Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wolverine, X-Men and a long history with comics

Just to be clear, in the trailer for the new Wolverine movie, he gives up his mutant power of healing.  So, yeah, it's yet again a 2nd movie in a superhero installment where the hero gives up his powers or loses them or whatever, and must prove how they're a hero without their superpowers.

How long until people who don't obsess about this sort of thing pick up on this trend?  As lousy as the both Fantastic Four movies were, correct me if I'm wrong, but nobody lost their powers, right?  Because aside from that movie and maybe Ghost Rider 2, which I've yet to see, it seems like this is the go-to for all Hollywood superhero films.  Oh, right.  Iron Man waited til the 3rd installment for that to happen, and Hulk just rebooted between movies.

I probably won't go see Wolverine because... honestly, I don't care.  At least the last one was so bad I had a good laugh (this did not amuse my fellow movie goers, but, honestly...).

Like everyone else who reads comics, I was once a big Wolverine fan until the circa 1988 solo series, during which middle-school me decided he was more compelling as a team-player than running around Madripoor with an eyepatch.  I used to read and re-read that original, four issue mini-series by Claremont and a young Frank Miller.  That thing read like poetry, but, man, it also sort of had the final word on the transformation of Wolverine from "Canadian White Trash Stabby Guy" to "Samurai Warrior".  After that, I didn't really care about the various stories trying to take Wolverine apart and put him back together or whatever.

last time I found Wolverine an interesting character

I don't keep up with X-Men now, but like many of my generation, it was my gateway drug.  I came in late for a kid of my generation, just prior to The Mutant Massacre, a terribly compelling and nihilistic storyline that felt like a real tragedy to the characters, at least to my extremely eager young eyes.  And, of course, Claremont was captain of the X-Ship for so long, he could do things like string out the Marauders storyline over a year or two in fits and starts.

And, it did the remarkable thing of really shaking up the status quo without faking irreparable changes.

Since then, I've never understood the policy of the short runs by writers on a book.  Sure, if the book is tanking, pull off the writer, but Claremont's consistent storytelling over a decade built not just the Marvel Mutant Universe we're still wrangling with today, it laid the real foundations for the X-Men movie franchises and opened the door for all of the Marvel movies.

Of course, X-Men also did all the things to me as a reader I should have learned would just keep breaking my heart as a comics fan.  Claremont left and I never took to the new writers or new direction.  It stopped being what I was happy with and went in a new direction that seemed to miss the point of what I was previously enjoying.  It sometimes seemed to forget it's own rules.  It would revel in being derivative (the Brood?  I mean, really?) and try to hard to appeal to the kids sometimes (nothing made you know Claremont was not a teenager like reading "New Mutants talk about pop culture stuff" pages).

But nobody in Big 2 comics before or sense knew and loved character interaction like Claremont.  Fantastic Four may have been the first family of Marvel, but X-Men caught two generations of mutants in a school and insisted life was one, long high school drama with occasional forays into fighting with the hoods from across the railroad tracks.  And there was even a step-dad figure the kids didn't like when I started, as poor Magneto was made headmaster of Xavier's.

I didn't even really have a favorite X-Man.  I dug the team and team dynamic.  I was never too into the mini-series they'd do of a solo adventure, and maybe that's why I never took to Wolverine as a stand alone character.  And the team changed.  A lot.  I remember a time when this best selling comic, btw, had exactly one male on the team, and that was a B-lister, Longshot.  Somehow we'd wound up with a pre-ninja Psylocke, Rogue, Dazzler and maybe Storm (I can't say I remember).

I do think there was some logical, odd leap from pondering Colossus to eventually deciding Superman was okay to like as a comics-based character and not just a movie character.  And I think we can all agree the Meltdown mini-series was f'ing phenomenal.

Man, being a comics fan is a weird proposition.

really, I think this is a lot closer to how Wolverine should look in the movies

There was the downside that Claremont was on long enough that he'd also start storylines and just forget to wrap them up.  We'd get some shadowy figure cackling at the end of an issue, it just wouldn't come up again.  Or suddenly we'd need to remember some factoid from, like, two years ago.  But Claremont also wrote every issue of X-Men like it was your first issue.  Which was great the first year of reading X-Men.  But by year five or six, it was kind of like the "X" stood for "exposition".

Eventually Claremont left, and slowly I lost interest.

Someone made Psylocke a ninja, essentially gutting what was interesting about the character in the first place, and replacing her with a 90's-era stock-character.  I wanted to like Bishop and all that stuff, but even in high school the character and his whole messy back story felt to me like someone's over-baked ideas from a notebook and less like an organic part of the orderly X-Universe of space dragons, baseball games, catch-phrases replicated nowhere else on earth, fastball specials, angsty romance, and the core of the battle for a proper representation of a minority that could be seen as a weapon of mass destruction.  Terrorism versus peaceful co-existence.

It's odd when I think it's been about 17 year since I had any interest in X-Men as a comics franchise.  I read the Morrison stuff (of course), but all the rest of it just doesn't appeal.  So I'm never really sure if I liked Claremont or X-Men.

I still have my run of Uncanny, from issue 168 to some point after 320.  It's a lot of X-Comics, and definitely one of my longer runs.

But it's been a long time since I felt sympatico with Wolverine as a character.  The movies, which dug down to the essence to find something that isn't covered in forty layers of paint, wall paper and whatever else that's redecorated the Logan house since Claremont relinquished control, have been fun.  I'm just not sure I need another round at this point in the game.

And I didn't even get into the whole "here's why Cyclops is actually 100x more interesting as a character" argument.  You're welcome.

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