Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, Ka’u Coffee Mill’s semi-washed medium roast, hoping Roger Federer pulls off a U.S. Open victory, or watching injuries take their toll on the Yankees’ season, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.
Unstable molecules. Wolverine’s healing factor. Pym Particles. Those are just a few devices comic-book writers use to explain the inexplicable. Comic-book cop-outs have a long and glorious history. Many readers just accept them; after all, we’re talking about a hobby where you must believe (on some level) that a boy can get great powers from a radioactive-spider bite and a jetpilot can be gifted a magical ring from a dying purple alien. In some cases, they’re just convenient excuses used to explain things that make absolutely no sense. However, there are times when creative writers make the best of a silly situation and make these devices interesting (Geoff Johns excels at this). Let’s take a look at some comic-book cop-outs in today’s Coffee Talk and please share some of your favorites when you have a chance.
Unstable Molecules: Never mind that he took his fiance, fiance’s little brother, and best friend on a hazardous joyride to space. Reed Richards is a frickin’ genius. After his nearest and dearest get bombarded with cosmic rays — giving them four fantastically different super-powers — Richards developed unstable molecules. When used in a fabric, these molecules can adapt to cover up all kinds of powers. They turn invisible when the Invisible Woman uses her powers. They stretch when Mr. Fantastic uses his. They’re impervious to the extreme heat generated by the Human Torch. They also hide the Thing’s embarrassing rock boners.
Wolverine’s Healing Factor: Wolverine is popular because he’s a bad-ass (and Canadian…the world loves Canadians). One of the primary reasons that he’s a bad-ass is because he can take a beating due to his vaunted healing factor. It protects him from virtually any injury conceivable in hand-to-hand combat. It makes it difficult for him to get drunk and prevents cigars from giving him cancer. Most conveniently, it fights off any side effects from having (a fictitious) metal bonded to his bones. When said metal was briefly removed from Wolvie’s body, his healing factor kicked into overdrive. It was said that the only way to really kill him in bestial form was to chop off his head and get it very far away from his body so he couldn’t reattach it. Uh huh.
Pym Particles: When he’s not busy creating evil robots that continuously try (and fail) to take over the world, Hank Pym has fun with Pym Particles. These particles are responsible for his various size-changing aliases (Ant Man, Giant Man, Goliath, etc.). They allow the user to lose or gain mass, storing or receiving said mass in an alternate dimension (which must suck for the occupants of that dimension, what with all the appearing and disappearing mass). They’re also versatile enough to allow Pym to graft wasp-like wings onto his significant other. The kicker is that the wings only appear when she shrinks. Pym Particles have been known to cause schizophrenia and wife beating, as illustrated by Dr. Pym himself.
The Multiverse: DC has the grandaddy of all comic-book cop-outs with the multiverse. On one hand, it allows storytellers creative freedom by having different versions of superheroes exist in different universes. On the other hand, it’s hard to keep track of all the happenings on Earth One, Earth Two, Earth Scarlett Johansson, etc. The multiverse has been used to create big events that generated big sales (Crisis on Infinite Earths, Infinite Crisis). It also allowed characters purchased from other comic book companies to be integrated into the proper DC Universe. The company has used the multiverse as an excuse to wipe the slate clean, which has angered many purists while also making books more accessible to new fans and liberating writers from the shackles of (sometimes ridiculous) continuity. What worked and what was cool in the ’70s might not work in 2012. Need to get rid of something silly while generating more sales? Use a multiverse summer crossover!
The Lazarus Pit: Batman foe R’as al Ghul discovered a restorative phenomenon that he calls The Lazarus Pit. It has allowed him to live for centuries, amass tremendous knowledge, and grow some nifty facial hair. It doesn’t matter how old R’as gets or if he picks up any STDs (hey, it happens to everyone that has lived for centuries). A swim in a Lazarus Pit will wipe away any ailments he suffers from. It can also be used to bring people back from the dead (see Todd, Jason). Repeated use of the Lazarus Pit may lead to megalomaniacal delusions and an addiction to wearing capes. Please consult your doctor before using a Lazarus Pit.
Anyway, those are a few comic-book cop-outs that have been bugging me for decades. I’d love to hear about some of your favorites. Please leave a comment when you have a chance!