Can it be? Is it true? Is such a thing possible?
Yes, my friends, it is indeed. A. LEE MARTINEZ APPRECIATION DAY!! is upon us once again, and while I’m sure all of you are up on the traditional festivities (play a board game, watch a monster movie, push A. Lee Martinez novels on friends / family / loved ones / strangers / enemies), not everyone knows that, by The Supreme Directive of The Mighty Robot King, you are required to read any blog post I write on this day.
Believe me, I don’t like it any more than you do. But trust me, you do not want to get on The Mighty Robot King’s bad side. Before you know it, you’ll be up to your elbows in avenging dinobots and wrathful planet-devouring androids the size of the moon. And nobody wants that. So just sit back. Relax. Read this post at your leisure. And know that in doing so, you’re placating the wrath of our all-powerful mechanical deity.
I’ve said it before, but I find that as I grow older, I have more and more appreciation for the absurd and the fun. This is probably why I’ve outgrown so many things I used to love. Although thinking about it, “outgrown” is probably the wrong word.
Take comics. Modern comics are so dark, mature, and convuluted that they take all the fun out of people with strange powers beating each other up. The most powerful villain in Marvel Comics at the moment is a beauracrat. The stories of late resolve around mega crossover, soap opera style events that tie every single comic together into one giant story. I won’t comment on the qualities of these stories because that’s fairly subjective. But I will suggest that very few comics are actually fun anymore. The reasons for this are way too complicated to get into, and I don’t even know if this is a good or a bad thing. But it’s just the way it is.
The best comics I’ve read in the last year were Atomic Robo, We Kill Monsters, Lockjaw & the Pet Avengers, Beasts of Burden, and Casper & the Spectrals. Of these comics, Beasts of Burden was probably the most “adult”, and it’s about a group of dogs and a cat who fight supernatural evil. Both Lockjaw & the Pet Avengers are all ages.
Oh, and there was Dr. Doom and the Masters of Evil. I think that came out last year. It was the best thing produced by Marvel Comics in a long, long time. An epic 4-part limited series focused on Dr. Doom’s quest for ultimate power. It managed, through a rare kind of magic, to be dark, brooding, fantastic, mature, and fun without resorting to swearing, gore, or anything even remotely edgy. This was an all-ages comic that manages to explore a genuinely dark protagonist with more subtlety and intelligence than pretty much anything else out there.
Although Lockjaw & The Pet Avengers had a group of super animals fighting a giant red dinosaur. So maybe it’s a toss up for greatest comic of all time.
Video games are the same thing to me now. I notice that the games that get commercials on TV and exposure on G4 are all the dark, grown up games. I got a Wii this Christmas, and right now, I’m enjoying the heck out of Super Mario Galaxy and Little King’s Story. Neither game features realistic graphics. Both are absurd adventures. Whether you’re playing as a plucky Italian plumber facing off against an obnoxious, fire-breathing turtle tyrant or taking on the role of a boy king sending his army of grunts, miners, hunters, carpenters, and chefs into battle against a clockwork knight, there’s something unique and wonderful about these games.
It’s not that I’m a prude. I don’t care if there’s swearing and blood in my media. But I’m definitely over blood and profanity for their own sake. Too often they’re crutches. They’re used to present the illusion of sophistication, but sophistication isn’t found in making superheroes swear or the number of polygons that make up a video game sprite. If only it were that easy to quantify.
So I finally saw the preview for the Percy Jackson & the Olympians movie, based on the books. The strange thing is that I wrote this story already. Several years ago. Okay, technically I only wrote half of it. And I never published it. But just watching the preview, I saw things I’d put in my own reluctant demi-god story. In my demi-god story, a character is attacked by an old lady who is actually a harpy in disguise. In my demi-god story, the hero has to fight a hydra. In my demi-god story, demi-gods are hunted by dark forces.
Similarities are inevitable when stories draw on similar source material. I certainly can’t suggest that the Percy Jackson story was stolen from me (unless they were able to burrow into my dreams), and I can’t say that my ideas were stolen from them (unless I have amazing powers of foresight). It’s just coincidence. I say this because too often people are accused of stealing popular ideas when it’s just as likely that someone just came up with something similar, drawing on similar ideas.
Finally, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on just how lucky I am to be here. Sure, I’m talented, intelligent, witty, able to bend spoons with my mind, and capable of levitating a few feet off the ground for several minutes at a time, but I am still basically a guy who is paid to make up stories. I’m good at it, but being good at something doesn’t always mean you are fortunate to get paid for it. I’m pretty good at thinking up cool nicknames for people, for example, and I can stick my whole fist into my mouth. Yet nobody seems ready to pay me for these things.
So thanks, gang. I’ve said it before. I’m sure I’ll say it again. But I’m grateful for all your support. Now go enjoy your A. LEE MARTINEZ APPRECIATION DAY!! monster movie (might I suggest Godzilla 2000 or It Came From Beneath the Sea?). Have fun with your board game (Small World anyone?). And push my books, gangs.
There. End of the official A. LEE MARTINEZ APPRECIATION DAY!! blog post. You’re free to go.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,