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  1. #1
    New In Town
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    When is the defeat of a character good writing?

    There is a pattern I sometimes see on the internet that admittedly I too am a part of. When someones favorite character gets defeated by another character with similar power levels sometimes the fans post scans of a one time feat of the character with decades of history which never got mentioned again and argue that the defeat is bad writing. On the other hand if the character goes against someone clearly more powerful sometimes they say their favorite is used as cannon fodder and it's again bad writing. So my question is when would you consider the defeat of your favorite character good writing. In what scenario would you say the writer did a good job where your favorite character hits the ground?

  2. #2
    Mad Man with a Box! HalJordan4184's Avatar
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    To me, a defeat is good writing when it furthers the story, isn't used as a trope, and fits with whats going on in a seamless manner.

    Some examples of good defeats:

    Superman killing the Pocket Universe Kryptonians after they murdered everyone on Earth and threatened to come to the main universe. This wasn't a physical defeat of a character, but a moral defeat. Superman, who has championed the notion there is always another way, finds himself faced with 3 beings that totally outclass him in power, who have killed all life on the planet, and are trying to find a way to invade other universes/planets. He is in a position, where no matter what he does with these prisoners, if left alive, they WILL kill again, and probably on scales unimaginable to anyone. He sentences them to death, exposes them to kryptonite, and kills them. He then returns home, and is utterly broken. Superman broke his main rule. He violated what he considered one of his core moral principles, that all life is sacred and he is not one who can or should judge someone's worth. This led to real consequences for the character at the time, and was a great story for how you present Superman a challenge. It also involved him being defeated by the challenge, and having to learn to live with that defeat and figure out a real solution to not letting it destroy him.

    I was also a fan of Kingdom Come for this reason. The main character defeats aren't necessarily physical, though some are. It's the defeat of the idea of them in general that drives that story. It also included very "real" reactions from those characters to their defeats.

    As far as physical defeats, Batman getting his back broken by Bane. Served the story well, moved things along, and didn't get written off the next issue. Hal Jordan defeating the Green Lantern Corps because he was corrupted by fear and grief thereby becoming Parallax. Superman/Doomsday was a great story I think, for simply shaking things up, but not dropping the whole concept after a couple issues.

    Terrible defeats to me tend to follow along the lines of Superman/Flash races, a ton of the Dragonball/Z/GT/Super hero defeats inevitably leading to massive power ups and new forms, the fridging trope. These are ridiculous on many levels for many reasons. The Superman/Flash races particulary, because most never serve an actual story purpose, and it's undone, redone, retconned, etc three issues later. For the whole history of the characters, the Flash has been faster, but you will find many, many, many stories, panels, etc where Superman somehow does something faster, or wins a race by chance.

    In short, it's good to have defeat for your character, when it serves a real story purpose, drives the development in a good way, and makes sense overall.

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