Now that Captain America: The Winter Soldier has thrown down the pretty-good gauntlet, the rest of the summer superhero slate have something to live up to. Of that bunch, X-Men: Days of Future Past has the most potential, with its venerated source material and dream mash-up of different casts. Wolverine! With the kids from First Class! And not in a brief one scene profane cameo!
Here we have your usual old-timey page of comic book ads, with products hawked that promise to build your body, cure your woes, improve your mind and stuff your drawers with loads of unnecessary tchotchkes. (A baseball bat pen and pencil set: surely a necessity for every domicile, an item that will never get old and be absent-mindedly relegated to the dusty space behind the couch.) The wild card, however, is the ad for hamsters. Yes, hamsters. That’s what the bold type says, simply if not elegantly. Hamsters.
We interrupt our regularly scheduled comics programming to note the passing of the Ultimate Warrior, one of the most insane main event wrestling characters of all time.
Once you get past the “OH GOD HIS TIE IS CAUGHT IN THE MACHINERY HE’S ABOUT TO BE MASHED INTO A PULP” of the picture, you can maybe stop and think about perhaps starting a career in AC and refrigeration repair. Granted, this ad doesn’t hold the implied promise of riches and women, but at least there’s the not-so-alluring bait of greater job security.
Your pick of a convertible, machine gun. counterfeiting machine, or hideous, horrifying dolls — enjoy, kids!
Never before has such a lineup of tchotchkes been assembled, one in which the ping-pong ball machine gun and the convertible car toy are by far the most mundane. Your eyes are drawn to the evil-looking dolls, but the real show-stealer? A machine that makes money. Wait, what?
Tonight is WrestleMania XXX — that’s “30,” not a signifier that pro wrestling is going the hardcore porn route — and this is a grand mile-marker for the squared circle’s biggest showcase. Thirty. 3-0. Professional wrestling has been around a long, long time, and exhibitions of mano-a-mano physical strength have drawn in people far and wide, including Abraham Lincoln, but the product that we know today, the national, nay global industry that’s on television constantly emerged from its pupal stage in the 1980s. That was when the World Wrestling Federation, now Word Wrestling Entertainment thanks to that other WWF, changed the game with a little something called WrestleMania — the WrestleMania that would have a Roman numeral I appended to it as the event was replicated in subsequent years.
What’s become “The Showcase of the Immortals” is no longer young. For those of us old enough to remember the first one, it’s another of the piling up reminders that we aren’t either. It’s also as good a time to pay ruminate about a dopey industry that’s a hell of a lot of fun.
My comic book experience is a tad frozen in time. My familiarity with storylines that take place after the mid-1990s is, at best, limited, not from any distaste for the material so much as an inability to cope with the sheer volume of storytelling that’s taken place over the medium’s ascendant decades. The last comic purchased in what could be termed my youth was issue #3 of Kingdom Come, and then it was off to college — and comics were for a long time a thing of the past. (Indeed, it would be several years before I finally found out who won the titanic alt-future showdown between Superman and Captain Marvel.) Over the past five years, as I’ve gotten into buying old comics and started the dopey blog you see before you, the interest has gone backwards, but not forwards from that jumping off point. Older comics are valuable, and the largely worthless comics from my childhood have sentimental value. The stuff after? Cheap and no nostalgia — not as much interest. (That comics were no longer printed on newsprint didn’t help. Is it truly a comic book if you can’t pull off an image with Silly Putty? No. No it is not.)
This is a roundabout way of saying that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the first time I’ve gone into a comic book movie with only a passing familiarity with a major character — in this case the titular villain. Yes, I know his senses-shattering secret identity and the general outlines of his whole deal, but he’s not internalized as characters like Loki and the Red Skull are. There isn’t a rote understanding of the chapter and verse. This is new for me, undiscovered country, which makes this movie a fresh experience, both watching it and reviewing it. Kind of nice — I feel a little bit like those people who scratched their heads after Thanos’s toothy cameo in The Avengers. Ignorance may be bliss.
And the verdict?
All BB guns have an implied promise of great prestige for the lucky boy (or girl) who buys one or has one bought for them. That a new respect will follow them around, and that bands of villains will be repulsed from the family homestead by hot pellets fired from its long muzzle. You know, pretty much the Christmas Story dream sequence, with Raphie shooting outlaws in the ass with his Red Ryder.
This post isn’t about to bury the Game Boy, which was a quantum leap forward in handheld video gaming back in its day. Anyone who had one in the early 1990s knows of which I type, that that little screen was a window into new worlds.
But come on, ad. I mean, really.
Coin collecting is a great hobby, one that’s perfect for youngsters. All you need to get them started is a pocketful of loose change, with maybe a wheat penny, a Mercury dime and a buffalo nickel thrown into the mix to spice things up — and then they’re off. I had a coin collection way back when, and I remember it quite fondly, especially one Christmas when a got a little tin box filled with currency from around the world. Sure every denomination in there was probably in a strict sense worth less than its face value, but taken together it was all more than the sum of its parts. A boy hasn’t lived until he’s held a weird dime-shaped thing with strange letters and a hole in the middle — and to this day, every wandering foreign coin that gets dropped into my palm at the grocery store, Chipotle or whatever gets stuffed into a box in my desk. For old time’s sake.
But I was never ever as excited as those kids you see up there. Coin collecting was apparently a potent enough force to freeze their awed visages for all time.
The olden times of multimedia were just as vibrant and diverse as today’s. While we have properties crossing over from print, television, film and beyond, the first half of the century had a different mixture, one with radio thrown into the mix. In fact, radio was the prime mover for a good long while, as theater of the mind enjoyed its heyday with everything from the Shadow to soap operas. Radio was the launching pad for any number of successful, long-running characters — the days of Star Wars films being reverse engineered for the radio was a long ways away. The audio airwaves were the primordial goop from which many — though not all — superstars crawled.
Casey, Crime Photographer was one of those crossover stars. He had radio plays. He had TV shows. He had books. And yes, he had comics. But one thing he didn’t do was take a lot of pictures, because by God he had his fists to do the talking!
As we spiral further and further into our self-absorbed Instagrammed culture, with people kind enough to share endless photos of the meals they’re eating and the aching, mind-numbing minutiae of their family lives, we can look back to the quaint days of home-made vinyl records and sigh. Sigh and admire this largely vanished technology that was the previous century’s most enduring method of preserving audible crap by physical means. Baby’s first words? Your terrible, terrible singing? Clunky piano playing that sounds like the keys are being struck by cloven hooves? You could preserve it all on the venerable successor to Edison’s cylinder, only to have it thrown out years later by your children and grand-children as they clean out your dusty, cobwebbed basement. Handy!
So Dubble Bubble wasn’t just a gum with anti-bullying properties and an ability to make a Thing with Two Heads — it was also the preferred gum of tree-dangling tomboys named, of course, Tommy. (A veritable suburban lady Tarzan is this Tommy.) Who ever knew DB was so versatile, the MacGyver of chewy sugar products?
One of the many means of making a person feel old comes from fictional titles and any “far future” dates found therein. 1984 was once so remote it could be the setting for a war-torn dystopia, one that would make “Orwellian” an adjective. 2001 was once the province of twirling space stations, moon bases and manned missions to Jupiter and its moons. And 2010 was even more remote than that, remote enough for a sequel in which the USA and the USSR — the latter a nation strong as iron and incapable of dissolution, natch – would send rival missions to Europa.