Comics, Reviews

Petulant Parents: Adventure Time #69

Adventure Time #69

Delilah S. Dawson (writer), Ian mcGinty (artist), Maarta Laiho (colorist), Mike Fiorentino (letterer)
BOOM! Studios
October 4, 2017

One of the things that makes Adventure Time unique is the way it treats the history of its characters and their intricate (usually dark) pasts. My favorite example is Marceline the Vampire Queen. In the first two seasons of Adventure Time, we learn a lot about her past. Marceline’s father is a god-demon named Hunson Abadeer, who rules as the Dark Lord of the Nightosphere, a place full of terrible and evil things. Though Marceline has chosen to live away from her father and ignore him because of the trauma he constantly brings up for her, the Dark Lord is always chasing her down to force her to interact with him.

Adventure Time #69, cover by Rii Abrego and Shelli Paroline

Adventure Time #69, cover by Rii Abrego and Shelli Paroline

Marceline does not want to deal with her father. She never has. He has caused her pain, and doesn’t understand her as the person she is. He has expectations about her succession as the ruler of the Nightosphere and how evil he wants her to be. She has always made it clear in the show, and makes it repeatedly clear in this comic, that he does not understand her or what she wants. He is selfish, and what he does comes from beliefs bound by an ancient Nightosphere system that Marceline does not want to participate in anymore. In Adventure Time #69, we see Hunson Abadeer oppressing his daughter with his agenda yet again while she’s forced to tell him “no” several times. He still seems to get his way in the end, but don’t all great manipulators?

This is nothing new in the Land of Ooo and in the world of Marceline in this particular Adventure Time comic. For Marceline, these are moments in her story that feel like old wounds opening up again: Abadeer stole her axe-bass in the season two premiere, “It Came From The Nightosphere (it’s worth noting that he shows some repentant behavior at the end of the episode, though it’s unclear whether or not he seems to have learned from it); he gives her an amulet that turns her into an evil replica of himself so he can force her to rule the Nightosphere in “Daddy’s Little Monster. The only other two times he appears are when he kidnaps her friends in season three and when Marceline is shown dating a controlling dude who is kind of like her dad. All of these symptoms of Hunson Abadeer’s negative influence on his daughter’s life, despite his seemingly “fatherly” expectations (succession of his throne, desire for her to be evil like him), are why their relationship is so dysfunctional.

Hunson Abadeer and Marceline from Adventure Time

When Marceline is angry, Abadeer ignores her emotions such as in Season 2, Episode 1, It Came From The Nightosphere

This is a fictional relationship that will always hit home for me and for any other person that has struggled with a manipulative parent who puts their personal expectations on you. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be a parent. If you have ever been in a relationship with a chronic manipulator, Hunson Abadeer’s behavior makes total, frightening sense. He concocts great plots to get his daughter’s attention. Abadeer over-plans, he doesn’t listen to his child’s needs, and he thinks he knows what’s best. As it turns out in the end of this comic, the moral of the story is that he did know what was best the whole time. Whomp whomp.

Abadeer’s toxic behaviors as a father are on full display in Adventure Time #69. It turns out that this whole story arc about a balloon race was the Dark Lord’s doing in the first place. He appears with food, presents, and a party he’s planned for Marceline’s Deathday celebration. She makes it clear several times that she doesn’t want a party, and that she wants to be able to make her own decisions. Meanwhile, Hunson Abadeer dismisses his daughter a total of nine times (see below) over 22 pages, with a few hints sprinkled in about his manipulative nature.

Adventure Time #69 by Delilah S. Dawson (writer), Ian mcGinty (artist), Maarta Laiho (colorist), Mike Fiorentino (letterer)

Marceline tries to tell her father how she feels in Adventure Time #69, to no avail.

“You never return my calls, so I had to get sneak-ay. Want a party hat, sweetie?” This is one of the primary loaded dismissals in the comic. “I had to get sneaky,” he says, as if it’s a fun joke because it’s in a children’s comic and because it basically involves a birthday party. These are subtle messages that children will still pick up on and internalize. Messages like, it’s okay when someone goes behind your back if they’re doing something ‘nice’ or if someone has good intentions, you’re wrong to be upset with them. These beliefs are reinforced when Marceline confides in Princess Bubblegum and Bubblegum’s response is, “Your dad just loves you and wants to do nice things for you. I hear that’s pretty normal for parents.”

These are dangerous messages to share in a comic book, especially because in the end Hunson Abadeer is portrayed as an innocent, fun-loving father who’s just doing something because he loves his daughter. If he loves his daughter so much, why didn’t he listen to her before he threw her a party? “I told you I don’t like Deathday parties,” she says in the page above. Marceline hands him the key to starting a healthy relationship in this comic, and opens a door to dialogue that wasn’t there before. “Then you should have asked me what I wanted,” the Vampire Queen says to her father later on in the comic, indicating that maybe if his calls had been about what she wanted to do for her Deathday she might have picked up. This is a rare opportunity for Abadeer to pay attention to her, but he keeps bombarding her with his own plans instead, from exploding soul-sucking ponies to creepy party clowns.

Though this comic was no doubt written in the innocent vein of “bad” dad behavior that turns out to be fun and joyful in the end (oh yay) it does perpetuate unhealthy acceptance of manipulative behavior. In modern Western society, this type of “trick” is especially acceptable when played on children (though in this story Marceline is several hundred years old but that doesn’t matter to Abadeer) when it comes from parents or other authorities. I’m not saying surprise parties are bad. I’m saying surprise parties for children who don’t want them are bad. From tots to teens, any child can be immensely embarrassed and feel shame and anxiety at a party of any kind, let alone a party focused on them. This is a real thing parents have to address, and it is better to acknowledge it than dismiss it the way that Hunson Abadeer does in this story. Adventure Time #69 teaches that it’s OK for a controlling parent to do their control thing, as long as it’s with good intentions.

Abadeer and Marceline from Adventure Time

Marceline often expresses distress when her controlling father is present, like in Season 4 Episode 5: Return to the Nightosphere

It’s worth mentioning that there is an odd thread of ageism in #69, which we also saw in Adventure Time #68. It’s in a weird place, appearing on the last page of the comic in #69. Princess Bubblegum says that she was trying to “feel young” again when she decided to participate in the balloon race that began this story arc. What’s more disturbing is that she says “more alive” after that, but maybe this is a nod to the fact that the Ice King, Marceline, and PB are all at least a thousand years old if not older according to series lore. This is what readers are left to contemplate as Marceline thanks her father, though I’m not sure what she’s thanking him for. Forcing her to put up with his manipulative and controlling “antics”?

The writing around Hunson Abadeer and Marceline’s relationship is certainly tough to swallow for those with parental trauma. So despite the overarching theme, it is refreshing to see BMO take the stage in a necessary moment in this comic. Marceline the Vampire Queen is known for loving music. She’s been in bands, she plays the axe-bass regularly, and she writes her own songs. Sometimes Finn helps. So for her Deathday present (since everyone was surprised by this party, not just Marceline) BMO sings a lovely song that touches Marceline’s heart. It’s nice to see a piece of the comic that is deeply enjoyable. The innocent sweetness of BMO’s kind soul getting the front and center stage is a treat. This certainly feels like an Adventure Time comic—one that is sometimes silly, sometimes sweet, and overall leaves the reader questioning their own reality.


9 Times Abadeer Dismissed Marceline in Adventure Time #69:

  1. “Gosh, sweetie. I didn’t mean to. I’m just doin’ mah hip Nightosphere dad thang, ya know?”
  2. “You never return my calls, so I had to get sneak-ay. Want a party hat, sweetie?”
  3. “But your friends are having a nice time. I thought you’d like it.”
  4. “I just want you to be happy.”
  5. “I know what you want… You want to play!”
  6. “I think I know what this is about. She wants presents.”
  7. “Nonsense, open your presents!”
  8. After a soul-sucking pony is released: “That was a very nice gift and now it’s all donked up. And you’d better clean up your mess, young lady!”
  9. “It’s up to you. I can put everyone in the Nightosphere jail and end the party. Or no jail and still end the party. Or I could pull out the pizzas and goody bags. What do you say?”

Bonus: Princess Bubblegum’s Dismissal

  1. “Your dad just loves you and wants to do nice things for you. I hear that’s pretty normal for parents.”

6 Times Marceline Expressed Her Displeasure As a Reply:

  1. “Then you should have asked me what I wanted.”
  2. “Why do you always have to embarrass me?”
  3. “I told you I don’t like Deathday parties.”
  4. “I can open those later.”
  5. “Dad, what did you do?”
  6. “Any other surprises I need to know about?”

Bonus: Princess Bubblegum’s Defense of Marceline

“You’re still not listening to her. How do you not get this?”