Tuesday, September 27, 2011

X-POSITION: Nick Spencer - My Answered (Sort Of)

Bear with me people. I'm a little drunk and a little depressed right now. On top of that, the subject of this post is Ultimate so you know I'll be going on my share of angry rants. Recently, I did a full review of Ultimate X-men #1 because self-mutilation just wasn't cutting it. That book was so bad I was prepared to dive head first into a vat of mercury to sufficiently damage my brain to the point where I stopped giving a fuck. But of course if that shit actually worked, every fan of the Cleveland Browns would have done that years ago.

Despite my apparent lack of regard for my own health and my fetish for brain damage, I was determined to give Ultimate X-men a chance. I have not forgotten that this was once my favorite comic book for nearly a decade. I still have boxes of Ultimate X-men comics that are gathering dust because I'm too disgusted to look at them. I want to like the new books. I really do. It would do my liver so many favors. But try as I might, the series still sucks several donkey balls and a moose cock. I respect Nick Spencer and all the work he does. I think he's a great writer and I would have loved to see him on Ultimate before the anal raping that was Ultimatum, but what's done is done. As such, I decided to send him some questions for his first X-POSITION for Ultimate X-men. Despite my angry ravings on this blog, he was kind enough to answer.

CBR: X-POSITION - Nick Spencer

Now I know most answers for any X-POSITION are vague. Writers can't spill all the details or I assume Marvel sends hit-men to rough them up when they're taking a shit. But at least they give some sort of rhyme to the reason. Well the answers I got this time had about as much rhythm as Mike the Situation's rap album. Here's what was said:

The arms of MarvelMaster616 seem to be kind of tired from some old baggage he's carrying around. Is there anything you can tell him to lighten his load?

1) I was once a big Ultimate X-Men fan, but then I (and others) were turned off by "Ultimatum." It seems many have attached a "stigma" to this event and its relation to the Ultimate X-Men. Does this present a challenge for you? Do you feel the need to address this?

Personally, a great deal of the appeal in doing the book came from the status quo upheavals that took place during "Ultimatum." To me, if this were just another book with all the familiar X-trappings and the same cast we see in the Marvel Universe, I really wouldn't understand the point of it. Why would we need an "Ultimate Comics X-Men" book if it didn't stand out considerably from what was already on the shelves?

To me, "Ultimatum" opened the door for much bigger stories than what came before. I get that might upset some people if they liked what came before and they wanted more of that, or if they felt angry about the deaths of some of their favorite characters. But for me, change is exciting. Upheaval is exciting. It opens doors to new stories. Whether or not you like those new stories is entirely up to you, I guess, but I think there's something to be said for taking chances here. I think it's making the most of a line like 'Ultimate Comics.'

Okay, first off I have to call bullshit on the notion that Ultimatum was an upheaval. It fucking slaughtered half the X-men for crying out loud! That's not an upheaval. That's a comic book equivalent of a snuff film. And why the fuck is it necessary to kill characters in order to make the series stand out? Who says he had to use the same characters and themes of 616 anyways? He can do that WITHOUT FUCKING KILLING OFF HALF THE FUCKING CAST! Ultimatum didn't open any doors. It closed them by killing the characters and the stories they had left to tell. Killing characters doesn't open up new stories. It destroys them because characters ARE stories. Especially in comics. Why else would Disney pay BILLIONS to buy the rights to these characters? Why would the Kirby family be suing Marvel to get those rights back? This isn't change. This is regression. To call this change is like calling a mass murder change. It's not the kind that people care for. Especially if they actually gave half a damn about the first 100 issues that came before this shit. The sad part is I agree with Spencer in that upheaval is exciting, but you don't need to fucking kill characters to get that excitement! That's like chopping off your arm for an adrenaline rush. It's fucking stupid.

2) Many characters that died in "Ultimatum" were killed off-panel with no apparent cause. Some characters like Dazzler, Toad, and Psylocke never had a chance to develop their stories further. I know you've stated that you'll never bring back any characters, but don't you think that's kind of limiting?

Not [in] my view. To me, "dead means dead" is such a powerful selling point for this universe. It ups the stakes and makes those deaths mean something. Right now, when a character dies in most superhero books, let's be honest, the fans set a timer and start counting down to the eventual resurrection. You can't do that here, and to me, that's a big part of what makes these books special. I worry a lot about the impermanence of death in comics and how it robs us of the ability to do tragedies -- and thankfully, that's not a problem in this line.

As far as a character dying before their arc is resolved, well, that's exactly how death works. None of us know when it's gonna hit, and not everyone gets to go out in a blaze of glory or just after they've reached closure on all the important things in our lives. Sometimes it happens quickly, and sometimes it happens when we least expect it. 

Sorry, but that's also bullshit. Dead means dead doesn't add value to any character's death. It's not a selling point either. Honestly, does Spencer really believe that a book with the title "Hey! We killed Wolverine in this book! Come check it out!" will actually appeal to people? It may get their attention the same way a train wreck that kills 140 people would, but it wouldn't hold it. Most people are repulsed enough to look away after a few moments. And those resurrection stories he pans? Well, some of them are very powerful. Case and point, Blackest Night. That was the biggest comic event by DC in nearly a decade. It was a huge resurrection story and guess what? It sold like a motherfucker. So he's wrong. The fact that Ultimate can't and won't do that doesn't make it appealing. It limits the book in ways akin to cutting off it's legs, chopping off it's arms, an asking it to play charades. And the part about just shrugging off characters that were killed before their stories were told was very callous and insulting of Spencer. I hope he does realize that some people do actually like characters such as Psylocke and Dazzler. And just shrugging their deaths off is the comic creator equivalent of being a dick. I get that he's not bringing them back, but the least he could have done is be more respectful.

3) Between the hunting of mutants, all the hatred incurred by Magneto, and the revelation about mutants being man-made, doesn't that render mutants permanently "screwed" (for lack of a better word)? Where's the hope for progression?

I'm not sure what you mean here by "progression." In my experience, stories where everything just keeps getting better for the protagonists tend to be pretty boring. "Amazing Spider-Man" is probably the most successful ongoing superhero comic ever made, and really, if you lay it out by what's happened, it's really just one horrible thing after another happening to Peter Parker with very few things actually working out well for him. In the real world, the poor guy would probably be locked up in a mental hospital somewhere by now. But what we love about his story is the way he picks himself up and keeps trying to do the right thing, even in the face of what seem like insurmountable odds.

That's exactly what I think we're doing here, too, if we get it right. The question is, what will our heroes do, what can they do, in a world that's decided they are the enemy? The only way you can feel great triumph as a reader is if the stage was set with great adversity, after all. And while the relationship between man and mutant might be irreparably broken, that doesn't mean there are no opportunities for personal victories in the midst of that, either.

This one was my fault. Progression was not the right word. I shouldn't have used it. By progression I don't mean that shit gets better. By progression I mean that stories have a logical flow to them. The current X-books have that. Messiah Complex led to Messiah War which led to Second Coming which led to Schism. There's a flow to it. Ultimate had none. It was just kill everybody and pick up the pieces. I know that stories about everything getting better are boring. That's why my latest issue of X-men Supreme royally fucked up the X-men's world, but at least I did it without killing any major characters. And I'm a fucking drunk. If I'm able to do that, then there's no excuse for anyone working at Marvel. He really didn't address my concern. I get that the characters will overcome adversity, but what's the point really? There seems to be none. Personal victories are just that. Personal. They don't have any impact on the bigger picture. X-men has always been about a bigger picture story and Ultimate is essentially fucking that up while ripping off Days of Futures Past in the process.

And it wasn't just his answers to my questions that I found upsetting. For another questions, he said this: "I resolved, when I took the assignment, not to start fixing things up or diluting all the world-changing events that had come before. If anything, I decided to push things further to the brink..." That essentially contradicted his answer to my third question. It's completely asinine. You go into a book with the intention of fucking it up even more? This series is a corpse that's already been butt-fucked to the point where even the maggots devouring the flesh have given up. Sooner or later, your dick will start hitting dirt. Marvel is supposed to be the House of Ideas. How is wanting to fuck up a series that has already been fucked up for two years a good idea? How does that fit into the mold of "Anything can happen (expect resurrections)." It can't. I'm sorry, but it just fucking can't.

Again, I like Nick Spencer. His work on Morning Glories speaks for itself. I wish him well with this and every book he writes. But he's wrong here. I'm sorry, but that's the only way I can put it without resorting to more necrophiliac jokes. One month from now, Marvel will be relaunching Uncanny X-men and Wolverine and the X-men. These books will actually have the characters that Ultimate threw away. When the sales figures come out for those books, I hope everyone else on the Ultimate staff will realize that killing characters is a shitty gimmick that hurts the books long term. Now if anyone out there has a pill or a drug that helps me stop giving so many fucks about this shitty series, email me and we'll talk. But for now, this series is really fucked and Nick Spencer does not seem inclined to unfuck it. Nuff said.


  1. I think "dead means dead" would have had more value in the Ultimate universe if it was limited. A few deaths here and there would have made the concept work. A mass, wholesale slaughter where half the characters die makes me not care about the books. It's why I can't get into George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series. Every time I latch onto a character they get killed off.


  2. Well that's the problem with Ultimate. In a world where writers can be so irresponsible, they don't care to be limited. It's either kill no one or kill everyone. It's bullshit. The slaughter in Ultimate doesn't make it an appealing book. It makes it a fucking graveyard that's depressing to be in and limited in it's uses. I don't see Spencer's logic behind it, but sooner or later all those dead characters will coem back to bite Ultimate. It may take a while, but eventually it will happen.


  3. I personally am enjoying it. As for a drug, I hear ecstasy works :P

  4. I know you enjoy it, Wyokid. You've also said you despise Wolverine and other major characters so it's a lot easier for you. Understand that Wolverine does have a lot of fans and so do Cyclops, Magneto, etc. You not liking those characters just makes your opinion less credible because if not liking the characters that were killed helps you enjoy the book, then the book has a shitty premise to begin with.

  5. That's not WHY I enjoy the book though. It is incredibly well written, drawn, a great cast of characters, and an excellent premise. The big four not being there is the cherry on top. Also thanks to a certain someone at CBR, I'm warming up to Wolverine.

  6. And that's where I call bullshit. What cast of characters? What premise? That mutants are fucked? News flash, that shit has been done already in Days of Futures Past and done much better. Saying that major characters not being there is a plus is fucking sado-masochistic, like you enjoy being punched in the balls. Well guess what? Not everybody enjoys that shit! There's a reason it's considered fucked up by most logical people..