Relative Veolocity - Why science and continuity matter in comics

In the movie The Navigator, Howard Hughes (played by Leonardo Dicaprio), is trying to make a film which has fighter planes doing aerial battle... While viewing a clip from the film, Howard notes that the planes in the air (on-screen of course) look like toys. They ARE real but don't LOOK real. The problem? RELATIVE VELOCITY.

The planes on screen have only a clear blue sky in the background. There are no stationary objects for them to fly by, so one cannot get a sense of how fast the planes are actually going. There has to be some object FIXED in space, a thing that does not move, so that one can get a sense of how fast the plane is going compared to the stationary object.

Consider the times you've flown in a plane and could not see outside the plane, how fast did it FEEL like you were going? How fast did it APPEAR you were going? How about during the takeoff? If you're looking out the window and watching the runway go by, and all the objects by the runway, you feel like you're going VERY fast. However, you get up into the clear blue sky and... You're simply sitting still...

So what's the point? How does this relate to comics? I'm so glad you ask...

Science. Real World Science. The laws of physics as WE understand them. They are important to comics and the stories within... However, enjoying a comic book requires a certain amount of 'suspension of belief.' Comics are not real... They're fiction...Make believe... But, we can't simply ignore all the laws of physics, and chalk up everything we don't understand with the old, "It's just a comic! It's make believe! Get over it!" attitude... Why not? Relative Velocity.....

Think on it... Why is the idea of a man sticking to walls, leaping in a 60 foot parabolic arch, swinging through the sky scrapers of New York city amazing? Well, because it IS!!!

  • it's NEAT to think of someone being able to walk on walls.
  • It's FUN to imagine someone swinging from building to building.
  • It's KEWL that a man could avoid danger with a per-cognizant sense...

How about the idea of a guy who is nearly completely invulnerable? A guy who can fly into space? Move faster than a speeding bullet? Lift... um.. Really big, heavy things... It's FUN.... Now, as far as we know, none of these things are actually possible, but they are simply fun to imagine...

However, Geeks like me (and geeks who aren't like me) LOVE to discuss the science and physics behind certain powers and feats... We like to try and figure out who could defeat who, and how they could do it, based on what we know about their powers and the laws of physics... However, it inevitably happens that someone will come in with a comment like:

  • It's comics. Why bother using real would science. That's just stupid.
  • Seriously? You're talking about a universe when a man can fly into a star, and you're debating how another could break a diamond with his claw
  • The science doesn't matter. It's just comics so it's all make believe. It doesn't matter HOW it happens, it just DOES...

Well, when we chalk everything up to 'it's just make believe so it doesn't matter" we lose all sense of RELATIVE VELOCITY.

  • So what if a guy can stick to walls... It's just make believe. It just happens. In fiction, ANYONE can do it.... There are no limits...
  • Big freaking deal! So, he's faster than a speeding bullet. In the comics, who isn't?
  • Controls minds/reads minds.. Whatever... it just happens.. Doesn't matter how... So it could easily be overcome... Anyone could do it...

I will readily admit that.. um.. OTHERS often take conversations/discussions/debates about comic book feats and powers to seriously or into too much detail... But it IS appropriate to think about it, dream about, talk about it, and yes, even debate it with lesser mortals who don't agree with everything we say...

The powers and feats in comic books HAVE to have at least SOME grounding in the reality that we readers live in.... Else, how can we relate to them? Why would we find awe in them if we can't get some fixed point of reference for the things they do.

So, the next time you see two morons debating whether or not Wolverine could shatter Emma Frost's diamond form (Yes, I was one of those two morons... I was the one that was RIGHT dangit! :-) ) or perhaps you see a group of nerds trying to understand how Legion rewrites reality, or a trio of geeks trying to understand why Gravity doesn't use his powers to distort time and space (what a freaking goob!), do try to be patient with them... They are geeking out and enjoying comics... They have a sense of RELATIVE VELOCITY...

14 Comments
14 Comments
Posted by cattlebattle
Posted by difficlus

@Timandm: Very very nice topic and good points. I used to wave off scientific debates about comic characters but i see now that you're right...

Posted by SC

Great thread/blog! I'm glad someone did it, I have been waiting so long lol. Fantasy is so much more fantastical with the element of realism. Realism, needs a touch of uncertainty and mystery to be reality. Anytime you write fiction and have.. its really hard to write any fictional story without having some aspect of reality inherent even as a projected illusion. If there is some sense of reality present and you can measure its consistency and accuracy and predict what might happen (like if Spiderman punches Wolverines head, Wolverines head won't turn into butter that sings the Norwegian national anthem in black and white) well then thats a tiny bit more of reality present. (not that a comic where peoples heads explode into butter and start singing wouldn't be cool, but only I might want to see that) 
 
Relative velocity. Nice. 

Moderator
Edited by Timandm

@cattlebattle said:

LOL!!! I SO LOVED this scene... and even if the physics didn't matter, I'd still love it... But, if we accept that Magneto can fly on a magnetic field... Then... well, he can lift others up... But it IS a great scene!

@difficlus: Thanks...

Posted by cattlebattle
@Timandm: well, he is lifting him up by the iron in his blood, which is improbable...but like you thread was stating who cares?? its all in fun and suspension of disbelief...you have to take it with a grain of salt
Posted by Timandm

@cattlebattle said:

@Timandm: well, he is lifting him up by the iron in his blood, which is improbable...but like you thread was stating who cares?? its all in fun and suspension of disbelief...you have to take it with a grain of salt

Plus two important things:

1: Mystique injected him with a large quantity of iron, which, for..um.. some reason, didn't' kill him.

2: He's FREAKING GANDALF... I think that says it all.

Posted by cattlebattle
@Timandm said:

@cattlebattle said:

@Timandm: well, he is lifting him up by the iron in his blood, which is improbable...but like you thread was stating who cares?? its all in fun and suspension of disbelief...you have to take it with a grain of salt

Plus two important things:

1: Mystique injected him with a large quantity of iron, which, for..um.. some reason, didn't' kill him.

2: He's FREAKING GANDALF... I think that says it all.

Yeah he is!! and a cool guy, it would seem
 
Posted by Timandm

@cattlebattle: I saw an interview with him in which he pointed out that He, Sir Anthony Hopkins, and Dame Maggie Smith all used to be a part of the Royal National Theater Company along with Sir Laurence Olivier...

He said something like, "Little did we know we'd go on to become known as Magneto, that guy that eats faces, and that Harry Potter Lady..."

Posted by Alexander_Sparrow

this is awesome bro you really out did yourself here. I'm guilty of thinking or rather overthinking things through when it comes to comics to -_-*

Posted by MrUnknown

@Timandm: Awesome blog! Trying to make sense of science fiction is part of the fun of comics or well any science fiction. It also how new ideas and inventions come forth. If someone completely regarded that to be stupid, well for one I'm not sure what that person is looking for in comics or the science fiction genre.

Posted by Timandm

@MrUnknown said:

@Timandm: Awesome blog! Trying to make sense of science fiction is part of the fun of comics or well any science fiction. It also how new ideas and inventions come forth. If someone completely regarded that to be stupid, well for one I'm not sure what that person is looking for in comics or the science fiction genre.

Good point, how often does life follow art? When I was a kid, the idea of a video phone was COMPLETE fiction... Actually, so was more than three channels... In fact, I can remember well a time when people wondered IF we'd ever be able to send a ship into space AND land it back on earth... Life follows art... It's good to dream...

Edited by RedOwl_1

yeah geeks like you (and sadly me) like do that kind of things, example I put in order every batman comic i have read "why if ti doesn't care, the things just happened and is a history who cares when it happened" and my answer is " I don't know I'm just obsessed with it I can't read a comic without know it's position in the time line" (that's my problem with the new 52 but i don't hate it) and about science well it's cool say "It's hard but not impossible"

Posted by Timandm

@RedOwl_1: How can they stand not knowing the point in time at which a story happened? ARRGGHGHG... LOL! That would drive me nuts!

Posted by Deadcool

I love your post, I like to read comics because such stuff is not real now, but we can just dream and think that we all would be able to do that, and that is awesome, isn't that the point of fiction? Dream enough on such stuff for one day be able to do it, be like Cinderella and dream to do something that a couple of minutes seemed impossible, we always reach that point, years ago the humanity dreamed in flying, now we do, such things internet, cellphones and even trans humanism are stuff that we dreamed and thought that would never be true, now they are not a fantasy, is real, is something that we can touch, so Why not superpowers? We all can dream in superheroes, and in a couple of years we all could become superheroes, all we have to do is dream on it and try to make it true, we all live in a world with limitless possibilities, we all can become whatever we want to become, dreaming is just the beginning to a brand new reality, thanks for your post.

Transhumanism, yeah, is this awesome...

@cattlebattle said:

You don't have Idea of how much I am laughing right now...