This is another one you can blame on my friend Mike over at Radio Vs. The Martians.
On the James Bond episode we did a few weeks ago, one of the topics Mike wanted to talk about was our favorite James Bond tropes (or clichés, I suppose, depending on how you look at them. When you enjoy it, it's a trope--- when you don't, it's a cliché.) It came up again in the half-episode from that same session and I've been thinking about it off and on since then, because many of those things apply to other favorite stories of mine as well. When Julie and I went to see Age of Ultron last Sunday I was hoping for some of those favorite moments to show up in the movie... and a couple of them did. Though, sadly, not the one I was really hoping for.... I'm sure you all know it. How did they take so much from Ultron Unlimited and somehow forget THIS?
Oh well. We still loved the movie and I suppose one shouldn't be greedy.
Anyway, I thought, just for fun, I'd list a few of my favorite tropes this week. As I've said here before, there's something to be said for the pleasure of the EXPECTED, when creators play the hits. These aren't clichés for me, because I never get tired of them. No matter how silly the overall story might be, when these things happen in it, they always make me smile. To begin with...
The Noble Vow In Spite of All Common Sense. Scratch a crabby old cynic and you'll find an idealist, I guess. But this always gets me.
When everything around the hero suggests that he should just cut his losses and get the hell out, there's no possible way he can truly make a difference, every man's hand is against him... but he hangs in there anyway. Because it's the right thing to do.
That always gets me. Over at TV Tropes they have a variation of this called "Do Not Go Gentle," but they sub-categorize too much for me. Mine isn't that specific. I just like it when the hero of the story decides that dammit he's still a hero and it's time to get shit done.
Or she does. Buffy the Vampire Slayer had more than one of these. Remember her response to Angelus gloating you can't kill me? "Give me time."
Speaking of gloating, the flip side of the Noble Vow, of course, is the villain giving what writer John Rogers (Leverage, Blue Beetle, The Librarians) likes to call the Evil Speech of Evil, wherein the villain of the piece explains why his villainy is awesome, inevitable, and guaranteed of victory. Bond villains are great at these. We talked about Goldfinger's on the Bond podcast-- and it really is, you should pardon the expression, the gold standard for these things. Here's Goldfinger's, again: "Man has climbed Mount Everest. Gone to the bottom of the ocean. He's fired rockets at the moon. Split the atom. Achieved miracles in every field of human endeavor... except crime!"
Kirby villains are really great at this too.
Darkseid has so many of these it's impossible to pick a favorite.
And Lex Luthor's no slouch.
I've always liked Luthor; in all his incarnations, from the Golden Age to the modern day, he's always been a world-class gloater.
Marvel's got quite a few world-class evil gloaters as well. Of course there's Dr. Doom.
Kirby, again. The man had a gift. But it was Stan Lee that gave Doom his penchant for wonderfully over-the-top dialogue.
But I have to admit my favorite Dr. Doom Evil Speech of Evil isn't from Stan and Jack. No, it was Jim Shooter that wrote it, in the second Superman and Spider-Man crossover.
As Evil Speeches go, it's pretty standard-- but Shooter's genius stroke was revealing that Dr. Doom tapes all his villain monologues for later inspiration. Of course he does. Because he knows they're awesome too.
But really my favorite evil gloater from the Lee-Kirby days is MODOK.
Because, first of all, pretty much ALL HE DOES is talk about his own evil awesomeness. Second, he's usually pitted against Captain America, who's all about the Noble Vow against all odds. So it's a double whammy.
Now that I think about it, this is probably why Captain America: The Winter Soldier is my favorite of the Marvel movies. It has the best evil speeches, like, oh, pretty much everything Pierce says....
...and the best noble vows. This one just melted me...
And of course this one. I didn't care that you could see it coming from a hundred yards. I LOVED IT.
Which brings me to a favorite of both mine and my wife's-- The Asshole is Redeemed. Julie's profession is social work, after all, so of course she loves that stuff. But I've got a soft spot for those guys too. And clearly Stan Lee did.
Hell, half the Silver Age Avengers were former villains. But my all-time favorite was over in X-Men, where villains get redeemed so often it practically requires a scorecard to keep track of who's a good guy and who's not from month to month. Honestly? I'd thought this was an X-trope long past its time.... until Grant Morrison decided he was going to redeem Emma Frost. Because she was still such a snarky bitch, despite her occasional bouts of heroism.
Blessedly, other X-writers picked up on that and ran with it.
Bitchy Emma mocking her teammates just never gets old for me. She's so much more fun than tormented Jean Grey.
It's also why her occasional moments of vulnerability are so compelling.
Over at DC, my all-time favorite redeemed villain is Two-Face. Even though he's not really a good guy, he's ALMOST a good guy and Batman knows it.
I love it when Harvey has his occasional moment of nobility; just a tease, just enough to let you know there's a good man under there somewhere.
Those are just a few. I could go on and on... the Hero's Sudden Crashing Entrance, the Villain's Moment of Triumph Spoiled, the Elaborate Deathtrap. But this is getting a little long, and anyhow I think you all should get a turn. Feel free to talk about some of your favorite story moments you never get sick of in the comments.
See you next week.