Saturday, 23 February 2013

Classic X-Men #26: The Tony Slattery of Mutants

Who is Tony Slattery, you might be asking? And what does this have to do with Classic X-Men #26.

I grew up, as I think I've mentioned before, in a telly-obsessed middle-class family in the English Midlands in the 1980s and 1990s. We used to watch a lot of panel shows. The British culture of panel shows is a thing of particular uniqueness. Sure, other countries might have a panel show or two or three, but they likely don't have a panel shows circuit. When I was was growing up we would watch A Question of Sport, Have I Got News For You, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, They Think It's All Over, Whose Line Is It Anyway, Vic and Bob's Shooting Stars, and (if school was out) Call My Bluff. Different in content and tone, but likely to have much of the same sort of guests. HIGFNY is still part of my adulthood (I watch irregularly, if I remember, and go to a recording every couple of years - last time I hit the jackpot by getting the one with Nigel Farage and Harry Shearer), supplemented by a bit of Mock the Week; and a smidgeon of QI, although I tend to find that too smug.

Now, you may be very well be wondering what this has to do with X-Men. And you would be right. So perhaps I had better cut to the explanation: Tony Slattery was an actor and comedian, and a regular on many of these so-called "panel shows". He was on quite a lot of them. And I mean that in the English sense of "quite", which is to say a metric fucktonne. Sometimes you would be watching Tony Slattery on a panel show and change channels and then there he was on another panel show.

In other words, Tony Slattery is a lot like Wolverine.

In this backup story from Classic X-Men #26, it is revealed that Wolverine is more ubiquitous than previously implied, and he used to know Sean Cassidy back 20 years ago, and this just hadn't been mentioned before. This is part of a new wave of plot development, in which Wolverine will be given a secret history with every named Marvel character, including those he probably shouldn't, like prominent Avengers such as Captain America.

Mr. Slattery vanished from our screens in 1996, and people, who had previously made jokes about his omnipresence, were worried. It was eventually revealed he had a breakdown. He got better.

Hope the same thing doesn't happen to Wolverine. He's on every team going now, after all, and the load is surely going to get to him. Although this is often attributed to cynical sales-grabbing, I think he works well as a character in environments where he's out of his depth a bit. Since he is unbeatable in combat, he therefore needs to be presented ethical or social problems he can't solve simply with his claws. And some of the criticism I've seen of this is just straight facile nonsense, as if it a character saying one thing ("I'm a loner") but doing another (join all the teams) was incomprehensible, rather than, you know, a basic literary technique.

Meanwhile, Britain's addiction to panel shows continues unabated. Red Nose Day 2011 saw a 24-hour panel marathon in which David Walliams took part in all 19 shows. It can only get worse.

1 comment:

  1. if it a character saying one thing ("I'm a loner") but doing another (join all the teams) was incomprehensible, rather than, you know, a basic literary technique.

    I'm at a point where his various appearances are almost like white noise to me, but well said.