Monday, January 07, 2008

This bothers me.

And it's not just that Mark Waid's leaving the Flash:
And at this moment in time, I just ... in terms of superhero work, I feel frozen. I kind of... I feel like I'm momentarily out of step with what fandom wants because I don't get it. The same voices that are screaming that we gave Flash a wife and kids and family, because they say that's not what Flash is, are the same people who are screaming that they've broken up Mary Jane and Peter Parker. "How dare you take his family away!" I'm like, wait! Wait! What? Which way is it? So... growth and change good... or growth and change bad?
Hmmm. I've noticed that too. Of course, I'm a fan who thinks married with children works for Wally myself but yeah, I've seen this.

He's not taking into account (and this worries me that other writers might not take this into account either) that different characters have different stories that fit them, different books have different themes to them, and different companies have sincerely different feels. Add to that, different fans have different expectations for the characters. So these contradicting fan tastes aren't really so contradicting.

I've noticed people (and myself) annoyed that Quesada's anti-marriage for Spiderman but he was perfectly fine with Black Panther and Storm together. Well, we're being a bit unfair to him there. Spiderman and Black Panther (and Storm, but I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest he didn't give Storm two thoughts here. She's been really underused in the comics during Quesada's reign) are totally different characters. The same stories are not going to be told about these two characters. Fans expect different characters in the two books. Writers write different characters in the two books. The story goes in different directions.

You might disagree with those directions (and in the case of Quesada's choices there I do, early and often), but I don't see the inconsistency in expecting different things from different characters. I would hope that writers and editors would like to tell different stories with different characters, and would understand that marriage might not fit a certain character very well but that same character would suitably have to deal with their own biological children anyway, or guardianship of a niece or nephew. They'd understand that other characters would settle down and do the nuclear family thing (I think it suits the Flash very well), and other characters would settle into marriage and be married for a long time before starting a family. And, of course, there are still others who wouldn't think of children, or marriage at all.

I mean, the last thing we want is writers writing every character the same, what would be the point of reading more than one book?

Really, though, with the fan complaints it's all a matter of how fans take change. The Spidermarriage was status quo for twenty years, and that Wally's only had children (I don't think as many people are complaining that he's married as they are complaining about the twins) for a few storylines now. Spiderman changed by going backwards (which in my opinion, if you want it and you probably do because you're reading this blog, was kind of a shitty direction), Flash changed by going forwards (and in my opinion, that's a pretty good idea). Fans who have been reading the status quo for a while saw change and reacted. And in some cases they reacted badly. This makes perfect sense insomuch as the behavior of people makes perfect sense.

For me -- it just really bugs me that Mark Waid, the guy who wrote the definitive Wally West, talked about the Park-Wests and the Watson-Parkers as though they were the same couple. That just seems wrong.


  1. What did all these Straw Men do to make comics professionals hate them so much?

  2. Human behavior does NOT make sense...This is why we have so many lawyers!

  3. I don't think the comparison's valid, either, but odds are Mark Waid, as an old-school fan, is probably as bothered by the OMD mess as most fans are. I don't think it devalues everything else he has to say, just that it's another case of a fan choosing an odd moment to vent frustration.

    I don't get the complaints about Wally's kids, either. They're cute, and they add a new fun dimension to his stories. I also don't get the constant cries of "Incredibles rip-off", since apparently that's the first mass media product to ever have super powered families. Maybe marriage is wish fulfillment, while kids are nerve-wracking or something.

  4. While Peter and Wally may have some similar characteristics, (both were young and unemployed half of the time) they are different in a whole lot of fundamental ways. So yes, Waid is comparing apples to oranges.

    But I think that perhaps Melashaan has a point, in that Mr. Waid may just be doing a little venting himself.

    Frankly, I adore the twins.

  5. The same voices? I've been vocal about how stupid I think the One More Day storyline has been, but I don't think I've ever read a Flash funny book my entire life. I have no idea what's going on in the world of the Flash and to be totally honest, I don't really care.

    Not all comic fans are the same. Maybe Mark Waid doesn't get fandom because he thinks there's only one fandom. There's not. Thinking that people that read Spider-Man are the very same people that read Flash comics is kind of like thinking that people that watch Law & Order are the same people that watch Desperate Housewives. Different TV shows have different audiences. The same is true with comics.

  6. I wonder if the complainers really are the same people and if so, are they mostly just people who can't stand anything that's written.

    I read Flash. I don't read Spider-Man, so I don't care about Peter and MJ's marriage. But I do love Wally, more than I liked Barry Allen, and I love the kids. I think it was great that they found a reasonable way to age them so they could be active participants in the stories and a factor in the book. They're cute and their sibling rivalry rings true as does the real love they have for each other.

    It's sad that Mark Waid feels that way and it's troubling that there are so many fans who don't take the quality of the writing into consideration, just the end results that don't fit their image of the characters.

    I've read many complaints about the Spider-Man storyline that made what sounded like valid points re: how it was done, but I'm sure there were plenty of fans posting knee-jerk reactions. I suppose it shows the passion of the fans, or maybe just their (our?) tendency to rant. ;)

  7. I could be wrong, but I think that the comparison may come from the fact that many of the supporters of the Spider-marriage have been arguing that the marriage was about character growth. It pushed Peter forward into adulthood and greater responsibility, (which many fans see as having been a part of the character from the very beginning) and that gettig rid of it in the manner that Marvel has done is a character regression.

    Similarly, Waid feels that the addition of the twins was also about moving the character forward. The characters aren't the same, but at the core of both issues is character growth. I think what Waid fails to see is that for many fans i's not really about growth vs. regression, it's about change vs. status quo. With superhero fans, status quo usually wins out. He does seem to miss that Spider-Man readers and Flash readers aren' necessarily the same readers though.

    For what it's worth, I never read The Flash before, but I was interested in seeing how Waid handled the family dynamic, so I picked it up. I've really enjoyed it and I'm sorry to see him go.

  8. I was never really a Waid fan myself so I can't say I am sad to see him go.

    I bet a friend that as soon as Quesada is dethroned at Marvel Parker's marriage will be back. Seriously.

  9. I do hope Waid isn't getting all the people who hate the kids because 'omfg, flash shouldn't have kids!!!11' confused with the people hate the kids because they're being written as annoying little shits.

    I like the idea of the Flash having children, because by strange stroke of luck, the Flash is the only mainstream superehero character who actually as a legacy built around it (rather than just some sidekicks and spinoffs that'll never actually take over the job).

  10. I don't think the comment was about comic marriages, but rather a bit of frustration at how tough it can be to get an accurate feel for what the fans are thinking.I took the reference to the marriages as simply a timely example.The only message that ever seems to go through loud and clear on the internet is "I hate this."And with the anonimity that the internet provides, the people screaming about Spider-Man might as well be the same people who might be complaining about the Flash.Sometimes you can't tell who's who.

    It's a shame that the fans are getting to him, but I can understand why.

  11. Ditto to all of the above.

    Also, perhaps Mark Waid should have a talk with Grant Morrison about all the online feedback: "It's hard to say anything about comics fans in general based on what you read online because the majority of comics fans don't post. Of the 100,000 plus people who bought 52 every week only a tiny proportion ever commented on what they read and even fewer did so on a regular basis. The online community, nice as many of its members are, is not necessarily a representative cross-section of our readership, so while I always value and appreciate the genuine delight of the enthusiasts or shake my head in despair when I read the cranked-up-to-11 sociopathic onslaughts of the haters, I don't use the internet to judge my talent or gauge the popularity of my books".

  12. This reminds me of how on the TSN "speak out" section after every Leafs game, there are ppl who come out to bash the Leafs after a loss, and after a win ppl come out to cheer them on and others show up and accuse posters of being bandwagon jumpers, when, it's not the same posters cheering and booing... the fans are not a hive mind and is Mark Waid rly sure there's this large legion of fans that are expressing exactly the opinion he says they are for both things? :\

  13. I think you're reading a little too much into an off-the-cuff comment. I'm with Scott: I don't think Waid is arguing that Spider-man & Flash's marriages are somehow identical or that they should follow identical story arcs. I think he's trying to point out that their marriages represent character growth, so he's befuddled by fans who complain that undoing Peter's marriage is a bad thing because it undoes his character growth; then complain about Wally's marriage and kids because, I dunno, it grows his character in a direction they don't like. As you say, the situations aren't identical, but Waid's basic question is: "Do fans want to see character growth (in this case, in the form of marriages and children) or don't they?"

    The mistake Waid makes is presuming that the fan community speaks with one voice and that the people who complain about One More Day are the same people complaining about the Flash's family. You will never please all the fans all the time; and for better or for worse, fan outrage is often a lot louder than fan enthusiasm, particularly in the halls of the Internet. It seems fans are a lot better at expressing anger than happiness.

    Then again, I consider OMD one of the most retarded retcons to which I've borne witness in ages, so maybe it's not the best point of comparison in the first place... :-)

  14. Didn't see any character growth with Wally or Linda or the Twins. Just saw a radically different status quo sprung on the readers.

    Combine that with the ill will generated from the post-52 crapiness, and a decline in faith from so many bad crossovers/stunts and you get a situation where Waid had his work cut out for him. He should have known this, or at least his editors should have and prepared a killer story to sell his idea. He didn't.

    I am not even sure it is possible to sell the idea of 8-10 year old superheroes in the 'naturalistic' (for lack of a better word) DCU. It would seem to call for something more stylized, like Jeff Smith's recent Shazam mini.

  15. The personal lives of Wally West and Peter Parker were moving in opposite directions (in the case of the former, having kids with his wife; in the case of the latter, being de-married from his wife), but what the two have in common is that they were both incredibly sudden, unnatural, drastic changes that make relatively little sense in the case of a medium which can only tell these kinds of stories incredibly incrementally.

    MJ and Peter are married for years one issue, the next they were never married and have no memory of ever having been married, through the agency of magical gobbledygook.

    Linda had a miscarriage, then she had babies, then she had grade school-aged kids, hyper-aged through sci-fi gobbledygook.

    That's the real similarity, and I could see why fans would find both annoying.