META: Wish Fulfillment, WCs, and Mary Sues

Tom Russell milos_parker at
Sun Mar 12 20:32:02 PST 2006

Dave Van Domelen wrote:
> In article <20060312181200.88658.qmail at>,
> Tom Russell  <milos_parker at> wrote:
> >   What about SIP?
> >   SIP?
> >   Oh, right.  I've heard of it, but I never...
>      Left me cold the one or two times I read it as an OPB (Other People's
> Books).

Recently (remember, this conversation was a few years back), I did get
a chance to read eight or nine TPB's.  And my overall response was...

>      Don't care for either.  DeZago is actually on my "drop the book if he's
> put on it" list.

I liked DeZago's Spider-Man run.  It wasn't the best, but it was fun;
certainly better than Mackie or DeFalco (though DeFalco is someone I
have enjoyed from time to time).  I think my enjoyment of it might be
coloured by my encounters with DeZago the man-- he's a fine decent
human being.

I would like to say in his defense that he writes the Looter better
than anyone since Stan Lee.

> > some Alan Moore (WATCHMEN, of course, but I also liked TOM STRONG),
>      I can take or leave him.  He's better when he's not trying to be a
> Serious Writer With Depth.

Agreed. :-)

I couldn't stand FROM HELL, for example.  Everyone told me how much I
was supposed to like it... but... eh.  I finally got around to THE
KILLING JOKE and found it pretty lame.  PROMETHEA read like the
collected works of every high school poetess I ever met.  But I did
enjoy the six issues I read of TOM STRONG; in that case, at least, he
didn't let pretension get in the way.

Something that does bug me about WATCHMEN, The Greatest Superhero Comic
Ever Published (TM), is the way he overcomplicates things.  Like having
the text supplements.  Or the pages with the pirates, in which I have
to keep two different trains of thought-- dialogue, and the captions in
the pirate page-- running at the same time.  It's the kind of
post-modernist formal over-complexity that discerns Important Work from
(Sneer) Popular Fiction, the kind of thing teachers with too much time
on their hands associate with True Artistry.

Me, I'd rather have the Popular Fiction.  At least writers of Popular
Fiction know how to construct a sentence.  (Yes, Mr. Joyce.  I'm
talking to you.  Mr. Joyce and I have an understanding-- once he learns
basic sentence structure, I'll read ULYSSES.)

>  Especially
> if it's all slice-of-life and the plots make no sense (because, of course,
> real life doesn't make sense).

This is true, and it reminds me of another misconception that irks me.

I finally got around to reading the WILD CARDS series.  Well, actually,
no: I finally got around to reading the afterwords to the first two
books and one story.  But in the afterwards, George R. R. Martin
explained the reasoning behind the Wild Cards Virus.

In the original role-playing campaign that he ran, all of the
characters had different origins.  In the books, however, *all* the
characters recieve their powers as a result of the Wild Card Virus.
The reason behind this, he says, is that it's more plausible: so many
wondrous characters having so many different origins stretches
suspension of disbelief to a breaking point.

I strongly disagree with this notion.  It is the same notion that
informed the asinine decision to tie the origin of Spider-Man with that
of Doctor Octopus in SPIDER-MAN: CRAPTER ONE.  Having Spider-Man and
His Greatest Foe gain their powers in the same explosion is stupid for
many reasons.

First of all, Spider-Man's origin story is not, Caught in a radioactive
explosion that would have killed him if not for the bite of a radiated
spider which also gave him spider-like powers.  He's bitten by a
spider.  That's it.  And that makes sense.  Spider-Man, spider-bite.

But more importantly, this need to tie everything in together violates
the thing that makes the disparate elements of a shared universe work:
casuality.  The story of the Eightfold Universe, for example, is the
story of all the people in it.  But each of those people-- from my
Martin Rock to the Joltin' One's Billy Kidman-- has their own story, as
well.  And sometimes (hint, hint) these stories intersect and
intertwine, since they are one big story.  And that's what a shared
universe is all about.

The way I see it, the story of Doctor Octopus is often intertwined with
that of Spider-Man.  But it's not the same story.  To make it so makes
both characters less special and less independent of each other.

The story of Tom Russell is often intertwined with that of his
beautiful wife, Mary.  But she has her own story which started before
mine.  And, as far as I'm aware, that's the way real people and real
life work.

I don't mean any disrespect to any of the shared universes, be they on
RACC or in your local comic book store, that have a Shared Origin
premise.  They can work, and I'm not saying they can't.  It's just my
personal opinion that casuality and coincidence do not tax the willing
suspension of disbelief, because casuality is *more* realistic, more
slice-of-life, more shaggy-baggy.

But that's me, and that's what irks me. (TM)

>      Dave Van Domelen, "The superhero who could be YOU!"


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