Iron Man: Does Whatever An Iron Can

Iron Man, Iron Man, does whatever an iron can. Straightens clothes, gets real hot, smashes you up the butt. Hey there! Here comes the Iron Man!

Well, it’s another of those things I’m looking to stock up in here: character crash courses! And this week, we’re talking about…what do you mean he’s already super popular, more than ever? As if I’d let that stop me!

A cool exec with a heart of steel. And, most importantly, severely crippling physical and psychological issues, and THE suit of high tech battle armour. To some of you, he’s Robert Downey Jr.. To others, he’s Iron Hitler, the asshole with the keys to the toybox.

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Nuanced characterisation was a casualty in other Civil War titles.

But really: Who is Iron Man? Has he lost his mind? Can he see or is he blind? Was he turned to steel in the great magnetic field?

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Metaphors Embodied: The Psychopomp’s Circumstances

No, it’s not the Psycho Pope, the main antagonist in a poorly written Young Adult novel with hamfisted anti-religion themes.

In today’s edition of Things You Recognise But Don’t Know The Names Of, a totally legit and not-at-all-made-up series, we’ll be talking about the PSYCHOPOMP! What thing that you recognise is it?

No, it’s not the Psycho Pump, an item in point and click adventure games to fix the Psycho Plumbing.

No, it’s not the Psycho Pope, the main antagonist in a poorly written Young Adult novel with hamfisted anti-religion themes.

No, it’s not the Psycho Crusher, the signature torpedo move of Master Bison, overlord of Shadaloo.

The PSYCHOPOMP is in fact…DEATH! Well, kinda.

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Comic Book Deaths And You

“We have to retrieve Blue Beetle’s soul from the Phantom Zone and his body from Gorilla City and get Etrigan to stick the two together!”

Ah yes, death. The final answer. The culmination of a gripping battle or a long march. A powerful tool in the writer’s arsenal, meant to create SHOCK and DRAMA. For surely all will be touched by the loss of their loved one, the legacy and memories they leave behind, and all the emotions that come with it.

And then there’s comic book deaths.

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Don’t be so shocked. Isn’t religious Sonic fanart a thing?

As part of my usual target audience, you’re more than likely familiar with the concept. A character ‘dies’ only to come back to life later, sometimes to joyful celebration and other times to rolled eyes. And of course, you know the various ways this happens: clones, robot doubles, magic, time travel, bad/mad science, fight with Death itself, it was a dream, reality gets mixed up, the works. And of course, the classic “The fans/profits demanded it.”

There are plenty of articles to discuss this particular trope’s merits and faults, both from a literary and in-universe perspective, but I won’t be going into those. Instead, I’ll do my best to present the usual ways this plays out, and hopefully give you some fun and some tips about writing along the way. Because really, discipline aside, it IS important to have fun with writing.

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Darth Snape and the Art of Reveals

What if Darth Vader became Obi-Wan?

Disclaimer: SPOILERS ahead if you live under a rock! Also, that art belongs to James Hance. None of that “pasting art and claiming it’s mine” nonsense.

Sometimes, I work from the ground up, thinking of a topic and then finding examples to fit around it. At other times, I work top-down, looking at my list of saved examples and finding something to say about them. Also, using them as an excuse to share images like these.

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I dunno. Didn’t Willem Dafoe portray him?

Today is one of those top-down examples, drawing from two of geekdom’s favourite tragic dark characters: Darth Vader and Severus Snape.

These two are popular for a number of shared reasons. They’re ‘dark’ characters in style and personality, they have tragic backstories, they smack the heroes around (either physically or verbally), and lost love is a major motivator in their lives.

And, of course, they are the ones behind what are probably THE biggest reveals in their respective fandoms. Reveals which would cement their legacies as tragic anti-heroes.

And that’s what I’ll be talking about today: Reveals.

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A Tribute To Tributes

And Namor, yes, I-want-to-bone-your-wife-you-loser-nerd Namor, admitting that Reed is a man of honour and Doom is probably jealous of his brains.

Today, I’ll be talking about a special type of story: The Tribute Special. 

As you can probably tell, these are specials which are almost like clip shows, special occasions such as weddings, funerals, or anniversaries. They provide an occasion for the vast majority of the character(s) or team in question’s social circles to get together and share their thoughts about the subject. Funerals may have an air of finality, anniversaries may mark a legacy’s end or continuation, and weddings are about the bride and groom.

But whatever the occasion, one thing is certain: It builds a plot around the event, and draws in a supporting cast to reflect on what makes it special. Stripped down to nuts and bolts, the event is set up, there are probably more than a few official or unofficial interviews talking about what those characters mean to others, and then it all leads up to the actual event itself.

So WHAT they are can be pretty diverse, but easy to understand. But WHY are they special? Gotta have something if I’m taking the time to talk about them, right? Well, in the immortal words of Samuel L. Jackson

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Night Of The Living Weapon

It doesn’t age because of the magic within it. It doesn’t feel hunger, pain, or even pleasure. All it perceives is the world around it, the hands seeking to wield it.

After weeks of finding something to say about storytelling, I’ll be changing gears for a bit and going back to something I’d set out to do more often: Giving a crash course of tropes, characters, and concepts!

Today we’ll be talking about a certain type of character: The Artificial Character. Self-aware objects, artificial intelligence, living weapons, spirits trapped within objects, you’re probably familiar with these things. They are a thinking, cognizant existence of a different kind from conventional life. Basically, the servants from Beauty and the Beast. From wisecracking sidekicks and sage advisors to malevolent enemies and alien entities, many fantastic settings have given ‘life’ or ‘spirit’ to what was once lifeless.

So what is the deal with these guys, and what happens when you give your props lines of dialogue?

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Agendas, Assemble! Also, Black Panther and the Falcon.

Set aside the fact that a Spider-Falcon sounds TERRIFYING and let’s talk about when comics dip into REAL real life!

Agendas. Messages. Themes. From the days of the Golden Age’s Hitler-punching propaganda to the we’ll-hate-mutants-but-not-cosmic-radiation-freaks racism allegories, reality has always had a place in comics. And in today’s age of “This Is The Internet So Any Moron Can Put Their Opinion Online” we also have no shortage of people trying to explain the meanings and intentions of these stories (plus why you are objectively bad if you disagree with them).

However, I’m not here to tell you whether you should lean to the Left, the Right, or the Red. My priority has been and always will be one simple thing: Does it make for a good story?

Well, get your animal suits out of the closet (don’t ask, I know you have them, you bronies, don’t deny it) and let’s take some recent examples from the men themselves: Black Panther and the Falcon!

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