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Author Topic: Favorite "fan theory?"  (Read 15704 times)
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JulianPerez
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« on: November 13, 2006, 11:05:25 AM »

You know - explanations that fans come up with for gaps and other things in the original material. The majority of theories of this type are pure mental coprophagy (there was one especially awful fangirl that posited that Superman and Supergirl were secretly married years before Crisis, and horribly enough, wrote fanfiction to this effect) but here are a couple good ones out there.

My favorite Superman theory was one created by Al Shroeder, who said that Kryptonite radiation is harmless in and of itself, but contact with invulnerable Krypton matter causes it to break into secondary waves, which ARE harmful to living things. This explains why Kryptonite is not dangerous to Kryptonians when they have their powers removed - something that no other explanation for why Kryptonite works sees fit to take into account.

Great Rao also had a really, really great theory about how Kryptonite came from on Earth-3: the explosion of Krypton sent some particles of it into that universe (which we know to exist, considering Earth-3 Ultraman's Dad was in the Phantom Zone on Earth-1). This leaves open the very scary possibility that Ultraman might come to Earth-1 and start exposing himself to tons and tons of the stuff.

There was also that book THE SCIENCE OF SUPERMAN, and the idea that Superman can only see in the Infrared when he uses his Heat-Vision, which is a fascinating limitation.

By far the most dementedly hilarious - and famous - Superman theory was by Larry Niven in "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex," which I am amazed has not been put on this website somewhere. It features the greatest quote ever: "Meanwhile, thousands of flying sperm were flying over Metropolis." This almost matches what may be the most unintentionally hilarious moment in comics history, in Bill Mantlo's CHAMPIONS where Black Goliath rips off Stilt-Man's leg and then beats him with it. I swear, when I read that, I laughed so hard I couldn't breathe.

My all time favorite has to be the one Phillip Jose Farmer gave in TARZAN ALIVE! where he figured that the strange race of apes that raised Tarzan (who possessed things like true spoken language, the beginnings of culture, meat-eating, and animism) were not in fact "true" apes but may have been partially human anthropoids: possibly Australiopithecus Robustus or Paranthropus. If the "apes" were proto-humans, it would explain why one of them would kidnap Jane, clearly sexually attracted to her.

There also is the Transformers fan explanation for how Transformers like Megatron and Soundwave were able to change size without violating the law of conservation of matter, and explains where things "go" like Optimus Prime's trailer when he transforms to robot mode. Each Transformer has a "subspace" pocket (not unlike Sidewinder from the Serpent Society, or the Miracleman Family), where they can keep things like extra mass or a tractor trailer. This theory is so sound, and so widely accepted that I think the recent 2000s comics actually mention subspace pockets!

Then there are all the assorted theories about where Ultron's brain engrams came from. Kurt Busiek put this matter to rest forever back in an astonishing and shocking way back in "Ultron Unleashed," and gave one hell of an explanation, too, but it was fun watching people go back and forth on this while it was up in the air. At one point, everybody was considered: from Baron Zemo, to Captain America, to the idea Hank Pym and the Wasp had an aborted child.

One of my theories was the idea that the nearly identical powerhouse super-robots found in every civilization of the the Marvel Universe, from the Indestructibles of Rigel, the famous Kree Sentries, the ITT (Integrated Techno-Troid) that protects the Skrull Emperor, and Galactus's Punisher unit, all were originally a single technology used by the race or races that became the Elders of the Universe, and thus the technology diffused and spread, like the first people that used the wheel.

Phillip Jose Farmer put forth the idea that L. Horace Holly from SHE was related to Monk of Doc Savage's Fabulous Five (explaining their baboonlike ugliness) but it was one other Doc Savage website (a link to whom alas, I have forgotten) that put forth the idea that the pair of them might have gotten their weird looks from the fact they're related to H.P. Lovecraft's Arthur Jermyn, whose great-grandfather had children by a female ape from a city deep in Africa populated by Ape-Human hybrids. Is it possible this unnamed lost city may be Tarzan's Opar?

Alternatively, it's possible both Monk and L. Horace Holly may have gotten their apelike appearance from even further back. There's a story that St. Peter Damian in the 11th Century found a Count Gulielmus whose pet ape became his wife's lover. On seeing the count and his wife together, the ape attacked him.
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Permanus
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« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2006, 12:42:34 PM »

Of course, "The Master Hypnotist of Metropolis" was originally a fan theory - I think it was an idea of Beppe Sabbatini's, who later went on to script some stuff for DC. I quite like the idea of the Kryptonian lenses in Clark's glasses somehow giving off this low-level hypnosis to make him look quite different from Superman.

Another one that springs to mind was something I read in the Incredible Hulk letter column ages ago, in which one reader rather reasonably asked himself where all the extra muscle comes from when Bruce Banner transforms into the Hulk. I can't remember the exact details of his explanation, but I think it had to do with drawing gamma radiation from another dimension and turning it into muscle. Hmmm.

It's interesting that readers are so encouraged to come up with this kind of explanation in comics - think of the Marvel No-Prize, which was awarded precisely for explaining plot holes and inconsistencies. I can't think of any other form where the readers (or viewers or listeners) are so ready not only to forgive these flaws, but also to patch them up.
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« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2006, 03:45:09 PM »

I have another fan theory that I came up with a while back:

As we already know, the Guardians of the Universe had a plan to breed the ultimate Green Lantern - this plan would have reached fruition with the offspring of Jor-El and Lara.   Here's the new part:  Another element of the Guardians' plan was that this "super" GL would eventually become the leader of the Green Lantern Corps and bring it to new heights, ultimately taking on, and defeating, all threats to life and to civilization - specifically the growing threat of Darkseid's search for the Anti-Life equation.

Darkseid forsaw this fatal impedence to his power, so he destroyed Krypton in order the thwart the Guardians and prevent the success of their plan.

However, you can't fight fate.  Unbeknownst to him, the infant Kal-El did survive due to the incredible skills and sheer determination of his father - Jor-El...
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« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2006, 03:57:58 PM »

I never really knew how people found out about fan theories.  Now, certainly, with the internet, but in the "old days" how did people know what other fans thought?  Was this the kind of stuff that filled those old fanzines?

As for PJ Farmer, I never really liked the way he kept tying together all the fictional characters of past, present and future in one huge family tree.  To me, it dimishes the importance of the individual to suggest that some genetic destiny accounts for his or her greatness, and it belittles the human race as a whole to limit all greatness to one or two bloodlines.  It turns fictional heroes into a sort of aristocracy, which is anathema to my American upbringing and actually runs counter to the raison d'etre of many of the characters involved.  (Similarly, I always hated those cruddy old 70s "documentaries" that suggested space aliens built the pyramids.  Not because it's goofy "science," but because it insults the Egyptians.  Frankly I'm more impressed by the notion they did it themselves).

As far as the gorilla kidnapping Jane, the suggestion of "rape by ape" (dibs on that as a band name!) was a common theme in pulpy lit of that era (see "King Kong," among others).  There's no rational explanation for it, it's just a popular plot device.  With probable racial undertones, as the Tarzan books pretty much promote white supremacy, when you get right down to it.

I remember an old collection of fan articles on Star Trek that explained pretty neatly how Spock could have been born, despite the fact that a red-blooded mother could never carry a green-blooded fetus to term.  It was kind of disappointing to see that work unused when they showed a normal birth in "Star Trek 5."  Then again, a lot of things in that film were disappointing...

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« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2006, 12:12:57 AM »

I never really knew how people found out about fan theories.  Now, certainly, with the internet, but in the "old days" how did people know what other fans thought?  Was this the kind of stuff that filled those old fanzines?

Kind of.  In talking with fans of that era and reading up on the subject it was fanzines.  It was fans writing to each other after getting addresses from the letters pages.  It was APAs.  It was fans meeting at cons and discussing things.  Most rumors started from people talking to pros at conventions and the circulating them through the above methods. 
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« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2006, 12:27:27 AM »

My all time favorite has to be the one Phillip Jose Farmer gave in TARZAN ALIVE! where he figured that the strange race of apes that raised Tarzan (who possessed things like true spoken language, the beginnings of culture, meat-eating, and animism) were not in fact "true" apes but may have been partially human anthropoids: possibly Australiopithecus Robustus or Paranthropus. If the "apes" were proto-humans, it would explain why one of them would kidnap Jane, clearly sexually attracted to her.
Probably the biggest problem with this explanation is that Australopithecus was an upright savanna dweller, and the largest species (bosei and robustus) were mostly robust in the jaws and teeth for grinding grasses.  Tarzan's apes were massively strong and large, and very adept in trees with long arms.
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« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2006, 03:34:51 PM »

-I always hated the "Superman as Saviour" stories, especially when they made the pleasant mythic overtones of the story (Superman as foundling/orphan/alien) too overt.  I prefer an accidental/evolutionist history for Superman rather than the genetically engineered/prophecy idea.  Sorry, Great Rao.

-Fave science/theory: I like all fan theories, no matter how dopey.  I dislike some of Philip Jose Farmer's myth-stitching for the reasons stated by Nightwing but I do like the idea of the Omniverse --the fan effort to link all superhero and sci-fi universes together somehow (there was a zine by that name edited I think by Mark Gruenwald?).  I also like the Background Energy Mass theory of superpowers that explains shape-changing, super-strength and other physics-defying aspects of superheroes.  I haven't seen the math on this (and wouldn't understand it if I did) but I'm willing to trust it and champion it and put it on a level with all that super-string and dimensional talk that quantum physics types go on about.

-My own pet theory concerns the Legion of Superheroes and why they act and dress like a bunch of teenage rejects from a bad science fiction pulp circa 1950.  Y'see, in the future humans are so advanced and powerful that they are incredibly bored and must mentally inhibit themselves in order to keep from going crazy.  Some of them who maintain vaguely humanoid shapes and pretensions affect the form and mental attitudes of a bunch of teenage rejects from a bad sci-fi pulp circa 1950, dressing like superheroes and pretending to have girlfriends and life-threatening adventures.  A form of intellectual cosmic slumming --Michael Moorcock's Dancers at the End of Time meets 20th Century comic book nerds.

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JulianPerez
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« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2006, 06:19:52 AM »

Another fan theory on Superman I liked was by Al Shroeder, where he said that Superboy and Abin Sur probably met, and it may have been Abin Sur who taught Superboy how to navigate in space.

A lot of the things that people take for granted as being a product of the internet and the internet age have been around for a VERY, VERY long time. There are fanzines and Amateur Press Associations, for sure, but fanfiction is also very, very old...as old as the sixties and seventies, when they were mailed around in manilla envelopes. 

Even erotic fanfiction has been around for a while. There's an apocryphal story that Shatner was shown a very early Kirk/Spock slash fiction story on the set of Star Trek's second season...and consequently went absolutely ape!

Similarly, the term "Mary Sue" is not a product of the internet age, but goes back to an especially legendarily horrible late sixties Star Trek fanzine.

Quote from: Great Rao
I have another fan theory that I came up with a while back:

As we already know, the Guardians of the Universe had a plan to breed the ultimate Green Lantern - this plan would have reached fruition with the offspring of Jor-El and Lara.   Here's the new part:  Another element of the Guardians' plan was that this "super" GL would eventually become the leader of the Green Lantern Corps and bring it to new heights, ultimately taking on, and defeating, all threats to life and to civilization - specifically the growing threat of Darkseid's search for the Anti-Life equation.

Darkseid forsaw this fatal impedence to his power, so he destroyed Krypton in order the thwart the Guardians and prevent the success of their plan.

Interesting, but making Darkseid responsible for the destruction of Krypton seems totally wrong for the same reason that making anyone responsible for it (e.g. Black Zero) seems wrong: because the tragedy of it all was that it was senseless nature or the gods or fate, instead of being an act of malice and genocide.

Also, Darkseid is a schemer and a plotter. Something as unsubtle as blowing up a whole planet is within his power but just not his style.

But you are asking the right questions: because of all the factors you mention, to what extent did Darkseid take an interest in Krypton? Was he watching it? Was it possible he had contact with the planet, maybe even with someone like Jor-El? It would be interesting to know the answer. Even if Darkseid wasn't responsible for the destruction of Krypton, he would certainly take an interest in Kal-El as the sole survivor. It's very likely that Darkseid and Superman met a considerable amount of time before.

Quote from: '"nightwing"
I never really knew how people found out about fan theories.  Now, certainly, with the internet, but in the "old days" how did people know what other fans thought?  Was this the kind of stuff that filled those old fanzines?

Don't forget letters columns. As Permanus pointed out, those things are fantastic because of how great they are in creating a sense of community. Some of the more interesting details are present in lettercols: for instance, the explanation for why Lana Lang never suspected Clark Kent was Superman because they jumped from Smallville to Metropolis. "Pete Ross moved from Smallville to Metropolis too. Does that make HIM Superman?" The editor responds. "Lots of small-town kids move to the big city."

Quote from: Nightwing
(Similarly, I always hated those cruddy old 70s "documentaries" that suggested space aliens built the pyramids.  Not because it's goofy "science," but because it insults the Egyptians.  Frankly I'm more impressed by the notion they did it themselves).

Awww, c'mon! I always loved those spooky seventies shows like IN SEARCH OF... with Leonard Nimoy. In fact, I wanted to start an IN SEARCH OF... fansite a while back, though I thought better of it as I wasn't sure how to upload movie clips.

First, there was the ultra, ultra spooky synthesizer music, made all the more frightening because they usually synched it up to pictures of the Easter Island heads or whatever.

Then you had the way Leonard paused before important words and then repeated them. as in: "We begin now the search." (Dramatic Pause) "The search...for Bigfoot."

This is astonishingly easy to parody. As in, "Here we come to Fort Ross in California, where many a cap was popped into many an Indian. But was a cap ever popped in the behind...the behind of Bigfoot?"

I also loved how Leonard Nimoy was never willing to really "rough it." The camera crews went over to the godforsaken armpits of the earth, but Nimoy was always somewhere comfortable in a jacket sipping brandy. The furthest he ever went in the series that I can recall was at a coffeehouse within sight of the pyramids.

I mean, how often did they do this: "The search...the search for Bigfoot has taken us here...here, to this four-star lodge..."

There have been other "Unsolved Mystery" shows, but it never got better than Spock trying to show how Greek temples in the Aegean from the air create a Maltese Cross or something.

One especially hilarious episode (at least in a black way with the 20/20 foresight of our globally warming world) was one where they tried to argue that soon, an Ice Age will rock mankind.

My favorite part of IN SEARCH OF... was how they vascillated between theories that are considered "out there" even by the terrifyingly low standards of crackpot historians (such as how they tried to argue that an alien black hole transponder is below the Bermuda Triangle, or how without the slightest trace of irony, they referred to the Tiahuanaco ruins as "Earth Base One"), to conservative historical pieces (they were talking about the Vikings in America for instance, back when this was a "fringe" theory).

My personal favorite episode was the one on Coral Castle, where supposedly a 4'11", crazy Latvian immigrant used his mind powers to create a palace to a dead girlfriend. I say favorite, because I worked at Coral Castle for a summer to make some pocket money.

My favorite part of the tour was where, on behalf of the park, we were supposed to emphasize to visitors that Ed was NOT a spy for the Axis powers. They deny it just enough that it became plausible.

Quote from: nightwing
As for PJ Farmer, I never really liked the way he kept tying together all the fictional characters of past, present and future in one huge family tree.  To me, it dimishes the importance of the individual to suggest that some genetic destiny accounts for his or her greatness, and it belittles the human race as a whole to limit all greatness to one or two bloodlines.  It turns fictional heroes into a sort of aristocracy, which is anathema to my American upbringing and actually runs counter to the raison d'etre of many of the characters involved.

I don't necessarily have a problem with all these characters being related, but PJF had a tendency to replace one straightforward idea with a complicated theory that negates his original premise. He started off TARZAN ALIVE by saying he was going to treat Tarzan as having really happened, and says that some of his feats of strength must surely have been exaggerations by his author. Okay, I can buy that.

But then he goes into an explanation that because Tarzan wasn't massive, he must have mutated muscles. Wha - ?

If I do have any misgivings about the PJF explanations, it is that it points out how ruthlessly Anglo-Saxon Protestant the entire heroic community is. This is true without PJF having to point it out, but if you can have everybody be related it brings the point home further.

Quote from: nightwing
I remember an old collection of fan articles on Star Trek that explained pretty neatly how Spock could have been born, despite the fact that a red-blooded mother could never carry a green-blooded fetus to term.  It was kind of disappointing to see that work unused when they showed a normal birth in "Star Trek 5."  Then again, a lot of things in that film were disappointing...

Well, Spock's "natural birth" in that scene doesn't necessarily mean he wasn't laboratory created and then placed in his mother's womb to develop.

The original TREK fan magazine, pre-Next Generation, was one really great source of speculative essays. My all-time favorite was one where they speculated what sort of home planet the tribbles must have.

One that was in the PJF mold was where they speculated Doc Savage might be a Vulcan. Doc Savage had strength that dwarfed even that of very strong men; his hearing was beyond human range (which is not entirely possible to attribute to exercises), he used a variation of the Vulcan Neck Pinch, he was very logical and never showed strong emotion ever, and never showed strong interest in women. There are moments (see THE CZAR OF FEAR, among others) where Doc did something very much like the Vulcan Mind Meld: he gets information by a criminal by gripping the crook's face (!) and then asking questions. Doc, like Spock, has weird powers over women (see "The Omega Glory").
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