#4 – Pick Yer Poison.
I’m not-quite-watching Monday Night Raw, while perusing the internet comic sites for information on coming attractions, when I fall across this statement, by brilliant and damn-well-experienced-enough-to-make-pronouncements comic creator Steven Grant:
Everyone has ideas.
Followed by this corollary:
Ideas, in and of themselves, mean nothing.
It’s telling that I immediately connected those statements to the television show I’m watching, to the books I’m previewing, and to my life in general. I have m’self a bit of a quandary, you see. I’m at a point in my Back In The Day Cafe where I realize that there IS an end coming. And if I intend to be anything more than Gary Coleman, coasting for decades on “Whatchutalkin’bout, Willis?”, I need to have ANOTHER idea. More honestly, I need to have another GOOD idea.
The same goes for my Monday night wrestling. I can’t remember the last time I sat and *ENJOYED* a two-hour block of Monday night. Scratch that, actually, I can. I was the week after last year’s Royal Rumble (the match where EVERYBODY and their dog goes head to head, and the winner gets to fight the standing champion, for the uninformed), and Chris Benoit jumped from one wrestling show to the other, so he could challenge Triple H. That would have been the time when I felt that GOOD things were going to happen…
Two weeks later, my wife and I were both laid-off, my entire household income disappeared, and we found out that her maternity leave wasn’t going to be paid.
Shows how good MY instincts are.
Wrestling needs a good idea. King Cobra needs a good idea. Y’know who ELSE needs a good idea? The comic book field in general. Marvel Comics has essentially ignored the last 20 years of continuity to create the “Ultimate” comic book line, which, as much as I like some of it, is a transparent attempt to make their characters “Hollywood-ready,” and turn them into movies. DC Comics has returned Hal Jordan to his role as Green Lantern, after unceremoniously dumping him a decade ago for a “new blood” named Kyle who was quite obviously the writer’s wish-fulfillment alter ego.
“This milk is sour. I’ll try again TOMORROW!”
If the idea doesn’t work now, there’s a damn good chance that it’ll still suck tomorrow.
Hal Jordan is back! Everything you know is wrong!
Spider-Man has ORGANIC web-shooters! Everything you know is wrong!
THIS challenger might beat Triple H!! Everything you know is wrong!
The common denominator? An idea that has been tried before. The problem is NOT “jaded audiences,” as WWE might have you believe. It’s not “market fragmentation,” as Marvel seems to think. It’s not the “New Paradigm” that DC is desperately trying to capture…
It’s the ideas, stupid. It’s the ideas that have been done before. If you want to SHOCK me, put the belt on Batista. Then let Batista fight Randy Orton. Let him fight Chris Benoit, let him fight Edge. Keep Triple H away. Keep Shawn Michaels away. Sidetrack The Usual Suspects into their own issues, and show me an idea that isn’t just a new twist on an unworkable concept. Oh, and take all these “bodybuilder” muscular types who can barely bend their bulbous arms, and GIVE THEM A WRESTLING LESSON. There are WORLDS of moves out there beyond clothesline-powerslam-arbitrary finishing maneuver.
Take the Spider-Man that people read every month, and GIVE HIM SOMETHING NEW. Drop the “Mary Jane is pregnant/missing/kidnapped,” drop the “Aunt May has Cancer/Heart Disease/Rickets/The Heartbreak of Psoriasis,” drop the “Jonah Jameson hates Spider-Man” and show me some actual character development. This a 30 year old man who still lives with his de facto Mommy, even though he’s got a really attractive wife, who still works where he did when he was Sixteen, who wears the same clothes he wore as a high school kid. That’s not just lazy writing… It’s creepy.
Take Green Lantern, and stop the madness! Everything I knew CAN’T continue to be wrong, because for the last 15 years, *I HAVEN’T KNOWN A DAMNABLE THING!!!!* You HAVE to stop destroying the status quo, because YOU HAVEN’T GOT ONE ANYMORE!!! There comes a point where you have to admit that something has gone horribly awry, and have a NEW idea. Don’t just transpose one that’s worked before (F’r example, “Kyle Rayner, a 20ish tough guy loner has super powers…”) and don’t think that simply going back to a PREVIOUS iteration of the same themes is going to make a difference (i.e. “Hal Jordan is fearless and honest, and has super powers…”). Yes, the second is a better idea, subjectively, and one with longer legs in terms of story hooks, but really… Haven’t we seen them both ad nauseam?
Show me another Invincible. Idea: Mark Grayson, an interesting and human kid, has this life, and it’s perfectly recognizable to all of us, while being completely fantastic. Oh, and he has superpowers.
Show me another John Cena. Idea: A character whose gimmick grows organically out of the wrestler’s own interests, who can make the crowd like him AND hate him, who can actually move, who can talk, and who (when the Focus Groups leave him the hell alone) is pretty interesting.
Show me another JSA. Idea: 50 years of continuity, and an ENORMOUS cast, used in exciting, entertaining stories, rotated in and out so nobody gets overexposed, nobody gets stale & boring, nobody becomes another Wolverine, appearing 560 times per month in stories that will all be undone in a year or two when we decide that “EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG!!! And this time, WE MEAN IT!”
In short, there are NO truly original ideas. Just give me a spin on one that belongs to YOU. I don’t expect you to NOT have influences, I don’t expect you to NOT reference that which has come before, I don’t expect you to NEVER stumble in your creative efforts… All I REALLY ask is that you TRY to give me something that ONLY you can do in the order you do it, and beware the problem of going back to the same well OVER AND OVER AND OVER.
Tune in Next week for “Journey to The Valley of The Sons of The Bad Motha Fucka Wallet Volume 2: All We Got Left Is Don Knotts and The Guy Who Played Devon on Knight Rider.”