Those Fools At The Academy, Who Laughed At My Theories…

…And dared to call me MEME…!

Soon I’ll show them all!

Good evening, Bloggers; I’ve been expecting you. In fact, I’m a little surprised it took you so long! Now please, please…there’s no need for such unpleasantness. Please, sit down. Help yourself to refreshment! I recommend the Lafite ’62 — it’s excellent, although I myself am rather more partial to aklavit. Absurd, I suppose, but then none of us can truly escape the prejudices of our youth, can we? Those carefree days…days of simple allegiances, and simple beliefs. Innocent days; that belonged to innocent people.

Shall we toast them?

But I see you are impatient to get down to business. Quite, quite. I too have other, rather pressing, engagements. By all means: let us begin.

I was just chatting with Sean W. (well, I was being longwinded in an email — what passes for chatting, in my world), and it occurred to me that you could learn a lot about what a writer’s general storytelling philosophy is, if you could just find one isolated thing, one little set-piece, one little convention that eventually constrains all writers somewhere along the line, and in which there is a clear and common goal to be achieved, but not much room available for gussying it up. And in all of movies, comics, and television (it also occurred to me), was there ever something that fit that bill so well as the Mad Scientist’s Exposition? Eventually everybody comes to it, I think — even if you write Law & Order episodes, if you write enough of ’em you’ll probably run out of places to hide from it.

Of course, I could call it Villain’s Exposition. But does that really convey such a specially-constrained character? Any villain can exposit, after all: there’s plenty of room to run with that one. But though Mad Scientists’ ultimate motivations may vary somewhat, the expression those motivations find never does — and always there is the need to communicate, the need to reveal…the need to confide, and even possibly convince. Don’t you agree, Bloggers? By the way, I think you’ll find it quite impossible to reach the signal device at your belt, by now…the chemical contained in your drink (one of my minor discoveries) is very fast-acting. Although I suppose it was rather a shame to waste the Lafite…such a fine vintage, so hard to come by these days…

But then as I said: I prefer aklavit.

So, now that the preliminaries are over, here’s the meme: what’s your favourite Mad Scientist’s Exposition, and what in your opinion makes it the best?

I’ll tell you mine, if you tell me yours.  Well, that’s really the essence of detente, wouldn’t you agree?

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32 responses to “Those Fools At The Academy, Who Laughed At My Theories…

  1. I’d have to go with Thanos, way back in Captain Marvel, when it turns out he wants to destroy the universe as he’s in love with the personification of death. What a fantastic baddie motive.

    Let’s face it, Death is a fine looking woman: lustrous hair, shapely back, big long cloaky thing. You can see his point. He’s a man (God? whatever) in love. Bonkers, but rational. It’s a winning baddie combination.

  2. Strangely, I too am a man (God, whatever), in love with Death’s shapely back and big long cloaky thing. Clone! You’ve been reading my diary again, curse you.

    Not my pick, though. A good one, hard to argue with! Pure. Clean. But not mine.

    Actually I have two.

  3. No, I can’t. I have to wait ’til more people comment.

    Well, okay, I can spill one.

    It’s FF #69-71, the Beehive and HIM. Whole damn story’s an MSE. With very interesting use of the motif of sight — it’s pretty elegant.

    This first one I can say — because I plan a massive exegesis of it later on which will blow your little clone mind.

    The second one you should actually KNOW, though, and ought to have anticipated — it’s an MSE recited to no one, the most economical MSE in the history of the whole history of history. But! I regret to say I can give no more clues.

  4. But Matthew, you must say why it’s good.

    Why it’s the best!

    Frankly I expected something a little more Time-Trapper from you. (I really did, actually!) But if Ozzy’s the most by your lights, by all mean explicate his superiority as an MSE! You know I love Adrian’s MSE! It’s another one that’s two issues, for heaven’s sake!

    And, just to remind any future commenters: no it does not have to be comics.

    But you must explain! Explicate! Exceed expectations! Enly then Ell you Eceive the E-Prize!

  5. — It’s an MSE recited to no one, the most economical MSE
    — in the history of the whole history of history.

    Thatcher at the 1979 Tory Party Conference?

  6. — it’s an MSE recited to no one, the most economical MSE
    — in the history of the whole history of history.

    Dr Bong in HtD 15 (ish). The one with the paw being guillotined, when he’s captured Beverley. Actually, that wasn’t economical at all, but it was a fine MSE moment.

  7. I’m so bad at these topics where I need to quantify things. But since I just read it, I’ll go for Uncanny X-Men #200, “The Trial of Magneto”. Essentially the entire issue is MSE turned into world court trial, so MSE with a defense attorney, as Magneto both apologizes for and justifies his entire history as a comic book character up to that point. In great bits of turn-about, he was arrested by the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and defended by the X-Men, with his arch-nemesis Prof. X right at his side despite being all fucked up from brutal beating by bigoted college students. And the prosecution was Sir James Jaspers, a super-villain of far greater magnitude because he comes from Alan Moore-land, though the potentials of that storyline were never properly delivered on. On the stand Magneto says, in full Claremontian glory:

    “My Dream from the start has been the protection and preservation of my own kind, Mutants. To spare them the fate my family suffered in Auschwitz–And do not tell me such a thing cannot happen again, because that is a lie! You humans slaughter each other because of the color of your skin, or your faith or your politics–or for no reason at all–Too many of you hate as easily as you draw breath. What’s to prevent you adding us to that list? I thought I could impose sanity from above–through conquest–but there are too many of you. So, I decided I must try another way. I am the reason Mutants are unjustly feared. That is why I am here, why I will abide by the court’s decision. My hope is to make the world understand the reasons for my being. But, most of all, to punish me for my crimes–and, no longer, my people. Whatever my fate, you must still face the reality presented by our–Mutants–existance. You cannot wish us away, you cannot ignore us. We–Homo Sapiens Superior–are your children, we are the next generation of humanity. What kind of parent fears his progeny? Tries to murder them? Is this the legacy you wish to leave? I have seen the error of my ways–can you say the same?!”

    Then Baron Von Strucker’s Mutant Eurotrash twins show up and start blasting up the place, Xavier is taken away to the far side of the galaxy by his pointy haired girlfriend, and Magneto is left to watch over the New Mutants, and he does a really crummy job. Oh, and his Romita Jr. costume at this time was truly horrible, the worst crime of all maybe. Better shortly after, marginally, when it became a set of purple pajamas. But hey, it was the 80s.

  8. “Sir… I have a plan…

    MEIN FUHRER! I CAN WALK!”

    Thats a good one. Dr. Strangelove was always the missing Bond film for me. Because what’s funnier than that, I ask you? After twenty minutes of extrapolation about the future bunker-sex-lives of the American male , he’s about to tear into his plan to destroy the Russians and gets sidetracked. Because he’s so sexually stimulated he triumphantly gets up from his wheelchair. It’s also two lines, really. Crippled Nazi scientist yelling at the President? Perfect.

    That’s one anyway. Ad like I was telling Plok, I can’t really think of any great MSEs from comics. Maybe Doom afterhe defeats the Beyonder? Nah. Oh no I got one… ooh that’s a good one.

    Are Thanos and Magneto Mad Scientists? They’re kind of just villains for me.

  9. Gosh, Adam.

    …Oh, except for all that stuff at the end.

    And Clone: very close, but no cigar! If I may. By which I mean to say that you’re on the right track, but “cigar” isn’t a clue. Or is it?

    And no, it’s not Thatcher. Actually she sort of specialized in MSE’s, didn’t she? The veritable Voice Of Fate. Thank God that Sooty couldn’t keep it going, but I think the time to bore you with the secret shit I know about that isn’t today.

    Whoops, wow, look at that, an SAS guy just stepped out of my closet. How long you been in there, Mr. Nobody? Here, have some acid, look at the Internet, join us…

  10. And it’s true! Magneto and Thanos aren’t Mad Scientists…but they’ve both had classic MSE’s from time to time, and so they’re allowed. Technically Magneto’s defence before the World Court doesn’t count…but he’s had innumerable explanations of Master Plans before, and given that I take this to be a deliberate reversal of those — Magneto reveals his real Master Plan, the true one for once…then it’s good. And let’s just go with that. It isn’t a perfect MSH…but it’s strongly felt, and isn’t that enough?

    And Sean, as great as your description is…it isn’t Dr. Strangelove who recites an MSE in that movie, is it?

    Remember, a VE isn’t the same as an MSE — simply doing something bad, isn’t enough. There must be “monologuing” too.

  11. Come to think of it, Thatch actually was a scientist, and a mad one at that. But I don’t think you should have to actually be a mad scientist to give a mad scientist explanation. It’s like most Cheddar cheese not coming from Cheddar.

    I think UXM #200, although a vintage piece of Claremontising, should be discarded as it was a personality retcon. There’d been so many different Magnetos by that point that no explanations, even MSEs, could made complete sense. Strangelove’s was a good one.

  12. Well,I was gonna say the Chief’s pre-death speech in Morrison’s Doom Patrol. But M. Night Shalyman saw to me being able to like that, didn’t he? Fuck that guy.

  13. One agreement, and two disagreements, Clone!

    First, the agreement: you don’t have to be a Mad Scientist to give an MSE.

    Second, the disagreements: I’ll count Magneto in X-Men #200 because the plea was a clever Claremontian retcon — Magneto in effect is disclosing his Master Plan, and trying to communicate, persuade, show, why he’s not a villain but a hero. That’s a sort of an MSE — although Magneto’s had genuine villainous MSE’s in the past, but I’m not saying “villain” has to be part of the cocktail. I’ll agree it doesn’t make sense. But there’s nothing inconsistent about it.

    However for the movie Dr. Strangelove, there is one character who (chillingly) delivers an MSE…and he’s not in the War Room, and I think Sean knows I’m right.

    Onward!

  14. — I’ll agree it doesn’t make sense.
    — But there’s nothing inconsistent about it.

    You just summed up twenty years of Marvel/DC comic book creation in two sentences. Respect.

  15. Of course Magneto is a Mad Scientist, he has a satellite headquarters, he gives super powers to cave men, and creates Alpha the ultimate Mutant, pretty much the same thing those guys in the Hive did. Does a guy have to be bald and wear a lab coat to get a little respect for his super science skills?

    And quit messing with my precious bodily fluids.

  16. Also, whether you liked it or not, character development is not a retcon. You may justifiably complain about things done with Magneto post-Morrison (and justifiably complain about things done with Magneto by Morrison), but nothing was undone here.

  17. The “misunderstood leader of his people” Magneto of UXM #200 has nothing in common (except the bucket head, maybe) with the crypto-fascist saliva-frothing nutcase of the early X-Men.

    Not that changing Magneto’s personality was a bad thing, mind: he was a much more interesting and important character during Claremont’s time than before or since. But when a character changes beyond all recognition, even with an ingenious explanation, I’m calling ‘retcon’.

  18. Okay, well, instead of arguing why Ozymandias’s is good–because, as plok has argued vehemently, and I agree, that whether such a thing is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is both undeterminable and beside the point–I’ll point out some features of interest.

    First, Ozymandias simultaneously seems to understand and not understand the part he’s playing here. When Nightowl asks how his plan can be stopped, Veidt is nonplussed. “I wouldn’t have told you any of this if you could stop it. It happened fifteen minutes ago.” Or words to that effect. He’s bewildered that Dreiberg, the Watson of this story, could even think such a thing. Veidt, you see, has learned the lessons of the MSE, adjusted his plans for them, and moved on. How slow must Dreiberg be that he can’t keep up with this?

    Now compare to Syndrome’s MSE in The Incredibles, a movie made by people who are clearly familiar with Watchmen. Like Veidt, Syndrome knows about the dangers of ‘monologuing’. He indulges in it anyway, later on, once Mr. Incredible is helpless, and explains his whole plan. Like Veidt again, he only does this once it’s too late (he thinks!) for anyone to do anything about it. But Syndrome isn’t like Veidt: he enjoys his role, and enjoys the opportunity to give an MSE… he enjoys being an MS! Whereas Veidt doesn’t think he is at all.

    But Syndrome is trying to use his plot to, basically, eliminate all special people. There are special people, and he’s not one of them, so he’s going to get rid of them instead. In Veidt’s world, there are only two special people–himself and Dr. Manhattan, who he’s already disposed of (he thinks). Syndrome needs to implement his plan because there are special people, so he needs to take steps, and Veidt needs to because there aren’t, and he needs to take steps.

  19. Okay, Adam’s absolutely right — Magneto is certainly a Mad Scientist. A short-sighted error on my part, but in my defence…I’d been drinking.

    The matter of Magneto’s conversion is a little more interesting, though. How does it happen, and when does it start? Claremont, if asked, might point to Magneto’s re-aging as the beginning of the change, but I won’t take such an in-story view — clearly (for me, anyway), Magneto’s slide toward humanity begins when he acquires Claremontian thought-balloons in…oh damn, what’s the issue, like X-Men #112 or something? These particular sort of “commentary” thought-balloons are one of Chris’ best tricks, in those early days, and if they work to humanize Nightcrawler, well they work that way for Magneto too. One issue earlier, he’s the unbeatable bastard Mags from innumerable X-Men and Avengers appearances…but as soon as he gets whipped by the new X-Men, he starts to become something — still only “something”, but something — of a sympathetic figure. Is it, strictly speaking, a retcon? I think it is, if only because it’s clearly meant to make us reevaluate all the old pre-Claremont Magneto appearances…but, wait, is it really a retcon? Because in order for it to be a successful one, it has to save the phenomena…and what about that old Avengers comic where Magneto’s controlling the Scarlet Witch’s brain? Suddenly “character development” starts looking like a better explanation, here — Magneto’s just done too many terrible things to successfully reinterpret all of them at a stroke…

    And you know, it occurs to me: the World Court speech works as MSE a hell of a lot better if Magneto’s account of himself actually doesn’t hold up very well under scrutiny. Isn’t the MS always just a little economical with the truth, as he tells his helpless foe his tale of misunderstood-guy woe?

    Sean, I’ll agree: shame about the Chief. That was an excellent one.

    Matthew, nice comparison!

    And Dr. Bong…well natcherly.

  20. The de-aging / re-aging thing was clearly just a plot belch. A good way for Claremont to spring Magneto from some of his legal charges, but if you take it literally, plenty of Claremont’s other plans fall apart. Magneto stops being a holocaust survivor, stops being Xavier’s ‘old friend’, almost stops being Pietro and Wanda’s father, since that was another person, one who had died. Did Claremont introduce all these things, incidentally?

    Claremont had Xavier go from being Magneto’s mortal enemy to leaving the New Mutants – Xavier’s own charges – in his care. They were good stories, but the difference was so extreme that either Chuck was having a brain aneurysm or we have to discard some of those early stories from continuity, if we want to keep having a formal continuity at all. We have to conclude that Claremont did retcon Magneto, subtly in terms of the storylines it affected, blatantly in terms of Magneto’s personality. What’s remarkable isn’t just the amount of change, but the length of time Claremont took to bring it about. He was the most long-termist comic book writer of all, I think. He’d let plot seeds lie for four or five years or more.

    UXM #200 does become better if Magneto is dissembling, and that is definitely part of his MS nature. The disaster was when they had him revert to his evil personality. Never saw that one coming.

  21. Mr. Burns’ MSE from the Simpsons’ Hallowe’en episode where he builds Frankenhomer, I also like. “Those fools at Radio Shack said I was mad!” Because Radio Shack is funny. Dude, I’m just buying batteries; I don’t want to tell you my address.

  22. It’s easy to feel cheated by Magneto’s reversion, for sure. And, does it now mean all those old stories exist properly and fully, again? In what I’m saying is Magneto’s somewhat self-serving #200 recollection, too? Personally I liked the reformed Magneto a lot (I do believe it was Claremont who made them “old friends”, although I’m still slightly unsure…anyway, at least that one’s still standing. Boy, that’s a good one), but then I also think it wouldn’t hurt anything to let Ben Grimm be able to turn back and forth into the Thing at will, at this point. That’s right! I’m a rebel!

    Xavier’s recollections, though…yes, that’s significantly dodgier.

    Hmmm…retcon, or not?

    You see how great this is, it’s just like Marvel Time itself, it’s the dropped stitch in the Persian carpet, it’s Tolkien’s lameass justification for Tom Bombadil, it’s really something I love: the de-aging (Len Wein’s idea, which just happened to fall so serendipitously, in a whole buncha ways, into Claremont’s lap) and the re-aging create enough of a break that it is almost, as you suggest, like a “real” death, a death realer than most actual deaths, in comic-book land…even if Magneto still possesses all his old memories, which he does, it’s a wonderfully utile discontinuity — something to point to as “where it all changed”, something in fact rather like a Crisis. That Claremont doesn’t try to tidy its loose ends, but only puts them to work instead, shows his fine comics instinct…in fact I think a lot could be said about how interesting Claremont is as a shaper of Continuity in his time, or maybe I’m not putting that quite right: as a flavourer of Continuity. The nuts and bolts of his early-period X-writing, the way he employs the thought-balloon for example (and I should just say, I’m lifting that observation from somebody, but unfortunately can’t remember who it is), the way he manages the X-Men’s locations and travel methods — in my opinion, it all enriches the way Marvel’s Continuity Mystique can be used for storytelling purposes, and I probably ought to say more about it one of these days. Something, I think, to do with the idea of embedding assumptions in the narrative. Or something like that. But right now, the assumptions that make me cackle with glee (and God I’m pleased this came up, because I don’t think it would’ve come to mind otherwise) are the assumptions about Magneto’s history that — it now seems to me — strongly support two characters that aren’t consistent with one another. Is it a retcon? There’s much, here, to say that it must be. But, at the same time there’s just as much that says it cannot be. Long-term, indeed — years and years to get all this stuff embedded, and now that you mention it I still don’t think anyone’s ever effectively addressed the weirdness of Pietro and Wanda being Magneto’s children. This has just slipped so deep into assumption that the alarming/jarring/intriguing notes it called forth when it was first revealed have all faded away, now, and I think that’s a shame. A very exciting, even titillating revelation at the time, now just become business-as-usual, part of a backstory. And then Chthon comes into it and the Scarlet Witch really starts taking it on the chin. The mystery now is assumed to be known…but was it ever intended to be so well-known? At the time, this was just one more way Claremont peered into a past of his own devising for all the X-folk, not showing everything, but essentially creating mystery and depth where there’d just been nothing of any real interest before. Charles Xavier, bumming around the Mediterranean? Sleeping with Moira MacTaggart? Friends with Magneto? Who was secretly Wanda and Pietro’s father? And a Holocaust survivor? That’s a lot of new X-texture being added, there…and there’s still lots of room in that new X-history that Claremont invented. Even if Marvel’s been so completely crazy as to fumble Wolverine’s mysterious past — another real shame, it was so promising for a while there — there’s still a lot of elbow room available for other stuff that we don’t know yet, and maybe, hopefully, never will. Sorry, I write this on the way to bed, so it’s probably not real smooth…

    Claremont. In so many ways, he really did write the X-Men, and for a time a really large chunk of the MU in general, as soap opera. Marvel Time became Soap Opera Time in his hands, infinitely re-writable. Characters turn from one thing to another as new plotlines invoke “old” histories that never existed. Hmm, “retcon” — I think that’s too simple a word for it. Makes the whole thing sound too surgical and modular, when clearly Claremont’s re-writing was anything but modular, and anything but precise. Stan used to do this stuff all the time, but really quick and dirty — didn’t even rise to the level of “retcon”, perhaps, he just flat-out changed stuff. And then Roy found ways to bridge different things together, as I see it: rationally, or at least as rationally as was possible, given both the messy situation and the fact that he was Roy. But Claremont infused rafts and rafts of new material over time into empty spaces, not bridging but building up, and I believe that’s what we’ve got here, with Magneto.

    It’s quite interesting, actually. I think I’m going to come down on the side of “neither-not”, as far as the retcon/character development puzzle goes…and I know I’m the only one still worrying away at it, but wow, hmmm…still a lot of worry-room there, still a lot of meat on that bone.

    And while I’m here, I should say that I don’t know how I just glossed right over what Sean was trying to say with his Dr. Strangelove MSE — the hilarious way the giant explanation/revelation gets sidetracked and blown up, subverted by coarse-grain human joking about sex…

    But then as I said: been drinking. Fortunately I think that point-missing of mine was the only bloody footprint in the snow that I left last night…

  23. I read the de-aging of Magneto in “Defenders” #16 as a role-reversal specific for the structure of that particular storyline. Magneto ‘fathers’ Alpha, who quickly evolved into a higher state, and neutralized Magneto and the rest of the Brotherhood by turning them into babies. That was in 1974, a half year before “Giant-Size X-Men” #1. Eric the Red re-aged Magneto (and I believe the rest of the Brotherhood off-panel) as part of his campaign to make things difficult for Xavier and the X-Men. That was “X-Men” #104, 1977. I believe the first suggestions of Magneto as Holocaust survivor came in “Uncanny X-Men” #150, 1981, the issue where he was largely humanized. This and his friendship with Xavier are made explicit in #161 in 1982. Magneto wasn’t identified as Wanda and Pietro’s father until 1983 in “Vision and Scarlet Witch” #4, written by Bill Mantlo.

    The rebirthing of Magneto, as symbolically significant as I may find it, is not in the context of the story a reincarnation. That it is used as a legal defense before the (surprisingly sympathetic) World Court is the character Gabriella Haller’s device to spring Magneto from his legal charges. We shouldn’t confuse the motivations of a character with those of her writer. Especially when the character is a lawyer.

    This is very simply not a retcon because it is not retroactive continuity. Retcon is not a synonym for reinterpretation. Revealing information previously unknown is not a rewrite. An insane character regaining sanity is a radical change of character, but does not alter the previously published stories. You know, it happens in the real world without the sci-fi trappings. A brain injury or stroke may radically alter someone’s personality, obviously. And let’s hope there’s a chance for people to reinterpret themselves, to become enlightened through self-reflection or connection to a higher power, or whatever. And of course the reverse, people lose their moral compass sometimes too.

    Even when they made Magneto evil again in X-Men vol 2 #1, and revealed Moira had done some kind of genetic tampering to make him good, because his magnetism somehow makes him crazy, is not a retcon, it is the revelation of information previously unknown.

    Personally, I don’t much care about comic book continuity as dogma. I just want good stories. But Claremont should be commended for the tight continuity he maintained on his original, long run and not disparaged for fleshing out an important character. The Kirby/Lee Magneto is brilliant for that era and the stories they were telling. The Claremont Magneto was developed into a brilliant character for that era and the stories he was telling. Labeling it as a retcon is both dismissive of what was actually well-paced and structured story telling, and a misapplication of the term.

  24. Hmmm…

    Thanks for those dates and issue numbers, Adam, and the summary — although I’m surprised to be reminded of Bill Mantlo’s hand in Wanda and Pietro’s parentage, because I still can’t shake the vague recollection that Claremont had somehow prepared the way for it…but oh well. And certainly I think Wein’s de-aging of Magneto was something Claremont spun up into gold in #104 — like a do-over for Magneto, a back-to-basics thing, it allowed him to reestablish Mags as a serious threat, and rescue him from the accumulated effects of his previous exposures. A very happy accident: Claremont starts writing Magneto from this point onward as a much more consistent character — as I said somewhere around here once, he gets me to sympathize with him long before he “goes good”, and even the powers make more sense under his pen. So was the re-aging a rebirth? I don’t know that I can effectively contend that it absolutely was, but it did bring my interest in the character back to life! Right from the cover of #104.

    But now at least to my mind this is getting interesting, on an abstract and perhaps even technical level — what constitutes “rewriting”, and (I’ll propose the distinction) “retroactive continuity” too? We’re so used to using this term, and it’s definitely handy for a lot of things, but what differentiates it from simple writing, as Adam says? I don’t think anyone would disparage Claremont for making the change in Magneto — he breathed significant new life into that character, and I don’t recall anyone ever clamouring for a return to the old foaming-at-the-mouth Magnus, Erik, whatever his name is now…when he took charge of the school, I thought of it as a huge and brilliant step forward for the X-franchise. However…isn’t the introduction of new information not previously known part of what “retcon” is, too? Revealing him as a Holocaust survivor changed his character forever (at least, in a perfect world it would’ve), and inevitably gave a new context to all his previous appearances — some of which don’t fit too well, of course, but like you I’m not a fan of continuity as dogma either — and isn’t that “retcon”? I don’t know…in my subjective appreciation of it I see a whole world of difference between that and revealing that Moira (ugh) made him “good”, but I’m not sure I want to rush ahead and say I know exactly what makes those two things feel so different to me. Well-paced and structured it absolutely was; but it seems to me as though the question is, does the essence of “retcon” lie in the methods, or in the effects? One way is then a lot easier to create a strict definition for than the other is…

    Of course I’m not quite going for that anyway — I’m more interested in what the term “re-writing” can be stretched to encompass. Or “re-inscribing”, I should probably call it — what we end up with from Claremont preserves the basic outlines of the Xavier/Magneto dynamic instantiated in X-Men #1, but he adds such an enormous amount of texture and detail and dramatic implication to it that it’s practically a whole new story by the time he’s done. Only the iconography stays the same.

    I don’t know; writing this off-the-cuff, before coffee. It may be bunk. But I think it’s a fascinating topic.

    How do we use the word “retcon”? How does it ever differ from the ordinary process of fleshing out character and background?

    More on this later today, I hope.

  25. I don’t think its bunk at all, I think it is a really interesting topic. And I’ll grant that I’m perhaps being too rigid in my definition of retcon. I suppose it is something of a subjective term. When I think of retcon I think of stories that invalidate previously published material, you know what I mean, something as often as not involving John Byrne. I could be wrong, but retcons as I think of them usually feel like editorial or publisher mandates. Humanizing Magneto to me seems more like a writer’s decision. I might be way off on that though, I have no idea. Around this same time in X-Men history Jean Grey was brought back from the dead and they made it so she never was Phoenix. While there’s an explanation for this to preserve continuity, it to me was a retcon, and an entirely boring and unsatisfactory one at that. I’m not against her coming back, it is comics, but there’s an endless number of ways they could have done it. It really does come down to how good or bad the writing is.

    And yes, Moira making Magneto “good”, ugh indeed, undoing all the nuance in a panel, like there’s a good/evil switch in his brain. Actually, even that might have been better. And Claremont wrote that, but if that wasn’t his last issue it was pretty close to it. I get the feeling that he just didn’t care anymore, and I don’t think he’s really cared ever since. I mean, if I was the guy who created something as nuanced and character driven as New Mutants, and had to watch it turned into Liefeld’s paramilitary strap fetish, something in me would probably switch off too. Even the period before that, Louise Simonson, I sometimes like her work, I like Power Pack, but there was something ugly going on in that title post-Claremont, and it wasn’t just Bret Blevins’ faces. I don’t know, I saw a lot of Cypher-potential, and I never really gave a damn about Rusty, Skids, Boom Boom or Vibration Lad.

    Magneto’s testimony is MSE, because its the vocalization of the odd motivations that makes the character tick. This is at least a part of what makes a successful super villain fascinating, what makes this weird entity do the things they do. Magneto never really stops being a super villain per se. He still thinks all his actions were justified, but his methods did not produce results, and he recognizes the negative consequences. And yeah, the unwavering sense of honor is a radical departure from the back biting, Toad abusing sociopath. But he’s still kind of a dick at times, and really pretty bad at being Xavier. And I think liking this era of X-Men involves how well you tolerate the Beyonder standing around. But I swear, there’s more story in X-Men #200 then in a full year of the title lately.

    Okay, I’ve been drinking too, it’s Easter.

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