An Easy Guide To Identifying the White Male Comics Geek

Fact: there are white male comics fans, and there are White Male Comics FansTM. The latter are a pain. But worry not, friends! For I can help. If you look out for these warning signs, you may well be able to get the hell out of there before some loser starts demanding you prove your geek cred through answering some test.

  1. Their favourite X-Man is Wolverine.
    Look, Wolverine is fine. I might have several different posts in the works explaining my problems with him as a character, but those issues don’t have much to do with him. They’re more about the audience reaction to him. And they’re why it’s generally a red flag to me if someone says they love him.

    Unfortunately, White Male Comics Fans gravitate towards Wolverine, because he’s “cool”. They think because he stabs people and isn’t cautious, he should lead teams and be the main character, regardless of his absurd hypocrisy and terrible judgment. It makes no sense, but it is what it is. I generally take a love for him as a sign I should avoid the person expressing it and move on.

  2.  They think Robin is stupid.
    Interestingly enough, Robin was both the first kid sidekick and the last. Robin has become a legacy character and the mantle has endured while others haven’t because a younger Robin to an older Batman is crucial to the dynamic. We see again and again why Batman needs a Robin and how important Bruce’s children are to him, but the Robins – mostly while they’re Robins, not after they take up other mantles – are dismissed as unnecessary sidekicks.

    …quite frankly, this one is a sign of people that don’t actually know anything about Batman, but try to claim they do. God, I hate fake geek boys.

  3. They hate Scott Summers.
    Look, Scott has gotten a lot of hate over the years for stupid reasons. People that think he’s boring; people that think he’s not good enough for Jean; people that think he’s a bad leader; people that make statements about him that are technically true, but so far taken out of context or distorted to make him look bad, they’re not accurate to the text anymore. The list goes on. I disagree with all these assessments. But mostly, I can just ignore them as people that don’t actually think about the text and that are instead relying on the pop culture osmosis and the say so of writers that hate him. What I can’t deal with is when they go all “Cyclops was a terrorist” on me.

    If someone claims that “Cyclops Was A Terrorist”, they clearly don’t know jackshit about what terrorism is, because what Scott did was mind his own business, give mutants a safe place to go, and warn people that if they continued to attack innocent people, he’d have no choice but to retaliate. Then he destroyed a gas cloud that was killing mutants, that’s not terrorism, that’s retaliating against oppressors. The people that think that’s a bad thing? Those are the pseudo-intellectual, “if you fight back against your violent oppressors, doesn’t that make you just as bad as them, hmmm? Check and mate” idiots. Those aren’t people I’m interested in talking to, and are pretty clearly people that don’t get what the X-Men – and mutants in general – represent to minorities. However, seeing as you usually can’t tell the Cyclops hater that is operating on misinformation from the Cyclops hater that thinks minorities should just sit back and ask politely for people to stop killing them…I find the safest option is just to avoid.

  4. “The Nolan Batman movies are the best!”
    I like Nolan. I have a lot of respect for his directorial skills. And I think there’s a lot to enjoy from his Batman trilogy. But it would be a total lie to say that parts of them don’t set my teeth on edge – primarily, their depiction of Bruce and the way they propagated the idea that Batman is a loner that doesn’t need other people.

    Nolan didn’t understand why Robin matters. That much is obvious. If he did, he’d have gotten why having the character killed by the Joker be a love interest instead of a son isn’t true to the story. He’d have gotten why some random adult that Bruce met five minutes before doesn’t fill the same role in Bruce’s life as the child he raised into an adult that he’s called “the one thing I ever did right”, the one that Alfred has described as Bruce’s optimism. The Nolan movies are fine. They’re well-crafted, well-written movies with compelling performances. But as far as I’m concerned, they miss the mark when it comes to Bruce.

    Batman isn’t a loner and he shouldn’t be. Robin is one of the oldest mantles in superhero comics, and Dick Grayson has existed nearly as long as Bruce himself. He even predates Wonder Woman. Barbara Gordon, the first Batgirl – because we are absolutely not getting into the Batgirl Bat-Girl distinction here – was created in the sixties. Bruce has more family and allies than just about any other DC character. The Nolan movies might be good, but they didn’t respect that. As such, I’m never going to be able to consider them the best anything.

  5. “Hahahaha, Batman v Superman is so bad, they stopped fighting because their moms had the same name!”
    If they think this, well…there’s probably no helping them. Just get out of there. I wrote a whole post on why that moment was awesome, and I still got people complaining about how I was wrong and it was stupid. There’s no helping some people.
  6. “Superman has to smile all the time and never have doubts or fail at anything.”
    For me, a major part of the appeal of BvS is Clark’s reactions to the world and the world’s reactions to him. I find Superman far more interesting when he’s real, when he has actual emotions. He’s not a god, he’s a person that grew up knowing he was different. Presenting him as an always happy optimist that thinks the world is perfect even though he’s being told that he doesn’t belong on the only planet he’s ever known would be disingenuous.

    Like the Robin issue, this warning sign tends to highlight people that think they know more about the comics than they actually do – that or people that are so fixated on their nostalgic memory that they forget what actually happens in comics. Or both. Minorities recognize the immigrant story in BvS and appreciate it. The White Male Comic GeekTM, on the other hand, wants Superman to be a escapist fantasy that’s just for him with no grounding in real world political issues.

    I totally get not reading comics. I’m not passing any judgement on that. Watching cartoons or movies or whatever is a perfectly acceptable way to engage with the material. But you can’t say something is wrong or a bad adaptation if you’re only getting your understanding of the “right” way to make a Superman movie from the Donner movies.

I know, I know – most of these don’t so much help you avoid the annoying white boys so much as give you signs to watch for so that you can hightail it out of there before they start saying racist, sexist things. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a way to avoid all annoying fanboys without cutting off all interaction with comics fans in general. I don’t want to do that, because talking about comics is fun, and for all I know, that dude that wearing a Wolverine shirt actually has interesting opinions and isn’t going to start lecturing me on comics. In order to be sure if the person in front of you is a White Male Comic GeekTM, you’re going to have to talk to them, for at least a while (or don’t bother trying to figure it out and leave. That’s usually what I do).

I was once caught in a situation where I was forced to choose between making it clear that I knew Nathan Summers’s biological mother was Madelyne Pryor and saying that he was Scott’s son with Jean because she raised him. I said the latter, already braced for the “well, actually…”, so I could swiftly add on that I knew about Madelyne. More recently, someone started Tweeting at me about how I was totally wrong for saying Scott was acting in self defence during Avengers vs X-Men, and, like an idiot, I was baited into responding. Lesson learned: when in a situation where you have to decide how to respond to an annoying White Male Comic GeekTM, think, what would Keya do? Then, your safe bet is to do the opposite.

Advertisements

The Problem With Fanboys Running the Asylum and the Importance of Critical Nostalgia

I will absolutely never say that nostalgia is a bad thing. It’s a major part of why we continue to love things as we get older, even as our tastes evolve. It’s what leads us to revisit works we enjoyed as children and, if we’re lucky, get something new out of them. To an extent, it’s why a lot of us love superhero comics. It’s why those characters survive.

The problem arises when the nostalgia filter makes us blind to the flaws of a work in the past and closed off to any changes. It’s common in sci fi, and it’s common in comics. I’ve noticed that when start talking about when a piece of media was at its best, they’re often not talking about the original themes of a work. What they’re usually talking about is the way they remember it – often inaccurately – before someone decided to take a different approach or introduce new characters and concepts. They don’t want characters to develop because they prefer archetypes rather than actual characters with arcs.

These forms of media have become an echo chamber, filled with writers addressing people like themselves. It’s a vicious, endless cycle. A vocal minority of white male fans jealously guard something they consider theirs by right. They’re the root of a lot of backlash against anything that dares to be different. This includes – but is by no means limited to – new characters, new interpretations of old ones, and challenges to the status quo. It further propagates the idea that comics are for white men and alienates other people that would enjoy it and that could contribute to bettering the genre.

Star Trek

The Original Series is seemingly paradoxical. It’s mired in the 60s at the same time as it was ahead of its time. It defined modern science fiction and influenced countless other pieces of media at the same time as its fans were considered the geekiest of geeks. It was Fair For Its Day and still is adored for it, while also standing as an example of something out of date that should be adapted to better suit our more evolved society, and appreciating the show requires the modern viewer to remember the historical context of when it was made.

Yes, at times, Uhura was basically a glorified secretary and she didn’t get an official first name until long after the series first aired. Yes, all the women were wearing short skirts with most of them seeming only to be around to look pretty. Yes, Chekov was a bit of a caricature. But Uhura was – still is – an icon. She was a Lieutenant that repeatedly demonstrated her ability to man other posts besides her own. She was involved in what wasn’t the first interracial kiss on television, but certainly the most remembered. She inspired Mae Jemison, Whoopi Goldberg! The actresses wanted the miniskirts. They liked showing off their legs, and besides, the miniskirt was a trademark of that second wave feminism. According to George Takei, every Asian actor of the time was clamouring to play Sulu because he wasn’t a stereotype. There was no call for a heavy accent. He was a pilot, a botanist, a fencer – he was at heart, a Renaissance Man. Chekov wasn’t any kind of villain, he was there to appeal to teenage girls. The Original Series presented a black woman in a major role during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, a Japanese man twenty years after the US had stuck all Japanese people in internment camps, a Russian character that wasn’t a villain played by the son of Russian Jewish immigrants during the Cold War. It was imperfect – especially the treatment of women – but that doesn’t change the fact it was revolutionary.

I didn’t mind Star Trek (2009). I thought it was a decent movie. But, like others have pointed out, it felt like the work of someone that would have much preferred to be making a Star Wars movie – which, five years later, he’d be doing. I got the feeling that the people involved had a general understanding of the source material, a vague knowledge of what a Star Trek movie should be…but that knowledge is so coloured by the way Star Trek is perceived in popular culture, it didn’t feel authentic.

The macho womanizer Kirk was depicted as in the 2009 film, that he’s remembered as, really doesn’t have much basis in canon. In TOS, he was the balance between Spock’s logic and McCoy’s emotion. He wasn’t nearly as rash as some would have you believe. And the claims that he was a womanizer takes away a lot of the agency these women have. He was a charmer, and he flirted with a lot of women, but there really isn’t much canonical evidence for him having the degree of chauvinism required for him to be an actual womanizer. Kirk was attracted to smart, driven women that he usually developed genuine feelings for. I seem to recall an episode where a character mentioned that they tried to distract him from a class he taught by orchestrating a meeting between him and some technician that he wound up nearly marrying. He respected the women on his crew and fell in love easily. The idea that he just slept his way through the galaxy because every woman fell for him came more from people that wanted to live vicariously through him than the actual character.

In some ways, the 2009 movie is a step up from the misogyny of TOS. But it wasn’t done thoughtfully. Uhura got to do more than just answer the phones, which was great. Both Kirk and Spock were far more demonstrative of toxic masculinity in the 2009 movie than in TOS. Reboot Kirk was prone to violent confrontations and with much less respect for women. He got into a bar fight, ignoring Uhura when she told him to stop. He hid under Gaila’s bed while Uhura undressed. There was more focus on Spock’s anger at the claim he’d never lost his mother than on his grief for her passing. It felt as if J.J. Abrams had known enough to keep the Star Trek trappings…but not the soul.

To me, it felt like kind of a homogenization of Star Trek and Star Wars. Those stories are so different, trying to blend them together results in something utterly generic that doesn’t have what makes either of them good. Star Trek (2009) was missing something special. It was missing some of the heart. It lacked the social messages, the pacifist ideals, the recurring idea that we can build a better tomorrow. And in terms of the diversity themes…Society has caught up with Star Trek as it was when it first aired. As such, the alternate origin movies just aren’t the same kind of progressive. Sure, Uhura and Sulu are still there, and Uhura has a more important role than she did in The Original Series, but that’s no longer revolutionary. Chekov was still there – though Abrams saying they won’t recast after Anton Yelchin’s tragic death means he won’t be there in future movies – but without the real world backdrop of the Cold War, the fact that he’s Russian no longer means as much. Star Trek: Discovery is lacking in some departments – the core of idealism that is absolutely integral to the franchise doesn’t exist to nearly the same degree – but is doing more to further the diversity at the heart of Star Trek than the movies have.

The Original Series was, in part, about the wonder of the world. It painted an image of a future worth dreaming about, worth fighting for, worth building. I don’t see much of the point in making a Star Trek movie if you’re not a fan of that message. You can study it, delve deeper into it, deconstruct it…but if that kind of thing bores you, you should be making something else. Nostalgia matters a great deal when it comes to Star Trek. Star Trek Beyond managed to strike what I thought was a good balance between nostalgic respect for what Star Trek: The Original Series represented and making critical changes that updates the concepts to become better suited for today. It did a good job of translating the spirit of Star Trek. It stands as a pretty clear example of how future instalments in the franchise can honour that long legacy. To be true to what Star Trek has always represented, the Star Trek movies, books, and shows of today must keep pushing. They need to become more inclusive. They need to normalize diversity and push for a better tomorrow at the same time as they respect the core ideals of TOS. There’s no place for either creators who don’t respect the franchise history nor those that are determined to keep things precisely as they were in the 60s.

X-Men

We really, really need more diversity in comics. Like I said at the beginning, comics fans aren’t just white men, but that’s who comics are perceived to be for, because that’s who most of the writers are and to whom they’re talking. One of the consequences of that is how it results in a lot of characters that don’t appeal to that demographic being underused and poorly treated.

You can often get a pretty good idea of who a writer’s favourite characters are if you think about how old they are and what characters were popular around the time they were about ten. Nostalgia makes it a pretty safe bet that those characters will be treated well in the writer’s issues. A good character stands on their own without needing propping up. Fanboy writers, though, feel the need to completely disregard characters that aren’t their favourite in favour of trying to make their favourite look better. This can include writing characters they dislike badly in an attempt to make readers hate them, characters getting derailed to make the writer’s favourite look better, and more. The most obvious example of this I can think of is the eternal white boy favourite: Wolverine.

There’s something so…white dude about the fact that so many writers are determined to make Wolverine look better. Which is weird. Not all white dude characters lead to the same feeling of, oh, dear god, this is too much white male for one issue. Like, take, I don’t know, Colossus. He is white and he is a dude, but he doesn’t come across as nearly as much of a white dude as Wolverine does. That’s largely because Colossus is a genuinely good guy, not a designated hero who can only be viewed as a good guy because of major Protagonist Centred Morality. But Wolverine? Oh, boy.

When he’s written well – preferably in a more minor role – Wolverine is fine. He was fine back when he was first introduced and used as more of a Lancer, or just the guy whose impulsive running off and insistence upon doing things his way landed him in trouble that had to learn how to follow orders. The problem arose when people that read about him and thought he was cool when they were kids grew up and became writers themselves. Unfortunately, that’s most of today’s writers.

Because Logan is considered “cool”, he gets to be a huge hypocrite. He does any number of terrible things without facing consequences for them. He’s a self righteous jerk. And he’s straight up over exposed. Wolverine fans complain every time he demonstrates interesting flaws. So none of his myriad of character defects ever gets portrayed as a bad thing. He ends up winning every fight, even against opponents that should, by all logic, defeat him. He gets to lead teams and head the school despite his character being utterly unsuited for the job. He promptly forgets every lesson he’s ever learned. He very rarely has any lasting development. It’s incredibly irritating.

Beyond my issues with fanboys writing Wolverine, a lot of writers seem to be kind of missing the point of the X-Men – that or not really understanding the mutant metaphor, because again, most of them are white men. The introduction of the timeshifted original X-Men seems kind of like the result of writers longing for the version of Scott before all his years of character development, because that’s the version of the character they first got to know. That feels wrong to me on a visceral level. Scott becoming angrier and more driven to fight for a place for mutants is immensely relatable. He’s been told for years that what he has to do is play respectability politics and show repeatedly that he means humans no harm, only to learn from hard experience that that doesn’t work.

Nostalgia is all well and good. Longing for that more innocent version of the character is understandable. But to suggest that it would be better for Scott to go back to that version of himself is an affront to all those people that see themselves in the X-Men and in Scott’s growing cynicism and persistent idealism.

DC

Infinite Crisis is pretty much my favourite crisis story. And mostly, that’s for shallow reasons – Dick Grayson is pretty much my all time favourite comic book character; his relationship with Bruce is amazing; and the “what about Dick Grayson?” scene where Bruce is on the verge of giving up but believes that any universe with his son in it is worth fighting for and where thinking about how good a man Dick is makes Earth-1 Superman question what he’s doing is one of my favourite scenes ever. But it’s also for a deeper reason, and that’s that it’s critical of looking at things through the nostalgia filter. It’s critical of the idea that the Golden Age was fundamentally better. Which is why I find it all the stranger that it was written by Geoff Johns. Johns weirds me out, because he stands both as an example of the positive and negative aspects of nostalgia. That results in some of his stuff really working, and others…not.

The Good: respect for the past and existing characters, like the importance of Dick Grayson and Barry Allen, without denigrating them to make newer creations look better; creating some great characters, like Kate Kane and Jessica Cruz.

The Bad: his sense of nostalgia and love for old characters resulted in him doing dumb things, like erasing legacy characters for the sake of bringing back his old favourites and, well…Justice League. I think that movie shows off the flaws in his approach pretty well.

Geoff Johns is, in a sense, the opposite of Grant Morrison. As I said in this post, Morrison is completely unafraid of making big changes, regardless of how far from convention they be. His Batman and Robin took place without Bruce, the character that even people like me, who loved Dick as Batman, recognize as The BatmanTM. He introduces new characters and concepts, blows up the status quo. He makes his own world without ever looking back. And while that sometimes works, it sometimes really doesn’t. Everyone draws the line somewhere different, and for me, Morrison crosses it – he doesn’t have as much respect for the work of others even as he operates under the idea that everything that’s ever happened is in continuity. Johns, on the other hand, goes back to what’s familiar, when concerning characters he didn’t create. To what’s safe. Is that necessarily a bad thing? No, of course not. There’s a reason there’s so much love for his Green Lantern, his Aquaman. He likes the classics and is very much a fan. But his love for the classics involves doing things like kicking Wally West out of continuity to bring back Barry Allen, who at that point hadn’t been the Flash for over two decades.

This is similar to what happened with Cassandra Cain, Bruce Wayne’s only daughter and the second Batgirl. The New 52 erased her, a move comics still haven’t fully reversed. While Cass exists again, and while she’s loosely affiliated with the the Bats, she’s not a member of the family in the same sense as she used to be. She’s not being used as one of Bruce’s children, which was made painstakingly obvious by the fact she – like Tim, actually – didn’t get an issue of her facing off against a member of the Batman Rogues Gallery during Prelude to the Wedding. Her identity just rubs salt in the wound, because it wasn’t enough to strip her of her Black Bat mantle, wasn’t enough to make her the only member of the family without a bird or bat motif in either her code name or costume. No, they had to rename her Orphan. That’s adding insult to injury – before the New 52, she was happily adopted with a family that loved her.

While I can’t be certain as to why Cass and Steph were temporarily removed from continuity, the only reason I can think of is that it was about making it easier to return Barbara to the Batgirl mantle. In that one fell swoop, the writers took away the only Asian member of the Batfamily and one of the most popular disabled characters in all of comics. Which…thanks, I hate it. Barbara has outgrown Batgirl, but the writers are so nostalgic and change-averse, they don’t want to believe it. They don’t care about the close to thirty years she’s spent as Oracle and all the character development since her paralysis. They just immediately associate Batgirl with Barbara and because of that, are willing to toss aside years of content to go back to that without regard for what it’ll say to the readers. It’s unthinking nostalgia that does nothing to better the genre.


Works are best when they both respect the past and look to the future. Writers in shared mediums need to hold on to some level of nostalgia and respect the worlds built by others, but they can’t let it hold them back from trying new things and pushing boundaries. I want all writers in these mediums are fans – I just hope they aren’t fanboys about it, unable to let go of what they love for long enough to make changes.

A Manipulative Waste: Why Logan Disappointed Me

I don’t like calling things overrated. I’m not going to write think pieces on why that thing that people love is actually terrible. I’m never going to call someone stupid for liking something. Doing any of that would be mean-spirited beyond belief and I’ve experienced enough of that as a fan of the DC Extended Universe. I don’t ever want to be like the countless bloggers that spent a a solid year making fun of me and people like me that watched Batman v Superman and saw something beautiful. So, even though I didn’t really love Logan, I’m not going to say it was a terrible movie that was bad for comics fans. My experience isn’t universal, and even if it was, there were things I enjoyed about it, but more importantly, I think it’s great that other people liked it.  That being said, now that the movie has been out for five months and I’ve had a lot of time to think about it – I didn’t enjoy Logan, and I think it was a disappointing finish to a franchise that’s had both extreme highs and lows.

Reliance On Existing Goodwill

Most of the reasons I didn’t really enjoy it stem from it being part of a series, not it as a standalone movie. The movie looked beautiful. Everyone in it put in a great performance — Dafne Keen had one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from a child actor. But I think a lot of what the movie had going for it was the nostalgia factor. This was the end of an era. This was Hugh Jackman’s swan song. The X-Men movie franchise has been going on since 2000, and it’s still going on. A lot of people have grown up with this, with Jackman’s Wolverine, and seeing him for the last time, watching the character die, was an emotional experience. It was for me, too, but for me, the film relied on that, on the years of affection for the character and goodwill from the rest of the franchise, rather than creating an emotional reaction of its own. It felt manipulative, rather than something earned. I don’t like feeling used like that.

If the movie had been closer in tone to the trailer, the gorgeous one set to Johnny Cash’s rendition of Hurt, I’d have enjoyed it a lot more. It’s hard to overstate how excited I was about that trailer. That would have been the story of a Logan that has given up. That has lost everyone that matters to him. It would have been him finding hope again because of the new generation of mutants and deciding Laura is worth fighting for. It would have been a quieter, thoughtful, introspective movie. It would have been a kind of trippy story about self discovery and family. I saw that a lot of people did see that in the movie, but I didn’t. I saw an attempt, and I saw something sort of different from what had been done before, but hardly anything groundbreakingly unique.

As part of a series, it didn’t work for me. There was no real grieving for the X-Men. They were unceremoniously killed off again, and this time, none of them even got to have a part in saving their species, because their deaths were completely off screen. It made Days of Future Past redundant – what was the point of changing the timeline and bringing the original cast back to cameo if they’re all going to die within a few years anyway? And what’s the point of any future X-Men movie if we all know that it’s going to end like this no matter what they do? It would have been a good plot for a standalone, but not as part of a series.

The movie felt selfish to me. Logan seemed as if he was looking after Xavier out of obligation for giving him a place. Part of the reason he eventually had a change of heart about Laura was that they shared DNA and Xavier had wanted her kept safe. To me, it never seemed like he missed the X-Men – he was old, tired, cynical, but that stemmed from being sick and in pain and having to care for Xavier, not from having lost a family. The scene with Laura and the comic book was close, but it still came across as more bitter than anything else. I remember being surprised when I saw that in the movie, because of how different in tone it was from the way it had been presented in the trailer – Logan was clearly bitter, there, too, but he also seemed a little amused, and almost nostalgic. I liked that a lot better than him being an angry, bitter old man that made himself feel better by screaming at a child and didn’t give a damn about what the X-Men represented.

jean grey scott summers logan howlett days of future past cameo.jpg
Jean and Scott’s cameo in ‘Days of Future Past’. [Credit: Fox]

I didn’t find the plot all that emotional. I know a lot of other people did, and I’m glad. But for me, this was just rehashing what we’d already been through in Days of Future Past, except not as well. I loved Days of Future Past – I was irritated that somehow, Logan got the story that by all rights, belonged to Kitty and that Kitty got a new power out of nowhere because they gave her role to Logan and cut out Rachel, but I liked the movie. There were beautifully nuanced performances. It was a story of tired, broken, bitter people finding their way back to the best versions of themselves, a story of people making their last stand fighting for a better world. It was about mutants getting a second chance, about earning a happy ending. It handled the concepts of grief and mourning brilliantly. DoFP achieved with a scalpel what Logan did with a sledgehammer. Not a good adaptation, but a very good movie, and despite the mutants being killed by Sentinels and not corn syrup, still more subtle than Logan.

Goodbye To Original Cast

Even if this is just a movie that doesn’t tie into the continuity in any way, it still leaves a kind of bitter taste in my mouth, because it’s still our goodbye to the original cast. It’s not the ending that they deserved. They haven’t all been on screen together in eleven years. After DoFP reset the timeline so that The Last Stand could be removed from the continuity and Jean and Scott could come back to life, we didn’t get another story with them, just a weak cameo.

Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart were far from the only members of the original cast that deserved a good ending. Famke Janssen put in a spectacular performance, even with the terrible script she was handed. There’s only so much an actor can do when they don’t have support from the script. James Marsden, as well – somehow, he’s been left out of the movies where the mutants are on the brink of extinction twice, despite the fact those stories should definitely be about Scott. He’s an excellent actor that was criminally underused. Apocalypse even teased Mr. Sinister, and nothing gets the message that the makers of these movies don’t care about Scott across better than that – not one instalment in this franchise has mentioned Scott’s comic background, and in the case of the new timeline, he doesn’t have that at all. What’s even the point in bringing in Sinister if it’s going to be this much of a watered down version?

mr sinister essex corp xmen apocalypse.jpg
Briefcase labelled ‘Essex Corp’ from ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’. [Credit: Fox]
This wasn’t just closing the door on Logan and the Stewart version of Xavier. If they’re not coming back, it’s almost certainly a goodbye to everyone else in the original cast as well, aside from maybe – maybe – a cameo from time to time. We got a flash of hope that we’d be getting them back in DoFP, then had that ripped away again, and it’s not even the loss of this version of the characters that bothers me so much as the loss of potential.

There was a cast of excellent actors. I mentioned Janssen and Marsden, but we certainly shouldn’t forget Ian McKellan, arguably the best actor in the entire franchise. Halle Berry, too – she’s a good actress, even if I didn’t like the little material she got and her characterization. Aside from very few of them – Stewart, McKellan, Jackman – the original cast didn’t get a chance to do their characters justice. How could they, when the movies weren’t X-Men movies as much as they were Wolverine and Friends, and most of them were just there to support Logan as the hero without storylines of their own? That cast could have made amazing movies, ones with fully realized characters that were as good adaptations as they were stories of their own. What did we get instead? Some disconnected great scenes, lines, and performances in a sea of mediocrity.

xmen original cast
Original cast. [Credit: Fox]
Janssen said very recently that she’d return as Jean Grey if she was asked – she’s been saying that for years. And I’d love her back. I prefer her Jean to Sophie Turner’s, perhaps just because she’s a more experienced actress that was a better fit for the character. But I very much doubt we’ll ever see her Jean again, and that’s a shame. It doesn’t feel like it’s been long enough to replace the entire cast. Ten years should be enough time, but in those ten years, some of them were around for longer, while the others made their last appearance just a few years ago. What’s more, they’re being replaced within the same series. It’s not a reboot, or a different universe.

I get that Logan was a loose adaptation of Old Man Logan. I do. I understand that. And I understand that this universe has been built around him, and that the people involved wanted the send off of the character to be just for him, and not an ensemble movie. But as a fan of the X-Men, it just felt like another slap in the face after seventeen years of slaps in the face.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of Wolverine as a character. He has his moments, and I do think he’s a better person/more engaging character in the film verse than in the comics, but he’s never been particularly interesting to me. And the seventeen years of movies have made me incredibly bitter towards him, something which finally reached a boiling point with Logan. A not insignificant part of why I didn’t love the movie was that I was so incredibly tired of the character. The X-Men are supposed to be ensemble stories. They work as a team. But the X-Men movies cast that aside for the same old Wolverine is the awesome hero, who cares about everyone else.

Viewer Fatigue

When I first saw Logan, I really enjoyed it. That’s the same experience I’ve had with most of the X-Men movies – I walk out of the theatre still excited, but when I take some time to process what I saw, to maybe see it again, I start to find more things that bother me. Logan left me cold. For me, the franchise has started to drag. I didn’t really notice it until Logan, but now they’re just making movies for the sake of it, because we’ll go to see them regardless of how little care is put into them and they’ll make a lot of money. Logan was the third Wolverine solo, when no other character even got one and he was the main character of the original trilogy as well. It rehashed the general plot of Days of Future Past without that level of beautiful focus on building a better world.

I don’t like the trend of bashing movies and claiming they’re awful solely because they weren’t to your tastes, or of saying they should be catered to you instead of to whoever they’re directed at. Not everything can be for everyone. I’m a big believer in letting people enjoy things, rather than being constantly negative and pointing out why what they love is terrible. And we shouldn’t judge movies based on whether or not they were what we wanted or expected to see, but rather on the story they tell. At the same time, I believe polite, respectful criticism is fair, so long as it’s criticism for what it is and not what you want it to be. Criticism only means something if it’s thoughtful and meant to spur conversation, not insult for the sake of it, but if it is, then it’s worth hearing.

Logan wasn’t for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. I know other people loved it. I may not understand why, but I’m happy for them. But I personally liked the idea of Logan more than I liked the actual movie. To me, it felt like it should have been a story about grief and loss, just as I felt TLS should have been, just like DoFP was. Instead, also like TLS, it didn’t really seem to me like a story about much of anything. Batman v Superman gets constantly berated for being “grimdark”, but if any recent comic book movie falls into that category, it’s this one. It was emotionally draining and relentlessly, pointlessly dark. It wasn’t a more mature story in any way than the previous instalments in the franchise, it just had more visceral violence and cursing.

It may not technically be the last movie in the franchise, but it might as well be, now that all the ties to the original trilogy are gone – different timeline, different cast, different characterizations. Fox is going to continue to make X-Men movies. Logan will eventually be recast, just like the other X-Men. Even so, Logan represented the end of an era, the last movie with any ties to the trilogy that arguably revived comic book movies, and to me, it wasn’t a satisfying finish.

Adaptations, Source Material, and Viewer Satisfaction: My Complicated Feelings About the X-Men Movies

The X-Men movie franchise has existed for most of my life. I’ve grown up watching these movies, I have a lot of appreciation for them and looking back on them very fondly, and I think it’s important that we credit them for reviving comic book movies and allowing them to be big budget successes. And yet, when I think about them critically and objectively, I find it very hard to give a simple answer to the question, “Are the X-Men movies any good?”

Part of that, of course, goes back to the fact that they’re adaptations of comic books. The X-Men have existed for decades. There are a lot of different versions of the characters, and everyone has a different way of interpreting them. It’s impossible to please everyone. But in addition to that, there were a lot of other issues that made them a poor and unsatisfactory adaptation, at least to me. Some of the dialogue, in the original trilogy especially, is stilted. The costume design was boring. A lot of parts felt forced. There were a lot of plotholes.

What I’ve always found the most important part of the X-Men is that they’re a team. They’re a close knit family, bound together, and determined to protect both their kind and a world that hates and fears them. The movies rejected that notion. Instead of showing them as a team, they focused on Wolverine, Professor X, and Magneto and sacrificed everyone else in the process.

hated having to watch everyone else’s important storylines just given to Logan. He essentially took Scott’s place as the main hero and romantic lead during the Dark Phoenix arc when Scott was unceremoniously killed off by Jean in the first half hour of the movie. He took Kitty’s place in Days of Future Past, resulting in Kitty getting a new power that made absolutely no sense and pretty much just sitting still for the entire movie. Logan may not have been the main character of Days of Future Past – that distinction goes to Charles – but he was the heart and the character whose perspective the story was told from. It apparently wasn’t enough that Logan got three solo movies while no one else even got one – he had to get all of everyone’s storylines as well. The X-Men movies weren’t about the X-Men, they were just Wolverine and Friends.

I appreciate the changes made to Xavier’s character. The movies made him more of a hero. In the comics, he was deeply manipulative, essentially a trainer for child soldiers, and did very little to actually further the mutant cause while still being hailed as the best of them. Here, he’s legitimately heroic. I love manipulative characters that are willing to use other people as pawns to achieve their goals, but the narrative has to point that out, not gloss over it to pretend those characters are perfect heroes. Would it have been cool to see comics Xavier, with attention being drawn to his myriad of character flaws? Sure. But I’m totally fine with the version of the character that’s far less flawed and is doing the best he can to create a better world.

A lot of the performances were fabulous. Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan – they managed to demonstrate to the audience that their characters had a long history and a complicated relationship without ever needing flashbacks or a lot of expository dialogue. For all my issues with Logan’s character, I’ll still admit that Hugh Jackman is a great actor. But a lot of the actors were also wasted – James Marsden and Famke Janssen come to mind.

My favourite X-Man has always been Scott. I’ve talked about that before. The adult version of the character has never really had a solo title, but he’s been absolutely crucial to the X-Men as a team – he’s essentially the main character of the entire X-Men mythos. More than Xavier. More than Magneto. That’s how important he is. But if your X-Men knowledge comes from the films and not the comics, you end up seeing Logan as the main character, Logan as the hero and team leader, not Scott, because in the movies, he doesn’t get to do anything. He’s an adaptational wimp that never gets to be a leader or use his brilliant tactical skills and ability to beat people up with his eyes closed. He never gets to be seen as the important pillar of the school, the teacher. There’s less focus on his relationship with his love interest than there is on Logan’s relationship with her. He doesn’t even get to grieve for his fiancée’s death. James Marsden was an excellent casting choice, but he was cast to the side.

Famke Janssen is a superb actress that completely owned her role, but she got very little to work with. The Dark Phoenix saga from the comics is highly acclaimed. It was a beautifully done story, and it was about Jean loving the world, her family, Scott. It was about her choosing death over hurting them. But The Last Stand took away her choices and her agency. It didn’t pay any attention to Jean and who she was, just what she was to Logan.

Somehow, the films made the Jean Logan relationship, something I hate in the comics, an even worse concept. The directors, writers, whoever – they tried to make the audience take Logan’s creepy obsession with Jean seriously, make us view it as a tragic, romantic love story, but he knew her for a week. He knew nothing about her as a person. He thought she was hot and had an image of what she was like and decided he was somehow in love with her, but he didn’t know her. She was engaged to Scott the whole time, and the two of them were in a long term, happy relationship! Logan’s behaviour was borderline harassment at best that we were supposed to believe was love.

I’ve seen most people agree that The Last Stand wasn’t a good movie, that the first two were much better. I think it could have been great, and that in fact, a lot of the action sequences were well done, but a lot of the rest of it fell flat. X-Men United was really good, and I wanted the follow-up movie to deal with the events that happened. The story I wanted was one of grief and pushing through it. I wanted Scott missing Jean, who was his best friend and teammate in addition to being his girlfriend, but working through his grief because his team and the school still needed him. Instead, his adoptive father asked someone else to take over the school instead of bothering to talk to him about his loss and how to start moving on; he got killed off half an hour into the movie; and no one really even mourned his death.

The filmmakers tried to cram too much into the movie and didn’t do justice to any of it. The concept and morality of a cure would have been a great story to go into. The repulsiveness of the idea of suggesting that a natural part of a segment of the population is a disease to be cured and that something is wrong with that segment of the population. The reminder that it’s a complex issue and that some mutants might want to take it. The weaponization of the cure and forcible administration. I would have loved to see Scott returning from wallowing in his grief to his calm, rational, strategic self to try to deal with this. It could have been the start of a real friendship and trust being forged with Logan. It could have been a solid story that was a great character study as well as an action movie. But they killed Scott and also crammed in the Dark Phoenix arc.

The Dark Phoenix as well could have been a great movie. I’ve heard they’re going to make another one about it, but I can’t be very excited for that, because a) Jean has been involved in far more stories than just the Dark Phoenix and deserves so much better and b) it’ll probably be with Sophie Turner and not Janssen, which disappoints me for a lot of reasons that I won’t go into now. But it, as it was portrayed in The Last Stand, wasn’t really a Dark Phoenix story. It wasn’t about Jean. It was pretty much about her choosing to follow Erik instead of Charles and giving Logan something to angst over. It could have been spectacular. But it wasn’t. The entire movie just left me cold and disappointed.

When we look at the second trilogy, the alternate timeline one, my conflicting feelings deepen. Because First Class was a story about Erik and Days of Future Past was a story about Charles, and I thought both were very interesting movies with a lot of heart. But as an X-Men fan, it felt like a slap in the face for a movie to be called First Class and not include the original X-Men. Scott, Jean, Bobby, Warren – none of them was anywhere in sight. Hank was there, sure, but the rest of those characters? Nowhere. They even decided to stick Scott’s traditionally younger brother on the team in Scott’s place. Very few of those new characters were well developed. They killed off Darwin, their only black character, despite the fact that that makes no sense with his power and that his power would have made much more sense as the lynch pin of the next movie than Raven’s.

Days of Future Past was probably my favourite movie on the franchise as a whole, and that’s only partially because of how it completely undid The Last Stand and brought Scott and Jean back to life. As a movie, I think it was the best one by quite a large margin. It wasn’t necessarily a great adaptation, but it was an exceptional movie. It was a movie about found families and fighting through hard times. It was a movie about doing the right thing. It demonstrated the Erik-Charles dynamic beautifully, showing that they both have very different perspectives that stem from their personal experiences and that are both understandable. It showed how necessary and important the school is. And above all, it ended well. It ended happily and it gave them all a second chance. There were a few plot holes and continuity issues, but on the whole, I can’t really complain about Days of Future Past.

Apocalypse was much more divisive than either First Class or Days of Future Past, but while I had my issues with it, issues that were deeper than mine with Future Past, there were actually a lot of things that I appreciated a lot. The most important of them was that Logan showed up for a couple minutes, then left, and that was it. He didn’t hog the spotlight in this one. We got teenage Scott and Jean and Kurt, which was lovely – finally, some other characters got some screen time – but deeply flawed, as the interpretation of Scott was so different from the classic version of him, he felt like a totally different character that just happened to have the same name. It didn’t really focus on a specific character, so it felt more like an X-Men ensemble movie at long last, even if a lot of the characters were underused and Mystique got more screentime than she probably should have.

But even beyond too much focus on a few characters, and a lack of care being put into the details, and my frustration with them as adaptations, my main problem with the movies is how exhausting they are. There hasn’t been a real happy ending since the very first one. When you’re telling a story about a persecuted minority, of course you need to go into the struggles the people belonging to said minority face. But having all of mutantkind wiped out twice, and not facing the societal and political challenges instead of the dramatics since 2006?

I don’t have a problem with emotional weight and bittersweet endings. It’s why I love the DCEU – the movies might be too heavy for me to watch all the time, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. It just means that sometimes when I’m exhausted and need something light to cheer me up, I’m going to turn on Legally Blonde instead.

So much of the franchise is excellent and enjoyable and generally well done, but there are still so many flaws that are more and more noticeable with every rewatch, it gets very frustrating and exhausting.

All of my issues with the franchise culminated with Logan. While I enjoyed watching it, after I was done, I was so tired. I was sick of Logan as a character. I was sick of never getting to see other mutants or the X-Men as a team. I was sick of the characters never getting a lasting victory or moving forward in a meaningful way.

Logan was the end of an era. It was the last movie with Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine. It was the last movie with Patrick Stewart playing Professor X. By extension, it’s very probably the last movie with any of the original actors. I’d be delighted to be wrong about that, but I very much doubt we’ll ever again see Marsden Scott, Janssen Jean, or Berry Ororo. Logan was the end of that era, and I think that while the movie may stand well on its own, isolated from the rest of the franchise, it was a weak, unsatisfactory ending.