Have a drink. It might help that mortis attitude of yours.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Least Favorite Plot Devices: She’s Having a Baby

Spoiler Alert: There are a few spoilers here about Catwoman— if you are waiting for the trade, or just have a couple issues stacked-up, you should probably stop reading.

I have some worries about this month’s Catwoman. When last we saw Selina Kyle she had faked her own death, with the help of Batman, in order to throw off the villains that have been after her and her baby. However, she couldn’t get rid of them and the issue ends with her calling Bruce for “one more favor.”

What image does the cover of this month’s sport? Zatanna. My heart sinks at the thought that Wil Pfeifer is going to end his arc with Selina wiping her memory about ever having a baby. I hated it at the end of Angel Season 4 (he wiped everybody else’s mind) and I hate it now.

I was talking to my fellow podcasters during recording last week. One of them said, “It is the only logical conclusion to the arc.” I disagree with that. It is the most expected conclusion to the arc, but not the most logical. It is the laziest. Selina faking her death was the most logical conclusion (for a comic), but getting rid of the baby is not. It turns the baby and parenthood into story arc as opposed to a stage in character development.

As readers, we shouldn’t get the sense that Pfiefer invented Selina’s pregnancy just so that there were two years worth of stories to tell and, now that he’s run out of stories to tell, it’s time for the baby to go away. I don’t mean to sound like I am only harping on Catwoman. I had beef with Power Girl getting pregnant just so her baby could age fast and save the world before disappearing. That was ridiculous. And we are not even going to talk about Ms. Marvel’s baby storyline—that was just disgusting.

Having a baby should change a character— at least, it should on some level. Ignoring the change is sloppy writing. It makes characters come across as callous and unfeeling. (“For the greater good my baby must never know…” blah blah blah.) If a story has a character that decides that he or she is not ready for a baby, that’s one thing. I have no problem with that, as long as were set up to believe this, and the story line is intelligent and well written. But to have a character that has to fight for the safety of her baby, time and time again, for like five story arcs, suddenly go, “Yo, this is too hard.” It’s weak writing.

Why do babies come and go as much as they do? I think the reason that babies are so disposable is to have two years worth of “what if Mary Jane was pregnant” storylines. I think there are two reasons that writers have a hard time with the baby plotline:

It’s hard to write a character with a baby.

There are so many things to take care of— diaper changing, breast-feeding, and what-if-the-baby-has-a-fever, and so on. But who cares if it’s hard? Or more importantly, just don’t write those scenes. We do not see a lot of characters using the bathroom or doing laundry so we do not need to see burping scenes. Who will watch the baby? That’s what sitters are for or robots named L-Ron.

Well, maybe the character wouldn’t go out and fight crime if they had a baby. Um…police officers do their job when they have children, so do fire fighters and doctors. The only thing a baby can do to the writing is make a rounder, deeper character. If it’s done well, that is.

A baby ages a character.

That I don’t get. Somehow, writers think that with a baby in the story they have to age a character in real time. Well, a baby will have to take its first steps and have its first word and so on. Sure. But eventually, Bruce Wayne will have to turn 36 as well. If we, as readers, are okay with Peter Parker being somewhere around his late 20s for two decades, I think we can be okay with a baby being ambiguously 20 months for two decades. I mean, Franklin Richards has been like ten since the 70s. Also, Selina’s child, who was based on DC time since the One Year Later jump, is like six months old, maybe seven. That is a walking, talking six month-old. If they just left the child in a crib for two years there would be no worries.

I’m not saying that characters shouldn’t have babies, but that it should be handled in such a way that it creates character development. A pregnancy shouldn’t feel like check-off on a list of character events. Character has baby? Check. Character loses baby? Check. Character takes up crime as a result? Check. Ten years later new writer brings baby back as a villain? Check.



Blogger Devon Sanders said...

Ben Hatton hates babies.

12:53 PM

Blogger Patrick said...

I think the only way a baby can work is if it appears, goes to limbo for a few years, then returns slightly aged. That way the aging of a character will be more subtle. You won't have to show the entire growth process. Kind of like Batman with Damian, or even Green Arrow and his son.

7:44 PM

Blogger Shelly said...

Babies don't necessarily age characters. Lian Harper has been around for uh, decades now and while she's aged a few years, she's stayed at one age (6ish is my guess) for a long time now, leaving Roy pretty much stuck at the same age during this time.

I think Selina has changed. She'd give up everything, even being a mother, to keep her baby safe. I don't want her to do that, but I understand it and if that's how the story goes, I'm okay with it, provided it's presented well and the stories that follow continue with the high quality the book has had since the reboot with Ed Brubaker on writing chores.

9:02 PM

Blogger Zundian said...

I think Franklin Richards is actually either 5 or 6 years old, in continuity. He's younger than Katie Power for sure.

2:52 AM

Blogger Gyuss Baaltar said...

Can she keep the baby and still go back to being a sexy villianess ?

9:33 AM

Blogger Derek said...

"But eventually, Bruce Wayne will have to turn 36 as well."

Batman's 38.

Comic book time is pretty flexible. I don't think the "A baby ages a character." argument holds water. The characters age anyway, albeit very slowly.

The babies can age just as slowly.

12:20 AM

Anonymous Accursed Interloper said...

"Somehow, writers think that with a baby in the story they have to age a character in real time. "

Except for every writer, good and bad, that has ever written a story featuring the Red Tornado & Kathy Sutton's adopted daughter Traya. And Franklin Richards, as noted above.
Just now racking my tiny brain for other examples, and coming up dry, told me two things: 1. There are mighty few babies getting born in the super-hero comics, and 2. it probably DOES do that character-aging thing, after all. Which is the opposite of the point I originally sat down to make here.
Damn you for making me think this through!

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