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Prequels - The Superboy Problem

Banes at 12:00AM, Feb. 25, 2016
tags: Banes, prequels

We all loved Breaking Bad, right? Or maybe you didn't. Or you didn't see it. But happily, the second season of the prequel series, Better Call Saul, started up last week! So far it's fantastic!

Featuring a lot of the same behind-camera talent and some returning actors, Saul is revisiting the Breaking Bad world, but has some differences tonally. It's not a wacky comedy, but has more humor to it than BB did, especially in the new season.

It made me think of Bates Motel, a show I was VERY skeptical about. How could there be a prequel to Psycho, telling the Norman Bates teenaged years, without being ridiculous?

But it grabbed me right away. What a terrific show! It's the same genre as Psycho, a thriller, with a lot of the elements of that movie: Fear of the cops, violence, insanity, sexuality, and deception are explored, with fantastic performances by Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates and Freddie Highmore as Norman.

It feels like Psycho, and even though the world has been expanded in all directions, it hasn't gone too far. The exploration of the corrupt town is thrilling, and there is an urgency to the whole thing, despite the fact that we know where Norman Bates and his mother end up. I'm on the edge of my seat watching Norman turn into…well, a psycho.

For some reason, Bates Motel and Better Call Saul don't seem to have the Superboy problem: the lack of interest that comes from the fact that we KNOW Superboy lives to become Superman, so we're never worried about him in the Superboy stories.

I guess it has something to do with going deeper into the characters' lives, and in spite of knowing where Norman, Norma, Saul and Mike end up, we're thrilled to find out HOW they got there. The stakes are not just life and death, but a matter of HOW the characters collide with their eventual fates.

Prequels are risky ventures. But if the source material is deeply understood, there's no reason why they can't work just fine!

So what do you think of prequels?



KAM at 6:19AM, Feb. 26, 2016

As for prequel series because the main character was dead, there was a radio series called "The Adventures of Harry Lime" which was made after "The Third Man", but set prior to the movie. If I recall correctly the radio show starts with the sound of Lime dying in the movie and Harry Lime (played by Orson Welles) explaining that this is about what he was up to before the film. Odd beginning aside, the episodes I've heard were good.

KAM at 6:12AM, Feb. 26, 2016

I'm not sure if Byrne invented it or not, but it seemed to me the first I heard about this "being a problem" was around the time Byrne was rebooting Superman.

Banes at 6:15PM, Feb. 25, 2016

@KAM - Ahahaha! Did that come from John Byrne? I was trying to remember where I'd heard of "The Superboy problem". To be honest, I never had that reaction to a Superboy story (nor have I read many). You're right; we KNOW Superman is going to survive (or come back). So the "Superboy problem" may not exist. So my thesis was not so well thought out this time...but next week's PREQUEL newspost will explain everything!

Banes at 6:11PM, Feb. 25, 2016

@KimLuster - Yeah, part of the fun in fiction is getting to fill in the gaps/history with our own imagination. I guess the real risk of prequels is being disappointing and not measuring up or ringing true to the history we've imagined.

bravo1102 at 6:41AM, Feb. 25, 2016

That is to say they'll get a prequel and their death will not be as final as we all thought.

bravo1102 at 6:37AM, Feb. 25, 2016

You know if you do kill the characters your only choice is a prequel unless you're going to construct some convoluted and usually unsatisfying excuse why the death was not permanent. And since I am such a poor writer of unsatisfying stories not worth reading, one of my characters will do both.

KimLuster at 6:30AM, Feb. 25, 2016

@UB: Well that is interesting - must take a look!

usedbooks at 6:28AM, Feb. 25, 2016

I have envisioned prequels to Used Books. The story is set AFTER the take-down of a crime syndicate, so the story itself is like a sequel to a story that was never written. I don't have the time or energy to make the project, but there are occasional glimpses into that era. It has much of its own cast, many now dead, in hiding, or with different alliances. I guess my prequel is a jigsaw puzzle spread out in its sequel.

usedbooks at 6:21AM, Feb. 25, 2016

One of my favorite books as a kid was a prequel to Quantum Leap. I loved the QL novels, all pretty well done, but I remember the prequel the most. Obviously, it was entirely unlike the series or the other books, but it was true to characters and canon. In fact, it was more in depth in characterization, by far. It was about a passionate and quirky scientist fighting for his project, dealing with sabotage, etc.

usedbooks at 6:19AM, Feb. 25, 2016

@KimLuster: I don't think you were around at the time, but Deadfingers is a prequel to The Faction, Peipei's previous story that started on DD prior to 2007 when I joined.

KAM at 5:33AM, Feb. 25, 2016

But then wasn't the Superboy Problem just something John Byrne made up so he could get rid of Superman's Superboy career?

KAM at 5:31AM, Feb. 25, 2016

There are plenty of good stories that don't end with the possibility of the character dying, so it's not really a problem. Also a well-told story pulls you in, causing you to suspend your disbelief while immersed in the story.

KAM at 5:27AM, Feb. 25, 2016

I've never understand this so-called "Superboy Problem". Do people really read Superman stories hoping this is the one where he's killed off for good? He's a freaking recurring character, even if he's killed people sit around figuring out ways to bring him back!!!

KimLuster at 4:37AM, Feb. 25, 2016

As Bravo said, I often 'fill in the gaps' in my head about how the characters got where they were and when the actual prequel comes, it often doesn't live up to what I'd imagined (Star Wars prequels being a classic example for me... and pretty much everyone else...). But they can be done fantastically. The fourth book of Steven Kings Dark Tower series, Wizard and Glass, did a fantastic job of depicting the childhood of Roland the Gunslinger! It's probably my favorite book in the series. Here on DrunkDuck, Peipei's Cosmos Song (focusing on Ron and Roxy prior to her Deadfingers story) is another smashing success! When my story, the Godstrain, ends, I'm considering a sort of 'prelude' chapter...

bravo1102 at 2:04AM, Feb. 25, 2016

This is the temptation that follows when you start a story in the middle. You or the audience will eventually think of revisiting the characters to find out how they got to where we found them in the first work. When you created the story you probably worked out the bare bones of the path to where you started but to fill in the gaps especially when the audience starts making up their own versions. Sometimes that's all it may be pre-empting fan fiction. Or maybe great stories in their own right. My favorites are the pre-Penninsula novels in Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series, even down to Sharpe being at Trafalgar.

Genejoke at 12:59AM, Feb. 25, 2016

I like some prequels. The two you mention are greating examples. The star wars prequels were prequels done wrong. They aren't all that bad, but they focused on the wrong things. It needed more of anakins journey, a more human centre. Sadly what we got was too much politics, lame humour, action and continuity errors.

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