Friday, July 17, 2015

Friday Five: Five Superheroes I Loved (Who I Don't Think Were Very Popular)

Ant Man opens today and I'm sort of confused because I can't tell if (a) the movie is good and everyone thinks it's good (b) the movie is bad but everyone thinks it's good (c) the movie is good but everyone thinks it's bad, or (d) whether I should care at all.  In any event, since we rarely get to the theaters anymore, I'll have to wait until it comes on Netflix and I fall asleep watching it on Xmas Eve, which is how I experience pretty much 99% of the big, non-Avenger, movies nowadays.

I am disappointed that Marvel didn't steal my tagline that I once proposed if they ever  made a movie about The Atom.  I have a whole idea for a movie ad for someone like The Atom, or Ant Man, in which they show you, say, Iron Man, then Thor, then The Hulk, and finally Ant Man, while a voice over says This summer, small is the new big.  THAT WOULD BE AWESOME. And even though Orange Is The New Black and its misplaced sympathy for the author who TOTALLY DIDN'T WANT TO BE INVOLVED IN DRUG-DEALING GUYS -- let's not waste any time rewarding or feeling sorry for poor little rich girls who got involved with bad boys and paid a very minor price for their thrill-seeking and then were 1000% enriched by it.

Let me go off on tangent here.  Piper Kerman is a drug dealer, okay? That's who everybody is making rich/lionizing with this series.  A DRUG DEALER. She was a spoiled rich girl who grew up to have a relationship with a heroin dealer and not just have a relationship: Piper Kerman HELPED DEAL THAT HEROIN and laundered money to make it more possible for more people to deal heroin.


And since then, Piper Kerman has become some kind of poster child for society, getting awards and being made rich by the sensationalizing of her own downplay-my-wrongdoing-and-shrug-it-off fake memoir.  (Fake memoirs of rich women are all the rage these days, and making up stuff or minimizing the poor behavior of rich women can make you a rich liar yourself, right Wednesday Martin?)

Piper Kerman writes it all off as "I fell in with a bad, hard-partying crowd," and everyone keeps making her rich(er!).  When she was indicted her rich family had an emergency meeting to decide how much of its wealth to devote to defending her. She plead guilty but was allowed to remain free for five years because the federal government wanted her to testify in street clothes, not prison uniforms, at the trial of her drug-lord kingpin boss.  In the end, she got 15 months in prison for her role in the scheme; the bust that led to her arrest involved someone bringing 14 pounds of heroin into the US.  That's about $6,000,000 worth of heroin, on one trip.  I wasn't able to find out how much Piper Kerman got paid for glamorizing and minimizing her major role in a drug ring, apparently because rich white drug dealers are better at hiding personal information about themselves from Google.

"Drug Dealing
Is the New Debutante Ball"

Having made myself good and mad, let's try to blow off some steam with some superheroes that I loved.  As I started out before getting distracted by a drug-dealing rich skank, Ant Man is either a good or bad movie that everyone has weird opinions about. What I was surprised about at first was that Ant Man was being made, at all.  In this brand-conscious era, it's increasingly risky to throw billions of dollars at something people don't know about already.  That's why there'll be another Hunger Games movie even though the (awful, I assume) book series was only three books and there's already four movies. That's why we keep getting Spider-Man and Superman and Batman and The Avengers as superhero movies, with only the rare Guardians Of The Galaxy thrown in for variety.

It's even harder to justify spending billions on a movie if the movie is likely to suck; as I was saying to Sweetie last night, and as I say so often, most things suck.  If you look at, say, a library with 10,000 books in it, consider that those books represent the cream of the crop: they are the books that survived all the levels of publishing scrutiny/gatekeeping to actually get put out.  And how many of them are good? Not all of them.  About 10%, I'd say.  The same goes with movies, photographs, restaurants, etc: about 1 in 10 things is good and worth keeping around, by my estimate.

So if I was asked to invest MY billions into a movie, I'd likely not want to take a risk on Ant Man, who is probably beloved by, like, three people. I'd want to try to make Superman or something, where 99% of the people wouldn't say Huh? when the name was mentioned.

So it's good that they're making Ant Man because maybe it means people are entering a phase where we can experiment a bit more and not everything has to cost/make a billion dollars.

There's my second diatribe of the day.  Now for superheroes I liked that I don't think were very popular. In no particular order!

1. Blue Devil. Blue Devil was, according to my memories, a stuntman who got magically trapped in his blue-devil suit and had some powers based on that suit; he had a weird mixture of scifi and demons in the comics back when I read them, and the stories themselves usually had a humorous slant to them.  The one I remember most was one where there were aliens named "Leni" and "Jorj" (get it? Nothing funnier than riffing on one of the saddest stories ever written... I didn't realize that when I first read the comic, though. I thought they were making fun of Bugs Bunny's frequent references to Lenny and George.  I wouldn't fully understand the reference until I actually read Of Mice And Men and now I don't find them funny anymore. I find them sad.)

Apparently, that humor went away after a while -- as it seems to have done with every comic, judging by the few I read in the last 5 years or so.  Green Lantern fighting zombies, crises everywhere, demons: everyone is dark and disturbed now. Here's a sample of where the comic adventures of Blue Devil led, from Wikipedia:

He spends the "missing year" trapped in Riverrock, Wyoming along with the rest of Shadowpact. It is a small city hidden by a blood shield by an assembly of evil magical beings, called the Pentacle. There he meets, or rather meets again, Jack of Fire, a red, muscular demon. The entity is hiding a disfigured, bony face under a black bandanna, claiming to have been turned into a demon by the actions of Daniel. He further explains that the very same moment the demonic Neron granted fame and powers to Cassidy as the Blue Devil, the dead parents and siblings of Patrick were dragged from Heaven to Hell.

2. Ambush Bug: The Ambush Bug was another funny comic, and wasn't always a hero.  He started out as a comic foil/bad guy I think for Superman, before somehow heading into the future to fight with the Legion of Superheroes? That's what I remember, anyway.  He also had his own miniseries in which he battled a sock who was a sort of parody of Dr. Doom.

Hey, I didn't say I had good taste.  Ambush Bug had all sorts of possibilities that sort of got swamped in silliness.  He appeared to understand that he was in a comic book, for one thing, and was supposed to be completely out of touch with reality.  That sometimes made for funny and yet interesting adventures, but more often towards the end was just overwhelmed by 'lunacy' that seemed to try too hard.

3. The Legion of Substitute Heroes: I read the Legion of Superheroes comics regularly, and sometimes they had guest-stars or appearances from the Legion of Substitute Heroes, a group of substandard heroes with odd powers, like Stone Boy, who could turn himself into a statue.  The group was led by Polar Boy, who could make things cold, and who eventually made it into the real Legion.

While I liked funny comics more than the dark ones, as a kid, looking back again I think maybe the boat was missed here.  One thing that a lot of very funny stories have is a sort of twist on something sad that lends the comic antics some zing, like salting caramel only in a literary sense.  Catch 22 is hilarious whenever it's not heartbreaking.  The Hitchhiker and Dirk Gently books involved murders and the destruction of entire planets, and yet were funny while dealing with serious themes of a sort.

Comics seem to go only in two lanes: Supersilly, or superdark.  I'm sure there's a marketing reason for that, but it led to my disinterest in things like the Substitute Heroes when they just went too silly.  There's probably a great story about people who want to be superheroes but aren't quite good enough to do so, waiting to be told.

4. 'Mazing Man: 'Mazing Man wasn't really a superhero at all; the book was about a midget-type guy who found a helmet with a letter M on it and decided to become a superhero; he mostly helped kids around the neighborhood and hanging out with his friend Denton (a 'dog-faced' apparently human guy who wrote a comic book.)

The stories were interesting and sort of nostalgically sweet ones that I remember and like to go back and re-read; the comic was canceled after just 12 issues.  I'd say it deserved more, but sometimes things have to end to keep them from going bad.  How much better would our memories of Arrested Development have been without the muddled fourth season?  Or Seinfeld without that terrible last episode?  Like George Costanza, people should learn to leave on a high note.

5. Firestorm.  Finally, a "SERIOUS" superhero.  I liked Firestorm because of how cool his powers were, and because of how weird a superhero he was.  Firestorm was the melding of an athlete's body and mind with the mind of a college professor, through some kind of nuclear accident.  When the two joined to become "Firestorm" they could do something like reconstruct things on an atomic level to change one thing into something else, like a nuclear reactor into 10,000 hamburgers or something.

I'm not really clear on how his power worked, actually: I only learned about Firestorm near the end of my heavy comic-reading days, and so only read a couple issues in which he was a hero.  That's how I remember it, anyway.  (I checked on Wikipedia and learned that he couldn't actually affect organic matter before he became an "elemental" and the storyline got much darker.  Also, there's a new Firestorm now but I don't know anything about that.

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