Monday, May 29, 2006

X-Men III: What They Left Out

X-Men III may be a confusing film, but it's not half as complex as all the storylines, relationships, and subtexts that filled the monthly issues of The Uncanny X-Men and other spin-off series for decades. For the many non-comic geeks who found the film bewildering, a little knowledge of the four-color series may help clarify some of X3's head-scratching moments (though I still don't know why it was subtitled "The Last Stand). [Warning: Spoilers galore]
--Regarding that big robot in the beginning: The Sentinels are a group of enormous robots created by Bolivar Trask (played by Bill Duke in the movie) and programmed to round up all mutants. In the "Days of Future Past" storyline which introduced an alternate future, the Sentinels take over the U.S., kill all of Kitty Pride's and Colossus' children, and generally behave awfully. Note: In the future, Kitty ends up with Colossus. Sorry, Iceman.
--Why all the blue mutants? In the case of Mystique and Nightcrawler, she is his mother. Maybe Hank McCoy is in the family as well.
--As for the "death" of Cyclops: My theory is that, just before Jean gets a chance to disintegrate him, Scott is abducted by aliens led by none other than his own dad, the interstellar hero Corsair. Yes, Summers senior was made part of an alien slave gang while his sons (Cyclops and Havok) were still young, but he led a successful rebellion and rejoined the X-Men continuity as the head of the Starjammers.
--Incidentally, as we all know from X-Factor #1, Jean Grey is still at the bottom of that lake. The woman who emerged--Phoenix--is in fact a clone. The real Jean, nicer and less powerful, eventually emerges from the lake decades after her doppelganger and restarts her strange, troubled romance with Scott. According to the "Days of Future Past" storyline, Jean and Scott eventually have a superpowered daughter, Rachel Summers, who travels back in time and joins the X-Men as... Phoenix. This is after the "Dark Phoenix" storyline.
--Which one of the hot scientists is Xavier's girlfriend? Moira MacTaggart (played in the film by Olivia Williams)? Kavita Rao (Shohreh Aghdashloo)? In fact, while Charles sired several little mutants with various wives and lovers in his younger days, he found a real soulmate in an alien princess, Lilandra.
--Is Charles dead? I vaguely remember Xavier getting killed then reassembled/reincarnated/reborn/cloned several times, along with the rest of the X-Men characters. He's fine.
--The Juggernaut is not really a mutant. Cain Marko is Charles Xavier's abusive stepbrother, who gained his powers from a gem found in the Asian temple of Cyttorak. The Juggernaut is also extremely foul-mouthed.
--About the tattoo on Magneto's arm: In the comics, as in the movies, Magneto is a survivor of the Holocaust. However, while he seems to have a Jewish background, his wife was a Gypsy and occasionally Magneto himself was identified as a Gypsy. Magneto would later express his distaste for National Socialism by kidnapping and torturing Captain America's fascist nemesis the Red Skull.
Hope this clarifies everything--let me know if you have any more questions, X-fans.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Today, I made history. This is what you get for getting bored and Google-ing yourself.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Flash Gordon vs. Hitler

Comics and Politics part IV, and then I'll stop. So who would win? Actually, a dust-up between the sci-fi hero and Der Fuhrer more or less took place in 1943, when Germany took over Belgium and then France and banned Flash Gordon ("Gordon L'Intrepide") from the funny pages. But while the Nazis took the battle, they didn't take the war; Flash survived at least until his last cinematic appearance in 1980 (apparently there's another one on the way), whereas the Thousand-Year Reich fell 988 years short of its predicted life-span.
The interesting part of the story involves Edgar P. Jacobs, friend to Tintin creator Herge and known throughout Europe as the guy who wrote and drew the Blake and Mortimer series. When the papers could no longer import Flash Gordon strips, Jacobs was hired to draw the last episode that would conclude the story lines; then he was hired to write and draw a replacement series. Years later, in 1974, Jacobs went back and retouched his art, and the result was Le Rayon U (The U-ray), a Flash Gordon rip-off that pretty much outdoes the original.
I wish there were more scans that I could link to, because Jacobs' futuristic airplanes, his Mayan necropolis, and jungle shoot-outs with dinosaurs are masterpieces.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Los Hombres Sinestros

Comics and politics, part III: I let an important commemoration slip by when I forgot to celebrate May 1st, the 46th anniversary of Antonio Prohias' departure from his native Cuba (where Castro was calling for his head) to New York City. Prohias drafted his ticket to immortality when he created the Spy vs. Spy strip for MAD Magazine, a strip that could either be seen as a mixture of biography plus ingenuity plus Cold War politics, or simply as the recurring exploits of two beaked espionage agents gleefully obliterating each other in very inventive ways. As a kid, the strip was easily my favorite part of the magazine, and even now I'm struck by the solidity and impact of the art; the spies, neither one representing anything or having any characteristics aside from a manic desire to the kill the other, were drawn as iconic and recognizable as the 'pedestrian' figure on traffic signs. That may have been the source of the strip's charm: It's graphic language was universal, and it didn't have a message aside from the childish glee we all feel when we blow something or someone up.
The next anniversary is July 12th, marking 46 years since Prohias walked into MAD's offices with his earliest Spy vs. Spy drawings and his daughter Marta to act as a translator. Be sure to wear your white (or black) hat to mark the day.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Ratings System is Fucked but Irwin Allen is Not.

I'm not sure how much more commentary I need to add, but the more I think about it, the more I think it's about context, context, context. I've stated here before about my feelings that MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS is one of the two best films of last year. It was rated R due to a few bits of random profanity and frequent nudity. But, you know, the message of the film is so positive and the nudity is so unsmutty that, honestly, only the most demented parent would feel weird about their child seeing it. I hate it when genuinely socially-redeeming pieces of art get kept from people who need it the most -- impressionable kids. It's like KUNG-FU HUSTLE, which is rated R for very weird reasons. I just don't get it.

In other news...

This is astounding. Time is fleeting. Madness takes its toll.

The new special editions of POSEIDON ADVENTURE and TOWERING INFERNO, both very cheap at Amazon ($12.99 each), are some of the most lavishly and lovingly packaged DVD's I've ever seen.

Both have lots of special features, etc, but the cover art under the slipcase is the original poster art! With both, you get booklets talking about the film (haven't seen those in a while) as well as a packet with miniature lobby cards! INFERNO even does what the recent BEN HUR did -- it provides a small version of the program book that would have been on sale in the lobby. (POSEIDON does not come with this.)

I haven't even checked out the special features, but these are truly impressive values, treating DVD collectors with respect and affection. Our world seems so content with giving people the minimum possible with everything, so it's nice that a studio would, in essence, conduct a random act of totally unnecessary kindness.

If you buy both at Amazon, their special deal total comes to $20.98! If you don't have it, add the gorgeous YO-YO MA PLAYS ENNIO MORRICONE CD (priced at a ridiculously cheap $9.97) and qualify for free shipping. A word to the wise.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Important Insight:

There's no real winner in a battery-swallowing contest.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Well, good for you, you fat sonuvabitch!

Lucas has finally seen the light. He's releasing the original STAR WARS trilogy on DVD in a totally un-fucked-up format.

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