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...While absolutely swatting down Superman, The Flash, and to be honest most of DC's powered characters who aren't Wonder Woman or Shazam.
First Wave was supposed to be a bit like what you're talking about. I liked the Doc Savage/Batman team-up but had trouble finding any of the other books. Obituaries seem to indicate that the line was very well thought out.
Morrison Multiversity is set to explore a Pulpy world.
I wouldn't envision using Superman (or Batman) in this proposed universe, anyway. But so far from "swatting down" most characters, The concept is tailor-made for heroes like Alan Scott, Carter Hall, Doctor Fate, Johnny Thunder, Doctor Occult, and the Spectre, and doesn't affect guys like Mister Terrific, the Atom, the Sandman, Wildcat, or the original Black Canary.
It does affect some superheroes, though. But characters like Jay Garrick, the Hourman, and Doctor Mid-Nite might well benefit from reimagined origin stories—are "hard-water fumes" and "the Miraclo pill" really hills worth dying on? Some Golden Age characters (Starman comes to mind) are harder nuts to crack, but not insoluble. Maybe they get reinvented more radically, or maybe they simply don't appear in this universe.
edited 14th Nov '12 9:58:30 AM by Jhimmibhob
. . . Except that your comparison automatically shoots itself in the foot. The beginning of the Ultimate Marvel universe was built upon the One Big Lie style of Speculative Fiction and everything that was built from it was a psuedo-believable derivative. If sci-fi is absolutely banned, then absolutely everything that happens in your setting can only be justified by A Wizard Did It, which gets old real fast.
To a certain extent, one could replace "mad science" with "mad alchemy", though you'd have to watch the writers carefully to see they didn't stray back over the line.
and I suppose late Steam Punk technology wouldn't be out of place in such a 1930s universe—Mike Mignola's stuff is one good model to aim for. It could provide an fruitful way of adapting such Golden Agers as Starman, the original Robotman, and Merry Pemberton.
I think by lack of science fiction what is meant is lack of stupid pseudo science, such as Ice Missiles attracted to speed, machines created by nearly impoverished criminals that perfectly duplicate matter out of nothing but do not revolutionize the world forever, pocket sized arc reactors made out of cave scraps that simultaneously duplicate engines, batteries ''and'' fuel, web shooters built by someone with little acumen in biology or chemistry and the lack of strength necessary to building swing without knocking her arm out of socket or the stupid reflexes that would be required to operate such a form of travel, much less maneuver around obstacles(yes, Spider-man was actually a better thought out version of an older character).
Actual, plausible science fiction, such as making a stronger gun for a super strong guy able to withstand the recoil, an early discovery of a medical use for silicone and how that would effect 1940s life, a naturally occurring source of a rare element, a character (illegally) struggling to obtain material necessary to build a nuclear device without government help, using a breathable fluid as a component for special a hazard suit-fiction that has some kind of scientific validity would be accepted, everything else would be explicitly supernatural or unused... right Jhimmibhob?
edited 28th Nov '12 5:31:55 PM by Cider
Hey, it's not as if I've got any say-so. Though that'd be better than the alternatives you mention.
However, in my personal Golden Age thought experiment, I'd genuinely omit sci-fi of any sort, however "soft" or "hard." In my own utterly personal, idiosyncratic, totally debatable opinion, what ruined comics was mid-century science fiction—the Zeerust aesthetic, the yen to demystify, the erasure of messy, grotty pulp ambiguities and undertones. Screw aliens. Screw laser beams. And screw neato-keen postwar tech.
Must be a personal thing. I personally have no problem with pseudo-scientific gobbledeygook so long as it's well presented.
I think what really killed the Golden Age was a combination of the aging out of it's audience, the rise of the Comic's Code, and creative stagnation. The lull allowed some of the old guard to move on to other things and new people to come in, and the vets who stuck with it now had the freedom to try new things. And remember, the length of time between what's taken for the official end of the Golden Age and the beginning of the Silver is only something like 6 years. And science fiction comics actually did pretty well during those six years.
Oh, they did extremely well. Science fiction was a huge part of the Zeitgeist, and the Silver Age adapters were smart to build their comics universe upon it. I have a creative beef with them, but they did absolutely the right thing economically and in terms of becoming popular. You're also correct about what did in the Golden Age.
And yeah, it's largely a personal thing ... but as imposed limitations go, it still strikes me as one that could spur greater creativity and the reimagining of stale models, and impose a more unified, coherent aesthetic.
I highly doubt that. Science fiction isn't exactly an inherently problem in fiction (let alone comics) to begin with. It's like saying that banning any conversations or interaction between men and women will prevent a Romantic Plot Tumor. It almost certainly will—unless your writers get really determined. And even if it does, it destroys a huge storytelling device at the same time.
Like I said, eventually you'd just end up replacing psuedo-science with magic which will serve the exact same purpose and have the exact same problems.
edited 29th Nov '12 7:25:59 AM by KingZeal
Putting restraints on artists is a good way to fuel their creativity. Having a little comic-book super-hero world with no (or very minimal) sci-fi elements could be pretty interesting.
I can't help but feel like that would just be a Modern Fantasy setting. Instead of lab accidents and aliens, you'd just have lots of vampires, werewolves, and demons running around.
There are already plenty of stories like that.
Same purpose, exact same problems? Hardly! "I cast a curse that these three will not stop running until they catch the first dummy to enter this area" will always be better than speed tracking ice missiles. You know, actual science takes time and thinking. Magic A Is Magic A, nobody has much excuse for getting it wrong.
Now, maybe some "soft", as in implausible science fiction, can be just as endearing. So long as it has a strict enough definition that we can consistently predict how it will work(gundam's minovisky particle, Stargate's ZPM) but that was not the case in the Silver Age and I think we all know it, plus it takes a lot more thought to have a narrative wise mundane element have a believable effect on the setting, even if it does not come off as laughable in of itself. You can put all sorts of restrictions(or not) on magic because plays by itself own rules by definition.
I can see the issue with no sci fi at all but magic is a lot harder to bungle than pseudoscience. I can totally see a restriction of "needs to be scientifically valid or we treat it as supernatural" working. If Science Marches On then you can go about Doing In the Wizard, where necessary(we can make handheld rail guns now? Well the elves discovered it first and didn't tell) or alternatively make it even more fantastic(yes we can but our versions can't pierce the moon)
Magic is a cheap and lazy solution, though. As a plot device, it can do anything and everything. "Magic did it" is an uncreative answer that avoids having to deal with difficult narrative questions.
Science fiction is limited by the fact that it has to, at the very least, sound plausible. Yes, the Silver Age ran amuck with it, but magic wouldn't be any better; it would actually be several yards worse. Magic as a plot device lends itself to terrible abuse because, as mentioned above, it can do anything and everything without repurcussion. To quote Joey Quesada, "It's magic; we don't have to explain it."
That attitude right there would ruin everything. It's a lazy, easily-abused plot device that allows anything you want to happen at any time you want it to.
edited 29th Nov '12 12:49:06 PM by TobiasDrake
Marvel comics is not the best example, as they do not make much use of Magic A Is Magic A, for the sake of maintaining the status quo, ironically.
I think I get your reasoning regardless, that such a setup may not be any good but as marvel prefers to be annoying vague with many of its magic characters and sources, DC and the Silver Age gleefully tried to incorporate science into their stories without bothering with many of those pesky rules established years of science.
"Really, Superman is not magical, in fact he is allergic to the stuff!" Come to think of it, his modern counterparts are no better. I definitely remember Superboy Prime using his ice breath, in outer space.
Magic A Is Magic A never works as advertised in a Long Runner. The more stories you tell, the more it becomes inevitable that your character will have to do some sort of Magic A.1 or Magic nearly-B in order to be clever, especially if their power has a shitload of utility. Superman, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman would be impossible to make stick to it, but even the simplest power would succumb. If a character can surround their hand with flame via magic, eventually, they'll have to come up with a plausible excuse why they're able to do it in the rain or else it won't make sense why his enemies don't just fight him in the rain. Or, in a modern setting, with a fire-extinguisher handy.
As they say, any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic...or, any sufficiently arcane magic is indistinguishable from science. Pick your form of high ridiculousness. It's really just a matter of taste.
If you're going to have dozens of speculative-fiction titles in the same continuity, going on and on for decades, with writers and editors constantly dropping in and out and switching around, then you shouldn't expect the resulting Shared Universe to be anything other than a Fantasy Kitchen Sink bordering on Planet Eris.
As with most fantasy plot devices, use of magic can be internally consistent (good), or internally inconsistent (bad). As long as there are Joe Quesadas in the world, you can't idiot-proof against the latter. Obviously, no universe is so conceptually strong that hack writers can't compromise it.
But so far from a Modern Fantasy setting, consider examples like Mike Mignola's Hellboy universe (especially his Lobster Johnson books). There's some sci-fi, but the vast majority of the fantastic stuff is magical, Cthulhoid, or late steampunk in nature. I wouldn't want to slavishly copy Mignola, but to my mind, that's exactly the kind of universe and aesthetic that a revisited DC Golden Age ought to have.
Actually, if you're going to revive the Golden Age, I'd say more inconsistency is in order. Remember, when superheroes were first created, no one had a Shared Universe in mind; each series had its own continuity and didn't try to fit the tone or world-building of other series. Eventually crossovers did start happening in the Golden Age, but they were driven mostly by Rule of Cool with little to no attempt to create a consistent universe.
@Robbery: That's not what Arthur C Clarke was talking about.
Oh, I know, but I think my appropriation is relevant in the context of this discussion.
Let's try another tack. The Shadow and Doc Savage both had elements of science fiction, and their creators weren't afraid to use it in the stories. Nonetheless, they were not science-fiction tales, and even the sci-fi had strict (if unspoken) limits—if the Shadow or Doc started travelling to alien planets, it'd be a palpable abuse of Genre Consistency.
And as sure as I'm certain that handing Tarzan a ray gun would be a mistake, I'm certain that the post-Golden Age comfort level with planet-hopping; its Martians, Thanagarians, and Green Lantern Corpsmen; its bias towards Doing In the Wizard, are not just mistakes, but things to be consciously avoided in (or even excised from) a G.A. setting.
Yes, one thing a lot of the pulp heroes had was tacit SF in the form of technology not available to the general public—such things as gas guns, super lightweight climbing ropes stronger than anything on the market, miniaturized disguise kits, etc. We tend to gloss over them because everything else is a Charles Atlas Superpower. Even the Moon Man. While the one-way glass his helmet is made of was already invented (and was the inspiration for him in the first place), the breathing apparatus that made it viable was SF at the time.
But let's look at how a "no SF" clause would affect various Golden Age characters. Superman is right out. We can substitute the all-magic Captain Marvel handily enough. Batman: in the hero pulp tradition, he's good to go except for some of his gadgets. You'll need to keep a sharp eye on that. Green Lantern: good to go if we specify the meteor is magical.
Flash: Right out, psuedo-science though "heavy water vapors" may be. Hawkman: We need to specify that Nth metal is a magical construct, not a scientific breakthrough. Atom: All training and moxie, good to go. Wildcat, too though we may need to look at his motorcycle. Mr. Terrific: Fine, as long as he never uses his genius for gadgeteering. Dr. Fate and the Spectre, both all-magic.
Sandman: the later addition of precognitive dreams helps, but his gas gun and climbing line go, which makes him less effective. Dr. Mid-Nite is a no-go, we could have him see in the dark, but his invention of goggles that allow him to see in daylight and blackout bombs is SF. Starman: No star rod, that's SF. Wonder Woman: Mostly good, but we're going to have to take away Amazonian super-science, so no telepathic radio in her tiara, no invisible plane, no Purple Healing Ray, etc.
Johnny Thunder: has a genie. Acceptable. Black Canary: all training.
Over on the Marvel side, Captain America and the Human Torch both get their origins from super-science, leaving Namor (but like Wonder Woman, we have to excise Atlantean technology.)
This decree hits villains especially hard, as all mad science types, aliens and killer robots are right out. Mad wizards, demons and golems can take up some of the slack.
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