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Friday, January 01, 2016 

George R.R Martin remains frozen in the 1960s

I found an interview Indiewire ran with the novelist who concocted A Song of Ice and Fire, a series of several novels which the Game of Thrones TV show draws from, written nearly 2 years ago, and honestly, I can't feel very impressed with Martin's narrow view of the Big Two, where he praises Marvel almost entirely at DC's expense, when he brings up his comic reading from childhood (via Adweek):
Sorry DC Comics, but Martin is a Marvel Guy
Martin wasted no time searching for an answer when asked what the most inspiring piece of literature he ever read was. "The Marvel comics by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the 1960s," he claimed proudly. "I had been reading DC comics before that, from Superman to Batman and The Flash, but when Marvel came along Stan Lee broke all the rules. Nothing ever happened in the DC comic books. They were circular. Superman would have an adventure but by the end he would finish in the same place where he started. Batman would have an adventure and come right back to where he was before. Nothing ever changed. There was no conflict. There were good guys and there were bad guys."

Martin singled out the Fantastic Four as a major reason Marvel was so influential for him. "Those early issues were amazing. Heck, one of them was a monster, The Thing! That was just unheard of at the time. Here you had this guy who didn't like being what made him special, and he was really angry at Reed Richards for making him The Thing and not being able to cure him. There was even a romantic triangle in those early comics where The Thing was interested in Sue Storm but she was interested in Reed."

Spider-Man was another. "Spider-Man went through all these girlfriends and he was in high school and then he actually graduated. He was with Liz Allan and Betty Brant and Gwen Stacy!" he said with excitement. "That kind of thing never happened in DC! It was just Louis Lane and Superman for 30 years, and it was just always going to be Louis Lane and Superman. They never had any progress in their relationship and they never broke up. Sometimes Jimmy Olsen would become a giant turtle boy, but then he would stop becoming a giant turtle boy by the end of the episode and you'd be right back where you started. The idea of comics where something actually happened was tremendously powerful to me."
Say, I notice Mary Jane Watson wasn't cited in the list of Spider-ladyfriends! Any particular reason? Is it because MJ was later embraced so strongly by Spider-fans, and she and Peter Parker were married in 1987? As for the misspelling of Lois with a letter U smack in the middle, is that his goof or the reporter's?

And I don't think he's any better on DC history than you or me: what about Lana Lang, and the mermaid Lori Lemaris? Clark and Lois may never have broken up per se (as if everybody literally wanted that to happen or thought Lois was worthless), but Superman did have affairs with a few other women in the 70-plus-year history of the Man of Steel. Yet Martin has chosen to obscure any of that, sticking with a mentality that I consider a hazardous influence - going gaga over Marvel, all at DC's expense. By his logic, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, along with their successors, should never have crafted lady co-stars who could go on to attain an iconic status, and not serve any inspiration for the female audience. IMO, that's what he's insinuating. And since when didn't anything happen in DC's tales? There wasn't action, adventure, fisticuffs and gunfights? Bruce Wayne had several girlfriends over many years, and that doesn't count?

He's nailed in the 1960s with an otherwise narrow, overly-demanding viewpoint that won't even accept entertainment on a simpler level. How do I make this any simpler? There's many ideas that start out small, and later become big. If DC's products weren't worth squat in Martin's mind, then how can we truly appreciate Marvel's? Even if I were exclusively a Marvel reader, I would never dare to put down DC as he's done. To do that would be an insult to many decent folks all the way back to Siegel and Shuster. They went to all that hard work just to produce something that could entertain (and even inform far better than modern output is), and this is how Martin thanks them? I'm sorry, but I cannot and will not approve of his ungrateful vision. People who can't thank some of the more basic ideas in entertainment and recognize how their existence helped inspire future products aren't qualified to shine shoes. To think that so many past veterans like Max Gaines, Julius Schwartz, Mort Weisinger, Gardner Fox, John Broome, Bob Haney, Ramona Fradon and goodness knows who else from a time when contributors weren't insulting their audience or courting controversy for the sake of it, put out all these great adventure tales, only to have men like Martin reject them because they didn't suit their overly-demanding visions.

And he shows no interest in what changes DC did make by the late 60s to catch up a bit with Marvel, as they tried to add new relations and other interactions between various cast members. I'm betting he never even read the Teen Titans, or he'd know the adolescent cast may have received more character drama than the adults did. This became particularly emphasized by the time the New Teen Titans was launched. Unfortunately, Martin's comments suggest that for somebody allegedly thrilled over Silver Age Marvel, he lost interest soon after, and may not be happy Reed and Sue married by 1965. Speaking of which, it's funny that for somebody who supposedly thought DC casts lacked personality, he doesn't seem to notice that one could've made the same argument about Mr. Fantastic: both Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm were given these impressively wisecracking, gung-ho personalities. Even Sue Storm had significant persona. Yet depending on one's viewpoint, Reed Richards was far less fleshed out, and that led to some situations years later where some writers may have tried too hard to "fix" the image of a kindly scientist working for the good of humanity, by making him raging and angsty, like in Mark Waid's run on FF, where he travels into an afterworld to smash Dr. Doom in revenge for all the agony he's caused to the rest of the FF at that point. And you know what? I think that went too far. As if it weren't bad enough that Waid's left-wing politics were seeping through already.

There is nothing inherently wrong with just keeping a personality, such as it is, on an easygoing level. Sometimes even that can count as wish-fulfillment, which I thought was what Superman was supposed to represent in some way or other. And if we don't respect the past, how can we really appreciate the future?

All that aside, from what I know about Martin, he's not very appealing, either as a novelist or as a political commentator. Let's consider his would-be masterpiece, the Game of Thrones series and TV show, for starters. It's flooded with gore galore, gruesome murders, and to make matters worse, it relies quite a bit on sexual abuse, and what's really chilling is that the women's viewpoints may not matter here:
Even if you accept Sansa/Jeyne’s rape as canon, the way that the scene was shot left many uncomfortable. As Sansa’s being attacked, her friend Theon Greyjoy watches. The camera focuses on his horror rather than Sansa’s pain. [...]

Some fans have interpreted those moments where female characters experience sexual violence as opportunities for them to overcome adversity and become stronger for it. Even if you accept that as a valid argument, though, it’s tough to defend when we’re made to think that the people being most traumatized by the experiences are the men witnessing it.
I think there is a valid complaint there: some of the most violent moments in Game of Thrones, from what I've researched, sound awfully sensationalistic, and while it's better if we don't view the rape act directly, if only the men's personas and development matter, and not the women's, then little or nothing is achieved, and no educational value to be found. I'll have nothing to do with this cesspool, and thinking back on this now, it makes me wonder if this explains why Martin doesn't seem to place a very high value on the female casts of either Marvel or DC.

And anybody who says men like Martin were influenced by superhero comics makes me sigh and shake my head in disappointment at how inaccurate that is. Most of their flagship offerings are far from jarringly venomous as Martin's product is, and anybody who says people like him were influenced by superhero comics, if anything, are running the gauntlet of framing superhero comics as more of a horror show, and giving them a bad name.

Then, politics-wise, there's his grimy attacks on Republicans to ponder. He accuses them of being vote-suppressors, being "racists clad in dead elephant skins" and that's just a few of his most reprehensible acts. There's even his pointless hatred of the Sad Puppies campaign that's bothersome. He clearly doesn't want competition from anybody who holds a political perspective different from his. I guess he wants to hog all those Hugo awards for himself.

In the end, I don't see much of anything to like about George R.R Martin. I think the only "song" he has to sing is one of sub-zero icicles.

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Comparing Silver Age DC to Silver Age Marvel is unfair, IMHO. I believe that, at the time, Marvel was aiming at a slightly older audience. Not adults, of course, but maybe teenagers. DC's comics may have been too simplistic for adolescents (who fancy themselves as sophisticates), but they were perfectly adequate for the preteen kids who were their main audience.

I was primarily a DC fan back then. I liked the simpler plots, and having (usually) a complete story in each issue. Marvel's angst, long serials, and character flaws were all too soap operish for my taste. Maybe if I'd been a few years older, I would have preferred Marvel.

Marvel's big changes were often over-rated. For example, Peter Parker and his classmates graduated from high school, but then they all ended up attending the same college. The characters' interactions with each other stayed basically the same. Stan Lee was great at creating an illusion of change while still maintaining the status quo.

By 1970 or so, DC was consciously imitating Marvel, with more characterization, complex plots, and long serials and story arcs. There is now little difference between them.

If you suggest that voters at the polls be carded (i.e., asked to show their ID) the same as when they are buying a six-pack of beer, people like Martin accuse you of "voter suppression." And "racist" now means, "Anyone who disagrees with the politically correct party line."

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