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Friday, September 11, 2015 

That was the thinking then, but today could be different

If you know where to look, you can find interesting clues to how combined mediums were handled in the past. Some time ago, I read this CSBG entry about Gwen Stacy, and in the comments, I spotted an interesting note about the Spider-Man girlfriend who's famous for dying at the hands of the Green Goblin. It got to the point where, if she was used in any later medium, you'd wonder if she was going to end up dead there just like in her original curtain call. And one of the commenters said:
Yes, that’s a major part of what I mean by tainted. Once she’s introduced, you spend a lot of time wondering if and when she’s going to die. She becomes “dead woman walking.” John Semper of the 90s cartoon said that he didn’t want to use her because they couldn’t depict death on the show, but in addition he said even if they introduced her and never killed her, kids who got introduced to her through the show and decided to research her in the comics would find out she ends up dead and get bummed out about it, so they decided against even touching the character at all and replaced her with a pre-Black Cat Felicia Hardy. The “born to die” thing definitely is a taint, especially in media where depicting death is problematic like kid’s cartoons.
It's ironic that what a child's parents may be okay with them seeing in a comic book (at least of yesteryear when better taste was still around) is not considered appropriate for them to see on a TV cartoon. Aside from that, I think it's ridiculous if children would let a past storyline back in the comics discourage them from trying out another version of Gwen in a different medium, and judging even those stories on their own merits. Just because Gwen died in ASM #122 doesn't mean it'll be the same in the animated series.

Despite this, Gwen did turn up in the finale for the late 90s cartoon, though it sounds like they saved it for last because they were bringing it to an end and thought that would make it worth doing. So they did use her in a non-lethal story, but clearly still didn't have what it took to use creative liberty and a different path with a character notable for dying in the original comics.

And here's another old item involving somewhat similar thinking by the publishers, this being the time when Marvel had the Hasbro license to write and publish comics based on the Transformers line of toys:
Perhaps surprisingly, Budiansky also went ahead and created a couple of new characters for which no toy existed at the time. Notable among these were Autobot spy Scrounge and Decepticon stronghold governor Straxus. The reason for creating new non-toy characters was so that Budiansky could kill the characters off without fear of toy-buyers (and perhaps the toy-makers as well!) who might complain that they just wasted money on a toy for a character that had already been eliminated from the story. Scrounge was killed off in that very issue, and Straxus was knocked off in the next (That didn't stop UK writer Simon Furman from using Straxus — shown to have somehow survived...or his head did, anyway — in subsequent UK-only issues).
I think I can guess what the MO was here: the toymakers/scriptwriters expected everybody to base their gameplay habits entirely on what they read in the comics, even though most of the toys based on Autobots and Decepticons usually began as those plastic and metallic action figures first and only became comic book cast members afterwards. Gee, and all this despite how any child could play around with the toys and "scriptwrite" the models as technically dying in an imaginary battle they made up! This all happened at a time when there were still children reading comics more significantly than they do today, and I figure that, as of today, with very few reading them now, they won't go by that approach any longer, because less are reading the comics, so they won't complain, because they don't pay attention to what's done in modern stories.

But, I do hope they realize toys that begin as toys aren't something that should be judged based on what occurs in a comic adapted from them. The characters as seen in comics may die, but the toys they're based upon will still be around for as long as they don't get broken while playing with them. And, if needed, the comics counterparts, both flesh and mechanical, can be resurrected. It's fiction, after all.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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