dead fictional mothers club

“Why did you say that name?!”

(spoilers for The Batman ahead)

I’m back from seeing The Batman and it’s a very good movie, absolutely deserving of all the hype. Excellent deconstruction of Bats and his supporting cast. But there’s one character I want to single out specifically…

As the founder of the Dead Fictional Mothers Club (it contains one member, me) I’ve always been quite interested in how Martha Wayne is used in Batman stories. I recollect the Nolan movies barely acknowledged her as anything other than an afterthought, and I admit it, I have quite a lot of goodwill towards Batman vs Superman and that scene simply because it didn’t do the same thing.

Now we have The Batman and Martha gets a new backstory, or I gather a mostly new one anyway: after witnessing a horrible tragedy as a child she suffered serious mental health issues and was sent to an institution. This information was used by a journalist to blackmail Thomas Wayne and it led to not only his and Martha’s deaths but also the various increasingly horrific things we see taking place throughout the movie. And I walked out of the theater thinking, “WAIT A MINUTE. Could a lot of this have potentially been prevented if a woman’s mental illness hadn’t been treated like a shameful thing?!”

Unfortunately the movie doesn’t go much into this, which is fair in many ways, it’s got a lot going on. But I do think – and bear in mind I’m not thrilled about the portrayal of the Riddler here either – that the Batman franchise in general has A LOT of heavy lifting to do when it comes to mental health stigma. So I really wish they’d taken the opportunity to delve into Martha’s backstory here. Hell, her thoughts, even. There’s lots of talk right now about potential Batman spinoffs, well, I want a Martha Wayne one.

By the way, that picture up there is seen for a couple of seconds in the film, but is also found on the secret tie-in website built for the movie. You can find it here! But I wonder what that image is meant to invoke when the audience sees it. Fear? Revulsion? I hope not.

(no subject)

If you’ve been around my fanfiction for long enough, you might remember Faith In Humanity, my 30-odd chapter ode to the Spider-Man verse and the original trilogy in particular. Among the main characters was Emily, Harry’s late mother. Back then (this was the ’00s) she didn’t have a surname or much characterisation at all really. She was essentially the founding member of my Dead Fictional Mothers Club. I was fascinated by how heroes and protagonists never had mothers. Why were they always the ones to die?

So imagine how gleeful I was to realise that in the comics she is now not dead! It happened ages ago, but I only heard about it now. It’s funny, she looks exactly how I imagined her.

And the dyamic between her and Norman (he’s red now, whattya know) is pretty much how I always thought it would be.  I love this panel here:

She’s finally got a last name, Lyman. Harry has it too now! And all the Osborn-Lymans (Norman 100% does not count) have gotten to be together:

And I don’t know what happens after this particular story. I know Harry, rather understandably, refuses to call her ‘mom’. But hey! She’s alive!

I’ll always love Harry and the Osborn story. This new (uh, new-ish) development is so pleasing to me, you have no idea. (Emily also features quite a lot in the new Spider-Man game, which is also very pleasing to me, although she’s definitely dead in that one.)

Anyway! I put Faith in Humanity up on AO3 today.





(Still on Black Panther, sorry…)

I can’t stop thinking about what might’ve happened if Erik had lived.

Fuck I know, right? Goddamn.

My mom thinks he’s still alive and I kind of agree. Why? They traveled from South Korea to Wakanda and Shuri took a bullet out of a man’s spine. He was up and about two days later, to his eternal surprise. Why would Erik be dead in a country this advanced? Especially when he had a fair claim in their eyes?

No lie, I saw T’Challa leading him up to watch the sunset and knew that T’Challa was deliberately choosing to let him die and got very very angry with him. And at the same time, that was Erik’s specific request–T’Challa asked–and I was angry again because now is when you listen? Not when Erik demanded to be acknowledged, not at any other point–you listen only when your enemy requests something you personally would find convenient?

(I actually have a lot of places where I want to yell at T’Challa for his mistakes despite holding him in high esteem as a character and a leader–because this story is T’Challa making political mistake after mistake when the chips come down, even though he does do right in the end and is trying his absolute best. But. He ought to have listened to Nakia more, and he should have pause to think about what Nakia and others might say as he chooses to make decisions. Or, hell, pause and ask Okoye, even–and they would often disagree, but their points would have clarified a lot of the unspoken assumptions and ideas that underlie T’Challa’s thinking and decisions.)

And I was angry a third time, because this could all have been prevented with a touch of compassion from a ruler at so many points: compassion from T’Chaka when he met his brother and listening to his plea; compassion from T’Chaka meeting his brother by doing literally anything nonlethal to defuse the situation when his brother found out he wasn’t the only Wakandan; compassion from T’Chaka at least bringing his brother’s wife and child home, to atone for murdering him.

Compassion from T’Challa: when Erik strode in and approached, acknowledging him immediately and explaining he’d only just now found out himself would have undercut an awful lot of Erik’s righteous fury. Honesty and compassion about his failure to capture the Claw, compassion for the feelings of the Rhino Clan. (He doesn’t frame his decision to go after the Claw that way, by the way; did you notice? He frames it as a display of Wakanda’s strength against its enemies.) God, even some follow-up with the Gorilla Clan would have gone a long fucking way. A clan comes out of obscurity it’s lurked in for generations to challenge your rule, and you don’t even comment?

Compassion when he found out what Erik’s arguments were. Listening. Asking Erik to prepare a speech, perhaps a speech to the people of Wakanda introducing himself: allowing the people to have a say in Wakanda’s future before acting, and giving things time to cool down and giving Wakandans some time to respond to Erik. (And buying Erik off with the promise of a platform to share what had happened to him, with all the potential blame for that going straight onto dead T’Chaka, leaving T’Challa to wash his hands of his father’s mistakes and do better going forward.)

No. It’s all “not listening not listening not listening OKAY TIME TO FIGHT.” For fuck’s sake, man! He didn’t have to die! You didn’t have to play right into his setup, right into his preconceived notions of how his visit to Wakanda would go! You didn’t have to be so predictably unprepared! You are supposed to be a scholar, T’Challa; how have you missed this history and political training in all your education? Take control of the narrative and shape it! You have power, man; don’t stay paralyzed, but learn to shoulder the mantle and use the weight of that power and its history to lead to justice!

at least bringing his brother’s wife and child home

This might need its own thread eventually, but this thought threw something into sharp relief for me – where is Erik’s mother, anyway? She’s nowhere to be found. I Googled “erik killmonger’s mother” to see if she showed up or was named in the comics but I don’t think she is. Does the Black Panther script even outright say she’s dead? I can’t remember.

But who was she? Did Erik love her? Did she know about Wakanda? Did she tell Erik different stories? Would he have liked to see her one more time too? Was she where he got the name “Stevens” from? (I really like to think that’s the case, to be honest.)  I just have, gaaaah, so many questions.

The “Martha” scene in Batman v Superman gets so much flack and I’ve never understood why

like, to me – that was a big deal. I mean, why do Martha Kent and Martha Wayne share a name in the first place? Because back in the days they were invented, no-one cared enough to differentiate them! For ages, they (like so many mothers in comics) were merely minor satellites of their famous sons, and not nearly as important as their sons’ fathers either. (The way the Nolan Batman movies treat Thomas Wayne as Batman’s driving force, with Martha only an afterthought, is SUPER INFURIATING you guys)

But the Martha Scene! It suddenly made both of them THE MOST IMPORTANT! Shaped the whole plot! Made the fact that these women existed and were mothers A HUGE FRIGGING DEAL! It was really satisfying, you guys. It honest to god felt like a correction of an injustice.