Saturday, September 02, 2006

Skrull Culture

It's possible that the Skrulls might have conquered the entire galaxy by now, if only they had a little imagination. Luckily we are spared enslavement at the hands of shapechanging green guys with bumpy chins due to their lack of creative insight.

The story of the Skrulls was not exactly planned out by Marvel. It's entirely possible that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby never intended to use them again after their first appearance back in FF #2, but they stuck around and have popped up all over the Marvel universe in succeeding decades.

But I don't think anyone has ever really put all the pieces together and considered how Skrull culture actually works. Now I don't pretend to know all the details; I certainly haven't read every Skrull related story, and it's been years since I last read some, so set me straight if I'm missing something.

When the Skrulls first appeared in FF#2 (I'm discounting their retconned previous appearance in Marvel: The Lost Generation as the whole series seems to have been written out of continuity now) they pretend to be the Fantastic Four. They can shape-change, but do so only to copy the FF. In fact it is apparent that they have total control over their body shape, but they only use this to stretch when pretending to be Reed Richards.

Ultimately, and I'm sorry if I'm spoiling this for anyone, they are defeated by transparent lies and fooled into thinking that comic book art is a photographic representation of reality. CGI would be wasted on the Skrulls - they are completely taken in by line art and a four colour dot screen.

Looking at this now it seems absurd that they could possibly be fooled. The explanation given is that their eyesight is poor. I don't believe it. There is no way they could possibly have duplicated the physical forms of the FF so accurately if they are myopic enough to be unable to distinguish between comic art and photos. So what's the real reason?

Quite simply, the Skrulls have no concept of fiction. They are entirely devoid of creativity. If there is a picture of something it must be real because they cannot comprehend the concept of making a picture of something that does not exist. This is their one blind spot and the thing that cripples them. They have the ability to be anything they can think of, but they do not have the imagination to do anything other than copy the things around them. Sure, they have an empire. But I suspect if you looked into Skrull history you'd find they were just copying the imperialist activities of the Kree.

Look at how Skrulls are presented when we get occasional glimpses into their society. In our world if everyone could shapechange, it would all be about fashion - everyone would look like the latest celebrity, fads in physical shapes would sweep through the world. Society would fall apart because nobody would be able to keep track of who everyone else was as they changed shape at whim. But the Skrulls keep their own shapes unless they have a reason to change. And they use tools when they could reshape their own bodies to be tools. In fact it is their lack of imagination that allows their society to function.


Sleestak said...

Oh yeah. That makes sense.

Walaka said...

Wasn't there a Bronze Age Marvel "cosmic" character who had awesome reality-bending abilities but no imagination? I think he was white and had treads... the Creator? The Maker? He turned the world back to the fifties once, using the memories of a joe-schmoe type, and the FF had to fix it... the cover had a King King monster with a sputnik for a head. Anyone?

Anyway, my point is that the no-concept-of-fiction idea that you posit for the skrulls already exists as a metaphysical reality in the MU.

Anonymous said...

Like it, but the Skrulls had an empire while the Kree were relatively primitive. There's a story told as a fable in Steve Englehart and Al Milgrom's run on Captain Marvel that the Kree and some plant people were set in competiton by the Skrull Emperor to see which were more worthy for "progress". The Kree built a city and the plant people a garden. When the Emperor chose the plant people the Kree knew it was a fix and killed everyone. Ah, Kree myth...doesn't affect you basic idea that the Skrulls were copying someone. It also explains the why the Super Skrull is such a bonkers bad ass- he's the only one like that.

Anonymous said...

Ooooh, that's an interesting idea.

And the cosmic guy was the Shaper of Worlds.

Richard said...

I was going to mention Englehart's contribution to Skrull lore as well. During the "Celestial Madonna" storyline in Avengers, a group of heroes travel back in time courtesy of Immortus to learn the origin of Mantis, and we see a more objective depiction of that competition between the Kree and the Cotati -- the intelligent plant race -- set up by the Skrulls. The city built by the Kree is none other than the blue city on the Moon which became the home of the Watcher, and provided the setting for many subsequent Marvel stories.

Anyway, what strikes me about all this is just how perfectly it dovetails with Marionette's idea. Here you have a race which is setting challenges for other races, ostensibly to see which one is more civilized and worthy...but really, what if it's to see if the other races can come up with new ideas for the Skrulls to use? When the Kree kill off their competition, this proves them to be far too aggressive to serve as an R&D team for the Skrull Empire.

And yes, let's throw in the Super Skrull as well: in order to fight the FF, the Skrulls create a warrior with exactly the same powers as the FF. Nothing more imaginative, not someone with powers the FF can't match...because the Skrulls simply couldn't think of anything new. They see the FF and go "Sure, we can do that!" So yeah, this definitely works.

Marionette said...

Rab - yes, that was exactly my thought about the Super Skrull. I have just borrowed a copy of the Avengers Essentials that contains the Kree/Skrull war, so I may comment further.

I was also thinking of some issues of John Byrne's run on FF where we get one or two scenes of the Skrulls at home and they are so not using any of their natural abilities in any obvious ways. I'll have to see if I can locate those, too.

Can anyone tell me the issues that feature Johnny Storm's skrull girlfriend? That's another one I should really look up.

Bully said...

How do we reconcile that with the concept that Skrulls are easily hy-mo-tized (was that idea every used again?)? Seems to me it would have been an easy way not only for the Kree but for any earth hero to defeat the Skrulls. "You're getting very sleepy...okay, you're a cow again!"

Harvey Jerkwater said...

Can anyone tell me the issues that feature Johnny Storm's skrull girlfriend? That's another one I should really look up.

Gack. What a craptacular retcon that was. It was in FF #357, back in 1991, and a stupid way of undoing one of Byrne's better stories: the marriage of Alicia Masters and Johnny Storm. Again, gack.

Another possibility for the Skrulls' weakness, instead of a lack of imagination, could be ideology. Maybe they're so enamored of Skrull-ness that the possibilities of shape-shifting repel them. Maybe they masquerade as humans, or cows, or slobbering blatter-beasts because it's their duty, and they hate every second of it. It betrays their superior Skrull-osity.

Then you could write a story about a heretical movement among the Skrulls, a group that's more cool with wild-ass shape-shifting, and the rift the movement would create in the Empire. They'd be much tougher and harder to stop than the hidebound Skrulls, so a handful could be, well, a handful. Just a thought.

The alien race that sucks? The Badoon. Lame.

Anonymous said...

This is a terrific theory. Sure, it may have a few cracks here and there, but is there anything over-arching and watertight to explain anything at all in Marvel's long and torturous history?

No. So canon Skrulls lacking imagination it is!

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

Marionette, I am participating in the Summer of Compliments and I wanted to tell you that I've enjoyed your last several entries.

I just found my way here from Sleestak's blog, but I'm definitely going to come by more often. Please keep up the fun and interesting posts.

Cullen Waters said...

I wish I could add something insightful here beyond "Excellent job", but my knowlege of the Skrulls is minute at best. Reading this has definately made them seem a bit more interesting.

Anonymous said...

Great great analysis Marionette. I'm impressed!