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Mary Sue

On the comics blog recently, a commenter used the phrase "Mary Sue" in a way that i believe to be incorrect. But from all of his previous comments i know that person to be smart and well read, and the usage is one that i see a lot. I think of this usage as being a lot like how "beg the question" has evolved into meaning something entirely different than originally intended. But i could just be plain wrong, so i wanted to outline my understanding of the phrase and see if people agree. I don't mean to single out any commenter (especially ones whose alter egos are invading Kree soldiers); it's something that's been bugging me for a while and the fact that it came up recently just brought it to the front of my mind.

I've always understood the phrase Mary Sue to be when an author inserts themselves* into the story in a wish fulfillment kind of way. And that's how Wikipedia defines it. The name originally came from a parody of fan fiction where a Lieutenant Mary Sue joined the Starship Enterprise crew and just proved to be a wonderful officer and got to be romantically involved with William Shatner and everything else. Simple, basic fan fiction where the author is fantasizing about being a part of the story.

We really shouldn't see this sort of thing in professional writing, and i can't think of any examples where we do. The closest sort of thing i can think of in comics is Richard Rory (and to a lesser degree Howard the Duck) being a stand-in for Steve Gerber, or the Beyonder in Secret Wars II being a metaphor for Jim Shooter. But those characters don't qualify as Mary Sues because the point of them is not for the author to fantasize about being part of the story. It's to provide that external voice, or to do an autobiographical self-examination (see also every Woody Allen movie). We may or may not like the meta nature of this type of character, but it's not simply the author showing how awesome they would be if they could be in the story.

The above examples aren't really where i see the phrase being (mis-?)used, though. Where it always seems to come up is in cases where the author has what i call a pet character. One major example is Roger Stern's Monica Rambeau, aka Captain Marvel. The common complaint is that Stern made the character too powerful and too perfect and structured stories so that she could always be the hero. This post isn't about debating the merits of that criticism. I just don't think it's correct to call Captain Marvel a Mary Sue. Stern isn't trying to insert himself into the story. He's just (perhaps) going too far in trying to sell or develop the character he's created, at the expense of other characters or good storytelling.

That's a potentially valid criticism, and we do need a phrase for it (again, i use "pet character"), but i think it should be distinguished from Mary Sue. Maybe i'm fighting an uphill battle here, but i already do that with "beg the question" so i'm obviously not above that sort of thing.

*See previous post

By fnord12 | May 28, 2015, 10:04 AM | Comics & Master of Style | Comments (9)| Link

Who are we talking to here?

Comic store price listings were a staple of comics ads since at least the early 80s (and you can definitely find smaller classified ads prior to that). But they begin to take on a different tone in 1990.

Cap is "hot"? Alien Nation "should be very strong"? It sounds like this ad is talking to other dealers. The speculator market is happening, people.

I can't even find mention of a Deluxe version of Alien Nation #1 on mycomicshop.com, so maybe it really was hot! The regular #1 from 1990 sells for $1.35 Near Mint, though.

By fnord12 | May 27, 2015, 11:13 AM | Comics | Link

Just a few random observations

1. As i've mentioned before, i hate it when green Hulk is colored to look like grey Hulk. There's more to what made the grey Hulk cool than just having grey skin!

2. There are nearly as many comics with "special prices" as there are regular titles.

3. I am surprised that X-Men Classics was more than a regular title. It was just a reprint book, like Marvel Tales, and didn't even have the back-up feature at this point.

By fnord12 | May 27, 2015, 11:02 AM | Comics | Comments (5)| Link

Marvel style

Just a note for myself, really, but it is interesting. Tom Brevoort says that through the 90s, over 90% of Marvel books were still being written in "Marvel style", where a writer writes up a plot and gives it to the artist, and then gets the art back to write the script. It wasn't until the Bill Jemas era that the switchover to full script (where the writer writes a full "movie script" style story with panel by panel descriptions) happened. Marvel style gives artists a lot more leeway and creative control of the story, which can be a good or bad thing depending on the artist's storytelling abilities. But i'd bet that a lot of what i don't like about more modern art, which often feels lifeless and even unclear to me, is due to that change.

I wonder if there was a tilt back to Marvel style with the more creator driven books like Daredevil and Hawkeye.

By fnord12 | May 20, 2015, 9:02 AM | Comics | Comments (2)| Link

"And whatever's going on in the X-books"

Just got a little chuckle out of the fact that all of the bi-weekly summer books had events going on except for the mutant comics. Events? Storylines? We're the X-books! We don't need any of that! And it's true. Sales on the X-books would have dwarfed anything else there, except for Spider-Man.

To be clear, it's not like the X-books didn't have events. Excalibur was coming off of the Cross-Time Caper during this bi-weekly period, and X-Men were building up to the X-Tinction Agenda crossover with New Mutants and X-Factor. But to get the kids to buy twice as many Captain America comics during the summer, they needed a special story, whereas the X-books just barreled on through.

By fnord12 | May 18, 2015, 2:12 PM | Comics | Comments (4)| Link

Thanos wants you to go vegan and buy a hybrid

I know. You're thinking to yourself, "Why should i do what Thanos wants?". So let me rephrase it: Thanos will destroy half the universe's population if you don't go vegan and buy a hybrid.

By fnord12 | May 13, 2015, 9:45 AM | Comics | Link

Skateboarding is not a crime!

Odd letter, odder response.

By fnord12 | May 13, 2015, 9:43 AM | Comics | Comments (8)| Link

Scarlet Witch Scholarship

The Beat has an interesting article on Stan & Jack's probable influences for the Scarlet Witch. Be sure to get to the Max Pemberton story at the bottom.

By fnord12 | May 11, 2015, 9:28 AM | Comics | Comments (2)| Link

Sometimes the streams cross in interesting ways

Brian Hibbs, a vocal comic retailer that i've linked to a number of times on this site because of his insights on the comic industry, writes in to Kevin Drum's website, which i link to a lot (Drum himself is recovering from chemotherapy so this is a guest post) to talk about the burden on small businesses to raising the minimum wage.

By fnord12 | May 7, 2015, 9:27 AM | Comics & Liberal Outrage | Link

How about a Netflix television series then?

Apparently there should never be a female solo super-hero movie because the Elektra movie was bad, or something.

By fnord12 | May 6, 2015, 6:51 PM | Comics & Movies | Comments (4)| Link

Big Hero 6 Marvel "cameos"

We watched Big Hero 6 over the weekend, and there's a scene where they go to the home of one of the characters, Fred, who has a big geek den.

Among probably a ton of other Easter Eggs, there are statues of a bunch of Marvel characters. I tried to find a site online that listed them all, but people seem more interested in finding appearances of Wreck It Ralph and other Pixar/Disney stuff. So i'll do my best.

The one in the center here looks like Torpedo:

To the side of Torpedo are two female characters. I can't get a good shot of the one on the right. The one on left is sort of a generic Dave Cockrum template, with the sash and domino mask (e.g. Ms. Marvel):

Here we have Orka and Black Talon, which you can see the best and many other sites have noticed. Pretty crazy to see them in a movie, even like this:

The one on the right below looks like Sleepwalker. I saw one site say that the one on the left looks like Manphibian. Looks more like Godzilla Jr.. Not sure about the robot in the middle.

The next one is probably the most obscure of all. It's Crimebuster, a minor Nova character. Don't know about the characters on either side.

One more group below. Chris in the comments notes that it's the Squadron Sinister/Supreme on the left. I don't recognize the other two.

By fnord12 | May 4, 2015, 9:37 AM | Comics & Movies | Comments (5)| Link

Or to put it another way

A different take on the Wonder Woman movie.

Hey, regardless of all the inside politics grousing we're doing over it, maybe they'll eventually actually make it a good film.

By fnord12 | May 1, 2015, 6:16 PM | Comics | Link

Marvel Sales


By fnord12 | May 1, 2015, 10:34 AM | Comics | Link

Wonder Woman and the Bechdel Test

Heidi MacDonald at the Beat has a (semi-)satirical take on why it's apparently so hard to make a Wonder Woman movie.

Also, in the comments (which, as always, read at your own peril) someone links to this (from 2008) which suggests that the fact that movies constantly fail the Bechdel Test is no accident.

By fnord12 | May 1, 2015, 10:31 AM | Comics | Link

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