Getting Ridiculous

I know I have a tendency to complain about the state of modern superhero comic books, but once in a while, something really shows the wonder of what comic books can do.  Superheroes don’t have to be stupid, and they don’t have to be dark to have something interesting to say.  And in illustration, I offer Fantastic Four #579.  The story opens with Reed Richards giving a thoughtful speech to an auditorium of scientists.  I’d love to quote the speech in its entirety, but not sure how that jibes with copyright.  So I’ll just say that it’s an inspiring, quotable speech saying we must never stop dreaming about a better future.

Amen, brother.

But onto the topic of this particular post.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve always liked things that, for better or worse, most people think of as ridiculous and silly.  I love monsters the size of skyscrapers, killer robots, and superheroes.  You really don’t have to read many of my books to realize this.  Whether it’s cannibal witches, robot detectives, or fat werewolves, I’m a guy who likes the absurd, the bizarre.  I’d much rather watch Mega Piranha than Precious.  If a story has a dinosaur fighting a vampire, I’m all for it.

The problem though is that I don’t, as a general rule, like “camp”.  Camp to me is apology.  And I won’t apologize for thinking robots are cool or that Superman is awesome.  These things are absolutely true, and anyone with an ounce of sense should already realize this.  But if you haven’t, that’s your problem, not mine.

Yet there is an apology culture when it comes to this stuff.  Even people who like it try to excuse it.  Or, even worse in my opinion, they’ll knock it down before anyone else gets the chance.

The trailers for the new Jonah Hex movie look promising.  Hex is a comic book cowboy character.  You’d think that would get comic fans excited about his move to the big screen.  Yet I see far too many fans of the medium already eager to dismiss the film.  Sure, the trailer is full of explosions, one liners, and has horse-mounted gatling guns.  But isn’t that a good thing?  Do we really need another action film that takes itself dreadfully seriously?  Are those are only two options as a culture?  High art and dumb fluff?

NBC has a new show called The Cape.  It looks like a superhero show that dares to actually be about a superhero, unlike Heroes, which was so determined to be serious that it robbed every bit of joy from the superhero genre.  The Cape, on the other hand, shows promise as a cop, framed for a crime he didn’t commit, adopts a costumed identity to fight for justice in a corrupt city.  Isn’t this what superheroes are all about?

I don’t know.  All I know is that I refuse to believe that things can either be smart and boring OR stupid and fun.  I refuse to believe that a story with a robot or talking duck is automatically unimportant and unintelligent.  I don’t think boring always equals deep, and I don’t think there’s anything innately wrong with a killer elevator story.

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,

Lee

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12 Comments

  1. Rippley
    Posted May 31, 2010 at 3:02 am | Permalink

    I’m not a big fan of Hollywood movies. With that said, I’m not a big fan of independent art films either. I was upset with Avatar, Iron Man 2, and A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010. Personally, I think studios should stop funding Michael Bay and James Cameron. And, well, some independent films seem to move so slow that they die before they get to the end. So, here, I slightly agree with Alex.

    Here is where I disagree with Alex, I think. In the 1980′s I enjoyed USA Network’s Friday and Saturday ‘UP All Night Movies.’ The UP ALL Night movies were cheesy and full of camp. It was great fun with tons murder and sex. They had the best assortment of sci-fi and fantasy cheese. Who could forget ‘Sam Hell goes to Frog Town’ or ‘The Toxic Avengers’ from Troma videos? Or could you forget D.A.R.Y.L. the movie about the robot boy? If you’ve forgotten any of these movies, you are not human. Please leave my planet, you damn reptilian shape-shifters.

    Camp is cool, goddammit, no apologies. Movies such as those depicted on USA’s UP ALL NIGHT are the heart blood of America. Alex would have us believe that we should turn our backs on films such as ‘Satan’s Cheerleaders.’ But if you were to watch these films today, I truly believe that you would see that most of these films are better than most of the films you watch today. Modern film and filmmakers (not all, but most) are providing its audience with inferior entertainment. CGI has crippled the industry, and our only hope is Rick Baker.

    Please, please don’t encourage A. Lee Martinez in his tirade against the cult classics we both grew up with. One day I want to see awesome movies make a comeback. I dislike living in the Gentlemen Broncos entertainment industry.

    • Nik
      Posted May 31, 2010 at 4:35 am | Permalink

      Rippley, he just said he’d rather watch Mega Piranha than Precious. If he’s guilty of anything, it’s bad taste, NOT a tirade against cult classics. There’s a world of difference between a fun flick like Toxic Avenger and a movie like The Spirit, which tried at every turn to say it’s sorry for wanting to be cool like it’s big brother, Sin City, (and failing). A movie like Shoot ‘Um Up is ridiculous on so many levels yet it never apologizes for what it is and that alone helps make it a great movie. His comparison of The Cape to Heroes is dead on.

      Personally, if Hex does poorly it’s not because of the horse mounted gatling guns, it’s because of the terrible, terrible Megan Fox. Seriously, she says every line in the trailer with the same husky, monotone sluttyness.

      • A. Lee Martinez
        Posted May 31, 2010 at 5:14 am | Permalink

        Thanks for your reply, Nik. You are exactly right. I’m not decrying classic “Grade Z” films. Or even good action flicks like Shoot ‘Em Up. And while I’m not a fan of Sin City, I do agree that The Spirit makes me appreciate Sin City on a whole new level. Your assessment is spot on.

        I’m not one to bash Megan Fox. I’ll admit she’s not really my type, but she’s a decent actress. I don’t see what the problem is other than she’s become an acceptable target. I do agree that she is a somewhat one-note actress, but it looks to be a one-note role.

        For the record, I don’t think Precious is a bad movie. I just don’t need to watch people be miserable for two hours. Life is miserable. I know that already.

  2. Rippley
    Posted May 31, 2010 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    @Nik

    I want Alex to enjoy Mega Piranha over Precious. I mean, Alex is right (this isn’t going my way). Life is miserable–why would I want my entertainment to dwell on this fact? But I also wish Alex would respect the other parts of our geek society of which camp, kitsch, cheese, and “Grade Z” films are a part.

    Why must each movie cost $80 bajillion? And how is Megan Fox a worthwhile actress? If Megan Fox were a good actress she would have been a movie where she had supernatural powers, yet still had to run naked through the woods to get away from the psychopath with the bloody chain saw. Megan Fox isn’t in that movie. She couldn’t get a part in that movie, because that low-budget movie requires a good actress not good editing and a graphics art team.

  3. Steve M.
    Posted May 31, 2010 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    There’s a movie with dinosaurs fighting vampires?

    • A. Lee Martinez
      Posted June 1, 2010 at 12:45 am | Permalink

      No there isn’t. But if there was, it would be awesome.

  4. Ws
    Posted May 31, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think Megan Fox is a great actress…but, to me, she’s not any worse than Natalie Portman or Scarlet Johansson or any other starlet that nerds have accepted. In fact, judging from the few movies I’ve seen her in, she might be a little better. (There’s something about Portman and Johansson that strikes me as slightly bovine.)

    I don’t necessarily have a problem with camp if it’s done well. As Camille Paglia said, “with true camp, you actually do take it seriously, but you also have a distance to find it amusing”. That’s fine with me. The problem is that so much of what’s considered camp now seems born out of insecurity, out of a fear of not being cool. For example, Planet Terror is terrible (to me at least; I think it’s the worst thing that hip people have embraced since The Rocky Horror Picture Show) because it’s so self-consciously outrageous, so willfully trying to be a cult film, whereas Evil Dead 2 is wonderful because it feels like you’re watching the genuinely loopy vision of a mad man. Another problem is that it seems like there really is no clear definition of what camp is. I think it was Susan Sontag who said that camp is “failed seriousness”. To hell with that, I think camp should be considered “fun seriousness”.

    Also, I have to question what benefit dark dramas like Precious and Mystic River have for people. On an artistic level, what exactly is so great about pointing a camera at pain and suffering and staring at it? Because life sucks and these movies are telling it like it is? But, that’s not true and these movies are lying then; life doesn’t suck, life just SOMETIMES sucks. And, if you’re a person who’s living a life similar to Precious, what truly helps your survival, a movie like Precious, or, say, something like the scene in Transformers 2 where Optimus Prime whips out two laser swords and beats the living shit out of, like, fifty decepticons?

  5. Sean F
    Posted May 31, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    This is why when I start talking about the upcomming superhero movies, I’m excited about nearly all of them except the Green Hornet. I haven’t seen much yet, but the sheer fact of casting Seth Rogen makes the pit of my stomach churn. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a GREAT actor with huge potential, but his casting just seems to make it scream “We can’t be Batman so we’re just gonna turn this sucker into a campy comedy! Won’t that be great?” At least the car’s pretty.

    Oh, and a friend just posted on Facebook that he was watching “Blackshee” about zombie sheep and all I could think was “I wonder if Alex has seen it?”

    • A. Lee Martinez
      Posted June 1, 2010 at 12:46 am | Permalink

      Yes, I have indeed seen Black Sheep. And it is a fun monster movie. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

  6. Posted June 3, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    I, for one, am anxiously awaiting Jonah Hex. That is one of the first comic books I read as a kid. Jonah was an original badass and one of few that comic books didn’t try to gloss over. They let him just be badass.

    He’s one of those characters when you see the bad guys taunting from a distance, but he can hear them, you just think out loud,” oh man, you’re really gonna regret that.”

    I agree, Meagan Fox is in the “OK” category for me. She doesn’t stand out as really good, but I don’t think she stinks either.

    still waiting for Iron Man 2 to hit DVD.

  7. Mario Di Giacomo
    Posted June 11, 2010 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    One problem with the Jonah Hex flick is, if you have any knowledge of the character at all, you know he doesn’t NEED gadgets or magic powers to be cool. Throwing that in tells the viewer that they don’t think the material is strong enough on its own, and needs more flash.

    The other reason is it reminds folks of WILD WILD WEST: THE MOVIE

    • A. Lee Martinez
      Posted June 11, 2010 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

      Well, both aspects seem rather minor. His gadgets consist of a pair of gatling guns on a horse, which isn’t all that gadgety. And his supernatural powers don’t seem to dominate the trailer.

      And I actually liked Wild Wild West: The Movie (not nearly as much as the original TV show, of course) except for the attempts at “humor”. But Hex doesn’t seem to be nearly as “campy”. I get loyalty to a character, but it’s strange to nitpick. Especially since Hex, for better or worse, does live in a comic book version of the old west which can justify a lot.

      Of course, if these elements dominate, I could see grounds for complaint. But it doesn’t seem like this is actually happening yet.

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