The Ringer’s written about some new Marvel adaptations on TV like a new take on the What If? anthology series that originally saw 2 volumes in 1977-84 and 1989-98 (and at least 10 more post-2000 that brought it all to pointlessness), and is now joining countless other Marvel adaptations, with an animated series in this case, though seeing just how corrupted the visions have become today, that’s one of the reasons I’m not looking forward to this any more than anything else on their production slate. The article notes:
Comics can be defined in any number of ways, but the medium ultimately boils down to the unique blend of prose and visual art that taps into a reader’s imagination in ways that novels or movies can’t do as seamlessly, quickly, or—in the case of the latter—as inexpensively. As we’ve all come to learn during the explosion of crime-fighting content in the 21st century, the superhero genre in particular tears down the limitations of human potential, transforming often unsuspecting and otherwise unspectacular protagonists into uncanny beings of incredible power. Under absurd pretenses like being bitten by a radioactive spider, these stories often transport their heroes to distant worlds, alternate dimensions, or various eras across history.
Hmm, seeing they speak of crime-fighting, it goes without saying that politicization of entertainment makes it hard to believe they’re serious about giving us any kind of convincing fare here, alternate reality or not. Particularly in an era where shoplifting has been legalized in California, so long as it’s under $950, yet what are the chances we’ll see any comics or TV adaptations confront this troubling issue? In the Golden/Silver/Bronze/Iron Age, that might’ve happened, but today’s writers and editors are hopeless. And if modern comics creators aren’t making any statements about the fiasco California’s become, how can the medium be defined in any specific way, if morale’s thrown to the winds?
Superhero stories, as well as the collective narrative they’ve told across generations, have grown and evolved as new writers and artists have brought in their own ideas and perspectives to build upon the work of their predecessors. Changes can be as small as a costume adjustment, or as significant as an entire update to a character’s backstory. And while at its worst retconning can result in a confusing puddle of colliding details, it has both become part of the fabric of comic book storytelling and one of its greatest strengths. The “anything can be tweaked” ethos of comic books has allowed creators to revise elements that simply didn’t work in the first place, revive fan favorites from the dead to tell new tales to a new generation of readers, and ultimately provide the chance to experiment without the fear of costing a Hollywood studio millions of dollars at the box office.
Well at least they’re right about why resurrecting characters from the dead is valid. Definitely if the story they were killed off in was bad and offensive. But anybody who thinks DC/Marvel editorial will allow this immediately and in all instances must think again. Under past editors like Joe Quesada and Dan DiDio, there were editorial mandates that prohibited genuine improvements, and enabled retcons for the worse. Confusion resulting from retcons doesn’t even begin to describe the problem, when there’s forced retcons that make certain characters look like what they weren’t before, all for the sake of cheap sensationalism and worse. Predictably overlooked is if modern writers bring in political perspectives that only serve political purposes.
What If…? started off as an experiment that allowed Marvel to rewrite its comic book history without any consequences to its canonical storytelling, providing a chance for its creators to take iconic characters and run wild with them. After releasing more than two dozen films and TV shows, the MCU now has more than enough of its own established lore that it can employ the same approach to its own history. And thanks to the events of Loki, the upcoming series isn’t even just a simple thought experiment, or an indication that Feige and Co. are running out of fresh ideas.
Coming years after Marvel continuity did suffer serious consequences – like Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson’s marriage trashed for the sake of Quesada’s warped visions, and Iron Man’s biological parents retconned away – that statement’s honestly a bit out of date. And if the Marvel studio’s turning to social justice propaganda with films projects like Eternals (and even the prior Capt. Marvel movie), then they already have run out of fresh ideas. Or more importantly, entertaining ones putting merit at the forefront. But you can’t expect news sources whose writers’ understanding of what’s gone on in the past 2 decades is questionable at worst to comment on anything like that, or write arguments why it’d be better to mend what damage was already done. And What If…this new cartoon anthology turns out to be filled with more tasteless political metaphors?
Well, I’m long past the point where I care to find out, but judging from all the discoveries made in recent US animation, that’s why it wouldn’t be a shock if this too turns out to be an excuse for more of the same. IMHO, it’s better to look around for the original anthologies from pre-2000, which last time I looked were available in reprint archives of some sort (the Roy Thomas-edited material is even available in omnibus volumes). Those anthology stories are shorter, and far better than today’s PC offerings.
Originally published here.