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Better Than Basic

Updated: Dec 20, 2019

The two characters who pulled me to comic books are no longer compatible with me and my values. I've changed; they've changed in another direction. It's sad... but it doesn't need to be a bad thing.

New page from a Marvel book involving the two characters that have kept me tied to Marvel Comics for the last decade.

These were the characters that got me into comics. I discovered these characters when I was in a very dark, isolated place in my life and it made me feel not quite so alone. Over years, and for lack of presence in regular publication, my imagination about them has expanded and twisted, and shot off in tangents. And now, canonical material does not resemble my own stories. My own expectations.

Which, I have no one to blame but myself, I suppose. Expectations are always a downfall. But it's not even defied expectations. It's a departure. To the point where this single page is wholly inaccessible to what I would have envisioned. To what I would have found interesting.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't just a little bit heartbroken... I had so many dreams wrapped up in this. But that's generally how a breakup goes. And now this is just the moment of realization where they simply... aren't my characters anymore. Or rather, they aren't for me anymore. All I had plans for was to give more guidance to that 20-year-old mess I used to be. We're hardly unique, maybe there were other hot messes of mental health and unresolved gender-confusion who could use used a boost.

But that's not this. I have changed from that 20-year-old and these characters have changed from what they were 12 years ago. But... changed in separate ways. We have developed separate signals and symbols and sensibilities, and ultimately, gone in separate directions in ways where my plans and intentions for what I could have done — what I wanted to do when I became a writer of renown — do not seem to be compatible with the current direction I've been seeing them move in.

And it's a shame... because they were good ideas. But these days, Marvel comics hardly seems like the place to go with good ideas. There does not seem to be an evolution of projected thought. All the ideas are the same. The tropes are the same. There hasn't been a single subversive thought since Demon in a Bottle. Both of these characters, Teddy and Billy, have seen unimaginable things (literally, things that are beyond what we can expirience) and felt grave trauma. And, if I'm going to be critical, there they go — acting out the script for 'the gay ones'. They have not reacted to their world, they have not responded to a sense of individuality. They were confused and lost teenagers trying to find their place in the world, what generated them and where they can fit. 

As adults, they're just that social-media-perfect gay couple I wanted to be once, now for which I have nothing but contempt. Contempt, because it's a fraudulent idea that only exists in imagination and Young Adult fiction. Why not juxtapose a magical character with a narrative that is more real than the rest of the Marvel universe?

Intellectually, I see that entirely as a waste of two backstories and origins that are so deeply steeped in Marvel's canonical history. The culmination of what brought them into existence deserves better than basic. Also, perhaps, I'm a little annoyed that characters that were invented within a millennial age bracket do not at all seem to represent the struggles facing this generation or the younger one. The world is on fire. Nations are being overturned. People are dieing; from revolution, police states, police violence, trans hate violence, concentration camps, refugees, and poisoned water across America: on reserves, in cities, and from authoritarian, late-stage capitalism as a whole. The world is trying to eradicate humanity to save itself like a body purges a virus with phlegm and fever. 

You have one character who is the sovereign apparent of two of the most significant space-faring species. The other is the centrefold of magic and creativity, whose eldritch powers are implicitly boundless. If any two characters are poised to take on the challenges of this modern world... Yet the scope of their introductory morning routine amounts to cartoons and brunch? Well obviously, because they're gaaaaayyyyy? And not just gay, but ThatGay™ — the kind of Gay I forced myself to be, making myself into an abominable human being, without realizing that I didn't have to be like that.

I'm sorry. That was uncalled for; but it's a feeling I have, justified or not, so I'm letting it stay.

I haven't read it, and given how this is just another step in a direction for the characters I've been reading for years, I don't think I have any plans to. I am, however, so happy to see that this means a lot to those who do get to play with these toys. Everyone deserves this kind of absolution and fulfilment.

I'm just hoping I'm going to get that chance someday, too...

But I don't think it will ever be at these characters. Not unless there is a full-universe reboot for which I have a degree of creative control. Which... I wouldn't want because that might invalidate the work of these creators. And I don't want that!

I also want to be clear, because I complain about this a lot: this isn't an instance of bad representation. Sure, it may seem to be playing off of a stereotype, but it's a stereotype that the gays are okay with believing is a reality. It's also just not any kind of representation I'm interested in anymore. I dunno. Maybe they were always this basic?

(I also really hate that the idea of gay 'success' is a matter of expected milestones for heteros.)

Honestly... this spills out a larger problem I've had with comics. Marvel in particular. I'm just running out of reasons to continue to stay invested in current Marvel affairs. I mean. Twice every year there's some earth-shattering, universe-shifting, paradigm-changing event. It's hard to keep up if there's a span of time where you can't fit comics into the budget. Getting caught up is a massive investment. And given that the good writers seem to be jumping ship or heading on to Star Wars...

That and... Marvel (and DC, but not as much to a large extent) just isn't interested in exploring new ideas. In taking risks, or in being risky. Even Deadpool is drollfully PG-13. There's nothing to sink one's teeth into. There's nothing to look at and think Everything is run like a business: stories are 'safe', characters are 'safe', risks are calculated, and themes and meaning and signification and allegories are 'safe'.

I don't want safe. I want to be challenged and to expand my thinking. I want to read things that offend people who are unaccustomed to being offended. To introduce myself to new ideas and to change my mind, twisting into more complex connections and associations. And Marvel just isn't that place anymore. And I don't think it has been for quite some time...

My ideas have expanded so much further than their inspirations. Quite frankly, it's a little scary not to have a roadmap. I have no idea if what I write is going to be successful. Or palatable. Or identifiable. Or, quite frankly, cohesive.

If I, or any of us, want these things from comics, it's not like Image or Boom or a number of other indie comics aren't out there. And it's not like they're producing content that's better than most non-graphic novels. I just... need to work up the courage to start something new.

So this kind of giving up doesn't have to be self-defeating! Just because it's a break-up isn't a bad thing. Nobody's wrong. Not me, not the characters, and certainly not the new creators. (Maybe Marvel is wrong, but they're an evil cooperation run by a bigoted capitalist.) (No, I'm not talking about Feigie; Purlmudder is very good at staying out of the public eye, to his credit.) Just because I'm grieving over the loss of my ideas doesn't mean anyone is at fault.

But then again — my ideas aren't actually going anywhere! Being separate, and untangled from these characters means that I can take these ideas and replace them into my own stories. Into my own creations. I don't lose my characters, I have the ability to make my own stories. It's sad that I can't cut through an introduction and get to work on existing properties, but maybe that's the best of all possible worlds. Honestly, I'm not sure Marvel would have let me do an eighth of stuff I really wanted to do. I hope people ask me about it... because I would love to explain all that I had planned, and all the mythology and character, and meta-narrative tropes that I knew how to tie together with a nice little bow.

But this means that I get to expand my library. And attach my ideas to my characters and stories. I lose a component of my healing, which is tragic... but that's not what I need anymore.



Give me a follow on twitter (@NTHerrgott). And get your body ready for my Instagram pics (nt.herrgott) coming 2020! XD

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