My life is filled with ridiculous coincidences. I sometimes think it’s the universe’s way of making sure I always have something to blog about. Case in point:
Saturday night, August 9. I had left PulpFest a day early because a reoccurrence of my gout made walking difficult and increasingly painful. From Columbus to Medina, it’s a two-hour straight shot on I-71. Halfway home, I pulled into one of the highway rest areas for a pit stop.
I wasn’t expecting an anecdote.
The men’s room is on the far side of the rest area. The doors are on the near side. I was walking towards the exit when two gentlemen entered the building. One of them did a double-take when he saw me. I got nervous.
Picture bearded bikers drawn by Jack Kirby. These guys were big and sturdy. They were wearing motorcycle club t-shirts. Both had guns clipped to their belts. The guy who did the double-take pointed at me and exclaimed:
“You’re that guy! That guy from Medina!”
“You’re that guy who was on the front page of The Gazette! The one who writes comic books and was against open carry.”
I was thinking this could not possible end well.
Until he said:
“My mom loves you! She gave me both of those articles on you! She was so excited to read about you. Heck, I probably read a bunch of your comics when I was a kid!”
His mom’s on the high side of 80. Reading The Gazette is one of her joys, as is giving clippings of various stories to her son. Whose job has him on the road half the time. When he visits his mom, she always has a stack of clippings for him.
The biker guy told me he admired me taking such a stand against the open carry folks in Medina. Confused, I sort of pointed to the guns he and his friend were carrying. He laughed.
“Nothing wrong with open carry if you’re not trying to scare folks around you. If you’re not just being a dick. But those open carry people in Medina? They’re fucking insane!”
He shook my hand because he wanted to tell his mother we’d met and he’d shaken my hand. He mentioned that he was planning to check out my blog when he got the chance.
If you’re reading this, my friend, the universe bless you and your mom. You’re good people.
Welcome back to the bloggy thing, which has been less than rocking for a couple months. July ended up being one of the busiest months of my career with the work slipping into August. After PulpFest, I was dealing with minor medical and other annoyances while trying to relax as much as possible. Well, since that “relaxing” trick never works for me, I’m back to doing my best to bring you at least one new bloggy thing post a day.
My bloggy thing will continue to be a mix of comics reviews, movie reviews, political and social commentary, dewy nostalgia and stuff that catches my interest. Most of the time, I won’t know what I’ll be writing about much before you read it. I’d claim I was born to be wild, but the DNA test hasn’t come back yet.
Saturday night was a special “night with my girls.” Daughter Kelly took Barb and I out to dinner at Fiesta Jalapeno, one of the best restaurants in Medina and a favorite of ours. Then, because Kelly wanted to see it, we ordered The Amazing Spider-Man 2 [Sony; 2014] on demand from our cable provider.
There are super-hero movies I won’t see until I can get them free from my local library system. I won’t pay to see DC Comics movies because a) the company hasn’t honored its agreements with me and b) they’re shitty movies. I won’t pay to see non-Disney Marvel Comics movies because they don’t credit the creators of the elements used in those movies. Normally, I would not have paid to watch Amazing Spider-Man 2, but how could I say “no” to my darling daughter who had just plied me with chimichangas and margaritas?
The “action plot” of the movie is Spider-Man versus Oscorp, now run by Harry Osborn. The “human drama plots” are Peter Parker yearning to know more about his parents, our young hero’s relationship with Gwen Stacy and May Parker struggling to make ends meet without her beloved Ben. Here’s the good and the bad and the ugly of the film:
The good: There’s a nice balance between the action and the human scenes. It’s this balance that made Marvel’s super-hero comics so much better than DC’s for most of the past fifty years, including and, most especially, today.
The good: Andrew Garfield does well as both Peter and Spidey. I’ve come to rank his portrayal well above that of Tobey Maguire.
The great: Emma Stone shines as Gwen Stacy. That she’s as terrific a scientist as Peter Parker and courageous enough to help Spider-Man defend their city makes me wish even more than she has not been so cavalierly and unnecessarily killed off in the comic books and, now, in this movie. More on this in a bit.
The bad: Jamie Foxx as Electro. Terrible performance. You can see chunks of the scenery in his teeth, much like you could see bits of Quint in the title star of Jaws. However, to be fair, Electro was written badly. Cliche after cliche that not even the pretty sweet special effects could overcome.
The so-so: Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn. He doesn’t look old enough to be Peter’s contemporary. He doesn’t have much range beyond the spoiled rich kid and budding sociopath bits. Every damn thing that he does as the Green Goblin is ridiculously familiar. It’s a shame he’s clearly going to be in the next movie, leading a new version of the Sinister Six.
Digression. My guess as to the line-up of the Sinister Six is: the Green Goblin, Electro, the Rhino, Doctor Octopus, the Vulture and either the Lizard or a new-to-the-movies villain. I’m ruling out Venom and the Sandman from the last of the Tobey Maguire movies on account of they didn’t play well at the box office. A darker take on the Black Cat - Harry injects his secretary Felicia with one of
Oscorp’s secret serums - is worth considering. Not that I think it would be a good idea, but I don’t expect Sony to be as smart about these things as all of us are.
The crazy fun: Paul Giamatti as the Rhino. I love the kooky rhino suit. I love Giamatti’s playing the crazy for all it’s worth. This is the difference between an actor of Giamatti’s talent and DeHaan and Foxx.
The good-but-not-enough: I wish we could have seen more of Fighting Nursing Student May Parker. Sally Field can play feisty and tough. The next movie should park the fretting over Peter and their bills at the curb and let May shine in her new job.
The stupid and the ugly: The killing of Gwen Stacy. This was a bad move four decades ago and a bad move today. What made it worse in the comic books is the cynicism, the lack of imagination and, to be blunt, the inability of Stan Lee, John Romita and Gerry Conway to appreciate what they had in Gwen.
Steve Ditko introduced Gwen as a rather two-dimensional soap opera style bitch. Not surprising as Ditko has rarely been able to create characters of any depth.
Working with Lee, Romita softened Gwen’s image and personality. In a great moment, albeit one usually ignored afterward, we learned Gwen was every bit as smart as Peter. In the comic books, it wasn’t long before Gwen was devolved into the typical girlfriend in peril. To their considerable credit, the two Amazing Spider-Man films gave us a Gwen who was so much more than the cliche girlfriend in peril. That Gwen could’ve been used to great effect in the comic books. If Conway and company had been up to the task.
Conway has since been quoted as saying Gwen was boring and that the angst-ridden Mary Jane offered more dramatic potential. That’s true only by the clinched tropes of super-hero melodrama. It’s the same kind of bullshit mentality that says super-heroes can never have a moment of happiness, that marriage isn’t interesting, that raising kids is boring. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.
What it really is...is the low skill levels of mediocre editors and writers. Who either haven’t experienced the real life their readers experience or who don’t have the ability to bring real life drama to their stories.
One of the best received comics stories I ever wrote was “What If Gwen Stacy Had Lived?” Readers responded so favorably to the story because every development in it was a logical consequence of what had gone before. Even to J. Jonah Jameson ruining what should have been the happiest day of Peter and Gwen’s lives. If there were any surprises, it was only because comic books don’t often proceed from a logical viewpoint. Their plots are twisted for the cheap thrill. If it bleeds, it leads.
The story was open-ended because I always wanted to return to that alternate world. Spider-Man, his civilian identity exposed, on the run as never before. Gwen and May fighting for him.
Readers requested Marvel publish a “Mr. & Mrs. Spider-Man” series. I had dozens of ideas for such a title. I could have written the heck out of that title. But I digress.
The bad: Outside of the credit for Lee and Ditko as the creators of Spider-Man, no other comics credits are included. Captain Stacy and the Rhino were co-created by John Romita. The “death of Gwen Stacy” comes from a story written by Gerry Conway. John and Gerry should have been recognized for their contributions to the movie. The same is true for Gil Kane, who drew the original story, and writer Adam-Troy Castro, who created the briefly-seen Gustav Fiers (also known as “The Gentleman”) in the prose novel Spider-Man: The Gathering of the Sinister Six and two subsequent novels, all featuring chapter illustrations by Mike Zeck.
The bottom line: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a decent movie. While I wouldn’t watch it again, I think it holds its own with the first two movies of the Tobey Maguire series. It’s worth watching if you can do so without buying it. It’s worth buying if you love Spider-Man so much you want to own all his movies. Because there are far worse obsessions.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2014 Tony Isabella