"Let's Pretend This Never Happened"- Redeeming Bishop

Can a comic book character be ruined for all time?  Can a character stray so far from their essential nature or commit so heinous a crime, that they can never be used again? 

            For some fans, the answer is “Yes.”  They bitterly complain about misdeeds that occurred in a story ten, twenty or thirty years ago.  Yet history shows us that the reverse is true.  For a beloved character, there is always a path to- if not, redemption- at least reclamation.  Jean Grey became a genocidal maniac and destroyed an entire planet with several billion inhabitants, but she was eventually welcomed back into the X-Men fold.  Hal Jordan became a homicidal traitor who made Benedict Arnold look like a kindergartener, but he was eventually restored to the Green Lantern Corps. 

            Paul of O’Brien of “House to Astonish” contemplated this phenomenon in a recent column.  He was ostensibly reviewing “Vendetta,” the current crossover between Uncanny X-Force and X-Force.  However, O’Brien laments that those titles haven’t been very good (I’ll have to take his word for it; I was unimpressed by online previews and off-the-shelf browsing and didn’t bother to pick up either one).  Plus, both titles are using this crossover to conclude their current runs and make room for yet another re-launch.  So, with an uninteresting story and two moribund titles, O’Brien wandered into the larger discussion of character redemption.

            One of the problems affecting the two X-Force titles is that their current leads have recently been mortal enemies.  In the last Cable series, writer Duane Swierczynski cast the X-Man Bishop as his villain.  Bishop was determined to kill the young child Hope because he thought that killing her would prevent his dystopic future from taking place.  And Cable was determined to protect her because she was the future hope of mutant-kind.  Cable fled into the timestream with Hope as his ward, jumping around history with his time travel device.  And Bishop followed them from era to era, hot on their heels in his dogged determination to kill Hope. 

            In my opinion, it was a horrible piece of mis-casting.  Bishop had been an officer of the law in his original incarnation.  He may have echoed Judge Dredd on occasion with his singular focus on justice but he was never a tyrant who operated outside of the law.  Plus, Bishop’s original rough edges had been smoothed out in the past 15 years as he developed friendships with Gambit, Storm and Sage.  The idea that Bishop would suddenly throw all of that out the window to become a deranged killer was completely out of character.  Furthermore, Bishop had already addressed and averted his future in previous stories, such as the major “Onslaught” story.  Swierczynski ignored past characterization and continuity to shoehorn Bishop into a villain’s role.  It was a complete repudiation of the existing character.  It also reduced a complex hero to a simplistic villain, compounding the mistake. 

            Swierczynski has since moved on and other Marvel writers have been left with the job of cleaning up the Bishop mess.  Sam Humphries has apparently tried to ease Bishop back into the fold as one of the characters in Uncanny X-Force.  But Cable has been in charge of the other X-Force team.  Inevitably, the two teams would clash and the animosity between Bishop and Cable would come to the fore (rather, understandably on Cable’s part; Bishop had repeatedly tried to kill him after all).  That clash is apparently at the heart of “Vendetta.”  Yet the battle between the two teams is really secondary to the main problem: can Bishop be redeemed as a comic book character?  Can he go back to being an X-Man in good standing?

            Paul O’Brien noted that there are two ways to redeem a character.  The first is to use “the logic of the story and actually redeem him.”  Geoff Johns opted for this route with Hal Jordan.  He reintroduced Hal in a mini-series specifically designed to rehabilitate the character, “Green Lantern: Rebirth.”  He explained the source of Hal’s madness.  He also had Hal pay for his past misdeeds, even though Hal might have argued that he wasn’t responsible for them since he wasn’t in his right mind.

            The second option is to “provide some sort of notional closure and then politely agree with the audience that We Shall Never Speak of This Again.”   For all practical purposes, Marvel pursued this route with Jean Grey.  They hand-waved away her crimes by declaring that she had been lying in a cocoon at the bottom of Jamaica Bay while the Phoenix took her form and did all of these horrible things in her name.  Marvel didn’t entirely follow this option in that they still mention it again, but usually to remind the audience that “Jean Grey didn’t do that; it was the Phoenix.” 

            The better example might be Carol Danvers.  In one misbegotten story, Carol Danvers fell in love with the time displaced Scarlet Centurion.  Then, in a weird twist of time and fate, she gave birth to their child who would grow up to become the Scarlet Centurion.  You read that right- she gave birth to her own husband.  Carol was written out of the Avengers as part of that story.  New writers didn’t really know what to do with her either.  She spent time as an exile in space; she became a new hero with different powers called Binary.  Eventually, Kurt Busiek brought her back to the Avengers, ignored all of the stuff that had happened in the meantime and restored her to heroic status.  Everyone essentially agreed “We Shall Never Speak of This Again”- although it occasionally shows up in an online discussion about bad story ideas.

            So what about Bishop?  I don’t know what Marvel will do with the character though they appear to be leaning toward “Let’s Pretend It Never Happened.”  Bishop isn’t as popular as Hal Jordan and probably couldn’t attract enough readers to buy a mini-series specifically devoted to his redemption.  So the best option is to simply move forward and hope that most fans forget about the admittedly forgettable Cable series by Swierczynski.  They probably need some nominal closure that they can then refer to in future stories.  It could be as simple as “that was a Bishop from another timestream” or “he was buried in a cocoon at the bottom of Jamaica Bay.”   But this is comics- everyone eventually comes back.

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John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

We've had a lot to say about Civil War, and as I said before, I didn't like the story.  Millar changed personalities to make the characters do what he wanted them to do.  Marvel said this was not a story of good vs evil or one side being right and the other side being wrong, but only one side had all of the lying and deception and everything we have discussed.  Clearly it was set up for the reader to sympathize with Captain America's side.  This really went overboard with comparisons of registration to slavery, and being imprisoned for not complying akin to being interred like Japanese-Americans were during WWII.

However, as bad as the execution was, I thought the idea of registration was sound.  We're talking about vigilantes - many with unknown powers - after all, people taking the law into their own hands.  You need a license to fish and hunt and drive a car.  Why not be licensed, and in the case of neophytes, trained properly?  Police officers fight crime too, and don't have the options of concealing their identities, or operating freelance.



Dave Elyea said:

I agree that the whole registration thing got the short shrift, and frankly, made a lot of sense, and would solve a great many of the problems that super-hero universes normally deal with by just ignoring them.  For example, dully registered super-heroes would be able to testify in court against criminals in a way the "freelance" and secret identitied heroes shouldn't be able to.  And who wouldn't want the extra training and insurance & such that went with registration?  Other than the fact that the government in the Marvel U has had a pretty shaky track record since at least the 1970s (our time), what was the main reason to not register?

I would take a stab at these questions, but -- I DON'T WANT TO RE-LITIGATE "CIVIL WAR"! By God, I don't want to re-litigate "Civil War"!

  It's impossible to do so because there never really was a law, just a concept of an idea of a hint of a law that every writer could use in what ever story he wanted to use.  Marvel really did have the cake and eat it too, they had the story concept that was flexible and the lack of discipline and co-ordination between the writers and the editors and the huge sales and notoriety that came with setting the fans at each other throats.  They were probably laughing at each Tony Hater (as I was often called on the marvel boards) who posted on the net.



ClarkKent_DC said:

John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

We've had a lot to say about Civil War, and as I said before, I didn't like the story.  Millar changed personalities to make the characters do what he wanted them to do.  Marvel said this was not a story of good vs evil or one side being right and the other side being wrong, but only one side had all of the lying and deception and everything we have discussed.  Clearly it was set up for the reader to sympathize with Captain America's side.  This really went overboard with comparisons of registration to slavery, and being imprisoned for not complying akin to being interred like Japanese-Americans were during WWII.

However, as bad as the execution was, I thought the idea of registration was sound.  We're talking about vigilantes - many with unknown powers - after all, people taking the law into their own hands.  You need a license to fish and hunt and drive a car.  Why not be licensed, and in the case of neophytes, trained properly?  Police officers fight crime too, and don't have the options of concealing their identities, or operating freelance.



Dave Elyea said:

I agree that the whole registration thing got the short shrift, and frankly, made a lot of sense, and would solve a great many of the problems that super-hero universes normally deal with by just ignoring them.  For example, dully registered super-heroes would be able to testify in court against criminals in a way the "freelance" and secret identitied heroes shouldn't be able to.  And who wouldn't want the extra training and insurance & such that went with registration?  Other than the fact that the government in the Marvel U has had a pretty shaky track record since at least the 1970s (our time), what was the main reason to not register?

I would take a stab at these questions, but -- I DON'T WANT TO RE-LITIGATE "CIVIL WAR"! By God, I don't want to re-litigate "Civil War"!

Which are among many of the reasons I DON'T WANT TO RE-LITIGATE "CIVIL WAR"! By God, I DON'T want to re-litigate "Civil War"!

Don't you feel like the registration angle was a rehash? I mean, they had that plot during Acts of Vengeance (and, of course. Reed Richards was on the OTHER side of the argument then...)

John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

We've had a lot to say about Civil War, and as I said before, I didn't like the story.  Millar changed personalities to make the characters do what he wanted them to do.  Marvel said this was not a story of good vs evil or one side being right and the other side being wrong, but only one side had all of the lying and deception and everything we have discussed.  Clearly it was set up for the reader to sympathize with Captain America's side.  This really went overboard with comparisons of registration to slavery, and being imprisoned for not complying akin to being interred like Japanese-Americans were during WWII.

However, as bad as the execution was, I thought the idea of registration was sound.  We're talking about vigilantes - many with unknown powers - after all, people taking the law into their own hands.  You need a license to fish and hunt and drive a car.  Why not be licensed, and in the case of neophytes, trained properly?  Police officers fight crime too, and don't have the options of concealing their identities, or operating freelance.

I don't think it was a rehash as much as it was a brilliant piece of cynical marketing, capitalizing on the divisions in the country.

But to get back to the original question, I think after reading through this thread again that -for me- redemption is possible only if there is a really great story about that redemption and only if I feel that the writer/editor/publisher is actually sincere in wanting to redeem the character and it's going to last more than a few story cycles and if it is reversed there is a equally great story why it's reversed.

Rogue had a great redemption storyline (though I'm unsure as to wether I think that Carol Danvers or Allison Blare should ever have forgiven her, I am sure that Carol should never have defended Rogue to her mother), but we all know what happened with Sandman and Black Adam was set up to fail. If I feel -as I do with Tony- that the redemption has more to do with marketing than storytelling and if it's a bad story to begin with then I won't buy it and I'll always hope for the failure of the character in any super-battle that occurs.
I'll read comics featuring bad guys (I enjoyed Bomb Queen) so long as they are honestly bad guys, I love a good villain who's either one dimensional and enjoys it (Captain Hook, Witchie-Poo) or conflicted and three dimensional (Dr. Doom), three dimensional and conflicted/flawed (can't think of anyone at the moment) but and not good guys who do horrible things and still claim to be good guys or are acclaimed as good guys based on what they did before they went bad.

Getting back to the theme of the topic, is  do you want to have Tony Stark redeemed? Because it seems to me that some still want Tony and those who backed him and those who did not try to stop him AND those who did leave him yet forgave him later AND those who fought him and still later forgave him punished for their crimes and sins and tolerance and taken off the board, never to be used again until there's a big story where EVERYONE is replaced with their Silver Age counterparts, or in Captain America's case, his Golden Age counterpart who can still slap those peace-loving hippies around!

Or maybe not but I haven't heard any solutions either!

I wanted Tony redeemed after cw happened. I figured it would come during the skrull invasion where I would learn that he had been either manipulated, mind controlled or straight out fooled. None of that happened and that is where the fall-down point begins. If you imagine as I do that the characters are basically living a life, then one part of life flows from the past to the present to the future. (Giving some leeway to comic book characters who appear in multiple books). If you have a case such as Tony's where he's done horrible things then everyone abruptly overlooking those things -especially if they were done to them personally- tends to destroy my pretending that these are real character leading real lives. That's how I've read stories for as long as I can remember, it's part of the joy of reading for me.
Jen had no reason to forgive Tony. Absolutely none. Thor even less. Sue had a reason with Reed, he is her husband and she loves him and she's got two kids. But for the most part the pro-reg heroes who hunted down the renegades have given no real reason to be forgiven. No one has apologized for 42 (even though it was taken over for a time by forces in the negative zone) and almost none of the heroes who were stuck in there have as far I've known hung up their capes and walked away from a population that obviously thinks of them as guard dogs to be leashed and penned when there are no supervillains about. How can I respect anyone who takes this sort of abuse and comes back for more?
Had there been an exploration of this and of the other concepts raised by the shra I'd probably still be reading at least some of marvel. But the writers after cw decided that Tony was the grand martyr of the storyline. Despite all of the people hurt, despite all of the laws that he broke, Tony's suffering was all that mattered. There couldn't be redemption because there was in their opinion nothing to be redeemed. He'd simply made 'the tough choices', that needed to be done and the ends justified the means. This was and is still I think the guiding philosophy of the marvel writers and they craft their tales the same way.
Like I said redemption has to be sincere and I see no sincerity in marvel these days. Their idea of redemption for Tony was a get out of jail free card that eliminated all of the consequences of his actions.
It could still be done. Suppose that in the negative zone there is a piece of 42 that got hijacked somehow or a transport going there that got diverted to a forgotten section and abandoned during the confusion of the skrull invasion. A set of low level heroes having been exiled all this time go crazy and mount a campaign of revenge against the pro-reg heroes. In that sort of tale Tony and Reed and a lot of others could come face to face with what they did. But it won't happen. Given the goldfish like memory of the marvel writers and therefore the characters cw is about as relevant to marvel right now as the 8 track is to the music industry.

Philip Portelli said: never to be used again until there's a big story where EVERYONE is replaced with their Silver Age counterparts, or in Captain America's case, his Golden Age counterpart who can still slap those peace-loving hippies around!

Except for Cap slapping hippies around that sounds good to me!

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