So…did you hear the story about me wanting to reveal that Elektra was a Skrull?
I was writing Nova the Human Rocket -- the Elektra series had been recently cancelled and it always bugged me that those bastards had violated her grave and had trotted her out. Frank Miller had created her -- Frank had killed her and revived her and then killed her again and it was beautiful.
At times, over the course of Marvel’s history, they had maintained the illusion that they respected the work of certain creators. For a time Stan Lee was the only guy who was allowed to write Silver Surfer stories. For a time, Steve Gerber was the only guy that they’d let write Howard the Duck. And for a while they let Elektra stay dead, letting Frank Miller get in the final word.
But that changed.
Editorial hands changed and movies were planned and it occurred to somebody that digging up Elektra’s rotting corpse and parading it around would be a good idea.
And the comics that resulted weren’t much to write home about. Inevitably, her new ongoing series went away.
Now -- I should have asked if it was okay.
It would have been the polite thing to do.
But I thought maybe I could slip it in under the radar. I wrote an opening scene in an issue of Nova the Human Rocket with an Elektra Skrull being arrested and hauled off after a battle with ol’ bucket-head and Ralph Macchio caught it (who knew he was paying attention?) and had me take it out (I swapped in a Savage Dragon Skrull, which allowed me to get in a free plug for my Image book) and that was the end of it.
And he was right. It was underhanded and, honestly, a copout.
But following in the wake of the Alicia Skrull incident where Johnny Storm fell in love with and married the Thing’s old flame, Alicia Masters, only to have her be revealed to be a Skrull as a way out of that pickle (it’s a wonder they didn’t pull that crap with MJ) it seemed to be a natural.
And besides, my reasoning for doing such a thing was as sound as a dollar. Reviving Elektra was a crappy think to do to Frank Miller, a creator who had made Marvel boatloads of cash and who would be hesitant to work with the company again given their grave-robbing tendencies. If it was revealed she was a Skrull all the time, perhaps Frank could be convinced that the company really wasn’t so bad after all and that doing more stuff over there might not be such a bad idea. The big reveal might be spun as a public apology and an olive branch to Mr. Miller. As defenses went, I thought I had a pretty good one.
Regardless, they didn’t buy it.
Who knew that, years later, my ploy would lead into Marvel’s latest and greatest big crossover event? Who knew that underhanded cheesy copouts could be made marketable?
Is Jarvis really a Skrull? Well, no he wasn’t -- not when those issues featuring him were written anyway.
But that’s how things work in the world of big time funnybooks. The creative baton gets handed off to the next runner and the next runner can take it anywhere he’s allowed to by the powers that be -- even if it means undermining the efforts of those who came before him. But all’s fair -- his stories will inevitably be undone by the next guy.
And I guess that’s part of the reason I stopped caring.
It wasn’t just that every character seemed to get a new voice and personality and face and physique when handed from one creative team to the next, but often everything that came before was ignored, contradicted or written off as somehow not real. It’s at a point where I can no longer believe that these characters are the same people anymore and it’s to a point where I can’t get caught up in their adventures because I know that somewhere down the line, whatever had happened will be tossed out the window just as everything else had been countless times before.
Which is sad, I guess, but given my age it’s inevitable that I would grow out of superhero comic books -- or rather superhero comic books that aren’t controlled by the person who created them.
At this point I should insert a standard plug for everything Image. There are a boatload of Image books that I am seriously caught up in for a numbers of reasons -- chief among them that the stories of their lives have internal logic and consistency and that I can get to really know these characters without the fear of the creative baton being handed over to a successive creative team hell-bent on undoing everything the previous creative team set in place. If you’re not reading Invincible, The Walking Dead, Jack Staff, GÃ¸dland, Dynamo-5, Spawn, Noble Causes, Brit, The Astounding Wolf-Man, Savage Dragon, Firebreather, The Mice Templar, The Sword and so many others.
As a creator who worked at Marvel and DC, I wanted to leave something behind -- a legacy of sorts. I wanted to add something of worth or value (okay, I know, Lagoon Boy really should be enough of a legacy for any man, but I was reaching for the stars, okay?) that would be there long after I was gone. The idea that I would tell a story of a favorite character and that that story would become a permanent part of a character’s history was extremely appealing. But that kind of thing no longer happens. In years past, back issues were considered canon and those stories were the foundation on which everything that followed was built -- not these days.
These days there’s always an inevitable ret con or crisis waiting in the wings which gets us a “big reveal” as we find out that “everything we knew was wrong.”
But it’s not playing fair.
Take the recent Secret Invasion yarn. Readers are supposed to believe that numerous characters were secretly Skrulls all along and that there are clues along the way that prove it.
And it’s nonsense because the writers who came before didn’t think that they were writing stories about Skrulls and so they weren’t planting clues -- or rather they weren’t planting real clues (and if you believe they were, I’ve got some yellow cake uranium from Iraq I’d like to sell you). But hey, maybe they can artfully undo some more stories. Maybe Hank Pym was a Skrull all along and he didn’t hit his wife or maybe the dead version of Betty Ross was a Skrull, making it possible to bring that character back to life. Maybe Aunt May was a Skrull and the real Aunt May had secretly replaced the actress who secretly replaced her and she’s really dead after, subbing a lousy ret con of a poorly conceived story which contained a sloppy ret con with an underhanded cheesy copout!
In any case, thanks to a plot that an editor had cut out of one of my stories, Elektra was revealed to have really died after all. Thanks to that idea being dusted off and run up the flagpole and saluted by the assembled faithful followers Marvel can go back to trying to maintain the illusion that they respect the work of certain creators.
It could have happened a lot sooner if I’d have been allowed to carry out my underhanded cheesy copout, but then whatever would they have done for their big crossover event?
I shudder to think about it.