The Dreaded Stalemate

Character battle debates are loads of fun. But why is it that they so often end up degenerating into flame wars?

This could be a reason.

The dreaded stalemate.

It is when two characters, and the spirits of a multitude of giddy fans, meet at the comic pages to do glorious battle... and nobody wins.

But, you and I want there to be a clear winner and a clear loser. We want to be re-assured that the character we love most "always finds a way." Or, if we are honest, we simply want bragging rights. Whatever the case may be, all too often in the comics, that is not what we get. We rarely get a decisive victor; a final answer. Most times, as seen above, we are simply left with the dreaded stalemate.

We know deep down that there really would be a clear winner and loser, after all, but the publisher (Marvel, DC, IDW, etc.) can't or won't give us one because it cannot risk alienating the fanbase of whichever character loses. That would not be good for business. Furthermore, we know that the writer has to tread carefully as well, because he or she could risk damaging a reputation and a future career if the story/battle is not well received by the public.

And so, we the fans choose to have our own debates in the passionate pursuit of finding an answer, but in our quest for comic book truth (be it ever subjective) we often let the weight of our emotions spark the flames of forum war.

Fear not, my friends! I believe that you and I can greatly help reduce the frequency and ferocity of flame wars, name calling, disrespect, and hatefulness in general, by simply understanding some fundamental differences in the way each of us chooses to form his or her opinion regarding these great character debates.

...

What do I mean?

Well, how do we determine what should and should not be considered when looking at the comic books in order to form educated, informed opinions about character battles?

I believe there are two key approaches.

A) The All-Evidence Approach. Many people choose to look at character debates and say: These are purely hypothetical battles, so what can we extrapolate from the comic pages that can help us better form a reasonable scenario based on what we have seen throughout a character/s history. This approach tries to take all data into consideration; whether that be feats, dialogue, writer's intent, context, prior instances where the two characters actually met on the battlefield, etc. The goal being to look at all of these things in order to form the most likely outcome.

This is the way that I try to approach things, and I will be the first to tell you that I am far from always succeeding at it. Many times, I let my personal bias for a character, or what I think I know, override a fair analysis. But, a fair analysis is what I strive for. Haha! As do most of you, I am sure. And do not misunderstand... there is nothing wrong with personal bias. However, when we let our bias supersede our better judgment, that is wrong... and that is when things start to get hairy in the forums.

At any rate, if a consistent pattern of (solid) evidence presents itself which strongly suggests the Character A could beat Character B under the right circumstances, then I am most certainly going to take that into consideration. I will do this even if the two characters in question have never actually met in a battle with a decisive victor, and even if my personal bias is strongly urging me that "there is just no way [insert name] would ever lose to [insert name]!"

There is at least one major flaw in taking this approach:

Often times what happens on the comic pages can be open to interpretation (or misinterpretation). You and I might have reasonably tried to weigh all the varying evidence, but someone else might not interpret the evidence the same way you and I do. I have seen it happen on a hundred worlds (not really). But I have seen it happen A LOT.

"No you can't!" "Yes I can, yes I can, yes I CAN!"

Take this scan, for example. Did the Caped Crusader evade a bullet after it was shot, or did he react a split second before the trigger was pulled? More than likely, it was the latter, but heck if I know for sure judging from this one scan. All I know is that Batman moved unbelievably fast, either way.

Scans like this one are often open to interpretation, and misused, but that is when we have to let the comics interpret the comics.

In other words, we have got to always be asking ourselves some of these questions:

  • What happened in the other comic books where Batman was in a similar situation?

  • What did Batman, or the other characters who were involved, say about what happened?

  • What did the writer/narrator try to communicate about what happened?

  • What were the the events leading up to it and following it (i.e. the context)?

  • What was the writer's intent with that particular scenario?

  • What was his or her intent with that story as a whole (i.e. was it meant as a "What If/Elseworld" tale, can it be considered canon in any way)?

On top of these questions, what about the guy doing the shooting? Was Deadshot really trying to hit Batman? We need to take all of these things into consideration... and then form an opinion.

Okay...

That was one way to look at character debates. Here is another:

B) The All-Battles Approach. Many choose to look at character debates and say: These are purely hypothetical battles, so the only solid way to hypothesize is to look primarily at cases where the two characters in question met in battle on the comic pages. What happened during said battle/s? If Character A bested Character B, and there were no other straightforward fights between the two, then the issue is pretty much settled. Anything beyond that... such as feats, what other characters have said, overall writer intent... all of that other stuff pretty much is open to interpretation and is secondary data at best in light of an already-recorded encounter between two characters.

Now, I understand the feeling behind those who would use this approach. It is the safe road. By approaching the debate in this way, you personally are not going to risk tarnishing either character's namesake, because you will have stuck to what other writers have already documented on paper for the fans.

Also, there is far less room for misuse or misinterpretation of evidence if we place top priority on what has already been decided in a battle within the comics.

There are at least two problems with approaching character debates this way though, one of which I have already mentioned in brief:

  1. If we approach the debate this way, we are doing a major injustice to the multitude of writers that have gone before us, those who have created these characters and stories, by choosing to place priority on one battle, created by one writer, over against all other documented history of said characters. That is that.

  2. What normally happens when Marvel, DC, or any other publisher, decides to have an "official versus battle" between two well known and beloved characters? The battle normally ends in a draw, with neither character being able to gain a firm advantage over the other through his own ability... or, it ends with some kind of outside interference halting the fight before a decisive victor can be named. These "official" battles generally are not created to give readers a definitive answer as to who would win, and so most of the time these types of battles end with one character losing due to the smallest of technicalities (e.g. Batman vs. Captain America), or it ends with the dreaded stalemate (e.g. the Spider-man vs. Wolverine battle I referenced above). But again, this is why you and I choose to have our own debates! Haha! The readers are not dumb. They were not born yesterday (though some act like it). They know a publisher will never have Wolverine lose decisively to Spider-man, or vice versa, because they would never think of tarnishing the name of a beloved character or alienate a huge chunk of that character's fanbase.

In light of this, I ask: Should we place great priority in a character battle that was probably never intended to give the readers (you and me) a definitive winner in the first place? I have simply posed the question. Go now, and find your own answer.

...

WAIT!!!

Before you go...

This was really just meant as food for thought. I love debating comic book characters, because I grew up with them. I did not very much enjoying reading as a child, so comics were right up my alley because there was not a lot of reading to do, and the pictures and stories they told were awe-inspiring.

What is the takeaway? Our own battle debates do not have to end with the dreaded stalemate.

They most certainly should not end in a flame war.

If you have read this far, I hope that you now are able to say that you have something to refer back to, if and when the need ever arises. But mostly, I hope it opened you up to a different viewpoint that perhaps you didn't consider before.

Whichever way you choose to look at the comic books in order to form your opinions for these debates, just know that there really is no wrong way. My friends, all of this stuff is a matter of opinion anyway.

It is my strong desire that together we can keep these fictional battle debates the way they should be - as respectful, civilized discussions between comic book lovers of all kinds.

Grace and peace in Christ,

Om

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PIS Bologna & Cheese, If You Please

"PIS" (or "Plot Induced Silliness" as I like to call it) is rapidly becoming a cliche term used in all manner of comic book forums. I strongly dislike the concepts of PIS, WIS, or CIS, and would prefer that they didn't exist... because most comic books are by very nature grandiose, and are meant to stretch the boundaries of imagination. However, I also understand the need and desire for consistency in one's favorite book or character. I get that. And so, my reason for creating this blog is simple: to define what PIS is and, more importantly, what it isn't. I challenge you to keep your mind and eyes open. This won't take long.

PIS = An anomaly created in continuity that occurs solely because of a particular plot need, but should generally never be able to occur. This can happen with a character, a place, a feat, or whatever.

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=pis

In other words, a writer writes something about a character that has never happened before, and probably shouldn't ever happen, but, because of the particular plot he is writing, he makes it happen. For example - "Writer A" has Superman eating a black hole, and then pooping out a star system, because within the plot "Writer A" has created it is the only way for Superman to save the day. I am being facetious here, but you get the picture.

That being said...

If something has followed a pattern of consistency over the years (or has an established precedent), then it cannot, and should not, be called PIS. For example... and this is a hot button issue... Batman fights a superior life form, such as Superman or Martian Manhunter, and manages to A) hold his own and survive, B) survive and not be crippled for life, or C) survive and actually win somehow. Now, on all three accounts, this has happened within a regular pattern of consistency throughout Batman's history on the comic book pages. A "pattern of consistency" for a character does not mean that it is the norm for that character throughout his or her history.

"The norm" for a character is what a character does 51-percent of the time, or more, on the comic pages. We have to be careful to distinguish between what happens with consistency and what is the norm, before labeling something as PIS.

Hear me: Just because something isn't the norm, doesn't mean it is PIS. I believe a lot of people make this mistake in understanding the concept.

So, using the above example of Batman, one could not say that Bats has fought against beings like Superman and held his own for 51-percent of the time that his character has been on the comic pages, or more. That is definitely not the norm. However, one could say that Batman has fought against super beings (like Superman), throughout his time on the comic pages, with a pattern of consistency. Again, a "pattern of consistency" means that a character has done something more than once or twice, and that he has been doing it for some length of time (our time). Now, please re-read the definition of PIS.

Superman eating a black hole and pooping a star system? Probably PlS. Just so we're clear, such a thing has never happened in the comics (to my knowledge). But even if it did happen, it probably should not have happened and will most likely never happen a second time. It is not something Superman would be considered capable of doing... based on the overarching continuity of the character. Could that ever change? Certainly. Nothing is impossible within comic books.

Batman fighting a super-powered being, and holding his own and/or winning? Not PIS. There has been an established pattern in the comic books of Batman clashing with high-powered beings... (e.g. Superman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Mongul, KGBeast, NKVDemon, Deathstroke, Clayface, Killer Croc, Morgaine Le Fey, Supergirl, Atomic Skull, Etrigan, etc, etc)... and when he has clashed with said beings he has consistently shown himself to be able to survive and/or somehow gain the upper hand in the encounter and win. This is not to say the character always holds his own, or wins, in these scenarios. No. We know that if Batman is caught unaware and attacked by a mind-controlled Superman (yes, I like using him), he is most likely going to end up severely injured and possibly in bed for a while (comic time). That fact has been pretty well established in the comics.

Here's how other people on ComicVine have defined PIS:

"I think what makes something PIS is went it goes against anything one character or another had done. Where a writer completely disregards one or more individuals powers, skills, qualities, and the likes to obtain a goal(usually a win for a certain character)... That, IMO, is what makes PIS, PIS. When characters and events disregard an establish part of the universe, be it the character and his abilities and personalities. Or the world and history that surrounds them." - anonymous

"Hulk lifting Thor's hammer on physical strength alone = PIS (I don't care how strong Hulk is, the hammer cannot be lifted with strength alone)
Those are just a few examples. Basically, when a character does something that they should not be able to do, for the sake of the plot." - anonymous

"PIS is someone acting out of character for purposes of the plot." - anonymous

"A feat is PIS when the writing personally offends me, and how sacred I hold a character. So, my favorite character being beaten by a character I don't like, and in a way that doesn't gel with my personal vision of how my favorite character should be represented = PIS. If its my favorite beating a character I don't care about or doing something silly, its not PIS." - anonymous (This was more meant as a joke, I believe, but it is how many people actually use the term, unfortunately.)

For sake of reference, here is an instance of what I might call PIS in one of the more recent issues of Batman (#11):

Batman, who is still fatigued from the whole "Court of the Owls" event, holds on for dear life thousands of feet in the air inside a roaring jet engine after taking another beating, all the while having a brief dialogue with his nemesis, Lincoln March. Not that this would be impossible for the character... if he was at full strength... perhaps... perhaps he could hang on like he does, for the amount of time that he does, when at 100-percent health. But, he is not at 100-percent here. Even for Batman, this is without precedent. Not only that, do you realize how hard it would be to hear anything sitting right next to a fully powered jet engine? From a distance of 100 feet from the ear, a jet engine produces about 140 decibels. That is loud enough to cause permanent damage to your ear, even with protection. By comparison, a loud rock concert typically only produces around 115dB (http://www.gcaudio.com/resources/howtos/loudness.html). Yet, these two characters seem to be able to hear and converse with each other just fine. I am missing a couple of scans to complete this scene, but the picture it paints remains truthful and consistent. Suffice it to say, this entire scenario in Batman #11 comes off as a bit of a stretch. Could something so silly happen in Batman? Well yes. And, in fact, things like this happen all the time... in just about every comic book. They are comic books, after all. Anything is possible.

Check out the scans:

That's it for now. Hope this helped some. Thanks for reading. :)

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4 Reasons to (Still) Go Batty For Batman

Batman.

It seems like he's just about everybody's favorite super hero. And I love it! That's not a reason for fault. Whether we like it or not, there's a good reason why he is still so popular - and why that ain't changing. Not only is he one of the oldest "super hero" creations (1939), but he is the greatest. Greater even than Superman. Yep, he sure is. I'm not talking about who would win in a final fight between the two, because that has kind of already been done (thank you, Frank Miller). I'm talking about staying power. And while I could go into epic length and detail explaining the reasons behind why Batman's character is still so great and enduring, I'll boil it down to four simple bullet points.

* Gotham City - This place has personality in spades. What is Batman without Gotham, or vice versa? Read Snyder's "Court of Owls" arc to get a taste of this.

* Crazy-strong determination - Ever fight your way out of an artificial coma using your own memories as weapons? Batman did. (Batman 682 & 683)

* "I don't like guns." - No super powers and he can still one-up just about any bad guy... and do it while choosing not to kill. That doesn't make him weak. It makes him strong.

* The Joker - A symbol of chaos, or chaos personified? Whatever. All I know is, he's plain evil and a perfectly villainous foil. No villain does it better.

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