The Poetry Question

Discovering the Relevance of Words

Movies .vs. Books Round II – The Graphic Novel is Always …. Different

Disclaimer: I am going to assume you have a working conceptual knowledge of the existence of Greek mythology and graphic novels (particularly Marvel comics and The Walking Dead)

The Greek Gods are still alive and well, only today they wear tights and capes instead of driving sun chariots.

Instead of explaining the natural universe they explain humanity. Instead of believed to be literal, they are believed to be children’s stories.

I am speaking, of course, of our comic books superheroes.  For a complete, and completely awesome, discussion of Superheroes and philosophy read Supheroes: The Best of Pop Culture and Philosophy by William Irwin (free for Amazon Kindle, Nook, or Apple iBooks).

(If you don’t believe that comic heroes explore humanity, I defy you to watch the real-life trials of Peter Parker as he attempts to juggle work, his love life, his ego, and his conscience)

Though, while we will gladly accept that there are many variations and iterations of our Greek myths, even the most moderately nerdy among us tend to flip their proverbial feces and freak out when a movie does not adhere strictly to the continuity with which they are familiar.

Juggernaut was NOT a mutant, the crystal of cytorrak gave him his powers

Peter Parker invented his web-shooters, he did not have organic webbing from his wrist.

It was Bob Drake and he was a grown man!

Mary Jane was not literally the girl next door…

While I agree with all of these points I also submit the following:

  • Peter Parker not only had the ability (temporarily) to produce organic webbing, he also had a spiked clawy thing protrude from his wrist (yes really) during the JMS run of ASM*.**

* JMS – John Michael Staczynski  ASM – Amazing Spider-Man.

**Fortunately, all of this was retconned (we’ll get to the meaning of this later) during the Brand New Day story arc

  • Colossus IS the Juggernaut (pre-AvX Marvel universe) and Colossus is gay (Ultimate universe).
  • Sometimes Iceman has spikey icicles hanging off his face and sometimes he is a smooth blue form and sometimes he can “ice on” and “ice off” (see any variety of X-Men books including, but not limited to, Uncanny X-Men, X-Men Legacy, Wolverine & The X-Men, All New X-Men, etc. etc.).

What’s the point?

Like Greek mythology these stories have a complicated past and a largely social storytelling tradition.  Rather than being orally shared around a campfire they are mass produced to sell to kids and basement livers everywhere***.

We see several iterations of a myth as it pervades over hundreds of years, slightly changing to fit a new audience or time.  Similarly, Spider-Man was a teenager 50 years ago and now appears to be in his early thirties at the oldest.  There is a lot of telling and retelling that can take place when you spread fifteen years into fifty.

If you are unfamiliar with comic book lore there is a concept called retconning, which stands for retroactive continuity.  In a Retcon, an author takes an existing storyline and erases, rewrites, or alters it.  Often this results in very strong reboots of a struggling comic, often it results in a horrible arc of a storyline, always it convolutes any concept of A storyline or A truth.

I love going to movies based on comics and listening to the casual fans, the obsessed fans, or the only watched the cartoons fans complain about what doesn’t fit their understanding of the superhero universe.  It is a microcosm of America and it is beautiful.

So, while reading Half-Blood Prince gave you the *SPOILER ALERT* knowledge that Dumbledore dies it is impossible to rely on any form of continuity from a comic book or graphic novel.  The whole thing is multiversal and subject to retconning.

Spoiler Alert – Rick Grimes only has one hand, Merle and Daryle Dixon don’t exist.

See, doesn’t work.

(Hey, Walking Dead TV fans want to get disturbed?  Carl shot Shane in the neck in the sixth issue, Laurie and the baby died…by a gunshot, and Glenn is going to get beat to death by a barbed wire bat.)

So, while The Books are Always Better, the Graphic Novels are always different.

It is impossible to view a movie based on a comic and expect the storyline from the comic.  There is no singular storyline.  It is a form of literature that is truly alive and that is awesome.

** – I do not live in my mother’s basement.

About Jamaal

Lover of words, liver of life, director of theatre, keeper of keys and grounds at Hogwarts. Twitter: @JamaalAllan

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