X-Men: First Class part 1

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X-Men: First Class does something I haven’t seen a superhero movie do before.  It’s not just a period piece, that’s unusual enough, but it also places its fantastic characters, Gump-like, in the middle of historical fact.  Captain America: The First Avenger, released concurrently, went back in time to place its difficult-to-like protagonist in his proper context, but then wove a fantastical story around him involving ancient Norse artifacts and a guy with no face.  First Class not only places its characters in history, it puts them at the center of the darkest, most traumatic events of their time.

That kind of treatment skirts the boundaries of taste, turning, for instance, the Holocaust into comic-book fodder: First Class almost runs into Inglourious Basterds in its treatment of history.  No one goes to the movies for a history lesson, but movies have always taught us, from their inception, through their dream-logic, who we are as a people and as a culture.  It’s not the job of cinema to tell us how things are but how things feel.  You can say that First Class tastelessly warps WWII, but Triumph of the Will did that before anyone even knew what WWII was.  The Bryan Singer X-Men movies cloaked their tales of discrimination in colorful metaphor, but First Class demands to be considered “important,” and, to an astonishing degree, it succeeds.

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Take the Marvel challenge!

My son Sam (5) has quite suddenly made a dramatic shift from DC to Marvel.  Interest in Batman and Superman has dropped precipitously, interest in Iron Man and Hulk has increased exponentially.  More to the point from a marketing point of view, he has immediately and instinctively assessed Marvel’s presence as a “brand,” and refers to Marvel characters not as “superheroes,” but “Marvel superheroes.”  As in, he goes up to other kids at school and asks if they want to “play Marvel superheroes.”

One result is that he has gone from drawing pictures of the Justice League to drawing pictures of, well, everyone in the Marvel universe.  All in the same drawing, as though trying to catch up after years of neglect.

Below is one of his latests efforts.  Test your Marvel knowledge!  How many of these characters can you name?

click on images to enlarge


Robolizard has done a heroic job with some tough material.  The ones he missed are all pretty much the ones I missed too.  Luckily I had the artist available to interpret for me.

Here is the complete set:

1. Mr. Fantastic
2. Silver Surfer
3. Spider-Man
4. Ant-Man
5. Nightcrawler
6. Daredevil (complete with endearing backwards 5-year-old double-D)
7. The Hulk
8. Black Panther
9. Iron Man (would be easier to identify if Sam had had access to the correct shade of red)
10. Lightspeed (who is Lightspeed?  She is a member of Power Pack, of course, why do you ask?  She is identifiable by her rainbow trail that she leaves whenever she zips from place to place.)
11. Rogue (probably the toughest one here.  Sam had trouble getting across the idea of the white streak in her hair.)
12. Wolverine
13. Human Torch (Johnny Storm, that is — everyone knows the original Human Torch has no face.)
14. The Thing
15. The Wasp
16. Elektra (I know, I know, she’s topless — how advanced my son is! — but he got her little strappy things right.)
17. She-Hulk.

Congratulations to all our — well, our player!

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A while back, I was up for a gig writing an X-Men spinoff.  The gig didn’t happen, but I spent a year researching the X-Men universe anyway.

My favorite tributary of the X-Men river was X-Statix, which managed to have an involving story, evocative characters, biting satire and high-spirited parody all at the same time.  And one of the many, many great characters from X-Statix was Deadgirl.  Both utterly ridiculous and unexpectedly moving, Deadgirl brought the whole title to a new level.

Now she has her own graphic novel, X-Statix presents Deadgirl, in which she teams up with Dr. Strange to defeat a team of killed-off Marvel characters (including lame-os like Mysterio and Kraven) who keep coming back from hell to wreak havoc on Earth.

Again, the artistic team hits the pitch-perfect balance of silliness, adventure, drama and parody, creating an effect not unlike that of The Venture Bros.  In fact, Venture Bros came to mind almost immediately as we are introduced to Dr. Strange, who is found in his study simultaneously conjuring the netherworld and complaining about his hemorroids, all in the ultra-po-faced style of Mike and Laura Allred’s illustrations.  I immediately thought of Dr. Orpheus, and another brick in the Venture Bros wall of cultural influences fell into place.  It made me wonder if the Deadgirl team had seen the last season of VB and decided to take the idea back to its source.

Anyway, the book’s a hoot.

Xmen: The Last Stand

I dunno, I loved it.  Am I crazy?

I know there are many out there who found this movie sadly lacking.  I’m not sure what they were expecting.

Maybe all the bad reviews lowered my expectations, but I had a whale of a time. Feel free to tell me why you didn’t like it.

And, just so no one’s hands are tied, SPOILER ALERT.

UPDATE: It seems that a lot of people, not so much here as elsewhere on the internet, hate Brett Ratner.  Is there something I’m missing?  Did he kill someone’s father?  Many people, it seems, went into the movie already hating it because it was Ratner instead of Bryan Singer, as though Singer is some kind of dynamic Francis Coppola-level visionary and Ratner is some kind of soulless Guy Hamilton-level hack.  ‘Sup with that?
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