The Unbelievable Gwenpool - The spiritual successor

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The Unbelievable Gwenpool - The spiritual successor

Postby skim172 » Sat Jul 29, 2017 4:34 am

So, Dr. McNinja is over - and these forums are, as expected, quite empty. It was an amazing experience while it lasted.

But here's a thing - if you want more Dr. McNinja ... try reading Gwenpool. Also written by our esteemed Dr. Chris Hastings.

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WAIT STOP, COME BACK. Seriously, hear me out. This is absolutely the closest you'll get to the ol' Doc himself. And I say that as someone who doesn't actually like superhero comics.

This series has an odd origin. It started as a one-off artwork of one Marvel comic book character (Deadpool) crossed over with another comic book character ("Spider-Gwen"). Basically - it was fanart (by official Marvel artists, but still). And if that sounds dumb - well, that's cuz it is.

But it got popular, for some reason only comic book fans might be able to explain, and that piece of art became a hugely popular thing with Marvel fans. That led to them turning it into an actual character with her own series.

It's dumb. And these comics are often dumb. (Sorry - did i mention I'm not really a fan of superhero comics?) What a ridiculous idea. Maybe next they'll make a crossover character of My Little Pony and the Ninja Turtles. BUT - they did one really smart thing:

They gave full creative control of the character to Chris Hastings. They let him take the character and imagine her as he wanted. Keep the name, keep the costume - but you can do whatever else you want. And as we Dr. McNinja fans know, Dr. Hastings is a creative genius.

So Chris Hastings, being smart, completely threw away any idea of the character being a crossover of Deadpool and Arachna-Gwen. (Can you imagine the crazy comic book logic they'd use to explain that origin?) No, his version of Gwenpool is a character who is entirely unique, has never before existed, and despite the name, has nothing to do with any character or Marvel property ever. Gwenpool - or rather "Gwen Poole" - is a completely new character entirely - entirely - of Chris Hastings' design. (Maybe not entirely - I'm sure he has editors).

This Gwenpool is someone whose name is just "Gwen Poole" - and she has no relation or connection to any previous Marvel character. And here's the thing. Not only is she an entirely new character, but because (a) she's a C-list character among Marvel's stables, and (b) her backstory precludes any possibility of her having any connection or relation to any existing Marvel character - Hastings can basically write the story and the character as he wants. He can go full-Hastings on this - no having to worry about the canon or the crossovers or the timelines or alternate Earths. Which means he's writing a Christopher Hastings original every time.

Which is why I'm loving it. You hear his voice in the dialogue, the jokes, the plotlines. Yes, the story is quite different from The Adventures of Dr. McNinja. But the spirit that was in Dr. McNinja is in every word of Gwenpool.

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As for the story - I'll be frank, it's not gonna be a pitch that grabs your attention. Gwen Poole is a comic book fan - in the real world. By some unknown means, she gets transported into the Marvel universe - which is, for her, the best possible thing that could happen because she really, really likes comic books. She adopts a name and a costume and starts superheroing despite having no powers or abilities, because this is basically her dream come true.

It's a pitch that has some interesting ideas, but it's not something you haven't heard of before. What makes it great, though, is the execution. Hasting's writing has all the wit, spark, and imagination of Dr. McNinja. Like, when Gwenpool is being hunted by aliens - she solves the problem by dressing up a pig in her costume and going off for lunch.

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Hastings doesn't do the art - but his writing is there. And the style, I think, is actually more fitting than Hasting's style. The art is cutesy enough to hold up the comedic, lighthearted tone - but also just realistic enough that it doesn't suffocate you with cutesy sweetness.

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Interestingly, I think Gwenpool shares some overarching themes with Dr. McNinja. Gwen Poole is from the real world and ends up as a no-name background character in the insane superhero world. She gets by because she can use her knowledge of comic backstories and fiction tropes to cover for the fact that she has no ability to fight at all. Dr. McNinja is a ninja who's also a doctor - he treats lumberjack disease and also diabetes. He drives a sensible, efficient 2007 Honda Accord - which he briefly gives up for a rad magical motorbike that is also an evil unicorn. He walks a cute dog (he just a baaaaaby) that gets eaten by a velociraptor. A lot of the humor in both series comes from juxtaposing the mundane against the utterly ridiculous.

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And of course, the characteristic internal monologue that Hasting's characters have about the most mundane things.

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Also, of course, Hastings' characters have important opinions re: pizza.

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As previously mentioned, I'm not much of a superhero comics fan. I've actually read quite a few, but I've only really liked a few. I find it hard to get past the impenetrable wall of lore and legacy - how every character has so much crossover with ever other character (Batman is a lone vigilante fighting a desperate one-man crusade in the streets of Gotham against crime ... along with Batgirl, Batwoman, like twenty different Robins, a corporation of Batmans, the Justice League, and pretty much every other superhero in existence in the DC universe who happens to visit). And I really am not a fan of the sometimes-completely insane comic book logic that I'm expected to accept with a straight face. "Batman didn't really die, he got magically time-traveled and now he's in cowboy times" - I mean, c'mon. How am I supposed to take the daily high school problems of Spiderman seriously when he exists in a universe where the Earth gets apocalypse'd like every 5 years?

Gwenpool neatly steps around all that. The character's own backstory completely precludes her having any existing lore or connections - and as mentioned above, this also frees up the plot without having to worry about "preserving the canon" or whatnot. And the series satirizes the rather dumb aspects of comic books, which I am fully behind.

But it's Chris Hastings and his writing that makes it special. There've been a few Gwenpool stories written by other people - and they're uniformly terrible. So my advice to every Dr. McNinja fan: Give Gwenpool a try ... as long as Hastings keeps writing it.

I've heard that the series isn't really selling all that well. Not sure if that's true, but if not - a real shame. Because it's the closest we're gonna get to our favorite neighborhood doctor.

TL,DR: Gwenpool is really good - because Chris Hastings writes it.

So give it a try. ;)

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Re: The Unbelievable Gwenpool - The spiritual successor

Postby mikekearn » Sat Sep 02, 2017 6:29 am

I'd heard about Gwenpool, mostly because I follow Hastings and he's mentioned it, but I never knew what the backstory was over it. You've convinced me to check it out for real. Thanks, Internet stranger.
"I will not succumb to temptation, unless she's cute."

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