Copyright

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Unique

Marvel and DC Comics are going through some of the worst times financially they have ever endured. They are selling a fraction of the comics they once did, readership isn't picking up and is, in fact, dropping off in large numbers. Even while their properties enjoy some strong successes on the big screen, the companies that gave us those characters are facing hardship.

One of the reasons for this, I believe, is the fact that both companies are cannibalizing their own stars and each other's works.
  • Superman is often referred to as "the Last Son of Krypton." This used to mean that he was the only surviving Kryptonian when the planet exploded. However, he soon gained a dog (Krypto), a cousin (Supergirl), and a whole host of near relatives (Superboy, Mon-El, Power Girl, the Kandorians, General Zod and all of the Kryptonian criminals in the Phantom Zone).
  • Batman now has Robin, Nightwing, Red Mask, Batwing, Batgirl, Batwoman, and even an entire network of pseudo-Batmen/women.
  • Wolverine, for the longest time, was the only one of his kind. Then came Sabretooth, Weapon X, Daken, X-23, and Wild Thing, among others, who were all basically the same character re-hashed.
  • The Hulk, a person who happened to have unique properties that allowed him to survive a gamma bomb explosion, has a number of duplicates. Outside of his large number of villains (Abomination, Leader, Gamma Dogs, etc.) with the exact same powers, there is now a Red Hulk, a Red She-Hulk, the original She-Hulk, Skaar (the son of the Hulk), Doc Sampson, A-Bomb, there was briefly a Hulk virus that turned everyone into a Hulk-like being. Even the Hulk himself has different iterations (Smart Hulk, Savage Hulk, Joe Fixit, Devil Hulk, Maestro, et al).
  • Flash (Jay Garrick), Flash (Barry Allen), Flash (Wally West), Kid Flash, Impulse, Zoom, Jesse Quick, and countless others.
  • Green Lantern (Alan Scott, Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner, et al) led to there being a Green Lantern Corps and recently to there being multiple colored rings, each with a province over a different emotion or context and it's own Corps of people following that discipline.
I could go on with all the duplication of character ideas and concept, but I think the point is made: the companies are trying to give the public 'more of a good thing.' However, by doing so, they are actually watering down their own products! They are artificially inflating sales in the short term, but they are hurting their overall product line and long-term viability and growth at the same time.

This leads to a serious story-telling problem for the companies. Superman is the best at exemplifying this: a Kryptonian under the influences of a yellow sun is nigh invincible. Having two, four, or a thousand of him makes the original superfluous and means there are now a thousand nigh invincible, god-like beings at once. That's more than enough to solve all of the worlds problems either by helping human beings out or by destroying them (and maybe the planet) utterly, or something in between. It is simply too many. You already have to have incredibly complex and/or powerful things to make Superman's involvement worthwhile, then you add in a Supergirl, a Power Girl, a super dog, a Superboy and, at this point, DC Comic's universe doesn't NEED any other heroes-- these few can do it all. When you add up characters with similar power levels (Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel/Shazam, Martian Manhunter, Captain Atom, Green Lantern, etc.), the world wouldn't need a Batman or any other standard Hero, these Super Heroes would and could do it all... easily.

Each of the other characters is one who had a unique set of backgrounds, predispositions, and events occur to them that caused them to become the fictional heroes they did. Each time one of the companies creates a new version of the same character, they have to either mimic the original accident or situation (Supergirl was also blasted off from Krypton just in time, but was in a slower rocket ship; Kid Flash just happened to be standing in front of a similar chemistry table when another lightning bolt just happened to strike it and him, giving him the same speed-powers as his mentor; etc.) or they have to set out to make the same character in a new way (Daken is the son of Wolverine, so he picked up the original's healing factor and claws, and his hatred of his long-absent father gives him a similar level of anger; Mon-El is a Daxamite, and all Daxamites have all the same abilities as a Kryptonian when under a yellow star (like our sun) and a weakness to lead instead of Kryptonite; et al).

The other issue with uniqueness is that many of these characters inhabit more than one comic book. Currently, Superman can be found in: Superman, Action Comics, Adventures of Superman, Justice League, Superman/Batman, Superman Unchained, and the soon to be release Superman/Wonder Woman title. In addition, you have the Superboy, Supergirl, Teen Titans (Superboy), and Worlds Finest (Power Girl). All of the biggest stars of the comic book world have this issue: once the fans show they like the character, the comic producer puts them in steadily more and more titles until their line is saturated with the character. The Marvel comic universe would simply collapse if you removed every title that Wolverine and Spider-Man appear in regularly or star in. Same is true of Batman and his cronies in the DC comics universe.

As stated above, Superman and the Superman knock-offs are so powerful that a very few of them could affect life on Earth forever. When you then place him and his clones into so many titles, you have a situation where the over-saturation breaks the reader's immersion in the story. It simply isn't feasible that there are enough threats so constantly that require that level of power that often. Each one of those titles above has to have a threat of some sort in it;

When DC Comics recently revamped their entire line up and "started from scratch" with the New 52, they actually did NOT revamp or restart either Batman or Green Lantern. Both were having successful runs and had movies, so the editorial decision was made to simply renumber and continue with what had gone on. But this bad editorial decision has caused the "revamp" to slowly fail, as some parts were changed dramatically and other parts, anything that had to do with Batman or GL, had to stay primarily the same. The same happens at Marvel, too; you have one writer decide to strip Wolverine of his adamantium skeleton but another is writing an arc that absolutely requires it, and another is writing something that has him in space with the X-Men... which is the real Wolverine? Or are there now three running around the same universe in three different situations? Is Wolverine now Schrodinger's cat??

Marvel and DC Comics needs to take a look at their characters and titles and retract. 

Do Unto Others...

The Golden Rule exists in nearly all religions, and many philosophies, of the world -- and is absolutely foundational to the top four religions of the world (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism). However, the news seems filled with stories about people and groups are not following it or are actively ignoring it.
"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." Matthew 7:12, King James Version.
How is it that so many people in politics are making rules that they themselves would not want to live by? How is it that so many get radicalized by religious leaders who ignore this vital part of the religious code? How is it that so many businesses ignore the people in their quest for profits?
Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful." Udana-Varga 5:18
In politics we are seeing it from all sides. The Republicans have spent 7 years doing their best to veto anything that President Obama put forth, refusing to help make policy, refusing to seek compromise in any meaningful way. Yet, I’m certain, if a Republican president is chosen in the next election, they will want the Democrats to work with them, not filibuster, and seek compromises. For the brief time that the Democrats had control of Congress, they rammed through everything they could without regard to the opposition’s concerns.
"None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." Number 13 of Imam "Al-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths."
In Canada, Harper’s government has ignored popular opinion, the will of the people, and the advice of counsel (including most scientists, government oversight groups, and local leadership) in order to promote its agenda.
"What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. This is the law: all the rest is commentary." Talmud, Shabbat 31a.
In the world, you have groups like Al Queda and ISIS ignoring whole swaths of the Quran in order to recruit people to go on jihadist terrorist missions. You have people like the Westboro Baptists who are militantly picketing any military burial, location that performs abortions, and others. But, would they want their own rallies and churches picketed and their own lives disrupted? Probably not.
This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you. Mahabharata 5:1517
In the pursuit of the all-mighty dollar, businesses are ignoring the pleas, safety, and security of the people. They destroy the future (by way of destruction of the environment, disloyalty to local markets and people and favoring outsourcing, lying to employees and customers, etc.) to gain more wealth now.

Historical Perspective

I guess I have to admit that most Americans are stupid. Or, rather, not stupid, but uneducated. They don't pay attention in their History classes and they don't understand why America was founded and on what principles.

The First and Second Amendments to the Constitution are there, and are numbers 1 and 2, for a reason. The United States was founded by people who, for the most part, were fleeing religious persecution in the nations they left. Those nations (England, Spain, Italy, among others) were ruled by a theocracy, whether instituted or de facto. If you spoke out about the religion, if you dared to practice a different religion, if you dared to dissent at all, you could be arrested, held without hope of release, and even killed for those beliefs and actions.

When the founding fathers of America sat down to write the laws of the nation, they knew this. They remembered this. They wanted America to be a place of freedom, where anyone could practice his/her religion freely and without fear. They wanted a place where the people made the decisions, not the government. They wanted a place where, if the government started dictating, the people could rise up and change it.

So, that led directly to the verbiage of the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
This amendment specifically gave everyone the right to practice what they wanted to, to peacefully assemble, and to express their opinions about anything at all, including issues with the government, without being persecuted for it, like many of those who founded the nation were in their original countries.

In order for the First Amendment to work, however, the founding fathers knew there must be a way to enforce it. For the people to feel safe and for the people to depose the government, if needed. And that led directly to the Second Amendment.
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
The founders wanted people to be able to fight for their freedoms, both against those who would invade the newly-formed nation and against those who would make that nation into something it wasn't intended to be. They left the amendment vague enough so that it encompassed many reasons and situations. Since then, the Supreme Court has had to rule on the intent behind the amendment on a number of occasions. However, the problem with intent is that any interpretation now is biased by the issues we face now. Now we have problems with a plethora of mass shootings, so we are biased by the end-results we want, so people want to do away with the Second Amendment. But the problems of the First Amendment, and those who want to do away with that, prove that the Second Amendment is still needed.

The separation of church and state that is implied by the First Amendment goes one of two ways: either you don't include any religion in your state dealings, buildings, etc., OR you allow any religion to have equal representation. So, for example, when a group wants to put the 10 Commandments on statuary within a government building, there are actually two responses the people can make: to remove that statue and disallow any religious displays OR to allow any religion the right to put its own, similar statuary in the same building. In this way, the government is neither establishing a religion (by showing preference for one above all others) nor is it restricting the free exercise of any other religion. It just seems easier to disallow the first statue than it does to allow any number of other religions, doesn't it?

I will not deny, nor do I think will any constitutional scholar, that America was primarily founded by people of a Christian background. And yet, the founding fathers still put the First Amendment in place, and made it number one. They recognized that even among Christians there were a lot of differences in beliefs. A Catholic, for example, sees the world and its religion slightly differently from, say, a Lutheran. Both of those religions see things a bit differently from the Adventist, Mormon, and other movements. Our founding fathers, especially such luminaries as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine, among others, were well-read and well-traveled, so they had experienced many other religions beyond the various swaths of Christianity. They wrote the Bill of Rights with intent.

Many people today take the fact that our Pledge of Allegiance and our money reference God as a sign from the founding fathers. Few realize that those were added in the 1950s! They haven't always been around, and were put in place, along with other, similar references, in response to the growing "threat" of Communism. Today, many will claim we have a growing threat from Islam... and they are calling for similar measures to protect the nation. What goes around, comes around.

In the end, the First and Second Amendments are two of the most important laws we have in America. They are first and second on purpose and with intent. And they are forever linked together, as one powers and allows the other. Whenever a leader questions the needs for one or the other, whenever he/she wants to change or abolish one or the other, you should question why and ask yourself if that person understands the history of this great nation and why those two amendments were the first two put into the Bill of Rights by the founders of America. You might just come to the conclusion that either that leader doesn't know his history or that he has some sort of ulterior motive behind his reasoning... and one that can start a slippery slope that ends with America no longer being the free state it was meant to be.