Monday, February 14, 2011
Bad Romance - X-men Comics and Valentine's Day
Well I know I usually have a review on Mondays or some other post. But this time I'm simply going to use this blog as an outlet to rant a little. I'm sorry, but I need to get this shit off my chest. Today is my least favorite day of the year, Valentine's Day. It's the day where Hallmark has an orgy at the corporate headquarters because they've convinced an entire country to go out and celebrate a love that they could just as easily celebrate on their own without the bullshit marketing ploy. Now I have my reasons for hating Valentine's Day, personal reasons that I'd rather not share with the internet. Let's just say I've had my Peter Parker moments with women and I have no superpowers to make myself feel better.
So as a result of my hatred of romantic holidays, I often find myself following the romance of fiction. Call me sappy, but I actually like love stories. Anyone who has followed X-men Supreme knows I don't shy away from love, romance, and everything in between. Why would I? Some of the greatest stories ever told are love stories. Comics have told some epic love stories that bring me comfort to this day. I can still read stories about Spider-Man and Mary Jane, Superman and Lois Lane, Cyclops and Jean Grey, Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman, and Wolverine and whatever girl he happens to be interested in at the moment. Heck, there are even gay couples like Rictor and Shatterstar or Mystique and Irene from X-men. It's a beautiful thing, romance in a fictional world. Real life sucks. You get old and you die. But stories live forever. Superman and Lois Lane have had it going since 1938. It's been an amazing ride that has become part of pop culture.
However, every so often comics (like fiction in general) will try to tell a story that's horribly fucked up and makes you equate love to the same disgust you get when you eat bad cheese melted atop rotting meat. There have been stories about Superman marrying his cousin, Professor Xavier having the hots for Jean Grey (when she was a teenager mind you), and Mystique getting freaky with Iceman. This is the kind of shit that's more disturbing that provocative. Lady Gaga's costume at the Grammy Awards was provocative. Courtney Love's visit to her gynecologist is disturbing.
I get that Marvel, DC, and other writers have to do shit to keep people interested. Romance is a great way to do so and that helps get other audiences besides the testosterone laden male demographic interested. However, there's a fine line between being creative and being disturbing. Sometimes that line is walked skillfully by good writers. Other times they stumble over that line like Charlie Sheen on a three-day drinking binge.
Keeping in line with the X-men theme of this blog, I cite the issue that I haven't been able to shut up about: Cyclops and Emma Frost. Most X-fans know the story. After Cyclops had his soul corrupted by Apocalypse, it fucked up his marriage with Jean among other things. It didn't help that Jean was getting in touch with her Phoenix side again so he went to Emma Frost for help. Emma took advantage of him, had a psychic affair with him, and ended up falling for him. Then Jean dies, Cyclops rejects Emma, a horrible future happens as a result, and Jean has to push Cyclops to be with Emma from the future so that the world is saved. Okay, so it's a fucked up story, but it's not a terrible story.
The premise of this move makes sense on paper. Cyclops and Jean Grey were seen as getting stale. Then again, whose fault is that? It's not like the writers did anything to spice things up between them. It seemed the only way to do so was for them to be torn apart. Now that's a problem. If the only way to make a relationship interesting is to start tearing them apart, then Ike Turner and Tina Turner had the most interesting relationship ever. At least with Cyclops and Jean Grey, the story was fleshed out. Cyclops didn't physically cheat on Jean. Even during the psychic affair, Emma mimicked Jean. And he didn't go with Emma the minute Jean died. He rejected her. Jean had to push him, knowing it sucked for her. But it worked.
For a while, Cyclops/Emma continued to work. Under Joss Whedon they were one of the most interesting romances Marvel ever put together. What made them interesting was that they were so unlike Cyclops and Jean Grey, yet there was still chemistry. Emma was cold, snide, and crass. Cyclops was stiff, brooding, and overbearing. Some fans go so far as to hate Cyclops because he became permanently tainted by cheating on Jean with Emma. That's pushing it because it was psychic in nature. And second, it does help balance out all the lip-locking Jean Grey did with Wolverine. But cheating or not, Cyclops and Emma Frost did work. Then something happened. Joss Whedon left. From then on the Cyclops/Emma relationship has become more annoying than every Justin Long movie ever created.
Cyclops and Emma went from being something quarky and different to being pretty much the same what Cyclops/Jean was. And that, my friends, is what we logical folk call pure whale shit. I get the whole notion of shaking up an iconic relationship. It's been done with every romance ever. But the way Cyclops/Emma has played out makes all the positives it once had seem like the decent drink some mysterious guy bought you before he drugs and date rapes you. Now Emma is essentially a more sexuality Jean Grey. While most men won't argue with an overly sexualized woman in comics, Emma Frost makes it more goofy than hot. She does just what Jean did, standing by Cyclops as his arm candy and supporting him no matter what he does. She even pushes him when he does something that is clearly batshit stupid. Even Jean Grey never went that far. Maybe I'm missing something here, but if you break up an iconic couple like Cyclops/Jean because it got bland only to replace it with a pairing that turns out to have the same problems then why the fuck do you break them up in the first place?! Is it just because someone at Marvel has a preference for blonds instead of redheads? This is the 21st fucking century. We have Photoshop now. You can turn Jean Grey's hair blond and Wolverine's hair pink if you want. You can do that shit without fucking up the characters.
Sorry for my string of curses, but it does piss me off. Cyclops/Jean have something that Cyclops/Emma will never have. They're iconic. Their love story has spanned 40 years. Cyclops/Emma will never be that iconic. Even if it ends up lasting 40 years, it will never escape the fact that it was because of Cyclops/Jean that they got together in the first place. They're only an item because Jean Grey pushed it. Yet some writers like Matt Fraction have the stones to say that somehow Cyclops/Emma is more mature? Does he or anyone even know how to use wikipedia? Cyclops and Jean Grey actually got married, something that hasn't even been mentioned with Cyclops/Emma.
And their marriage worked, regardless of what detractors say. It worked pretty damn well in comic time. They were together for over 12 years if you count the time they spent in the future together. They raised baby Cable during that time. And pretty much every major medium from the cartoons to video games to the movies have Cyclops/Jean together in some capacity. When they don't it causes issues. Remember a joyless little clusterfuck movie called X3 that so many fans hated? Well in that movie they killed Cyclops in the first 15 minutes and tried to replace him with Wolverine. Keep in mind that Wolverine in the movies only knew Jean for a few days yet somehow their love story is supposed to be greater than the love story of Cyclops and Jean, who were together long enough to get engaged? If you think any self-respecting X-men fan would accept that then go back to your meth dealer, cut off his balls, and step on his face for selling you the worst quality shit he had.
Ever since Whedon left, Cyclops/Emma have become the sacred cow that the writers and fans used to love criticizing. They won't do jack shit to shake them up. They always have to be written as being lovey dovey, which was completely the opposite of the relationship Morrison and Whedon developed (which also happened to be the more interesting relationship). Now Emma Frost has essentially been neutered. She's about as witty as Keanu Reeves on Ritalin and about as deep as Adam Sandler's acting. Even when stories that could potentially change things come along such as Emma's past with Namor or her joining Norman Osborn, it doesn't do shit. It always ends up getting swept under the rug so Cyclops and Emma go back to the way things were. Nothing changes, yet this is exactly the kind of bullshit that writers and fans hated Cyclops/Jean Grey for.
So with this in mind, I have to say MAKE UP YOUR FUCKING MIND PEOPLE! If you want to replace Jean with Emma, just say it. Don't take a big steaming dump on a plate and serve it up as chocolate mouse. If you just don't like Jean Grey over Emma Frost or vice versa, fine. But that's no excuse to fuck up a story or a romance that was 40 years in the making. You're not going to replace it and have it be believable. Just as you're not going to undo the stories that have been told. It's not Ultimatum or the fucking Clone Saga. It doesn't involve fucking an entire series up. If that's what you want to do just to force a character or story you want, then you're a douche-bag.
The characters come first and then the stories come second. Biases are third. We all have them. I have them. I don't hide from them nor do I deny them. But whatever my biases, I never sacrifice the story for it. A personal bias can fuck an entire series. Look at One More Day in Spider-Man. Just because some assholes don't like writing a married Spider-Man, they changed it. They didn't just end the marriage. They fucking retconned it. That's like giving someone a pill saying that it'll cure their cancer and all it does is make them shit uncontrollably for 10 days straight. If you like a pairing fine. If you don't that's fine too. It's not an excuse to go at it with a bazooka. There are other more creative and less insulting ways to get what you want in a story. You think Peter Parker asking for a divorce is crossing a line? How about making a deal with a fucking devil? For that alone, Spider-Man is not a hero. He's a shithead. At least Cyclops had the decency to wait for his wife to die before going back to being single.
So in closing, I'll just say that there will always be a place for romance. I enjoy it and will continue to utilize it in X-men Supreme. However, here on the unholiest of holidays known as Valentine's Day I'm compelled to rant a little on all the bullshit that bad romance stories can lead to in comics and fiction in general. We all love the power of love, even if we're too macho to admit it. When love stories are fucked up, that tends to piss people off more than usual. I'm pissed off it's Valentine's Day and I'm also pissed off at how certain relationships are handled in the comics. I do hope it changes. One good thing about comics is the limits of reality aren't in place. All it takes is one good story to bring everything together or make it awesome.
With that in mind I say happy fucking Valentine's Day everybody. Again, sorry for the bitter rant. Just needed to get it out of my system. Nuff said.