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Monday, September 23, 2013 

Fan encyclopedia sites have become embarrassments

I've noticed that a few sites dedicated to focus on specific superheroes now accept some of the worst ideas of recent as canon. For example, Spider-Fan now has the following information on Mary Jane Watson:
Mary Jane was largely left alone by the super criminal element after Peter revealed his ID on national TV as part of the Superhuman Registration Act, except for a brief run in with Fritz von Meyer, aka Swarm. The peace (if their lives could ever be called "peaceful"), was broken after May was shot by a sniper hired by the Kingpin. Medical science had done all that it could for the elderly woman, but her death was inevitable. In his desperation to save May's life, Peter made a deal with Mephisto.

The demon wasn't interested in Peter's soul, because souls that suffer the torments of the netherworld still feel joy that their sacrifice did some good for someone else. Instead, he wanted Peter and Mary Jane's marriage. He would wipe their memories clean of the fact that they had been married, except for a small part that will remember. This tiny shard will cry out in lonely agony for eternity, bringing great pleasure to Mephisto.

Mary Jane made the deal with the demon, making a side bargain unknown to Peter. As the spell was being cast, Mephisto revealed that since they now had never been married, they never had a daughter. Finally, after 12 years, we had a resolution to the status of baby May. After Peter woke up to the new status quo, he was living with Aunt May again, Harry Osborn was alive and no one remembered that he was Spider-Man. Their new history was that he and MJ had had a long term relationship that had just ended, but had never been married.
That's not entirely true that the underworld left Mary alone. After all, they tried to attack her with a marksman, and May Parker ended up taking the bullet originally meant for her. That aside, they're fine with injecting this balderdash into their history profiling?

The entry for Gwen Stacy is no better, and says:
Recently, two children of Gwen Stacy have shown up. Sarah Stacy and Gabriel Stacy were born to Gwen in Paris France, to keep them away from their father, Norman Osborn. Gwen had been drawn to Norman's power and felt bad for him when he seemed so distraught by his son Harry's drug addiction. Gwen had an affair with him, something she soon regretted once she realized how ruthless he was. It had long been thought that Norman had come to Peter's apartment looking for Spider-Man, but had really come for Gwen to force her to give him the children.
Oh, put a lid on it! This is what any newcomer to comics needs to be told?

The profile for Sue Dibny on Flash: Those Who Ride the Lightning says:
Death: Killed in her home by Jean Loring (Identity Crisis #1, 2004) [...]

Several months before Infinite Crisis, Sue was tragically killed in the couple’s Opal City home by the Atom’s ex-wife (Identity Crisis #1, 2004). Her death led Ralph on a harrowing journey... one which reunited the couple in the afterlife and set them on a new journey as ghostly detectives. (52 #52, 2007)
This is what anybody interested in minor third-tiers needs to be told either? The entry for the Silver Age Atom at Cosmic Teams says:
In time, Ray and Jean were able to be friends again. In the divorce she had received half of his patents. As a gesture of friendship, Jean decided to sign them back to him. Little did he know that this was but one of many facets to Jean's deadly scheme to win Ray back. Since their divorce, Jean had somehow become seriously deranged and believed that the only way to be reunited with Ray was to force the issue. Incredibly, she devised an elaborate plan to endanger Sue Dibny, wife of the Elongated Man. She succeeded, but murdered Sue in the process. Jean was privy to the fact that every year, knew that Ralph would be absent, solving a custom-tailored mystery devised by Sue. She bypassed the Dibnys' security by shrinking down and traveling via the phone lines into their home. Then she entered Sue's body and obstructed the blood flow to her brain. To cover up this evidence, Loring scorched Sue's body. (Identity Crisis #1)
I'd rather be bitten by a Texas rattlesnake and chomped by a Gila Monster than have this propaganda forced down my throat. It makes no difference whether they reference the books where these horrors took place here, the way it's set up still has the effect of making it look like these atrocities are fully accepted canon.

Even Uncanny X-Men's entry for Scarlet Witch is dreadful, with the 8th page devoted to the details of Avengers: Disassembled and House of M, the Titans Tower entry for Dr. Light gives some focus to his depiction in Identity Crisis, and on the Superman Homepage, there's a thumbnail about Maxwell Lord that goes by the setup of Countdown to Infinite Crisis ("A former leader of the JLA who became militantly evil over time and headed Checkmate, a paramilitary organization that sought to prevent metahuman superiority. Killed by Wonder Woman when he would not relinquish mental control of Superman."). Oh, I get it: the webmasters must think it's their sacred duty to profile and acknowledge even the worst of modern stories as though they're fait accompli. But in the end, it's their weakness and it's defeatism at its utter worst. It adds nothing to the characters in focus beyond what we already know, and makes them look less appealing. It alienates veteran fans and sours newer ones to both the old and the new.

Indexing embarrassments like these turn-of-the-century monstrosities does nothing to help the cause of classic comics, and makes the fansites going along with the repellent ideas look foolish. I'll be fair and suggest that, if they were to find a way to profile the stories in a way that doesn't make them look like canon that must be accepted a la the Emperor's New Clothes, and that allows for audiences to evaluate whether this was in good or poor taste, then it might be worth jotting down for research. But those webmasters of fansites who think this is something that just has to be done as though it's literally required are deluding themselves and doing a grave disservice to the comics they're supposedly fans of. It was bad enough if they went along with this in 1994 at the time Hal Jordan was desecrated (the DCU Guide's GL section still has some criteria drawing from Emerald Dawn and Emerald Twilight), but now, they've really turned it all into ridicule and shame.

I'm very disappointed in many webmasters who, even if they realize that Marvel and DC's alterations are abominable, still lend their services by legitimizing these atrocious retcons and other storylines that don't give anybody reason to be feeling impressed.

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You do raise a fascinating point in that "should fansites cover the really stupid canon?" In terms of being thorough, I think they should just cover everything, warts and all, and stay neutral on the facts (though, even "objective" can be subjective anymore, judging from media bias and the standard hack reporter, "well, I'm being objective!"). And let the reader decide for themselves on the inanity of certain plots/issues/characterizations, etc. Though, these days, leave a disclaimer, "most of this recent stuff may be retconned at anytime, so take what you read below with a grain of salt."

I don't blame the encyclopedia sites from doing what they're doing in that capacity. Now, if they promote some of it, that's different. Nevertheless, some people have different reactions to their comic canon research. I had to research Nightwing and Raven for this one friend's site, many years ago, and I was depressed for several days after doing all that. (I'd be more depressed, today, based on their New 52 canon.)

Of course, things might be easier if the research did adhere to "ignore stupid canon" or "you may ignore this or that, if need be." But again, I'd rather let the material speak for itself. Then again, we are living in an age of low-information voters, so I'm not sure what the answer is.

"I'd rather be bitten by a Texas rattlesnake and chomped by a Gila Monster than have this propaganda forced down my throat."

You always have a way with words, Avi. XD

I typically ignore everything Marvel and DC have done that takes place after 2004, when they both began a true descent into darkness and depravity with Avengers Disassembled and Identity Crisis, respectively.

And it's too bad they went downhill around that time (although the decline started earlier), because the late 1990s/early 2000s are when I started to get into comics. Thankfully I discovered the older material and have enjoyed it immensely.

Speaking of atrocious retcons, look at what they've done to Iron Man:


Carl, you're not wrong by choosing 2004 as a good year to stop caring about modern comics. That was a particularly bad year on both companies.

Weirdly, as I've been re-reading the 90's comics, lately. Bad as they are, they didn't do this moral equivalency or hyper-political nonsense or very much, anyway. I'll gladly take that, over the so-called "enlightened" political tracts of today's comics.

I just happened to search something about Iron Man 2020 a few weeks back and checked out his Wikipedia entry. It was soooo bad (and inaccurate) that I signed up specifically to clean up the mess.

Good luck cleaning that mess, Hube. XD

And I knew there was a reason why I didn't care for the new Iron Man volume. Just didn't click with me (though, volume 3 was pretty awesome).

I tried correcting errors in articles in the past on Wikipedia, but I never signed up and the errors I fixed were undone and they reappeared in the articles later. Hopefully they won't do that to you, Hube.

And yeah, the new Iron Man storyline sounds awful. As I said at my blog, I could buy the story if it were an original character with that origin, but it's not. And once again a so-called "hotshot" writer has felt the need to tamper with an established character for no reason. Iron Man's actual origin was much better and it was simple but perfect. This new one doesn't even BEGIn to make sense.

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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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