Category Archives: Superheros

Clause, The First Avenger

 

We made out annual mall pilgrimage this past week, our December visit with none other than the big man himself, Father Christmas. Thirty minutes of waiting in line while other parents tried to coax smiles out of terrified toddlers, twenty five bucks for a pair of 5 x 7 pictures that came out about half as well as the ones I snapped on my phone, and a surprise for both Santa and daddy as she announced that they only thing she really wanted was a monster video game full of zombies for her to fight.

 

Klaus the Avenger

 

Photo op completed, we set off for the real reason she was so excited upon realizing where we were headed.  The escalators at Sears. “Magic stairs” that we rode up and down many more times than I’m comfortable admitting, but apparently extremely entertaining for the woman watching from the perfume counter.

It isn’t that she wasn’t happy about seeing The Jolly One.  She was thrilled to be able to pass along her last minute request and is always up for having her picture taken.  She’s just not impressed with meeting another one of Santa’s helpers trying to fool her into thinking they are the real deal.  The Salvation Army Santa outside of the grocery store and the Biker Santa holding a food drive outside of the liquor store didn’t impress her much either.  She still believes in Santa Clause, just not these “lame” Santa wannabes.

The Santa Clause around here is a bit different, the product of an over active imagination ( mine ) and a growing amount of skepticism ( hers ).

Our Santa is a little more bad ass than the one you may be used to hearing about.  Yes, he still delivers presents every year, and yes, you still have to be well-behaved to receive them.   I’d be crazy to take that part out.  It’s what he does the other 364 days a year where we go off script a little bit.  Our Santa spends those days fighting bad guys, saving village children from the evil Krampus and his gang.

 

 

He still uses some magic, pixie dust supplied by the elves helps him fly, and of course he has cold powers for freezing enemies.  Super speed is necessary to get around the entire world in one night, though I’m not sure how big she thinks the entire world actually is.

He’s also very technologically advanced.  A button on his belt buckle using the same Pym Particles that Ant-Man uses to shrink. This enables him to sneak into houses without chimneys and to help him get down chimneys without getting his suit dirty.  His indestructible suit, made of Vibranium like that worn by The Black Panther.  Naturally, Iron Man helped with the rockets that power his sleigh.

It’s all a bit silly and it’s possible I got carried away, but she keeps asking questions and I answer the best I can.  I’ve heard all of the arguments against lying to your children about Santa Clause and I think they are all bollocks.  The percentage of our lives that we spend as children is terribly short, the time spent as innocent, imaginative children even shorter.  Whatever I can do to extend that time, extend her belief in magic and elves and a secret headquarters at the North Pole, than that’s what I’m going to do.

 

Klaus the Avenger

 

 

 

 

Nerd Night With Kevin Smith

This past weekend marked the return of TerrifiCon to the Mohegan Sun Casino, an event that I’d been waiting for much longer than I should probably admit. Somewhat less excited was my wife, my sidekick for this year’s adventure. A child-free night in a hotel room and promises of dinner and drinks significantly aided in increasing her enthusiasm.

Part of the problem was my inability to properly explain what it was I was dragging her to. Yes, there were comic books, rows of vendors selling T-shirts, toys, posters, and books. Alongside these were booths for comic creators, legendary artists and writers like Neal Adams and Jerry Ordway available for signings. There were also people talking about comic books. She was amazed at the number of people willing to pack conference rooms for a lecture about the history of DC Comics or a panel discussion about Captain America’s place in pop culture over the past seventy-five years.

More interesting to a non-enthusiast was cool stuff like the Batmobile from Tim Burton’s Batman films and all the celebrity appearances.  On Saturday we saw Jason Mewes, Jeremy Landon and Katrina Law among many others.  Michael Cudlitz, Abraham from The Walking Dead, was a lot smaller in person than I would have guessed.

 

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People watching is about as entertaining at a comic-con as anyplace else that you will ever go. Where else are you going to see Freddy Krueger stopping for a quick chat with Iron Man?

 

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Equally as hard to explain was our night time entertainment, an Evening With Kevin Smith. Just describing what he does is difficult. In 1994 Smith wrote and directed the movie Clerks, using $27,000 of his own money and filming at the convenience and video stores where he actually worked. Shot entirely in black and white it’s one of my favorite comedies, and one of my favorite films in general. All of his movies feature prominently in my DVD collection.

He produces the television show Comic Book Men, a reality show set in a comic book store that he owns, co-hosts a late night talk show called Geeking Out, and plays Silent Bob in his early movies. His stints as writer of the Daredevil and Green Arrow comic books are some of my favorites with the characters and his two Batman mini-series are also bagged and boarded in my basement.

He’s a renaissance man, but most importantly he’s an extremely gifted storyteller, whatever the medium. The event we attended was billed as a question and answer session, something that he does often, but the audience questions could more accurately be called prompts, a jumping off point for musings and exposition on anything and everything.

We stayed for three hours and it was interesting, often hilarious, and sometimes poignant, as when he discussed his friendship with the late Alan Rickman, took the cellphone of an audience member who’s friend  was unable to attend due to a family death and called him, and when he came off stage to hug a veteran who told a story about his PTSD support group watching Kevin Smith movies together.

If it sounds like I’m a big fan, I won’t deny it.  As silly as I find it when people pay attention to the private lives of celebrities, I follow this dude across all his social media channels. I have a signed copy of a tongue in cheek book of life lessons that he wrote and he’s the first name I’d give if asked about famous people I’d want to have dinner with.

I also loved  the way he handled an Internet troll that posted some terribly cruel things on the Instagram page of his daughter, seventeen year old Harley Quinn. Instead of lashing out the way I probably would have, it was taken in stride, simply something that unfortunately happens to public figures. Instead he offered the offender some words of wisdom, telling him that “the better use of your time is to make YOUR dreams come true, instead of slamming others for doing the same. Show the world WHY we should be paying attention to you instead of anyone else. Create something nobody’s ever seen before and there is a good chance the world will notice you.”

Impressive magnanimity, and also good advice for all of us.

 

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Two Harley Quinns

By now even the most casual reader of this blog knows that we are big fans of all things superhero in this house. The five year old dressed as Captain America for Halloween, the teenager accompanied me to our first Comic-con last summer, and I still spend way more money on comic books each month than I’d be comfortable admitting to my wife.

It was with great anticipation that I have been waiting for the release of Suicide Squad, the next movie set in DC Comics new extended universe after the extremely underwhelming Batman Vrs Superman.  A fan of the comics since the re-launch by writer John Ostrander in 1987, the premise is that government agent Amanda Waller puts together a team of incarcerated super-villains to undertake high-risk, black-ops type missions that more respectable heroes would balk at. Tiny bombs implanted in their necks deter these villains from trying to escape custody.

The movie follows this same narrative, and while not without it’s flaws, was overall very good.

It was also not meant for children. Although PG-13 and nowhere near as raunchy as Deadpool, this is still a very dark, very violent movie. There is more humor than there was in the dour Batman Vrs Superman, but I’d still consider the appropriate viewing age to be several years older than with the Marvel movies.

Most of the funny moments come courtesy of either Will Smith’s super assassin Deadshot, or from Harley Quinn, played brilliantly by Margot Robbie. This Harley Quinn is an unstable psychopath who was once the Joker’s psychologist at Arkham Asylum before falling in love with him, helping him to escape, and starting a new life as his baseball bat wielding paramour. She’s apprehended in one of Batman’s brief cameos. I still haven’t made up my mind about how I feel about Jared Leto’s  much hyped turn as the Joker, but his role in the film is significantly less than the marketing would have you believe.

 

harley quinn

 

My problem is that there is also another Harley Quinn; one that attends Super Hero High School with Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Batgirl, among others. She’s my daughter’s favorite character from the You Tube cartoon series and her favorite action figure from the toy line. When I stopped by my brother’s house last week, the first thing that my four year old nephew did was to show me his new Harley Quinn.

 

kids harley quinn

 

The two are obviously being marketed to vastly different audiences, and it makes good business sense for DC to try and capitalize on one of their most popular properties right now. The argument that parents are responsible for knowing the content of a movie before bringing their children is a valid one.

I also think that the comic book companies have enough heroes and villains in their catalogues  that there can be some characters that are left for children, while still satisfying audiences who like a more grown up action movie.  My daughter shouldn’t have to wait until puberty to be able to watch Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman on the big screen.  She was already angry about being left home while the teenager and I went to the movies. If she had known we were going to watch a Harley Quinn movie, she would have lost her mind.

 

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Where’s Black Widow?

 

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My baby is turning five this week, a joyous occasion for her, a bittersweet one for me. Invitations have been passed out, a bouncy house reserved, cupcakes have been made. New toys have been purchased.

Surprisingly, it was ticking this last item off the list that caused the most frustration.

When I was a kid I had action figures. GI Joe, Star Wars, or superhero. I had action figures and that was about it. Not because I was deprived in any way, but because that is what I liked playing with. I had a Death Star play set that served as home base, a handful of vehicles that were modified to resemble the cars from The Road Warrior, and dozens of action figures to inhabit it all. Shopping for me was easy.

It’s a little different with my daughter. Not only does she have more varied interests, she also has a large number of  toys that used to belong to her sister. Combine that with a grammy that likes to go tag saleing and a daddy that buys toys that he wants to play with, and you end up with a little of everything in your toy chest. No matter what she feels like playing, chances are good that I can oblige.

She certainly doesn’t need any more Barbies. We have a whole box of Barbies, almost all of them naked, a disturbing number headless. We also have quite a few superheroes. We’ve got Spider Man of course, because he’s the coolest, multiple Batmans in different armors, and the majority of The Avengers team in one form or another.

It’s the missing Avengers that are the problem. I don’t mind that Hawkeye is hard to find, nobody wants to be Hawkeye. Even kids that are actually archers prefer The Green Arrow.  Black Widow and The Scarlet Witch, however, are toys that my daughter wants. She wants them, and I can’t find them. This display would lead you to believe that Black Widow is somewhere on these shelves, but you would be wrong.

 

blackwidow

 

It’s not the first time that Disney has let me down in this way. A year and a half after watching The Force Awakens, I still haven’t seen a Rey action figure. I applaud them for having a female lead, but it seems odd that it’s easier to find Luke Skywalker on the toy shelves. *SPOILER ALERT*  He’s on screen for about three minutes, with no dialogue.

It was a surprising heroine that saved the day. The same  Supergirl that I had such a hard time finding during Christmastime.  I’ve always been a much bigger fan of the Marvel characters, but DC is way ahead in their efforts to get young girls interested in their properties. Wonder Woman has a prominent role in their new cinematic universe and will become the first female superhero with her own movie in 2017. The Super Hero High cartoon series on You Tube is great, as is the one hour special aired on Boomerang. Just as important, the merchandising partnership with Target proved that there is a strong market for these products. We now have a whole team of girls ready to go out and fight the bad guys.

 

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Marvel has  been on the forefront of diversity among their superheros for years. The Black Panther just celebrated fifty years in comics and will be getting his own movie in 2017.  The X Men books have long been allegory for gay rights and the current Ms Marvel is the first Muslim hero to have her own series.

It’s time for them to catch up on their toy selection.

 

 

 

 

Our Civil War

Talk to any parent long enough and eventually the conversation will turn to how quickly the time goes. How fleeting every stage seems in retrospect and how important it is to cherish and enjoy every moment. It’s the single most surprising thing about parenthood. I’m usually talking about our little one in these conversations, how quickly she has grown into this strong, independent little girl. How absurd it seems that she will be headed off to kindergarten in the fall.

These thoughts also hold just as true for the teenager, Lord willing entering into her final year of high school. In two weeks Alaina will be turning five years old, something that by itself is difficult to wrap my head around. It becomes even more so when I realize that this is the same age as Kayla when we were first introduced.

 

I considered all this as I drove home from a solo viewing of Captain America : Civil War, a movie that I typically would have seen with her. Without giving anything away, the movie revolves around repercussions faced after the mass destruction of the previous Marvel films. Tony Stark, AKA Iron man, is willing to accept that he may not always be right, ( he kinda created the bad guy from Avengers 2 ) and agrees to UN oversight of The Avengers. Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America, believes that he should be free to act as he sees fit. Conflict ensues.

Where the story more closely parallels our own is that it’s a lack of communication that causes the situation to escalate. Assuming that Stark would never believe what he discovers to be happening or understand his perspective, Rogers instead runs off with Bucky Barnes, AKA The Winter Soldier, a mentally disturbed former brainwashed assassin.

 

Recently there has been an increase in  communication and some warming relations with Kayla. She spent this past weekend at her grandmother’s and by all accounts it went well. She appears open to the suggestion of leaving her current accommodations and staying there full time, a compromise we have long advocated.

There’s still work to be done. While waiting for the movie to begin, I received a text asking if I would be willing to pick her up from school the following day, an early release day. Soon after my agreement a follow up text asked if I’d be OK with a friend coming along. I replied that I was looking forward to spending some time alone with her and would rather this friend find her own transportation. The lights dimmed, the previews began, and I told her we’d talk more in the morning.

I woke up to a cancellation of our plans. Apparently the friend was one that for various reasons she would not be seeing again for some time. They found another ride and I found myself again shaking my head at breakdowns in communication. Information that could have greatly affected my response not being provided until too late.

It’s now been just over six months since Kayla left, time that we will never be able to replace. Time that she and her little sister will never be able to replace.

 

The bad guys are of course defeated in the end. Differences put aside for the greater good. New characters such as The Black Panther and a new Spider Man are welcome additions to the Marvel Universe and I look forward to both of their solo films.

The movie ends with The Avengers cordial, but still estranged. Presumably they will stay that way until May of 2018, when the first part of Avengers: Infinity War is released. A lot will change in those two years. Alaina will be turning seven and old enough to take along with me. Kayla will be close to nineteen, her future impossible to predict.

What I can predict, what I know to be true, is that those two years will pass in the blink of an eye. Both kids will change a lot in that time. I will change a lot in that time.

How awesome would it be if we could all go together though?