Thursday, January 10, 2008

Kind of Proud of This Analogy

Brian Cronin recently posted an article, here, in which he discusses what he sees as the upside of 'One More Day'...namely, that creators might not feel so hidebound by continuity, so bound to the decisions their predecessors made. It's an interesting argument that's sparked a lot of good discussion (and perhaps a little bad discussion), but it's an argument I disagree with, and I posted why in the comments section. Because I'm absurdly fond of the analogy I used, I'm going to post it here as well. (And this way, you don't have to go through over 120 comments to find it.)

"...let’s look at chess. Chess is a game with pretty rigidly defined rules. King moves like so, rook moves like so, et cetera et cetera. Brian could look at chess and say, “That game seems a little too rigid for me. I wish there was a way to change the rules.”

And there is. There are any number of variants, collectively known as “fairy chess.” These variants are limited only by the imagination of the two participants in the game. (Or three, four, five…some fairy chess variants allow for multiple players.) You can decide, “For this game, rooks and bishops will be replaced with extra queens.” “For this game, the board will be considered to be a cylinder–you can move from the left-most square to the right-most square directly.” You can change the rules, make them whatever you want them to be, whatever you can get everyone to agree on. This, I think, is the spirit of what Brian is advocating.

But what Marvel is doing is the equivalent of changing the rules mid-game, unilaterally, solely because they don’t like the way the game is going for them. “I made a move I didn’t like twenty moves ago, and it turns out that it’s going to make me lose, so, um…magic. I get my queen back.” That’s not fairy chess, that’s just cheating. I maintain that there is a difference."

4 comments:

Mory said...

The rules of a game get set at the beginning. So if you want to change the rules, you've got to start a new game.

If JMS and Quesada had given the old ASM a fitting ending (such as Peter Parker dying in the graveyard as was promised a few years back), they could then rearrange the board however they liked and it wouldn't be cheating. If fans felt that the old game was finished, they wouldn't mind Marvel starting over. Marvel wouldn't even need an in-story excuse for it then. It would just be a reboot; we'd all understand that.

They didn't do that. The existence of OMD, a bridge between what's happened and what's going to happen, shows us that this is still the same game as before even though the board's been rearranged. They're changing the rules not at the beginning of a new game but in the middle of one which is already running. And yes, that is cheating.

boz said...

maybe i should post this in the previous blog entry but i had to ask: why did mephisto do this, why did he/it bother? which one is bigger, pain of "needing MJ as a wife" or pain of "losing May because of removing your mask". i know there is a huge controversy about this think but even it's foundations don't add up.

snow00 said...

Devils advocate real quick:

but this isn't a game...it's a story.
The rules from the get go have been " this a fantasy world...where AMAZING things happen" and while it may be a weak story, i think it's stayed with in the rules.

Uncle Sean said...

There are probably ways I could agree with you more, but I can't think of any.

I haven't read any Spider-Man book regularly since Ultimate came out. I haven't read the mainline Spidey, despite him being one of my favorite characters, because they have been attempting to reboot him now for 10 years. The Maligned Clone Saga was a reboot attempt that they backed off on when they realized replacing Peter with a clone who was really the real Peter and the Peter we've known all these years was just a copy and not really the real deal. After that they did a reboot with a new number one of Amazing (if I remember right). Then, they separated him and MJ for awhile, and didn't stick with it. Killed off MJ and said "just kidding." Changed his powers? I remember hearing something about that (I'd stopped paying attention by then). The Editors have been desperate for a single Spidey for years, but they've never really committed to it.
I think there's a good reason for that. It's a bad idea. The character is grown and he's married and there are a whole new set of problems connected with that. It's ripe ground for storytelling, but it seems like there's a fear of telling those stories. Instead of dealing with Peter as an adult, they've been trying to turn him into a kid again. Ignoring, I think, that they have an entire series to do that with (the Ultimate series).
I guess hearing about this story pissed me off, because Peter's marriage was something that helped make him unique when compared to other superheroes. Who else in the Marvel Universe is married these days? Reed and Sue Richards? Is Betty Banner still dead? What about Jean Grey? I'm not thinking of anyone else right now. I think another thing that made it an interesting way to go storytelling-wise is that MJ is not and is never going to be a superhero. She's a relatively normal woman with a husband who saves the city on a regular basis. She doesn't really have anyone she can talk to about it (except Aunt May, after Aunt May found out). That situation is ripe for dramatic and comedic storytelling and Marvel seems to have been running away from it for a decade. It bothers me. A lot.
It's these kinds of editorial decisions that have pretty much kept me from buying any Marvel books in the last 5 years.
I will step off of my soapbox now. Thank you (love the blog by the way. I'm an avid reader of the storytelling engines series).