Saturday, July 23, 2011

Same Story, Different Cover: Q: Are we not men? A: We are the guys who killed Nick Fury!

L: Tales of Suspense #92 (August 1967), cover art by Jack Kirby and Frank Giacoia
R: Marvel Double Feature #16 (June 1976), cover art by Larry Lieber and Frank Giacoia

(Click picture to Americize)

365 Days with the Warriors Three, Day 204

Panel from Thor v.2 #30 (December 2000), script by Dan Jurgens, pencils by Andy Kubert, inks by Scott Hanna, colors by Gregory Wright, letters by Wes Abbott and Richard Starkings

Amy Winehouse, 1983-2011

Stan Lee Saturdays #2: A modest pitch

Panel from Journey Into Mystery #-1 (July 1997), script by Tom DeFalco, pencils and inks by "Deodato Studios," colors by Marie Javins, letters by Jon Andreani

Friday, July 22, 2011

Oh Crappy Movie, My Crappy Movie

Hey, did you hear? There's a Captain America movie out now... your local video store or online movie service or your choice, including YouTube. That's because I'm talking about the 1990 Captain America movie, which wasn't released until two years later in 1992. Now that's the sign of quality, as befitting all Marvel movie and TV productions of the 1990s!

Yep, you could rent or buy or download this series of pictures in motion, of which Entertainment Weekly has said "The movie isn't merely wrong for kids—it's just all wrong." You could settle in on the couch, wisely avoiding movie theater lines, and watch what Variety described as a movie that "never takes flight under Albert Pyun's leaden direction." And you could spend the next ninety minutes gaping in disbelief at "one of the dumbest movies of all time" (Ron Gonsalves, And with recommendations like that, why wouldn't you? Well, maybe because your little stuffed truly is gonna take the bullet for you, not by watching the movie (Mama Bull didn't raise no idiots!) but by reading the tie-in comic book. Read along with me, won't you? (Be sure to turn the page when you hear the "ding" or "retching" noise.)

Whoops, I think I've accidentally picked up the comic book adaptation of Lisztomania, huh? It's 1936, it's Italy, and there's a kid playing the piano. Of such things are great Captain America stories made! You can just hear Stan saying "Now hold on, True Believers...don't put this comic book back on the rack...c'mon, it's only $3.50...face front...excelsior?...hey, c'mon back!"

Panels from Captain America: The Movie (May 1992), script by Stan Lee, pencils by Bob Hall, inks by Tom Morgan, colors by Bob Sharen, letters by Joe Rosen

Tadzio De Santis! Why, if you know your Marvel Comics history as well as I do, you'll recognize that name instantly't he the Kangaroo in Amazing Spider-Man? Or maybe he's a Grant Morrison character who is really Magneto in masquerade, at least until he's retconned to not be Magneto ten minutes after the end of the book? Well, let's stick around and find out. Whatever the answer, I'm certain it will be completely authentic and reverent to Marvel Universe history. And when I say "completely," I mean "sarcastically."

"Later," as comic books like to tell us, a mouse attacks a cat, inspiring the creation of several hundred Tom and Jerry cartoons, even those weird-ass Gene Deitch ones from the 1950s. No, actually, the mouse has been injected with the Super Soldier Solution, thus transforming him into a patriotic powerhouse who will fight in the upcoming war against tyranny and fascism...Captain Amouseica! What, you don't remember him appearing in Art Spegelman's Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus? ... me either.

Soldiers march in a young boy in a sweater vest! And the moral of the story is, sweater vests will get you in serious trouble. Remember Dr. Erskine, the brilliant scientist who invested the Super Soldier Serum in Captain America's origin? Well, in this comic book Dr. Erskine is, of course, a hot woman. Because, hey, comics!

Forced to turn the young Tadzio De Santis into a fascist super soldier (Captain Trains-Runs-on-Time!), the Doc decides to quit medicine and become a stuntwoman, instantly attracting the attention of Quentin Tarantino, who vows to one day make movies about her. Escaping the lab despite the presence of two guards immediately beneath the window she dives through, Herr Frau Doktor Not-Quite-Erskine flees to America and vows to fight against this injustice she was forced into! Luckily, she brought some books along for the long transatlantic boat trip: James Joyce's Ulysses, Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, and John Cleland's Fanny Hill. She'll waltz right through customs with no problems bringing those, I'm sure.

Suddenly, Steve! Rogers, that is. He's living in California and he has a big family, but still, hey, pretty much Steve Rogers, huh? Luckily for Steve, the war is half over and he can be proud his family is keeping the faltering economy of Redondo Beach's professional banner-makers afloat. Hey, shouldn't that long piece of paper be going towards the war effort to help out our boys? To...wrap tanks in, or something, I guess.

Steve Rogers has been recruited by the US Military for a super-secret mission that he can't even tell his own family about, mainly because he doesn't know himself even though we, the readers can probably guess. Ahem. He vows upon his precious locket photograph of movie star Glenn Ford that he will never dishonor his family, or his country!

He then immediately sells out his family to the communists and spits on the flag.

Naw, just kiddin'!

Before he ships out, Steve goes down to the beach to say goodbye to his best gal Bernie, who hasn't been the same since that freak hairstyling accident turned her coiffure into an ice cream cone.

Later, Girl Scout cookies are sold, and never mentioned again. That kid on the left? He coulda been Bucky. But no...Girl Scout cookies.

Oh, hey, Female Doctor Erskine has her own name (Vasari, from the Italian vasar, "skull-maker"). She's going to turn an ordinary Joe or Steve into a super soldier to battle the Red Skull, who we have no idea of yet but hey, you've read the comics, you can probably guess.

You know something's going to go wrong because Millhouse is there.

Kirby dots are immediately shipped in and rubbed all over the youing Steve Rogers, turning him into a golden hero to inspire all Americans...the very first of a long line of Oscar Statues!

Suddenly, upset at being left out of the origin story, Dr. Erlick goes berserk and shoots Dr. Erskine! Won't somebody please stop this terrible rash of physician-on-physician crime?

The dying Dr. Vasari warns the newly big-'n'-beefy Steve Rogers to beware the Red Skull. Then, she tells him to beware the dwarf, beware the jabberwock, the stare of Mary Shaw, and to remember the Alamo. Meanwhile, training medical experts stand around and watch. It's like you guys only wanted one super soldier, huh? We comic book historians have a technical word for that sort of behavior: dumb-ass.

Then, Steve passes out. Well, if you're gonna pass out, it may as well be on Cherry Jell-O, huh?

Faster than you can hum the Indiana Jones theme song, and luckily for Steve, when he wakes up most of his origin is over except for the ceremonial smirking at the wax-paper-wrapped shield. Steve, of course, would rather be appearing live in Broadway in a fabulous production of The Mikado.

As he jumps out of an airplane Captain America is reminded that Ronald Reagan is counting on his success.

Cap parachutes into occupied France, a few five yards from the French Resistance and a mere seven yards from the Nazi forces. You guys really have got to start spacing out your ski holidays a little more, dudes!

At this point Ben Grimm, accompanied by Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos, come roaring over the hill and...oh, wait a minute, I drifted off into a better comic book there for a second. What actually happens: Captain America jumps over a dog. Hey, look, he started to peek at his Christmas present! You only ruin it for yourself when you sneak a look, you know that, Steve?

Cap reminds us that it's still the same day as most of the other stuff in the comic book, while showing off his magic shield's powers of appearing completely unwrapped and then in torn, ragged wrapping, and then totally unwrapped in succession. It's as if he'd sent it through the United States Postal Service!

Captain America has also been outfitted with a magic uniform that he can tear off within the span of running full blast into a wire fence from nine inches away. Well, hey, if you're gonna do that, why not give him laser eyes and jetpacks in his toes? You guys so totally coulda made Captain America so cool and you blew it!

Enter...the Italian Red Skull! He can't be all bad because he does like the movie Casablanca, but hey, he's a dirty rotten Nazi and he's gotta go.

Cap then shows off another superpower he's been given, thanks to the radioactive spider-venom coursing through his system: the super-ability to make topical pop-culture wisecracks! The Red Skull's all puzzled and he's going to have to go look that reference up. I'm sure they'll continue fighting after he's figured it out.

To the surprise of absolutely no one except perhaps DC Comics readers, the Skull captures Cap commands him can I say ride his rocket. Oh dear.

Oh look, the Red Skull's hand just pops right off! Well, that's han...convenient. And so, the saga begins!...fifty minutes into the film.

Oh wait, it's not over yet.

Cap stops the bomb from blowing up Washington, DC, and manages to turn the rocket around... that it flies him to the North Pole at a cruising altitude of about 500 feet above the ground. But don't worry: I'm pretty sure nobody in New York or Newfoundland noticed a thing.

Luckily, he falls in snow, where, after a rough day, he can get a little shut-eye.

Luckily for Cap, about fifty years later, the Sub-Mariner doe not appear in this movie, so it's left to an international team of ice enthusiasts to discover the Star Spangled Avenger! Funny, I woulda thought Cap's expression would have been more screamy at that point in time, but he looks so peaceful, you hardly want to wake him up. Five more minutes, Steve!

But Cap's flash-frozen mind can hear and detect the sound of a Hollywood actor trying to do a German accent even from inside an iceberg. Now that's good superpowerin'!

Captain America is breaking out, baby! And walloping archaeologists and anthropologists left and right. Take that, Jacques Cousteau! In your face, Margaret Mead! Eat fist, Michael Palin!

Cap unleashes the mighty power of his area punch! Oooh, nice grippy soles on those boots. Good for arctic exploring, I bet. Wonder where he got those...are those L. L. Bean?

Meanwhile, Millhouse is back!

No no no...the other one. Tell me, why on earth in the 1990s would even let a guy named Millhouse anywhere near the President? That's just asking for trouble, I think.

Also meanwhile, the Red Skull, now in disguise as a Punisher cosplayer, has actually managed to have sex during the seventies and produce a wicked but beautiful female heir! You know, he's an evil, rotten, nogoodnik Nazi, but you'd got to admit, he's got decent genes. And she knows all about cures, so she's in training to become a doctor! What a great catch! Me, I'm hopin' Steve and the Skrullette can make a go of it in this crazy world.

And yet still oddly enough meanwhile, Cap fights off the Skull's assassins who've been dispatched to pick Steve up during his walk home from the Polar Circle! I'm guessing he ran into Superman along the way there at some point. "Hey." "Hey." "Whatcha up to?" "Walkin' to America from the North Pole." "Me too! Where you heading?" "Metropolis." "Oh, I'm going to Redondo Beach." "Well, I'll see you later, then." "Take care, man."

That was my Captain America/Superman fan fiction, and September's Action Comics #1 had better not contradict it.

Later, Steve catches a ride with...I dunno, Wolverine from the first scene of the X-Men movie, it doesn't matter. Luckily there are photo albums of the Red Skull and Hitler to look at! You know, they're lucky somebody pasted those in a book...usually they just sit in a heap in Hitler's mom's cabinet and they never get sorted. Hitler's mom always says the same thing...she'll sort them out this winter. Never does.

Back in America (having easily walked through the entire height of Canada), Steve is dismayed to discover the concept of globalization. In a scene omitted from the film, he spends twenty minutes speaking to Noam Chomsky and Christopher Hitchens about it, helping him to come to grips with the words that are so new and foreign to him like "Sony" and "Nissan" and "veteran."

Pausing only to shed a single tear rolling down his cheek as he observes the garbage lining his old familiar beach, Steve is met by his girlfriend Bernie, who is now a blonde, and who knocks him out cold with a six pack. The entire rest of the movie is about the adventures of Young Blonde Bernie bashing Nazis in the face with a chilly six-pack. Let's face it...I'd pay to see it and so would you.

Actually, that's Bernie's daughter Sharon, but Bernie herself instantly recognizes Steve without surprise even though he's been gone for fifty years! Also present on the scene: an elderly Jean-Luc Picard.

Steve is quickly brought up to speed through the use of exposition and old Funk and Wagnall's Yearbooks, although he still marvels at this miraculous substance named "cof-fee." Bernie's used to this...he wasn't that bright in the forties, either.

Steve's amazed by everything! TV! The internet! Rock 'n' Roll! Pop-Tarts! Luckily for him, the Exposition Channel is on.

Hello, entire reason for the movie!

In a subplot never again mentioned in the comic book, Steve scolds Sharon for taking drugs. Um, says the steroided super soldier. At the end of the movie, I bet Nancy Reagan comes on screen, shrugs and says, "Okay, so I was wrong!"

Suddenly: the "Let's Get Physical" video!

Meanwhile, neo-Nazis sit around a long table and debate what to do about the threat of a liberal President. None of the brightly-suited crime bosses has an idea, and it takes the brave, brave stuffed duck in the middle of the table to suggest killing him. As a reward, that duck now runs the Falconi family out of South Jersey.

Steve's got a plan...he must stop Milhouse!

But...can Milhouse even be stopped?

Then, they fly to Italy, conveniently forgetting that Steve has no ID or passport and is carrying a honkin' big-ass shield and take time for dinner and some exposition. They've managed to capture the recording of Tadzio de Santis playing a Chopin piece. Remember that from the first page of the comic book? Neither do I. But I do know this: Look out! The homecoming Queen's got a gun!"

Look out! The homecoming queen's got no bra!

It's about the point in the movie for an exciting chase through the streets of...Italian City, Italy, wherever we are. So if you were Cap, you'd hop into a nearby sports car or on a motorcycle or pull out a jetpack or something, right? Because surely no motion picture adventure film would think it was exciting to have the hero try to escape on a bicycle.

Captain America: he can do pretty much everything, but he is not E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

With only a half hour to go in the movie and a few pages left in the comic book, you always need to resort to one of two things: keen detection work or outright stupidity on the part of the villain. Guess which one they chose.

So Steve Rogers, Captain America, gets ready to fight the deadliest foe he...well, only foe he's ever fought. Luckily, since the last time they've fought, Cap has learned a thing or two the thirty or so hours it's been since to him since he last fought him in 1943. Did he read the entire run of Master of Kung Fu on the plane?

Okay, and then...I'm gonna sum this up pretty swiftly for you, so pay attention...Captain America, the Red Skull, Sharon, the Skull's daughter, the freakin; President of the United States, and Milhouse...

...and Millhouse all fight in the big battle sequence.

Unluckily for Western Civilization, this movie was made the Red Skull has atomic bombs hooked up to a piano keyboard. If he hits a key, everything will explode!

Oh no! The world is doomed! Once the Red Skull plays his Sonata of Death™ Earth will be doomed!

Now. This is a pretty stupid movie and comic book. And yet I would leap up and kiss it right on the mouth if it, at this point, used this sequence, substituting Cap and Skull for Bugs and Sam:

Alas, there's instead some psychobabble that involves driving the Red Skull mad by playing the recording of his parents being taken away by the government. Either that, or Cap's playing a Celine Dion tape. Whatever, the results are the same:

So, the conclusion of our big fight sequence is the Red Skull tossing himself off a cliff, bouncing off a rock, and into the briny deep. Well, we'll never see him again, right?

And then Steve and Sharon make out, because it's not at all weird to make out with the daughter of your old girlfriend.

This is, of course, The End.

Special movie end credits bonus: Please support the Environmental Protection Act of 1990!