Story

This might actually be the easiest part of making X-men: Dark Phoenix awesome. Chances are that’s already part of the plan and not just because there’s no hint that Michael Fassbender wants to return to play Magneto again. Now I love Fassbender as much as the next straight X-men fan, but his role as Magneto has been done to death, going all the way back to the first X-men movie.

The X-men have a long and rich library of villains. Very few of those villains have had a chance to grow within the movies. Some, like Mojo, are woefully impractical. Others, such as a devious figure named Mr. Sinister, are ripe for development. Even Walter White himself, Bryan Cranston, has expressed an interest in playing Sinister. That alone should tell you everything you need to know about his potential.

On top of that, Mr. Sinister has close ties to Cyclops and Jean Grey. It really wouldn’t take much to involve him in the Phoenix Saga. While he did not participate in it directly in the comics, he did go onto influence a great deal of stories that expanded the Phoenix mythos in X-men. Putting him in the center of the conflict in a Dark Phoenix movie makes too much sense.

There are other lesser villains like the U-men and the Purifiers that could find their way into the mix. So there should be no concerns about not having enough villains. The key is tying these villains into the main Dark Phoenix story. If done well, especially with the aid of Bryan Cranston’s acting prowess, then the movie has everything it needs to succeed.


There’s a lot more to consider in making an X-men: Dark Phoenix movie. I’m just a passionate fan so I’m hardly qualified to evaluate every one of them. If I were, Fox probably would’ve hired me and underpaid me by now to make this movie work. Since they haven’t, I can only assume and hope there are much smarter, much more passionate people working tirelessly to make this movie great.

As a fan, I want to see this movie succeed. I want to see Fox and Mr. Kinberg make up for their mistakes in “X-men: The Last Stand.” It would be both an accomplishment and a service for which fans would be forever grateful. Grateful fans are more willing to give money to those who please them. That is, after all, Fox’s ultimate goal.

The incentives are in place. The story is there. The iconic characters are there. The passion is there. The love, heart, and emotions are there. It’s only a matter of bringing them together into a single, cohesive story that will thrill audiences, evoke tears of joy, and soak panties.

It can be done. I pray to whatever cosmic forces are out there that Fox can pull this off. As an X-men fan, a comic book fan, and a fan of iconic love stories, X-men: Dark Phoenix deserves to be that awesome.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Why Most Superheroes Are Woefully Incompetent (By Design)

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I’ve been meaning to do a post like this for a while now. It’s a topic I’ve actually tried to discuss on comic book message boards. Unfortunately, most comic book message boards too readily devolve into debates about who can lift Thor’s hammer, who Wolverine is sleeping with, and whether or not She-Hulk shaves her pubic hair. Yes, it gets that bad.

Ignoring, for a moment, the immaturity of certain crowds on message boards, there are certain issues pertaining to comic books and superheroes that are too easy to overlook. I say this as someone who is plenty eager to overlook the flaws in a story if it means seeing Starfire, Wonder Woman, Emma Frost, and Storm of the X-men kick ass and look damn sexy while doing it.

One of those flaws, ironically enough, deals with the actual pragmatics that come with being a superhero. Granted, those practical details are usually an afterthought in most superhero comics. Why would anyone give much thought to that when they could instead focus on giant monsters, killer robots, and the Hulk’s penis?

Some of the problem has entirely to do with fans like me. I freely admit that, as a fan, I’m part of the problem. Superheroes, whether they’re in comic books, cartoons, or blockbuster movies, aren’t created with the intent of being really good at their jobs. They’re created as a product to sell. That means they have to be compelling, engaging, and part of a meaningful story.

That’s why we don’t care if Spider-Man fails miserably to stop a criminal or if Superman fails miserably to keep Lex Luthor locked in prison. So long as it’s part of a story, we keep buying in. We increase our emotional and financial investment. It keeps the narrative going and, by default, the money for the company producing the merchandise.

That’s also why there will never be a superhero who is too good at fighting crime, defeating enemies, and solving problems. After a while, they do too much good and the world they live in just doesn’t have enough flaws to be interesting anymore. Who wants to read about Spider-Man anymore after he’s effectively solved New York’s crime problem and spends his days taking photos of hobos pissing on trees in Central Park?

On some levels, comic book companies and movie studios of the world knows this. They’ll never admit it outright, but in the back of their mind, they have to know that they can never let a hero be too competent. Even Superman has to slip up every now and then. Make no mistake though. He definitely has throughout his 70-plus year history, sometimes in laughably disturbing ways.

There’s a very simple reason for this and unfortunately, it’s neither heroic nor sexy. I’ll give you a hint. It’s valuable, it’s green, and it fits perfectly in a stripper’s G-string. If you need more than one guess, you should probably see a doctor.

Yes, I’m talking about money. If anything, it’s kind of ironic, given the values that many superheroes hold and how broke many superheroes often are. They’re created to embody our greatest values, but they’re sole purpose, from an image standpoint, is to make money for the company that owns their rights.

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, superheroes do succeed in that respect. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Spider-Man alone makes over a billion dollars a year in merchandising. That’s not a typo. I said billion. Batman is a very distant second with a little less than half-a-billion.

Superheroes are big business these days, both in terms of making money and spending it. According to rumors by Bleeding Cool, the next two Avengers movies could collectively cost a billion dollars. Again, that’s not a typo.

It’s because superheroes make so much money and generate so much money for the economy that they have to stay incompetent to some extent. Just look at the superheroes of old, from Greek mythology to the bible to the medieval legends of King Arthur. They all have one defining trait. They all had definitive endings.

Whether tragic or triumphant, the heroes of old were part of a finite narrative that had an ending. King Arthur dies. Hector dies. Jesus Christ triumphs over the Satan. If these were comics, they would never survive in the modern market because they’re too complete. Modern superhero stories can never truly end.

Even iconic comics like Watchmen, which was supposed to have a definitive end, but DC Comics nixed that by incorporating it into their mainline superhero comics. Granted, this thoroughly pissed off Watchmen’s creator, Alan Moore, but he’s been pissed off for any number of reasons for the past 30 years so that’s not saying much.

Instead of ending, modern superhero comics are prone to a tricky phenomenon that most comic book fans know all too well. It’s called retroactive continuity, also known as a “retcon.” This is basically the literary equivalent of a mulligan.

Has Spider-Man become too convoluted, mature, and dark? A retcon will make him a lovable loser again. See “Brand New Day.”

Has Batman become too campy and goofy? A retcon will make him dark and gritty again. See “Batman Begins.”

Have the Fantastic Four become too flat and boring? A retcon will make them a team of jaded young millennials. See 2015’s “Fantastic Four,” although pretty much every Fantastic Four fan would strongly advise against it.

Thanks to retcons, superheroes never age. They can always be reinvented, re-tooled, and adapted for a new audience. Granted, that won’t stop some audiences from whining about it, but it effectively ensures that the narrative never ends and the particulars of the story at every point in the timeline are subject to change.

This can be a good thing sometimes, such as when a retcon gives us a great character like the Winter Soldier in the Captain America comics. However, it can also splatter painfully disturbing details on an established narrative that didn’t need it. Just talk to Spider-Man fans about a story called “Sins Past” and watch them become visibly ill.

In the end, however, it often means that characters never really progress beyond a certain point and the problems they hope to solve never go away. The Joker always escapes. Lex Luthor always returns. Spider-Man’s girlfriend gets killed, injured, or impregnated by his worst enemy. It’s as frustrating as it sounds.

Most superheroes will gloss over this detail by taking a stand against killing. That’s perfectly understandable on some levels. The morality of killing someone is one of those few moral issues that don’t generate too much debate, unless it involves Nazis in video games. However, in some respects, the anti-killing is both an excuse and a sales tactic.

Batman is, by far, the best example in this respect. Despite being the alpha and omega of an ordinary man achieving extraordinary feats without superpowers, Batman still cannot and will not stomach killing any of his villains. No matter how many times they escape, kill, or torment others, he refuses to kill them.

Ignoring for a moment the debate on whether he’s responsible for the deaths those villains subsequently inflict, there’s one other issue that makes Batman’s anti-killing stance more a marketing gimmick than a morality stand. Batman’s villains are iconic characters in their own right.

Just look at the list of famous Batman villains. Then, remember how many of them are popular Halloween costumes. Also keep in mind one of them earned Heath Ledger an Oscar and another got Margot Robbie to put on hot pants. Creating characters this iconic isn’t easy. That’s why comic companies and movie studios are so reluctant to kill them.

This is the dilemma that all superheroes face in modern comics and movies. If Batman kills the Joker, then there are no more iconic battles between the two. If Superman kills Lex Luthor, then there’s no more epic struggle. That means there are fewer comics to sell, toys to make, and slutty costumes to create. That situation, from both a fan and business standpoint, is untenable.

As a result, every modern superhero is, by design, incompetent to some degree. On top of that, the villains are either insanely lucky or ridiculously resilient. That’s why we’ll never see a version of Batman, Superman, or Spider-Man who actually succeed at reducing crime. That’s why we’ll never see the X-men or the Justice League actually create a peaceful world.

It’s not that it’s impossible. It’s just that it ends the story and the ability for big companies to make a boatload of money off them. That ensures every modern superhero is a walking paradox. They can never truly achieve their goal, but they can never stop trying either. It’s not because it’s the right, moral thing to do either. It’s because movie studios and publishing companies still need to make money.

That’s not very heroic, to say the least, but that’s the world we live in. Until money and movie rights stop driving superhero narratives, we’ll never see a truly competent superhero.

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Emma Frost: The Future Of Female Villains?

Not long ago, I dedicated several posts to the defining traits of villains and why Walter White was such a game-changer, beyond getting Bryan Cranston more Emmys than he’ll ever need. I could’ve done many more posts because quality villains are every bit as integral to any story as a quality hero. Just look at Batman’s rogues gallery, and the number of cos-players that dress as them, for proof of that.

In these discussions, I kept things fairly general and if I did, I singled out a specific character like Walter White or Magneto. Well, recent events and ongoing trends have inspired me to re-address the issue of villains from a different angle. Specifically, I’d like to talk a bit about female villains.

Quickly, take a moment and recall your favorite female villain of all time. Chances are it’ll take you a moment and not just because a great many female villains made us both scared and horny at the same time. It may also be difficult because some female villains don’t exactly carry themselves as villains. Catwoman may be a thief, a deceiver, and the subject of one of the worst comic book movies of all time, but she’s not an outright villain.

Female villains are one of those difficult concepts to flesh out and not just because men can’t resist turning female villains into sexy anti-heroes, some more egregiously than others. It’s just one of those elements that either gets under-used or overlooked.

Well, as is often the case with the ever-changing/insanely-erratic tastes of pop culture, that may be changing. At a time when a new generation of strong female characters, badass female superheroes, and women who just do more than give the male characters something to obsess over, it was only a matter of time before female villains caught up.

Now I generally suck at making predictions. I’m the same guy who was convinced that Cleveland Cavaliers would never win the NBA championship last year. I’m not proud of the things I had to do for the bets I made on that game, but it does show that everybody, including aspiring erotica/romance writers, can be dead wrong. With this, however, it’s not just a prediction. It’s based, in part, on an observation.

As most regular readers of this blog already knew, I love comic books and superheros. Specifically, I have a special affinity for X-men comics. So it should come as no surprise that I follow the events of the X-men comics very closely. Well, this past week, something pretty damn major happened in the X-men comics and it has to do with this woman.

Her name is Emma Frost. Trust me, she’s even sexier than her fan art would imply. She’s a prominent character in the X-men comics and has had numerous roles throughout the series for over 30 years now.

At times, she’s been a devious villainous vixen. At others, she’s been a cunning heroic vixen. In every role she’s in, she generally makes it a point to be sexy as hell. She doesn’t mind getting naked, she doesn’t mind having sex, she doesn’t give half-a-tortoise fart about what anyone things. In short, she’s a perfect blend of Regina George and Wonder Woman.

Now Emma Frost is somewhat unique in that she’s had so many roles, but she’s never defined herself completely as a hero or villain. She hasn’t even been an anti-hero. If you were to do the villain’s journey test I laid out in a previous post, she wouldn’t complete it, but she would come pretty damn close.

The same goes for the hero’s journey. She would check some boxes, but not all. She’d just look a million times sexier than anyone else on that journey.

Why is this important? Well, in a major X-men crossover event that just concluded recently, Emma’s role changed again. After a clash between the X-men and the Inhumans, one Marvel built up over the course of two years, Emma crossed a line that effectively sealed a new fate for her. She’s a villain now. However, she’s a very different kind of villain.

What do I mean by that? Why is that even relevant? Well, to answer that, think back to what I said about listing your favorite female villains. Go back to that list again. Exactly how many of those villains are refined, well-rounded, complex characters? Chances are your list will shrink considerably or outright disappear.

That’s because female villains have a history of being annoyingly flat. Going all the way back to the Wicked Witch of the West, they rarely had many compelling traits. Most of the time, they were just evil witches or devious vixens. Basically, just think of every evil female character in a James Bond movie. That’s the extent of the depth female villains usually get.

This is what makes the development with Emma Frost so intriguing. Emma Frost isn’t like Pussy Galore or the Wicked Witch of the West and not just because she looks better in a thong. As a character, she has a rich history. She even had her own comic series at one point. She has various layers as well. She’s not just out to be a total bitch and look good doing it, although she does make it look pretty damn easy.

Emma Frost has real, genuine motivations. They’re not always pure either. For a time, she was a stripper who didn’t mind using her sexuality to get ahead in the Hellfire Club, who have been major X-men villains for many years. When she was a teacher, she watched many of her students die in an attack that she had no chance to stop.

However, she has never been one to play the part of a victim. She never uses tragedy or excuses to justify her actions. She does what she thinks needs to be done and anyone who disagrees with her can just kiss her perfectly shaped ass. Hell, she could probably charge for that and it would be worth every penny.

The recent events in the X-men comics pushed her to extreme actions and for good reason. As part of the story that set up the clash between the X-men and the Inhumans, she lost someone near and dear to her. Cyclops, a character she had been romantically involved with, died in her arms. It affected her profoundly, which is saying a lot for someone who killed her own sister.

That effect leads her to do more than just lead a conflict. They put her in a position to become a hardened, but complex villain, both to the X-men and anyone else who generally pisses her off.

Her timing really couldn’t be better. Just as everyone from Disney Princesses to Taylor Swift prove that there’s a market for strong female personalities, she’s entering a domain that’s ripe for new energy. Emma Frost could very well be the first of a new push for better female villains to go along with the female heroes that every comic company and movie studio is pushing these days.

I feel like this is a trend that needs to happen. Women can kick ass as heroes. That much they’ve proven. Why not show they can do the same as villains? Emma Frost is unique in that she has the kind of complexity that allows her to be a hero when she needs to be and a villain when she wants to be. I believe there will be a market for that kind of complexity.

Sure, some parents would still prefer that their daughters dress up as Disney princesses rather than Emma Frost, if only to avoid any Honey Boo Boo comparisons, but having strong female villains still does something important. It adds balance to the greater narrative between heroes and villains as a whole.

Now I’m somewhat guilty myself of not fleshing out female villains. In my book, “The Escort and the Gigolo,” the main villain was a woman named Madam Felicity. While I did make an effort to give her some complexity, I admit she’s not more ground-breaking than a James Bond villain with boobs.

I’d like to change that in future novels. I just hope that by then, Emma Frost will have set the bar and set it high. As any X-men fan will tell you, Emma never does anything haphazardly. If she’s going to usher in a new wave of strong female villains, then she’s going to make damn sure she’s the best and looks damn sexy while doing that. For that, she’ll always have a special place in the hearts and pants of X-men fans everywhere.

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