In Q & A, a weekly feature of Fantastic Fangirls, we ask our staff to tackle a simple question — then open the floor to comments.
Write The End for the character of your choice.
Franklin’s power set is basically what would happen if Wanda Maximoff and Jean Grey had a baby. And Valeria is on track to be the Smartest Person in the Universe. Phenomenal Cosmic Power versus Fantastically Incredible Intellect. Imagine adult Franklin and Valeria, 30 years or so from now, at the height of their power, and at odds. Valeria is a victim of her own intelligence. She sees how things could be, should be, would be if only they listened to her. She sees all the solutions so clearly she loses sight of the people involved in the problems. She doesn’t want to rule the world, she wants to save it — but they won’t listen! Dictatorship is the only way. And Valeria Richards has been surrounded by heroes and villains, science and secrets, her entire life. She knows how to counteract everyone and everything, and she does it practically overnight.
The only one who can stop her is Franklin. But he refuses. He goes to Valeria determined to convince her to surrender, and he will make it so none of this will ever happen. They can go back to being the newest and greatest incarnation of the Fantastic Four (with Dani Cage and Kid Torch) as they were before she went all Dr. Doom. But Valeria expected that, too. She is ready with an answer to every argument and an explanation for every wrongdoing. She blinds him with science. Franklin agrees to join her. All appears lost.
In the final issue of the arc, the remaining heroes, villains, and regular people of the world band together to combat the Richards, considered to be the greatest threat ever conceived of. Battle is imminent when Franklin and Valeria — oddly young again — appear to be beside everyone. They point out how well everyone is working together, how differences are set aside when faced with a common enemy. They ask why it takes that common enemy for this to happen? The people begin to see why Valeria did all this and the real Franklin and Valeria appear, without weapons or defenses, ready to usher in a new era of real communication and peace. But one man is not convinced, he is more afraid than inspired, he rushes Franklin, shooting first and asking questions later. But the bullet doesn’t hit Franklin, it hits Valeria when she jumps in front of him.
Valeria is human. Her only superpower is genius of a level beyond calculation. Franklin cradles her, dying, in his arms. He tells her he is bullet proof, she knows that! There was no chance he could be killed! She says, no, there was a chance, .00000625%. He says the odds were with them, why did she do it, knowing the chance he’d be hurt was so miniscule? She answers the most important thing to understand about knowing everything is there is always the chance that she is wrong. And she dies, knowing Franklin could save her but he won’t, because, finally, he understands.
I proposed this topic because I wanted to come up with an idea about a superhero who realizes that he or she has achieved a lifetime’s superheroing goals and decides to walk away from the life. Then I realized I wanted to write about my all-time favorite comic book character, Tony Stark, and those two ideas don’t go together. Tony is a guy who, as he gets up there in years, will think about retiring a lot. He has always obsessively attended to his legacy, after all, and has a dozen (a hundred dozen?) contingency plans for what will happen to his technology when he isn’t around any more. He also has a habit of fitting his friends and trusted associates out with tech-based powers of their own. Tony could, in principle, plan for his retirement better than anybody alive. But he would just keep coming back for one last mission, because what all that planning really means is that he wants to do everything himself. He might divide Stark Industries up, King Lear-like, but — like Shakespeare’s hero — he’d never quite be able to take his hand off the wheel, and he’d certainly never be able to stop thinking like the boss.
Sending Tony out in a blaze of glory doesn’t really work, either. Even if we’re in a situation where we convince everybody to believe in the permanence of comic-book death, self-destruction and martyrdom come too easily for the guy. Instead, I think Iron Man’s end should require Tony, the ultimate futurist, to leave the stage in a way that gives him a chance for another future.
As an old man, he is in the process of wrapping up his company and passing the legacy on to his hand-chosen successors. He sets out on a final mission, with a group of younger Avengers, where they are thrown into another dimension who have developed mystical healing methods that prolong human life, but are only beginning to understand and manipulate technology. In doing so, they’ve discovered its great power for destruction. The Avengers help solve the immediate problem, but when the rest of his team returns to Earth, Tony decides to stay behind. He can guide this civilization as they learn how to face the technological future responsibly.
He might be able to help. He might screw up very badly. As the story ends, we don’t know, and that’s the ending that Marvel’s great futurist deserves.
Recently, Mark Millar wrote a story arc called “Old Man Logan,” detailing the life of a very old Wolverine who had outlived all his fellow heroes. As the story began, we learned that Logan no longer popped his claws, for some unknown reason, and had settled down to a simple, domestic farm life with a red-haired wife and two kids, one of whom was named Scott. All of this felt absolutely right to me. Unfortunately, the series soon morphed into a gross-out bloodbath of epic proportions, full of Millar’s characteristic bombastic, vaguely-offensive humor, including villains who were the inbred descendants of a tryst between the Hulk and She-Hulk. My interest quickly waned.
But I still find myself attracted to that initial setup, the setup of a Logan who has settled down to a relatively sedate life, in a world where the battles have mostly been won — or at least where he’s no longer needed to fight them. Wolverine may be the best there is at what he does, but if “what he does” is no longer required to make the world a safer place, he strikes me as the type who’d be more than happy to get out of the business altogether, since it’s torn at him emotionally for most of his life.
Of course, a normal, steady life doesn’t lend itself well to dramatic storytelling, so something needs to come along to shake that up. And (assuming this is a world where, if Logan had a spouse and kids at any point, they’ve since died of old age and grown to adulthood, respectively), that spanner in the works should be Jean Grey. Grant Morrison’s run on X-Men established that Jean has the capacity to come back from the dead far in the future, and if she did, I absolutely believe she’d gravitate to Logan, the only remaining connection to the world she used to know. Together, the two of them would find themselves pitted against a threat of cosmic proportions (which had triggered Jean’s resurrection), and their partnership — accompanied, of course, by either the literal or metaphorical ghost of Scott Summers — would ultimately save the world.
At that point, any number of things could happen — Logan could float off with Jean to the White Hot Room, or they could settle together on earth, taking on new, less-militant roles in the fight for a better world. (Jean, after all, displayed quite a bit of political aptitude in her last living days). Either way, Logan would finally find true peace — not the boring, tenuous holding pattern he’d been living — and his claw-popping days would be officially over.
There’s two kinds of characters whose ends I’d like to write. The characters I detest, and the characters I like. But, in the spirit of Fantastic Fangirls, I’m going to stick with the positive and discuss the end of a character I love. Magneto.
Magneto deserves a positively royal send-off. If I killed him, he’d die in absolute glory and complete futility. Because that’s really his life, is it not? His life’s goal and ambition is to prevent things which are brought about by human nature. To prevent the fear, loathing, and persecution of a powerful and alien minority. The only way to achieve this goal, as Magneto knows perfectly well in his less-than-sane phases, is to kill the entire human race. He’s never going to do it. He’s never going to create perfect safety for his people. It’s impossible.
But that doesn’t stop him from trying. My favorite Magneto, the one I hold fondness for, is the semi-reformed Magneto of the 80s who led Xavier’s school. The headmaster who was really no good at his job, but tried anyway. That Magneto turned into the 90s Magneto who tried for isolation in the Savage Land, the one who fell in love with Rogue — the one who murdered anyone who didn’t go along with his schemes. For our Erik it’s a short, short distance from giving demerits to stubborn students to spearing followers on a length of rebar. It’s all kinda the same to him.
So Magneto’s end? He’s working with the X-Men, not trusted by them but still doing his part. (Much like he is now, in Carey’s Legacy and Fraction’s Uncanny.) Some of the students and younger X-Men follow him, are attached to him. And he views them as another shot at redemption. Another chance to lead and shape the next generation as he has failed to do so many times — beginning with his many failures with his children. This time the threat is not from outside, not from mutant-haters or common humanity, though. One of his students, a dark-haired girl with dark eyes and a quiet demeanor, develops powers beyond her control. In the ensuing struggle it becomes clear that the only way to stop her involves the death of someone else.
Is it a gift of noble sacrifice? An act of despair? A shot at redemption? Or merely overwhelming hubris and the belief that he can’t actually be killed? For whatever reason, Magneto steps into the situation and dies to save his student. His last word, which his students hear but don’t completely understand, is “Wanda.”
What is The End for the character of your choice?