Ok, so one of my beefs with comics, is the repetitive plots. Like it’s the same six plots recycled over and over. If a character/group is lucky they’ll get a whole three plots they get cycled through.
But right now I would like to talk about “FOREVER ALONE!” Otherwise known as “Lone Wolf Syndrome.”
And let’s face it, MOST male heroes get saddled with this lazy ass trope.
Lazy? Why, yes. The laziest.
The reason it’s lazy is twofold, er, threefold, er, lots of folds. 1. If you don’t show anyone getting and staying close to your hero, then you don’t have to research/accurately portray their psychological issues as noticed by another actual human being. 2. You don’t have to learn how actual, functional relationships work. 3. You don’t have to depict another type of human who isn’t just Mod 1, Mach 12 Stubbly Generic White Guy with Angst, or Mod 2, Mach a million clingy woman getting “feelings” (cue Ferengi voice) all over everything righteous, good and manly.
It is not an accident that the best portrayals of comics characters in relationships (this can include friendships) have been written by apparently happily partnered writers like Gail Simone, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Brian Michael Bendis… It explains why when they write conflict in those relationships, it feels real. I’ll come back to that, probably. This also explains why Joss Whedon cannot write a healthy relationship to save his fucking life, and don’t get me started on Grant Morrison, Alan Moore (the Silk Spectre/Nite Owl relationship is… hoo boy), and Frank Miller (Sin City, ’nuff said).*
I also think this is one of many reasons that comics tend to shy away from gay male relationships, well, that and so many other issues. SO. MANY.
But back to the Lone Wolf. It’s lazy, it’s cliched, and it’s bullshit.
IF your hero is the type to fight the good fight, fight for others, because it’s the right thing to do, a la Captain America, other people will want to fight for them as well. For example, the control room scene in Captain America: Winter Soldier.
But on a more personal level as well. Black Widow siding with Tony in Civil War felt forced and stupid, particularly after the bonding she and Cap did in Winter Soldier. Ok, a lot of Civil War felt forced and stupid, but given the source material, they did the best they could.**
Now, before the whining starts, and I know it’s coming. I get it. Stories without conflict are boring.
I hate to tell you guys this, but even the happiest, longest lasting marriages/relationships have conflict. You don’t magically become one entity/one mind when you get married to someone. You’re still both the same assholes you were before you signed the damn license. Add in someone with a high stress job, like superhero, and bingo. Heightened stakes, more stress, more conflict.
So, here’s the thing. Matt Fraction‘s run on Hawkeye was a success because it showed the messy interpersonal landscape of someone who has that job. The action sequences, honestly, were less the core of those issues, than window dressing around the emotional landscape of this deeply fucked up dude, who has helped save the world multiple times, but cannot hold on to a grown up relationship to save his life. Yeah, he’s alone, but he’s not. He’s got all these friendships around him, whether he wants them or not. His exes all still care, even if he pisses them off. People care about him, just as he cares about them and the world, enough to pick his broken ass up and put himself in front of earth shattering danger, again, and again, and again.
And if comics want to grow with their audience, they need to start exploring some of that stuff. I’m not saying quit writing the traditional superhero fare, I’m saying learn from the success of things like Hawk-guy, Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, All New Wolverine, etc…
Yes, writing good relationships is hard, challenging, but it’s do-able.
The other thing is, when you have the FOREVER ALONE hero, and he does hook up with someone, everyone knows it’s doomed. Everyone knows that the girl is gonna be fridged to fuel man-pain. Do not even get me started on the fridging of queer characters in relationships. Wolverine alone is responsible for an entire graveyard of refrigerators. So we, as readers, don’t invest in the characters or relationships, and it doesn’t hurt when they die, because we aren’t worried about “if,” we know it’s merely a matter of “when.” When will she die? When will they break up because she turns into a nagging, unlikable shrew because a woman expecting her partner to treat her as an equal is such a boner-killer, am I right? (Ow, I think I sprained something on that eyeroll.) And girls just don’t get manly stuff like fighting evil and… I can’t even finish that.***
Given how many dudes are rushing to defend literal Nazis and rapists, lately, I can’t help but think you got that one backwards, guys.
Also, can we PLEASE quit catering to the egos of people who think that being a man equals punching and shooting things and people, and make some room for men who want to stay at home with the kids, or who teach, or are nurses (not just doctors, and that’s an entirely other post).
And can we PLEASE quit catering to dudes who think that if the slightest hint of weiner touching between dudes happens theirs is going to fall off, or make them gay against their will. UGH. You don’t seem to have the same problem with depictions of lesbians, guys. Get over yourselves.
Ok, so this is my dream Captain America title. Captain America Lives. Ok, the title could use some work. I suck at titling things, I present to you the title of this post and many others as evidence. I want to see Cap grappling, really grappling with his PTSD. I definitely want to see bi/pansexual Cap, coming to terms with the fact that being queer is now legal, and largely accepted in US society. I want him to meet a nice guy, and have to cope with coming out, his own internalized homophobia, trying to have an actual relationship with someone with their own damage.
Peppered with punching Nazis in the face, because punching Nazis is a thing that should happen. ALL THE FUCKING TIME.
I want to see his reaction to the anti-vaxxer movement, the Alt-Right, Neo-Nazis, the homophobic shitbirds who wear his symbol. I want to see same homophobic shitbirds having to deal with Cap kissing his male partner in public. I want Cap at gay pride. I want Cap to tell Fox News to kiss his ass. I want them to have discussions about if they should have kids because Cap’s job and he and his partner’s damage. And judging by the SCORES of fanfic and fanart about these very things, I am so not alone.
In short, I want the spirit of the original Cap back. I want the soul of the Cap created by young Jewish guys trying to shame America into joining WWII to save the Jewish people and other victims of the Holocaust because it is the right fucking thing to do. And I want him to be that for the rest of us who so desperately need a hero right now.
Fuck your “Lone Wolf” bullshit.
*Ok, I have got to quit going back and adding to my list of comics writers who suck at portraying relationships, because SO MANY. Also, some of the dudes who are so bad at portraying relationships may in fact be in one, but all relationships are not created equal.
**Yes, Marc Millar, we get it. Wanted was cute. And we’re done.
***Oh, you can bet your sweet ass I’ve got opinions on this shit.
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