Although I am admittedly a huge fan of purging and ridding the house of things that take up unnecessary space or has just accumulated over the years, there are still a few things that I know I will just always hold on to. Case in point, a particular piece of comic book art hanging in our home office that my son loves to stare at, reach for, and make noises at.
It’s been hanging on my walls in one residence or another, ever since I was 13.
It’s an image of Batman, as depicted in the never-to-be-surpassed Batman: The Animated Series of the 1990s. In it, he’s holding up a confused Riddler by the scruff, ready to cart him off to prison once again.
This isn’t an eBay or comic convention find. No, this was, and still remains, a large memory of my childhood. I won it, you see, in a letter writing contest in 1993. Yes, back in the day when letter columns were still a regular feature in all comic books. The Batman Adventures comic book would hold a contest each month, where the editor would pick two published letters in that month’s column and award the writers of those letters a piece of one of a kind comic art. It was an amazing concept for a young comic fan.
Well, one of those months, a letter of mine had been printed and chosen, and the result was this one of a kind piece, penciled by the late, great Mike Parobeck and inked by a wonderful artist in his own right, Rick Burchett.
Parobeck, a brilliant artistic talent, whether it be from his work on Batman, or my favorite modern-day run of the Justice Society, sadly died in 1996 from diabetic issues.
The work of Rick Burchett has gone on to have graced many a comic page, including a later Batman animated comic series, Batman: The Brave and the Bold and a slew of other DC Comics over the years. His art is graceful and beautiful stuff.
This powerhouse combination of artistic talents wowed me as a kid when I read their comics, and sent me over the moon when this piece of art arrived in the mail. I’m glad to know that their talents continue to be appreciated by my little guy, and hopefully many others in his generation and generations to come.
Since the little guy was born, our movie viewing has taken a nosedive. The last movie we saw in an actual theatre was Toy Story 3.
To be honest, if it weren’t for Netflix and our own DVD collection, we probably wouldn’t see anything.
But, with Meg and the monkey off at camp this week and me working, it was sort of like being a quasi-bachelor for a bit. Meg told me while they were away I should re-enact Risky Business. (Although she apparently meant dancing in the living room and not so much the Rebecca DeMornay-prostitute part. Who knew?)
My evenings have been spent not so much in that Tom Cruise/Old Time Rock and Roll mode, but more in a ‘take a deep breath, crash on the couch and veg out watching movies’ mode.
So, a few of the movies that I just don’t feel comfortable watching with the little guy around, and I figure Meg probably doesn’t want to see anyway, have all been on the menu this week. From Captain America to the Avengers, I’ve been having a geek-out film fest with me and the cats.
And I have loved them all. I admit that for being the comic book nerd that I am, my knowledge of the Marvel Comics universe is limited. I was a DC guy growing up. Despite that, I have no qualms saying that Marvel is so far ahead of the game when it comes to their live-action movie franchises than DC is right now.
Take Captain America for instance. Set against the backdrop of a propaganda, ‘ra-ra-America! Keep em’ Flying!’ backdrop of World War II, I enjoyed every single moment. I suspended disbelief completely and just sat back and had a terrific trip back in time to fictional 1940s America. I love the explanation of the Captain America persona and outfit as a propaganda piece for the war effort, until alter ego Steve Rogers takes it upon himself to be a real hero. And with a villain as improbable as the Red Skull as the main antagonist (I mean, come on, his head is just that – a red skull), there’s a lot that could have gone wrong. With Hugo Weaving in the villainous role, though, it just fired on all cylinders for me. I should’ve popped up a big bowl of popcorn for it, as it would have been appropriate for this big, explosive, fun piece of comic nostalgia.
As I say, I don’t have a vast knowledge of Cap or many Marvel properties, but I do know how popular he was throughout the war years, with plenty of adventures against the Nazis and the Red Skull. So, I thought it was handled wonderfully in the film when, instead of one adventure/brawl with the skull and that’s it, we instead, through montages, actually see adventure upon adventure of Cap as he takes on the Skull at various points in the war. It never slowed the film down, yet still gave you that sense that Cap was fighting well through the bulk of the war years, just like he did in the comics. And, they even kept things true to the comic history by having him frozen in ice so that he could re-appear in the modern super hero world, just like when creators wanted to bring Captain America back decades after his original run ended in the war years.
I’m so glad I watched Cap before The Avengers, too, as it was the perfect setup for the superhero team extravaganza. I haven’t yet watched Thor, but figured I could get the gist of The Avengers without it. Director Joss Whedon (whose creations of Buffy and Angel, yes, I used to watch week to week when they were on the air) had a pretty monumental task in front of him, as trying to put all these characters (Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, Thor and Hawkeye) into one movie just, by any account, does not make sense. There is no logical way for it to work, but Whedon makes it work, again just going for pure fun that lets you leave all cynicism at the door because you’re having such a great time watching it.
As I say, Chris Evans surprised me as a wonderfully charming and inspiring Captain America in both films, but another pleasant surprise was Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk. Wow, what a performance. His suppressive, introverted, socially awkward performance really made you feel for him as a man hiding a monster and trying his best to keep it in check. The man took what could easily be a one-dimensional comic character and made him real and interesting. Bravo, Mr. Ruffalo.
I enjoyed them both so much that now I can’t wait for the sequels…although I’m sure I’ll be waiting a lot longer for them to turn around on Netflix. 🙂 But when they do, I’ll be ready with a big bowl of popcorn and dorky superhero delight.