My Heroes Have Always Been Poindexters

Posted: April 28, 2009 in Threat Quality

wolverineIf this summer’s movie franchises have taught me anything about myself, it’s this: apparently, I was one dull-ass kid. Because I have always preferred the nerdy leaders to the bad-asses.

Here’s Wolverine! And original-flavor Star Trek, with kick-ass Kirk in command! Who wouldn’t get excited at that?

Don’t get me wrong, I am excited – I like the idea that the X-Men franchise actually has the balls to make a movie out of 90’s plotlines that barely made sense (it seems to borrow liberally from the era of “Everything Wolverine believes is actually a memory implant – except the stuff that actually happened!” stories), and with Star Trek, hey, I’m up for a good sci-fi action flick featuring recognizable characters.

But bringing Wolverine and Kirk to the fore just remind me of how much, as a kid, my favorite X-Man was Cyclops. And how I liked Picard’s crew so much more than Kirk’s.

There, I said it: I liked the level-headed, cerebral (and let’s face it, dorky) guys who spent most of their time thinking about the smartest way to win, far more than the popular, action-prone characters.

(While we’re at it, my favorite member of the Fantastic Four has always kirkbeen Reed Richards – which made his wishy-washy presence in the already-annoying FF movies that much more frustrating.)

Where Star Trek is concerned, Kirk was kind of a deal-breaker for me as a kid. Even then, the idea of a seat-of-his-pants swashbuckler as leader never made sense to me. Sure, as a lovable rogue on the crew, a Kirk-type had some legs, but…THIS guy was in charge? Get outta here.

That’s why “Star Trek: The Next Generation” seemed to me like a chance to get it right. Everyone was working toward the smartest, least intergalactic-incident-causing solution to a problem – Picard was a strategist, Riker was dashing but not stupid, Data was Data, O’Brien was an engineer first and an Irishman second, and hell, even Worf  usually kept his bloodlust in check in favor of good results. And I respected that.

If I had to put some sociological…uh…logic, to it, maybe it was that I was growing up at the tail end of the Cold War. By that point in time, after decades of nuclear war panic, it was viewed as imperative to our survival that cooler heads prevail. But I’m probably giving way too much credit to my child-self. More likely, production values played a big part – it’s a lot easier to take TNG’s vision of the future seriously, rather than the original’s 1960’s view (where Kirk is America, and Kirk Is Always Right…and also yellow V-necks are still in style).

That may explain my preference for Cyclops over Wolverine – with that cyclops1neat visor and sleek costume design, Cyclops always seemed more “with-it” than mutton-chopped, brown-suited Wolverine. But he was more admirable, too. When Wolverine wanted to do something, he just went right ahead and did it, because he was The Loner, and that’s what those dudes do. But Cyclops always put the needs of the team first, often at his own expense, and that made him a more heroic figure to me. In contrast, Wolverine always struck me as kind of a selfish prick.

(Ironically, I am excited by the presence in the Wolverine movie of another fan-favorite 90’s character, Gambit – another roguish loner, but also one who generally used manipulation and subterfuge to achieve his desired results, meaning he was more of a plotter – and once again, a winner design-wise, as he wore trenchcoats, and I do love trenchcoats.)

picardAnyway, I guess all this raises a question: What have I been missing about the popularity of devil-may-care ass-kickers like Wolverine and Kirk? Why doesn’t anyone give props to Cyclops* and Picard?

And did anyone else watch the Fantastic Four movies and think, “Come on, Reed should’ve solved this problem in like five minutes…”?

(*Other than Grant Morrison, Joss Whedon, Matt Fraction, and Warren Ellis, who must be in my corner, since they’ve taken great pains to make Cyclops pretty hard-core, after 40-odd years of dorkitude.)

  1. noc noc says:

    I don’t have a good answer, but this post made me realize I never viewed Kirk as the “captain”. Obviously he was, but in my mindset I always considered him just a crew member that– often– had to be reasoned with and pointed in a different, more productive direction.

    But I’ve always seen Picard as the absolute leader of his Enterprise.


  2. Moff says:

    I dunno. I always thought Cyclops was kind of a pussy, but Wolverine was so played out. My favorites tended to be characters like Nightcrawler and Beast (furry Beast), who looked weird but were very good and jumping around and dodging things. I like when people dodge things. I think this comes from the fact that even though my offense sucked, I was an awesome dodger whenever we played dodgeball in elementary school. Other nerdy people bitch about the sadism inherent in dodgeball, but those were my happiest gym classes. I was untouchable. A poof and the odor of brimstone, and the ball passed through where once I had been.

    Picard is one of my personal heroes, though. I think there’s an excellent business book to be written—something like Make It So: What Jean-Luc Picard Can Teach Us About Management. I would do it if I were more organized.

    Also, I don’t like it when I’m not sure which one of you guys has written the post.

  3. Jeff Holland says:

    That was me. Chris is more pro-Wolverine, as I recall.

    And I would buy that Picard book. I would buy it so much I’d have two copies.

  4. Moff says:

    I was pretty sure it was you. Chris usually sounds like he just wants to slap the shit out of someone, and this didn’t.

    Maybe I will write it. That would give me an excuse to buy the whole run of TNG and then write it off as a business expense. I don’t know where we’d keep all those DVDs, but I can worry about that later.

  5. braak says:

    I am pro-Wolverine. I actually was planning on writing a post about what I like about Wolverine, so maybe I’ll do that tomorrow.

    HOWEVER. I will always maintain that Picard is a far superior captain than Kirk ever was. I think that this was attributable to the fact that, in the original series, the Enterprise was just one of many ships that the federation had, and this one had a kind of zany captain running things–but by the time TNG comes around, the Enterprise is the Federation’s flagship, and so they need the best captain in town, even if he’s a weirdly English Frenchman.

    Also: Picard on management would be great. You can tell, because he sits at that table, and he listens to everyone’s ideas, asks questions when he needs to, and then decides. POW!

  6. Jeff Holland says:

    “…because he sits at that table, and he listens to everyone’s ideas, asks questions when he needs to, and then decides. POW!”

    Funny you should mention this, since I realized after watching “G.I. Joe: Resolute” that this is one of my favorite Warren Ellis tropes – one character asking an expert to explain things in clear terms, and making a decision based on that. (In this case, it’s Gung-Ho sitting down with support staff and saying, “Okay, boys and girls. Talk to me about weapons.” And LISTENING.)

    (Aaaron Sorkin played with this a lot on “West Wing,” and I loved it there, too.)

    So yeah, I’m a sucker for the idea of leaders who seek the council of bright, well-spoken specialists. I can’t imagine why I might feel that way in this day and age…

  7. V.I.P. Referee says:

    No recent political parallels, anybody? They might touch upon why Picard would currently be more popular than Kirk. Anyhow, I always preferred Picard, too. And they even brought back those trendy v-neck shirts in the later series…for Deanna Troi. I started watching “Star Trek: The Next Generation” at 11 years old and didn’t really get why her costume was different from the others’; by 13, it seemed so much clearer to me. I doubt it had anything to do with Avant-garde therapy methods.

  8. Jeff Holland says:

    And thinking of both Warren Ellis and starship captains, I’d suggest everyone go track down “Switchblade Honey,” which was Ellis’s riff on “What if a bad-ass MF like Ray Winstone was the captain of the Enterprise?”

    Basically this means everyone smokes and drinks beer on the Enterprise, which, in spite of its “Wait, what just happened?” ending, still makes it pretty amusing.

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