Off My Mind: Comic Characters Having Affairs
Relationships among comic characters can be a tricky thing. Publishers often have to tread lightly with the direction they take their characters. When Spider-Man got married and then had a kid, it was felt that he was getting "too old" and younger readers wouldn't be able to associate with him.
A couple months ago I wrote about the fact that we don't see a lot of married characters getting a divorce. It feels like publishers might fear a character getting a divorce would leave a bad taste in readers mouths. Would a character having an affair be any better? Is this something we really want to see?
== TEASER ==
Cyclops and Jean were together for a long time. After Scott went through some dark times with Apocalypse, he started questioning his relationship. Emma Frost came in, saying she was a sex therapist. Then some psychic shennanigans started. Scott's defense was nothing happened, it was all in their minds. Regardless, there are those that would still consider this as "cheating." How much do we need to see in comics. Having more "adult" situations can keep stories from getting too childish but then there becomes a line as to who could and should be reading a comic. I'm sure parents of younger readers wouldn't be too happy reading about Scott, Emma and Jean.
What about a character like Norman Osborn. He's a slimy guy and has shown this many times. He managed to manipulate Gwen Stacy into doing...a certain thing. Gwen and Peter Parker weren't married but she did basically cheat on him. There's also the fact that Norman got Harry's fiance, Lily Hollister, pregnant. We're talking about his son's girlfriend. Are crazy stories like these necessary? Do they enhance the characters for the better? Besides the fact that I simply do not want to think of Norman...in the bedroom, it does bring the characters to a place I never would've imagined them going when I first started reading comics. There's enough of this stuff on television. I'm not sure if it's needed in comic books as well.
Relationships have always been sprinkled into comics. All the young X-Men had the hots for Jean. Peter Parker always had trouble keeping a girlfriend because he kept running off to save the city. Clark had a hard time getting Lois' attention when he wasn't Superman. Having a character cheat on another takes them to a new level. There have been a few other cheaters. Apparently Pepper Potts cheated on Happy Hogan with an old high school sweetheart. When Scarlet Witch was married to Vision and he lost his personality, she and Wonder Man started getting closer. I'm sure there's some more.
If publishers feel that characters getting married changes them and makes them hard to relate to, do we need to see them cheating in their relationships?
I'm sure people with conservative values would consider what Scott and Emma did cheating. As open-minded as we all may want to be, I don't think anyone wants to be cheated on figuratively or literally. When I pick up a comic, I don't want it to be like real life. I could watch the news if I wanted that. A want something similar, but different. I want real people doing wildly unbelievable, fantastic things. Sometimes with their clothes on.
Comic books are just like any other medium. Parents need to check the rating on a book just as they would a movie. Or at the very least flip through it. It is no longer an age of innocence for comics. Comic books arent only for kids, hell they're not mostly for kids. If parents dont know that, thats they're problem and responsibilty. Divorce, cheating, rape, hell I dont care. As long as these things are still happening, there is no reason for the comic book industry not to write about them.
"All the young X-Men had the hots for Jean". lol
I agree with all of these points, G-Man. The reason they did this to Scott was to build his fan base because he wasn't edgy enough. It's completely against everything his character previously did or said. And as for the whole Norman deal that's just sick nasty.
I think that affairs AND divorces should happen occasionally in comics, but never shown and never as just a thing that happens. The writers should use them the same way they use anything else: a lesson. Terrible stuff happens, both in comics and the real world. They have an outlet here. They should be telling people this is wrong and painting pictures of the mess that happens when it does. As far as I know, Scott and Emma are now a happy couple. That isn't right. Jean should come back as Phoenix and then destroy them in fiery vengeance.
Comic Books are no different in some ways to a daytime soap opera. People sleep around with others who they are not married too or currently dating. It creates drama and tension and peaks the interest of readers, or at least it's meant too. More often than not it falls short and comes across as an attempt for cheap thrills.
Why shouldn't this stuff happen in comics? If we're supposed to believe these comic characters are real people, then they should certainly have to deal with things that happen in real life, whether that be divorce, affairs, or anything else.
Hell, does divorce even happen all that often? Seems more likely that one person just gets killed off and that's that.
Green Arrow's affair with Shado when he was still doing the on-and-offs with Black Canary. Deathstroke's affair with Lilian Worth while he was still married.
And then there's Jade, who ends pretty much every one of her relationships with an affair.
Divorces? Jean Loring and Atom's is now one of DC's most notorious divorces. Kingpin and his wife have gone through a number of events that seem like divorce, but frequently end up being something else.
I think the Scott/Emma debacle enhanced the story, even though I'm sick to death of the "White Queen".
but this stuff is nothing compared to the Pym domestic abuse. How do you feel about that? I personally think it's beneficial to represent characters from all walks of life and display all of their dirt as if they were in front of an unwavering camera. Kids and adults can become emotionally involved with characters who aren't perfect, who've had some bumps in the road, whether they've experienced those situations themselves or not, including affairs and divorce.
Comic books might just be a medium, but mainstream comic book properties have a uniquely lasting and community quality to them not found in most media. When you consume a videogame, a film, or a book... nearly always that is a single, discrete, and unconnected work meant to be enjoyed and then discarded. Your audience is almost entirely disposable as you burn through them- typically- once.
" comics should be just like books and movies in the content they discuss "
On the other hand, comic book icons like Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, etc. are icons who- despite what the law says- belong in part to the public consciousness because they can literally outlive their audience whilst being on-going. That means when the older brother recommends a comic to his younger brother or the mother recommends a character to her daughter or even a grandparent reminisces with a grandchild, there's a certain expectation that the character conform to certain essential basics- which could be plot points, character strengths and flaws, powers, costumes, or other fixtures which make up the character. What it comes down to is contemporary creators carefully determining which of those elements are essential and respecting the distant past and the far future before making those kinds of shifts.
Look at the issues of domestic abuse, substance abuse, or sexuality.
A single writer might think they're producing a single shocking work for one-time consumption... but that one blow [however you want to interpret that] will brand the character forever as a wife-beater, a junkie, or sexually open/confused/etc.
It's less whether affairs specifically are comic-appropriate and more about which characters can you "get away with" forever branding them with a scarlet letter for infidelity.
Isn't the divorce rate 1 in 3? It's becoming a pretty common thing and I think the comics medium should represent people in real relationships. People get divorced and some cheat. We aren't all perfect and I'm glad that the writers make their characters real - I mean really that's how you connect to them, not through their powers. Just as long the writers don't turn it into a soap opera and the relationships become more like the Bold and the Beautiful then I'm happy.
Has anyone read Fantastic Four: Annual, yet? It came out just last week I think, and it's kinda on theme to this article... I don't want to spoil anything, but if you want to see an interesting modern day spin to the family -- just buy the issue. And don't worry, it's TOO modern. :)
Yeah Tony, I agree. Comics, though can discuss controversial topics, should keep they're stories aimed at pleasing a younger audience.
Gone are the days when we could look up to super heroes as a good example. Now they're simply fools like the rest of us; only with highly destructive powers. I'd rather they not cheat, but I suppose it makes sense if they're moving away from the moral paragon approach and to the supposedly more "realistic" approach.
If you're trying to create a human character underneath the spandex and the reality warping powers, you need to have him do human things. Relationships, breaking up, divorces, etc. are part of human life so I think they should be included.
Unless you're writing an all-ages book or trying to reflect Norman Rockwell's america. I don't see why writers and editors are scared of something like this.
I really don't think that the average comics on sale are for kids, they defnitely are for teens and grown ups. It's nice to see our heroes engaging on relationships, make them seem a little more like us, with flaws and qualities, instead of super beings without feelings
I want all my comics to be even more mature, and graphic where appropriate instead of the bs of perfectly hidden nudes and no blood when wolverine slices people around. The topics need to get more mature as the characters do. You can pretty much have whatever topics in a pg13 movie, and i'd consider mainstream comics at least that. If you want a more chaste comic for kids stick with the super hero line stuff or comic lines for kids.
Honestly, I'm just satisfied with the psychological and social complexity of heroes and villains. Adding infidelity, divorce, or sex for that matter doesn't bother me that much in comics, as long as they don't become a TV soap opera on paper.
Every once in a while it adds some dynamics to a story depending on the character... like you mentioned about Scott Summers, the guy need all the help he can get to make him interesting
but do writers have to go that far with heroes and villains?
" I really don't think that the average comics on sale are for kids, they defnitely are for teens and grown ups. It's nice to see our heroes engaging on relationships, make them seem a little more like us, with flaws and qualities, instead of super beings without feelings "That's very true. I don't remember the last time I saw someone younger than 13-16 at a comic shop. A study conducted 3 years ago showed that 80% of DC's readers are 18-39 years old. To my knowledge Marvel Adventures and other young reader titles have not depicted any infidelity, so I don't see why comic book companies should pander to a demographic that is in the minority. That said, there are certain characters who are defined by their principles and sense of morality, so I wouldn't want to see characters like that having sexual dalliances.
I think in order to carry out interesting storylines, I feel that covering and delving into these topics are necessary if a creator needs to instill some shock value. I would rather them do something like this than frivalously kill a character.
Fact is selfishness is a part of a lot of people's characters in real life and it does happen too often. I personally don't agree with cheating in marrieage or even if you are only committed to someone in a relationship and not married for that matter.
I think it should be treated as a digrace to other characters in the book, but it's not. It's usually handled by the writer by saying it just happened or even more UNrealistically by never acknowledging it until a few issues later. I know if I cheated on my wife, (never would), that it will be dealt with ASAP!
They're dealing with contemporary issues a lil' bit better nowadays than before. Scott and Emma's little mental affair had some build up and was carried out properly. It's not the same as say, when Arsenal became a junkie and the cover of the comic had a picture of him ready to shoot up. It's not there for shock value anymore, it's simply a part of the story.
Shocking things is what Ennis uses to sell some of his books. It's not a part of main-comics with highly familiar characters.
Comics are not for kids you can have stuff for younger audience! It's easy just ban violence, blood, sex, killing and nudity all that. Comics should in a way mimic reality, still can get past all the censorship in american comics. Oh well you can sleep around but can't show panties or a girl taking a bath looool
" Comics are supposed to be a form of entertainment. It's often considered a medium for "kids." Obviously a lot of comic book readers have grown up and we can handle more "adult" topics..."
Any one who still considers comic books primarily a children's entertainment medium is out of touch with the industry and audience. There certainly are comics made for children-- just there are books or films, but that is not the standard. The mainstay series and universes of comics are not G or even PG. The readers haven't just grown up, the industry has.
"... If publishers feel that characters getting married changes them and makes them hard to relate to, do we need to see them cheating in their relationships?"
Beginning that line of thinking validates the publishers's belief in the first place. Comics shouldn't be fundamentally different in narrative than any other story telling medium. Whether it's novels, television, or films, there shouldn't be any "we get enough of that in X. do we really need it in Y?". They're all just different medium of which the same narrative rules should universally apply.
If comics want to bear the same kind of maturity as a medium that the others share, then they need to not shy away from telling socially and emotionally deep stories.
I can honestly say I wasn't a fan of the Gwen Stacy/Osborne shenanigans. However, that was more because of personal attachment to the characters, then moral outrage over them having an affair.
If mature plot lines are given a serious approach and written in a way that does not belittle the seriousness of the subject matter, then I'm okay with these things. Shoehorning them in for shock value however, is just lame.
I think is a good thing to have in comics it gives a crazy spin on the story and takes characters to places you wouldnt have seen them go. And since its comics anything can happen and anything can be undone. that makes it cool.
for example just take superman yeah yeah he loves lois and out of all the women on earth he only wants her. OK he works with wonderwoman vixen and black cannary AND HE only wants lois???? SURE. sooo its kinda cool to see him maybe have an fling with one of those chicks while under mindcontrol or some other plot induced thing so he can come off free of guilt and lois has to take him back.
The osborn thing just goes along with the theme of making spiderman's life hell cause you know kids only relate to life being hell and no one ever grows up happy.
in the end I think comic fans want to see the characters they know do things they wouldnt think they would do sometimes. LIke heroes fighting heroes (why was civil war such a HIT) or heroes dating others than there known loved ones.
That perverted crap with Gwen and Norman must be cleansed away from the pages. Quesada is just a bastard for me 'cause of his cancelling of Comicbook' codex. Wait... That means that since those times MARVEL isn't publishing comicbooks! Just like I thought, 'cause it doesn't even look like a comicbook.
This is one thing I don't understand about Marvel. Not only do we have this kind of stuff going on, but we also have cursing and heroes/villains shown sleeping around. "BUT" NO ONE IS ALLOWED TO SMOKE!?!?!?! Don't get me wrong, I'm not against all the "real world" things that go on, it's just I wish they wouldn't push some subjects to the wayside. If you're going to have comics be as real as possible show it all, please and thank you.
It thats a deep look in to reality and they have shown how it affects children, example Rachel crying in Alex's arms below the image of Scott and Emma kissing. It doesn't destroy the characters. It added to them; Scott isn't a total boyscott and Emma actually is capable of loving someone and truly loving them. The End Song also showed the Jean forgives Scott and understands he's human, he'll screw up and in reality both can't stop loving each other. It's also a throne in the side of Emma. She knows she'll never be as important or as loved by him as Jean Grey is. It brings a spectrum of weakness and strengths into a character.
I think it comes across differently on the printed page, than it does in television or movies. In a comic, sex and affairs are right there in a still frame, and don't pass by at the same pace for everyone, like they would in a movie or TV. Meaning they could have a greater effect on the reader than on the viewer. I don't think it's necessary to skirt the issue of affairs, but it's not necessary that they be shown either. I'm a fan of the fade-to-the-next-scene/ implied action, when it comes to that kind of thing: the couple kiss, the "camera" moves up to the moon, changes to the sun, and then she's wearing his shirt, and we all know what just happened. I think the actual love scene, even though it doesn't show anything but an arched back and and O-face, is a little much when it's caught in a still frame. That's my own sensibilities though - I'm also a fan of the Alfred Hitchcock style of murder scene - a shadow on the wall or fleck of blood on a photo will prompt the viewer/ reader to imagine something far worse than they ever could have shown.
There are ways to address the subject without showing the subject. I mean, what purpose does it serve to show Scott and Emma in bed together? My feeling is go buy a nudie mag if you want to see still shots of sexy naked people. If you're not able to buy one of those magazines, you're too young to be seeing it anyway. And while I personally am close to 40, a lot of readers aren't. So even though I might want to read about a more adult theme, that theme has to be treated in such a way that it's appropriate for all readers (neverminding the parents' responsibilities, the publisher has a certain amount of responsibility to be aware of who all comprises their audience, and act accordingly - just as this site acts responsibly to enforce all-ages content).
All that to say: more adult or real life subjects can be addressed in comics without showing every detail, and without it having to be a "lesson." Tell a good story, but be aware of who the audience is - the entire audience, not just the majority.
I like the fact that they do that it gives character's background make them more three dimensional for example Scott to this day I still don't want to get to close to the character for cheating, but I know he needed something to make him stand out because he was coming off as white bread with lasers. I think they use sex and affairs because thats what will get most readers attention not to mention the after-effects (births, awkward moments, jealous spouse or potential boyfriend/girlfriends)
firstable, I thinks Comics are no longer for children (or a few of them).
And I also think that a mother who take a look of most of a comics would be more afraid by violence instead of sex affairs.
The sex in comics is hidden, suggested for the most part and not so present.
As to me, the romantic side is more present than everything. Most of the heroes have real love relationship (even if most of this stories ends quickly and/or tragically), most of the ones who cheated are mind-controled or this kind of stuff and a few in comics have a huge sexual activity. And I don't speak of the rares woman who have a free sexual activity without being treat like a w**** . (contrary to man who could collect the “romantic” conquest).
In conclusion, perhaps because I’m European, I think sex don’t have to be taboo especially compared with the profusion of violence in the modern comics.
If it's one thing about comic books, they reflect every dynamic aspects of our reality True yes that some relationships are built on solid ground and could last a lifetime, but there are others who feel one true love is not enough.
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