Mamo 401: Civil War


Row Three’s own Kurt Halfyard joins the Mamo boys to continue a debate that began long ago about the validity of the superhero genre. Specifically this time: death: what is it good for?

newest oldest most voted
Notify of

Alternate show title, “SUPER-CONTINUITY”

It was a pleasure to continue to scratch this itch, gents.


So you guys mentioned the truth of how Life and Death work in big mainstream Superhero comic stories during the episode. Superhero continuity is Berkeley in that it only is real when it is being perceived by the reader. Just as Matt Brown mentioned that he was leaving a book when the creative team changed, the character ceases to exist for him at that point.

Superhero comics are largely defined in the runs and story-lines usually defined by writers (which is a problem for a different reason). When for example Grant Morrison picks up Batman or X-Men people come on with him to see where he takes that corner of the Universe and then when he leaves the book most of those people tend to also leave.

The real trick about continuity is that it is sure super nice at setting the table but after a certain point it only makes sense for everyone to completely disregard it largely, and both Marvel and DC have done this differently over the course of their history. DC hits the big red reboot button whenever anything gets to a critical mass and Marvel plays with its history forgetting and remembering bits and pieces whenever it is important.

There comes a point where instead of looking for change and new characters people look outside the Marvel / DC toybox and only delve into it when they get the itch for a really good Batman or Wolverine or X-Men story.

It should also be noted that the anti-Government take of Winter Soldier is nothing new for that batch of characters/comics and after a certain point for both Fury and Cap it is pretty much the status quo of the big organization to be corrupt in some way or another and only their small part of that big organization is not corrupt.


“It should also be noted that the anti-Government take of Winter Soldier is nothing new for that batch of characters/comics and after a certain point for both Fury and Cap it is pretty much the status quo of the big organization to be corrupt in some way or another and only their small part of that big organization is not corrupt.”

It should note, that this was also the CENTRAL TENET of HBO’s THE WIRE.


The point there was that those takes in genre were not actually that new of a thing for the characters.

But yeah from Watergate on it is going to be constant in peoples perception of big organizations especially government ones.

I really like how this Adam Curtis 7 minute documentary explains what Watergate did to everyone:

Matthew Fabb

In your talk, you bring up James Bond as an example of hitting the reset button and the character always being in the same age, never changing. I think a great example of the other kind of system is Doctor Who, where actors both the main Doctor and his campaigns are written into and out of the show.

Now the Doctor Who writers could have wrote it like James Bond, that when William Hartnell stepped down from the show, they could have replaced him with another older actor and kept going. They could have constantly been replacing the actors who played his companions so he always wondered the universe with his granddaughter and two school teachers. Beyond getting a bit stale, one of the things that would have been really missing from the show is the story beats of beginnings and endings. Not all Doctor Who beginnings and endings have been good, but a number of them have been incredibly memorable and stand out episodes of the show. It also allows for story arcs that would be greatly missing without. You have a beginning, middle and an end and then start again, rather than start it off and being in an endless middle.

Of course, the advantage is that any James Bond movie can be picked up without knowledge of the previous ones and enjoyed in a self-contained unit. It’s a different approach and nothing is wrong with it. However, what is missing is Sean Connery’s Bond dying in a hail of bullets, saving the day but losing his life. Or Roger Moore’s James Bond retiring and turning in his gun, pointing out he is getting too old for it and giving friendly advice to Timothy Dalton before leaving.

Strangely enough, with Skyfall the movie goes with the Doctor Who route in dealing with M. *** Spoiler alert for Skyfall *** Rather than just replacing M with another actor, with Judi Dench retiring, they kill off her character. She is given an ending and the new version of M is given a beginning. I think Skyfall is a stronger James Bond movie, in part because they have that story beat, rather than M just being wounded and Ralph Fiennes’ new version of M appearing in Spectre.

Also I think the James Bond model of hitting the reset button constantly works better when it is a self contained movie. In the case of Bond, a new movie that comes out every 2 to 3 years.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is very much serial story telling with 2 new movies coming out every year. The Marvel characters are evolving and changing over time. I think this serial story telling works better with a proper story arc that includes endings, rather than endless middles.

Also going this route with Marvel we can end up with a more diverse cast rather than just more white guys that were set up in the 1960’s. We can have the Lady Thor, the black / Hispanic Spider-man with Miles Morales, a black Captain America. Marvel has been doing this for a very long time, with James Rhodes becoming Iron Man I think back in the 1970’s. It’s just that Marvel has never been able to stick with these changes before hitting the reset button. At the same time, Marvel comics can only go so far before it starts getting stale again and they do it again make someone else Captain America or Iron Man.

Perhaps Marvel Cinematic Universe will follow Marvel comics that they can only go so far before they start over from scratch and hit reset.

In the meantime it would be nice to see Miles Morales as Spider-man, instead yet again another take on Peter Parker.


I will not deny that super hero movies are a viable genre.

However, my fatigue with the genre has already reached a peak. My problem with the genre is that as MAMO points out, it aspires to nothing more than entertainment. There is no substantive message or idea these movies are advancing (Maybe winter solider is an exception). Being pure popcorn fun is fine, but combine that approach with the frequency with which super hero movies come out and its equivalent to eating cookies every day at every meal. Eventually its unhealthy. Indiana Jones has made four movies over 27 years. Marvel releases four movies in 2 years.

I’m a comic book fan, and I find this genre super tired an boring. Comic books are a medium, one that does not have to be defined by super hero books. I would love to see Blackhole make it to the big screen much more than I would Ant Man.

Genres come and go. I hope super hero movies go the way of the Western sooner rather than later. When a good director with a good idea wants to make a Western, it can be done and be successful. But if a studio tried to make a franchise of westerns, that would almost certainly fail. Regularly scheduled product, will invariably lead to subpar movies over time. How many monthly comics in the shop are worth picking up and holding onto to re-read in the future?

Thomas Wishloff

Brown are you reading the current run of Ms. Marvel?

Robert Reineke

I tend to worry that there really aren’t that many stories to tell about most superheroes. The three classic Captain America stories are 1) Cap vs Nazis/neo-Nazis, 2) Cap vs the US Government/Authority, and 3) Cap vs other heroes/villains who think their heroes. Marvel’s clearly identified those stories, but going forward it’s tough to argue that they won’t be treading old ground. Admittedly, James Bond has figured out a way to deal with that, but the loose continuity of Bond is a blessing in that respect.

I’m not even sure Thor has three stories. It’s either a) he learns humility or b) he has to overcome something really big. Okay, and maybe he gets turned into a frog.

Iron Man already ran into it, with many complaints about him fighting another guy in a tech suit in IM2.

And given the overlap of villains, it’s a problem for the genre. After Ultron, Brainiac looks like a repeat. Same with Thanos/Darkseid. At least Loki and The Joker (and most of Batman’s villains) have personality.

Given a lot of “might makes right” simple thematics, there are a lot of traps for the genre to fall into and become stagnant. Lots of genres have fallen into those traps, so we’ll have to see if anyone has learned any lessons.


The thing about villains is extremely bad from an Avengers angle because they are very very weak on the bench for good ones. Ultron is probably #1 maybe the Master’s of Evil but it would be weird to go backwards now and do MoE after a Thanos.

Robert Reineke

I suppose Kang is a possibility, but they’re going to have to find a way to deescalate.