by Darryl Ayo
No spoilers as I haven’t seen the movie yet… so there’s quicksilver and the scarlet witch. Both mutants and written as magneto’s children for decades. Also avengers characters for decades. Marvel attempted to essentially create a backdoor and steal their characters back from fox (all mutants are fox property in multimedia).
Fox was within their rights to object to this, from my pedestrian understanding. And fox likely saw the battle for quicksilver for what it was: a transparent ploy to destabilize their claim to the x-men characters as a whole. Citing source material is an insidious argument because those characters had been intermingled for decades but the actual licensing agreement has always been fairly straightforward (from an outsider’s standpoint)
Changing quicksilver and scarlet witch’s evil father from magneto to strucker is probably the most insulting detail switch because strucker already had his own boy-girl twin children with superpowers. It’s actually kind of maddening. But the obvious difference is that in the source material, the strucker twins are evil and quicksilver and scarlet witch become avengers.
Fox also had access to a super-speed mutant who has a bad attitude who incidentally also has a twin sister. There was no reason why quicksilver and the scarlet witch needed to be the battleground over which fox and marvel should go to war. No reason besides that marvel desperately wanted to reclaim what they once sold off, no matter what. Marvel logic probably works like: if they could sneak quicksilver back, they might be able to hammer out some sort of deal for the popular Hugh Jackman/Wolverine combo. That was perhaps their long-shot hope.
This past weekend, some friends of mine got together and watched that Cartoon Network miniseries Over the Garden Wall. Talk about DARK. But the darkness and outright horror of the miniseries is not to prove how “edgy” somebody is. It’s there to explore very important concepts such as fear, misplaced emotion, naïveté, danger and regret. Ideas that I believe that children are constantly learning and yet many adults aspire to “shield” children from in the media. It scares me because the sanitized, squeaky-clean desires of many adults do not match up to the psychological complexity of young people’s minds.
Adults keep lying to each other about what children *should/shouldn’t* be exposed to, I think. I have read that this is something of an English-speaking cultural tendency.
And don’t get me wrong, I was a total scardy-cat as a little kid! But that doesn’t mean that it’s categorically wrong to challenge children.
That said, still not a fan of what most people call “dark and gritty,” I believe that things like Frank Miller, Mark Millar and other similar stuff reflect a very incomplete conception of the world. At this stage in life, we tend to become aware of complexity for the first time in our awareness and become skeptical of much of what we have learned as children. The aforementioned whitewashing and sanitation of reality by adults leads adolescents who are perceiving complexity for the first time to mistrust everything because they feel lied to for their entire lives to date. This is why I believe that teens love sad endings. That and hormones. But the mistrust of authority stems, in my estimation, from having previously trusted authority only to learn that there was a realer reality underneath the sunny surface that well-meaning guardians presented.
The big problem is that PG-13/learning-stops-at-18-years-old mindset that we have in our culture. In this, we make the twin sins (“Twin Sins”) of promoting the idea that education in all senses of the term is optional after a certain age; meanwhile, we also tailor our mainstream cultural output to target that narrow and ultimately transitionary age group as the ideal age and maturity for “that which is mainstream.”
We are culturally suspended in a mid-step. Arrested development as the societal ideal of maturity.
The problem with Miller, Millar, Zack Snyder, Quentin Tarantino and all the rest isn’t that their work is “adolescent.” It is and it should be. The problem is that societally, we don’t allow culture to graduate onward to higher levels of maturity.
Marginalized people, as subjects and as audiences to art and cultural products, are under multiple pressures: erasure of our very existence from popular imagination, whitewashing of history and whitewashing of our oppression, backgrounding (placing marginalized people in non-active, almost decorative roles as figures in the background).
Number one: stories about anthropomorphic animals are at best a stopgap when it comes to representing differing racial groups and at worst they are an actual impediment to imparting compassion and empathy for other humans to the readers.
I do not necessarily oppose stories about animals. I support these stories as a form of resistance against the cultural juggernaut which is white supremacy, manifested in art as euro-primacy. What I absolutely do not support is the practice on relying exclusively on animal-characters as a method of avoidance. I roundly reject the idea that animals must be presented as characters for the benefit of a society that refuses to see people of color as viable subjects worthy of interest.
Number two: nonfiction is a trap. A particularly insidious thing that happens in the trends surrounding storytelling about people of color and other marginalized people is that the stories most often featuring marginalized people tend to be historical narratives, or the related genre, fiction centered around the specific oppression faced by the marginalized community in question.
These stories are important. They are vitally important. Biographies, histories, historical fiction, culturally-specific folklore, fiction derived from specific oppressions that marginalized people face: all of these are important stories to tell. We can never afford to lose track of history and lived experience. The trouble is that for marginalized people, these are not presented as some of the stories, but rather the only stories relevant to marginalized communities and peoples. An association begins to build where people start to link nonwhite characters and nonwhite people with suffering and struggle alone. Focusing on fact and history alone denies people their humanity in the eyes of a society. Instead, people become reduced to moral lessons, teachable moments and in the process, people lose perception that marginalized peoples exist as fully-dimensional human beings.
Number three: backgrounding. This tendency must be rejected on an individual story basis and condemned on a systemic basis. We cannot continue to condone the practice of simply placing some brown people into non-essential roles and claiming that a work depicts a diverse reality. That is not reality. People do not exist exclusively in support of white people nor do people exist exclusively to stand behind white people.
Number four: stories happen to everyone. White people are not the only people who have adventures.
…and to me, if you ask me personally, if X-Men is a metaphor for racism, I tell you always “no.” Is the X-Men a metaphor for homophobia and I insist “no.”
If X-Men is analogous to ANYthing in reality, it is a metaphor for the entitlement to private gun ownership.
Picture book illustration uses a lot of the same elements as cartooning (both forms are Sequential Art) but it sure doesn’t feel like comics when you look at it and read it.
The visual continuity from image to image is tighter in the comics mode of storytelling, keeping the reader immersed in the world of the story while picture book illustration, even the most densely-detailed sort, keeps the reader at arm’s distance, each illustration acting as a visual anchor while the reader imagines the full scope of the scenario.
The two forms represent different aspects to imagination. Picture books encourage readers to visualize scenes based on the anchor points that have been provided. Comics encourage readers to explicitly empathize with the specific details as they unfold.