Sunday, September 2, 2012

No One Can Eat Just One

Back in the day, Lays potato chips had a slogan: "No one can eat just one" (on occasion, it was put as "Betchya can't eat just one"). Easy, winning concept--our product is so good, if you try to limit your snack to one chip, you will fail, and probably end up eating the whole damn bag. No one can resist the temptation...even if an inability to stop stuffing your face with chips might, ultimately, be a pretty bad thing for your health.

Well, let's turn that into an overwrought metaphor, shall we? Just as, after one delicious chip, you can't resist going back for more, there are story ideas that are great, even brilliant the first time. But future writers can't resist going back to that well, again and again, even though it might not be a healthy idea for the franchise. No one can use X just once.

An example from another medium: the holodeck.

Hey, the holdeck is a clever idea. And there were several pretty good holodeck stories. But the writers couldn't resist going back to the bag for just one more chip, time and time again.

That's not to say that every later holodeck story was bad. Hey, some were pretty good. But lordy, there were some goshawful ones, and they basically wore the concept into the ground. And yet they still couldn't stop going back to that well, again and again.

A comic book example? How about Franklin Richards' powers?

For the past almost 40 years, we've been going back time and time (and time) again through the cycle of Franklin gets powers/powers are too dangerous/FF finds a way to lock off Franklin's powers "forever."

These stories haven't all been bad...heck, I even rather enjoy Hickman's take on the idea.

But the idea is something that never really should have been repeated--having an essentially omnipotent member of the family that you can pull out whenever you've written yourself into a corner is probably not healthy for the concept of the Fantastic Four. Even non-FF writers will play the Franklin ex machina card, illogically, in the midst of their epic mega-event. No one can eat just one, it seems.

Oh, DC has their infinite cans of worms, as well:

Hey, I loved Crisis On Infinite Earths. And, while you can certainly argue whether or not it was wise, or even necessary, on its own terms it was largely successful.

Yet DC couldn't stop with just one reboot. What should have been a once in a lifetime action became DC's prime option every single time someone had a burr under their saddle about some issue. Zero Hour, Infinite Crisis, the whatever-the-hell-that-was of Final Crisis, multiple ridiculous re- and de- and re-re-boots in Legion, and of course the magic that was Flushpoint.

Of course, those are just my opinions. Surely you all have your own bugaboos, your own thoughts on what was a good idea the first time, maybe the second time, but annoying or damaging when the creators couldn't eat just one?

Have at it.


notintheface said...

Here's one: Superhero deconstruction. Adding a dark and gritty underbelly to superheroes. It worked beautifully in Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns. Even in the Authority.

But then they had to do it on the more iconic heroes. First you had the Ultimates with the Maximoffs sleeping together and Hank Pym being a domestic abuser. Then we got Identity Crisis, in which Sue Dibny got retro-raped, seven of the Leaguers acted like villains, and Superman essentially became Super Joe Paterno. And Johns' Justice League is continuing the trend.

Not EVERY superhero team has to be the damn Watchmen, folks.

Tom Foss wrote about it here.

PCabezuelo said...

And let's not forget the Phoenix Force/Jean Grey that jus keeps coming back and back and back and back and back. I realize it's somewhat built into the idea, what with resurrection an integral part of the Phoenix legend, but still, enough already.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

snell, I enjoyed FINAL CRISIS, though I'm about 320 years old and truly enjoyed seeing almost every Kirby/Fourth World character implemented. Just for the hell of it, a few months back I reread the trade by starting in the middle for an issue, then going back, and then forward. An experiment (for me), that I think worked.

Of course, with the sliding time-rule of the new52, all of the crises STILL happened (for no good reason in the case of ZERO HOUR), only now within a 5 year span anothe not 8-10 years.

Same with Phoenix, over thirty years in our time, the Phoenix has to have returned in Marvel time every 6 months.

The Mutt said...

Going back to the Silver Age, virtually everyone Superman ever met got his powers at one point.

And how many times has the Fantastic Four broken up?

SallyP said...

But hey, it is so much easier to simply rehash old plots than it is to come up with a new villain or idea.

Anonymous said...

The holodeck malfunctioned more often than Get Smart's cone of silence. You would think after the first two or three times getting trapped in the Dark Ages or Dodge City, the crew would be afraid to use the thing. If I had been Captain Picard or Commander Sisko, I would have ordered it shut down, at least until it had a complete overhaul.

Gary said...

If I can chuck in something from another medium what with the new "Doctor Who" series starting over here in the UK, there's a long tradition of the Doctor meeting previous incarnations of himself.

From Wikipedia: "[The Eight Doctors by Terrance Dicks] is one of several multi-Doctor stories featuring the Doctor coming face-to-face with one or more of his other incarnations, including the 10th Anniversary story The Three Doctors (1972), the 20th Anniversary story The Five Doctors (1983) (also written by Dicks), the 1985 story The Two Doctors (featuring the Second and Sixth Doctors), the Missing Adventure Cold Fusion (featuring the Fifth and Seventh Doctors), the audio adventures The Sirens of Time (featuring the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors) and Zagreus (featuring the previous three, the Eighth Doctor and a posthumous cameo from Jon Pertwee's Third), and the 2007 "mini-episode" of the new Doctor Who series, Time Crash (featuring the Fifth and Tenth Doctors)."

Enough already!