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Sunday, June 30, 2013 

What's so wrong with Terry Long?

I found an older item from the pointlessly revived Comics Alliance website, where the writer was telling everybody about the romances he considers the worst in comics. And I noticed that, while at least one of the affairs he mentions - the one between Rogue and Gambit - was certainly crummy, he still takes a very ambiguous approach, slamming the characters in this rather than the writers who came up with some of the affairs to start with (his text does not mention Fabian Nicieza and Scott Lobdell, the ones who really drove the Volkswagen over the cliff). What's even more puzzling is his dislike for Terry Long, the late husband of Donna Troy from the days of the New Teen Titans (and she herself was thrown away pre-New52).

Before I get deeper into that, I'll comment on his arguments about age differences in these love affairs. Regarding older men/younger women romances, yes, even I find them problematic depending on just what age both sexes are slotted in, and luckily, there weren't too many examples like that over the years. The initial affair between Colossus and Shadowcat (whose original codename was Sprite) was bothersome to some extent because Piotr was legal age, while Kitty was not. But clearly, Jim Shooter recognized that, and made sure when he was EIC that Claremont would keep it at a superficial level only, with Colossus making a point about the age differences they had. 4 years later, it was dropped for a while.

By the time Excalibur began several years later, Kitty had been boosted to more of a 16-year-old, so any affair she would have with older guys like Colossus at that point would be less of a concern. But with the mainstay X-Men going incognito in Australia and Excalibur taking up residence in the UK, Claremont continued to tease the audience with something like this by showing that Kitty developed a crush on Alistaire Stuart, a British scientist who led Britain's Weird Happenings Organization, who himself was drawn to Rachel Summers, arousing Kitty's jealousy. He was a lot older than Colossus was. And in the mid-90s, when Warren Ellis took up the writing, he had Kitty enter an affair with another mutant named Pete Wisdom, who was also of a much older age catagory. I know that in the UK, the legal age of marriage there is 16, which gave the UK-born writers some room, but all the same, it was a bit troubling too, and I've never understood why for many years, Kitty was either never given a boyfriend who was more her age, or, they missed a chance to give more purpose to Doug Ramsey, recalling the time when Emma Frost toyed with Kitty's feelings in the New Mutants. It's almost like the writers were insulting their own creation.

And the writer of this piece wasn't doing any favors when he went on to say:
On the bright side, though, it did lead to one of my favorite comics, when Colossus breaks Kitty’s heart because he fell in love with an alien, so Wolverine and Nightcrawler take him out to a bar to get him drunk and beat the living hell out of him. Now that’s comics.
Obviously, that's his way of saying he doesn't like Colossus, yet at the same time doesn't have the courage to say he's unhappy Len Wein and Dave Cockrum ever created him in the beginning. What a shame to learn that they went to so much trouble to create Colossus for nothing, because some people don't know how to appreciate the efforts by some to offer decent escapism.

Which brings us back to the subject of Terry Long in New Teen Titans. Here, he really does go into a one-dimensional attack on the character instead of characterization, and says:
...we have Donna Troy, and I don’t even want to get into the mess there. All you really need to know is that she’s Wonder Woman’s hot younger sister. And so of course, as you might expect from a description like that, she ends up dating and even marrying divorcee, complete failure and utter shameless creep Terry Long.
Umm, I think I'll dissent here. The personality given to him was far from nasty - he was depicted as a polite gentleman most of the time - and while I won't say there weren't some clunkers in the dialogue, I do think it's a pity he exploited a few panels that he thinks make the case for his perception. And why should he have to be a millionaire? He can't have something in common with Peter Parker, a guy who wasn't always successful at everything but did win over the girl-next-door in Mary Jane Watson (and also had an occasional job as a college instructor)? And how could Terry be a "complete failure" if he was working in some jobs?

And as for age difference here, I won't say the choice was perfect, but compared to the Colossus/Kitty affair, it was a lot more plausible since when Donna and Terry met, she was already 18-19 years old, which is the most legal age for affairs and marriage in every modern society, and Terry was about a decade older. Why, it was ever better thought out than the origin for Alpha Flight's James MacDonald Hudson, whose wife Heather met him and let him know she had a crush on him about a month before she turned 18! That whole storyline by John Byrne sometimes feels a bit embarrassing, even if Heather waited until her birthday before starting a serious affair with James.
Man. This guy. It’s pretty clear if you go back and read the issues that Terry was meant to be a viewpoint character for readers, a normal guy who was taken into the world of super-heroics by his affable charm, except that they completely forgot to actually give him any charm, and instead just shot him straight into loathsome.
Even if this were true, which I don't think it was, well duh, is that his fault? While the writer does mention Marv Wolfman and George Perez (and "they" can or does allude to them too), it's in a very superficial, non-committal way, like he didn't have the courage to come straight out and tell how he really feels about how they did things (more specifically, he couldn't just say "Wolfman's characterization was sloppy"? Alas, no, he couldn't and didn't). I've sometimes noticed a few detractors here and there of NTT who deride it all for reasons that still remain unclear to me, suggesting it could all have something to do with the overall themes of altruism the Teen Titans were built on for many years. I wonder if this guy's dislike for Long has something to do with his being a "civilian" boyfriend to the leading lady of the Titans, and thinks it'd be better if they eschewed all genuine supporting and recurring cast for the sake of easy-peasy affairs between costumed crimefighters only. Well, that's probably it. Some people just have no idea how badly they're hurting superhero comics by going for the insular.

He proceeds to attack how Terry offers kind, flattering words and a kiss on the hand to Starfire at one of the photo shoots Donna is doing for her modeling agency, which gets Donna a bit jealous (his "well excuse me" is clearly meant to signal in friendly terms that he wasn't trying to "cheat" on her), and says he wants to "never stop punching that guy". Oh gee, isn't that a great idea, take out your anger over your personal issues on a guy who doesn't exist and whom other people could like, even if he doesn't. That trick never helps, Bullwinkle. And what would he rather Terry be depicted doing to Starfire's hand? Biting it off? All he's done is show that he's incapable of coping with his own problems, and it makes no difference whether Terry's a fictional character or not, that's a very juvenile way to handle things.

He was probably celebrating when Terry broke up with Donna in 1994, a move that would have been a lot better if it hadn't been done for the sake of pairing Donna up with Kyle Rayner (which lasted just barely 3 years), one of the most forced, artificial steps taken post-Emerald Twilight in Green Lantern, and all for the sake of boosting Kyle more than Donna. And he was probably overjoyed when Terry and the son he and Donna bore were killed in a car accident in 1997. The good part there is that Terry was one of the very few characters in a modern superhero world whose death didn't come at the hands of villains.

The most hilarious thing here is that he calls the Donna/Terry affair worse than the Rogue/Gambit affair! Uh uh, gotta disagree. The Rogue/Gambit thing was tiresome, angsty and went nowhere, mainly because of what I consider the elephant in the room - the personality Claremont/Nicieza/Lobdell ascribed to Gambit, including how his origin was worked out (or rather, not): he came off as repetitively dishonest with the other X-Men, made all the more implausible by their willingness to overlook his part in the Morlock massacre, even if he didn't condone it himself, and they voiced little or no objections to his continued associations with the laughably named "Thieves & Assassins Guilds", nor did they try to shut down their operations with or without his aid. No wonder the Rhett Butler impersonations were such a flop.

All this is mainly the fault of Nicieza and Lobdell for weaving such a terrible tapestry, yet they receive no mention in this article. For heaven's sake, why do some of the worst writers to litter the medium all these years get a pass and only the character held responsible? If we're really mad about so many years and so much potential wasted for the X-Men, we have to turn our criticism to those who brought it to that point in the first place, and not continue to act like kindergarten kooks. Reading this article, one could wonder if the writer actually wanted Gambit to be given an unlikable personality. And that he would consider the Terry/Donna affair worse in every way than the Gambit/Rogue affair is testimony to his inability to appreciate somebody's effort to write a supporting character who could have flaws, but was still pretty respectable in etiquette.

His negative take on the Scott Summers/Jean Grey affair is also pretty weak, since there too, he doesn't show the courage to say he thinks the writers failed his expectations.

As a reader of escapism in fiction, I go in hoping to like and appreciate the creations, how they handle their lives, and whether the writers can offer positive examples in how the central characters run their lives. Likewise, I hope that the story presented will live up to my expectations in what I think makes for great entertainment. And the article at Comics Alliance is just another example of somebody who probably doesn't have any idea why or what he's reading comics for in the first place, and can only think to tear down the characters while avoiding the meatier reasons for what he thinks detracts from the stories he read. Again, I take dismay in this kind of childish, unobjective form of "criticism" that fails to appreciate any of the best parts of past storytelling and would be much happier if someone came along and took a better approach than what even this article writer is using.

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You know these are fictional characters, right?

Facinating that another anonymous somebody - I don't know if it's Slott this time - implies that he doesn't care about superhero comics, or any kind of fantasy escapism for that matter. By the logic this unnamed troll is going by, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster shouldn't have even bothered to create Superman back in 1938. Assuming that the anonymous poster reads comics, I don't what he/she is into them for, and he/she probably doesn't know either.

Some way to claim fandom when you don't even care about the characters in any way, shape or form.

Then let's have a storyline where Wolverine molests a bunch of toddlers. Or one where Spiderman beats up the President. They're only fictional characters, you know. Apparently that means anything a writer does with them is just dandy. Go back to Bleeding Cool or facebook, please.

Yes. Yes, to all the things you said. Getting mad because someone thinks Terry Long is the worst (which he is) means that someone who disagrees means they are either Dan Slott, hates comics, only likes toddler diddling Wolverine, or a winning combination of the three. Spot on, gentlman. Spot on.

Anonymous Number Two: I still can't be certain if you're really Dan Slott or even Anonymous Number One, but even if you aren't, wow...you really must enjoy contradicting yourself. First, you imply that people like myself, and only us, are required to recognize fictional characters as just that, by which definition you mean we're not supposed to care about how to supply them with good writing, nor are we supposed to read and enjoy comics for escapism. Then, you contradict yourself by saying Terry Long is the "worst", as though he was a real-life person whom you'd practically spoken to on the street. Which I'm sure you know perfectly well isn't the case.

Assuming you do read fantasy comic books, I don't know why you do so, and I've got a hunch you don't know either. No wonder supporting characters have become so marginalized in mainstream comics, because some obsessive, aimless collectors don't care about real storytelling, and have no gratitude for the people who helped set them on the road in the Golden Age. To think, that somebody out there is spending trillions of dollars for things he/she doesn't even care about and has no use for. And we wonder why the audience outside of comics thinks we're nuts.

In this case, I wonder if it isn't the writer of that article you linked to, trolling anonymously here.

Yeah, the thought crossed my mind. If it's the man who wrote that article, it proves he's not as smart as he thinks he is.

...who's Terry Long again?

It's because Wolfman forgot to install a personality in this creation?

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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