Meet The Team: Hulkling
Teddy is Billy’s boyfriend.
Obviously, vice versa is true as well. Teddy is Billy’s boyfriend. They’re going out. That’s how it works.
But narratively speaking, Teddy is Billy’s boyfriend.
It’s the flip of what I was talking in Billy’s essay. As he increasingly became the lead, that means Teddy’s his romantic interest. Narratively speaking, he increasingly existed to support Billy’s arc.
In other words, if Billy’s Frodo, that means Teddy is Sam.
I fucking love Sam.
When I was picking apart Young Avengers to see what emotional threads I wanted to hang onto, he was my way in. Teddy, in the first arc where he’s central has his origins explored and his mum killed in the process. You know, viewed through the prism of the genre, in most stories, that’d be the conclusion of his origin story. Spider-man didn’t become Spider-man when he got bit. He became Spider-man when Uncle Ben died, and in doing so gained the motivation to define the rest of his life. Teddy Altman discovers the truth of his existence, in the same moment of losing the woman who raised him and, etc, etc. That feels like it could be an Origin Story to me.
It’s not. Teddy sort of… carries on. We see him grieve, sure.
For a panel or two.
Imagine the woman who raised you being burned alive before you.
I mean it. For a second, just think about that. Assuming you don’t actually want your mum to be incinerated - and also assuming you’ve got one - it’s horrible and gut-churning to even conceive. Imagine that’s in your head, for real. Imagine being the sort of person who has that, and finds some way to carry on. Not even in the short term – where he engineers peace – but long term, after the adrenaline has leached away and you’re left with a hole in your chest.
I couldn’t do what Teddy has done. Not even sure I would want to.
He seems to have used that utter horror as something to focus his life. He’s lost more than anyone on the team, and knows what life and love is worth, and he holds on to it with both hands, with everything he’s got. In a way, love is all he’s got left and it’s worth fighting for. And it is, isn’t it? What could be wrong with that?
I suppose what I’m saying that it’s not his origin story, because Teddy was already a hero before his mom died and he was even more of one afterwards.
I do worry about him.
I worry about what he worries about.
I have a (jokey) theory about Lord of the Rings. The movie version rather than the book. Basically, Frodo is a big ol’ wimp and if you passed the ring to Sam, he’d have happily carried it all the way to Mordor, lobbed it in Mount Doom and then be back in Hobbiton in time to harvest the tatters.
This is unfair to Frodo. He’s a literary character. His conflicts are internal, and is served best by the novel. In the film they strive to show Frodo wrestling with the enormous burden, but it struggles by the relative weakness of the medium – at least, when the medium is also doing external-physical action. In a low-key art-house film, you’d be more likely to buy the emotional torment. When Sam’s fighting eighty orcs and kicking Shelob in her arachnid she-balls, it’s less convincing. I digress.
I also have a theory that Sam is actually a member of a secret clan of hobbit warrior ninjas who use gardeners as cover for their important missions to save Middle Earth. I digress again. And irrelevantly this time.
Point being is that I’m joking to distract. Despite all that Sam physically does, he’s not a robot. He loves with a pure intensity and serves that best. And in the end, when Frodo’s been corrupted, he just collapses, watching the man he loves be consumed by the thing he’s fought against so long. And Sam’s been thinking about that all along, every step since he realised that things were darker than he could ever suspected back in that garden, wrestling with weeds. It’s what he’s been dreading. Because he’s not an idiot. And even if he was one, idiot’s feelings are as as true and important as the greatest poet who ever lived…
Teddy’s not Sam and Billy isn’t Frodo. They’re actually having sexytimes for one thing. But I look at that kind of dynamic, and recognise just enough of it to make me raise an eyebrow. As I said, that’s the first thing I hooked onto when looking at Young Avengers. That made sense to me. Loki putting the team together made intellectual, playful sense.
But that dynamic got me in the guts. I felt for that.
I fucking love Sam.
But it’s fucking hard to be Sam.
I’m in pieces, does no one see it?
I am stronger on the outside
It’s easy when you know why
This feeling sad, it’s not so bad
I’ve got friends who lift my spirit
I’ve got songs that no one hears
Sometimes the sun shines on unkind people
And some nights the spotlight’s on shy people
People like you
These things are hard to think out
And you’ve been broke in two, haven’t you?
I would fix you
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