Op-Ed: The Lo(e)botomization of Nova
The Cosmic Triune
"The Lo(e)botomization of Nova"
Lobotomization: to deprive of intelligence, vitality, or sensitivity.
-Definition courtesy of Merriam-Webster Dictionary
According to Marvel Editorial, Issue #10 of NINO is the 100-issue mark of “Nova” comic books published. I dis-respectfully disagree. I count 90 issues of true Nova comic books and 10 issues of Nova In Name Only comic books. It’s insulting to equate Nova with NINO in any way, but Marvel Editorial’s whole approach to the Nova fans since the “hiatus” of Volume IV has been insulting. They frequently talk about Rich and NINO in the same breath as if there’s no difference between the history of the two. Hey Marvel Editorial – they’re not interchangeable. Rich was great. NINO is a farce. And a sub-standard farce at that.
Sure I know it’s just a marketing gimmick to try to improve the rapidly declining sales of the ongoing insult to and dis-respect of true Nova fans that is NINO, but I think this “occasion” calls for an analysis of how the “creative team” of Loeb, Wacker, Bendis, Brevoort, and Alonso took a good concept and ruined it for all the wrong reasons. I liken their process of turning Nova into NINO to the above defined dis-credited Neurosurgical procedure of lobotomization as popularly portrayed in such movies as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Sucker Punch - and I refer to their process as “Lo(e)botomization.”
The Deprivation of Intelligence:
Loeb himself has been directly quoted in various articles saying NINO should be written as an “idiot.” I could stop writing this section directly after such a quote, but I think it’s important to detail how this Lo(e)botomization is made a reality and how it affects fans of the true Nova concepts.
Let’s start with a little Nova history. In 1976, Rich Rider was created and portrayed as a late teen/young adult struggling to learn how to control and use the powers he had been granted by an emergency deputization. Finally, in the Annihilation event, he was transformed into a powerful and mature leader of men. Fans both old and new praised this metamorphosis, and Nova Volume IV became the best Nova series to date with its imaginative, intelligent, action-packed storylines and its new and improved hero. Of course, it received none of the marketing hype and support that NINO has enjoyed, and it was eventually placed on “hiatus.” What we didn’t know is that prior to “hiatus” it was apparently decided by Alonso et al to declare Rich “dead” even though Volume IV writers, Abnett and Lanning, have been quoted as saying that in their storyline Rich was never dead but merely temporarily “marooned” in the Cancerverse. Obviously, Rich was declared “dead via editorial fiat” in order to create room for Loeb’s new “idiot” character, Sam Alexander (aka NINO).
Setting aside Alonso’s disrespect for and disregard of Rich Rider fans for a moment, his decision marks the beginning of the “deprivation of intelligence” aspect of the Lo(e)botomization of Nova. Loeb immediately created a 14-year-old Peter Parker-ish character (without the Parker intellect), hi-jacked and watered-down the look and concepts of the Nova mythos, eliminated all true cosmic elements by plopping the little “idiot” on Earth in a one-horse town, and set out to appeal to a pre-pubescent audience (and to a small post-pubescent audience who just can’t seem to get enough of hackneyed teen angst storylines) with silly, implausible stories involving the “idiot,” NINO, blundering and cheating his way through every situation. To say that the NINO storylines are juvenile, puerile, un-imaginative, boring, and intelligence-insulting in comparison to Volume IV would be an understatement.
To make matters worse, Loeb has presented no reason why NINO deserves to have or keep the powers other than that the powers are “inherited” by NINO from his drunken father’s “magic helmet.” Even worse, 14-year-old NINO has had no training to use powers equivalent to the power of a tactical- nuclear-weapon-carrying fighter jet and is continually put in kill-or-be-killed combat situations with the full knowledge and consent of his (apparently negligent and unfit) parents.
So readers are expected to believe that an “idiot” child can responsibly confront situations on Earth and in space for which he has no prior experience/training; that he can safely handle powers that could level a city without endangering himself and the public; that his parents have no problem with him constantly risking his life sometimes light years from home, and that everyone in the Marvel Universe is completely fine with it? I don’t know about other people, but I like a modicum of plausibility in cosmic stories. Loeb’s scenario for NINO is intelligence insultingly implausible.
And there’s a moral issue, too. Why does Marvel/Disney believe it is perfectly moral to un-willingly induct a minor child into a para-military organization and place said child in kill-or-be-killed combat situations? The rest of Western Civilization would disagree on moral grounds, and even as this article is being written the United Nations is forming a resolution condemning use of child combatants. Since Disney makes its money selling entertainment to kiddies, do they really want to send the message that minor children performing combat operations is perfectly acceptable to their company? If so, I can’t wait to read their official explanation justifying their position.
The Deprivation of Vitality
In Annihilation, Nova Volume IV, and The Thanos Imperative, Giffen and DnA gave us a true Nova – a mature, powerful, effective, true leader of men actually leading other powerful beings to confront and overcome universal threats. These were big stories with edge-of-your-seat excitement that left the reader anxiously anticipating the release of the next issue. These stories talked up to their readership with adult themes and high-stakes situations where literally anything might happen.
In contrast, we have NINO stuck in a small town dealing with schoolyard bullies and blundering/cheating his way through the occasional boring confrontation with a super-villain. Yawn. Have you read that teen super-hero story somewhere before? How many times? Yeah – me too. Loeb, Brevoort, and Wacker present this hackneyed, puerile non-sense that talks down to readers as if it’s something new and special. In actuality, it’s old, boring, listless, clichéd, and utterly predictable. Loeb even made sure to kill off all the “Black Novas,” the only truly innovative and exciting idea he had in putting together the ongoing travesty that is NINO. Those characters were much more interesting than NINO – and readers said so. Once again, Marvel Editorial ignored the readership and retreated to the clichéd old angst-ridden teen superhero formula.
What was vital about Rich Rider’s Nova, and potentially vital about the “Black Novas” had they been developed, was the “military science-fiction” aspect of the characters/storylines. What made modern Marvel Cosmic (i.e. the Marvel Cosmic of the Annihilation event forward until hi-jacked by Loeb and Bendis) vital, new and interesting were the elements incorporated from both popular military science-fiction/science-fantasy (e.g. Star Trek and Star Wars), hard-core classic written military science-fiction (e.g. Lensmen and Starship Troopers) and written heroic fantasy (e.g. John Carter of Mars). This was made possible because the pre-Loeb/Bendis Marvel Cosmic was niche-audience focused and largely ignored by the “super-heroic fantasy” selling, mainstream-oriented Marvel Editorial staff. Once a Guardians of the Galaxy movie was announced and expected to be a big hit, Cosmic suddenly moved from “neglected niche” to the forefront. It then, of course, had to be made to conform to the “super-heroic fantasy” formula that Marvel sells, so the very essence or vitality of what made Volume IV of Nova and Volume II of Guardians of the Galaxy was discarded and replaced. In the case of Star-Lord, we went from the Giffen/DnA “approaching middle-aged,” scruffy Han Solo-ish characterization to a 20-something feckless dream-boat-ish characterization. In the case of Nova, the powerful, mature, leader of men that was Rich Rider was replaced by an “idiotic,” blundering, immature, obnoxious, teen Peter Parker-ish character sans the saving grace of the Parker intellect. In both cases, the Cosmic aspects of the characters were made incidental rather than central, and we’re left with un-interesting characters obsessed with the petty and parochial problems of Earth. Jeez, Marvel Editorial! Don’t you have enough Earthbound super-heroes to deal with Earth’s petty problems without sucking away the vitality of the cosmic heroes just to make them conform to your comic book selling formula? Ever consider maybe actually promoting a different approach? Maybe if you’d supported DnA’s efforts the way you’ve supported Loeb and Bendis’, this article would never have had to be written.
The Deprivation of Sensitivity
I’m not using sensitivity to mean “emotionality.” Everyone knows Loeb has loaded NINO with enough smarmy, maudlin, and/or puerile sugar-sweet moments to send diabetic readers into a coma. I know Disney loves that garbage – just watch any of their child-oriented movies if you don’t believe me. For those of us over the age of 8 though – it just comes across as corny and annoying.
I’m using sensitivity as it’s used in a medical-scientific context to mean “reactivity to external forces.” I’ve already discussed how NINO reacts to the external forces of plausibility and morality. NINO gets a grade of “F” in reaction to those two external forces, and I needn’t re-iterate the ground already covered in previous sections of this article. I touched upon what the fans really want under the vitality section and will cover it in more detail now in this section.
Brevoort has made it clear over on his Tumblr page that Marvel Editorial expected a backlash from Rich Rider fans once it was clear that Rich was to be replaced with NINO. He has also made it clear that he thinks Rich had so few fans that the backlash would be of no consequence to Marvel or to NINO’s sales. Alonso made it clear in several interviews that he thought Nova fans would buy ANYTHING with the word “Nova” smeared across the cover and he expected Rich Rider fans to “embrace” NINO. Loeb simply said Rich’s story was “over.” And Wacker has never missed an opportunity to insult, denigrate, and otherwise disrespect the Rich Rider character and Rich Rider fans in general over at a Certain Boot-lickingly Repellant website’s forums where he is given free rein to do so and where the moderators protect him from any fan talk-back. Does that sound like sensitivity to a set of fans many of whom loyal Nova readers since Rich Rider’s premiere in 1976? Heck – that doesn’t even conform to Disney’s model of hospitality. Marvel Editorial Staff – you need to go on down to Orlando and undergo Disney’s Hospitality Training course. You should probably send Wacker and Brevoort two weeks early since they’ll need the remedial (i.e. “slow learner”) version.
Fact is, NINO is a failure. It’s a failure conceptually, morally, in entertainment value, and – increasingly – in sales. Potential buyers are voting with their dollars and for the most part they’re voting thumbs down. NINO sells less than Volume IV sold without all the hype. NINO has failed to be embraced in large part by the Rich Rider fans who feel insulted and alienated by the treatment shown them by Marvel’s Editorial staff. Heck – even the cover to NINO #10 lavishly portrays an insult to long-term Nova fans with “idiot” NINO standing in a pose of defiant triumph with his foot on Rich’s helmet. There’s a reason why something similar is NOT seen on any of our actual war memorials. It’s because that’s a universal sign of disrespect to a fallen enemy. Apparently that’s how Wacker et al view the Rich Rider fans and they’ve not so subtly made that clear with NINO #10’s cover. If they wanted to show respect, NINO should have been placed standing behind his fallen BETTERS with his head bowed and his hands folded in front of him. In a way though, NINO #10’s cover sums it all up. Marvel Editorial isn’t sensitive to the desires of the Rider Nova fans. Heck – they didn’t even care what we wanted. They just wanted to dish up some warmed-over and “Lo(e)botomized” Spider-man.
Suggested further reading:
Article by Timelord
Dedicated to Loeb, Bendis, Wacker, Brevoort, and Alonso for their tireless efforts toward making Marvel Cosmic mundane enough to appeal to the lowest common denominator of comic book reader.
The opinions reflected herein are purely the opinions of the author of this article and do not necessarily reflect the official opinions of CosmicBookNews.