META: Plot vs. Character

Tom Russell milos_parker at
Sat Sep 2 23:46:27 PDT 2006

A discussion thread!  I love discussion threads!

Martin Phipps wrote:

> I have similar problems with Marvel's Civil War.  To me, the series is

I haven't read it, but from what I've read of it, it seems to fall into
the "plot-puppet" trap a lot of big stories do.  There's no longer a
sense of history or character in a lot of comics, and that's very

> all about plot and not about the characters we've known for forty+
> years.  Bendis and Millar have created situations which would
> inexorbinately lead to bringing Captain America and Iron Man into
> conflict while ignoring the fact that (with the exception of The
> Crossing and Metal Wars) the two of them have been friends for ten
> years (Marvel time) and owe each other their lives.

Millar seems to be a very political writer, and at least in the
Ultimates, he uses Cap as a right-wing character-- which is
_technically_ a good extrapolation of the situation (that is, man from
the 40's living in today's world), but it also fails on an iconic
level.  Captain America is and should be what is best and brightest
about America.  And while I'm sure some right-wingers may disagree with
me here, I think the Liberal/Democratic impulse towards charity,
diplomacy, and social equity represents our best more than lower taxes
and the dissolution of the social safety net.

(And I'm being charitable and diplomatic there by not automatically
looping in classic conservatism with the lunatics who have hijacked the
party.  Gay marriage threatens their marriages just like Clinton's
Death Squads killed Vince Foster.  ==SIGH== Honestly, people.)

Iron Man's always had a more right-wing streak in him, and, to my mind,
Cap's always been more on the left.  And so, with a political charged
writer like Millar, we're going to have some conflict.  And, something
like Superhero Registration would be a divisive issue.  As divisive as
they're making it out to be?  I'm not sure, I haven't read it.

Something that's interesting is that Superman is often seen as a big
boy scout, as a law-and-order stiff, someone who kowtows to authority.
And, while this wasn't true since the Golden Age, yeah, I see that
interpetation has some validity.  But what I find striking is that
Superman isn't really as right-wing as, say, Batman.

>   To me though, the sense of
> grandeur comes not from the forty years of history but from the years
> of comraderie that these characters share.

I concur; excellently stated!

> This brings us to RACC.  It's really cool when somebody is writing
> their hundredth issue or so and they have a lot of plot threads to draw
> on but sometimes it is just interesting to read about characters.
> Jesse has been criticized for expecting people to have read everything
> he's written.  But he's not alone in this sense.

I think that's one of the things that made it difficult for me to get
into ASH, especially since there are _so many characters_ and plot
threads to grab ahold of.  But Dave's strong plotting and structure
helps quite a bit.

> other hand, tries to make almost everything he writes a jumping on
> point by providing a full page of exposition at the beginning of each
> story: sometimes it's better to jump in mid res and explain things as

Do I?  I thought I'd been getting better at that, but there's always
room for improvement.

> you go along.  Mid res.  That's actually a term I picked up from Tom

Media res, actually. :-)

I think character is much more important than plot, but at the same
time, it's the plot that excites the emotions and encourages
identification with the character.  For example, Nancy Drew is a very
sexy girl detective, lots of pluck and cool, someone I'd want to have
for a friend.  But if the Nancy Drew books were about her going out on
dates (as they were, perversely! throughout the late eighties and early
nineties), I would never have given her a second look.  But it's
because of the suspense and adventure that she faces that I care about

Plot illustrates character, and it's a mark of stronger writers than I
when the character development is part and parcel of the plot (instead
of existing in Bendisian dialogue riffs, to the side of the plot).
Jamas is one of these writers, and, to a degree, Dvandom.

And, Martin, thanks for the plugs of my Eightfold work, BTW.  Glad
you're enjoying them.  I think with the Nostalgics that all will be
revealed, but I must admit that I've lost my passion for it: I'm much
more excited, right now, by the Green Knight and JOLT CITY (not to
mention my videos on youtube, plug, plug, plug!).


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