Episode 1: First Class: Year 1: Before: Genesis: Prometheus: Origin: New Issue 1: Issue 0: New: Young: Origins: Begins:
Yeah, I am talking about prequels but I am also talking about revamps, reboots, renumbers, reups, renewals and relaunches. I am talking about “The Hidden Story” and “Secret Origin,” and “Who I Am And How I Came To Be.”
Everybody has a story to tell and these days, everybody wants to tell it to you in full detail from the beginning of the beginning’s beginning. Used to be that The Amazing Spider-Man’s origin existed in a caption box or in the first panel of the Sunday strip. Now it fills not one but TWO feature length motion pictures. The recent Amazing Spider-Man film might be very good. But why should you see it? From a writing perspective: what could you hope to gain from this new version of a story that you just witnessed?
This time, he rides a skateboard.
No matter where a writer chooses to begin a story, some other writer will decide to write appendices to that story…before said story takes place. It is silly. It makes me feel like I’m supposed to be stupid. As though I need every bit of conceivable information relayed to me and on top of this, dissected and pre-chewed for me. Every movie might as well start with the Big Bang. Why cheat? Go further back to the Big Crunch. Then these storytellers will spend hours and hours making sure that they have laid every domino in place and holding each domino to our eyes so that we can see how much nuance and consideration has gone into the structure of this machine…just so that they can present us with a fight scene where a guy punches another guy.
My name is Ayo and I start with the punch.
I don’t want to believe that every story must be a Coming Of Age Story. I don’t accept that we need to read or watch every character’s plodding journey into corruption. Particularly if the character is named “Sinestro.”
I am thirty years old. In a few short months, I will be thirty-one. I find less and less inspiration in coming of age stories. I find more inspiration these days in “Life Goes On” stories. I have grown beyond the desire to see the origins of everything (even though I remain curious about people, as always). I have moved beyond the notion of “Maturity” as a goal, as a stopping point, as the end of a book—and into the notion of “Maturity” as a continuing process.
More than stories of men “finding themselves.”
I’m interested in the middle. For many of us, for most of us, life is a big middle. A constant reinforcement of our values through the application of those values against the challenges we face daily. We have little narrative arcs: we rise, shower, commute, work, work, run errands, lose our temper, eat a few meals, sleep, sleep. We rarely think about the Big Bang. Or our parents conceiving us. Or even our first day at the job. All of those events shaped us but we don’t need to “fill that all in” in order to function every day.
Instead of the hardnosed, tenacious detective being spurred by the flashbacks of being a Personal Survivor Of Crime, how about the detective is just a person who is good at his or her job? What if this detective is tenacious because hey, nobody likes murderers.
“This time…it’s PERSONAL.”
We cheer when the bad guy refuses to surrender and draws his weapon, freeing the good guy to do what we want him to do all along: shoot the bastard. Shoot him and send him flying backwards into a vat of corrosive acid. Shoot him for all of the dead parents, Gwen Staceys, Uncle Bens, Tiny Tims, Obi wan Kenobis, Master Splinters and April O’Neils. Shoot the bad guy and kill him because he wasn’t just bad, IT MATTERED TO *YOU* who he killed. Shoot the bad guy in self defense but really (wink wink) for personal revenge because he killed your loved ones, turned you into a cyborg, gave your phone number to telemarketers and ripped the tag off of his mattress.
For all that PERSONAL weight to matter, the author has to reach back as far as possible. Back to when Tony Stark had a heart, when Neo thought the world was naturally green-tinted, when Frank Castle was a smiling family man, when Charlie Xavier could walk and feel the breeze in his flowing hair.
And it works, truth be told. It works. It works but it worked too well and for too long. These stories are no longer as compelling as they once were. We know that the person on the movie poster is going to be the superhero, this isn’t a doubt. And the journey counts but unfortunately, it’s been the same journey, the same story, the same exact idea played out in different films, different comics, etc.
The first hour and a half of the superhero movie establishes the protagonist’s long and reasonable path from being an Average Person Just Like Us into becoming an Extraordinary Hero. The last forty-five minutes involves this Extraordinary Paragon walking up to the bad guy and beating him senseless. Kiss the lady and roll the credits. After five or ten or thirty of these things, it ceases to be compelling.
I bet that the people who write these things are the same people who insist on asking the details of their current partner’s previous relationships.
They obsess over it. They can’t let it go. They won’t let it go and it isn’t even relevant to them. The person you’re with has been with other people before. They’ve lived an entire life before they met you. So did you. Don’t pull your hair about about every detail of “what came before.” Live life as it comes.