Breaking: Superhero Comics Still For Children, Also Unbelievably Stupid [Doomwar 06]

October 19th, 2010 by | Tags: , ,

From Jonathan Maberry and Scot Eaton’s DoomWar:

Doctor Doom invaded Wakanda (a sovereign nation), held its queen hostage, murdered a whole gang of its inhabitants whenever he liked, staged a coup, and generally acted exactly like a James Bond villain, complete with a plan with poorly defined goals and acts of villainy for the evil of it.

If someone breaks into your house and starts murdering your family while cackling about how you are lazy and terrible and threatening your wife like he’s Snidely Whiplash? You don’t let him off with a warning. You leave his brains on the wall and sleep the sleep of the just. That is the only appropriate response. You kill him, and you kill him because he needs to be dead. Some things are beyond the pale, and what Doom did? That’s worthy of death. Past a certain level, your position on the death penalty and violence become irrelevant. And I know, blah blah blah, protect trademarks, blah blah can’t kill Doom, blah blah comic books, blah blah diplomatic immunity, but to that I say “blah blah crap.”

Who cares? If you’re going to wear Big Boy Pants and write comics with Big Boy Stakes, maybe you should be willing to make some Big Boy Decisions and not completely neuter your heroes at the end of the story. “We won! By destroying everything that made us special and by letting this guy who just killed a bunch of us walk away. But we threatened him a little bit and now he knows not to come back!” You don’t get to have your cake and eat it, too.

Every time a hero pulls the “I want nothing more than to kill you… but I won’t! Even though you’ve just murdered hundreds of my people/my family/my sidekick/a bus full of children!” I’m reminded that superhero comics used to be aimed at children and still haven’t grown up yet.

The only African country to genuinely escape colonization and stand on its own for centuries, which allowed it to advance culturally and economically without being brutalized by Europe like every other African country, which in turn allowed it to approach other countries in the United Nations as equals, rather than as poor little colored folks begging for scraps from the countries that screwed them over, was made lazy, weak, and corrupt because it took advantage of natural resources? Never mind that much of the country still lives in huts and stuff out in the plains or in the jungle?


Jay-Z said it best, man.

You only get half a bar – fuck y’all niggas.

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33 comments to “Breaking: Superhero Comics Still For Children, Also Unbelievably Stupid [Doomwar 06]”

  1. Y’know, I’m actually of the old school myself, in that I do hate to see heroes kill bad guys. But I’m with you here, in that it is ludicrously absurd and painfully cliche in this case. From a character perspective, it’s just absolutely contrived. Those Panther-people decapitated alien folks and put their heads on pikes for less than this. I mean, they’re not even going to imprison him…? Dah, y’know, this is one of my pet peeves, how in order to let the major supervillains keep on going they have to constantly treat them with kid gloves. In fact, Doom is a particularly egregious example, because half the time people are actively palling around with him! It makes me retch just a little bit every time the heroes have to work with Doom or even just meet him in a casual manner, and they’re all smiles and pats on the backs and declarations of “Well met, my old friend! How’s kicks? My respect for you knows no bounds, may we one day meet as comrades!” AAGGGH. Like, this… recently, little girl Richards met up with “Uncle Doom” and struck a damn deal with him to give him BACK his intelligence after he suffered brain damage. And is she regretful that she’s forced to help this terrible, terrible creature for a greater good? Is she at all sorry that she’s shaking hands with one of the worst sociopaths to ever live? That on the verge of his abdication, she’s set to give him back his most terrible weapon so that he can continue his murderous ways ad infinitum? NO! She’s just all smiles and giggles that she’s so clever and buddy-buddy with big Unkee Doom! Why does everybody like this guy so much?? He’s a mass murderer! Every hero in the Marvel Universe should be gunning for him, but it’s like they’re all just so used to him by now that they humor his antics out of a fondness born of blatant familiarity! Why does everyone want to give him a break? He’s just going to go on killing and killing and getting away with it, because he’s pure evil! His name isn’t ironic! He has no redeeming qualities! But if the flipping Wakandans, the same people who let millions of people die from Cancer annually, who cut off heads and set up spear traps and kick ass at the drop of a hat, if even THEY won’t put the zombie-faced bastard out of his misery, then no one ever will! Because… because… well crap, I guess he’s just too lovable.

  2. I was thinking about this sort of thing after the most recent issue of Batman: Odyssey where Batman was going to kill that guy after he shot the little girl, but Gordon was trying to stop him. I was wondering why the fuck Gordon or the cop(s) with him didn’t shoot the asshole the minute the gun was pulled like, I don’t know, police officers are trained to do. In that sort of situation, I assume, it would be cleared as a ‘clean kill’ (or whatever the actual term is)… but Batman using deadly force is wrong?

  3. To be perfectly fair, the bad guys who killed the “bus full of children” were definitely handled with the Big Boy Gloves, ie, “X-Force.” And from what I read, some of the readers still howled with outrage (“murder!” “Heroes don’t kill!” blah blah blah)

    I think that as time goes on, the juxtaposition of adult themes with childlike set-ups becomes more and more uncomfortable.

    In your example of “Doomwar,” I think it would probably play out better if they DID try to execute him, but simply couldn’t because y’know, Doom is really powerful and all. It would let him off the hook as a viable corporate character and let the heroes off the hook for not being pussies. The attempt matters.

  4. Big boy stakes demand big boy spankings.

    This opens a hugemongous can of worms, however. Some of which are completely insurmountable due to these characters existing as Disney intellectual property, some because they’re beloved, and some simply because these stories all came out of a consequenceless aether, but now are all real and shit.

    One of the reasons why I can’t be bothered with most current superhero titles, sadly.

    But come on. Talk about THE OUTFIT already.


    I have to admit that I did not read DoomWar, but I have read summaries of the stories events. When I read the synopsis for the series, I thought that Dr. Doom forced T’Challa into a terrible moral quandary of defeating Doom by deactivating all the vibranium or allowing his people to be conquered. That would have made for an interesting story, due to the awful choice and tremendous burden T’Challa would bear as a leader. However, for him to deactivate the vibranium after the battle is won just to make a statement about keeping lazy, shiftless Black folks from livin’ off the Wakandan gubmint, is all kinds of wrong. However, if I’m mistaken in my interpretation of how this series unfolded, I do apologize and withdraw my criticism.

  6. yeah, I would rather see Doom escape somehow, or them try to kill him and fail than this neutered half-measure. totally agree…

    …or hell, kill the guy. flat-out kill him. he can come back from the dead.

    I would love to see Doom evolve into this crazy brilliant magical scientist who is consistently punished at a level befitting his crimes against humanity, but he still just keeps coming back. he has no problem dealing with the devil. he’s on par with reed richards in the science department except he has NO ETHICS WHATSOEVER. let’s treat him at this “serious” level and then let the story respond with the most ludicrous ideas possible.

    I seriously would love to see that. Doom as insane, brilliant genocidal maniac who can never really be killed.

  7. What Matt said. With Doom you could have had the logical consequences of his actions take place with T’Challa gutting him in the street, with a final page showing Doom in whatever new body he arranged to have, talking about how not even death can keep Doom down. But this? F that noise.

  8. Let’s be honest: this mini-series was inept from the beginning. Less an indication of a problem in comics and more a case of bad writing.

  9. @Jay Potts: No, your understanding is correct. The moral of the story is seriously “Using natural resources to maintain their independence made Wakandans lazy and shiftless, so we’re gonna take away the Vibranium and learn how to be people with honor again.” Which in turn implies that Doom was at least partially right in attempting his coup, which is in and of itself heinous.

    Your understanding was mostly correct. Panther evaporated (or whatever) the Vibranium in a desperate bid to save the day, but right in the middle of the battle for some reason. It would have been nice to see what follows when royalty makes a massively unpopular decision (though it really should have been his sister’s decision to make…), but instead… we get a speech about how unworthy they were the whole time and out.

    No thanks.

    @Matt M.: The Outfit is coming. One more reread and then I think next week, it’ll be on.

    More later, time to go make paper.

  10. As stupid as it could be in a world full of superheroes, exactly the same thing happens in this world, USA, Israel and their allies can get away with genocide without a slight reprimand, it’s what the power does, power does trump justice to its side. These horrible things do happen, just as Doctor Doom doesn’t answer for the innocent Wakandians dead, George Bush didn’t answer for the innocent Iraqui and Afghani dead, at least that bit is real in our adult world

  11. Or better yet, instead of killing the villain, how about we quit writing stories where the hero is put in this position and come up with something a little more creative?

  12. Wait, superhero comics shouldn’t be for children anymore?

  13. One good thing about a generally regrettable series – the bit about the Panther God (reluctantly!) approving Doom because he saw that, regardless of his means, his intentions were ultimately pure. That was a great bit predicated on a good understanding of the character.

    Otherwise, yeah, not so great, but many of the problems could have been settled by rewriting the last issue. Deadpool’s participation was hyped in the series as being crucial, and it looked like we were going to get a massive Deadpool / Doom throwdown, but that fizzled to almost nothing.

    The vibranium thing was . . . well, I can see why they’d want to do a story about what happens to resource-rich countries that fall on hard times when their major export commodity takes a hit. But if you want to do that story with Wakanda you have to squint real hard in order to forget all the previous stories you ever read about the country where it explicitly details why this wouldn’t happen in this way. But I guess they needed to set up a situation that was so monumentally stupid that T’challa spending a vacation in Hell’s Kitchen filling in for a white dude who he barely knew would make perfect sense in comparison.

    And yeah, an attempt to execute Doom would have been awesome, and it would have been almost comically easy to write it in such a way that all parties came out well – but they didn’t, so they all look like gomers.

  14. @Two-Bit Specialist: A story clearly aimed at adults that uses child-like morality after flirting with being grown-up shouldn’t be aimed at or make concessions to children, no.

    @Tim O’Neil: The weirdest part is that Doom’s plan seemed to be… to take control of all of the vibranium and then control the entire world? Like the first thing he does when he gains control of all of it is launch attacks on every country and location with trace amounts of vibranium. What kind of motivation is that?

    Even the Deadpool thing (and War Machine, as Chris Eckert pointed out)–these dudes make their living killing dudes. Rhodey gets a little mopey about it, but he spent all of last year being Captain Invade-a-Country. For him to be like “Whoa, hold on, this is a formal invasion? I dunno, man…” is super silly.

  15. I always figure the heroes never killed the villains for fear that the death won’t stick, and the villains would come back with some crazy Hellspawn upgrade.

    But that’s just trying to defend lazy storytelling.

  16. They already did the story with Doom dying and coming back with Hellspawn powers in Waid’s Fantastic Four. It kicked major ass and was an awesome example of how to do different things with the character.

    In situations like this, I can’t get all Superman at the end of JLA: Classified #3. It’s just bad writing pure and simple.

  17. I know they can’t kill Doom, but in a situation like this you’d have to at least try. Especially since this isn’t some urban vigilante, this is the RULER OF WAKANDA, who absolutely has authority to kill an enemy of the state.

  18. Don’t get me wrong here. I am not about to argue that the “I want to kill you but…” hook isn’t stupid. But there are significant factors that differentiate the Marvel comic book world from our own:

    -Death is not one-way. There are almost as many ways to come back from death as there are to die. Many of them involve the escapee becoming more powerful and/or more unstable than they were in life.
    -Hell is very, very real. This is a double-whammy for heroes. 1) If you kill a defenseless person, even a defenseless supervillain, guess where you may end up? 2) As Graham mentioned above, a supervillain can emerge from the pits of hell with infernal powers and a demon army. That should be enough to give even the most bloodthirsty of antiheroes pause to pull the trigger.
    -Stupid though it may be, killing is a huge superhero taboo. On top of all of the moral and legal consequences, you’re not getting invited to the Thing’s poker game if you eviscerate the Mole Man.

    Even so, superheroes are still human (most of them, anyway), and they’re as prone to huge mood swings as the rest of us. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more tales about an otherwise squeaky-clean superhero having a really bad day and putting their villainous arch-rival down for good.

  19. “On top of all of the moral and legal consequences, you’re not getting invited to the Thing’s poker game if you eviscerate the Mole Man.”

    Unless you’re Wolverine, you mean?

  20. NeoKefka is right … just don’t put the heroes into situations in which killing the bad guy is the only logical (and even just) move. If your comics need to be kid-friendly (or the heroes widely admirable and uncontroversial), then your comics probably shouldn’t have mass murder, attempted genocide, et cetera and whatever. Tell action stories in which the kid-appropriate solutions are applied to kid-appropriate problems.

  21. “Unless you’re Wolverine, you mean?”

    Yeah, I always enjoy that one. “Murder is murder and murder is wrong, and if we cross that line then we’re no better than the very monsters we fight, and oh, hey, Logan whassup.” “Nothin’ much, just killin’ a dude.” “Carry on, then.”

  22. Personally, The argument NeoKefka is proposing has always felt like throwing the baby out with the bathwater to me. Slamming the door shut on certain kinds of storylines limits the genre instead of improving it, and more importantly it does nothing to solve the root of the problem– That terrible writers tend to write terrible stories, no matter what their limitations. If anything, better editor oversight is what is needed here, especially with this unfortunate story and its dreadful implications.

  23. @ Graham

    Actually, Doom “died” after gaining those powers. (technically, I believe he died in an after math to that story, with Richards and company stripping Castle Doom of it’s weapons)

    But yes, I enjoyed that story too. And the aftermath.

    And as for the not killing Doom thing, good points all around. I know it wouldn’t have stuck, but I think an attempt should have been made.

    Then again, I’m a fan of the new X-Force, so maybe I’m just blood-thirsty.

  24. What’s funny is you can kill Doom, you can kill him again and again and again and the next writer will ressurect him, say it was a Doombot or just ignore it. Shame they didn’t have the will to do it this time.

  25. Really, this kind of narrative dysfunction is less a product of the stories being too grim, or the editorial approach too childish, than it is of the need for all the characters, heroes and villains alike, to be kept in publication indefinitely for decades, well past the point where there’s much new to do with them. Just about any story you’re going to tell with the Joker has already been told, and we’ve seen just about every variation on the character one can imagine, and the end result of that is that, in-continuity, you have a serial mass-murderer with a body count in the thousands who is guaranteed to escape from whatever prison he’s placed in to pointlessly slaughter again. At that point, sure, it’s easy to say, “Why doesn’t Batman just kill the Joker?” But the real question is, “Why are we still seeing Joker stories?” The narrative is broken, because commercial demands are dictating that worn-out concepts be re-introduced over and over again, long past their shelf life. In fact, it seems it can only get more broken, since the only thing creators seem to be able to do with some characters is to make them increasingly depraved, which makes them fit increasingly uneasily into the rest of the world around them.

    Long-running serialized corporate superhero comics are unique as a form of storytelling, in that traditional stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Big Two superhero comics are decidedly traditional in structure, and they certainly have beginnings – what’s a superhero without an origin story? – but they are decidedly lacking in endings, and to a large extent middles as well.

    If, say, the Fantastic Four were allowed a reasonable narrative arc, we could see the characters age and grow with time, family dynamics change and splinter and evolve as a real family does. We could see actual endings for characters like Doom and Reed Richards and Ben Grimm – maybe surprising endings, maybe fitting endings, maybe both. We could feel like we’ve actually been reading a story, instead of participating in an activity that resembles an unholy hybrid of stamp-collecting and daytime television. Instead, the Thing gets to make his ten millionth brooding trip to Yancy Street, Reed still plays in his lab with his Asperger’s, Johnny is still an immature prick, and Sue is stuck as the bored invisible housewife raising Ralph Wiggum and the girl from Omen IV, forever.

  26. @darrylayo:

    Part of the problem is that only the people who want to complain speak up most of the time. So the people who are happy that the characters kill in one book don’t speak up in support they complain about other books where they don’t and vice versa with the fans that hate killing.

    As for endings, I’ve never been eager to see the stories of characters I like end.

  27. I have to think at least part of the “corrupt’ thing is based on the cancer cure bit a while back.

  28. Ditto with villains who talk about how they’re going to HURT the heroes ENDLESSLY rather than just killing them.

    Hardboiled novels have come up with a million ways for heroes to get out of getting killed when they’re dead meat. Some of them are lazy, some of them are not, and all of them are better than having your villain DECIDE not to kill the person he’s trying to kill.

  29. @Silphid:

    Yeah, but it would have been gutsy to have Black Panther decide not to kill Doom because he’s the leader of a country, and then deal with the political fall-out for a morally suspect decision that makes him and the rest of the superhuman community (read: the political class) appear to be out-of-touch elites.

    This was none of that.

  30. @Tim O’Neil:

    The Doctor Doom I like to read is a revenge-driven asshole who masquerades as a world savior, like Lex Luthor only with Alexander Luthor as his Superman.

  31. Hey, wait a minute, David…

    Didn’t you endorse the Grim Hunt, a story where the Kravens brutally murdered several people, inculding eating a teenage girl alive. complete with closeups of Al Kraven snacking on her bones (this is better than Ron Zimmerman HOW?). A story where Spider-Man, when faced with the option of killing Kraven and stopping his murderous family, decides thanks to a vision of the future will lead to infinitely worse things, so he declines to kill him, but LETS HIM GO because he’s too tired. Even though the Kravens are mass murderers who will surely kill again- and hell, Kraven kills his babymama at the end of the story!

    I’m not saying your critique of the decision not to kill Doom at the end of Doomwar was incorrect. But… what did Joe Kelly do that was so goddamn special?

    And I do agree that Spider-man shouldn’t have killed Kraven. But leeting him go? Fuck off. For one thing, it’s already resulted in a horrific tragedy, which is Mark Sable getting work.

  32. @Dan Coyle: They’re two different situations, characters, and motivations. Not all tales are created equal, and the two stories require different endings. The end of Grim Hunt didn’t bother me as much, in part because Kraven was never really a mass murderer. Yes, his family had done some terrible things in the story, but Spider-Man telling him to leave didn’t strike me as dumb as this does.

  33. Uh…when did anybody get eaten alive in The Grim Hunt? The only teenage girl that died was Mattie Franklin and she got stabbed.