In widescreen, with Technicolor and stereophonic sound, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer made the finest Hollywood musicals of the 1950’s. As excellent as these films are they can’t begin to compare with the real life musical extravaganzas that make up our own personal lives. Our lives are journeys filled with music. The music flows from radios, cars, family & friend gatherings, offices, schools, stores, movies, airports, bus & train stations and that stereo inside your head. The times of your life, the best, the worse, the marvelous and the mundane, are stories woven into a musical soundtrack, because as the Ritchie Family sang, “Life Is Music”
Life Is Music:
The Greatest American (Super) Hero "Believe It Or Not"
by Rix Roundtree-Harrison
I have a friend who goes by the moniker “The Reformed Librarian.” I don’t know why he goes by this alias, maybe he’s a superhero in disguise. But for the sake of brevity I’m going to call him TRL.
TRL is really into the big budget superhero flicks that have been continuously hitting movies screens since the first X-Men in 2000. TRL get visibly excited at the thought of seeing the latest Iron Man, Batman or Spider-Man film. His excitement with these films leads him to ask me questions about the history of these characters.
I found that I got excited when he asked me questions about superheroes because I realized that I had the answers. I could answer TRL’s superhero questions because from childhood to post college graduation, I read all the Marvel superhero comics books titles.
Actually, as a kid I read not only Marvel comics but virtually all the various comic genres. I read Archie comics, Harvey comics (featuring Richie Rich, Casper the friendly ghost), Gold Key comics (Popeye), and Charlton comics (Sarge Steel, Captain Atom).
I never really got into the superhero characters of the DC comics’ universe (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc), so I never really read DC comics. Though for a very short while I did read DC's teenage superhero sensations the Teen Titans and the gloomy but cerebral Doom Patrol comics.
I found DC’s superheroes to be too perfect. Superman was too super and indestructible, so he did not appeal to me. Batman, possessing no real super power to speak of was not super enough for me, so he to did not appeal to me either.
My friend TRL does not read and as far as I know has never read superhero comic books. I must admit, I enjoy watching his reaction to these superhero films because it gives me the opportunity to tell him interesting things about the characters. I can also give him character history and background information that he does not know.
For example, after viewing Iron Man 2 TRL went into "oh wow" mode when I told him that in the comic book Tony Stark had once had a serious drinking problem and was a recovering alcoholic.
TRL was also amazed when I told him how long Iron Man had really been around. In the 1st film Iron Man is created during the current war in Afghanistan. But I told him this was a re-telling as in the comic book Iron Man came into being in the early 1960’s during the Vietnam War.
I also told him that Iron man’s alter ego Tony Stark put the "play" in playboy with his cavalcade of glamorous girlfriends. Then I realized, "Gosh, I know all the little details about Marvel's superheroes. Who knew that someday this stuff would come in conversationally handy?"
I possess a wealth of superhero information as I had read all the Marvel comics including, Fantastic Four, Amazing Spider Man, the Mighty Thor, the Avengers, the Incredible Hulk, Captain America, and the Uncanny X-men.
Ironically, I stopped reading comics and sold them all about five years before the first X-Men movie hit the theaters. It was also about five years before the X-Men film when I was trying to find myself. There were many reasons I loved the first X-Men movie, and “trying to find myself” was one of them.
In the first X-Men film, like me, both Wolverine and Rogue were runners. They were lost souls trying to find themselves, so I could relate to their spiritual pain.
I was working at a printing company loading bundles of freshly printed and bound magazines onto palettes. Though I was doing a good job it was obvious to some of my coworkers I did not belong there. I had my earphones digging Yena's "Feel The Beat Of Love" when one coworker asked me "What are you doing here?"
I replied that I was only there temporarily as I was trying to find myself. He said "you won't find yourself here at this dead end job."
Eventually I would learn that sometimes you need to stand still in order to find yourself. Then, after you find yourself you must ask yourself, “Now that I’ve found myself, what am I going to do with me?” And that’s when the adventure begins as it did for me in real life, and for Wolverine and Rogue in the film X-Men.
The first X-Men movie was awesome. This film actually spoke to me and in doing so I became a part of the movie. Isn't that a sign of a really good film, a film that takes you along for the ride by making you feel a part of it?
In the beginning of the film, when Wolverine first encountered Rogue she had run to Canada. This brought to mind my own life as in the past I had run to California, New York, Florida, Delaware, Oklahoma, and Nevada.
Later in the film when Wolverine went to the train station to retrieve Rogue who was again running away, he said to her “You runnin’ again? That simple question did something to me; it was as if Wolverine had been talking to me. I had been contemplating running again but did not know where to run to.
Wolverine's question to Rogue made me think back to the past when I was running. But it also made me remember what I’d learned and what both Wolverine and Rogue would also learn, you can’t runaway from yourself; you are the one person that you must deal with and come to terms with.
X2: X-Men United was another incredibly good film. I particularly loved the exchange between Nightcrawler, the blue teleporter and Mystique, the blue metamorph.
Nightcrawler discovered that Mystique could change her appearance to any sex, race or ethnicity she desired. The curious Nightcrawler asked her why not stay in "normal" human form all the time, that way she would be accepted by all. She answered with “why should I have too.”
And why should she have too, I thought? She should be accepted for who she was, blue and all. Accept yourself and hopefully other will accept you as well. And those that don’t, well, to hell with ‘em.
I like action movies and X-Men: The Last Stand has plenty of action, fighting and explosions. Unfortunately unlike the previous two films it had no heart. So for me I did not find the third installment very satisfying.
The Fantastic Four was and still is my favorite team of superheroes. When I read the Fantastic Four comic book as I kid I would dream of the day that a fantastic big budget Fantastic Four film would hit the silver screen. But that day has yet to arrive as I was really disappointed with both the recent Fantastic Four movies. They did not capture the excitement, grandness, fun, and cosmic feel of the comic book. The only thing the two films did capture was the family feel and solidarity of the FF. But all in all I found both FF films to be flat, dry, boring and unexciting.
Now, the Fantastic Four comic book was anything but unexciting. Beneath the title “Fantastic Four” on the cover page was the tag line "World’s Greatest Comix Magazine."
The Fantastic Four were indeed the greatest, the heroes, the stories, the villains, the settings were all spectacular.
When I started reading the Fantastic Four, Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) and Susan Storm Richards (the Invisible Girl, before she became the Invisible Woman), had just had a major argument which caused Sue to quit the FF.
They had been quarrelling about of all things, love. You see, Sue’s brother, Johnny Storm (the Human Torch), was in love with Crystal an Inhuman who lives on the moon, and he desperately wanted to be with her.
Johnny was constantly pining for Crystal and it was getting in the way of the performance of his duties as a member of the Fantastic Four. Johnny was making mistakes; he accidentally caused one of Reed’s rockets to explode as his mind was on Crystal and not his work.
Reed grew tired of Johnny’s whining for, and preoccupation with Crystal, and told him so. The chastising from Reed made Johnny angry and it made him feel that no one cared about the heartache he was going through. So Johnny angrily yelled, “Flame on,” ignited into the Human Torch and he flew off in a huff.
Reed’s inability to understand Johnny’s problem and his shortness with her brother pissed Sue off. She angrily chastised at her husband and told him (I remember it to this day), "It is you, not Alicia, who are truly blind.”
Sue was referencing Ben Grimm’s (the Thing) girlfriend, Alicia Master's blindness. She was saying to Reed that if he couldn’t see that Johnny was in pain because he was in love with a girl he had no access to; it was he who visually impaired, not Alicia.
The Johnny incident is when the marriage of Reed and Sue began to fall apart and Sue eventually left the FF and her blindly unromantic husband to join the Namor, the Sub-Mariner.
The Sub-Mariner, the aquatic hero/villain had always had the hots for Sue, even before she and Reed were married.
Though Sue had made it clear to Subby years ago that she loved Reed, she was still fascinated by the aquatic Romeo; so it was natural for Sue to run to Subby when her marriage to Reed hit a rough patch.
The Sub-Mariner, the king of the undersea city of Atlantis was suave, cool, romantic, and let’s not forget, hot (always runnin’ around shirtless and in skimpy swim trunks).
Sue ran off to the man who she thought would give her all the romance she craved, plus she could end up queen of her own undersea kingdom (what girl could ask for more?).
But in time Subby proved that he was no home wrecker as he tricked Sue into going back to Reed. Subby pretended that he wanted to destroy the surface world and pitted himself against the remaining Fantastic Four.
The Sub-Mariner basically told Sue, if you want to be my woman then my enemies are your enemies. So if I do battle with your old team the Fantastic Four then you must be by my side doing battle with them also.
The Sub-Mariner’s gamble paid off as naturally Sue couldn’t fight her own family. While Subby battled Reed Ben and Johnny, Sue began to realize and remember why she married Reed in the first place.
She remembered she married him despite the fact that he wasn't wildly romantic. She fell in love with and married a big brained absent minded professor. A geek who was focused on his scientific experiments, a nerd who got excited by what he found in a test tube.
Sue said that she had believed that love should be “Ideal, unreal and romantic.” Subby helped her to see that love and marriage was more than just a fantastic glossy ideal, it was work, compromise and understanding, it was that magic that one person finds in the quirks of another.
The Sub-Mariner helped Sue (and Reed) to remember what they meant to each other, and Sue rejoined the FF and her husband in issue number 149 appropriately titled, “To Love Honor and Destroy.” Talk about a top notch superhero soap opera.
When I came to the Fantastic Four the artist drawing it was John Buscema. I loved this man's work; his characters were lithe, fluid, toned, fleshy heroes. His women were slim sexy and glamorous.
Prior to Buscema the comic book legend Jack Kirby had drawn the FF. Kirby's characters were stocky and burley. They possessed a hard as stone/galvanized metal/steel look and Kirby’s women were built like men.
At the time I thought I did not care for Kirby's work, but some years later when I reached adulthood I would come to realize how great Kirby's work really was.
Ironically it was at this very same time that I came to realized how great Sean Connery's James Bond 007 was. For years I had thought that Roger Moore was the greatest bond, as I was introduced to the Bond Films with the spectacular The Spy Who Loved Me. But after viewing Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball and You Only Live Twice, I realized what millions already knew; Connery was indeed the best Bond. As I said it was also at this time that I realized the importance of Jack "King" Kirby to the Marvel comic’s universe.
The other thing that I did not like about the two Fantastic Four films was the choice of villains. Though Dr. Doom is the no# 1 menace of the FF, to me he turned out to be (on film) the most uninteresting.
The FF has some hot villains and any one of them other than Doom should have been chosen for the films. The writers could have chosen the subterranean subterfuge of the maniacal Mole Man and his eternally beauteous, yet deceptively duplicitous, Queen Kala. There is Klaw, the Murderous Master of Sound who uses sound like a sledge hammer. Then there’s Blastaar, the Living Bomb-burst. The big burley shaggy haired Blastaar is ugly as all get out, but he's hot when those bomb blasts erupt from his hands. There is also the Frightful Four, the Fantastic Four’s mirror image in dark distorted glass, and the perverted Puppet Master, the mad puppeteer with the power to make the FF dance to his diabolical tune. All these villains are visually and powerfully interesting, more so than Doctor Doom.
Did you know that the Fantastic Four’s Thing and the Human Torch met the Beatles? Well, they did. The issue was called “The Thing and the Torch Meet the Beatles.”
I can’t remember exactly how this meeting came about but I do remember the hot green 1964/65 Corvette that Johnny drove when he and the Thing met the Beatles. In the early days of the FF Johnny was really into cars, he owned and worked on Corvettes, foreign cars and hot rods.
Also in the early days of the FF Johnny’s sister Sue was a movie star, not a big A list movie star, but she made a few movies and was a movie star none-the-less.
I also read Spider-Man. I found it a really interesting and fun comic book. My favorite period is when the book was drawn by John Romita Sr. Romita's work was so amazing.
When Romita drew a New York City street scene, you could smell the greasy fried foods as their odor wafted from the ventilation fans he drew on a building’s rooftop. You could feel the droplets of drizzling rain that he drew and could hear the splash tires made when the wheels of the automobiles he drew swished through the rain soaked New York City streets.
Of the Spider Man movies I found #1, with the Green Goblin, boring. Spider-man #3, with Venom and the Sandman was way too much, and not in a good way, it didn’t make sense. Spider-Man #2 I could tolerate as it is (to me) the better of the three films. But I do not watch it when it comes on television.
By the way, the very first jazz record that I bought was “Spider Man” by Ramsey Lewis. It contained the catchy line, “What’s the name of this funk? Funky, Spider Man.” What a cool song it was.
The Fantastic Four was my favorite superhero group, but my favorite single superhero was, the Invincible Iron Man.
My favorite Iron Man artist was Gene Colan. Colan’s work was dark and moody and it seemed to fit the personality of Tony Stark Tony as he was always worried that his faulty heart would give out on him. Also Colan’s Tony Stark was the most handsome man in comics as Colan had a flair for creating realistic looking men and women.
Colan’s cars were also realistic, and you could tell a Jaguar, a Plymouth Fury, a Chevy Impala, or a Corvette. Colan’s cars looked like they came straight out of an automobile advertisement. The cars drawn by other artist looked like boxes with wheels. Everything Gene Colan drew looked fabulous.
I was telling TRL about Tony Stark’s many women, like, Janice Cord, the heiress, and Whitney Frost/Madame Mask, the industrial spy who as Whitney Frost wanted to love Tony Stark, but as Madame Mask she wanted to destroy him. There was also Pepper Potts, Tony Stark’s loyal Executive Assistant, Bethany Cabe, the beautiful body guard, and scores of others.
But of all his girlfriends my favorite was the beautiful psychic, Marianne Rodgers. Marianne Rodgers with her psychic powers always foresaw doom for Iron Man. Unfortunately every time Iron man flew off to save the world she would tell him he was going to fail and die.
For poor Tony Stark this became rather, well, disconcerting. Kevin O’Brien, a mutual friend of Tony and Marianne been killed and his death was indirectly caused by Iron Man (Actually it was self defense as Iron Man was protecting himself from an armed and armored O’Brien who was trying to kill him over….you guessed it, Marianne).
At O’Brien’s funeral the police arrived to arrest Iron Man for O’Brien’s death. The media was also at the funeral denouncing Iron Man as a murderer, and calling for his head.
Then Stark’s woman, the grieving Marianne Rodgers, publicly and with hostility, asked Iron Man in front of the police and the press, “Why must there be an Iron man Avenger, why?”
Marianne obviously never heard the Tammy Wynette chestnut “Stand By Your Man.” Talk about a girlfriend who lacks faith, confidence and belief in her man.
Then Ms. Rodgers became Queen of the Demons and tried to destroy Iron Man. Tony and Marianne’s relationship ended shortly thereafter, as Marianne was definitely high maintenance and had to go, and go she went…..to a mental institution, as her psychic power had driven her mad.
As for the two Iron Man films, I liked them both, I found them exciting and well done. But I found neither to be as good as the first two X-Men films.
Speaking of romance in comics, the Marvel superhero power couple of the Vision and the Scarlet Witch were comicdom’s James Taylor and Carly Simon.
The Vision and the Scarlet Witch were compared to these two musical superstars because simultaneously in both the superhero and real worlds both couples were enjoying a massive wave of fan popularity.
The readers of the Avengers (the superhero team to whom both the Vision and the Scarlet Witch belonged) were eating up their romance. And at the exact same time in the real world, the romance and subsequent marriage of James Taylor and Carly Simon garnered a great deal or public and media attention as they were also riding a wave of success created by their massive hit duet “Mockingbird.”
Yes, the coupling of the Vision and the Scarlet Witch clicked with the readers of the Avengers. Me, I never understood what the two saw in each other. Wanda, the Scarlet Witch with her hex power and dressed in her sexy superhero bathing suit, paired with an unemotional android didn’t work for me. I wanted Wanda to be hooked up with her fellow Avenger Simon Williams, the, oh so cool, Foster Grant wearing, dashing Wonder Man (who like Susan Storm Richards was also a minor movie star).
My favorite super heroine was Jessica Drew, Spider-Woman. I was listening to the electricians Telex’s “Moskow Diskow” when I bought my first issue of Spider-Woman.
Spider-Woman was cool because before becoming Spider-Woman she was a real laboratory spider…how icky. A sort of mad scientist (the High Evolutionary) turns a spider into a ravishingly beautiful woman. But here’s the kicker, as you know many regular folk like you and I have a natural aversion to creepy crawly spiders. So though Spider-Woman is sexy and beautiful and has a pleasant personality, no one can stand to be around her. Though stunningly beautiful and interesting, she had that spidery ick factor thing going on. It was because of this that she gave everyone who came in contact with her the creeps, which left her virtually friendless and incredibly lonely. I found this spider/woman dichotomy fascinating. It was so sad, but I loved it.
Of the other Marvel superhero movies, both Hulk movies bored me to tears. The Daredevil film was so-so, and didn’t like the Elektra movie at all. As for the Ghost Rider movie, dreadful, plus Nicholas Cage was waaaay too old for the part.
So other than the first two X-Men and both Iron Man films I haven't really enjoyed many of the Marvel superheroes movies. Part of this might be the, I know what's going to happen factor (as I’ve read the comics). Since I know the stories when I go to the movies I’m looking at the way the story is told and the special effects. Though I did not like most of the movies, I must admit, the special effects in all of them were great.
Superhero comics and the movies they spawn are such big business today. Today the extremely popular ComicCon (the BIG comic book convention) is a multimillion dollar, lavished, televised affair. But when I started reading comics ComicCon was just starting out and was very small time and rinky dink.
The comic book convention would take place in a hotel conference room. In the conference room were several 8 foot rectangular folding tables on which sat stacks of comic books…..I’m talkin’ rinky dink.
I bet you didn’t know that country music legend Hank Williams Sr. read romance comic books. This was interesting because he read them to get song ideas. Like Hank Williams I to read romance comics. I think it’s safe to say that the themes of the romance comics was the same stuff just told in different way. There was the good girl who falls for boy who cheats on her. The silly girl so lacking in self esteem she will do anything to make a boy love her (steal for him, lie for him, sleep with him). This was illustrated in the romance tale “The Girl Who Couldn’t Say No.”
I enjoyed reading the romance story “Love On The Run,” about a girl who started a band and was so busy building the band that she neglected her guy.
So busy with her music career she could only give her man quick bits of love between concerts, recording sessions, publicity tours, etc., a la, love on the run.
Naturally, the poor lovelorn guy gets fed up with this kind of love and finds another girl who will be totally devoted to him and give him all the loving he needs and will be at his beck and call 24/7 (sounds rather 1940s, doesn’t it?).
The Human League would make me remember the Love On The Run romance with their CD “Crash” which contains a song called “Love On The Run.” The lyrics to the League’s Love On The Run caused me to wonder if they had read the comic. The lyrics go “Look back in anger Look back in fun, But take what you want, Love on the run.”
But of all the romance comic stories I read, my favorite was “Doormat For Love.” Doormat For Love was the story of Trina, who was in love with her boyfriend Robby.
Now Trina wasn’t clingy, but she was passive and submissive. For some reason Robby grew tired of Trina’s passive and submissive ways, but he did not dump her, no, he just decided to cheat on her with Nan (obviously he enjoyed walking all over Trina, even though he claimed her pliable personality irritated him).
Trina may have been a doormat but she wasn’t stupid. She knew that something was amiss with she and Robby’s romance. Then one evening she decided to follow Robbie after he told her he was busy (“with work”) and could not take her out or come by her apartment.
Trina followed Robby to the park where he had a secret rendezvous with Nan. The devastated Trina actually overheard Robby tell Nan “You’re a groovy girl Nan, not a doormat like Trina.”
Poor Trina, she was so hurt she sat on that park bench and cried and cried.
But Robby was a fool because Trina was h-o-t, HOT! On the evening Trina followed Robby to the park her hair was whipped liked glamorous 40’s movie star Veronica Lake. Her curvaceous killer body was dressed in a platinum, that’s right, a platinum, micro mini dress. Trina’s long shapely legs were adorned with knee high stiletto heeled platinum boots. This glittering goddess looked like she had just stepped down from Mount Olympus.
I wondering “Robby, boy, what is your problem? You’ve got a goddess, but you choose a skank?”
And the harlot Nan was indeed a skank. Nan was short in stature and she wasn’t all that attractive at all with her short dark mousy hair. Nan didn't even come close to Trina’s beauty. All Nan had was a big butt, but hey, maybe that's what Robby liked. What did Sir Mix-A-Lot sing, “Baby Got Back.”
Robby thought the good and kind Trina a doormat, someone he could just walk all over. Yet he found the wild and free hussy Nan, who was willing to go after another woman's man, exciting. Robby had issues.
But to make a long story short Trina came to her senses. She out smarted Nan by showing Robby her assertive side by telling him “no” when he wanted to take her out or come over to her place. Then she started going out with other guys.
Robby became jealous (he was an idiot to fall for the old “make him jealous” trick), and realized that he liked this new unpredictable side of Trina. Robbie suddenly realized that Trina was the best thing since sliced bread and wanted her only.
So Robbie quickly and callously kicked big butted Nan to the curb (later for you Bertha Butt). Then after professing his love to Trina and telling her that he had ended his dalliances with that disgusting Nan, Trina smiled, gave him a big kiss and promptly dumped him……you go Trina girl.
Okay, right here I’m going to digress for a moment because I need help (I heard that, you’re not funny). When I mentioned Robby and Nan’s secret rendezvous it reminded me of a movie I want to see again (if available on DVD) but I cannot remember the title.
The movie starred Irene Dunn and it took place in the early 1940’s. In the film Irene’s little daughter is sitting at the table reading the newspaper. She asks her mother “mom, what’s a ren-dez-vous?” Perplexed, Irene tells the girl there is no such word. The little girl says “yes there is mommy. It says right here in the paper that you and Mr. (whomever, I can’t remember the name) met in the park on a secret ren-dez-vous. R-E-N-D-E-Z-V-O-U-S, ren-dez-vous.”
The shocked Irene Dunn nearly fainted. I laughed so hard I thought I would fall out of my chair. That’s all I’ve ever seen of this movie and I loved to see the whole thing. Does anyone know what the name of this film?
Okay, back to Doormat For Love and Hank Williams. Though Hank Williams died many years before the romance tale Doormat For Love was published; I bet if he had lived and read that comic I’m sure he would have written a song that went something like this, “You wipe yer feet on my heart be-cause---it aint me you’re dreamin’ of---I don’t wanna be yer doooor-mat for love." Okay, songwriting was never my forte, but you get the idea.
Whether you are a Hank Williams fan or not you really should buy or rent his story on the DVD titled “Hank Williams: Honky Tonk Blues.” It’s an enlightening, educating and fascinating look at the amazing yet tragic life of this country music legend.
One of the most poignant moments on the DVD is when Hanks’ life is falling apart due to his alcoholism. Country icon Minnie Pearl steps in to intervene and tells him he has got to get himself together. She pleads with him to stop drinking and seek out that light that he wrote and sang about in his gospel classic “I Saw The Light.” Hank turns to Minnie Pearl and somberly says to her “there aint no light.”
To see someone in that much pain and anguish, I thought I would cry, it was so sad. Hank Williams was so lost and had lost all hope. A few short weeks later, Hank Williams was dead.
I learned how to write, compose a story and learned the importance of well developed characters through comic books. The best lesson comic books taught me (in relation to writing) is develop your characters well, really make their personality traits strong and defined. I learned in doing so it makes writing a fictional story easier, as well defined characters tend to write themselves. The writer becomes just a driver for the characters as the characters dictate what they will say, what they will do and what directions they will take.
Virtually all the Marvel super villains (and several of the superheroes) are over-the-top. Having spent years reading Marvel comics my own writing style is over-the-top 75% of the time (when I first started writing for Electrogarden they asked me could I tone it down some).
I try to not go over the top with my Life Is Music blog, but if you have been reading the summer serial I write for Electrogarden, The Cars Of Tomorrow, then you know it’s waaaay over the top and outta control.
But over-the-top super villains are great because they spew some of the most wonderful lines. One great line came from within the pages of the superhero team the Defenders.
The Defenders were a team comprised of Dr, Strange, the Valkyrie, Nighthawk, the Sub-Mariner and the Hulk. The Defenders had to go up against the space villain Nebulon, the Celestial Man who had just “bought” the planet earth.
When Nebulon was called by the…ah…lets say, the cashier, to come pick up his purchase, he said with wonderfully over-the-top grandness, “Who summons Nebulon? Who calls the Celestial Man from his place beyond the stars?” I guess it would have been to difficult for Nebulon to have just said “Who called me?” I ate it up.
Then there’s the Avenger and Demigod, Hercules, who when told by fellow Avenger Captain America that they would have to travel through hell (literally) to get to the place that they would eventually fight that issue’s super villain.
Hercules gave Cap an alarmed and afraid look and said to him, “Surely thou art jesting…..art thou?” It was priceless.
But my absolute favorite over-the-top line came from another space villain, Shanga the Star-Dancer. While Shanga was doing battle with the Thing of the Fantastic Four, she punched him and he punched her back. Shanga was pissed and screamed at him, “How dare you defile my personhood,” I roared with laughter at that one.
Then many years later when my niece was a toddler she used to like to hug and kiss all over me. I would act as if I were annoyed (I wasn’t) and would say to her “don’t touch me” and that made her want to hug and kiss me even more (and I loved it).
Then one day while she was all over her favorite uncle I shouted “Unhand me. How dare you defile my personhood.” She didn’t understand the words, but knew that that they meant “don’t touch me” so naturally she had to defy me and ply me with hugs and kisses, it was wonderful.
Of all the super villains, Galactus the cosmic planet eater had the grandest and most long winded over-the-top vocabulary.
Okay, picture this; Galactus comes to eat the earth for breakfast, but before he starts chowing down he talks your ear off with stuff like “Did you not know, could you not guess? Who but Galactus can shatter a world? Though he was no angel Gabriel did not lie. He warned the earth of impending doom and that is what Galactus brings you now. I Galactus… ….yada, yada, yada,” and Galactus goes on and on.
I’m like, “Oh please Galactus just shut up and eat us all ready. Don’t talk us to death…geeez, you’re pluckin’ mah nerves!”
Did you know that back in the 1950s there was a Senate Investigation into comic books? This investigation was begun because it was believed that the reading of comic books led to juvenile delinquency. There may have been some validity to this, you see when I was a very little kid I read Popeye the Sailor comic books, they were my favorite.
In one issue Popeye placed himself (or was placed by his nemesis the bearded burley Bluto), into a washing machine.
I thought Popeye in the washing machine was so cool that I put myself into our family washing machine (uh huh, you read right). I guess it was during the spin cycle that my arm broke.
Yes I put myself in the washing machine like Popeye did in the comic book and ended up with a broken arm. Yep, I was a child with issues. So, as far as comics causing juvenile delinquency, I don’t know about that. But my washing machine incident illustrated that comics can cause juvenile stupidity.
There is one thing that I do miss from my comic reading days and that is the Marvel comic’s Bullpen Bulletins.
The Bullpen Bulletins was basically a page in each comic book where the staff at Marvel sort of chatted with the readers. It was within these bullpen chats that the readers got to learn about and gain some insight into the personalities of the writers, artist, inkers, letterers, colorist, etc, who created the world best superhero comics.
One bullpen session distinctly I remember was when the Marvel team talked about the hit Paul Simon song “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover.” Stan “the man” Lee and the rest of his merry Marvel mad man jokingly said the song was about them due to the song’s lyrics.
When Paul Simons described the 50 ways one could ditch their lover he said you could “Slip out the back Jack,” “make a new plan Stan,” “drop off the key Lee,” and “no need to be coy Roy.” All those names Simon used just happen to be the first names of several of the Marvel comics craftsmen.
Actually, I did not care for the song, but have remembered the lyrics all these years due to the Marvel Bullpen Bulletins.
As I mentioned in my last piece "Sex Education Class: School Is In," in school I would often skip lunch and use my lunch money to buy records and comic books. So though I loved comic books they were responsible for my being underweight (because I didn’t eat).
After high school and joined the United States Coast Guard and I was still skinny (128 pounds). One day as the Cars “Just What I Needed” was playing in the background I ran into some Marines who looked at my thin frame and called out to me, “Yo’ slinky."
I responded with “Excuse me……Jarhead.”
“Who you callin’ jarhead? Growled one Marine
“Who you callin’ slinky? I retorted.
No fighting between the Coast Guard and the Marines ensued because though I tried to suppress it a slight smile did appear on my lips as I did not mind being called “slinky.” I’d never been called that before, slinky was a new one.
With my thin body if I were a superhero I’d be Slinky. So thin I could infiltrate any restricted building anywhere. I’d have to infiltrate Area 51 just to see what’s stored there. I’d have a blast.
Just last week this woman looked at me and said, "You are so thin you are almost a ghost.”
“Oooooh, I like that” I thought. “If I could be a super hero maybe I could be "The Ghost." But you know, I bet that name is already taken. Oh I know, how about this “The Ghost Writer.” Get it, a play on term ghost writer, ghost (as the woman called me), and writer (what I do)? Isn’t that great? Don’t hate me because I’m clever.
As the Ghost Writer, in my ectoplasmic state I could besiege the offices of some of the biggest publishers in the country. I’d leave my “approved for publishing” manuscripts on the desk of the publishing company president.
In the public relations office I’d leave a note on company letterhead on which I forged the president’s signature. The note would read, “Big media blitz for Roundtree-Harrison’s book. Oh, and let’s throw him a big book publishing party.”
Then, in my ghostly form I’d infiltrate the Hollywood studios, unseen and unnoticed I could slide my screenplays onto the desk of the studio mogul and then whisper into their ear, “Green light Roundtree-Harrison’s screenplay for production into a movie. Give it a 500 million dollar budget. It will be a blockbuster and make the studio a truckload full of dough.”
The studio executives would think it’s their inner voice speaking to them. But in actuality it would be me controlling them. I’d be awesome.
But being that all I would be doing would only benefit me, I guess that would make me a super villain....I can live with that. Super villains have more fun, and some of the best dialog. “Did you not know, could you not guess? Who but the Ghost Writer could rule the world through film, publishing and the media? No one will dare defy me when I, the Ghost Writer, rule the world. With my suprem….” I know, you think it’s time for me to sign off don’t you? You’re right, I do. But before I go I need to thank some folks.
Thank you Stan “the man” Lee, John Buscema, Steve Ditko, Sal Buscema, Petra Goldberg, Don Heck, Gene Colan, Marv Wolfman, George Tuska, Gil Kane, John Romita Sr. George Perez, Keith Pollard, Roy Thomas, John Romita Jr., John Byrne, Vince Colletta, Frank Robbins, Walt Simonson, Len Wein, Dave Cockrum, Steve “baby” Gerber, Ross Andru, Glynis Wein, Chris Claremont, Rich Buckler, Mark Gruenwald, Joe Sinnott, Mike Esposito, David Michelinie, Jim Steranko, Herb Trimpe, Jim Shooter, Jack “king” Kirby and all the other writers and artist who created for Marvel comics during the period I was reading all the fantastic super hero titles. I thank you all for the two things you gave me, the exciting, fantastic, enthralling superhero adventures, and, my ability to tell engaging over-the-top stories. The Cars Of Tomorrow is dedicated to all of you.
Do you realize that I have been writing this Life Is Music blog for a year now? To all of you who have been reading me over the past year, I thank you.
See you next time
© 2010 Rix Roundtree-Harrison