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Alexander was Great. His movie(s)? Not so much. How about the comic? – Alexander the Great (Four Color #688)

August 12, 2011

Alexander of Macedon has had a rather bleak history on the silver screen, not quite befitting the man who conquered most of his known world by the age of 33 (my current age — there’s a humbling thought, though he never wrote a blog, now did he…) and inspired Watchmen‘s Ozymandias to cut the Gordian Knot by killing millions of New Yorkers. Oliver Stone tried to argue that his Alexander failed because 2004 America wasn’t ready for its depiction of Alexander’s gay side. I think that’s called “denial.” The gay relationship was alluded to but never consummated, and no one wants to admit that they crafted an exercise in cinematic drudgery. You made a lead balloon, Ollie.

It followed in a not so proud tradition. If you’re ever having trouble getting to sleep, try popping 1956’s Alexander the Great into your DVD player. It’s like taking a tranquilizer dart in your backside, and one that was intended for a rampaging bull elephant. It’s Ambien in motion. And that means that, unlike the adaptation of Lawrence of Arabia, the comic associated with that production starts from a quality deficit. It’s one that it never overcomes.

It tries, mainly through Alberto Giolitti’s art. All the expected biographical beats are within, including Alexander as a child single-handedly killing one of nature’s great beasts:

But the many battles, while nicely detailed, just don’t have the required energy:

The story rampages along like a boulder clunking downhill, without ever pausing or changing the pace to make it, you know, interesting. It’s a worthy successor to its celluloid source material, I suppose.

I still find this a better read than the old Classics Illustrated version of Cleopatra. Perhaps that’s my chauvinism speaking. And on a related note, Richard Burton, the star of this older Alexander film, also featured as Mark Anthony in the Elizabeth Taylor Cleopatra, one of the benchmark bombs in Hollywood history. It was on the set of that picture that Burton’s and Taylor’s well-chronicled romance began, and I’ve sometimes wondered if Liz turned to her new man at some point and said “You think you made a bad movie about one of the great names in history? Darling, just watch me sink this bitch!” Or something along those lines.

Anyway. I guess the lesson here is that real conquerors can make poor story subjects. Just wait till I get my hands on the comic for the John Wayne Genghis Kahn flick

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