Superhero Soap

As a longtime X-Men reader, I found this amusing: The many graves of Jean Grey. Though I would have thought there would have been even more graves. After all, I remember Jean experiencing a fairly brief “death” around 1991/92.

Though I’m not surprised that the X-Men dispensed with having a date chiseled onto Jean’s headstone. Aside from hiding the fact that she’s theoretically 56 years old by now, putting a date on any headstone of Jean’s is just a waste of money, since she never stays dead anyway. The “She will rise again” on the final (to date) headstone coupled with Cyclops’ “How many times have I done this anyway?” reaction was actually funny in a twisted way.

I also nodded at:

Hey, it’s X-Men! You can sum this stuff up but you’ll never believe that you’re actually saying it!

Because it’s so true. I occasionally ran into this problem in academic writing, when I was trying to sum up an extended narrative, e.g. a whole run of comic books, a series of novels, a whole season of a TV show (and as a scholar of popular culture, you have to do a lot of summing up, because you cannot expect your whole audience to be familiar with the Star Wars films or Twilight or whatever), and inevitably found myself thinking, “Oh my God! This summary sounds totally batty, even though the books/films/comics actually made sense at the time.” In one case, I actually quoted someone else’s summary cum commentary – with proper citations, of course – so I didn’t have to do it myself.

Though I suspect that “If summed up, it sounds totally crazy” is not an inherent quality of the SFF genre, but rather the natural result of extended serialized narratives in any genre. Summing up the events in a soap opera (and then they got married, divorced, he had an affair with his wife’s evil twin sister, while she got amnesia and became a hitwoman for the mob) without sounding like a seriously disturbed person is as impossible as summing up a lengthy run of X-Men comics, even though the soap opera takes place in the real world, supposedly at least.

Come to think of it, I always used to refer to the X-Men comics as “a soap opera with superpowers, just as addictive and so much cooler”.

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