Saturday, February 17, 2007

Something about me, and a comic.

I'm a sucker for good old fashioned love stories. I'm a hopeless romantic, and don't regret it at all. I'm the kind of guy who'll sit down, skim through movies on tv, and pass by action, horror, and sci-fi if I find out that they're showing one of the romantic comedies I enjoy.

"She's All That"

"When Harry Met Sally"

"10 Things I Hate About You"

"An Affair To Remember"

Sorry, guys, I just don't swing that way. Ladies, call me.

Now, while I still enjoy a good dash of testosterone in my film, there really is just something warm and comforting about a relationship that isn't so much 'sappy, mushy, over-the-top' as it is 'at no point do the characters look like they're about to say '....yeahhhh, so, I better's laaaate.'

Those of you who've seen incompatable couples in your friends (or have been in one yourself) know what I'm talking about. When two people sync, it shows, and you can't help feeling warmed by it. Whether it's an old couple holding hands, having been together for 50+ years, or simply the childhood sweethearts who've always known they were crazy about each other, it's heartwarming to witness two people bonding at a level that's deeper than physical or emotional.

Which brings me to one of my favorite comic book authors who's writing today. Tom Beland's comic 'True Story, Swear To God' chronicles his life starting from the point he met a woman named Lily on a bench at a bus stop in Disney World. A night seeing the sights together becomes one of the most heartwarming stories ever.

He lives in Napa Valley, she lives in Puerto Rico. He's an illustrator/comic writer. She's a radio host. And yet, once they see each other, their lives are permanently entwined together. Here's a strip from when his comic 'True Story, Swear To God' was more of a dream than a reality.

It's gone on to be a full comic book, now published by Image, and one of the books I anxiously wait for each month. Whether it's talking about adjusting to life in Puerto Rico (yes, he moved to be with her), or visiting his family after time apart, to supporting her decision to shave her head as part of her faith, each issue tugs on emotions you might forget you ever had.

But we're not here to discuss that. We're here to discuss one of his first big jobs for Marvel, as part of their 'I (heart) Marvel' series, titled "Web of Romance."

The story begins a week before Valentine's Day, with Peter having no luck finding a good gift for his wife, Mary Jane. He's getting desperate, as evidenced by the fact that he's asking for advice from super-villains he's just defeated. Yes, it must be desperation when you're asking for romance advice from someone named 'The Mandrill' (yes, he does have a colored butt) whose super-power is pheremone control.

Peter swings back to Avengers Tower and finds his wife chilling out with Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, and Luke Cage (that's Captain America, Iron Man, and, uh, Luke Cage to the rest of us). Cap's showing pictures of himself standing next to famous baseball players, while MJ tries to explain the rules of basketball to him.

I'll confess, for a long time I figured Spider-Man's love interests were like Betty and Veronica from Archie Comics. Same body, different head. The only difference was that Betty and Veronica had personalities that were much more different than Peter's girlfriends. It was how Peter behaved around them that intruiged me. For the most part, it was always the same.

Step 1: Peter sets up date awkwardly.
Step 2: Peter and date go out.
Step 3: Date starts to say she's having a great time.
Step 4: Peter's positive that it's his "gonna get lucky" sense that's tingling.
Step 5: Supervillain ruins everything.
Step 6: Peter dumps date somewhere, runs off, fights villain, takes multiple cold showers afterward.
Step 7: Repeat.

MJ, however, stuck in there. In one of the issues of Untold Tales of Spider-Man, you learn that Mary Jane Watson knew from Day One that Peter Parker was Spider-Man. She saw him leaving his home by the window the day his Uncle Ben was murdered. It's given her a unique perspective on who Peter Parker really is.

However, this book finally explained something to me, which I have to admit, made me realize just how perfect a woman Mary Jane is for Peter.

Here's a bit of introspection from Peter while he takes a shower, where he compares Mary Jane with the other classic 'forever on his mind' love of his life, Gwen Stacy.

Still don't get it? Okay, here it is spelled out for you:

At that moment, it clicked in my head. Peter loves MJ because she's what he always hoped to be, only while keeping his gender the same. MJ loves Peter because, well, he's Peter. He's kind, gentle, brave, willing to stand up for what he knows is right, and has that neat bedroom trick where he's on the ceiling and she's-

Oh, right. That'll be a tangent for another time.

Anyway, after a week of pondering gift ideas and getting advice from the other Avengers, Peter finally settles on what he thinks would be the perfect gift for the "Woman Who's Everything Spider-Man Hopes To Be".

Web-shooters. Is that not the most badass Valentine's Day gift? Don't you wish YOUR significant other gave YOU web-shooters? Admit it, chocolates, flowers, a singing picture frame, and edible clothing is all well and good.

But you KNOW you've found the right one when they give you your own web-shooters.

The story comes to a close with Peter and MJ recreating one of the best pranks Spidey ever pulled on the Human Torch (namely, making a giant bat out of webbing and dropping it on him). The two of them are then left alone, on a rooftop, with a full moon.

She completes him. Remember what I said before about it being more than just physical or emotional? That's it, right there. Tom Beland gets it. If he ever makes a romantic comedy movie, I'll be first in line.

From now on, you're all deputized. Anybody who says they wish MJ would die or Peter would've wound up with someone else, you have my permission to slap upside the head then direct them to this article.

Oh, and as for 'etc.'? Well...

"Face it, Tiger. You just hit the jackpot."

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Holy crap. Aquaman doesn't suck!!!!

For a first 'official' post, I wanted to do something that was special to me. And I tried to think of what would be perfect. The episode of MacGyver where he makes the thing with the stuff lying around the house? Nah. A discussion of poli-social themes in the works of Terry Pratchett? Nope. 200 recipes for pie? Hmm. Possible.

But instead, I decided to go with a specific issue of comic book. Share a bit of what kind of pain and delight I plan on bringing to everybody. So, let's reach into my archives and see what I pull out.

Well, then. Here we go. Deathstroke the Terminator's own series was, in my humble opinion, one of the better comic books that featured a vigilante who was hardened by war and walked a thin line between hero and villain (The Punishwho?). Sure, he killed people for money, but c'mon. Most of them deserved it. Plus, this was just after his recent stint helping to save the world in the 'Panic in the Sky' storyline, so even Superman and Batman were thinking he might not be all bad.

It's a big shift from then to now. Then, Deathstroke wouldn't kill without reason (even if the price was right). Then, Deathstroke would take the heat for an assassination, even if it turned out the real shooter was a barely-in-his-teens kid whose family ran out of options. Then, Slade Wilson was willing to give up his own daughter to keep her safe because his life isn't the type where you raise a family. He kept a (slightly twisted, granted) code of honor and he stuck with it.

Now, he's just a somewhat crazy stormtrooper for other super villains to throw at problems, nearly poisons his own daughter with kryptonite after driving her insane, and seems willing to, on a whim, wade through a mob of orphans with a chainsaw, swinging haphazardly. All the while singing songs from "Sharon, Lois, and Bram's Elephant Show."

"Skinnamarinkydinkydink. Skinnamarinkydoo. I - Love - You!"

In other words, he's eeeeeeeevil.

Anyway, back to the comic. See that cover up above? Instead of showing Deathstroke fighting Green Lantern, Aquaman, and the Flash, they decided to showcase the character Hemp. I haven't seen a single appearance of this character since this comic.

Deathstroke manages a miraculous escape from federal agents this issue, after claiming that he and Superman (long story) set them up. After claiming to actually be Blue Beetle (who during that time period was the Corey Feldman of superheroes), he knocks out his guards and escapes through a vent.

Once loose, he gets some new equipment, and then runs afoul of Hemp and his gang. Hemp has an Asian guy named Ninjato, his sister Shuriken, a Native American named Bear, and a blond girl dressed like a schoolgirl named Kitty-Kat. This is a team that the Inferior Five wouldn't break a sweat with. It takes less than a full page of action for Deathstroke to drop Hemp and his entire team. I'm pretty sure Marv Wolfman was just filling space with that battle.

This is when the big guns arrive. Happening to be "in the neighborhood," Aquaman and Green Lantern arrive and the chase begins anew. Deathstroke hauls ass into a building, because, hey, he's being chased by one of the most insanely powerful people in the DCU. No, not Fishyking. Green Lantern. Aquaman, however, is the one who follows Deathstroke into the building while GL keeps an eye on it from outside.

Apparently, Marv Wolfman and I share the same affection for the fish-king, as Green Lantern does manage to capture Deathstroke, but then promptly gets suckered into getting too close a few panels later and Deathstroke plays dirty.

Yes, he just smacked Green Lantern in the crotch. The panel after that is him managing to flip his feet up and kick poor old Hal Jordan directly under the chin. Needless to say, Deathstroke is now free, and the only guy left to stop him is Aquaman.

That's right, Deathstroke does not want to go mano-a-seakingo with Aquaman. And apparently it's all for good reason! Observe the following pages to see what it takes to deal with the man widely regarded as the least-respected hero in the DC Universe. Keep in mind it took less than a page to take down a team of losers, and about half a page to drop a guy who could encase the planet in a force field if he so wanted, but forgot to don a cup.

Man, how embarassing must it be to show up at the Justice League meetings and hear about Superman saving the world from a meteor, Wonder Woman fighting some forgotten mythological beast, and your big achievement for the day was getting sucker-shot in the mean bean machine?

Suddenly, Aquaman's not quite such a big sissy, is he? He may not be Superman, but anybody short of that will be down for a little while when you drop an entire building on them.

Anyway, Deathstroke goes on to drop the Flash in about three panels of work, and make his getaway, which is where the Teen Titans is called in and 'TO BE CONTINUED' is plastered all over the page for us. But let's be honest, I couldn't care less about that part of the storyline.

But I feel it's obligatory to post the following:

Is it sad when the communist in red and yellow and the she-beast in the spiked collar are the best drawn heroes in that panel? Why does Beast Boy look 40 years old, and what the hell is he standing on? Why is Starfire smuggling wookies in her hair? And who told Nightwing it was a good idea to have hair that long and a tiny little bow tie over his crotch?

I'm going to -what-?

I'd like to thank everybody for coming to this, the grand opening of my blog.

I first dreamed of having a blog years ago, before the internet was even widespread. This, of course, lead to others mocking me, and telling me that 'blog' sounded like a dirty word. But after discovering the glory that was Cheeks, The Toy Wonder mere months before it closed down (any and all questions regarding my involvement in said shut-down will be answered by my associates at the law firm Subpeona, Sucker, and Swindle).

I'll now take questions from the press.

Q: "What purpose will this blog serve?"

A: "It will allow me to release some of the pent-up frustrations I have as a writer who feels doomed to never actually write anything. Plus, I'm told that websites are slimming."

Q: "What will this blog be about?"

A: "Anything I own that I want to share the glory, shame, hilarity, or pain of with others. Comics, animes, movies, video games, weird stuff I happen to own, etc. It's my way of giving back to the community that made this crap to begin with."

Q: "Have you paid to see any movies in a movie theater since Men In Black 2?"

A: "No, but I did get to see X-Men 3 for free in one. And I saw Spider-Man 2 in an IMAX."

Q: "Why should we care about anything you have to say?"

A: "Morbid curiosity."

Q: "Are those pictures of you with Jessica Simpson real?"

A: "...The Brooklyn Dodgers. Next question."

Q: "You didn't even see Batman Begins in a theater? What kind of fan are you?"

A: "I- "

Q: "Are you really a fraud?"

A: "Shut up! I was broke at the time, okay?"

Q: "So have you seen it since?"

A: "Peanut butter. Next question."

Q: "What's your favorite TV show, movie, comic book, anime, and nature's miracle?"

A: "Currently? Heroes and Mythbusters, but before it was all about MacGyver. Moviewise, the unedited Star Wars IV, V, and VI, Maverick, Winged Migration, and Dark City. Comic books, I'm a diehard fan of Peter David's run on Supergirl, Busiek and Perez's run on Avengers, but the single issue I have the most affection for is that old Incredible Hulk issue where Rick Jones has a dream of Betty Brant stripping, then she turns into Marlo. And Cap fights the Hulk. It was the first comic book I ever read that wasn't Archie's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and my pre-pubescent mind was blown away. Favorite anime is You're Under Arrest! My favorite nature's miracle is the one that gets the smell of cat urine out of carpet just by spraying it on."

Q: "No Blade Runner? Mr. Smith Goes To Washington? My Girl 2? What kind of freak are you?"

A: "Oh, I forgot Mr. Smith. Thanks. Next question."

Q: "Knock knock."

A: "Who's there?"

Q: "Dyslexic?"

A: "Dyslexic how?"

Insert sound of crickets here.

Q: "So when can we start to see posts?"

A: "Real soon. I'm going to start with something near and dear to my heart."