Morphogenic Inertia, How Much Can a Creator Change an Iconic Character?

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    Shinra Kuroki
    Shinra Kuroki

    So, when Devil May Cry was rebooted into DMC, I decided I was never going to buy it till they brought back to the original Dante. I found the new Dante to be lacking. If they wanted to make a game around the new Dante, fine, but it will never be a Devil May Cry game in my eyes. The “new” Dante could not fit into the role of Dante in my head & in the heads of many DMC fans. Sure the DMC reboot was an okay game, but I’ll never buy it because my loyalty is to classic Dante & I don’t want a DMC without him.

    Now, it’s clear to me that characters can be changed, some more than others. Take Batman for example, Batman can be a kids cartoon character to a very adults only kind of character. This is because most kids grew up with Batman, and as they grew up they started to enjoy the gritty reboots (I’m not going to detail the tonal shifts of Batman over the years, but you get the gist). So the tone of Batman can shift quite a lot. You still cannot make Batman into a gunslinger. The fans won’t allow it cause of how long he’s been so anti-gun. It’s also hard to change his origin stories unless you specifically state you are doing a parallel dimension Batman or some sort of Batman’s in different time lines kind of deal.

    So, as we can see, some character can be portrayed easily in different lights, but there are some limits to what fans are willing to put up with. I’m going to call this Morphogenic Inertia. Morphogenic because it’s dependent on the collective unconsciousness schema of the character and inertia since it’s a force that prevents creators from changing the character unless a greater force is exhibited. Those greater forces could be making the character better (and by better I mean more popular).

    So the new Captain America run has created quite the controversy over it’s stupid plot twist that has seemed to put the kart in front of the horse. Like most back stories, there is a great deal of Morphogenic Inertia with them. Everyone wants to see there favorite super hero take on new adventures, but when you change something as key as their backstory, there’s an obvious rift between the character they know & the character the writer is trying to force on them.

    While I believe it is always in the copyright holder’s right to do with the character what they will, all I have to say is that forcing a square peg into a round hole is not the best business strategy. You may have an interesting story to tell, but you can’t completely rewrite a character to for fill that purpose. Sometimes you have to take a risk on a new IP. Don’t squander good will over gimmicks & cheap shocks. You audience have invested a lot of time & money into following your characters & if what you write ceases to be that character, good luck finding a new audience.

    "Now, I’ve forgiven the world and myself, too. I teach myself to smile again. One day I’ll get there, I know I will. Even if it takes me not nine, but nine hundred lives." -Susan Ashworth from The Cat Lady


    “So the new Captain America run has created quite the controversy over it’s stupid plot twist that has seemed to put the kart in front of the horse.”

    See, that’s the problem right there. The twist is obviously just there to shake up the status quo, as well as to generate online controversy. Chances are, it’s not going to last — the same way Commissioner Gordon becoming the new Batman in the DC Universe only lasted for about 12 issues, or the whole Superior Spider-Man sage which was over in about a year or two.

    Which is why I, personally, have less and less interest in comic book these days. It seems like all that Marvel and DC are doing these days is just trying to create a buzz about their stories. “Captain America got old, so now Falcon is going to replace him!” “Wolverine is dead for real this time… but ha! Old Man Logan got transported in the main Marvel Universe instead!” “Thor became unworthy (somehow), so now his long-time love interest will become the new Thor!” And so on and so forth. It’s less about writing memorable stories that will become future classics a-la the Winter Soldier storyline or Under the Red Hood and it’s more about drawing attention to their work.

    “Oh no! Superman lost all of his powers and now all of the world knows that he’s Clark Kent! How will he be able to recov-” Never mind. The DC Universe gets relaunched again

    As far as successfully altering a character’s backstory, you can pull it off. But in that case the new story should be an expansion of sorts that shines a new light on the hero’s origins WITHOUT over-riding the previously established cannon. You can write a whole anthology series about Bruce Wayne traveling the world in his younger years to become Batman, as long as he’s training to wage a one-man war against crime. Hell, you can even tamper with the murder of the Waynes. Have it be a hit ordered by one of the crime bosses or something to that effect. But the point is, Bruce Wayne sees his parents get killed by criminals, his idealistic and sheltered worldview gets crushed, he leaves Gotham to train.

    Now, if DC were to write a story where it was secretly the Joker who killed Bruce Wayne’s parents in order to create a perfect nemesis for himself… Ehhhhh. That’s just unnecessary — not to mention extremely contrived.


    You still cannot make Batman into a gunslinger. The fans won’t allow it cause of how long he’s been so anti-gun.

    I’d just like to mention that this is one of the reasons I fucking hated BvS. And yes, I’m still ranting about it to this day.

    In my opinion, sometimes these fans don’t mind these radical changes. To quote the ending of Civil War, when Captain America wasn’t really assassinated! No, he had stepped into a specific spot in the time-space continuum that transported his consciousness to another dimension/time period/universe! And even with events like that, the fans (or most of them) didn’t mind that load of bollocks. But I personally believe that these sort of “twists” are symptoms that the writers are either out of ideas, or they themselves are too afraid of continuity/change of their created universe.

    Personally, I think that Marvel needs to let go of the heroes we know today, and start making new stories. New groups of new heroes facing new villains, but because the community doesn’t want anything new; they simply take the existing heroes and try to twist them into something new which I believe can go either very good (Old Man Logan) or either very wrong (The entire new 52 universe), and my example would have to be with Assassin’s Creed.

    The 2nd, 3rd and 4th entries all feature the same character, Ezio Auditore; which I won’t say it’s bad because he is a very good character and the 2nd game was a pretty good one. Many fans consider it to be the best, but being honest; I was getting tired of Ezio. There’s this whole universe about a war between 2 secret factions taking place through important historical periods and they’re focusing on just one, so obviously me and a couple hundreds would’ve wanted to see something new, someone new; but what happens when AC III is released? The game is berated and insulted but not because it was mediocre (I thought it was good, not great), not because the game didn’t accomplish the expectations that it had shown and most certainly not because the main character wasn’t developed enough, no, it was because it wasn’t about Ezio and it wasn’t in Renaissance Italy. Many fans dismissed the actual flaws of the game or didn’t even tried it because Ezio wasn’t in the game; and the same thing has been happening ever since with every new release. Most of the criticism is because the old character isn’t in the games.

    Something tells me that when it comes to how much can a creator change an iconic character, it comes down to how much change can the community not get annoyed with.

    "The universe is one big joke, and the joke is on us"

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