Friday, January 13, 2006

Reality Blogging Result

The entrants have been running neck and neck all week*, but the phonelines for our one-time only Celebrity Big Blogger challenge are now closed.

Happily, one voter fell for our sucker bait. The non-existent entry was, of course, The potato that snarled. I mean, they can't snarl, can they? Not having appropriate muscles or vocal chords or anything.

That left us with a two way tie between Take Out Baldy, He's Messing Up My Plot and The Greatest Eight-Point Arc Ever Told. I'm going to have to do some background reading before I can do the latter, so our judges awarded the tie-break to...

Take Out Baldy, He's Messing Up My Plot

Stan Lee was good at building balanced teams. The Fantastic Four, for instance, had clear, well defined powers which contrasted and complemented each other. Even if a woman having the power to turn invisible is ever-so-slightly sexist.

But he made a horrible error with the X-Men. The main team were well-chosen. Angel could fly around, which is visually impressive. Beast could bounce around. Marvel girl could lift small objects. Iceman could make snowballs. Cyclops had a powerbeam, making him the most powerful student, but not outrageously. But none of them were in their headmaster's league, the self-proclaimed "Most Powerful Telepath In The Whole World", chuckling Charlie Xavier. He could switch off the head of almost anyone. In a straight fight, he was almost invincible, disabled or not.

And that was then writers on the X-Men started hitting The problem. Why would an uberpowerful grade A telepath send a load of weedy hormonal teenagers to face Magneto and his ilk? Obviously, from a plot point of view, they had to be out there. They had all the action poses and could smash thing up, while Xavier's non-visual meant the only sign of him being in a fight would be a look of concentration on his face. Which, incidentally, is why he and the Shadow King always used to fight on something called the Astral Plane.

So, anyway, how were the writers going to keep Xavier out of the fight? Well, you could make it a test, like GCSEs but with flying cars. Xavier would send his students off to face notorious crypto-fascist buckethead Magneto, they would nearly get murdered, and then he would say, "You fought well, my students, I'm awarding you all B+. Except Bobby who gets a D-."

Obviously, this had the effect of making Xavier look like a callous, pompous fool and ridiculously casual with the lives of his charges. Adding his then-propensity for mindswiping passers-by "to protect our secret", a small amount of thought would quickly reveal that Xavier was a nasty piece of work.

Which makes it quixotic that later writers decided make Xavier's "dream" an important, if ill-defined, cornerstone of the series. This was Xavier the Philosopher, dreaming of a world where mutants and human would live together and cuddle each other. A dream rather like that of Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi, in fact, though neither of those elected to start a school which functioned as a military training academy.

But The Problem remained, and remains still. And through the years, writers have adopted various strategies to solve it

1) Kill him

It's the obvious thing to do, and was done way back. Comic books being comics books, he was brought back (something to do with a doppelganger and an alien invasion - incredulity has mercifully dimmed my memory of the exact details). Usually, resurrections are a bad idea, but there was some point to this, as the series just didn't sparkle without Xavier. He always added something extra.

Currently, he's dead again, but I'm a couple of months behind the rest of the world. He's probably back already.

2) Nobble his telepathy

This has been done a couple of times, and there is some merit to it. Weaken his telepathy, or remove it entirely, and The Problem goes away. But the problem with all power loss stories is that they beg to be resolved by having the powers return, and the writers soon cave in.

3) Hospitalise him

This'll take care of him for a few issues. He once had seven shades of shit kicked out of him by some aggrieved college students. Another time, his body got hijacked by the brood and the Starjammers had to generate a new one. Which led to him being able to walk again, until they wheelchaired him again, but let's not get into that.

4) Fire him into outer space

An intergalactic love affair with a dictatorial space alien kept him out of Claremont's hair for a couple of years. He even started an offworldTraining Academy for Mutant Skrulls. Wonder if it's still going?

5) Put him in chokey

After the Onslaught debacle, the feds imprisoned him. Again, not a bad solution, but the X-Men always scheme and scheme until he gets sprung.

6) Turn him into a bad guy

But that would be Onslaught. Which was simply farcical.

7) Send him on holiday

He spent a while cruising around the Caribbean, if I remember correctly. His recent sojourn in Genosha comes under this category, although Genosha is no longer a top tourist destination.

8) Have him start acting weirdly

At one point, Xavier expelled all the X-Men and retired to his study for several months with only Jean Grey for company. Which was not a bad choice, when you think of the alternatives.

The upshot of all of this is that the Xavier problem is never going to get solved. Even with the upper power levels of the modern X-Men, Xavier is just too powerful to fit in, but his whole Obiwan Kenobi balding mentor routine is just too important to the chemistry of the team for him to be permanently axed. He'll be yoyoing in and out of our lives for years to come.

*in the sense that one vote each is neck and neck


Blogger Psychbloke said...

Hey - they do so snarl..... it just happens at like, really high frequencies.

Still, I guess it's ok you went with the bald guy.....

10:23 pm  
Anonymous Paul W. said...

On the plus side, they've never turned Xavier into Xavier-Red and Xavier-Electric-Blue. Or had "Reign of the Xaviers" in which four bald people suddenly show up, each with a mysterious link to Xavier. Yes, the sad truth is that Superman has many of the same problems as Mr. Xavier, although he does have a full head of hair and some excellent action poses. This is particularly noticable in the Justice League, where he is often half-heartedly ignored by the writers so that someone else can actually get to do something. Because, really, if you were on JLA monitor duty and there was some intergalactic crisis, why in god's name would you ever call in Aquaman or Green Arrow, for example, when you could have Superman? Superman, like Xavier, has been cast into outer space for prolonged periods of time, killed off, de-powered, turned evil, etc. And yet... Superman. You just can't get rid of him, because he's worth too much money. What's a poor comic-writer to do???

2:46 pm  
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