Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Thor #199 and me

Godspeed, Flying Monkey Joe.

My good friend Flying Monkey Joe (that's his code name -- d'ya hear that, ya hayseeds?) is going to DragonCon in Atlanta this weekend. He has his own reasons for going into that great weekend dungeon of geekdom, but he also goes with a quest for me: To seek the Odin-son.
Specifically, to find an original Thor comic, issue #199.

That was my comic book when I was a kid.

My parents were not backward, and they provided plenty of books for my sister and me to read, but somehow comic books got classified as candy or toys instead of literature. I almost never got to read comic books unless I was visiting a friend and got into his stash.

I did manage to claim ownership of at least one comic book, though, and that was Thor #199. If I had any other comic books of my own, I don't remember them, because they fade to oblivion in my memory in the light of Thor's might.

I still remember panels and images from the story. Pluto, in his form-fitting armor, wielding a double-bladed battle ax, his edicts called the ravings of "the mind of a god gone mad." Thor, looming above the battlefield, his red cape billowing about his shoulders as he answers Pluto's challenge: "The God of Thunder dares."

I never knew the context of the story, because I had read none of the other issues as the complex plot unfolded, but it didn't matter. He was a hero who sparked my imagination. A god with the voice of rumbling thunder who stood up against Madness.

I commissioned my grandmother to make me a red flannel cape, and I found a little tack hammer in the junk drawer to serve as mighty Mjolnir. One side of my godly weapon was magnetized to hold tacks, so you wouldn't smash your fingers hammering the tiny brads.

More recently, I've been following the newly relaunched Thor comic, buying each new issue at Double Header sports cards in Gardendale. I also bought Thor Vol. 1, the graphic-novel size compilation of the first several issues of the refurbished story, which captures some of
the brooding power of the old Thor that I remember.

The Thor who forged me in the fires of geekdom still lives.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Same old Clone and dance

I've recently written reviews on SoulCalibur IV and Too Human. If Too Human is as bad as some reviewers say it is, why can't I quit playing it? I completed the campaign in one weekend, and immediately started a second campaign, and I'm still going. My "champion" class Baldur is up to level 40 now.

Likewise, I'm dismayed by the negative reviews on "The Clone Wars." Perverse contrariness of the fanboy generation is making a lot of people think it's cool to hate George Lucas now, and for what? Making up stories for us to enjoy? (What? "The Clone Wars" wasn't as good as "The Empire Strikes Back"?! We hate him, then! Scorn him! Diss him! Freeze him in carbonite!) ... Come on, all you George haters, lighten up. He's a genius at telling stories with pictures and music, and he's given us a wonderful place for our imaginations to visit. Hating on George Lucas is like hating on Santa Claus, as far as I'm concerned.

"The Clone Wars" is a fun film, reminiscent of the 1930s Saturday morning action serials that helped to inspire "Star Wars" in the first place. It's a computer-animated cartoon. It's clearly not in the same league with one of the films of the main saga, and it's equally obvious that it wasn't meant to be. I took my 13-year-old son and one of his friends to see it, and we all enjoyed it. The vertical battle on the cliff face was a pure "Star Wars" thrill moment, as the transport walker climbed like a big beetle while Ahsoka stands on the front and bats away blaster bolts to defend it. It made us cheer.

It's also interesting to compare Anakin's first attempt at being a mentor, teaching young Ahsoka to be a Jedi, and compare that with the darker, more mature storyline in the forthcoming game The Force Unleashed, as "dark father" Darth Vader takes a Sith apprentice. The parallel of the two stories -- one light, one dark -- is bound to be deliberate.

My apologies to both of my readers for allowing Sythbane Squadron to sit idle for too long. Lately I've felt like Max, the dog in "The Grinch that Stole Christmas," when the sled gets ahead of him and he's running along and being dragged behind it.